Friday, February 25, 2011

Out Of Spring & Into the Deepfreeze

Man! It is COLD here. OK, maybe not as cold as some other places, but for us it’s ridiculous for this time of year. Today I can’t even put my seedling flats out into the greenhouse for fear they will freeze solid. They will just have to live with reduced light but some warmth instead. Suck it up, buttercups brassicas! At least the sun is shining. Not snowing. Yet. The crocuses and catkins want to know whatever happened to their Spring?

My concerns about the fibre folks in New Zealand during the quake have been somewhat diminished by news that my weavers’ guild friend Rene and her hubby were luckily visiting on the North Island and far away. But teachers & authors Anne Field and Margaret Stove sustained some minor damage to their homes and Anne’s studio is in a more hard-hit area so may be more severely damaged. The wheel and loom makers the Ashfords are far enough away in Ashburton from the epicentre that they are just fine. My heart just goes out to those poor people dealing with such loss and devastation. Reminds us that it could happen here in Vancouver too – at any time. Yikes.

So I unfortunately succumbed to starting the Ambitus Neckwarmer pattern by Lankakomero using the leftover Berroco Remix yarn. I’m nearly done the k1/p1 section already! I should have stayed loyal to my AboTunic, but I just couldn’t help myself. At least this thing will be done quickly. Likely just in time for it to warm up around here again.

Meanwhile, I haven’t quite finished sewing together the Watercolour Quilt but I’m hoping to get that far today. I am so wanting to cross that one off the to-do list. There’s still a lot of snipping waiting for me between now and the cross-off though. Onward.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Couple of FOs

Finally, here are the latest finished projects. Just moving right along. I have an ever-expanding list of things I want to make! First up:

Remix Zip-Front Vest

RemixVestFor: me

Begun: January 4, 2011
Completed: February 19, 2011

Yarn: Berroco Remix, 30% nylon/27% cotton/24% acrylic/10% silk/9% linen, colour 3970 (charcoal mix) dyelot 8581, 216 yds (200 m) = 100g. 3 balls (approx 648 yds).

Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 3.5mm and 4.5mm. Bamboo dpns, 3.5mm.

Gauge: 18sts & 28 rows = 4” on 4.5mm needles

Notions: 24” separating zipper, black. Sewing thread, black.

Pattern: Began with the design features from Quincy’s Vest by Leigh Radford (Interweave Knits, summer 2002). Used Knitware software with my personal measurements to draft a new pattern that actually fits.

Comments: Knitware worked really well to make this pattern. It helped that I had a large washed and blocked gauge swatch (aka the Winterdark Sassymetrical Sweater) to use for very accurate gauge numbers. Also had my personal measurements from my previous efforts in patternmaking for sewing. The original sweater was the wrong gauge and would definitely not have fit me properly anyhow. I’m very happy with how this fits.

I was hoping to use a double-ended separating zipper but couldn’t find one that worked the way I wanted. I ended up with a very good match anyway. Stitched it in with a backstitch and then slip-stitched the edge down on the inside. Looks perfect!

Still have nearly 2 balls left surprisingly. This stuff never gets used up! I’m maybe going to make a neck warmer or something like that to hopefully get rid of the last of it.

Then there’s this one that I finished yesterday:

Milady Daughter’s Slippers

MDSlippers For: Milady Daughter

Begun: February 13, 2011

Completed: February 23, 2011

Yarn: vintage Condon’s worsted 2-ply, 100% Canadian wool, colour blue-gray, dyelot 14107203, 200 yds = 4 ounces (113.4g), 2 skeins, used double. Contrast novelty: Schoeller+Stahl Cookie, 42% nylon/41% polyester/17% acrylic, colour 005, dyelot 30991, 73m = 50g, used less than half a ball.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns, US 11/8 mm

Pattern: Original pattern was Family of Slippers by Chris de Longpré, modified to 36 sts, 6 rnds with novelty, 20 rnds total before plain heel, 10.5” before toe dec, dec to 12 sts (3 per ndl). Just like a large loose sock with stockinette heel and no ribbing. Fulled in the washing machine in hot water and Orvus. Took two wash cycles and a run through a cold rinse cycle. Dried on sweater rack.

