Saturday, December 16, 2017

‘Tis The Season

I hope you noticed that I’ve refrained from my usual bah-humbugging this year. I’m trying to be all zen about it and let it flow off me. Who am I to tell people to stop being crazy? They have to figure it out for themselves. Quite a number of folks have already lowered the expectations and slowed the manic pace. The advertising is still as relentless as always but somehow it seems easier to resist it. Or ignore it as much as possible. Works for me.

I have a couple of traditions that I really do like to keep though. One is the lower key Solstice Dinner with our family. That one is tomorrow at Milady Daughter’s house. Then there’s the actual Solstice on Thursday (at 8:28 am PST). I have my Guild’s Christmas party in the early afternoon. And then Thom and I plan to walk down that evening to Granville Island for the annual lantern procession. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. It can’t be nearly as bad as last year when we just about killed ourselves on the icy pathways and streets. It’s been much milder this year - at least so far. Rain of course is always a possibility but we’re hoping for reasonable weather.

Then Christmas Day is at Thom’s brother and sister-in-law’s. See how we got out of hosting anything? Slick, huh? This year the family has split up into smaller groups too so it’s not so onerous for anybody. Then one more even smaller gathering and we’re right into the New Year. So relaxed.

Well, I have actually been doing a few things. Like baking shortbread and butter tarts because my family would disown me if I didn’t provide them! We decorated Scheff, my Schefflera arboricola tree and Thom put up some pretty red and blue lights outside. So we’re at least somewhat festive around here. And I dyed my warps and weft yarns for the Stashbuster Blanket:

See? The green dye toned down all the colours into harmony. Despite what I said last post, I didn’t have enough of any of the warp yarns to serve as weft so I dug into the singles wool, including some pink and some yellow in order to have enough yardage. They also got dyed in the green. It took 6 dyebaths to get all that wool done, 2 pots on the dye stove at a time. One moment of panic as I was pre-scouring the singles they turned all corkscrewed the minute they hit the water. Yikes!

I managed to straighten them a little but they had better behave when I wind them into balls and then onto the pirns ready to weave. The warp sections I left in loose chains to dye and they handled perfectly. No tangling. The dye stock was mixed with ancient synthetic dyes of all sorts but they worked just fine. Perhaps not as strong as fresh dye powders but considering that some of these are probably from as far back as the 1970’s I would say not bad at all! I was going to chuck them out but have been dipping into the box whenever I can in an attempt to use up as much as possible. Just on projects where the outcome isn’t terribly important just in case they are total duds. Totally in the spirit of this project, right?

So next I have to get the warp yarns onto the loom. The structure is plain weave so I’ll just use all 8 shafts and thread a straight 1-8 repeat. Easy-peasy. I hope. It will be just over a yard wide on the loom and I’ll weave enough length to cut it into three pieces to stitch together. I like big blankets that tuck in properly so that’s the best way I’ve found to get the width I want. Done properly you can’t even see where the joins are unless you’re hunting for them. Warping will have to wait until Monday to begin though because it’s family party time tomorrow. Bet I’ll get a request to make my patented lumpy gravy!

Meanwhile I hope you are taking it easy, having fun, eating yummy food, and cherishing family and friends. That’s what it’s all about. The rest is just marketing. Take what you enjoy and leave the rest.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Think The Robins Will Notice My New Hat?

It’s a lovely sunny day today, especially noticeable after all the foggy days we’ve had lately. Kind of chilly too but that’s normal here in winter. If it’s clear it’s usually going to be colder than if it’s cloudy. I’ll take it anyway. Winter sunshine is precious!

I’ve finished my Garden Wurm hat just in time for cold weather.

I think it turned out pretty nicely. I didn’t have quite enough of the doubled Fibre Art Studio Sparkle yarn to do a full 10 repeats so I settled for 8. It’s not quite as slouchy as it should be but it’s fine with my wee head. I like the way the Grape Garden colours of purple-brown, lilac and muted greens pool and blend. This is a really good (free!) pattern written for worsted-weight yarn but judging by the plethora of different yarns that the many knitters have used it is quite adaptable.

