Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fun With Spam

I was looking at my spam collection before deleting it from Blogger (which happily manages to catch almost all of it) and I find some of it absolutely hilarious! For instance:

of course like your website however you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I'll certainly come again again.

And this one:

I tend not to leave many remarks, but і did a few searching and wound up here. And I do have a couple of questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be only me or does it look like some of these remarks appear like they are coming from brain dead individuals? :-P Anԁ, if you are posting at additional online sites, I'd like to follow everything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of every one of your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

Little do they know I don’t have any of those social media pages. And this one:

The lengthier you are worried about likely back again to sleep, the considerably less sleepy you are feeling. Just after several evenings of lying awake, your mind can begin to associate lying in bed with stressing somewhat than with slumber. When you have been lying in mattress wanting to sleep for additional than 20 minutes, stand up and head over to one more home in which you can do one thing silent and enjoyable these types of as reading through or needlework.

Or how about this one:

With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I've either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any ways to help stop content from being stolen? I'd truly appreciate it.

And my current favourite:

Accurate, the connection wouldn have lasted anyway. Even with possessing a normal expertise for it, we adult men don wish to be the lying bastard man. Plus the only to stop that is certainly, nicely, to not lie and never be described as a bastard.. What I am speaking about is kindness. It really is that simple, but completely highly effective in what it might attain.

Yes, I have a weird sense of humour. You knew that already, didn’t you? I have no idea why people think that any of this will work to get you to click their links but I guess they keep trying anyhow. At least they could get a clue that perhaps I can’t read Cyrillic? Asking too much? Probably. Lying bastard man.

OK, I’ll spare you any more. I’ve still got tears in my eyes from laughing though so I may have more spelling issues! <snort!>

Abruptly changing the subject, I never showed you some of the woodwork that T-Man has been doing lately. He made me a couple of nice sweater/shawl pins:


The beading nubbies are really helpful for holding the pin in the knitted fabric. I push it through until at least one nubbie locks in. Like this:


It doesn’t fall out! He also made two dpn cases for my sock needles. Here’s one:


I forgot to include the other one which has a different lid. Very classy protection for my needle sets, huh? Sorry about the atmospheric photos. It’s raining. Yeah, so what else is new around here in November.

In knitting news I screwed up one of the Winter’s Dark Socks by dropping a stitch in the gusset and not noticing until I’d knitting another inch. Bleh. Needs a dip in the frog pond. Here they are before the heel flap when I was happier with them:


And I’m not particularly pleased with the way the Red Hedgerow Mitts are coming out either. The two balls of yarn are not matching very well. There’s much more dark colour in one of them:


Don’t know if you can tell from this photo but the darker one is on top. And I keep messing up the pattern stitch. Another item that needs more light and attention than I’ve been giving it. The only knitting project I’m happy with is the Leafy Nikolai Scarf:


It’s quite a bit longer than this now even though I frogged it once in order to go down to a 3.75mm needle from a 4mm. I like the garter stitch base better a little tighter since I tend to knit it quite loosey-goosey. As you might notice, this is a possible replacement for the Many Mosques Shawl which I made out of the same yarn. It just so annoys me when it curls up into a complete roll and won’t stay flat no matter what I do. I may just frog it and knit the Mezquita pattern in another yarn. One that hopefully cooperates better.

Why does it seem that so many things I’ve made lately have given me grief? Maybe I need to concentrate better on one thing at a time. And turn on a light.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shopping Is A Bad Word

No, this isn’t the beginning of one of my Seasonal Rants. I promised to behave myself this year on that topic. I think the problem is deeper than just one season. It’s “shopping” in general that I have a problem with. (Unless of course we’re talking food/books/fabric/yarn/fibre/tools/diy stuff. For some reason Things To Make Things With is another category in my head entirely!) I absolutely do not understand shopping as entertainment. It’s more like a bad dream.

