Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hands In The Dirt

Yay! I finally got the seeds that I ordered!

Seeds

See how teensy the weld seeds are compared to the Chinese woad (which look exactly like regular woad seeds as far as I can tell). You can’t judge the size of a plant by the size of its seeds! They will both be similar in height and width – eventually. I hope. The timing was good anyhow. When the package arrived I was already down at the “grow-op” planting more things: 3 kinds of summer squash (Goldrush zucchini, Eight Ball round zukes, and yellow pattypan squash), Lemon cucumbers, and more basil, lettuce and arugula. I also finally remembered to start the carrots. Doh. They should have been ready to go in the garden by now. Oh well. They never do that well around here anyway. The evil rust fly larvae drill them full of holes right about the time they are big enough to eat. Sad really. Don’t know why I keep trying but surrounding the plants with coffee grounds seem to help a wee bit. Life is based on hope, right? I can always dye with the carrot tops if nothing else.

Speaking of dye, I picked some more rhubarb for sauce so I started another rhubarb leaf pot. It’s currently cooling before I can strain out the leaf goo. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I am not just ignoring that pot. Nosiree.) Not sure what I’m going to dye over it this time however since I’m out of home-grown madder until this fall. I need to research more to see what works well with it. Or maybe just throw something in and figure out what else goes on top later! I can start with a few more skeins of the Louet Gems superwash and more of the crossbred sliver that I’ve got before the rhubarb leaf goes off.

I kind of enjoy taking my time with natural dyes though. It’s not something you really need to rush. As a matter of fact, slower is better. It gives things time to extract, oxidise, slightly ferment, colour intensify. It’s a nice contrast to our modern expectations of hurry-up instant gratification. Patience is a virtue.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Spring Cardigan

Shamrock Cardi

ShamrockCardi For: me

Begun: April 1, 2010

Completed: April 27, 2010

Yarn: Newton’s Yarn Country Happy Feet, purchased from their booth at ANWG ’09 in Spokane, 100% NZ merino superwash, 1800 ypp green multi. I used about 210g or 832 yds. Have more than half of the giant skein left! Notice how the colours changed and lightened above the armholes? Good thing I was working in the round so at least it’s more-or-less symmetrical.

Needles: Addi Lace 24” circular, 3.25mm. Clover bamboo dpns, 3.25mm.

Pattern: Began with Stardust by Turit Wilroy (from Knitty, Winter 2007). Made modifications. It wasn’t working out so frogged and began again with pattern generated by Knitware using Stardust’s general idea but including the mods that I liked originally thanks to nellum and her version. (That’s my garage door in her photo’s background!)

Comments: See my previous post for more exhaustive – and probably totally boring – details.

OK, now I’ve posted this and printed out all the notes and put them in my notebook. I can finally kiss this one goodbye! Except for wearing it, of course. In fact, I am wearing it right now. Love-love-love!

I’m feeling a need to cast-on something new…

Took Long Enough!

Shamrock_on

I finally have a new sweater! Yes, I know that’s a very crappy photo. The mirror is in sections (hence the line in the middle) and it was too dark so it’s very grainy after I lightened it up. What can I say? My in-house photographer wasn’t available! I’ll do a more complete FO Report later but for now I have to gloat some.

In total it took nearly a year, including the time it sat ignored and then got frogged to begin again. I’m very pleased with the fit this time. It really pays off to make a proper accurate gauge swatch and then work from there instead of trying to get the same gauge that the designer got. I so rarely use the same yarn and somehow I never get the right gauge in both stitch and row anyway. So for something that must fit properly, it’s much easier to start from scratch.

If I must start from scratch, I’m extremely happy with the pattern generated by the Knitware software. I did tweak it somewhat though but not in any fundamental way. In this case it wouldn’t allow me to lower the neckline below the armholes so I just began the same sequence of decreases 2 inches earlier. I used a ‘close fit’ which gives me 1” positive ease at the bust.  I also worked the body pieces after splitting at the armholes in a different order. They have you do the back first while holding the fronts on holders. I just worked the right front first while leaving the back and left front on the cable needle, then knit the back and then the left front so I didn’t have to use holders except for the right neckband while it waited for the left side to get done.

The shoulders fit perfectly. The sleeve caps were decreased more quickly at the top to shape them more rounded than the standard Knitware cap, which is squared off. Yes, I finally did them again on a single cable needle to get the decreases to come out the same on both sleeves! Worked great. Then I steamed the armholes and the sleeve caps gently with the iron to flatten everything out nicely. Much easier than trying to deal with the curly edges. It took me all yesterday morning to sew them in properly. I used the little hair clips to hold the sleeve in place:

Shamrock sweater clips

They worked perfectly! Much better than pins of any sort. Then I carefully stitched the seam from the front:

Shamrock sewing

(Remember to click on the photos to see it bigger.) I used a mattress stitch. If you need more info on how to do this there’s a great article in an old Knitty. Where it was more horizontal, I used a kind of grafting, but ignoring the bound-off stitches. The finished seams were very nice if I do say so myself:

Shamrock shoulder seam

Then I decided to make myself a pin for the front:

Penannular1 Penannular2

This is my spiral version of a penannular pin or brooch, also known as a “Celtic safety pin”. I used some dark bronze-coated copper wire (I think it’s 16-gauge, but I’m not sure) and hammered it on my steel bench block to flatten the ends after I shaped the spiral. (Nice to have all the right tools even if I don’t use them very often.) To give you an idea of the size the pin is about 1.5” long and it works really well to hold the fronts closed. If you look really carefully, you can actually see in the photo where it’s pinned into the sweater that there is a…gasp!…purl stitch where there should be a knit in the rib. I didn’t notice the error until it showed up in the centre of the spiral! Sigh. All my best efforts at perfection are undermined by my human hands. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

The pin is easy to attach. You push the pin part through the cloth and then twist the circle around so the open end slips under the pin. Lots of design possibilities occur to me for the upper part. (And check out some of the pieces by the fabulous Romi who does a much nicer job of the wirework than I do!) What I like best about this design is that the pin is attached to the brooch so it doesn’t get lost. BTW, ‘penannular’ means a not-quite-closed circle, which is the original shape used for centuries by the Celts.

Meanwhile, I’ve only got one active knitting project still left on the needles:

HappyLegs_prog1

And I obviously haven’t gotten very far on those leggings yet either. However, it fits perfectly! Yay! My revised calculations are holding up so far. So what happened to the crocheted shawl I was working on way back last fall? ZZZZZZ…I’m not so happy with it so it’s been in time-out. The tension is very uneven due to my not having done much recent crochet when I began it and also not being familiar with the Solomon’s Knot stitch. I’m not sure I like the alpaca for it anyhow. Might just frog it (if I can – that alpaca is fuzzy!) and either start again with something else or consider another pattern. The other sleeping project is the afghan squares out of leftover sock yarn. It’s not portable and it takes too much decision-making to be a good project for the moment. That’s what I like about these things – they are very patient and will wait until I feel the love again. Or the hate. In either case, I’ll do something about them eventually.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Light My Life

It’s getting to be light now when I wake up and there’s still a hint of twilight at our (admittedly early) bedtime. It really energises me when the seasons shift like that. I’m not sure I would like to live somewhere nearer the equator where there aren’t any real seasons or where it’s sunny and warm most of the time. I enjoy the changes – though the recent weather is a bit much! The rain has been on and off like a heavenly water tap and the sun peeks through occasionally even though it could be raining at the same time. Yesterday morning was positively dumping but it was lovely and sunny in the afternoon. If you don’t like the current weather, just wait 5 minutes! Very April. Bring an umbrella and sunglasses.