Comments: I was going to get her to help felt her own innersoles but realised I had a spare pair left from her dad’s slippers. They just needed the toe trimmed a little. These slippers felted down quite tightly so they are a bit small but should stretch back to fit well. She didn’t want them too loose anyhow. Speaking of which, this is what they looked like before fulling. Big difference!



I’m down to one knitting project (horrors!) which may have the positive effect of getting it done sooner. It’s a biggie:  the Abotanicity Tunic (Knitty link, Ravelry link) by Cassie Rovitti in sock yarn on relatively small needles. I’ve wanted to start this project for ages! I bought the yarn a year ago and then overdyed it from the boring brown and beige. Now it’s kind of variegated purple-browns. I’m about 2/3 of the way down the bodice heading towards the split for the armholes.

I may not be able to stay monogamous for long though. I found a neckwarmer pattern to use up the last of the Remix yarn from the vest. It’s kind of a turtleneck with expanding ribs to cover the shoulders. Easy-peasy. I might need this as a more portable project when Abo gets too big to easily travel.

Off to do the laundry, change the bed (back to flannelette sheets!) and get a little quilt sewing done before heading over to my son’s MIL’s for tea. Unfortunately I didn’t get much done on my quilt yesterday either. I got sidetracked into finishing the slippers and printing out some documentation and when T-Man got home we decided to make use of the sunny weather to go get some groceries – on foot of course. My days are much too short! Why is that?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feathering My Nest

As the sun was shining in my skylight beside me yesterday afternoon, I worked hard on my sewing machine and got 9 of the 13 rows of my quilt sewn together. I’ve never made a “rag” quilt before and it’s both easier and harder than a regular one. Each piece is made into a mini-quilt sandwich and you sew them together with a wide seam wrong-sides-together. These exposed seams then get snipped at 1/4” intervals so they will fluff and fray and become a 3D design element on the quilt top. The back side is flat and plain. I’ll show a photo (or several) when I’m done.

I finally got smart and set up two small folding tables on either side of my sewing machine chair. The one on my right has the pin box and the next pile of squares to be sewn together and the table on my left helps support the weight of the growing quilt. I found that taking out the pins that were holding the squares together before beginning to sew makes it a lot easier and quicker since I don’t have to stop so often. I can do each short seam in one pass but when sewing a complete strip onto the quilt I have to stop often to align the next section and make sure the seam allowances are opened properly. I’ve been matching the seams and sewing as straight as possible between them and it’s going fairly neatly. The heavier thread is perfect but I’ve managed to break a couple of needles so far on the super-thick seams.

Before it goes in the washing machine and dryer to fray the seam allowances the quilt will be about 91” x 105”. It might contract a little afterwards but because all the sheets it was made from are vintage and have been washed many many times, it shouldn’t shrink much at all. The reason the quilt is so large  is because my bed is made so that the covers absolutely need to tuck in properly. It’s only a standard double bed but anything short of queen size isn’t large enough and wider is better still. The finished Watercolour Rag Quilt will have the longest dimension across the bed so it tucks in right under the mattress. Most important!

Switching gears as I am wont to do, word has it that baby Rosebud is none too happy in her boots and bar. She’s been fussing up a storm and everyone is hoping that she will get used to it Very Soon. Or at least that we can find the right combination of socks and lacings to make her more comfortable. Because there is absolutely no option but to wear the darn things! She will get it checked out again next Wednesday but meanwhile her poor mom is going a little nuts. My job is going to be to modify her sleepers with feet into footless ones. Happily most of the ones we got her last time were already suitable. I was hoping that the ones with feet wouldn’t be a problem but apparently the seams are too thick and dig into her skin. Sheesh. What a princess.