What’s got the bee in my bonnet this time? Shopping for kids. A necessity since I only give holiday gifts to the grandbeasties, plus there’s a birthday or two in the month of December. I (mostly) refuse to consider buying toys. Why contribute to the Plastic Sargasso Sea, the insidious one that is taking over their rooms? Which only leaves books and clothes. Have you looked at kids’ clothes recently? Yikes! For girls it’s the floofy princess party dresses, mini-slutwear, pink-pink-pink, sparkly-glittery everything. For boys it’s… not much. Dull blues and grays. Lots of logos of football/hockey/racing cars/dinosaurs. Gah.

Am I just old? I don’t remember everything being quite so definitely differentiated between boys and girls even when my kids were little. These days you can’t even hand down a toy from a girl to her little brother. He won’t play with a pink anything! And I don’t blame him either. The girly things are overly concerned with beauty and personal adornment and the boy things are a whole lot more active and exciting. Whatever happened to gender-neutral? What message are we sending our kids, especially girls? Don’t worry your pretty little head about it? Grrr… Oh, I know the real reason. It’s all marketing. Just so we will buy more More MORE! Sorry. Not playing that game.

Yeah, I know I could make stuff for them. Not this year. I found stuff that perhaps offends me less than some other things and got the heck out. Christmas shopping done. Now I’m not going near a mall again until sometime in January. Off the soapbox. Before I fall off.

Moving right along. Hey, I finished the curtains!

Lattice Bedroom Curtains


Completed:  November 28, 2012

Yarn:  Warp - 2/8 cotton, bleached white, 3696 yds per lb. Used 2+ 250g tubes. Weft – 22/2 cottolin, white, no name (possibly Klippans), on cone. Used about 3200 yds.

LatticeCurtains_detDraft:  Huck net with plain weave ovals, p.71, from Handwoven Laces by Donna Muller. 8 shafts/9 treadles.

Warp:  4.6 yards long, 785 ends, 40” wide, 2 ends per dent in 10-dent reed.

Sett:  20 epi, 18 ppi (couldn’t quite beat square on such a wide warp)

Finishing:  Triple zigzagged the ends, machine washed, hung to dry, pressed, cut in half and machine stitched 1-1/2” hems on each end.

Comments:  It was a wide warp – nearly as wide as my 45” loom. I had quite a lot of trouble with this weaving but I guess it could be chalked up to me being really out of practise. There were tension problems, loom problems, submarine shuttle diving, and lots of skips to fix at the end. Plus I should have wound a 5 yard warp because the finished curtains are a little short. Still below the windowsill though so not a big deal. The width shrank to 34” after washing and the finished and hemmed length is 59”. My notes from the old curtains (1991!) say I used a 4 yard warp but it must have been 5 because the originals are longer and there was a little (maybe 6”) cut off the end as well for a sample. I did have a little more waste this time though (22”) because I couldn’t get a good enough shed towards the very end.

The curtains aren’t perfect but they do the trick. Hopefully they’ll last another 20 years or so. I don’t want to replace them again any time soon.

Now on to something else. Perhaps I’ll finally re-hem that rusty red skirt? You know, so I can actually wear it myself instead of Debbie Double flouncing around in it? There’s also several more refashion/repair projects hanging about waiting for me to get to them. Not to mention all the new things in the queue. Is it just me or do the days seem much too short this time of year? It seems like it’s dark most of the time and we’re still weeks away from solstice. I’m not complaining really. I like seasonal changes. It’s just that these old(er) eyes need more light on the subject than they are currently getting. Maybe I should remember not to knit black socks in November?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Some Thises Thats & The Others

I decided to check in even though I don’t have any photos to offer today. It’s dark and rainy and dismal. Black Friday indeed. Which brings me to the fact that I’m disappointed but not surprised that merchants here in Canada are starting to pick up on the US Black Friday/Cyber Monday thing. They want to keep the money on our side of the border. As if Boxing Day (now extended to Boxing Week) blowouts weren’t enough for them. Sheesh. Guess I can’t blame anyone for trying to make a living but I’m not going to bite. I don’t do Christmas gifts anymore. And I sure don’t need anything for myself either.