Then I was surprised to notice that April is almost over already and we’re nearly into May! In the last few days I got a lot more seedlings into the veggie garden which is coming along nicely. I’m holding off on planting the warm weather crops quite yet though I can start the squashes and cukes indoors now. Then they’ll have a head start in a couple of weeks and be ready to go in the garden when it warms up a bit more. And I’m still hauling peppers and tomatoes in and out of the greenhouse every day. The bean poles are already in place for the runner beans (thanks to T-Man) and I will need to create my usual “warp” on them for the beans to climb up. Yes, I could use a purchased net but what’s the fun in that? Cotton string is also biodegradable and there’s plenty of it in the weaving stash. Now I’m just waiting on my weld and Chinese woad seeds which Richters have finally mailed. They should be here tomorrow or Wednesday I hope. Got the pots to start them in and space under the lights.

I need to concentrate on the front garden for awhile now that the back and the side are under control. There are lots of “volunteers” (cornflowers, bluebells, yellow poppies and Peruvian lilies among other prolific things) that need to be sorted and cleared out or transplanted to better spots. I have lobelias, sunflowers and marigolds ready to go out there asap as soon as their beds are ready for them.

EastGarden

The last-year’s woad that I left in place is blooming now (that bright yellow to the right of the clematis ‘gate’). Quite a colour contrast with the elderly but gorgeously brilliant magenta Hino azalea that we always threaten to eliminate and always remember every April why we don’t. Now that I’ve moved the coreopsis to the new dye garden there is a large space right in the middle there behind the azalea which needs something medium-height, preferably perennial and still interesting in winter. That was the spot where our late lamented pyracantha used to live before it finally succumbed a couple of winters ago. Ah, decisions, decisions.

While I’m showing you the east garden, did I mention that while the grandbeasties were here on Friday we saw Mrs. Hummingbird come by to sample the Oregon grape flowers? We could see her out the living room window and she put on quite a show for us, hovering so we could get a good look! I’m not sure what kind she was, perhaps an Anna’s hummingbird which are quite large as these little guys go. We don’t see them very often in our garden so this was a really special occasion! Glad the kids (and their mom) could share it.

In crafty news, I got Pfaff-y back and she works fine now. Here she is in all her sparkly-stickered glory:

Pfaffy

It cost me just over $90 including taxes but there were no issues. I guess that means she’s still pretty healthy for an old lady, right? (Good thing because they don’t make replacement parts for her anymore. You can’t even get new bobbins.) I also stopped by the Pfaff store to see about an adjustable zipper foot. I got one for $8 that the salesgirl insisted would work but it doesn’t quite. The one that came with the machine is fixed to the left of the needle and accommodates the walking foot. The new one can’t use the walking foot (which isn’t a huge issue) but it will only work properly on the right side and not on the left because unless you tighten the screw really tightly the foot skids out of place and it causes the tensions to go off. So perhaps working on the right will be enough to satisfy my needs? At least then I can sew piping into a seam without having the full body of the item stuffed under the arm. And I can sew both sides of a zipper in the same direction (even if I have to change feet in the middle)! If you go down, around the bottom and then up the other side, many fabrics will pucker and skew. Imagine, I’ve been putting up with this limitation for 32 years. Sheesh. Guess it would have been smart to do something about it back then when they were still being manufactured. Doh.

On the knit front, I’m totally annoyed at my Shamrock Cardi’s sleeves which though nearly finished, do NOT match! I’m going to have to rip them back to the underarms and put them on the circular needle together and do the decreases at the same time. Apparently I can’t count well enough to do them properly. It’s something about having to do it on every third row that puts me off. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to pay better attention and use a counter system to keep on track. I’m going to do that now. Right after I start the next load of laundry.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bits & Bobs

I have to babysit the grandbeasties shortly so this will be a quick post. I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated because I keep making errors on my Shamrock Cardi’s sleeves and have had to rip out several rows more than once. I’m not paying enough attention. Nearly finished now though. Then I have to sew them in!

My neck has been sore for the last week for some reason. Not sure what I did but gardening and schlepping chairs at the last guild meeting (even when I said I wasn’t going to) may have had something to do with it. It’s making sleeping uncomfortable and hurts every time I turn my head. Hope it’s not the degenerative disc disease thing again. It’s also slowing down my weeding and planting schedule. I don’t want to hold some of these plants much longer or they won’t grow properly. Unfortunately it’s supposed to rain later today and tomorrow. Hopefully Sunday I can get out there, but that means I’ll miss my knitting meet-up yet again. Sigh. Can’t win ‘em all.

Totally on a different subject, I admit to having an odd sense of humour. I like a pun rather than a pratfall. Jokes are mostly lost on me. On the other hand, I do quite enjoy the things that I actually think are amusing. Such as a recent blog discovery. A guy who not only sews for himself, but for his alter ego “cousin Cathy”, who loves to wear ’30’s & ’40’s glamour outfits. As if Franklin Habit actually dressed as Dolores. Too funny.

I also think it’s interesting that old patterns are becoming quite the collectible item. I should go through the stash and get an Etsy shop, huh? Might even make a few bucks. However, most of my good patterns are from the ’80’s. Are they hot fashion again yet? I totally can’t tell. (And shudder to think of those shoulder pads upon shoulder pads coming back.) Nah, I’d probably never get around to all the work it would take to put up a listing, not to mention the packing and posting. One day I’m going to have to do a serious cull though. Probably the Sally Ann will get the benefit instead of me.

What else to babble about? I haven’t gotten my seeds from Richters yet. They said 2-5 working days. I’m impatient, I know but time’s a-wasting. And then I’m hoping Pfaff-y will be ready to take home today but it looks like I won’t get there until tomorrow. Need my handsome chauffeur because I can barely lift the thing. Especially with the recent neck problem. Taking her on the bus is not an option.

More anon. The beasties should be here any time now. I’m looking forward to seeing them. It’s been a few weeks. Too bad T-Man had to work in the office today instead of at home. Or maybe not, because it would be hard for me to keep them out of his way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day?

Maybe I’m just feeling grumpy, but I think we should think about our Mother Earth every day. Not just one calendar date where everybody is running around turning off lights and brushing their teeth with the tap off. I know every little bit helps but really in the scheme of things, this is all just a drop in the ocean. Stop playing “holier than thou” and start putting your money where your mouth is! We need to get serious about what we purchase (or don’t purchase) and what the companies we deal with are really about. And do a lot more research to make sure it’s not just a bunch of greenwashing going on. I’m pretty sick of all the ubiquitous eco-sensitive words. They still want you to buy their products and it’s all in the marketing! Are they telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? OK, call me cynical.

