Thursday, August 31, 2006

The End Of August

That means I’m getting even closer to my vacation which is starting on Monday. Even though the weather is still warm, at least in the afternoon, it’s almost the end of summer. This morning it was only 13 degrees Celsius in my bedroom. That’s as cold as it gets in winter! (Yes, I have a furnace, but right now it’s turned off. And I prefer a cold bedroom with lots of blankets on the bed.) When I got up at 6am, I shut the window which had been open all the way and put on a fleece top over my lighter clothes. It took until almost noon to warm up outside even with the sun shining and it’s still only about 19 degrees in here now. I really love the fall colours and the cooler temperatures outside. Though we’re going to be gone most of September and who knows what the weather will be like wherever we will be? We’re heading south but up — to 8000 feet or more! We’re bringing extra layers just in case. After all we only have heat in the van when we have an electric plug-in which depends on the campsite.

I’m still editing my traveling stash. More yarn, less yarn, more beads, less books. I really don’t want to run out of things to do! I know I won’t really because everything takes forever to finish, but I fantasize about not having anything to work on while we’re driving across Nevada on the Extraterrestrial Highway or something. Don’t beam me up — beam down more yarn!

Notice there’s no spinning stuff on that list. Much as I need to spin more for my Little Squares sweater (if I ever want to finish it), I decided to leave the spinning at home. I’m not bringing my wheel and although I’ve spun a fair amount of the yarn for this project on my spindles, I don’t much like plying on them. I think I have enough stuff to keep me busy anyway. If not, I’ll find another yarn store. I once found both a bead store and a yarn store across the street from each other in Placerville, CA when we only stopped for gas. Who knew they were there? And are they still? (Not that we’re going that way this time.) Ever since, T-Man has said he needs to make up a bumper sticker that says “I brake for craft supplies!” Just so as not to be outdone by this here damselfly, in past trips he has managed to buy or collect wood for turning and glass rods and other stuff for flameworking. He is no slouch in the craft department himself, ya know.

Today I’m feeling like I shouldn’t have boasted about being so healthy for the past 2 years. I’m a little congested but I’ve only used a few Kleenexes so far. I’m sneezing a bit too. Bummer. Hope my immune system is up to snuff and snuffs this out before I get too snuffy. Or something like that. I can’t remember when I last had a cold.

Snuffy or not, I was very good and did a pretty thorough backup of all my Important Files on my computer today. I always feel nervous when I go away and leave it. Wonder how much I will miss it while I’m gone? There’s a couple of state campsites in California with wi-fi so maybe I can even post something from there! My Palm T/X has wi-fi capabilities and we have an auto charger so that even if we don’t have plug-in we can charge our Palms. Can’t leave civilization entirely, ya know! And yesterday, I did a bunch of research online (which is how I found out about the wi-fi) and we have a thick folder of maps and routes and driving instructions and info on how to find the most likely campsites. The itinerary may change as we go, but it’s pretty well mapped out now. How did anyone plan trips before the Internet? I can even get brochures in PDF for places like Zion Canyon! Way cool. All that was just making me want Monday to come even more. Although there’s a tonne of stuff to do around here in the meanwhile. Yes, “tonne” is correct, even though my spell-checker thinks it’s not. It’s metric. I’m Canadian. We’re metric-sort-of. OK bilingual metric-imperial. (Though we don’t use all the weird measurements that the English used to before they wisely went metric.) Oops. I digress.

Packing. Cleaning. Wishing us on our way. Oh, making supper right now might be good too…

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Granny's Got A Brand New Bag

Begun: August 18, 2006
Completed: August 29, 2006
Pattern: Cat Bordhi’s Charcoal Denise Needle Bag with 2 pockets.
PDF from her website.
Yarn: Quebecoise in black, and vintage Condon’s (similar to Quebecoise but a wee bit thinner) in soft red, chartreuse, and soft green (hand-dyed colours left from a long-ago project). Used doubled throughout.
Needles: Denise US size 10.5 with a 16” cord.
Other notions: 2 – 9” zippers (from the stash), matching sewing thread.

Before fulling in the washing machine:

All sewn up:

An inside peek with Denise at home:

I’m quite happy with how this bag turned out. It didn’t shrink quite as much as I expected (probably because the needle size was relatively small) but the fabric feels wonderfully thick and fuzzy. The i-cord didn’t full quite as much as the main bag because of the different brand of slightly finer yarn and may have benefited from being tripled instead of doubled to cover the black better. But it’s really quite perfect the way it is. It felt like it took me almost as long to sew in the zippers and the pocket lining as it did to knit it! But really it was only a few hours. There’s room in the pockets for all my extra cords and stoppers and I could add scissors, stitch markers, measuring tape and a crochet hook too (except that those are in my sock boxes!) and there’s still enough room in the main section for a small knitting project or a pattern. It would also make a nice little handbag if you don’t have a set of Denise needles needing a home.

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a blog post out so I’d better try a little harder this week before I’m gone for 3 weeks away from the computer. I hope I don’t go into withdrawal! Or my faithful readers (you know who you are!) miss me too much and go on to other greater blogs. There are so many out there to choose from. Not that I’m competing or anything.

Backing up: last Saturday we took the old VW Westphalia out for a run on the freeway and she’s tip-top and ready to go. On Sunday we went for one of our famous marathon walks. We headed down just for fun to the inaugural day of a new monthly outdoor fashion market called Portobello West. It was very nice, even if I didn’t buy anything. There was lots of interest from local shoppers so I’m hoping it will continue even into the dark and rainy season. We’ll see. One booth I particularly enjoyed was The Petri Dish who carry (besides other artists' work) these Damn Dollies. They were so nasty/cute! Think Nightmare Before Christmas meets the Addams Family. Creepy but appealing — at least to me!