On a more positive note, I hope all my American readers had a Happy Thanksgiving yesterday! Personally I think we should be thankful every single day. I know I am. Though we could end up with an awful lot of leftover turkey and pumpkin pie. Heh. Yum.

I haven’t accomplished much crafty stuff this week. Instead I’ve been distracted by grandkids, a doctor’s appointment, a super-expensive prescription, blood tests and James Bond. My dear doc and I are trying a new tactic to discourage the Return of the Itchy Peelies. Oh yes, the dreaded scourge has reappeared after two lovely years of clear skin. So far it’s in a holding pattern, mostly on my feet. Wish me luck. I’m trying to stay positive. It’s not like it’s going to kill me or anything. This time at least I know what doesn’t work. And doc agrees that I don’t have psoriasis. I knew that all along.

Oh, and Skyfall is quite good. But I’m sure they don’t need my endorsement.

The biggest grandbeastie, the Art Princess (the handle she currently prefers), got to help me weave a few picks of the curtains on the loom. She enjoyed beating but isn’t quite up to throwing the big shuttle across the wide warp. I promised one day soon that I’ll put on a suitable warp for her to weave something herself. We may have to use my Carolyn table loom though. At 8 she’s not tall enough yet to reach the treadles on Gertrude unless she does it standing rather than sitting on the bench.

Art Princess is really interested in learning more about sewing too. Especially after our overnight session in August, she wants to make more stuffies like her moon, apple and fish. Unfortunately I don’t get many extended sessions with her. She has school and swimming and gymnastics and lives just far enough away that it takes serious effort for us to schedule time together. Doesn’t help that neither her mom nor I can drive. So learning only happens in tiny increments. But I’m happy that she is excited by some of the same things that I am and I’m sure we’ll find a way to pass it on. Eventually.

What else? I’ve started too many knitting projects so progress is slow. None of them are sweaters and I feel the need for another sweater. Guess I need to spin some yarn first. I’ve harvested some seeds from the Japanese indigo flowers residing in vases on my windowsill. Not a lot but there is more than enough for next year’s garden and I haven’t checked them all yet. The plants in the garden are toast so I was a little afraid for my new seeds but the windowsill method seems to work adequately. But you have to start with the most mature flower stems because the later ones are not producing anything. I think the light level is too low right now.

While I’m on the dye subject, I finally managed to get my madder harvest down to quite a fine powder. The secret was to put it in the dehydrator on the fruit rollup tray (otherwise it would fall through the mesh) and run it at 110 degrees F. I forgot it overnight (oops) but it came out bone dry. Then I whizzed it right away in the craft blender and it powdered really easily. That whole bucket full of fresh roots is now reduced to 160g and just over a cup’s worth of dry dye! Whew.

So I’m off to weave. I can see the end of the warp on the beam. I want to get this beast off and move on to other things.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Yet Another FO

I finally have the details on my finished shawl for you:

Black Spruce Shawl


Begun: October 9, 2012

Completed: November 11, 2012

Yarn: Main – DGB Confetti Superwash, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, Colour 9030 (heathered dark gray), 210m=50g. 2 balls. Contrast – Sandnes Garn Sisu, 80% superwash wool/20% nylon, 175m=50g, dark gray/white marl, overdyed dark red. 1 ball.

Needles: Main – Addi Lace circular, 4mm. Cast-on – 5mm.

Pattern: Lace edging from The Haapsalu Scarf, p.173 (top). Top curve shape adapted from the Mezquita Shawl by Roxanne Yeun.


Comments: This is my own frankenpattern: combining a wide Estonian spruce tree edging with a garter stitch crescent shawl. The swatch photo is closer to the true colour. The others are lighter so you can see details.

BlackSpruce swatch The Confetti yarn is not suitable for long-wearing socks or gloves because the white nylon content pills out of the black wool and looks awful. Hopefully it will be better in a shawl that doesn’t get hard wear. I didn’t have quite enough for the whole project so added a ball of marled (2 plies black and 1 ply white) Sisu that I had overdyed dark red for the crescent section. The nupps took a remarkable amount of yarn! I ran out of the first ball just after the middle row of the chart. The second half didn’t take nearly as much and I had plenty left of the main colour to finish the top eyelet border.

