Friday, September 09, 2011

Off And Running

Just a quickie to say…man, I’m totally exhausted! I’ve cleaned and watered and weeded and laundered and vacuumed and packed and…now I want to leave before it all needs doing again. As soon as T-Man is finished work we do a last check and then it’s Holiday Time!

The weather is perfect for camping – at least so far. We’re heading east first to Waterton/Glacier, then south to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, then west to Craters of the Moon, west some more to Portland, north with a side-trip to Mt. St. Helens, north some more on the west side of the Hood Canal to Port Townsend, ferry to Whidbey Island and then on home. At least that’s the plan. Subject to change depending on weather and such. (Hopefully no exploding awnings this time!) Since I likely won’t be stopping anywhere with reliable wi-fi, this is the last post for 3+ weeks. Pictures when I return.

Meanwhile the old homestead will be checked as frequently as possible by Milady Daughter. She gets any leftover produce from the garden – except my precious butternut squashes which aren’t ripe yet anyway. Though I think there’s already enough summer squash ready for her to make relish which will make her happy. Most of the tomatoes are still green so she’s going to get all that ripen while I’m away. Sigh. Big waste of time for the small amount I got. I didn’t even get enough to make a batch of sundried tomatoes like last year. Oh well. Every year is a different story.

Off to finish packing. Here’s my pretty moth orchid which surprised me by re-blooming. At least the flowers last long enough for me to enjoy them when I get back.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back To School – But Not For Me

I’m thinking of my grandbeasties today – the bigger ones at least. Stargazer will be starting full-day kindergarten – a big step for him. He won’t be 5 until the very end of December so he’ll likely be the youngest in class. He has had some experience with playschool a couple of days a week, but I feel fulltime is hard for kids who haven’t been in daycare. I really hope he has a good experience and enjoys the learning. His big sister Super-Princess is off to grade two. She’s still struggling a little with reading and writing but her math skills are excellent. Her problem is mostly with an innate embarrassment about making a mistake. This year she should be able to get over the hump and make friends with words. It opens the doors to learning everything else.

Oddly instead of having weather that smells of fall and back-to-school, we’re having some of the warmest and sunniest days of the entire summer. It’s almost making me wish we weren’t heading inland on Friday where it’s actually going to be hot! We aren’t fooled though. We’ll be in the mountains where it could change into winter in the blink of an eye. I’m wisely packing enough clothing for any eventuality: shorts, skirts, sunhat, sandals, pants, fleece vests, raingear, boots, woolly scarf, gloves, undershirts, longjohns, turtlenecks, hoodie…  Good thing I have an expanding suitcase. Comfort trumps fashion any day.

In crafty news, my knitting these days seems doomed to difficulties. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve started a new project just to have something on the needles for those rare downtimes in the Packing Frenzy. In case you missed it, it’s the Ardsley Jacket, a free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn and it’s a cutaway shape in a double-moss stitch with pockets, collar and i-cord edging. (Ravelry link, pattern link.) I’m using a cone of 2-ply oatmeal tweed wool that I found in the weaving stash. No idea where I got it but it was probably transferred from somebody else’s stash. Anyway, for certain it’s rather…ahem, vintage. I started knitting the pockets as a swatch and needed to go down a needle size to 5mm to get gauge in this moss stitch. So far so good:


No, it’s not really crooked, just my camera angle. And it’s also not yet blocked. Wanna see the i-cord edge up close?


I think it’s quite cunning! I had to go down 2 needle sizes to 4mm dpns and then pick up only the front loop of the bind-off stitches to get it to work properly. I also picked up the stitches on the pocket one at a time with the end of the dpn as I went along so the next stitch was in place to knit it together with the last i-cord stitch. It’s much easier than trying to knit 2 tight stitches together from 2 different needles. I like the finish the i-cord gives even if it is rather tedious to knit. I’ll have lots more practice before I’m done this sweater!

However while knitting the second pocket I discovered a break in one of the yarn plies. Then another break about 8 yards later. I started winding off to see what was up and after a couple more I think I’ve come to the end of the breaks. If not, there will be a few joins in this sweater! Par for the course when using vintage wool. This type of damage is often caused by carpet beetles rather than moths. They dig in to one spot so the yarn breaks in the same place as the cone unwinds. The critter is long gone though so there’s no need to give the cone an “arctic vacation” in the freezer. I’m getting a sweater for free except for the work of knitting it so I’m not really complaining too much. This project is coming with us – among others. I’d hate to run out of knitting halfway through the holiday. There unfortunately aren’t a lot of yarn shops where we’re going. (I am going to try to get to Fabric Depot in Portland however. It’s reputed to be the largest fabric store in America. Sounds good to me!)

Yes, I know I should be spinning for T-Man’s Brownstone Sweater but first I have to card more wool. And I can’t start knitting it until I wind some cakes from the washed skeins that I’ve spun so far. I plan to spend the rest of the day upstairs. Cleaning up the studio/study area and packing the knitting supplies, patterns and books to read is my Big Job for today. I have been skipping from one project to another for ages so it’s quite a mess up there. Add teasing, carding and spinning the fleece and it’s dirty as well as messy. Wish me luck. I’ll try not to get distracted with all the possibilities in my personal Fibre Heaven.