We continued downtown to get T-Man some coffee to take with us on our trip and headed over to get our usual sushi lunch from the little boats:

Then on to the department store to get new pillows which were on sale, some socks and nice sweats for me, and I finally found a new wallet to replace mine with the busted zipper. I’ve been looking for a new one for literally years that I liked and it was on sale at about the same price as getting the zipper replaced yet again. When I got home (yes we walked across the bridge carrying pillows!) I got my very old, very flat pillow and had a little funeral for it, carefully placing it in the square grey trashcan…er, coffin to await burial in the city dump…er, its final resting place. I was sad. That pillow and I have had many years and many travels together, bless its now-dearly-departed down-and-feathers. But it just wasn’t supporting me anymore. RIP, pillow.

Yesterday we had a visit from the Ninja and family. Our granddaughter is finally (at two!) saying a few words. Just took time. And we got to see a digital video of our impending new grandson’s ultrasound. He’s so cute! Sucking his thumb in the womb just like his big sister, his dad, and me. He’s got his sister’s pointy elfin chin that she had as a baby so there’s a real family resemblance. He’ll be a wonderful Christmas present to us all — even if his mom would prefer he was born a decent week or so before that. His due date isn’t until the 29th and we definitely wouldn’t want him to be a month and a half early like his dad was. (Not fun to leave your newborn in an incubator in hospital for a month!) But he’ll come when he’s ready, whatever the inconvenience. I’m a gushing Granny already.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Uuhh...just in case you haven't heard that acronym: Thank Goodness It's Friday!

I spent yet another day playing…er, inventorying at my local wool shop. We even sold some of the weaving yarns already! Sweet Georgia didn’t even wait for me to reply to her comment on yesterday’s post, but zipped on in to see what we had. And another lady stocked up too when she came in for knitting yarn. This is good. Maybe it’ll convince 'em to keep the weaving supplies stocked. They already have spinning and knitting so it’s not that big of a stretch. However, there really is a space crunch in the shop! Swinging a cat (as if anybody would be mean enough to do that to our furry friends) is definitely out of the question. You already guessed I stocked up too, but since I haven’t actually paid for it yet, I’ll keep mum on that for the mo’. On the other hand, I did put in 12 hours of hard check-marking. I’m sure we’ll come to some agreement where I’ll owe them less than a zillion bucks. I hope. You didn’t think I was actually doing this inventory thing for the money, didja? When I could have books, magazines, spinning fibres, and yarns? Hah! I would have spent money on those things anyway.

So apart from watering my planters and picking the tomatoes this morning:

...I haven’t done anything around the house, particularly fibre-wise. Except that I learned a different way to do attached i-cord. I did some i-cord-ish research (Yahoo’s search is My Friend) and came up with several different methods. This one is worked on live stitches (though it could be picked-up ones) on circular or straight needles and doesn’t require a dpn. There’s even a video here showing how to do this, but she knits like I used to before I learned how to knit Continental. Geez, it looks awkward! The technique is simple though, and I’m halfway around the top of my Denise Bag already. With no time to knit, that’s pretty impressive though I feel as if this darn bag is taking forever and a day. But not really.

Is it possible that someone might not know what i-cord is? The wonderful and amazing and sadly passed-on knitter, Elizabeth Zimmermann (aka EZ to us knitters), coined the phrase as short for idiot-cord. Maybe because it is so easy that even an idiot could do it? You might know it as spool knitting, french knitting, horse reins (hey, we called it that in the '50's!), corking, or something else — but in this case it's done on knitting needles rather than a spool or "knitting nancy". You can do it as a separate tube or you can work it onto a knitted fabric, either on an edge or applied to the surface. It's way fun and has lots of applications. In this case it makes a nice thick edging on my bag. Look it up.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Disappearing Damselfly

Well, I’m not really disappeared. See?

OK, that’s a boy damselfly, not me. I admit it. T-Man took this somewhat blurry picture (we’re still learning my new digicam) while at my uncle’s place on Camano Island. (I'm thinking T has a thing for bugs, hey?) We had to go down to Washington State on Tuesday to my aunt’s funeral. I did mention that she’d passed away last Thursday. It was a simple graveside service by the local Catholic priest. My aunt was Catholic though my uncle is not. But he gamely went and spoke to the priest himself to get him to come and say a few words. Funerals are about the person who died, but they’re also for the rest of us left behind. Gotta kind of cover all the important bases.

We had a nice visit with the small group of family and friends and went for a walk with my cousins to Lost Lake near my uncle’s cabin. It’s really too small to be a house! When my aunt and uncle were snowbirds, they’d spend summers there on Camano and winters in southern Arizona. Quite the climactic difference, huh? Several years ago my aunt became too ill to go back and forth so they stayed in WA where family and doctors were located. In the last while she was in a care home nearby. Camano is an island you can drive to over a short bridge and not a lot of people, even as close as Seattle have heard of it. It’s quite big though there’s no actual town on it. Stanwood which is famous for Dale Chihuly’s Pilchuck glass school is just on the mainland side of the bridge. Here’s what part of Lost Lake looks like near my uncle’s:

It’s actually more like a horseshoe-shaped pond since they filled in a causeway out to the island in the middle (to the left in the picture). Yes, there’s an island in the lake on the island. That used to crack me up when I was a kid! Back then there was even a swimming pool on the island in the lake on the island! But now the swimming pool is filled in and there’s another better one beside the lake. It’s kind of pretty, like a park for those who live in the subdivision.

So we only went down for the day and had dinner on the way home at a restaurant in Fairhaven (historic part of Bellingham), called the Big Fat Fish. I think it’s rather new and it was semi-pricey but good. Noisy though! Brick walls, windows and open ceilings made it sound like we were inside a garage. I didn’t take off my hearing aids though. I’m so brave! We got home just after our usual 9 pm bedtime so that wasn’t too bad. It was a long and tiring day though. My family was glad we came and we were too. Support is needed in times of loss.