I’m really pleased with the results - a long narrow shawl that’s actually more like a scarf. The garter stitch makes it really warm! Using the chart and the legend plus notes (click on the pics for larger) you can make one too. Let me know if you do!

 Black Spruce Chart    BlackSpruceNotes

In other crafty news, I’ve been cruising along on the curtain weaving project. My (relatively) new Bluster Bay end-feed shuttle is working quite wonderfully:


Isn’t she a beauty? Mine is a mid-sized one with a closed bottom. Not too big and uses the same pirns as my AVL end-feed shuttle. I have 7 of those pirns and they hold a surprising amount. Because you don’t fuss with the selvedges at all with an end-feed shuttle, they take care of themselves. If you have the tension correct, the selvedges are very nice:


I threaded the yarn through 3 of the 6 hooks and it was perfect. In the detail photo above you can see the huck lattice pattern. And my rather uneven beat! The lace will show up more when the fabric is washed. And hopefully the uneven beat will show up less! I’m currently just over half finished the weaving. Moving right along.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Story So Far

The loom warping went pretty well. Yesterday I finished threading and got the warp wound on to the loom with good tension. It’s only 4+ yards long anyhow so that part is not a big deal. A few cranks of the big handles, a few sticks inserted and it’s done. I forgot to do the tie-up earlier in the procedure but it was not hard to reach under the warp to fix. I happily discovered that I had a little 3-legged stool that fit perfectly over the lower side beams and was much more comfortable to sit on. So many weavers complain that countermarche looms are a PITA to tie up because you have to tie both the rising and the sinking shafts. But really, unless you completely undo everything in between projects (and why would you?), you usually only have to change some of the ties. Then I tested for minor threading errors because there are always at least one or two – especially after being so out of practice. This time there were two crossed threads and one place where I had threaded 2,1 instead of 1,2. Quick to fix. 785 correctly threaded ends accounted for.

Next step was trying to wind the cottolin weft yarn on the pirns. My poor elderly bobbin winder had been somewhat abused by a “helpful” grandson and needed some T-Man TLC before it would work properly again. Then I had to learn to throw my lovely new Bluster Bay end-feed shuttle all the way across the shed. Hah! I made a few annoying submarines and a couple of short throws. Also a few tangles around various protrusions. It went better when I didn’t think about what I was doing. It’s a long reach across 40” of warp! I’d forgotten what a workout weaving can be. Anyway I’m quite liking the huck lattice pattern. Now I just have to weave 4 more yards of it.

At my weavers’ guild meeting last Thursday the speaker was Jean Curry from Alberta talking about the Master Weaver program at Olds College. It was really interesting to hear that there is a course like that available which focuses on the technical aspects of weaving (rather than as a section of a textile arts program) and offers accreditation. It was also really interesting to realise that my self-taught skills have covered pretty much everything they have to offer and then some. I’m not a great weaver but a pretty well-rounded one. I understand how it all works and don’t need to follow a recipe to make my own cloth. I just need to DO IT! Unfortunately somehow the days aren’t long enough to do everything in my brain. Sigh.

In other news I finally got pictures, not particularly good ones though unfortunately, of the last couple of knitting projects I finished. I’ll hold off on the shawl because I want to publish the pattern and the chart is on the other computer. But here are the socks:

Fall Is Still Green Socks

FallGreen Socks For:  T-Man

Begun:  October 25, 2012
Completed:  November 11, 2012

Yarn:  Schoeller+Stahl Fortissima Socka, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, Colour 1089 (green), 210m = 50g, 2 balls.

Needles:  Blackthorn dpns, 2mm

Pattern:  Damselfly’s Basic Socks on 68sts, 24 rnds 2/2 rib, 9” cuff, regular heel flap, 8.75” before toe, dec to 24sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments:  T-Man picked this yarn out when we visited a new-to-me yarn shop in Gastown called Wool Is Not Enough. He desperately needs new socks since he’s wearing out several pairs of the old ones.