Besides, you can’t live on this planet and not use up something. The trick is to contribute as much back as you use. Pretty impossible with our current consumer lifestyles, huh? Things are changing but sometimes it just seems to be at a snail’s pace. Locally we just got the ok today to start adding compostable materials like uncooked vegetable and fruit bits, eggshells, coffee grounds, filters and teabags into our yard waste bins. Took them long enough! And I won’t be doing that myself. I’m not giving away my own carefully saved compostables so I can go collect one cubic yard per year of questionable compost back! I’ve had a compost pile since we rented a basement suite back in the early 1970’s. Our current one is the full length of our garage and gives us lots of really good stuff to put on the garden beds every year. We already let the city have the stuff we don’t want such as walnut leaves (too much tannic acid), invasive roots like bindweed and buttercups, and sticks that take forever to break down but are too small to bother getting out the chipper. But I’m definitely keeping the rest for myself! I do think it’s a great idea though and I’ll be sure to participate when they eventually get to the second phase where they will take “putrescible” waste, aka meat, fish, dairy, bread and food-soiled paper. Then they will increase pickup to weekly (I’m guessing to get rid of the stink faster!) and cut regular garbage pickup to every other week. We only put our garbage out about once a month anyway unless we’ve been doing some big cleanup. And we have the smallest available city garbage bin too.

Ooh. I just thought about all the fun we’ll have cleaning out the yukky (and larger) yard waste bin after it’s had meat bones and such in it. The price one has to pay for doing the right thing, huh? Think I need to find a long-handled brush somewhere so I can reach the bottom. I can just picture me ending up with my head stuck inside and my feet kicking in the air!

I totally agree that anything we can keep out of the landfill is good. Plus they use the compost on city gardens as well as returning some to people (though I doubt most remember to go pick it up). The new program needs to expand to multifamily dwellings and commercial businesses though because they are the ones who don’t have access to a regular compost (unless they get a worm composter – and most sadly won’t adopt those cute little wrigglers). However most apartments and shops have private contracts for their pickup so implementing composting there will take some work. Not impossible. But there needs to be a will to do it. The city is calling this Phase 3 and haven’t given a timeline on it yet. Hurray for tenants who get together to start a composting scheme themselves to get a jump on this bandwagon! Go for it.

Personally, my biggest problem is that most of our own trash is non-recyclable plastic. If we could convince companies to cut down on packaging and to use recyclables as much as possible it would cut our garbage down a lot further. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on them for sure. I use my backpack and tote bags all the time but I also need to find a substitute for plastic produce bags. I reuse them at least once more before they get trashed but I would like to avoid them a lot more than I do now. There are several brands of cute little mesh or cotton reusable bags available now but recent research revealed that A) I can make them easier myself and probably out of recycled or stash materials and B) they aren’t good for long-term storage. They’re only meant for bringing produce home from the store. So I see two choices here. Either I just get better at washing out and reusing the regular store bags while avoiding bringing home more of them. Or hunt down produce-sized corn/bio-based compostable bags. I’ve found an online Canadian source in Ontario but haven’t noticed them locally, though I’m certain they should be available here somewhere. (That would save postage and transport.) I’ll keep an eye out. And I have to get Pfaff-y home from the sewing machine doctor before I can sew anything.

Now if only the dog owners in this city would use compostable bags for doggy-do. Then we’d really be getting somewhere!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

D-eye Candy

I’ve been debating with myself about how to review the new natural dye book that I got the other day. I both love it and am annoyed with it at the same time! So pardon my ramblings and feel free to disagree with me. Be aware that I’m coming at it from the point of view of an experienced dyer and have no idea how beginners would see the same information. (Or notice any lack of it!)

DyeBook

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing: Techniques and Recipes for Dyeing Fabrics, Yarns and Fibers At Home

By Eva Lambert & Tracy Kendall

Published 2010 by Quarto, UK, Interweave Press LLC, USA.

This book has the most juicy photographs which is definitely what sold me on buying yet another natural dye book. However, in an attempt to be a “complete” guide, the authors seem to me to have reached too far and so missed some things. Other reviews are more complimentary but maybe I’m more jaded (or maybe just more experienced) than most. On mulling it over, I found it was kind of like my feelings about the movie Avatar: very pretty to look at but afterwards there are many questions, doubts and disagreements that arise. I won’t bore you with every detail but the book could have used more serious editing, particularly when being translated from British to American English. For example, a potentially nasty error could result from the typo on page 60 under Indigo Vat Dyeing where hydros, an unfamiliar nickname (at least in North America) is eventually defined as sodium dithionite (correctly) or sodium hydrosulphate (totally wrong!) It should be sodium hydrosulphITE (or hydrosulfite in the US spelling). S. hydrosulphATE is a completely different chemical. Also here in North America it’s much easier to obtain thiourea dioxide which is stronger and more stable than sodium hydrosulphite and the recipe would need to be adjusted for the difference. This fact is seldom mentioned in any dye book perhaps because the author isn’t aware of what’s not available elsewhere.

Two pages in the beginning are used to show “About This Book” which is somewhat redundant to me. Just turn the pages! But the important information labelled “Safety First” which absolutely should be at the beginning, is at the back. Furthermore, in several photo sequences gloves are not being worn when they should be! Overall I felt a lack of details that frustrated me and at the same time thought some things might have been better left out entirely. For example, in the section under “Introducing Pattern: Using Your Fabric”, simple spots and stripes are mentioned as being easy to achieve. However, nowhere does it say how to do that! I would like to know myself. There’s also a “Motif Directory” in the back with no real information on exactly how to use the motifs. Make a stencil? Use batik wax? Something else? Frustrating. It’s like looking at yummy cakes and cookies through a glass window!

Some of the more complex dyeing techniques were a big part of my interest in this book – how to achieve multi-colours on fibres using natural dyes, which is more difficult than with synthetic dyes. The authors, Eva (who specialises in yarn dyeing) and Tracy (whose focus is fabrics) cover simple tie-dyeing, clamp-dyeing and dip-dyeing methods. There’s even a little bit on batik with indigo. This whole chapter is just a taster really but can give you a place to start. I used the dip-dyeing technique myself with the rhubarb leaf overdyed with madder and dipped in ammonia modifier that I did the other day.

On the other hand, the dye recipes themselves are very specific. Mordants used are the usual ones (alum, copper, iron) except for the increasingly-avoided chrome and only one or two with tin modifier, and they are in the modern (lower) percentages. The yarns are wool only and the recipes are separate from the ones for fabrics, which are specified as wool, silk or cotton. Some of the dyestuffs are repeated for both yarn and fabrics. No real mention is made of using tannin with the cellulose fabrics and acid or alkaline modifiers aren’t discussed either. I find tannin important in getting good colour on cotton and linen. Using modifiers, whether acid, alkaline or one of the mordants, was a big eye-opener for my dyeing that I learned from Jenny Dean.

You can obviously get colours on your fibres with this book and there is lots to think about and do further research on here. It would not be my only natural dye book though. So far nobody covers everything I want to know, not even Dominique Cardon (though she wins for most amount of actual science content). But my favourites by far are any of Jenny Dean’s books. I already own it, but happily her Wild Colour book is scheduled to be reprinted this fall – a good move since copies are currently going for $160 and up on Amazon. Speaking of Jenny, she is acquainted with both of the authors of The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing and gave it a kinder review here.