I’m well supplied with woolly accessories now! Not that that will stop me from casting on for more. But right now I only have two projects on the needles and am really only concentrating on one of them, the Rusty Folded sweater. The other is linen which totally beguiled me last summer but isn’t calling my name now that it’s winter. Perhaps I’m going to have to bribe myself to finish that linen shawl the same way that I’m bribing myself to work on the Stashbuster Blanket.

Yes, the blanket that has been sitting waiting for nearly a whole year! Poor abandoned thing. I decided that I still want it and therefore I needed to make an effort to get back into producing it. I have no recollection of why I stopped except that winding the warp one or two ends of a yarn at a time and then switching to the next one was just tedious. I wanted to thoroughly mix the very disparate yarns to minimise any seersucker effects. The only thing these bits and bobs have in common is they are wool (non-superwash) and sized somewhere between sport and aran in weight. There are handspun and mill-spun yarns. There are hand-dyed and commercially-dyed yarns. Some are two ply, some three, some finished s-twist and some z-twist. A lot of them are really vintage - 30 years old or more. I just want to use them up.


Unfortunately this blanket isn’t going to use up all the yarn. There’s nearly enough left for a second one! Yeesh. I may have to change my plans a little to use more of it up. I was originally planning to use some finer yarn for the weft but I just might use the rest of this pile for weft instead. I need to see if there’s enough and I’ll also need to decide whether or not to dye it along with the warp. Decisions. Decisions. It’s obviously going to be a long-term project anyhow. So what else is new?

So I’ll leave you today with a couple of photos from our late afternoon walk up to Little Mountain. More formally known as Queen Elizabeth Park, this city landmark is an extinct (we hope!) volcano, former rock quarry and the highest point in Vancouver. The gardens are gorgeous and a backdrop for many a wedding photo and tourist shot. The bronze sculpture is called Knife Edge by Henry Moore, one of 4 casts of the original mould, 1962-65. It’s been up there since I was a child and I’m very fond of its use as a drum! Heh.

There’s the crows heading for their evening roost!

And the sun setting over the sunken garden.

Such a pretty city, don’t you agree? My house is down there somewhere to the right. Can you see it? Me neither!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Back So Soon?

Hello again! I suddenly realised that I’d forgotten to blog a couple of things. Everyone says that nobody blogs anymore and everything blogable ends up on Instagram instead. News flash: not everyone is on every social media site! I don’t want to be that person who neglects her blog but sometimes it’s fun just to pop it into Instagram. But then (the horror!) I feel like I’m done with it. However, it ain’t necessarily so.

So here is my Boro Tea Cosy, which I finished up nearly a week ago now:

And a peek at the lining that I dyed in walnut leaves:

And then we bid a fond farewell to the old rughooked cosy that had served so well for so long:

Poor thing was way past its best-before date! The new cosy has a tab at the top to grab it by so hopefully that will keep stains confined to that area. I probably should have used wool batting in it instead of poly because it’s not quite as insulative as the old one. But it does the trick of keeping my teapot warm for a couple of hours so what more could one ask.

I quite enjoy the process of stitching, even though my technique is coarse and clumsy. But I decided that as long as I was having a good time and not stressing over perfection it’s quite good enough. I’m happy to use bits and bobs from around the studio too: scraps of mostly hand-dyed fabrics too small for anything else but too nice to throw away and threads from the weaving stash. There’s lots more where those came from! Maybe some cushion tops for the couch next?

Another thing I forgot to blog was this:

Thom made it for my friend Sue of A Colourful Canvas. It was a very special request and since he so rarely makes anything on demand, I was surprised when he said yes. Oh. What the heck is it you ask? As described by the Fairy Bra Mother, Beverly Johnson, it’s a bra pressing knob. A very fancy one indeed! (Mine isn’t nearly as nice.) It was turned from a whole piece of arbutus wood (Arbutus menziesii aka madrone or madrona for all you US folks). Doesn’t it look like a pawn in a very large chess game? When we presented it to Sue, I wisecracked that it was a Chest Piece and after everyone guffawed - that’s what we call it. I do love me a good pun.