Yesterday and today (and likely tomorrow too) I checked off new inventory at my LYS. They bought the stock from the retiring Hannelore at Sun Bench Fibres and are attempting to incorporate it into the shop. Aaakk…there’s no room! But it’ll be nice to have somewhere close by to pick up a tube of 8/2 cotton yarn or whatever. There’s no walk-in type weaving supply store anywhere in the Lower Mainland any more. Only home-based businesses where you need to mail order or make an appointment to visit or knitting shops that may have a few cones or tubes of weaving yarn. I could get to like having more supplies in my neighbourhood. Might inspire me to weave again. Though I’m going to have to teach them a few weaving terms and discuss how to use some of the stuff so they’ll know a bit more about what they’ve got! That’s kind of how I got sucked…er, requested to help because I’ve been a weaver for over 25 years and I know what I’m lookin’ at. Well, unless it’s some detached doohickey with screws and stuff and no hints as to what it might belong to…

And, just because this is MY blog so I can do what I want to, I have to say I finally met my Anonymous commenter in person! Hiya Julie! She’s a sweetie and I’ve gotta boast about her. She used my sock pattern to really learn how to knit socks. Too cool, eh? She’s made some nice ‘uns too. Hopefully the first of many.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Adventurous Weekend

Wow! I’m exhausted! That was a crazy weekend. On Saturday we met our Darling Daughter and Almost-Son-In-Law for a picnic and to watch the first Canadian Flugtag event. Sponsored by Red Bull sports drink with free admission, it’s a competition of human-powered flight…right into the water. It’s kind of hard to explain but costumes, skits, dance routines and videos all figure into the equation, along with the actual “flight” itself. My mouth is still sore from laughing! And my shoulders are still sore from sitting in the sun for 4 hours. I got a couple of photos but I was pretty far away on the top of the bleachers. Here’s the venue, beautiful False Creek in Vancouver with the silver dome of Science World (or whatever the heck they call it these days):

The contestants were shoved off the flight deck at the far right there and the white buoys marked their landing distance. (Hah!) Then the pilot and crew (most jumped after their machine) got scooped up out of the way by helper boats along with their equipment and transferred back to shore. And here’s the second place winner, “The Pirates of False Creek”, waiting their turn. What’s a pirate’s favourite letter of the alphabet? ARrrrr...

And this proves that pigs do fly — sort of:

Their costumes were really cute with little pig noses and ears and tutus. There was the “Egg Man” (which hatched in mid-air), a Saskatchewan elevator, a boom box (People's Choice award), a moustache, a lobster, a flying skate (“Air Hockey”), a giant sushi driven by a shrimp-girl (which went farther than you’d expect), a chariot that worked as a slingshot launcher, a wagon full of poutine, and many more — some of which actually looked like airplanes (boring). Though only one really flew any distance: the winner “The Big Shooter”. There also were sky divers who launched from a helicopter way up high and came down with smoke and acrobatics to land on the flight deck. The very first one missed but he managed to do it the second time at the end of the show. It was pretty exciting. OK, I’m easily entertained. Go click on the link for more silliness. Don’t know if I’ll go again next year, but it was great fun.

While we were at it, I was able to gift my Almost-Son-In-Law with his socks. He was pleased with the colour but since it was ninety-million degrees hot, he didn’t try them on. Here they are:

My standard top-down heel-flap socks on 72 stitches, knit with my Addi Natura bamboo 2mm needles in SandnesGarn Sisu 80% superwash wool/20% nylon, 50 g = 160 m, colour 1088 dark charcoal. I used 2 balls and had only about 4 m of each left, so it was a near thing!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Fat vs Thin

That is as it relates to knitting. I’m not talking body size or anything. We all come in our own special size — and if you’re not happy with that, then either live with it or do something about it! Nope. I’m talking knitting on fine needles with fingering yarn as opposed to large needles with thick, doubled, chunky, or novelty yarns. For me, regular knitting worsted is considered heavy yarn. I’m just so used to knitting socks on 2mm needles. Even most of my handspun yarn barely gets into the sport weight category. But today I finished the Almost-Son-In-Law socks and have started my Denise Bag from a free pattern by the brilliant Cat Bordhi (of Magical Knitting and Two Socks Soar fame). She loves her Denise needles because she has 3 different versions of this bag. I liked this one best because it has 2 zippered pockets for my extra cords that don’t fit into the case.

Instead of the called-for Cascade 220, I’m using good old Quebecoise which is easily available in a zillion colours at my LYS 3-1/2 blocks from my house and in a number of colours, both commercial and hand-dyed, in my stash. I know it fulls well and that’s the main point of this exercise. It’s pretty much the same weight as the Cascade but is only 2 ply. It seems scratchy but it does soften up when washed. I don’t think I would try a garment in Quebecoise but it’s great for blankets, afghans, and purses. It’s pretty much a weaver’s staple. I’m knitting it doubled on 7mm (US 10.5) needles. Denise of course! And this is where the “fat” comes in. It feels very heavy to me and much harder on my hands than the socks or even the handspun and ribbon yarns in my Little Squares sweater. Luckily it’s not very big so I’m hoping to finish fairly quickly. Must remember to do my exercises too.

I needed 2 stitch markers for this bag and, although I have a whole bunch of them that I made, I don’t have any big enough for these fat needles. I’m using large split rings dug out of my bead stash and they work fine. I’d show a picture but right now there’s not much to see. And the ASIL socks are drying in the sun from their celebratory bath. I don’t want to disturb them just yet.

Instead I’ll show you this cool grasshopper that T-Man found on our deck. I now have it as wallpaper on my computer. Love how disconcerting a 6-inch bug is when staring you in the face! It’s ok — the real thing was under 2 inches long. And a very pretty bright green. I can’t find out what species it is though. I’m big on identification especially because I’ve never seen one of these in my yard before.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Time Marches On

I just found out that my dear sweet aunt died this morning. It’s one of those things that’s both a blessing and sad at the same time. Toy (her sisters called her that when she was little) was my adopted-mommy’s baby sister and in her late 80’s. She was suffering from both a recurrence of the cancer-that-wouldn’t-go-away and Alzheimer’s. It was a toss-up which one was going to get her first. Now the three sisters are all in heaven together. (Well, 2 of them are for sure. I don’t know about the middle one! She was pretty ornery.) Yes, I know. I don’t believe in heaven — or hell for that matter. But it’s a cute mental picture anyway. They were very close in life.

