Thursday, June 23, 2011

Are You Sure It’s Summer?

Ya could have fooled me! Yesterday it warmed up some but today we’re back in the drizzle. And I’m supposed to be packing to go camping this weekend. Because it’s summer, right? Wonder why I’m not terribly inspired? It’s reportedly going to be downright cold in Manning Park for the next few days. I’m packing my longjohns and my rain gear – just in case. (So glad I made that bunting for Rosebud now!) T-Man has next week off so we may be staying past Monday (the end of our reservations) if it’s not too uncomfortable. We need to have extra supplies along because the little convenience store in the lodge doesn’t have much of anything. At least we’ll be able to get more ice for the cooler.

Meanwhile, T is feeling much worse again. The 100-day flu is living up to its name. He was getting better but then it seemed to start all over again with the coughing and the sniffling and the running up of the temperature. Poor guy! He still hasn’t gotten his hearing back in that one ear yet either. Hopefully the cold mountain air won’t make it worse. He’ll have some time to relax anyway. And to try not to share his germs with other family members.

I’m optimistically packing several knitting projects with me even though I have no idea how much I will get done. What with grandbeasties and hiking and hanging out with The Rellies. Plus I’m the designated Baby Watcher whilst Parents fish. I don’t catch or clean trout but I can definitely cook and eat them! Yum.

In sewing news, I managed to finish the pair of capri pants and two pairs of shorts – not that I’m going to need them for the trip it seems. The pattern was McCall’s 6360. I got the larger of the multi-sized versions because my body measurements said that a size W20 would fit me. Not so much! First off, I decided to go with an 18 instead. Then I adjusted it by adding 1.25” to the crotch depth and taking 1” away from the leg length. As you can see here where I cut out the modified size 18 in the black fabric:


The legs were still too loose so I had to modify the pattern some more and re-cut. They’re comfortable but still a little baggier than I’d like:


Brave me for sharing this somewhat unflattering photo, huh? Normally I would wear these with longer tops! The fabric is a cotton/lycra novelty knit and it doesn’t have a really good stretch recovery. I do like the cute elastic ruching at the side hems though. One pair of the shorts comes to the top of my knees and I added pockets to the sides of the legs to hold my iTouch or whatever. The second pair is somewhat shorter because I ran out of enough fabric to make them longer. Perfect for cycling or under a tunic top. I got 3 pairs of pants/shorts out of 2 metres of 60” wide fabric at $5.99 per metre so that’s a pretty good return on my investment. I might tweak the pattern a wee bit more before my next pair but otherwise these will come in handy this summer. Assuming we ever get a summer.

Just goes to show you however that you absolutely cannot go by the measurements on the pattern envelope! This pattern had too much ease for these close-fitting stretch garments. Also of course, I’m not any kind of standard shape. Pretty much any pattern is going to need adjusting to fit me the way I’d like! I’m happy that I’m learning more and more about how to make this work for me and my body shape As It Truly Is – not As I Wish It To Be.

Off to do something useful - like cleaning and packing…

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sustainable Life

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about “sustainability” but I’m totally confused about what that really means. One definition (from Wikipedia) says “Sustainability itself is expressed as meeting present ecological, societal, and economical needs without compromising these factors for future generations.” It all sounds lovely. Can we in this severely overpopulated world actually live this way? Truthfully, I don’t think many people are willing to give up a lot of their 21st Century perks and really do what it takes to achieve this noble goal. It’s particularly difficult while others seem to be exploiting the planet and the population like crazy just to get rich on the profits. I’m not really a very philosophical or navel-gazing type of person. I just do what I do and carry on as best I can. Of course it’s not enough – but then nothing ever is, is it?

But I never cease to be amused by people hopping on a new bandwagon. If it’s a good thing, go for it! More power to ya. You do need to think things through a little better though before you blindly follow the crowd. (Just ask those morons at the recent Stanley Cup Riot who are now apologising left, right and centre because they joined in the insanity! Doh.) In our own little corner, we’ve been shopping with our own bags and boxes for at least 20 years only now we don’t get funny looks from the cashier. We’ve had a veggie garden for nearly 40 years, ranging from a strip of dirt under a window to boxes on a flat garage roof and currently to nearly 1/4 of our city lot plus nut trees and berry bushes and don’t forget the dye garden. We have a huge compost box. Also I’ve been making at least a portion of my wardrobe since I was a teenager and then some of our household textiles too, incorporating all of the textile arts as I learned them: sewing, dyeing, spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, rug hooking. T-Man fixes things and keeps them working as long as possible. We use stuff until it wears out - and then often we continue use it some more until we get around to replacing it. And so on and so on. Blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. Is this all sustainable in a global sense? Don’t think so. Not even close. However I believe that every little bit we can do does help somehow. I’d still do it all anyway.

Yet we are all bombarded day and night with advertising that tells us we need to have the latest and greatest whatevers to be happy and fulfilled human beings. The news is full of doom and gloom about how businesses are failing and the economy is tanking and we all need to buy-buy-buy to save it. I don’t know about you, but I pretty much have enough “whatevers” and don’t have room for more. It’s mostly lies anyway. I don’t “consume” enough to support the economy the way it’s currently set up and don’t really want to. It’s a terminally flawed system. Of course it’s going to hurt bigtime to fix it, if it can be fixed at all. I have no useful ideas on that. Probably it will just have to break badly first. Finances and big business makes my head hurt so I’m not even going to go there.