So switching again, I’ve found a couple of miscellaneous things you might be interested in:

  • Deb Robson’s intro to her new Interweave video “Handspinning Rare Wools”. I just love how she gets all choked up at the end! So sweet.
  • An article in the Ennea Collective on how to photograph your fibre stuff. Don’t forget to read the rest of the issue (and back issues) also, especially if you’re a spinner.
  • The wonderfully opinionated Kathleen and her Fashion Incubator blog. Even if like me you aren’t involved the fashion industry, it’s worth it to go back in the archives for fascinating discussions of clothing sizing, industry insights, pattern grading, and a whole lot more. Don’t forget to read the comments where a lot of the juiciest stuff goes on.
  • Interweave has come out with their second issue of the eMag In Stitches. Will I buy it? Pricey so I haven’t decided quite yet. Bought their other eMags though and enjoyed reading them, especially the SpinKnit one.
  • The latest issue of Knitcircus magazine. It used to be a print mag but went digital. You need Flash to view it. Like both the Ennea and Twist Collectives, this is a free article/pay pattern publication. However the patterns are available only in a full packet and they become unavailable as the next issue is released. Only $7.99 for them all though so that brings it in line with print publications. If you miss it, some “out-of-print patterns” are available individually or from the designer.

I’m sure there’s a bunch more but that’s all that I had staring me in the face for now. Should keep you occupied for awhile anyhow. <smirk>

Yes, I know I have more FOs to post. Coming soon. Meanwhile how about these photos that I took while walking over the Cambie Bridge on Saturday using Ruby, my iTouch, and the way-cool Hipstamatic app:



Hipstamatic magically makes everything and anything look fantastically artsy, doesn’t it? (T-Man is envious because he has an older iTouch with No Camera. Awww…) Well I’m off to finish sewing my quilt now. Then the clipping is going to take several sessions if I’m going to do it without damaging my hands. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don’t Take Your Woollies Off Yet

I know that my little indoor gardening attempt was kind of rushing the season. Even though the crocuses are out around here, it’s unfortunately getting colder again. We even had a skiff of snow yesterday to prove it. I have at least 2 flats of plants that should go out in the greenhouse every day because there’s not enough room for them under the lights but I feel bad about it. They are fairly cold-tolerant but I think freezing temps are a bit much! Though it’s not bad if the sun is shining to heat things up in there. Oh well. If we end up eating them right from the pots instead, I can always plant seeds again. As a matter of fact, I will plant them again anyhow. Succession planting is a good thing.

BTW my second try at planting weld seeds is also still not showing. After the first fail, I thought my saved seeds from last year were somewhat immature so I went back to the original (unreliable) Richter’s seed but nothing is happening. Yet. Sigh. At least I have one last plant in the garden that should give me enough material for a single dyebath when it bolts this summer. And another chance at viable seeds. The Japanese indigo isn’t showing yet either but I’m not concerned about it yet. Some things take time and I’m not really that impatient. It’s too cold out in the garden anyhow.

Changing the subject, I have some good news – baby Rosebud has now graduated to her boots-and-bar system. Yay! No more casts! Now she can have more frequent baths which she loves. She is supposed to wear it 23/7 however and the system does make it somewhat tricky to dress and change her and a lot more awkward to carry her around. You certainly can’t just pop it on and off every time you want. It takes quite a lot of effort to put the boots on correctly, snugging her feet in properly with no wrinkles in her socks and doing up both a buckle and laces. Then the bar has to be bolted on to the bottom of the boots between them and each foot turned to the correct angle before tightening the nuts. It can take 10 minutes to get it done right! But it’s still a huge improvement even though it means yet more appointments at the hospital clinic. They have to check and adjust angles and boot sizes and mommy has to learn stretching exercises to apply to her foot. It’s an ongoing process. Rosebud is definitely going to get some real use out of her granny-knit socks now! Like these ones:

Rosebud’s Fourth Socks

Rosebud Fourth Socks

Begun:  February 10, 2011
Completed:  February 18, 2011

Yarn: unknown leftover sock yarn from the stash (probably overdyed by me), superwash wool/nylon, approx. 25g.

Needles:  Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern:  Damselfly’s Basic Socks on 44 sts, 2/2 rib for 3” before heel flap, foot 3.25” before toe decreases, dec to 5 sts each needle, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: I keep knitting these for Rosebud. More to come.

Later I realised that I’d already made a pair with this yarn for a nephew’s new baby last year. He’s long grown out of them now.