Now my poor cousins (both single, childless, and in their 50’s) are going to have to learn all about dealing with the aftermath of losing a parent, while trying to cope with their remaining one. There’s so many things you don’t think about until the worst happens: writing an obituary, planning a funeral, picking out a casket and flowers, having the grave dug, paying for everything one way or another. Hopefully there is a will. And the executor is able to deal with it properly or hires someone who can. We won’t even discuss the problems that can develop if there’s a difference of opinion in the family on how this should all be accomplished. And this is all before you even get a chance to really mourn your loss. I plan to make things as simple as possible for my kids so they don’t have to worry or try to make decisions in a hurry. They already know both of us want a simple cremation and they can put our ashes someplace nice with no specifics on where or how. Whatever they feel comfortable with will do. No coffin, no graveyard, not even a real funeral, just a simple get-together and remembrance with family and friends. Right now I don’t know if we’ll go to my aunt’s funeral. They live about 3 hours away and across the border in the US.

I'd like to report something on a happier note, but I don’t have anything worth mentioning. Still knitting away on those ASIL socks. I’m almost up to the toe decreases on the second sock now. I’m trying to finish them by tomorrow so I can give them to him when I see him on Saturday. I knit too slow, darn it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sock Heaven

So Sharon wants to know where I got the Count Your Socks button in my sidebar. Just click on it, hon', and you’ll see! The link should take you to the home page. Don’t forget to email Lynda to get on her list. (Her addie is in her profile.)

I went to my LYS yesterday and got more of the dark charcoal Sisu yarn for T-Man, who decided that he liked it too as I was knitting on the birthday socks for our almost-son-in-law. I won’t be knitting T’s pair until our holidays though. Of course while I was there I noticed that they had some new sock yarns in. And. Just. Had. To. Buy. Some. Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch, Meilenweit Colortweed, and Fortissima Socka Color — all in gorgeous fall colours. See?

Unfortunately now the sock yarn stash no longer fits in its designated drawers. Oops. I keep knitting but I also keep buying sock yarn. Does this sound familiar to anyone? As a handspinner I can totally resist buying a lot of commercial yarns, but not sock yarn. It’s a disease.

As for the aforementioned ASIL socks, I’m up to the toe on one and midway on the foot of the other. Coming down to the home stretch. I got an extra ball just in case I run out on either these or on T-Man’s pair. Sisu has a bit less yarn in 50 g — only 160 m instead of 210 like Confetti, Regia 4ply, or Socka — and it looks a bit fatter though it knits up almost to the same gauge. It unfortunately makes it a bit touch-and-go with the larger socks on whether I can get a pair out of 2 balls or not. So far I’ve made it (except on the Ninja’s tabi socks), but I’ve only had a few metres left in the end. Not a worry with my smaller socks however. Nice to have an extra ball this time anyhow for insurance. I can always use it for something else if I don’t need it.

In other news, Ms. Polly cost us just over $100 for her vet visit on Monday. She now has antibiotics to take daily for the next 2 weeks to see if it will help her. She seems a bit better these last few days anyway — at least her eyes aren’t running and she’s not sneezing as much. She’s still snoring worse than T-Man though! Good thing she sleeps in the basement at night. The vet thinks that it may be a chronic problem, which I’m sure it is since she's always been a bit wheezy and sneezy but never nearly this bad. Because she’s very old there could be serious complications so all we can do is give her the meds, love her up, and hope for the best under the circumstances. What else can we do? At least she isn’t dehydrated, which was a big concern. Her appetite is also down but she can live on less food for quite some time before it would even show! Otherwise, he says that although she’s overweight (heh!) she’s in pretty good shape considering. I’m always afraid they’ll find something expensively wrong, like diabetes or abscesses or something, so I’m feeling a little more optimistic now that she’s been checked over. It’s not too bad giving her the liquid antibiotic with a measured syringe. T holds her and I squirt it down her throat. She swallows it pretty well without struggling much, thank goodness. Nothing like getting sticky orange-flavoured medicine all over everywhere. At the price this stuff costs, you want it all to go inside the cat where it belongs.

I’m slowly packing up my craft stuff for my holiday. It seems this year will be almost totally The Knitting Vacation. Apart from Angel-Thing who still needs her beads on, I’m taking a bunch of knitting projects. I can get a lot of plain knitting done while we’re driving, so I’m hoping that I haven’t chosen too many things. But it seems they all fit in two tote bags — even my Little Squares Sweater and the yarn for the Ninja’s Sprout #2’s Peapod Sweater. (BTW, we just found out with yesterday’s ultrasound that they’re having a boy! Yay! That'll be one of each like we had, and due at the end of December.) Also I really want to knit the Denise Bag before we go so I can full it in the washing machine and have it to use for my Denise needles. And I need to spin some more yarn for the Little Squares so I don’t have to bring my spindle. Though I guess I could bring it if I don’t get enough spun on the wheel before then. Spinning the singles is ok on the spindle (I did most of the yarn for the front bands that way) but it’s harder to ply with a spindle than on the wheel. Today however, I did some more painting in my Travel Journal instead. Not done yet though. I'm having fun!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grafting Sock Toes Tutorial

We have socks! These are for my dear daughter-in-law, who loved her socks last year and wanted another pair almost from the moment she got the first one. She can knit herself, but the dpns and fine yarn intimidate her. Plus she has a 2-year-old and one more on the way (end of Dec). Not to mention my son to look after! Not much time for knitting. The yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit Multieffekt, 80% wool/20% polyamide, 420 m = 100 g ball, colour 3070.

I’ve been told that the hardest things for newbie sock knitters are picking up the stitches on the heel flap (which is why the short row heel is so popular) and grafting the toe (which is one of the reasons why toe-up sock knitting is also so popular). Someone mentioned live stitches that needed picking up with a needle. Uh-uh. Not at all necessary. This isn’t rocket science nor Cirque du Soleil quality juggling! There are plenty of tutorials out there, but here’s one more. I want to apologise in advance if you’re left-handed, because as always you’ll have to reverse everything mirror-image.