Later I’ll contrast this book with a much older but still excellent dye book that I got out of my guild library.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Oh why does it make me so absurdly happy to have this to play with:

NewDyeGarden

Behold my new Dye Garden! I finally have room for the big things that take up so much garden space! Deluxe. What you are seeing there are the two madder buckets in back, baby woad in front and coreopsis further to the right. Yes, I know it doesn’t amount to much yet. And those poor hacked and chopped laurels look pretty nekkid right now, don’t they? Everything will fill in eventually. Probably too much! Plus I’ll be hunting for some more containers for madder so I can expand the collection this fall. They can’t be too nice though or they will go walkies so recycled and/or just plain ugly (like my old galvanised buckets) are perfect. Remember, this is outside my fence on public property so it’s not at all protected. Maybe I’m naive but I’m hoping the passersby will keep their dogs and kids out of it at least! Now I’m waiting on delivery of my Chinese woad and weld seeds in the post so they can go in the empty places. There will be red, orange, yellow and blue possibilities all in one spot. And T-Man won’t be sad anymore when I harvest them. See how kind he is to make me my own space?

I was kind of annoyed when I found one other plant that I should have ordered when I was getting seeds from Richters. Unfortunately I’m not going to bother with it this year or I’ll be back to the “P&H costs more than the seeds are worth” problem. Called dyer’s chamomile by some sources, it was listed as golden marguerite so I missed it. It’s a perennial and yet another good source of yellow. It would have been easier to locate if it had been listed under its Latin name Anthemis tinctoria. Just sayin’. That “tinctoria” is always a good sign of a dye plant! Over in Wales, the wonderfully inspirational Helen has an informative blog post here on dyer’s chamomile. Interesting that she says the dye components have not really been identified yet.

Helen also mentions that weld (Reseda luteola) and saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria) are more important as yellow dyestuffs – at least in Europe. I remember Dominique Cardon saying that saw-wort is her favourite yellow of all and I had never heard of it before. I can’t find a North American source for this one either. Possibly because it’s native to Europe and because the plants come in male and female and you need both to set seeds. It’s a pretty perennial that looks like a pink thistle but without the prickles. It grows in part shade too which would be ideal if I could find some. Am I going a little nuts on this? No. Don’t answer that.

Anyway, I was glad to see the rain today so I could get a rest from the gardening! The weather had been ideal for the last few days – warm and not too brightly sunny – so we couldn’t resist getting as much done as possible. My neck is a bit stiff from using the big shovel to haul out about half of the old bolting woad yesterday. We’ll let the rest flower until we need the space for planting. I think it’s pretty! That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it. Anyhow, I have enough woad seeds so I don’t need any more this year so it will go to the compost before seed sets.

On the craft front, all I’ve gotten done is a little more on the Shamrock Cardi. I’ve got the shoulders stitched and am nearly done knitting and attaching the collar at the back neck. Then it’s on to the sleeves. This has taken quite awhile because I had to experiment some with how to attach the collar and it turned out that just sewing it on was the tidiest and most invisible way to go. I knit a bit and stitched a bit until I got to the centre back neck. I plan to try grafting the back neck seam. We’ll see how that goes on k2p2 ribbing!

I’ll leave you on a gardening note again with my beautiful peas:

Peas

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mind Over Madder

Before I get to the dye stuff I need to back up to Friday. I had promised to go down to Crafthouse on Granville Island and spin in my guild’s current gallery show. An elderly Louet S15 spinning wheel had been left there for demos but it took quite a lot of oiling to get it to work satisfactorily!

SpinInterlacements

Man, it was noisy! Poor old thing had definitely been neglected! I finally got it going and T-Man went for a walk while I spun a little bit of pink and blue wool/silk. I have no idea what that little ball of yarn will be used for but that wasn’t really the point anyhow. After T came back we decided to go have dinner while we were on the island. We looked at several menus outside restaurants and also stopped in at Maiwa to get more Orvus for washing my woolies. (I use it exclusively for my handknits, particularly the many pairs of socks.) I also found a copy of the new natural dye book from Interweave. More about it later when I’ve digested it.

Dinner ended up at The Keg and it was very nice indeed. More pricey than we are wont to pay whilst eating out, but it’s lovely to splurge on ourselves every once in awhile! He had steak and crab and I had Creole chicken with scallops and prawns. Plus a bottle of gewurtztraminer. Num! Then we waddled home. The weather was quite warm that evening but a little sprinkly on the way up the hill. I took some photos along the seawall:

CrowConversation

These crows were deep in conversation about some yummy bit of flotsam.

On Saturday we took my poor old Pfaff-y (the 32-year-old sewing machine) into the shop to get checked out. The tensions have been a we bit wacky lately and she hasn’t been seen by a repair person for about 20 years. I figured it was time, don’t you? I felt bad for her though. Like leaving your child for a sleepover. She hasn’t left her spot in my studio for a very long time. Now I keep thinking of things I want to sew even though I haven’t done any sewing for quite awhile. It’s only because she’ll be gone for a week. Otherwise it would probably never even cross my mind.

I also finished up the dyeing that’s been going on veerrrryy sllllooowwwwllly all last week.

Backyard Dyes: Rhubarb Leaf & Madder

RhubarbMadder

Dates: April 11-17, 2010

Used:
Rhubarb leaves – fresh, 700g (about 6 big leaves)
Madder root – dried, stored at least 5 years, 100g
Fibres – wool. Louet Gems Superfine superwash wool yarn. 3 – 50 g skeins (2 cream and 1 white). Crossbred wool roving (from Birkeland Bros.). 300g total.
Modifier – ammonia.

Procedure and comments: After picking a half-dozen rhubarb stems for sauce, I saved the leaves and decided to try Jenny Dean’s rhubarb leaf mordanting technique. I chopped and tore the leaves into pieces and put them in a dyepot with water to cover, brought them up to a bare simmer and left them for an hour or so. Then I turned off the heat and allowed them to sit for about two days before getting back to them. I used the sieve to remove the green goo and put in 2 skeins of washed and soaked superwash wool plus about 200g of the roving (dry, not soaked). This was brought to a simmer for at least an hour. It actually got to a boil at one point where after I turned off the heat and left the pot overnight. This came out a soft grayed yellow. Not an especially attractive colour on its own really. (Lower right bit of wool in the above photo.)

Madder

I had a little baggie of thin madder roots from one of my earlier harvests. It hadn’t been washed as much as I’ve now learned to do so it still had lots of yellow and brown in it. I used the craft blender to grind it up as much as possible. This gave dust, powder and ¼” chunks. I put it in the small pot with water to cover and heated to a bare simmer for at least an hour. Then I turned it off and left it overnight. The next day I poured that through the sieve into the clean dyepot (after dumping the rhubarb mordant) with more water to make the dyebath. I added more water to the roots and extracted again. This also was added to the dyepot. I entered the rinsed rhubarb-mordanted wool (1 skein of cream superwash and 3 out of the 5 pieces of roving) and brought it up to a bare simmer for an hour or so and then turned it off overnight. I also put more water on the madder and heated it before turning it off to rest with the big pot.