I have several more finished and nearly-finished projects to share. But right now I’m on a roll with the Watercolour Quilt. Finally. You may remember my project that I started last summer when I “parfait” dyed a bunch of cotton sheets and curtains left from my late adopted mom and Thom’s late auntie. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time since then ironing the pieces and tearing them into 8” squares: 390 of them to be exact. Then there was the undyed flannelette sheets for the batting: another 195 squares. Then I had to put them together in 195 sandwiches made from two pieces of cotton sheet in the same dyelot with a piece of flannelette in the middle.

Finally all of the sandwiches were pinned. Here’s what my study floor looked like on Sunday after I had them all strewn around:


Then I had to arrange them in rows and columns 13 x 15:


I was trying to make a “random” organisation keeping a relatively even distribution of the colours around the quilt. I think it looks pretty good! I labelled the rows with masking tape and stacked them up in order. Now I have to sew them all together with 1/2” seams. For that I was going to use random thread from the stash but I found I had a cone of size 40 quilting thread in variegated rust colours which is perfect for this project so I’m using it instead. It doesn’t fit on my sewing machine’s thread spool but it seems to stay put behind the machine with the thread guided around the spool and into the thread guides as normal.

It makes me glad for the power of my old Pfaff sewing machine that enables it to penetrate through the six layers of fabric. When joining the strips together at the seams it’s twelve layers! It’s much harder than it should be to keep an even seam allowance but hopefully once it’s all clipped and frayed you won’t be able to tell. I’ve got 3 rows done and joined together already. Figured it was easier to attach them as I go. It just gets heavier and heavier and is like wrasslin’ bears to get it under the presser foot! I’m either going to be very strong or very broken when I’m done this project. More anon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Put On Your Woollies

It’s National Wear A Sweater Day here in Canada, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund – Canada. Turn your thermostat down 3 degrees C and put on a sweater! Of course here in Damselfly’s Pond it’s nearly always wear-a-sweater day. And my daytime house temp is 17C. We do have the heat come up to 19C morning and early evening for a short while. But then it goes down to 16C at night. Why try to heat up the whole world. According to scientists, it seems to be doing that too much already.

I’m so used to it being cooler in my house that I’m always too hot in what passes for normal room temperature. At least until summer when I seem to adjust. However I’m not one of those people who is always cold. Maybe they aren’t dressed warm enough? If I feel chilly I layer on more clothes! One should not expect to wear summer clothing in winter indoors. Even if the Vancouver Lower Mainland is the mildest place in Canada.

I’ve got to go get ready to go to my weavers’ guild meeting today! I started a new knitting project to take with me. More anon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nearly A Week

My! The posts around here are getting rather few and far between, aren’t they? Sorry about that. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m busy (not that I feel any more busy than usual) or because I just don’t take the time to write. It’s definitely not like I don’t have anything to say! That would just be…totally strange.

So what have I been up to? Family stuff, walks, indoor gardening (transplanting little seedlings), housework, cooking, knitting, reading, knitting while reading – the usual. There’s still stuff I should be doing but haven’t! Somehow it seems to take more time and energy to document my activities than it does actual doing them. Why is that? I don’t regret any of my project documentation though because you never know when it’ll come in handy. Such as with the slippers I’m currently making for Milady Daughter. I just used the same parameters that I used for her daddy’s pair, only slightly shorter. And the same novelty edging idea as in my own pair. I’m nearly done. These are very quick to knit, being like socks only on less stitches than baby-size – just using doubled worsted yarn and on huge needles. I’ll wait to full/felt them until Monday when Rosebud has her next appointment for a cast change. MD can try them on as they get closer to the correct size. That way they will fit perfectly.

I was going to have her make the felt for the innersoles too but I found that T-Man and I had made enough for 2 pairs last time. I just have to trim the toes slightly so we can use the second pair for these slippers. Contrary to my worry, there’s been no need to replace the innersoles on slippers. The outer soles wear out long before the inner ones do! She’ll probably be disappointed however. Felting is fun! Hard work though when you do it by hand.