My needles were empty! Can’t have that. So of course I had to cast on for yet another pair of T-socks. These ones are black Regia with a little hint of light grey in occasional stripes and blips. And then I also cast on for another long pair of fingerless mitts for me, this time in the Hedgerow pattern. My hands must have been cold.

Off to throw the shuttle some more. Pictures coming.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Roots of the Madder

Well, I finally got my little madder bed dug up a few days ago. It’s only about 3 feet wide by 4 feet long or so and I had only planted 5 crowns in it but it took all afternoon to harvest. The plants had died back to straw and it was pretty easy to clear off down to the soil. Then I triple-dug every bit to make sure I had all the precious pieces of root. I ended up with a bucket full:


Madder (Rubia tinctorum) roots are surprisingly easy to distinguish from anything else. When damp they are translucent red-brown, juicy and brittle and with a thin yellow core which turns red on contact with air. The best ones are as thick as a pencil but I picked everything down to the skinniest bits. I didn’t want to waste any of my precious harvest! I saved out most of the crowns and split a few into more than one piece. You can see the old stems and the yellow shoots as well as the lovely thick roots, which I pruned a little before I replanted it:


I wanted to expand the bed more and also to give some away to friends who had requested it. That’s how I got my first few plants about 15 years ago so I always try to pass on the favour. They will grow from seeds but this was the first year I actually had any good black “berries”. Unfortunately they didn’t get harvested because I was away on vacation when they were ripe.

After digging up the patch I smoothed it out and applied some lime. Our soil is quite acid (blueberries and rhododendrons do very well) but madder likes chalky soil best. Then I replanted the big crowns and a few smaller ones and patted them home to grow for another 2 or 3 years. You can see why it would be best to have a whole plot full of madder plants if you wanted to dye with it often! Then you can dig up part of it every year while leaving the rest to grow. I’ll top-dress the bed with compost and manure in early spring because I don’t have any ready at the moment. They won’t mind waiting over winter. Madder is very hardy and relatively undemanding as long as it gets a reasonable amount of food and water.

Meanwhile back at the bucket of roots, I rinsed everything a number of times under the water tap:


This doesn’t just get off the dirt but some of the yellow and brown dyes in the roots that will prevent you from getting good reds. I even rinsed them again after chopping them up:


You can see how much of the undesirable colour is still there. I didn’t go too crazy though since I actually like oranges and browns! I recommend chopping the roots right away while they are still juicy and brittle. They are very tough when dried. (Ask me how I know!) I use a number of tools including pruning shears, garden snips, a mini food chopper (saved for craft use, not food) and my new secret weapon:


An Alaskan ulu, the Eskimo women’s knife. My mother-in-law brought it back from one of her travels and I’ve found it very useful for mincing garlic and herbs as well as doing a great job on the madder root – at least as good as the food chopper did and more quickly too. The ulu is very sharp! Now the chopped roots are drying before I package them for storage:


I stir them around as often as I remember and watch carefully. It’s been rainy and damp so I can’t dry it outside. Might have to break out the dehydrator if it takes too long. Don’t want them to mould! That would be a big waste of several years and a lot of work to grow them. No, I’m not planning to dye with my newly-harvested madder right this minute. Did I mention that I love the smell of freshly chopped madder roots? It’s kind of earthy and quite distinctive.

In other crafty news, I’ve got the white cotton warp for my new bedroom curtains wound and am now threading the reed. 785 ends. Good thing my hands remember what to do. It’s been awhile since I’ve woven anything at all. Yes, I warp front-to-back. For most things it’s easier on this loom. I thread the reed from the front and then put a cushion on the treadles and sit on them inside the loom frame to thread the heddles. Sounds weird but that brings the heddles close to my eye level making it very easy to see what I’m doing. The loom frame has a big “doorway” on each side so it’s not hard to get in there, at least so far. I’m still pretty flexible for a granny. Heh. This is going to take a couple of days to finish warping because I’m taking care to do it right. No point in making mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, Debbie is still wearing my skirt so it isn’t getting re-hemmed yet. I’m still somewhat ticked off with it. I’ll get over it. Eventually.