The next day I put most of the now rust-coloured wool roving (except for one piece) in a small pot with a tablespoon or so of ammonia. It immediately turned deep brownish rose! Really pretty colour and slightly variegated. (Upper right of top photo.) I left the superwash out to keep the pretty deep rust shade. (Centre top.) The roving that was left untreated with ammonia is a lighter red-brown. (Upper left.)

There was lots of colour still left in the pot so I threw in the rest of the mordanted wool. Then I extracted some more of the colour from the madder and added that. While I was extracting that third time, I put a little piece of unmordanted wool in the pot with the madder root and got a brilliant red colour. Unfortunately there was a lot of madder bits caught in it! I also added a piece of it to the ammonia pot and got a more bluish-red. I need to remember to make a “tea-bag” for the madder root because the colour is so much deeper if you use it in the pot at the same time as the fibre. But if it’s not contained it’s practically impossible to get out the bits later. Plus the fibre sheds the bits while you spin or knit with it. Messy!

The second batch of rhubarb-mordanted wool ended up quite different shades from the first one. The superwash wool was more brown but the roving was more rust and less brown! Go figure. (Centre of upper photo.) I left the roving as is and put part of the skein of superwash in the ammonia modifier to make a variegated purple/rust/brown skein. (Centre on top of the pile.) Pretty! I’m very happy that I was able to make a naturally-dyed variegation without much trouble.

I extracted the madder yet one more time (number 4) because there was still lots of colour coming out and tested another little bit of unmordanted wool in the extraction pot. It was still a bright deep red but a different red from the last batch. I strained out the madder from this 4th extraction and added the unmordanted white skein of superwash. To the exhaust pot I put in a further 100g of wool roving (also not mordanted). This time I got a strong peach colour on the roving (centre front in photo) and a somewhat deeper red-orange on the superwash. I think there was some of the rhubarb mordant still in the exhaust pot which had now been reused 3 times. That might account for the slightly muted colours from it as opposed to the 4th extraction pot which was uncontaminated. Most of the peachy roving went into the ammonia modifier for a pretty lavender. (Just behind the peachy one.) The superwash from the last extraction also was put in the ammonia and ended up a soft rose. (Skein on the right.) It took quite a lot of rinsing to get it to come clear though. Maybe a more fugitive colour than I’d like since there is no mordant at all in this one. I’ll just have to keep it as carefully as possible out of the light and wash gently. I plan to make stranded knit gloves in a Scandinavian/Estonian style. The roving will go into some eventual sweater project.

I’m very pleased with the colours and love the combination of rhubarb leaf mordant and madder especially with the ammonia modifier. It’s very much in my personal palette and goes well with the woad blues. There is definitely a case for trying a very strong bath for deep reds instead of diluting with too much fibre. Next time. I will need to dump out the madder roots and divide them this fall anyway.

So now T-Man has made me a whole new dye garden at the side of the house where he’s been drastically pruning back the oversized laurel. It’s actually on city property but since they haven’t seen fit to put a sidewalk in on that side, it’s just a big chunk of grass that T has to mow anyhow. Many of our neighbours have been making use of similar city land and planting flowers and shrubs and even raised beds for vegetables, so I feel totally justified. We’re leaving a wide grass pathway for foot traffic. I’m going to plant my woad and coreopsis there, plus put my madder pots out. And hopefully eventually I’ll have some weld and Chinese woad to put in as well. I’ve ordered the seeds from Richters Herbs in Ontario. I was reluctant because they charge a $6 flat fee for postage and handling and that was more than the seeds were worth. So I added a packet of lemon creeping thyme to the order so it would at least be slightly more than that! (I’m trying to find a thyme that will survive in my pathways. So far the winters have managed to kill quite a few plants.) I’m a little late starting these seeds but that’s ok. Weld won’t be much until next year anyhow and hopefully the Chinese woad will be of harvesting size by August. Too fun. Photos coming when there’s something to show. Off to play in the dirt.

Meanwhile here’s the sunset from Friday as we were walking home along the False Creek South seawall looking towards Granville Island on the left and the Granville Bridge:

GranvilleIsSunset

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Legs!

I couldn’t help myself. I started on the tights – or perhaps they’re leggings? Not quite sure what the difference is though I tend to think of leggings as thicker and warmer than tights which are in turn thicker and warmer than pantyhose. (Which latter item I never ever wear.) Anyhow I need a catchy name for these things! The pattern is the Zarina Leggings from Phoenix Bess which I bought awhile back. She has a couple of different pants patterns which seems to be an unusual item these days. The young and talented Phoenix is very fashion forward so maybe this is a new trend that hasn’t quite caught on with knitters yet. Maybe she needs warm legs in Ecuador? Or maybe they’re just afraid to tackle something so large with such small needles! Cowards. It’s only the equivalent of a long-sleeved sweater.

Here’s a great article on how to wear leggings. No, I don’t intend to wear them without a long layer on top! For me at least the whole point is warmth – not style. Since I have No Style to speak of anyway. Except my own. This image I tore out of a sales flyer is very me:

Tights

OK, a much younger, long-haired, thinner, and taller me! All I would change is Birkenstocks for the flipflops and different colours for the top and scarf. Something more earthy and hand-dyed perhaps. Anyhow, the first leg isn’t much longer than this yet:

Tights_beg

Merely an embryo of what it will become. That curly bottom is a hem. Increasing is happening. I’m thinking of it as long footless socks. At least until I get up to the crotch. Pretty mindless actually. Unfortunately I only have one set of 2.75mm needles so it’s only going one leg at a time which is a bit different from my usual alternation technique. But I’m too cheap to go buy more needles when I rarely use this size. Anyway I’m off to a guild meeting tonight so this will be accompanying me. Hope I can count the rounds for the decreases in the dim lighting.

Meanwhile, I’m nearly at the neckline decreases and shoulders on the back of the Shamrock Cardi. That’s quite a bit farther along than this pic I took yesterday:

Shamrock_prog

It’s kind of a cute little thing – bigger than a shrug but still quite dainty. That texture in the lace area will disappear in blocking leaving the shamrocks on the green background. I plan to carry the ribbed collar up around the back neck and graft the two parts in the middle. To that end I’ve put those stitches on a holder but bound off the shoulder stitches. I like a firm shoulder seam that doesn’t stretch out of shape. It’s coming along but it’s getting rather non-portable. Hence the leggings. Oh, I have a name for them now! Happy Legs. The yarn is Happy Feet. Get it? Works for me anyhow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Resisting

Today I thought I’d show the results of the flour paste resist that I did last week. I used some light blue cotton fabric I had kicking around in the stash and already washed. I just gave it a pressing with a hot iron and cut it into vaguely place mat-sized pieces. The paste recipe is really simple:  1 part regular white wheat flour whisked into an equal part cold water. Add a little more water or a little more flour until you get the consistency of thin pancake batter. I taped the corners of the fabric pieces down to my table with masking tape and used a thin plastic card (thinner than a credit card) to spread the paste over them. This is the messy part so make sure you’ve got the area covered with plastic! Then I used a variety of tools (fork, point, comb, paint scrapers etc.) to make patterns in the wet paste. I was in a hurry to dry the cloth so after a short while I hung them all up on my basement clothesline. They dried overnight but wrinkled up quite a bit so I gave them another press (no steam) to flatten. The crackles that made in the paste are a good thing!