I’d be absolutely finished my Remix Vest now except for the fact that I need a 24” separating zipper for it. The rather changeable weather has not been inspiring me to go to Dressew lately so it’s on hold for the moment. All washed, blocked and ready to sew the zip in when I finally get it. I’m also nearly done yet another pair of socks for Rosebud from some more leftovers I found in the stash. I probably need to find another project to take with me tomorrow for weavers’ guild knitting though because I’ll likely finish these today. I’ve been ploughing through the projects pretty quickly since New Years! Probably because I have so many things I want to make. My Ravelry Queue is forever being crashed by my changing priorities! Oh well. It’s just a suggestion and a way to avoid forgetting things entirely. Needs and desires change.

What else? Oh yeah. I’ve been playing (like so many other owners of iTouches and iPhones) with the Hipstamatic app. It’s so fun! It’s like having an old-fashioned camera (without all the hassle of getting prints made before you can see what you’ve got) and it makes even mundane shots look amazing. Here’s some of my first efforts:

HipstaTree HipstaCobbles HipstaSnowdrops HipstaSnowdrops2

Super-cool, huh? Love the square format. I’m actually old enough to remember when some photographs came like this! Mostly black and white too. Now I want some more different lenses and film. You can get them (for $.99) right from the app.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Colours To Brighten Your Life

It’s a beautiful sunny and not-too-cold day here – and I have a migraine. Bleh. You just can’t win sometimes. I’m currently waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in. Meanwhile, first I’ll tell you about yesterday’s sojourn at Children’s hospital with Milady Daughter and grandbaby Rosebud. And maybe later we’ll have a Book Review. Haven’t had one of those in ages!

So this was the second time for the full spate of tests for poor little Rosebud. These are necessary for the study she’s in involving Botox in the treatment for club foot. We got to hear her really angry cry during the ultrasound of both legs, the good one and the (formerly) curly one. She hates to be on her tummy unless she can be on a warm human chest! A hospital examining table just doesn’t cut it. And messing with her sensitive foot as well. Not happy. No uncertain terms there.

Then we got her soothed and the loaded diaper changed and next it was on to the x-rays. This time at least the radiologist didn’t strap her so tightly but instead let mommy (wearing a lead apron) hold her foot still. Unfortunately she didn’t like this procedure much better than the ultrasound. I think it still hurts to press her foot down flat.

More soothing while I carried Rosebud and finally joggled her to sleep in my arms. Ortho-doc used that opportunity to photograph the legs and feet while she was still. Unfortunately then they had to do more measuring which meant she woke up when I put her down on the table. And decided she was famished. Doc said to hold off until the casting because she wanted her hungry enough to drink her bottle during the procedure. But first the Botox injection (the real thing this time) and I was wishing I didn’t have my hearing aids on! Poor thing was so outraged at the mean trick we played on her. Doc even spent time rubbing Rosebud’s leg with shea butter herself because she felt bad about sticking her. So sweet – but really it all can’t be helped. We all know that except for the poor baby!

The casting went uneventfully. Rosebud was happily sucking on her bottle and paying no nevermind to the wrapping. Again. Possibly only two more casts and then on to the boots-and-bar. Oh joy. Oh, and we managed to get her weighed: 6 kilos. That’s over 13 lbs now. Happy chubby baby. When we aren’t sticking her with needles that is! All-in-all it took nearly 3 hours to get everything done that needed to be done. Whew. I don’t know about Rosebud and her mommy but I was pretty worn out afterward.

So now how about a Book Review? I got a couple of new books the other day. Haven’t managed to read them all yet but this one is a fairly quick read:


The Knitter’s Guild to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn by Lorna Miser, founder of Lorna’s Laces, published by Watson-Guptill Publications. The subtitle “techniques and projects for hand-painted and multicolored yarn” gives it away. If you’ve ever had trouble with streaking, pooling and other unique features of these yarns then this is the book for you.