I did finish my Black Spruce Shawl and it turned out just the way I envisioned. Pretty neat! However I haven’t been able to get a good photo. It’s been dingy and dark and the shawl is also dark. I need to photograph this outside and it keeps raining. So it’ll have to wait awhile. I’m also nearly done T-Man’s green socks. None too soon either! He’s showing me some very thin spots on several of his older pairs. If it was just a hole, I would mend it. But it’s not really worth mending socks where the sole has the wool pretty much worn off leaving only the nylon content to hold them together.

I need to discover what my next knitting project is going to be. Apart from yet another pair of socks that is.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

How Hard Can It Be?

Unfortunately a lot harder than one might expect. A simple skirt is playing hard to get. I’m running out of patience. To wit:

Not-Quite-Helena Skirt

HelenaSkirt For: me

Date:  November Something, 2012, not actually finished yet.

Fabric:  ancient piece of fairly lightweight cotton twill in a rusty red, already cut out (sometime in the late ‘90’s or early ‘00’s) into a dress I never made. Liked the fabric though so I didn’t trash it. There was just enough to squeeze out the skirt though I had to piece the waistband.

Lining:  just over a yard of polyester lining, a pretty close colour match. From Dressew.

Notions:  Strip of interfacing for the waistband. 1 rust red button. YKK invisible zip, was 16” but I only needed 9” so I chopped it off at the bottom. Sewing and serger thread to match. Lace edging, magenta.

Pattern:  Helena Skirt, free pattern download by Sarah Magill for BurdaStyle, available here.

Mods:  Left off the button front and instead inserted a zip in the back with a button on the band. Graded up for size and lengthened to just cover my knees. Added inseam pockets and a lining.

Comments:  The photos didn’t really capture the true rusty-red of the fabric very well. This is a cute skirt with pleats at the waist and a pegged hem. Should have been easy to make but somehow…it wasn’t. I had to change things, didn’t I? The zip went in beautifully. I used Els’ fabulous technique to apply it and it worked very nicely. See?


I don’t think I’ll ever go back to sewing an invisible zipper in before the seam is stitched again! Then the pockets and main seams went fine but when I went to put the skirt together with the lining at the waist and fold up the pleats, I discovered that the pockets interfered with the outside pleat on each side of the front. I was folding the pleats with both fashion fabric and lining held together as one which worked fine with the rest of them but it took me a while to figure out how to keep the pocket’s top edge out of the way of the last pleat. I finally had a flash of inspiration and just pleated both fabrics separately with the pocket top flat between them. Doh.

The waistband went on without a hitch though the buttonhole is a wee bit wonky. It fits me nicely – not too tight and not too loose – though I still prefer some elastic in my waistband. I wanted a bit of flash inside on the lining hem so I borrowed the idea from Sewaholic here to add a lace trim in a bright colour. I’ve had this bright magenta-pink edging in the stash forever and it contrasted cool with the warm red lining.


Sadly I didn’t notice that I had nicked the fashion fabric’s hem when I cut off the excess lining:


Ouch. Now what? Well, I’m a little unhappy with the skirt’s length on me anyway. Just past the knee looks kind of frumpy. Plus I have quite nice knees for somebody’s granny if I do say so myself. So I’m going to cut off the hem and re-stitch it. Of course that leaves the lining which will also need re-hemming. I’m trying to decide if I should pick off the lace which will then be an inch too short for the new hem. (The skirt is pegged narrower at the hem.) Or just pitch it out and attach a new piece. I have lots left. It’s been in the stash for about 20 years so it doesn’t owe me anything.

Meanwhile the darn thing is in time-out. Debbie Double is wearing it for the nonce. Until I stop being cranky with it and decide to redo the hems. Bleh.