PasteCloth1

Here’s the results after the paste dried and before I painted them. You might be able to see the scratched patterns in the crunchy paste.

Then at our Spectrum meeting, I mixed up some Setacolor transparent fabric paint in red ochre, indigo, and brown velvet diluted with water and toning with a bit of black lake. I can’t say how much of anything since I didn’t measure! I slapped it around on the pasted PasteCloth2cloth with a sponge brush, not paying too much attention to placement. Some pieces got blue and red ochre and some got more brown and black. Here’s what it looked like after the paint dried. Pretty awful actually! Though you could see the potential patterning on the backs.

After leaving it 24 hours to set, I soaked the fabric in warm water for awhile and then took a soft brush (one of these handy things from Lee Valley Tools) to release the paste from the surface. It was quite tedious to get that stuff off! But it was kind of fun at the same time. Anyway, after I got it off as best I could I threw the pieces in the laundry to wash again with detergent and dried them in the dryer. Now they look like this:

PasteCloth

And a detail:

PasteCloth_det

Cool huh? I still have 4 pieces left that are pasted but haven’t been painted yet. I ran out of time at Spectrum and haven’t gotten back to it yet. Maybe later today.

Meanwhile another project is simmering – literally. I pulled half a dozen stalks of rhubarb out of my garden to make sauce and saved the leaves, all 700+ grams worth. This is only one of them:

RhubarbLeaf

Just a little guy, huh? Could use it for an umbrella! I chopped them up and simmered for an hour and then left them overnight to cool. OK, it was really over two nights! I didn’t touch it yesterday but just left it sit. Today after sieving out all the plant goo, I was left with this lovely soft greenish-yellow bath:

RhubarbLeafDye

In the pot are 220g of crossbred wool roving and 2 – 50g skeins of Louet Gems fingering weight superwash. About 2 parts rhubarb leaf to 1 part wool. No mordant. I plan to play around with some further dyeing over this, perhaps madder. More anon. We’re still simmering.

Oh yeah, for those who are concerned about the poisonous aspects of rhubarb leaves read this. Yes, I was careful. See the blue glove? Oh, and don’t miss the great info on that website. Lots of recipes too! The eating kind – not the dyeing kind. Personally I like the stalks simmered with just enough sugar to avoid serious puckering then served warm over vanilla ice-cream. Slurp!

Speaking of blue gloves, I never did find any that fit me properly. I just got accustomed to using ones that are too big! The advantage of the heavy kind of nitrile gloves (not the lightweight ones in the photo) is they wear really well and last a long time without popping holes. I even broke a wine glass in the dishwater accidentally and it didn’t cut through them. Yay! However I do wish they made them somewhat smaller. At least a normal woman’s small size would be nice even if that’s still somewhat too big for me. Sigh.

Which reminds me. I went to the dermatologist again on Monday and didn’t get any more antifungal medication. He doesn’t think I need it. Hope he’s right. Anyway he did give me yet 2 more meds for the psoriasis. Oh my. Now the count is up to 6 different goops to slop on at various times. Yikes. I have to keep track of what goes where and when on my computer’s calendar! Since it started working its way up my shins recently, they have to be slathered on a different schedule from my feet and hands. We’ll see how this works. At least I got his input on the benefits of getting a bit (but not too much) sun on the affected areas. And he told me not to be concerned about working in the garden. The psoriasis skin is no more vulnerable to anything in the soil than normal skin. I just have to be careful to wear my gloves since my palms are sensitive and wash my hands gently with my special soap. And moisturise lots. Right now it’s feeling somewhat better than it has been. Officially a year now since I noticed the original symptoms. Bleh.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Have I Gots In My Pocketses?

GreenCardiPocket2

No, it’s not The One Ring. But at least I have pocketses now! I decided that my Green Peace (Shalom) Cardi needed them badly. Even though it probably wasn’t as flattering a look on me with the extra bulk around the hip section. Practicality won out though. And luckily I had some of the vintage handspun yarn left so I started with a mini-version of the yoke’s twisted rib and garter stitch pattern, then increased a bit after that and straight on to the bind-off. After slip-stitching them on to my sweater I’m very happy. Now I have a place for my hands when it’s cold or a hankie or even a ball of yarn. Good to go.

GreenCardiPocket1

So now what? I’m just about up to the armholes on my Shamrock Cardi where I have to divide for the fronts and back sections. It’s getting unwieldy for portable knitting, plus I have to count a lot for decreases, so perhaps it’s time to start my next project. I seem to be tired of knitting socks so this will be the leggings I mentioned earlier that I had promised myself this past winter. Yes, I know it’s now spring and getting warmer all the time. That doesn’t matter. They’ll be ready for next winter when my legs are freezing in my cold house. Better to have them tucked away in the drawer as leggings than merely a couple of balls of yarn – which are kind of hard to wrap around one’s nether regions in a convenient way. Heh. My biggest problem is that I don’t really have quite enough yarn. If I run out I may have to use something non-matching for the upper panty part. We’ll see how it goes. Since it won’t actually show under all the clothing layers I tend to wear in winter, it isn’t really a big concern.

This brings me to something I was pondering about. What do folks really like to knit in warmer weather? I have difficulty understanding the need for sleeveless shells and the like that are in all the magazines’ spring/summer issues. When it’s warm enough for sleeveless garments it’s much too hot for that thick layer of knitted or crocheted fabric! No matter the fibre content. Or is that just me? Or perhaps the west coast maritime climate that I live in? I did knit myself a nice little mossy green-gold shell awhile back but I only manage to wear it approximately once a year in that two-second interval between too chilly and very warm that happens sometime in spring. And even then I either need something with sleeves over top for my cold arms or else I’m totally broiling.

Anyway, I don’t mind knitting winter garments in summer. Season doesn’t really matter to me. Occasionally it’s too hot to manage a big heavy sweater in your lap but smaller or lighter items such as gloves, fingerless mitts, scarves, shawls, hats etc. are ok. But then that’s the same stuff I work on all year around! Though I’m busier outdoors in the garden from now until October, which means a few hours less spare time, it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the output. Plus there’s more natural light to work by. Much more pleasant when you can actually see what you’re doing, doncha think? These aging eyes appreciate it anyhow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Success To Share

The weather has been quite nice, though a little chilly, so I’ve been compelled to shove more of my little plantlings into bigger pots and into the greenhouse to begin hardening off. The tomatoes and peppers, basil and cilantro are still under the lights in the basement but there’s no room for anything else in there. A number of flats still get moved in every evening and out every morning so it’s quite a job to get everything sorted, watered and rotated into appropriate spots. I’m not in any hurry to plant them in the garden though. The nights have been quite cool and there’s been an occasional wee touch of frost still. Better to wait even if I have to replant the lettuce and other greens. We can always eat the babies. Hmmm…that sounds mean. But yummy!

I’ve been working on a few things to show but I’m kind of short of time today. So we’ll go with this finished item:

Tweedi Cardi

clip_image002For: me

Begun: March 10, 2010

Completed: April 8, 2010

Yarn: Med. Shetland Tweed R180T/2; 4323 Macbeth (Executive Grey); 100% Shetland wool; hand wash. 2760 yds = 1 lb. Used about 225 g/8 oz. (Still lots left on the cone!)