The first chapter looks at multicoloured yarns and how to determine the repeat sequence and if they are muted or bright. This is really useful information for both commercially dyed or printed yarns and for those lovely hand-painted yarns, whether purchased or dyed yourself. Chapter Two has ways to blend mismatched skeins and there’s two patterns, a tunic and a shawl, that illustrate some of the solutions. Chapter Three talks about breaking up the colours with texture stitches and concludes with patterns for mittens and a child’s cardigan. Chapter Four features slipped stitches with patterns for a man’s vest and a small coin purse. Chapter Five is tucked stitches and the patterns are for placemats and a ladies top. Chapter Six investigates float stitches and follows up with patterns for a neck cozy and socks. Chapter Seven shows how to add solid colours with the variegated ones and illustrates with a hat and a cardigan pattern. Chapter Eight goes further with solids and stripes and features a baby sweater and a throw. Chapter Nine explores fair isle (stranded) patterns and has patterns for a ladies vest and a fulled (felted) laptop case. Chapter Ten is the one we’ve all been waiting for: lace. It includes patterns for fingerless mitts and a shawl. Chapter Eleven mixes weights and textures with a tote bag and another throw.

Throughout the book, Lorna has included many stitch patterns (65 in total) as well as ideas for their use and variations to try. They are both verbal and charted. Patterns for complete items call for yarns from many different manufacturers but I’m sure one could have lots of fun swatching and substituting one’s own choices.

This book fulfills all my wishes for a good knitting book: lots of clear technical information, juicy pattern stitches and patterns for items that I might really want to make. It’s a good addition to my copy of The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe, which complements and expands on some of the principles. Go forth and swatch.

I’m going to take another ibuprofen…

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Family Fun

I don’t think there’s such a thing as “family overload” but we sure got close to it this weekend. On Saturday we took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast:


Not bad for an iTouch photo through the double-glazed ferry window, huh? For those not local, the ferry goes through a scenic passage between the islands in Howe Sound to a peninsula that is actually part of the mainland but has no roads through to it. It’s very like an island itself with a lot of the same advantages (peaceful, quiet, beautiful scenery) and disadvantages (expensive shopping, more limited facilities and job opportunities) though it seems that more people move there every year. The “we” included T-Man and me, plus his mom, brother, sister-in-law and their 2 kids (one young adult and one nearly so). I was able to give these finished socks to my niece while we were waiting in our separate vehicles in the ferry line-up:

Ali’s Birthday Socks


Begun: January 17, 2011
Completed: February 4, 2011

Yarn: Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, colourway 4253, dyelot 23635, 50g = 210m, used 1.5 skeins.

Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2mm.

Pattern: Damselfly’s Basic Socks on 64 sts, cuff 24 rows of 2/2 rib, 6.5” to heel flaps, 6.75” before toe dec, to 24 sts (6 per needle), dog-ear reduction.

Comments: I promised her a new pair especially after her mom threw out the last ones I made her – the ones she managed to completely wear out! They were so holey I couldn’t fix them. This time she got to pick out the yarn herself so I hope she likes this pair. It might help that Regia is one of the most durable of the sock yarns.

We were of course heading for Gibsons and Auntie M’s 90th birthday party which was a smashing success. How the thundering hordes fit into her little single-wide mobile home, I’ll never know! She and Nana were so cute arguing about who has the most grand- and great-grandchildren. I figure Auntie M cheated as she began with twice as many kids! However by the great-grands they are pretty much neck-and-neck. Mostly because Nana cheated with one grandson (and of course his dear wife!) having 7 kids. Oy.

Auntie M loved her Holden Shawlette:

AM and shawl

You’ll have to forgive the crappy iTouch photo in low light. (No flash on Ruby!) Auntie was getting pretty warm by then thanks to the 5000+ folks in her living room so I felt bad making her put it back on for a lousy picture. She did love it though and I hope she gets more use when the house is empty of warm bodies. These ones:


Photo courtesy of Cousin Mike. I’m 3rd from the right in the back row with my glasses sparkling! And still knitting…

Yes, I spent the whole trip knitting with the leftovers from the socks to make yet another pair for baby Rosebud. I finished them on Sunday:

Rosebud’s Third Socks

Rosebud Third Socks

Begun:  February 4, 2011
Completed:  February 6, 2011

Yarn:  leftovers from Ali’s socks, used about 25g

Needles:  Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern:  same as her last pair of baby socks

Comments:  She can probably use a half-dozen of these things and this is a great way to use up leftovers. I’ll keep making them.