First, don’t try to do this if you’re tired or there’s a lot going on around you. Find a quiet place when you’re well-rested and fresh. You need to put your toe stitches on two needles, one with the stitches from the top of the foot and the other with the stitches from the sole. Make sure there are the same number of stitches on each! With sock yarn and 8 or 9 stitches per inch, I usually have 12 stitches on each of the two needles (24 total). Now if you look at the first picture, you’ll only see 10 on each needle. That’s because I often do “Dog Ear Reductions”. You sometimes get these little corners that poke out at the sides (aka Dog Ears), so what I do to eliminate them is to lift the second stitch on each end of both needles over the first stitch. This also has the effect of leaving 4 less stitches to graft so it’s all good. Here we are ready to go:

OK, you have your two needles top and bottom, with the yarn tail coming from the right side of the bottom needle. If that’s not how yours looks, turn it around or knit some more until it does. The tail should be at least 4 times the length of the area to be grafted. I leave about 1 foot (30 cm). I also use a blunt darning needle so that it doesn’t split the stitches. I don’t use one of those bent-tipped Chibi needles either, but it’s your choice if you like it. Thread the needle. Before you get into a rhythm of stitching, you have to get set up. First poke your sewing needle, just as if you were using a knitting needle, into the first stitch on the top/front needle as if to purl:

And pull the needle and yarn through the stitch, snugging up moderately tight. Don’t drop off your stitch yet, just leave it on the needle. Then poke your sewing needle into the first stitch on the bottom/back needle as if to knit:

And pull the needle and yarn through the stitch, snugging up moderately tight and leaving the stitch on the needle. Try not to get the yarn all tangled around your needle tips but let it go under your knitting needles. (I’m not going to mention the snugging and the not-tangling any more, but just remember to do it anyway.) Now that was just the prep work. Next we’re going to get serious and actually drop stitches off. Go through the first stitch on the front again, this time as if to knit. Take it off with the sewing needle, but don’t let go or pull the yarn through it yet. With the next motion, go through the next stitch beside the one you just slipped off, only go into it as if to purl. It looks like this as you do it:

Don’t slip that second stitch off, but draw your yarn through it all the way. (Remember the snugging and not-tangling!) Now do the back needle similarly by going through the first stitch there as if to purl, slipping it off with the sewing needle and then going through the second stitch as if to knit:

That’s the dance you continue on the front and the back needles until you have only 2 stitches left, one on each needle. To help you remember which way to put the sewing needle in, think “Front needle, knit side facing me, so it’s knit-off, purl-on. Back needle, purl side facing me, so it’s purl-off, knit-on.” It will soon become a little song-and-dance routine. Graft enough sock toes and you’ll barely have to think about it. Really. Now what to do with those last 2 stitches? It’s like the other half of the prep we did in the beginning. Go through the front stitch as if to knit and take it off:

Go through the back stitch as if to purl and take it off:

Check over your graft and make sure there are no mistakes. It’s better to fix anything now if you have to. If there’s a loose section, use your needle tip to snug it up, working across from the right to the tail end. If you snugged correctly as you went along, things should be fine without having to mess with it. It just takes a bit of practice. If you did something knit-wise when you should have purl-wise, or vice versa, it will show up as a bump where a smooth stitch should be. You can either unpick the graft, taking the stitches back on the needles, and try again or leave it with a promise to make a more perfect graft next time. Now poke your needle through the corner of the toe to the back:

And darn it in invisibly inside. Superwash wool is slippery so make sure you’ve overlapped a bit to be secure. Basically if you’ve grafted correctly, the knitting should look unbroken right over the toe, like this:

And we have Sock Toe Grafted!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Saturday's Spectrum

The weather was cool and cloudy in the morning but warmed up as the sun peeked out in the afternoon. Here’s all the gang that could make it:

Clockwise from bottom: Jo Anne, Kirsten, Cathie, Sandra, and Donna. I was taking the picture, of course, and we were unfortunately missing Masami and Chisako who had work to do. Look at the serious expressions on everybody’s faces! They’re concentrating really hard on getting the Coptic stitching right on their books. We each did a lot of the prep work ahead of time at home, which included cutting and gluing the covers, trimming the pages and folding the signatures. Some had even done the piercing and were all ready to go. It still took us most of the day to do the stitching, not including a prolonged potluck lunch break! (T-Man enjoyed that part.) This was one time-consuming book. I think it would get easier if we did it often, but the last time we tried was a couple of months ago and we had an instructor who knew what she was doing. I was fine after I got started but got a bit boggled at the end after everybody had left. The last signature and the back cover go on at the same time and I had somehow missed putting a thread under instead of over so the cover was wobbly. It was fighting me all the way, but I eventually got it subdued! Then I stitched on the buttons and knotted the tie, adding 3 glass leaves to the end of it for decoration. And here’s the finished journal:

The size is half of a regular sheet of paper because that’s what I used for many of my pages. Now I’m going to go paint and stamp into it randomly so it’s not all pristine. That way I might be able to get over my fear of writing in it! I hope.

What else? Oh yeah. I finished taking the pictures for the grafting tutorial but I don’t have time to write it up today because Ms. Polly has to go visit the vet. Poor baby has some kind of kitty bug, like a bad cold. Hopefully it’s just something that antibiotics will clear up. She’s an elderly cat and we’re going away in a couple of weeks. Don’t want to leave Darling Daughter with a sick kitty to worry about. Anyway, the DIL’s birthday socks are done in plenty of time even though we’ll be away on her day. Hopefully we’ll see her before we go so I can give them to her. We will miss DD’s birthday too. I may or may not get her socks done before we go but I doubt I’ll get them done before we get together next Saturday. Her sweetie’s socks will be done though — I’m up to the gussets on them. Whew! Too many socks, too little knitting time!