Meanwhile let us just discuss a new book I got:


Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess is the latest book on natural dyes. It’s quite good actually. Rebecca is a textile artist and educator and she seems to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Her focus is to use dye plants from your local area – hers is northern California – in a (here’s that word again) sustainable way. There’s a lot to ponder here. Plus she has much clearer instructions (or at least I understand them better) for some of the techniques of wrapping and steaming, flower pounding and indigo fermentation vats. There’s lots of lovely pictures to accompany the information. Though one photo labelled “black walnut” (p.84 although unnumbered) is actually Persian walnut (aka English walnut or Juglans regia). The leaves are rounder and the nut husk is speckled. (Sharing my backyard for 31 years with a tree that’s at least 50 feet tall now, I think I’m qualified to identify the species!) There are other photos of actual black walnut to compare the pointier leaves. Both types are excellent dye sources anyhow. Mistakes happen, but I hope there are no other errors especially in the recipes, which are the most important to get right.

Rebecca has loosely organised this book in “seasons” which, although it has a lovely flow, makes it hard to find certain pieces of information. For instance a short discussion on Navaho-Churro sheep is in the Summer section, flower pounding is in the Spring and wrapping leaves in fabric is in the Fall section. Similarly, Japanese indigo is in Summer and indigo fermentation is in Winter. You’ll need to make good use of the index. And probably a few Post-Its to find the elusive tidbits.

There are a few handspun and knitted projects included but they are pretty clunky and basic – like the ones I produced in the 1970’s when I first learned to spin and dye. Sometimes I wish I could spin that lovely bulky yarn again! I’d have to practice a lot and probably need to use my old cottage wheel to do it. Might be a fun exercise some day anyway. I remember it sure uses up the wool stash faster anyhow.

So I’m still in the process of reading and evaluating the rich information contained in Harvesting Color. Do go check out Rebecca’s website (linked to her name above) and her blog has a great post on her local Fibershed project’s fashion show. No fair that Sally Fox (of coloured cotton fame) is included. Cotton doesn’t grow in my area! The idea of a fibreshed (sorry, Canadian/Brit spelling) is an interesting one though: bioregional clothing akin to the 100-mile diet. Around here I’d be wearing a lot of dog fur however since it’s the most common fibre grown in my vicinity. Unfortunately those little yappy toy mutts don’t produce much.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father’s Day Weekend

Whew! That was fun but exhausting! T-Man and I had the bigger Grandbeasties over on Friday for a sleepover while their parents went dining and dancing. (Lucky them!) This was the first time we had both kids (they’re 4 1/2 and nearly 7 now) overnight at the same time. We don’t have a spare bedroom – because our craft stuff resides in all the other bedrooms besides our own – but the living room couch pulls out to a double bed. They are pretty good sleepers and we wisely wore them out as well as we could first so there were no midnight shenanigans. Stargazer woke up really grumpy for some reason though. He’s usually pretty sunny in the mornings like I am but I suppose everyone is allowed an off day every once in awhile.

Did you know that my refrigerator is really an art gallery? It’s covered with drawings and paintings, up until now all of them by just one artist – the lovely and amazing Super-Princess. However, I finally scored a painting by the up-and-coming new artist, Stargazer! Hooray! And Grampa T-Man got a fabulous book by Super-Princess featuring all of the My Little Ponies. I especially loved watching Stargazer mix paints: “Hey! Red and green makes…brown!” So cute. He’ll be starting kindergarten in September. Time flies when you’re having fun.

After they left on Saturday we got a visit from the other set as well. We were heading out to a grand-nephew’s first birthday party so Milord and Milady and baby Rosebud tagged along. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that the party venue had changed from Stanley Park to a bookstore in North Van because of the iffy weather. So we wandered around the park looking in vain for the party. Sheesh. And it wasn’t raining either! Nothing like sending the change by impersonal Evite email only a few hours before the party. I never had an opportunity to check it before we left. A phone call might have been more definite. Oh well. Stuff happens. I did receive a heartfelt apology from my sister later and all would be forgiven – except that we weren’t actually mad about it. We were sorry we missed them though.

It was a lovely visit with Rosebud and family anyhow. I managed to finish the last pair of baby socks and give them to their recipient (who tried to eat them but dropped them on the floor instead):

Clown Urp Socks


For:  Rosebud

Begun:  May 31, 2011

Completed:  June 17, 2011

Yarn:  Schachenmayr nomotta Regia Stretch Color, 70% superwash wool/23% nylon/7% Elité (stretch polyester), colour 81 (multi), dyelot 51724, 199m = 50g. Used just over half a ball.

Needles:  Blackthorn carbon fibre dpns, US0/2mm.

Pattern:  Damselfly’s basic baby socks on 44 sts, 3.5” before heel flap, 3.75” before toe decreases, dec to 20 sts (5 per needle), dog ear reduction to 16sts.

Comments:  This slightly stretchier yarn should be comfortable in her boots. She keeps growing so these are just a little larger than previous pairs. Unfortunately this yarn has less yardage per ball than the usual sock yarn so I will likely have to create “decorative” toes for the second pair! I’ve already started on them.