Hook: Clover SoftTouch, 3.5 mm.

clip_image006Pattern: Knitware Sweaters software and milobo’s tutorial for Top-Down Round-Yoke Cardigan (Ravelry link)

Mods: The only changes I made to the tutorial was to use a texture rather than an openwork pattern on the yoke and to make it slightly longer than hip length. I was also careful to work the sleeves by crocheting the sc round from the front and then turn and crochet the dc round from inside the sleeve so the stitches look like the body pattern (where I turned for the dc row). And I did 4 rounds of sc in the back loop for the borders, leaving a large buttonhole on the right front.

clip_image004Comments: I love this software! I started with the standard size women’s 38 which gave me 2.5” ease. The results fit me perfectly. The yarn was a big cone that has been in my weaving stash for a gazillion years. It was harsh, oily, dusty and dirty. Took 2 washings in Orvus and one in Unicorn Power Scour plus 2 more rinsings to get it clean! Now it’s nice and soft and drapey and fits me perfectly. The big brass-coated plastic button is a vintage one from the stash that I’ve had since I was a teenager.

I’ve also been busy making pockets for the Green Peace Cardi (my version of the Shalom) and playing with flour paste resist on cotton fabric but I still have to sort the photos so those reports will come later. I’m currently nearly up to the beginning of the V-neck decreases on the renamed Shamrock Cardi (was the Green Star Reprise). Since I’m knitting it all in one piece to the armholes that’s a goodly chunk of the sweater body done. I’m liking this version much better and am glad I frogged it to start again with a re-jigged pattern.

Most of my knitting (and crochet too) seems to be using finer yarns these days. I guess because the results are more flattering and wearable than chunky things. Even the Green Peace Cardi was only a slightly heavier weight yarn than regular knitting worsted instead of the bulky yarn used for the original Shalom. That’s about as thick as I would prefer to work with even though the results are much (much!)quicker to knit. I’d rather have finer layers and lighter weight garments. I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a kilo of wool on my back! Doesn’t bother me at all that it takes longer to create. It’s just as much about the process as the project.

And I have to say another good thing about the Knitware software. I want to make a pair of leggings with sock yarn. I have a pattern that I bought for this but due to my (ahem!) mature figure, I have to combine a smaller lower leg with the largest hip size. The appropriate calculator in Knitware Sweaters gave me the right rate of increases to do this. I just had to plug in the number of stitches at the start, the number I wanted to end up with, the number of rows (based on the row gauge times the leg length) and the fact that it was increased on both ends of the round and poof! There was my increase sequence all figured out. Absolutely minimal math.This makes me very happy. I’m waiting to begin this project until I’m done the Shamrock though. I’m afraid to start too many new projects in case it gets stuck in limbo again.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Stash Or Consequences

I was reminded recently of the fact that we have no guest room in our house. There is only the old lumpy pull-out couch in the living room for use in a pinch and an extra foamie (that actually goes camping in the VW van) for a real emergency. If we could find enough bare floor somewhere to lie it down on, that is. Yes, this is perhaps a little odd compared to most people. It’s not that we’re completely antisocial. Just that we are particular with whom we share and we only have one bathroom in our smallish house. Probably most people wouldn’t mistake it for a B&B anyway! A potential guest would have to be either really unfussy and/or totally desperate to even inquire. In which case we’d be delighted to help.

As our kids moved out we just took over the extra space with our craft stuff. And we didn’t include a bed in it anywhere. Just in case somebody wasn’t enjoying their newfound adulthood and wanted to move back in. The return policy only worked once! Fly, little birdies, fly. Meanies, aren’t we? Worked though. Unfortunately all the stashes took on lives of their own with all that space to play in!

Speaking of stash, I have to go hunt down some fabric to do some flour paste resist samples today. I want to get the paste on so it can dry for our Spectrum meeting tomorrow where I’ll be applying the fabric paint. The gang wanted to do some more paste paper, but I really don’t need any more myself. So this is my ‘same but different’ effort. I think a few others were interested in pursuing it further as well. I’ll try to take a few photos to document the procedure and results. It’ll be an adventure though because it’s kind of dark and damp today. Hope the stuff manages to dry or I may have to speed it up with a fan.

In other crafty news, I’m cruising down the last elbow-length sleeve on the Tweedi Cardi. I had to alternate directions with the rounds to make it resemble the main body which was worked back and forth. The single crochet round is worked on the outside, then I have to turn for the double crochet round which is worked from the inside. It’s not hard but means I have to flip the whole sweater around often. You can barely see where the rounds meet anyhow. It seems to fit me very well though I won’t really know for sure until it’s well washed to remove all the dust and spinning oil and to full and soften it. I’m hoping when it’s finally blocked it will help keep the corners from curling too much. I’m so in love with top-down circular construction – only a couple of ends to sew in, a button to attach and she’s done! No stinkin’ seams! Not that I particularly mind sewing seams as much as some people do, but it does take extra time. And the garment looks so streamlined and elegant all in one piece. Should have it finished today.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Loooonnnng Weekend

Well, that was both somewhat stressful as expected and a lot more fun than I thought it would be! We had a flash invite on Friday from T-Man’s brother (can’t call him The Coach anymore since he’s retired from coaching kids’ soccer now) and his dear wife to have “fondue chinoise” with them plus Nana. It was a delightful evening with just the 5 of us: chatting, drinking homemade wine and cooking our bits of meat, prawns and veggies in the hot pot. I even got some knitting done on the Green Star Cardi Reprise sweater.

Saturday was the intense day for us. We drove out to my sister’s house to meet up with a large contingent of family members and friends for my birth mom’s memorial. It’s been over 4 months since she passed away but because so many live far from here, it took planning and time to get everyone together. We all convoyed out to a windy wharf at Crescent Beach to spread her ashes to the sea and air and send roses after them. A poem, a quote from Gibran, a few words (I managed to get mine out without snivelling too much) and a “Goodbye, flowers!” from Princess Pink and we all trooped back to have yummy food and to visit with each other for awhile. Mother’s cousin Mary and her Santa-lookalike husband Joe came the farthest, driving from Pennsylvania via California. My sisters came with their families from Haida Gwaii and Mexico and my brother and his wife from Kamloops. Cousins came from Vernon and the rest from more local spots, including our kids and grandkids (the latter of whom were pleasantly sociable and well-behaved). It was kind of a sad occasion but it was so nice to connect with everyone. Don’t know why it always takes funerals – and weddings – to get the family together but it does.

Easter dinner was again at my sister’s with my siblings and some of the cousins. Not such a big group but a happier day. I was able to give my nephew and his wife the gift of the Pebbles Sweater (plus a much-belated wedding gift of money which I’m sure is welcome about now). They finally let me know that the impending family addition is a boy and they seemed very happy with the little sweater. May it keep the little guy warm next winter.

And speaking of little sweaters and such, I’m going to be knitting some more soon. Milady Daughter and her milord hubby are expecting in November! Whoopee! Another grandkid for me! Now that Stargazer is definitely not a baby anymore, it will be so fun to have another baby to play with. The impending new parents are excited too which is great to see since she wasn’t sure she wanted kids for the longest time. That old biological time-bomb finally went off! Well, that and her good man who is even more chuffed than she is. Heh! (Not to mention his mom. I can practically hear her squeeing all the way across the water from Victoria!) It’ll be fun watching them learn new baby-handling skills and I’m always here to give advice and support if they need it.