Meanwhile, I’ve started a new project. I’m winding the warp to weave the replacement curtains for our bedroom. The originals were woven in 1991 and held up pretty well until I tried bleaching them in the laundry last spring. Bad idea. Now they are full of holes and barely hanging on the window. Still I got more than 20 years out of them. Cottolin (50% cotton, 50% linen) lasts pretty nicely. But stay away from bleach. I should have just simmered them in a little soda ash and soap instead. Lesson learned.

This version will be white (again) but I decided to use 8/2 cotton for the warp and 22/2 cottolin for weft. The draft is an 8-shaft huck weave which looks like solid ovals in a lace lattice. It’s kind of fun to work on the loom again. I hope the urge continues because I have lots of weaving yarns and many ideas to pursue.

The weather has been mostly sunny for the last few days. We walked down along the False Creek seawall yesterday to the Fisherman’s Wharf near the entrance to Granville Island. The goal was the little Go Fish shack for fish and chips. We had halibut and it was yum! I especially like their coleslaw – a little spicy and redolent of sesame oil. The service is very friendly but it’s always super-busy so bring a big load of patience with you. Wear warm clothes too! There is no indoor seating. This was the view from our deck seats:


And on the way home we got a good show from the fire hoses across the water downtown:


Those clouds hiding the mountains were impressive but they didn’t rain on us. The light was pearlescent though. I love my city.

Off to dig up my madder bed now.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


I just heard the news about Judith MacKenzie losing her teaching studio in a recent fire. How awful! I can’t imagine how I would feel if it were my stuff that had all disappeared in a puff of smoke. Of course in my case it would probably also take my entire house since I don’t have a separate space. Brrrr… I can’t get the thought out of my head.

Looms and wheels and carders and combs are relatively easily replaceable, maybe even with something better than what you had. What I would miss the most would be my library. Eight bookcases full of books, magazines, notebooks, sample swatches etc. all collected over the last 45 years of my crafty life. Most of it is unfortunately not replaceable even if the insurance would stretch to cover it which it likely would not. I don’t want to test it anyway. My fingers would be crossed now but that would make it hard to function.

My heart goes out to poor Judith and I know the community will rally and support her in every way they can. This website has been set up to help. She has an amazing number of friends, students and admirers and I see they’ve already gone a goodly way towards their ultimate donation goal. Unlike trying to help in the aftermath of hurricanes, this is something simple that you can do for someone you know, even if it’s just through her books and videos.

1010_Spinners Toolbox.indd

Speaking of which, I just finished watching her Spinner’s Toolbox video (available from Interweave here) and it’s exactly like taking a class with Judith. Except unfortunately she can’t come around to your wheel and help you personally! I remember taking my first workshop with her more than 20 years ago and billeting her at my house. She probably doesn’t recall but I can clearly see her sitting in my kitchen with my first angora bunny Dust Bunny peacefully on her lap.

The Toolbox video demonstrates 6 different drafting methods in detail. Even I, old dog as I might be, learned what I was doing wrong with my worsted join and what I was doing right with my attempts at woollen spinning. I doubt I’ll ever be able to accomplish her “wolf yarn” though Judith sure makes it look easy! I really need “trainer wheels”, a core yarn to spin around, rather than trying to accomplish both the fluffy overlay while spinning the core at the same time. But that’s just me.

I don’t own this copy but borrowed the two-DVD set from my guild library. Great resource and underutilised by members. I know because I’m a library volunteer. (Have I mentioned how much I love books?) I’ve always said that for spinning especially a video is worth more than a thousand words. Wisely folks are making them for us and even posting them for free on YouTube. How I wish something like this existed when I was learning how to spin! Might have saved me from struggling all on my own.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

New & Improved

I had a thought while I was supposed to be sleeping one night recently. My studio space, although much more comfortable for the amount of sewing I’ve been doing lately, wasn’t totally ideal. The loom was in the way of the chair which needs to be moved between the sewing machine and the serger. There wasn’t much room behind it either for the ironing board. And the cutting table was way on the other side of the room. I hadn’t wanted to move it because the only hanging lamp was right over the middle and apart from one floor lamp that I drag around, that was the main light in the room. But then I had that thought: what if I swapped the loom and the table? I would have to come up with another light over the table but the loom would be well-lit. Another advantage of having a retired husband. He was able to give me a hand trying out my idea.