T-Man declared that Saturday would be considered his Father’s Day because he spent time with all of his offspring and his offspring’s offspring. Made him very happy! Me too…

Which was good because on Sunday we went to our local Car Free Day:


Don’t know if you can see in the photo, but those masses of people in the street just goes on for blocks and blocks up the hill. The area was longer but I think not as interesting this year. No cops blowing bubbles. (They’re still upset about the riots last week. I think we all are.) Not as many funky activities. More merch booths and food stands. The amplified (and mostly canned) music drowned out the unamplified musicians. It was family-friendly but missing the wacky edge that I enjoyed so much last year. We did like the belly dancers and the flat-track roller derby skaters though. I was hoping to spend some time spinning in front of my local LYS but there were only two knitters and someone helping small kids weave but there was nobody there that I knew so I didn’t bother. The other LYS was pretty crowded because they had less space available and they were also unfamiliar faces. Am I getting out of touch with the local fibre scene? Quite possibly. Even my Ravelry knitting group weren’t in evidence in their usual coffee shop venue. We enjoyed our walk anyhow but it’s hard to stroll so slowly in the crowds when we’re used to keeping up a much faster walking pace.

Meanwhile I cut out one pair of capri pants and 2 pairs of shorts out of 2 metres of stretch textured cotton knit (black of course) and am currently sewing them. So far they are rather loose particularly on the legs even though I began with a size smaller than my measurements would dictate. Jeepers. My fluffy middle vs skinny legs issue again. At least it’s relatively easy to take them in more. Details later. I need to accomplish something real today besides pixels on a screen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Colorways, A Review

I promised to tell you what I thought of Interweave’s new eMag and I’ve finally had a chance to peruse it thoroughly – so here it is!


Colorways, Summer 2011, is the first issue of a new series that covers working with colour in fibres, yarns and cloth. It cost me a reasonable US$9.99 (using good old PayPal), downloaded easily and installed properly, though I needed to (again) upgrade my Adobe Air software first. I was very excited about the subject of colour applications since that’s near and dear to my heart. There is lots on natural dyes, particularly cochineal and kakishibu (fermented unripe persimmon juice) which includes history and ethnic traditions as well as instructions for use. Video interviews with a number of dyers and teachers are fascinating. I especially liked seeing featured one of my dye instructors of old, Michele Wipplinger of Earthues in Seattle. A section on coloured cotton included information on growing and spinning these fibres. Gorgeous photos throughout.

I think they are finally getting the bells & whistles of the eMag format correct. The slide shows, pop-up information (I particularly liked the slide-out drawer of cotton colour samples), embedded videos, etc. are elegant rather than gimmicky. You do have to pay attention to the number of pages included in a section and scroll down to see them. If you scroll across it takes you to a new section instead. There’s a navigation arrow at the bottom of the page to remind you that there’s more down there but it doesn’t work as a toggle, like the left and right ones do. I did have one glitch with this eMag – clicking on the included PDF links wouldn’t bring them up. For some reason I got an error message in my browser saying that it didn’t know how to deal with that file format (which is totally incorrect). Even after updating the Acrobat Reader it didn’t help so I just used Reader to hunt down the files (in Program Files) and opened them that way with no problem. There are 3: one with Trudy Van Stralen, an excerpt from her book Indigo, Madder and Marigold (which I already own), and another from a dyer from Oaxaca, Mexico, both of these on dyeing with cochineal; plus instructions on working with kakishibu. This is something that I haven’t experienced and I’m quite intrigued about getting some of this “magical elixir”! Do persimmons grow here at all?

All in all I was definitely not disappointed with this publication. It had quite a lot of fascinating details and new information that kept me clicking and watching and reading for a couple of hours. Don’t miss the last page! It’s a hoot – but I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling. I’m now impatiently waiting for the next issue, apparently due in the fall.

Another thing I’m waiting for is my book order from Chapters/Indigo which I missed today while I was at the dentist. Darn. Now I have to wait until I can go pick it up and I have a weavers’ guild meeting tomorrow which will take up most of my day. At least they wisely sent it by Purolator which was especially smart because Canada Post has currently locked out their striking employees. Doh.

I see many more reviews coming in my – your – our near future!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Can’t Have Everything

You’d think this was a lesson that I should have learned back in kindergarten. If I’d actually gone to kindergarten. Instead I skipped straight into grade one – which was pretty traumatic as I recall. (My parents excuse was that there was no Catholic kindergarten available. That didn’t stop them from sending my two younger siblings to the local public school kindergarten though. I think I was an experiment that they preferred not to repeat.) Anyway, the point of this is that I’ve been learning to let go of a whole lot of “wants”. Not everything, mind you. I still have trouble resisting craft supplies, books, magazines and other stuff related to my Need To Make Things. But I’m finally starting to realise that there is just so much space, time, effort and finances left to me. I might just be close to having enough. Or at the very least slow down the accumulation dramatically.

Case in point: I visited the brand new Anthropologie store that recently opened on South Granville. Before now I’ve only ever looked at their clothes online, mostly as a combination inspiration/wish-book. It’s a lovely two-storey shop, with lots of yummy items for sale in all my favourite colours at fairly reasonable prices, including a few garments that might even actually fit me. But I didn’t buy anything. I inhaled the ambience and walked out. What is wrong with me?