And that’s not all the family stuff either. On Sunday on of T’s cousins and his wife came by to drop off a pressie for baby Caelin from Auntie K (who just turned 95). And another for my nephew’s baby girl as well. Auntie K is from a different side of the family than Auntie M but are you getting the hint that the ladies are long-lived around here? On Thursday it’s Nana’s turn for a birthday – 85! By this time, they are all pretty proud of the numbers and not trying to pretend they are 39 and holding. Heh.

Anyway, while the cousins were here, our son The Ninja and his family showed up. He was getting a wine-making lesson from his dad on how to re-rack his red wine. And I was helping my DIL to fix her sock-knitting issues. She was working her purl stitches by wrapping the yarn the wrong way and wondering why things looked a bit odd. Poor thing! This pair of socks may be the longest project ever because it’s taken her months to get the ribbing done. Nevermind. It’s the process that counts, right? And speaking of socks, I’m kicking myself because I forgot to give The Ninja his Green Birthday Socks. Darn.

However I made them stay to dinner so we could have a good visit. (Arms twisted. Really.) The grandbeasties are growing up so fast! Stargazer is now registered for kindergarten next fall and the Princess is learning how to read and write sentences. So sweet. Maybe soon her comic books will have actual words in the speech bubbles! You’ll be able to read them without having her right next to you telling you the story as you turn the pages.

Now that I only have one project on the needles I’m quickly trying to finish so I can wear my Remix Vest while it’s still cold. Already divided the stitches and cruising up the back with the fronts left to go. I’m waiting to buy the zipper until after I’ve blocked it so it will be the right size. Onward.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Yellow & Blue Don’t Always Make Green

Yesterday my Spectrum Study Group came over and we played with some more yellows. I had saved the leftover coreopsis and osage baths from last month in buckets in my cold room under the front stairs. It’s nearly as cold as a refrigerator this time of year so there was only a tiny bit of mould. The osage was pretty pale so I simmered it for about another hour (it already had 3 hours last month!) and got yet more colour out of the sawdust. The coreopsis only needed the flowers removed and reheating. There was still lots of colour left in it! I also did a 4-part extraction of about 500g of my frozen marigolds. Mordants used were aluminum sulphate or aluminum acetate. We didn’t use any modifiers at all this time and the yarns were everything from wool boucle to fine silk and tencel/cotton. The colours we got were glorious!


The oranges and peaches are from the coreopsis – actually the third and fourth dyebaths from those well-used flowers. They are much clearer colours than we got last time. The light bright yellows are from the osage exhaust and the chartreuse and lime colours are from the marigold pot. We only got one exhaust bath from that and the colours were slightly less greenish than the first bath. They are all so beautiful! Amazing to me how every single different yarn came out a different colour from the same bath. Eight people contributed skeins and each did their own scouring and mordanting so that might add to the variations we got. I consider this dye day a big success even if I didn’t have any of my own yarns in the pot. I was kept very busy anyhow! And it’s back here again next time for browns.

My dear friend loved her Annis du Pastel shawlette. I don’t give a lot of gifts so I like them to be good ones and if they are a complete surprise - even better! Here’s Debbie Double modeling for you:

Annis du Pastel

Another more pensive look out the window:

Annis du Pastel2

And a detail shot:

Annis du Pastel_det

When I washed it quite a lot of woad came off and it’s now a couple of shades lighter than it was. No more crocking though. And still very pretty blue. Most of the details are in my last post so I won’t repost them here. It only took me 4 days to finish it, not counting the day it took to block dry! I was a bit disappointed that the top edge still curls a lot but that also might be because of the curved shape. It just naturally wants to straighten out under its own weight and when it can’t, it coils. I think I need to make it again with a different yarn.

I also finished the socks for my niece and they are currently drying on the bathroom counter. (I’ll get a pic when they’re dry to show you.) Just in time to present them to her when I see her tomorrow! A contingent of the family is heading up to Gibsons to help celebrate with yet another auntie who has reached the grand old age of 90. I’ve already shown you her shawl. I’m all about the pressies these days, aren’t I?