The weather has been very nice for the past few days, sunny with a few clouds but not too hot. Perfecto. Hope it keeps up. I'm off to do a bit of painting in my journal.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Still Chilly

And dark and damp. I never thought I would miss the hot sunshine so much! I want it back. Preferably before tomorrow when my Spectrum Study Group comes over to finish our books and journals. We were going to do it out on the deck, but we’ll need our woolies and maybe umbrellas if this keeps up. It’s supposed to clear up, but I haven’t seen much signs of that yet.

I’m in the middle of piercing my signatures for my travel journal that I’ve been working on. I glued a loop of copper-coloured paper on the edge of the back cover where it folds over the pages so I can stick in a pen. I also reinforced the areas where the buttons go with the same copper paper. It seems very strong and I hope it holds up to abrasion. We’ll find out. If not, this will just look “distressed” which may not be a bad thing. I’ve got my waxed linen in a dark red-brown and my book-sewing needle ready to go. The piercing cradle works really well, even if I did make a boo-boo on one end where the slot goes over the foot. It was supposed to be 1 ½” in from the edge and I made one side only 1” in. The card could have been heavier too but I used the red mat board that I had. Oh well. It still works ok. Blogger is a little more cooperative today so here’s what it looks like:

Those are my signatures to be pierced too. Colourful huh? The directions for building the cradle are in the book “The Art and Craft of Handmade Books” by the late Shereen LaPlantz. I met the talented and enthusiastic Shereen once about 10 years ago but missed an opportunity to take a class with her. (That was before I got bit by this particular craft bug.) Cancer steals good people, darn it. Now you’ll have to wait to see the whole journal until it’s done. Hah!

I’ve already started to think about packing for our holiday even if it’s still 3 weeks away. I know I’m not the only person who packs craft stuff first. Good thing we don’t travel by air, huh? I don’t think I could sit for long without at least my sock knitting in hand. I’ve also packed my fantasy books. How many do you think I need for 3 weeks? Right now there’s a baker’s dozen in the pile and I need to figure out a book holder for pocket books so I can knit and read. I don’t know how many knitting projects to take either, but some will need concentrating (for quiet times) and some will be mindless (for driving). Luckily we can get quite a lot of stuff in our VW van. Fraulein Blau (Mrs. Blue) has had her oil changed, fuel lines replaced, and is checked and ready to go. So are we.

Further crafty news: I’m halfway down the legs on the ASIL socks. Yes, dark charcoal is hard to see but I mostly don’t look at my sock knitting. It does look very manly however. Still waiting to graft the toes on DIL’s socks. I’m determined to photograph the grafting process but I think I need help for that. Light wouldn’t hurt either.

Gee, do my eyes deceive me or is it brightening up a little outside?

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The weather is still rainy in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon, so I still didn’t get my grafting tutorial photographed. As a matter of fact, Blogger is being ornery today and not uploading pictures at all. It looks like they upload but they don’t appear in the blog post. They’ve scheduled an outage at 4pm today so maybe that will fix it. Or not. This has been an intermittent problem for a long time.

Anyway, I was working on making book covers for my travel journal today. They’re sitting between waxed paper under a load of heavy books right now as I attempt to dry them without warping. Heh. I also made a cardboard cradle that helps in piercing holes in the “signatures” which are the sections of folded paper that make up the “book block” that goes inside the covers. I had a wonderful time using all different sorts of papers and colours and mixing them up. I made a couple of pocket pages and a couple that unfold out. I even printed out some knitting graph paper and put that in. Hopefully I’ll be able to upload pictures tomorrow. Saturday is the day I’ll be doing the Coptic stitch binding and sewing on the buttons and making a cord to close the cover. Then it will be done and ready to go. I have to get over my fear of writing in my handmade books. I don’t want this one to be too perfect or I won’t be able to use it. Yeah, as if I could make anything perfect!

What else? Not much actually because chopping up paper and getting glue all over took most of my day so far. I finally went online and got a 2-year subscription to Knitter’s magazine since I can’t seem to find it around here any more at any of my usual magazine outlets. I’ve complained before about how nobody seems to be carrying it for the last 6 months or so. Don’t want to mess up a perfect set, now do I? That would be awful!

I need to go do the dishes before I dirty them all up again while making dinner.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Damp & Cool

After raining on and off from yesterday afternoon into this morning, it felt like camping as I put on my damp clothes this morning. I have socks on too! Two pairs, plus sweat pants and a sleeveless jacket over my t-shirt. To warm things up around here, I put the oven on self-clean for 4 hours. It was pretty dirty after cooking yet another yummy whole chicken last night. Plus it’s clearing up and there’s intermittent sun, so I’m feeling more comfortable. The best thing is sleeping better at night with all the covers on.

I was trying to get a picture tutorial on grafting (Kitchener stitch) sock toes. The way I do it is really easy and I don’t have to look anything up any more. I just have to concentrate a bit so I do it in the morning when I’m refreshed and not late at night. So many books and tutorials make grafting out to be so hard when it really isn’t. However, we’re all just going to have to wait until the weather is a little less iffy. Natural light is what I’m looking for here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking up potential shopping stops for our September vacation to the US. We may not get to some of them, but at least I’ll know how to get there if it’s possible. There’s our usual must-visits: Beads & Beyond (no website but a big favourite) in Bellevue, Frantz Art Glass in Shelton, and Shipwreck Beads in Lacey, WA and of course Powell’s Books in Portland. This time I’ve got a yarn shop in Portland that looks yummy too: Yarn Garden which even has a coffee/tea shop attached. And since we’re hoping to get to San Francisco, that puts us in spitting distance of Lacis in Berkeley and Dharma in San Rafael. Also in SF proper there’s Artfibers and Britex for perusal. That should put a big dent in the MasterCard huh? Are we the only people who shop for craft supplies and books on our holidays instead of clothing, knickknacks, and souvenirs? We also stop at wineries, grocery stores. and state campsites! Other tourist traps? Not so much.

In crafty news, I’ve put together a heap of papers that hopefully will become my holiday journal. Spectrum, my study group, is coming on Saturday so we can practice the Coptic Stitch binding technique again. I need to get my covers and signatures ready by then.