However I did take away some interesting ideas for sewing. I saw neckline and armholes turned and stitched and then a strip of raw-edged bias stitched underneath so the edge stuck out beyond the hem. There was a gorgeous sleeveless dress with similar bias edgings that was like a painter’s canvas with a dreamy scenery on it. There were lots of floaty fabrics: rayon batiste, silks, a scrumptious rust-coloured linen/cotton knit. Pleats, gathers, lace inserts and hems that dipped in back. A favourite was a top that looked like a regular t-shirt in front but the back had a square inset on the diagonal forming a pointy hem. It was nice to actually see things in person instead of on a computer screen. So I might just go back some time and try some things on. I can either walk there or ride my bike.

Probably still won’t buy anything though. I keep imagining how many garments I could sew for the price of a single Anthropologie garment. Unfortunately they usually stay in my imagination. But that’s ok really. I get entertainment value that’s priceless. Doesn’t cost me real money, take up any space in my closet or need washing. Works for me.

Of course my resistance doesn’t work for everything! I did succumb to the new eMag from Interweave called Colorways. I’ve downloaded and installed it but haven’t read it yet (it’s on my big computer for ease of viewing) and I’m looking forward to reviewing it for you. I also ordered some books that I’ve been contemplating for awhile. Chapters/Indigo promised to use another carrier since Canada Post is being ornery so I hope to get my package soon. (See, posties? You are not doing yourselves any favours by striking. You’ve forced us to consider even more alternatives! Not smart.) Yes, I know books take up more of my ever-dwindling shelf space. I may need to box up a few vintage publications soon and relegate them to the attic. No, I’m not going to get rid of them. I might need them some day.

Somehow I manage to read all my books cover to cover but neglect to watch videos. Even if I’m totally interested in the subject and have them installed on my computer for months! Yesterday I discovered one that I’d completely forgotten that I’d already purchased. Way back in September of last year. Sheesh. What does this say about me? As my late mommy would say, I have more money than brains. (Zombies ate my brainzzzzz….)

I’m not so good with video podcasts either. I am so far behind on those things that I will never catch up. Not so bad with regular podcasts since I listen to them while gardening. (David Reidy’s lovely Australian diction goes perfectly with pulling weeds! Seriously.) But if I have to both watch and listen at the same time, it’s just not happening. It takes a lot more involvement on my part and I can’t really do anything else at the same time. When I’m reading, I can speed over the bits I’m not so interested in or already know and skip to the juicy bits. I can even fade out while listening to audio and perk up when it gets more interesting. It’s harder with a video. If I fast-forward I miss stuff I might really want to see. I usually end up saying to the screen “Alright! Just cut to the chase, hon’”! Not terribly productive, huh? She can’t hear me.

Well, I’d best get to the vacuuming that I’ve been putting off for days and days. Unless I can find yet another excuse to avoid it? Put away yesterday’s laundry? Wash the huge sink full of dirty dishes? It’s not raining so I could go play in the garden…

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yay! It’s Raining!

Why am I happy that it’s raining after all the complaining that I’ve done over the last few months about the same thing? Because I would have to water my garden if it didn’t get some today. And it’s also a good excuse not to have to work out there again today. I need a break. It’s been fun and productive, but the inside of the house is suffering from neglect. The dust buffaloes are starting to herd the humans around. Not good. However, before I go round them up I have a few things to show off. (Avoiding the vacuuming is one of my finer talents!)

On Friday, Milady Daughter and I took Rosebud to her appointment at Children’s Hospital. They were quite pleased with her foot’s progress and graduated her to running shoes for a few short periods every day. So she was fitted for a pair of cute little pink runners and also went up a boot size for her boots and bar system. Next appointment isn’t for another 3 months so there was a distinct possibility that she would have grown out of her boots before then. Rosebud was very good and very patient even though we had to wait around for a very long time for our turn with the specialists. Although she did manage to spit up all over me after I fed her a bottle. I’m blessed. I know.

Of course we got a chance to try some other things on too:


The Rosebunting fits – but it’s none too large! Her boots are only about 4” from the bottom. It will definitely serve it’s purpose though to keep her warm on our upcoming camping trip. BTW, that’s much closer to the real colour of the fabric than the last photos. She’s being amused there by her grandpa. The tongue is out so you know she’s happy!

Then there’s this Finished Object:

Watermelon Eyelet Cardi


For: Rosebud (such chubby cheeks!)

Begun: May 2, 2011

Completed: June 9, 2011

Yarn: Sandnes Garn Smart, 100% superwash wool, colour 4356 (watermelon pink), dyelot 0714916, 108 yds = 50g. 3 balls.

Needles: Denise interchangeables, 4mm and 3.75mm.

Pattern: Eyelet Yoke Baby Cardigan, free pattern by Carol Barenys. (Ravelry link, pattern link)

Comments: After several attempts with a different yarn (sock yarn, WatermelonCarditoo thin) I used this DK weight and the smaller pattern size but larger needles. The pattern started out well but became a little vague toward the end. I made the body about 10.5” long (from neck) before working the bottom row of eyelets. I changed to smaller needles before working the garter stitch hems and cuffs. I also only had 4 vintage buttons in the stash instead of 5 so made 3 buttonholes because that looked better.

This cardi is somewhat similar to the two that I made for Rosebud’s cousin Super-Princess though they are from different designers. Obviously I like the eyelet design! I was hoping that this would be somewhat larger on the little beastie but she’s a big girl! The sleeves are still a little long though so maybe there’s some wear left in the sweater for next fall.