Speaking of which, I’m using the leftovers from Ali’s socks and started on a third pair for baby Rosebud. She needs lots of socks that will actually fit over her cast. Eventually she’s going to need them to wear in her boots-and-bar system. They’ll hopefully get a lot of use before she grows out of them.

Gotta go check on my baby plants. Quite a number of them are up now including the woad. Weld is still not in evidence but then I knew they were slow. I didn’t cover them this time which I hope will help. More anon.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Starts and Finishes

The weather has been lovely and sunny though fairly cool for the last few days. Why is it that I feel more like doing energetic things when the sun is shining? I especially get the urge to clean and also to start new projects.

So on Sunday I started some seeds under the lights on the basement counter:


That’s two dozen different veggies, herbs, dyeplants and flowers in total. My new flats and clear domes from West Coast Seeds are working out very well but I had to trim an inch or so off the plant tags before they would fit underneath the lid. It’s quite early to get them going – even for our long (but cool) growing season. Some will be eaten as babies without ever going into the garden and then I’ll plant some more. Some take a long time to germinate and/or grow large enough to transplant. Some will be grown as big as possible here and then transferred to the greenhouse to wait until the garden is ready to plant. More plantings will be happening every few weeks or so. Spring is coming soon! Really.

Speaking of plants, I finally got an offer of some seeds for Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) for which I’ve been hunting for quite awhile. They are not easily available commercially and seed viability is only one year. Apparently it’s difficult to get them to set seed without potting up a flowering plant late in the season and bringing it in to finish where it can stay warm enough. It’s going to be fun to experiment with growing a different blue! More on that as it happens. I need to send the money to the kind dyer/gardener today. Oh goody – an excuse to go for a walk in the sunshine.

And speaking of indigo, I recently found out that a dear friend sadly has colon cancer. Yes I know that they don’t seem related subjects but woad (especially Chinese woad) has been studied and found to contain some anti-cancer properties. And I also know that you have to ingest it not wear it to gain benefit. However, I’m thinking of it in terms of a talisman against illness so I knitted her a small shawlette or scarf thingy with some yarn that I dyed at that Maiwa Symposium workshop a year ago last October. I used the Annis shawlette pattern by Susanna IC from Knitty. It’s a lovely C-shape with an Estonian lace edging (nupps!) and a plain area knit with short rows to curve it.

I of course changed a few things. The pattern calls for a lace yarn to make a very lightweight ethereal shawlette but I had a heavier sock yarn that I wanted to use instead. It’s kind of a symbol for me of defiance because Denise Lambert in the woad workshop told me that the nylon content in the sock yarn would not take the dye. But it did! Very well too. Unfortunately I never rinsed it properly afterwards because a lot of blue crocked off on my hands while I was knitting it. I knew I could wash the finished item after it was done to fix the crocking issue.

Another change I made was to use the typical Estonian knitted-on cast-on with doubled yarn on a larger 6mm circular needle. (I used my Denise set which promptly turned blue from the crocking woad!) Then I switched to my Addi Lace 5mm circulars and knit 2 garter rows before starting the pattern chart with row 1. This made a nice solid edging. The nupps proved to be a bit of a PITA on such large needles and I finally figured out that a 1.75mm crochet hook was the only way to work them without tearing what’s left of my hair out in frustration.

I was worried that I was going to run out of yarn since I used half of it just for the edging so I switched to 4mm needles for the plain short-row part. (Turns out I should probably have used 4.5mm but they were occupied in my Remix Vest.) I also ended by knitting what would have been the last purl row instead and then knitting the last right-side row to give a little bit of garter on the edge. Then I bound off on the non-public (wrong) side with the Estonian k2togtbl technique from the pattern instructions. This made the top edging a little more substantial and less likely to roll. It also balances the beginning better.

Here’s a teaser shot of blocking Annis du Pastel (the French word for dyers’ woad):

Annis du Pastel_block

I’m waiting until tomorrow before I unpin it to give it a better chance to dry. Then I’ll take a better photo with a close-up shot of the lace. I just realised that it only took me 4 days to complete this project! My friend is coming over on Thursday so I can surprise her then. Shhhh…don’t give the secret away.