One leaves our world and another comes in. Life is funny that way, huh?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Not The February Baby Sweater

It’s April already! Time is slipping away on me again. I swear if it wasn’t for the seasons changing – and somebody shoving a calendar in my face – I’d never notice time passing at all. One day follows another, etc. Today is Good Friday, for some folks at least. For me it’s an extra day to spend with T-Man, who managed finally to get a holiday off. We lazed around all morning in bed: I made tea and coffee and he made breakfast (bacon & eggs, yum!). The weather is crap so there’s an excuse for this kind of self-indulgent behaviour. That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it anyhow.

So here’s the FO:

Pebbles Baby Cardi

clip_image001For: M & S’s Baby

Begun: March 24, 2010

Completed: March 31, 2010

Yarn: Regia 4-ply Mosaic Color; colour 5568, dyelot 28464 (muted earthy pastels); 210m = 50g, 2 balls (12.5g remaining).

Needles: Addi Lace 24” circulars, 3mm and 2mm

Notions: 7 small buttons, green

Pattern: Top-down circular yoke cardigan, generated by Knitware software.

clip_image003Mods: I worked garter stitch to the last increase row. I also added 7 extra rows to the yoke thinking that the garter stitch section pulled in too much and it was going to come out short. I worked the garter bands at the same time as the main body rather than knit them lengthwise and sew them on later as the pattern suggested. (Not my favourite method.) I reduced the width somewhat at the cuffs and hem as well as reducing the needle size because the garter stitch band tended to flare.

Comments: This was knitted in a hurry thanks to sis’s impatience to give her daughter-in-law a baby shower! I think it turned out really cute if a little big. Since this is a summer baby it won’t be needed until fall anyway and the little one should have grown into it by then. I tried to style and colour it for a neutral sex since I’m not sure what’s on the way yet. It turned out almost exactly the size in the schematics. Success! I love Knitware more all the time.

It occurred to me that this sweater resembles EZ’s popular February Baby Sweater (Rav link), minus the lace stitch. I don’t know if that’s because I unconsciously copied it or just saw something similar somewhere. There are lots of these out there anyway and it’s such a practical style. I was totally happy with the way I was able to generate a useful pattern so easily with the Knitware program. I do have a few automatic changes that I make – mostly because of the way I work as opposed to the software’s methods. For instance, I pick up the stitches under the arm for the sleeve rather than casting them on and then having to sew the seam up later. The same with the front bands that I knit at the same time as the body, this time in garter stitch. The buttonholes were a little wacky-spaced due to my inability to count rows (!) but not really noticeable I think. (The top 3 appear to be closer together but that’s because of the garter yoke. They are actually correct!) All the finishing necessary is simply sewing in the yarn ends, adding buttons then washing and blocking. Done!

Currently, I’m finished the crocheted Tweedi Cardi’s body and am now going straight into the edging. Then I’ll do the sleeves. I even found a fun button, one I’ve had in my collection since I was a teenager. Just to have something a little more portable than the Tweedi’s massive yarn cone, I’ve also re-started the Green Star Cardi from a new pattern generated by Knitware. Hopefully this time it will work out better and…um…fit properly? I went down a couple of needle sizes since I wasn’t happy with the loose fabric I was getting and the software recalculated everything for the new gauge. Sock yarn is kind of tricky sometimes. It has a tendency to stretch and relax and then pull in again so it’s hard to gauge. The shoulders should fit my narrow ones much better now anyway. The program does have a limitation on the neckline where it won’t allow the bottom of the V-neck to be lower than the armholes. I can move it down the two inches I need myself without much trouble. If I need to recalculate the rate of decreasing there’s the built-in calculator to make that easy. No math for me! Worth the price of admission, I must say.

So far I’ve been quite pleased with how the projects have turned out with Knitware Sweaters. I haven’t even plugged in my personal measurements yet and have just tweaked the closest standard size. (Which you can do with the free demo, btw.) It doesn’t substitute for some basic knowledge of knitting and crochet or a sense of the design you’re aiming for. But it sure saves a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to make something that fits properly using your own yarn, stitch pattern, needles and gauge. Not somebody else’s. It might not be helpful for a garment that is really oddly shaped or constructed (think Norah Gaughan), but it gives you a place to start designing your own sweaters anyhow. I’ve spent some time actually reading the extensive manual (available here, along with all the demos) to get a sense of what it will and will not do. It’s really pretty powerful.

We’re off this evening to T’s darling baby brother’s for fondue. Yum! Definitely a good Friday. Don’t know about tomorrow though. It’s my birth mom’s memorial so will be a big day with the extended family. I finally wrote my “few words” that my sister The Nurse insisted on. It only took an hour once I broke down and just did it. I just can’t talk off the top of my head, especially in an emotional circumstance. At least I can read.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I’m Tracking You

I think I’ve figured out what went wrong with my site counter. When I changed my template I lost the java-script for SiteMeter. Anyhow I think this particular free online service has nearly reached its end and is running on fumes. (Their blog posts end over a year ago and there are broken links on the site.) I started checking out some alternatives and am going with StatCounter. It’s installed now and you won’t see any difference but I will know who has been visiting this old damselfly’s pond. (Mwah-ha-ha!) StatCounter is very functional and they politely sent me emails with a kind welcome and all the information I might need to get up and running, including a link to a Getting Started guide. Very impressive. I’m sold. OK, so it’s actually free.

Why a counter at all? I find it comforting that I’m not just talking to myself! It’s heartening to know that even if you don’t post comments, you’re out there reading my deathless prose. Heh. At least I’m not just babbling into the ether. Yeah, I know – it’s still babbling nonetheless. But it’s mine!

So I finished the Pebbles Baby Cardi yesterday and got it washed and blocked. Turned out I didn’t need to go shopping for buttons because there were at least 4 or 5 choices in my stash already. I was surprised! Though I guess I shouldn’t be. After all my many stashes are pretty extensive. I went with the green ones which blend in nicely and fit through the little buttonholes properly. I’m pleased. A whole project out of the stash. Unfortunately there’s not enough yarn or time to do matching socks. Full disclosure coming up when I get it together. The file I need is on the Other Computer. Sheesh.

Meanwhile I’m plugging away on the Tweedi Cardi. I’m nearly down to the hem. Then it’s on to the sleeves which I’m going to take to the elbow or just below. I’ll be going around the whole neckline, front edges and hem with maybe 4 rounds of single crochet, incorporating buttonholes as I go. Hmmm…buttons. One? Two? Three? Back to the stash.

This evening we’re off to the opening of my guild’s 75th anniversary show at Crafthouse on Granville Island. Currently on that website link are photos of scarves by my friends Kirsten and Jo. Beauty, huh? Plus a delightful article by past member (and now internationally-known fibre artist) Jane Kenyon. The display is on until May 2 so if you’re in the area I hope you get a chance to see it. Nope, I don’t have a piece in this one but Galloping Gail is going to the larger show later at the Seymour Art Gallery in Deep Cove. More info to come.