Yes, that tongue again!

What else? Oh yeah. Yesterday I rinsed out the Merino-X wool fleece that had been marinating in the remains of the madder pot since last Thursday:

Madder dyed fleece

Not sure how accurate that colour is for you. It was still wet when I took the picture. It dried to an orange-sherbet colour with a more yellow-orange on the outside of the clump and a pinker shade in the centre. It teases up easier than it looks though there are some nepps and second cuts. I began with 250g and lost about 30% of the weight in the scouring process. I may lose a little more in the teasing and picking. Next I plan to run it through the fur drum on my Pat Green Deb’s Deluxe carder before spinning it up probably as a lace or fingering weight. I have no idea what it will become yet! We’ll find out eventually.

So I assumed that the madder was finally spent and dumped the remains in the compost box. It dyed quite a lot of fibre in total though I’m not sure whether I like the much more finely powdered root. Some of it escaped the bag and the nylon stocking that it was contained in the dyepot. A lot of it washed out in the rinsing but the remains are shedding out on me as I tease the wool. Larger pieces are much easier to remove. When I use my home-grown madder there is no way I can grind it really fine anyhow. More like chunks.

In knitting news, I was unfortunately correct about the difficulty of fixing a mistake in the Black Rock Shawl’s edging! I accidentally dropped a stitch while tinking back to fix something that wasn’t right and ended up throwing the whole thing down in disgust. Which is where it stayed until this morning when I took it upstairs to the magnifier light and continued tinking carefully back until I could see that everything was back where it should be. Only two little rows but I’m reminded not to take this pattern for granted again and To Be More Mindful! 16 out of 71 repeats completed. A long way to go.

In sewing news, I need to start another sewing project now that the Rosebunting is done. The hard part is settling on which one – there’s so many that I want to make! FYI, the Leko website still has their 168-100-82-106 size (equivalent to Burda size 44) women’s patterns available to download free. They state a limited time but so far it still works. Of course I took advantage and grabbed a few more! I can’t help myself. Some of the designs are quite attractive and more varied than BurdaStyle magazine. I also made myself a catalogue of sorts (even though they have a complete one available) by pasting the pictures of the ones I have into a Word document along with the pattern numbers. Then I put the printed pages in the same binder with my scanned copies of the BurdaStyle magazines line drawings. Then there’s my Big Four collection too. See what I mean? Too many choices; so little sewing time.

Best get a move on. The day is moving on faster than I am and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish yet. Laundry, vacuuming, dishes…bleh. At least I don’t have to water the garden. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more opportunities to do so in the next few months however.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Finished Object - Finally

So here’s this one that I’ve been promising for awhile:

Abotanicity Tunic


For: me

Begun: February 16, 2011
Completed: June 3, 2011

Yarn: Schoeller+Stahl Fortissima Socka Color, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, colourway 122 (beiges/browns), dyelot 31294, 100g = 420m. 5 skeins, overdyed in acid dyes to blacks/purples/browns. (6th skein left – for socks?)

Needles: many! Cast on with aluminum 2.5mm dpns, switched to Addi Lace circulars 3.25mm, 3.5mm and finally 3.75mm. Also occasionally put onto Denise 3.75mm to check fit.

Pattern: Abotanicity by Cassie Rovitti, from Knitty, Winter 2007. Size chosen was M/L. (Ravelry link, Knitty link)

Mods: Worked pretty much as written except that the bodice was 1/2” longer. Sleeves were also a couple of inches shorter since I skipped the last section of the decreases and just did them 6 rows apart as for the previous section until I had the right number and then carried on straight to length. If I’d done them as written they would have been much too long for my short arms.

Comments: I quite like this sweater even though the yarn has somewhat different colours in each ball so there are demarcation lines showing. Makes it look hand-dyed, right? The neckline is a little high in front and there’s a little too much fabric under the arms, but otherwise it fits well. Nearly to my knees so it’s more of a dress than a tunic! I won’t be making this again but if I was I think I would try to fix those issues. Otherwise it’s still a very wearable and different sort of sweater.

I still have one ball of the yarn left so perhaps there will eventually be socks to match.

Trying to get a bunch of projects written up today before I forget what the heck I did. I really love being able to go to my notes and refresh my memory on the details. I can see how much I’ve accomplished which gives me a sense of satisfaction. Especially when things take a long time, like the above sweater.

Meanwhile the Black Rock Shawl’s edging is coming along nicely. I must concentrate so I don’t make any mistakes because this pattern would be a bear to try to fix! Garter stitch. Lace on both right- and wrong-side rows. ’Nuff said.

Off to accompany Milady Daughter and Rosebud to her doctor’s appointment. More anon. As always.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sewing Up A Storm

Yesterday was really productive. I got the summer squash bed weeded and planted, pulled out from the pathway several buckets full of bluebells that were past their best-before date, and weeded and transplanted the rest of the coreopsis and Japanese indigo seedlings into the dye garden. All the new transplants and the whole dye garden got a splash of fish fertilizer too. Whew! I definitely needed a shower afterwards! And that’s not all: I also finished knitting the Watermelon Eyelet Cardi for Rosebud. This morning I sewed on the buttons and washed and blocked it and it’s currently drying on the sweater rack.