I’ve got some dark charcoal Sisu sock yarn for the Almost-Son-in-Law’s belated birthday socks. They will for sure be conservative enough for him! I have cuffs done so far. Plus I’ve cast on one of his sweetie/My Darling Daughter’s socks but I’m not expecting to get too far on them yet. The colours she dyed though are fabulous and bright: mostly red and orange with a smidge of green and brown. Good thing her socks are quite a bit bigger than mine or I’d have a hard time giving them to her when they’re done! Too pretty! Other things are still sitting around waiting for me. Good thing they’re patient little inanimate objects, eh?

What else? Oh yeah, I went to see my audiologist yesterday and I'm good for 6 months with my hearing aids now before the next check. I also got lots more batteries and some of the little rubber thingies that go inside my ear canal. I almost lost one of them the other day, so I need some spares! Plus they do wear out eventually. I'm still liking these things a lot and don't even notice them in my ears anymore. I do wish they wouldn't eat batteries as if they were Pez candies though.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Whew! That's Over For Another Year

Remind me why we always end up having our granddaughter’s birthday bash at our house? Oh yeah. We have a large deck, shady grass, and… we’re available to do all the work! The T-Man and I spent 2 days cleaning, gardening, shopping for last-minute paper plates and spoons, putting up the bug tent (for the kids in case the wasps got bad), making salads, and getting out the big trestle table. Here’s T relaxing before the onslaught:

And here’s the birthday girl unwrapping her first present:

After that she went off to play in my water garden with the spatula and soup ladle from the kitchen leaving her mom to open the rest! That picture includes (from left to right, back) my mother-in-law, my soon-to-be-kid-in-law, my kids, (front) my kid-in-law, and granddaughter plus someone’s gratuitous hand. Another nice surprise was my birth mom bringing my brother, whom I haven’t seen in ages. He was down from Kamloops sorting out his retirement from the local bus drivers in order to do the same much nearer to home. (No more 3 or 4 hour commute on winter highways. Yay!) Tired as we are today, that was a lovely gathering of mostly family and a few friends. Just don’t ask me yet whether or not we’ll do it again next year.

The socks went over ok with the birthday girl’s mom, but of course it was too hot to even try them on. I also had a chance to ask my future son-in-law if he wants socks too since he had his birthday a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t want to knit something that wouldn’t get worn so I figured it was safer if I asked him in person. The answer was yes, he'd love some — if they’re toned down from my usual rainbows. Perhaps black, grey or denim blue. And his feet are the same size as his sweetie so that makes it easy. I’ll be knitting her birthday socks soon too! DIL’s socks are also the same size and I’m almost down to the toes, so those needles will be free. And oh dear! I have to go to the LYS and buy some more sock yarn! It seems I don’t have anything suitably dull for guy-socks. Well, if I must. Such a hardship though.

Speaking of knitting, I got the Fall issue of Interweave Knits. There are some nice sweaters in there. Have you noticed how so many are now nicely fitted on the body with proper sleeve caps and all? Much nicer than those oversized sacks from the last 20 or 30 years but maybe not as warm. I particularly like the Gatsby Girl Pullover and the Sienna Cardigan. I also totally fell in love with a small shawl in this issue: Swallowtail. I have the perfect cashmere/merino laceweight yarn to use with it. It’s officially on The Neverending List. I wouldn’t ever wear a large shawl, even though I know I have the knitting chops to make one. But I will wear a small one that can be slung around like a scarf. And a small one might get finished sometime this century. T-Man was kind of hinting that he liked the Spartan Pullover, which I guess means that IK has actually got a good guy sweater there, even if it is very plain drop-shoulder with no shaping. The only embellishment is the simple one-colour Fair isle border around the middle above the garter hem. I think I’d like it better if it had proper set-in sleeves but that would be easily fixed.

What else? I also got the new Fall issue of Art Doll Quarterly magazine. There are some wonderful dolls in there as usual. Some pretty, some creepy. I used to really like “pretty” but now I’m drawn to the more creepy ones. Hmmm…what does that say about me? Maybe I do actually have a dark side? Nah! Not really. I’m just finding some things too sickly sweet for my current taste. It is nice to see though that this magazine doesn’t just cater to that one esthetic but encourages a spectrum of tastes and styles and definitions of “doll”. I really appreciate that. ADQ is not a cheap magazine, nor does it have specific “how-to’s” though it does talk about process. What it does have are lots of wonderful photos and articles on who the artists are and why they do what it is they do. And the dolls aren’t always extremely complex; some are very simply made, but always very intriguing. What is it about the human form that’s so compelling?

Friday, August 04, 2006

I'm Nothing If Not Tangential

I read that on someone’s blog recently (sorry can’t remember who’s) and it rang a bell. Hit a note. Rung a chord. Whatever — it’s me all over. I go on tangents all the time. My road branches, nay, it downright fractals. If you read this here blog at all often, you’ll notice this tendency. I leap from weaving to spinning to knitting to crochet to rug hooking to kumihimo to beadwork to dollmaking to sewing to art quilting to…whatever. If you’re only interested in one or some of these, you might occasionally be bored. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Today the subject is sewing, specifically reducing a couple of t-shirts to “girly” size as opposed to “extra-large male” size. I used to like wearing them way oversized but now they just look dumpy. Is it my taste finally going with the more closely fitting styles common these days? Or is it that my body image has finally caught up with my 30-lbs-thinner body after 2 years? My belly still sticks out though which somewhat ruins the line. The latest issue of Threads magazine has an excellent article on fitting patterns to my body shape, which is very definitely “pear” — though they call it “full abdomen”. I even had one when I was a teenager and only weighed about 100 lbs so it’s not something I can really expect to completely get rid of, especially at my advancing age. At least I no longer look immanently about to give birth, thank goodness. At 5’ 3-1/2” and small boned, I weigh around 135 (give or take). I could still afford to lose another 10 lbs or so but they don’t want to go. Guess they've become too much a part of me that they don't want to part. Or something.