It took a little adjusting and shifting and playing around with the smaller items until I was satisfied. But, wow! I feel like I somehow have more space! How can that be if I didn’t get rid of anything? See what you think. First the view to the right from the door:


Then the view to the left:


I put the loom on an angle. This is the back end. Yes, it’s a honking huge Scandinavian-style Woolhouse 8-shaft countermarche. Her name is Gertrude #27. I love her. She weaves pretty much anything I ask her to from curtains to rugs and from scarves to coats. Not that I’ve actually woven anything at all in the last 5 years. But that will soon change. I have plans.

And finally here’s a photo taken in front of the window inward:


I wanted to show you how I hung the patternmaking and pressing tools on the wall. Since there’s already plenty of holes in the gyproc I didn’t mind adding a few more. Much better than in a pile on the floor, doncha think? The press cloths (cotton, silk and teflon) have been hanging there for awhile but I hung the clapper and the clothes brush along with the rulers. The water, spray bottle and ham are sitting on one of the two big old speakers I still have up here. You can just see part of the one not-quite perfect fix – that black wire going up the slanted ceiling from the plug in the wall niche. It ends at a rather homely light hanging over the table. We will be hunting asap for a replacement that is a wee bit more esthetically pleasing.

In case you haven’t seen my studio space before, the room is about 18 x 12 feet with 2 cut-outs on the short ends. Those were where our kids’ beds went when they were little each with a skylight so they could see the stars. (In theory more than in reality, it must be admitted.) The ceiling has a flat space in the middle but the ends slant down to only about 3 feet high at the back of the cut-outs. I can stand at the iron without bumping my head but have to duck after that. Those little “hobbit” doors (blue on one side, yellow on the other) lead to storage spaces. The spinning equipment one (includes guild equipment as well as my own) is tidy but the one behind the loom is…erm, kind of a disaster of boxes and bags and includes some things that probably need to be jettisoned. Some day soon. Promise. No, really.

There’s also a good-sized closet at the foot of the loom. It’s pretty tidy too but anyone know anyone who wants a really nice Leclerc bobbin rack for sectional warping? Holds 70 lovely wooden bobbins, included. (Modern ones are crappy cardboard and plastic.) Or how about a really functional 4-shaft 24” Kessenich table loom? I need to give these items some new homes. Then there’s the home-built Ashford Traveller-knockoff spinning wheel that someone gave me. It even has a jumbo plying head. But it is horrible to try to spin on. Even I can’t make it work properly. I think it’s actually a lawn ornament in disguise?

I really need the space because, oops – I succumbed to a box of fabric that my neighbour left out as a freebie. She even carried it over for me and plopped it down in my house! Yeah, I know. But I fell for the bolt of white cotton jersey on the top of the pile. Plus the 4 yards of muslin and the bolt of what turned out to be four 2-yard lengths of cotton-lycra double-knit in a bright magenta pink. (It’s dyeable, ok?) But look what else I found in there:


There’s enough of some of these things that I’m starting to have ideas. Except maybe the suede-like sport mesh that’s rust on one side and brown on the other. That one might take some pondering. Oh, and the grey shiny stuff with black floral flocking. It wrinkled intriguingly when I washed it. Also some small pieces of denim (skirts!) and lining. And on the bottom some cream jaquard upholstery pieces. Possibilities are legion. My brain is engaged.

Oh and look what my biggest grandbeastie is going to get:


This is just one small corner. It’s a large panel of heavily embroidered orange gauze. Definitely from India. Lots of sparkles and silver bullion. And in not-too-bad shape, hopefully at least in the eyes of an 8-year-old who loves orange and anything with bling.

I now have so much going on in my creative mind I think my head is going to explode! And shhh…don’t tell anyone… it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’ll be catching up to T-Man after being the baby for the last month or so.