Also this morning I washed half a pound of Merino-X fleece and stuffed it into a mesh bag and then into the remains of the madder pot. It’s looking a little brown (from the pot’s accidental overheating session) but there seems to be colour in it still. Because the fleece wasn’t mordanted I also threw in a teaspoon of alum for good measure. Now I’m heating it up a little and then it can sit until tomorrow or whenever I get to it. Whatever the results I can always overdye or blend the wool with something else if it’s not attractive. I do like to use up a dyebath to the last possible drop of colour if possible.

I know I haven’t posted the details of the Abotanicity Tunic yet, but here’s another FO to distract you:



For: grandbaby Rosebud

Finished: June 7, 2011

Fabric: outer – rose-pink double-sided stretch fleece, 1m; lining – rose-red heavy stretch sweatshirt fleece, 1m.

Notions: 24” red separating zipper; 6” piece of 3/4” elastic; 8 rose-pink hammer-on snaps; size 50 polyester sewing thread.

Pattern: McCall’s 5963, View A Bunting, size large (12 months), cost US$5.99 (download), purchased from, printed from

Modifications: Added width to the bottom section, longer zipper and snaps to close bottom. Also added a top snap flap to cover the zipper pull.

Comments: Photos don’t show the deep rose-pink very accurately and the lining is actually nearly the same shade as the outer fabric. The bunting really is quite a bit darker than it looks here.

I was very happy with the method of downloading and printing this pattern instead of having it sent by mail. It went together easily with a glue stick – like a giant puzzle. I traced the size I needed leaving the main pattern sheets intact (besides cutting them apart some to get them in the file envelope!) She’s only 6 months old but is quite chubby with a large head circumference so I chose the largest size. Perhaps it will last her a little longer than just one camping trip! (I know. Don’t count on it.) I modified the bottom edge to accommodate her boots and bar system and hopefully this will work well for her. I quite like the cuffs that fold over into mitts to keep her hands warm.

The lining fabric was somewhat narrower than the fleece so I had to piece a bit at the back yoke. It took quite a lot of work to sew this little garment, including unpicking the cuff seams when I sewed them together wrong! I was trying to do a “bagged” lining for the first time and misunderstood the directions in my sewing book. I followed the pattern’s directions for the cuffs and hood but improvised some of the rest of the sewing. The only hand stitching was sewing the lining to the edges of the zipper. The snaps went on ok, if occasionally a little wonky. I need to learn not to hammer so hard! I’m always worried they’re going to pop off and end up with the prongs poking through instead because of my enthusiasm. (I sanded anything remotely sharp with a nail file.) Now she’ll be ready for a warm camping trip.

Because I was so good and finished the little sweater (think Rosebud is spoiled by her granny, huh?) I started on Jared Flood’s Rock Island Shawl. I’m calling my version Black Rock:


That’s a whole 2 out of 71 repeats of the edging pattern. Yarn is Zephyr wool/silk and I have a whole cone of this Ebony from my old buddy Jane Stafford. She sells it in 100g/1100m cones for C$19.95 which is very reasonable and carries 28 colours. Of course I usually buy vanilla or white and dye my own but the pre-dyed ones are pretty too. She also carries JaggerSpun 2/18 superfine merino which is the same grist as the Zephyr and is also very nice for knitting shawls. Or weaving. Or crochet. Whatever your pleasure. Lovely stuff, Jagger yarns.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I’m kind of tired today so I thought I would take a day off. I know – you’re asking how a person who Has No Real Job can take a day off, aren’t you? For me it’s a mindset. Instead of doing all the really energetic things like vacuuming (my most not-fave job for some reason), laundry, digging a garden bed, or walking many kilometres, I’m knitting a little, reading a little, typing a little. Whatever I feel like doing that involves staying seated. Of course stuff like the dishes still need to get done anyhow. Like death and taxes, dirty dishes are always lurking about. Especially after the grandbeasties have been here.

We, BTW, had a lovely time last evening even though neither they nor their grandpa were feeling very well. T-Man even went to see the doc only to be told that he has the “100-day flu” and not to worry. It will go away by itself. Even his plugged ears will unplug eventually. Poor baby. He’s getting an unsolicited taste of what it’s like for me without my hearing aids in. Super-Princess is also currently sniffly and her poor face is all broken out with eczema from wiping her sore nose. And Stargazer was feeling under the weather as well and running a temperature. Lovely bunch huh? Now that I’m finally all better I’ve been trying hard to avoid catching this stuff all over again! Bleh. We played with a new Play-Doh game, had supper and then watched “How To Tame Your Dragon” until their parents got back. They had been watching the hockey game in Rogers Arena with a gazillion other fans. (No, T and I are not sports fans. Still sad the Canucks lost that game. But not the series. Everyone lives in hope.)

It’s cloudy and cooler today and it’s windy too. I’m trying to decide if I should make the effort to go out and carry on with cleaning up the bed where the summer squash need to go. Or if I should instead dig out some fleece to put in the madder pot. Or if I should continue working on the RoseBunting that I haven’t touched in days. Hence this post’s title. I can’t decide and the day is getting away.