Anyway, back to sewing. I’ve been practicing a bit more with my new serger, specifically learning how to set up for the cover stitch. There’s a lot of steps and the manual has you flipping pages like crazy, so I scanned the illustrations and set everything down by steps in a MSWord table. Levers flip, needles shift, loopers thread and un-thread, tables swap, and dials move. It took 11 pages when I printed it out! But now it’s in a notebook and I can follow it in a way that’s easy to understand. I included how to get it back ready for more normal serging too, so I don’t miss any steps in reverse. Now I know why some sewers have two separate machines ready to go, one for overedging and one for coverstitching. Yes, I have two machines, but I totally like my new one better for everything. Though come to think of it, I still haven’t gotten the old one serviced yet. Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember when it actually worked properly. But it doesn't have either coverstitch or differential feed which is why I bought a new one in the first place. If it had only just needed servicing, I would have done that instead of going out and buying a whole new machine.

The project I'm working on is revamping an old Pacific Opera Victoria t-shirt that was given to me by a friend years ago. (No, I’ve never seen them perform! But I'm sure they're good.) Even though it didn’t cost me anything, it’s good quality fabric in black with a dim purple logo so it’s worth working on. So this is what the t-shirt looked like before I cut it up:

I keep the neckline and the sleeve hems as is and re-cut the body and sleeves. See how much smaller the pattern is than the t-shirt? I got the pattern from a t-shirt that fit the way I wanted and traced it. There’s no seam allowances on it so I trace around the pattern and draw the seam allowances in by eye around the lines, leaving enough for the serger to cut off. And here’s the chopped and channeled t-shirt before sewing:

Rainbows courtesy of the crystal in my window and the morning sun! The piece of hard soap is my marker. Works great on dark fabrics and what doesn’t come out in the steam pressing comes out with a dab of water. I sew the bottom hems with cover stitch first, change to 4-thread overedge and sew the sleeves in, then the side seams all the way from the sleeve hem to the bottom hem. Thread the tails into the seam, a quick press, and put it on and go. And here it is girlie-fied and no longer a size XL:

Can you see the difference? Sorry there’s no pic with me in it. I haven’t managed to figure out how to take my own picture in the mirror. Trust me, I’m wearing it as I type and it fits just right. It only took less than an hour and most of that was changing threads to black and setting up the serger. No sewing machine was involved at all. I’m sure there’s more exciting things I could do with old t-shirts like patchworking different coloured parts together or adding crochet or knitted or other embellishments. But right now I’m just looking for quick-and-dirty re-shaping. I’ve got a drawer full of these things, at least the ones I’m not using for nightgowns. Note to Self: Do leave some t-shirts for bedtime!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This Doesn't Feel Like August

It’s really cool here this morning but I think after the clouds burn off it will warm up. I really don’t want the extreme heat we had for several weeks in July. My brain melts over 24 degrees Celsius. But it could be a smidge warmer so I can remove my jacket. There's no heat on in this house. BTW would somebody ’splain to me how come stores have to have their AC set to freezing? Is there no adjustment to “somewhat cooler” as opposed to “extremely cold”? I don’t think you should go in out of the heat to something that feels like a refrigerator in contrast. You know it’s too cold when all the employees are wearing sweaters. Then when you go back outside the heat hits you like a brick. No wonder everybody ends up with a summer cold from the shock to the system. Rant over. Though I still have a migraine.

Speaking of AC that was set right (not too cold), we went to see the Pirates of the Caribbean movie yesterday. It was great though I don’t think it was as good a story as the first one even though the special effects were spectacular. And there’s obviously a sequel because it’s a definite cliff-hanger. Poor Captain Jack!

On to crafty stuff. I’ve been working on the sleeves to my Little Squares sweater. Though I think I should change the name to Little Rectangles since they aren’t really square. I luckily managed to get more of the ribbon yarn at Michaels because I was sure I was going to run out of it. Thank the knitting goddesses for Lion Brand not discontinuing that particular product. I don’t care about the dye lot because it doesn’t make much difference in this variegated colourway. There’s about 4 or 5 different dyelots going by now anyway and I’m pretty sure I have way more than I need. Which is much better than a few yards too little. Now I’m running a bit low on the handspun but that just means I have to sit down and spin some more. I have lots of the Tamarillo roving from Aurelia.

I’m nearing the heel flap on the DIL socks which look like this:

First posted pic with my new camera! Just the usual plain socks that I can work on while reading. More info later – I don’t want her to know what I’m up to since it’s for her birthday in early September. Speaking of knitting, I found this great online knitting book called “How to Become an ‘Expert Knitter’” at Studio Knits by Rachelle King of Australia. It’s really comprehensive and although it’s free to read online you can also get a copy on CD for a fee. Even though I’ve been knitting forever, there’s some great technical information that I found helpful. Also, check out the crocheted baby booties that they sell patterns for. Too cute!

The Lughnasadh 2006 issue of The AntiCraft has arrived today. There’s some fun stuff as usual for this very irreverent craft publication. The goth choker is quite lovely, as is the party light cover in knitted wire and beads. But how about a knitted condom or bomb cosy? The tea cosy sporting belladonna and the mat with poison ivy is a great twist on the perfect tea service. You can embroider an apron to wear while you serve it too. The link is in my sidebar but I need to post the button here so I can stop stealing their bandwidth. Techie stuff. You understand.

I’ve also included the logo for MagKnits who’s link was getting lost in the buttons! Their August issue is out today too and it’s got some great little patterns for accessories such as a chunky purse and baby socks. Plus if you were wondering what you might do with some of that wild and funky “art” yarn, there’s a pattern for handwarmers that you knit until you run out of yarn.

How come there are more patterns that I would make online for free than come in those expensive magazines? Not counting Interweave Knits or Knitter’s which are both great. Even though Knitter’s seems to be MIA around town so that I’ll have to get a subscription if I want to keep getting it. Sigh. I hate subscriptions that I have to pay for in US dollars. But I don’t want to mess up my perfect collection of Knitter’s which I’ve got back to number 1. But I digress. I love the online magazines, particularly which just continues to improve especially now that it’s Amy’s full-time job.