Off I go!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labour Day Weekend


We got off to a good start on Saturday when we went for a drive in the old VW van to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. This trip accomplished several things: a drive to test the new fan belts in the van (in case they need adjusting), a walk in the same park where we spent the later part of our wedding day 40 years and 2 months ago, a chance to finally spread my little container of my birth mom’s ashes (only 2 years late!), and also for T-Man and I to enjoy the lovely summer weather – while we still have some to enjoy. Apart from the usual crazy traffic around the Lion’s Gate Bridge, it was a very pleasant outing.

The rest of the weekend had a definite emphasis on “labour” rather than a rest from it! We’re currently in a perhaps futile attempt to finish a bunch of things around the house before we head off on our vacation on Friday. Him: painting the van’s propane tank, caulking the cracks in the stucco on the house, painting the final parts of the front stairs, repairing the cracks in the sidewalk, putting away some of the deck furniture, and weeding and watering the front garden. Me: harvesting, cleaning up the veggie garden, planting fall rye in the empty beds, cleaning and bringing in the cactuses after their summer vacation outside, and watering every plant in sight. Etc. Whew! Labour Day, huh?

And there’s still more to do inside. Lots of cleaning and laundry as well as packing: crafts, clothes, food, electronic gear, bicycles, and everything else we might possibly need in the next 3+ weeks. Plus grocery shopping, van maintenance, a hair cut, lawn mowing…I need a holiday from the holiday preparations! And then there will be all the cleanup to do when we get back. Luckily for my sanity, we go away for this long only once a year.


The Point Atkinson lighthouse is there, hiding behind the trees on the right. I was about to fall in the water if I climbed any further out on the rocks!

In crafty news, I had a Huge Fail with a knitted project about which I have not previously blogged. This yarn (of which I had 2 balls) has been very uncooperative:

Regia Pompon 285

First it started out to be socks for Super-Princess until I realised that she’s sensitive to the nylon content. Frogged. Then it was going to be a sweater for Rosebud until I realised that it was way too small for her quickly growing self. Frogged again. Then it was 3/4 of the way to becoming a dress for Rosebud, one that would even fit for awhile, until…I spilled an entire large cup of tea on my knitting, including the remaining ball of yarn. Whereupon it immediately soaked up the tea and stained PERMANENTLY! Blotchy yellowish stains. That would NOT wash out. I gave it up as an absolute lost cause and threw the evil thing in the trash. The pompons made it no fun to knit anyway and I had already knit it – over and over and over. My middle name is not Sisyphus, OK? I know when to throw in the towel…er, yarn. Done. Maybe I’ll try the dress again with another yarn. Maybe I’ll rework the pattern so it’s easier to knit or find another pattern that is better. Meanwhile, I feel much better now.

Friday, September 02, 2011

How Can It Be September Already?

My fingers are sore. I spent a goodly part of Wednesday afternoon stitching and stitching on the new screen for my VW van:


It took about 4 hours and I went over every seam twice to make sure it was going to last. I had to stand on the cooler to reach and even wore my sunhat for awhile until the sun shifted behind my walnut tree. I think it looks pretty spiffy if I do say so myself! If you’re wondering why I worked so hard on this, here’s the original screen:


The new one is much finer and will keep out no-see-ums as well as mosquitoes, wasps, moths and other winged critters. The old one (ca1989) wasn’t keeping out much of anything! Hopefully it will be good now for as long as the van exists – or at least as long as the canvas top survives.

Then yesterday was our monthly Spectrum Study Group dye day. This time we played with madder and modifiers. My tussah silk yarn mordanted in rhubarb leaf came out a disappointing rose-beige for some reason. I suspect the madder needed to be stronger since we only used 7.5% WOF. Other yarns mordanted in alum came out somewhat brighter:


Not as intense as it could be though. After dyeing them we subjected various skeins to acid (vinegar), alkali (ammonia), iron and copper. Only the iron modifier made any real changes in the colour:

MadderDyed IronModified

The acid modified yarns were slightly brighter than normal but the alkaline and copper ones didn’t change much at all – at least that we could see while they were wet. I’ve experienced much more dramatic differences in the past so I’m not sure what was going on unless it was just that the madder percentage was too low. I usually use 18-25% WOF so we used less than half that. I also usually get at least one or two exhaust baths from the stronger amount but this was completely exhausted right away. We used a finely powdered madder and unfortunately didn’t put it in a bag in the dyebath so now my yarn is full of madder dust as well as kind of homely! It’s still wet and I don’t have a photo yet to show you. I might just try overdyeing it with a little more madder to see what happens. Probably not until I get back from holiday though. I have things to do.

Meanwhile here’s a basket that Kirsten arranged of some of the yarns that she’s been dyeing during this year of Spectrum:


Pretty colours, huh? Who says natural dye colours are all boring and dull. And here’s a little bundle of hand-dyed weaving thrums that was lying around:

Thrums colour study Yummy.

Today I was going to accompany Milady Daughter and Rosebud to get her boots adjusted but apparently Milord SIL has contracted mumps. Maybe. They’re still trying to confirm but meanwhile their little family is quarantined. They are certainly not wanted at Children’s Hospital! And baby Rosebud hasn’t had her immunisation for it yet. Cross your fingers that she has my natural immunity. Both my adopted siblings had it, one of them twice (once in each cheek), but I never caught it even before I had my immunisation shots.

So I’m planning to spend some time today carding and spinning more of the black Corriedale yarn. I’ve got half of what I need for T-Man’s Brownstone sweater but I’d like to have it all spun and wound into cakes before we go away. I might be asking too much of myself though. Won’t hurt to try! Every skein I get done means I can get further on the knitting while we’re travelling.

Memo: Always pack your craft supplies first.