I got this far with the Watermelon Eyelet Cardi for Rosebud however:

WatermelonCardi_ prog

Cuteness! So my littlest grandbeastie is spoiled by her granny, ya think? And here’s the now-dry suri alpaca yarn after it’s makeover in madder:

Madder on alpaca

You can see that it’s somewhat more orange than the Zephyr silk/wool skein on the right here:

 Madder dyed skeins

But it’s at least as dark in value. Even though the alpaca was in the exhaust bath, it was in it for several days longer than the Zephyr. Interesting. It also feels somewhat softer and cleaner than it did when I first got it. Did so many processes (washing, mordanting, rinsing, dyeing in woad leaves, more rinsing, overdyeing in madder, even more rinsing) actually improve this yarn? At least it doesn’t felt very easily. It was from an unknown supplier and bought at an ANWG conference a number of years ago. Bad Damselfly forgot to take notes. <smacks forehead>

Speaking of Zephyr yarn, my next project is going to be the Rock Island shawl by Jared Flood (Ravelry link, Brooklyn Tweed link) in this:

Zephyr black

Yes, that is indeed a full cone of BLACK silk and wool. I desperately want a black shawl and this gorgeous lace pattern was calling to me with its siren-like song until I broke down and bought it! I figure if I knit it during the brightest and lightest time of year (over the summer solstice), it won’t make me go blind. But it will likely be a challenge. A couple of other knitters have used Zephyr for this pattern but none of them seems to have finished theirs yet. I wanted to see what it blocks out like in this yarn. Guess I’ll find out eventually, huh?

In other news, I got a copy of Vogue Knitting’s Early Fall 2011 issue. Do check out the results of the Magical Mohair challenge! The photo styling is a hilarious combo of forest fairy meets retro-hippy. But I am totally smitten with the First Runner-Up’s two-piece dye-painted effort. Big congrats to Lynette Meek from Nanaimo, BC. (Nearly local!) They even included the dye-painting instructions though I’m not sure how understandable they would be for the absolute newbie. Must be a first for VK though. The other two pieces shown are lovely but Lynette’s is glorious! Must be the dye colours.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Think It’s Finally Spring?

It sure was warm the last couple of days! Could that mean that it’s actually June and not November? I’m not sure I totally believe it yet. It certainly was cool and wet last Thursday when 2 members of my Spectrum Study Group came over and we played with madder:

Sandra and Masami stirring pot

That’s Sandra (left) and Masami checking out the dye pot. We dyed over a kilo of yarn, including some for other members who were off to the ANWG conference in Salem, OR. Here’s some of the results:

Madder dyes

The rayon weaving yarn skeins on the left are actually slightly more orange in real life – at least on my screen. It doesn’t take the dye very deeply but that’s ok with me. The centre large skein is Zephyr wool/silk while the darkest wool skein on the right is Masami’s. This was already dyed a clear yellow in osage orange awhile back and she decided to overdye in the madder exhaust (second use) bath. It came out very deep even in the already-well-used dyebath. Deeper than my wool/silk from the first bath. Always curious to me how this works.

Afterwards, there was still a lot of colour in the pot so I quickly mordanted and threw in my new white silk french-cut undies:

SilkUndies MadderDyed

The colour reminds me of my favourite Utah arches, doesn’t it? Notice the thread didn’t take any dye because it’s polyester. (You didn’t expect the manufacturers to use silk thread, did you? Or even cotton or nylon.) I also added a large skein of suri alpaca that had already been dyed blah beige in woad leaves. I left it in for several days and even managed to accidentally heat it higher than recommended for madder because I turned it on medium heat and forgot about it for about 4 hours! It’s a nice orange-red now and gorgeous in comparison to what it looked like before. Currently the skein is drying on my deck railing or I’d show you. There’s still plenty of colour in this pot so I plan to shove some wool fleece in it to hopefully soak up some more. But first I have to wash the fleece. Maybe tomorrow. The pot is patient.

On Friday I finally finished my Abotanicity Tunic. Yay! I haven’t properly written it up yet but here’s a preview of it blocking on the deck:

AbotanicityTunic blocking

I had to fudge the sleeve cuffs because even though I counted and counted and couldn’t find a mistake… the decreases on the second sleeve ended about 2” earlier than the first one. Nobody will notice but me. They look just fine. This tunic is nearly more like a dress. Superwash sock yarn always seems to stretch and the lacy skirt hangs only a few inches above my knee. If I was to do it again (which I’m not!) the only things I would change would be the neck front which comes up a little high on me and the underarms which come a little low with resulting bunching of extra fabric. Neither is a real problem and otherwise it’s perfect and I love it! Good thing after all the knitting it took, huh? Unfortunately as I predicted it’s now too warm to wear it – likely until next fall. Sigh. Maybe I’ll take it with me on the Fambly Campout in a couple of weeks. Guaranteed to still be cold enough in the evenings in the mountains.

On Saturday we went cycling to the Seawall and around Science World, along the north False Creek waterfront and on to English Bay and Stanley Park. We made it as far as Second Beach and had fish and chips at the concession. It was only so-so flavour-wise and it took ages to get them after ordering. I think they had to catch the fish first?

Here’s the mad cyclists:

T with bike

Himself and me:

Me with bike

Helmet-head and all. I was hot enough to wish I’d brought my bathing suit and towel for the rather inviting but unheated pool:

2nd Beach pool

Instead we rode homeward in the ever-increasing traffic, over the Burrard Bridge in the special bike lane (nice!), up the steep hill (electric assist, I love you!), a stop at the magazine shop and finally home for a beer and a rest on the deck. Whew! I was quite stiff in a few places after this first time on a bike since last October! Apart from the excess of “creative” driving we saw happening around us, it was fun. And yes, I was actually drinking a beer when I got home. It was made at the U-Brew and bottled by T-Man and his brother. I’m finally (finally!) developing a taste for lager and besides our new batch of pear cider isn’t ready yet.

I earned another beer yesterday after 5 hours in the garden. That’s about 2 hours more than my usual limit. I did a lot more weeding out front and now we just need to do some pruning. T finally finished making a box for the butternut squashes in the spot where he removed a laurel earlier. He used wood from our old fence – totally recycled materials. (The louvered fence there on the west side of our yard was built by our neighbour and his dad. We just paid for part of the materials.) I’m hoping the squashes grow well there in their compost and mushroom manure:


I reeked of “eau d’poisson mort” after schlepping fish fertiliser around until I wore out. Speaking of the garden, I need to get back out there this morning and transplant my cucumbers and weed the summer squash bed so I can transplant them too. The Big Grandbeasties are coming over later this afternoon so their parents can go downtown to watch the hockey game being broadcast on the big screens in the streets with about 20,000 of their closest friends. Personally, I’d rather play with little kids. But that’s just me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Blackthorns Arrive

Yes, here I am again. I’m trying to make up for lost time. Am I succeeding? As usual, I actually need to be out in the garden quick-quick while the weather is cooperating. Yet here I am. I should learn better, shouldn’t I? Yesterday I stalled just a teensy bit too long and the very second I stepped out the door it started raining! So instead I worked in the “grow-op” and transplanted my replacement coreopsis into larger pots. Then I went up to the studio and finished sewing the hood on the RoseBunting. Nearly 2 hours after it started, right in the middle of sewing a seam on the body lining, I noticed that the rain had stopped. I stopped sewing instantly with the needle still in the fabric and dashed outside! (Yes, the sewing is still there waiting for me to come back.) Got quite a lot of the front garden fixed up before I wore out so I feel much better about the late start. I hope to carry on today from where I left off. Though it’s not the reason why I garden, it’s still so satisfying to hear the positive comments from neighbours walking by.

Another good thing about yesterday was that I got my 2 sets of size 0 (2mm) custom 5” length Blackthorn dpns in the mail. Yippee! They managed to beat a possible Canada Post strike which could start on Friday (if both sides don’t develop some common sense in the meantime). The service from Chris at My Favorite Thimble, the manufacturer, was very prompt and friendly. These carbon fibre needles are very different from any other brand:


They are a matte black with a slight texture that you can feel as you knit with them. Definitely not slippery! They are only slightly flexible (more similar to hardwood than bamboo) and they also warm up in your hands very quickly. They are very pointy!

BlackthornClover compare

That’s a Blackthorn on the left and Clover Takumi bamboo on the right, both size US0 or 2mm and larger than life-size. (From the photo they look like different sizes but they aren’t; I measured with several of my needle gauges.) Surprisingly Blackthorns aren’t really too pointy – at least for me. No ouchie fingertips anyhow! One tip did feel a little more sharp than the others so I used a very fine polishing paper to smooth it a little more. Of course there’s a Ravelry group dedicated to these needles. On the discussion board there Chris recommends if you’re having too much grabbiness to use a nail buffer with the smoothing side on the needle tips and then stropping the needles on the buffing surface and finishing up on the polishing surface. She also suggests if you are getting any smudging on your hands from the needles’ surface you can use a little car polish applied with a paper towel and then finally wipe down with a clean paper towel. Good to know.

Of course I immediately cast on for baby socks. I’m calling these Clown Urp:


So far I like these dpns a lot! They allow me to knit tighter and still get the tips through the stitches, similar to metal needles but stitches don’t fall off the needles accidentally. There’s a bit of a “skritch” feeling but it doesn’t seem particularly annoying to me. As with all knitting needles, every knitter has their own preferences. I am one that doesn’t like blunt tips or very slippery dpns and these are quite the opposite. I also love that you can get custom lengths. 5 inches is my favourite for socks and gloves while 6 inches just feels too long and uncomfortable (unless I’m knitting very large socks). And I love that they make down to 0000/1.25mm sizes. Skinny but not metal. Softer materials just don’t hold up in those finer sizes. Ask me how I know. Now I want some 00/1.75mm ones too but I think I’ll hold off for a while. These black lovelies are definitely pricey at approximately 4 times the cost of the Clover Takumi dpns including an extra charge for custom sizes and I insist on having 2 identical sets. Hopefully they last at least 4 times as long! They are supposed to be very durable and Chris already told me that single replacements are available if I lose one. Also good to know. FYI there will be a 2.25mm size added very soon. I know a lot of sock knitters prefer that size. They must knit tighter than I do or like their socks looser since I use the same common 64-stitch cuff.

So now it’s time to get moving so I don’t end up with a repeat of yesterday. I have marigolds and lobelia to plant and more weeds to attack. I also need to finish sewing the RoseBunting so it can go to its recipient on Friday. Plus I had a teensy leetle problema with my Abotanicity Tunic sleeves which were not coming out the same length. I’m going to have to perform a fudge or be reduced to frogging one back and finishing it again. Apparently even with a stitch counter’s assistance, I can’t count decrease rounds correctly. Sheesh. Perhaps the problem stems from watching episodes of HBO’s wonderful TV series “Treme” on DVD while knitting?