How is it used? I draped my last bra over it to show you:

Sort of. Anyway, you use it to press the cup seams when sewing bras. It makes it much easier to avoid flattening the cups because the ball sits inside and provides a firm surface to press on. Thom finished the lower part of the Chest Piece but didn’t put any oil or wax on the ball so it can handle the heat of the iron without anything transferring to delicate fabrics. When not in use for its intended purpose, it can double as sculptural art, right Sue?

Now I’m wondering if there’s anything else that I’ve totally forgotten to blog about? Yeesh. Do you folks have any idea how many posts I’ve written only in my head?

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Endings and Beginnings

Hello! How did it get to be December already? Oh, yeah. I think I ask that question every month, don’t I? Though December is the sneaky month and always comes up way before you expect it. OK, you can bring on the Holiday Stuff bigtime now. Sparkle, trees, lights...action!

However, I’m here to crow about finally finishing my Combers Dress. Yay! To begin at the beginning (usually a helpful place to start) a long time ago I saw a photo of this dress:

That’s the Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnston and sadly only available in an Interweave book from 2013 that I do not own, “Fair Isle Style”. I wasn’t desperate enough to buy it just for the one pattern (not like I don’t own zillions of books that I’ve never knit anything from!) and searched about for something similar that I do have access to. Although those half-circle pockets are darn cute, aren’t they?

DROPS Design obliged with two free patterns for stranded yoke tunics:

Autumn Flurries (above) and Kristina (below):

But I would still have to do lots of rejigging of pattern instructions since they’re written for a DK weight and I wanted to use my Cloudborn Fibers Highland Fingering yarn. And of course to plan my own yoke pattern! So in the end I pretty much did my own thing. Kind of a mashup of all the above plus a large dollop of serendipity. I made good use of my computer and 2 obsolete Windows programs: Knitware (for the shape calculations) and Knit Visualizer (for the charts). And I got lots of practice knitting the Salish technique that I learned in Victoria this summer and proving that it not only works as well in fingering yarn as it does in thick singles but I can also knit it flat. Being the steek-averse knitter that I am.

The final effort I had to do was try to figure out how to place the pockets:

My original plan was to put them on an angle. It didn’t look quite right. These pockets were somewhat bigger than my sketch. Next attempt:

Wrapping the pockets around the sides. Nah. Adds width where I least need it. Lastly, the good old tried-and-true:

Somehow that looked best and was comfortable in use so that’s where they went. Now I totally apologise for the artificial lighting. It’s been dark and rainy and miserable around here for the better part of a month. But I did my best while in a hurry to git ‘er done:

I might get a better shot someday if the sun ever shines again. Hah! Or maybe after 3 months and more I’m just done with this project! I mentioned on my Instagram that it’s an almost perfect record of our vacation this year: sunshine, mountains, forest and beaches. All it’s missing are the many ferries we took! It also includes my garden in the summer dye sessions for the yellow, green and orange-brown colours while the Stone Heather, Oatmeal Heather and Espresso Heather belong to Cloudborn.

I still have lots of Espresso (2 balls) and Stone (1.5 balls) and small lots of each of the others left so another project or 2 may happen some day. This stuff goes a long way at 494 yards per skein. It’s a light 2-ply woolen spun yarn so it isn’t particularly durable and pills quite quickly. So I’m going to have to be nice to my dress and not wear it out too fast after all that work. It was a really fun learning experience though. Obviously I’m getting more and more comfortable with modifying, adapting and creating my own patterns that fit me and my personal style. {pats self on back}

So now I have a rash of new cast-ons! First up I started a Wurm hat (free pattern by katushika) using my new skein of Fibre Art Studio Sparkle yarn dyed by my friend Yoriko in the Grape Garden colourway:


It’s purplish browns, muted greens and lavender with a hint of Stellina sparkle and I really love it. I’m calling my hat Garden Wurm for obvious reasons! Of course I tried to knit a pattern written for worsted yarn in a fingering and...it didn’t work. So I frogged and started again using the yarn doubled and following the pattern properly. The colours look quite different this way and although they are blending they’re also pooling in an interesting way:

I quite like it. This is going to be the warmest hat I own especially with the doubled band around my ears. I know our climate isn’t exactly a cold one - especially for Canada! - but it’s particularly damp and clammy and somehow that feels even colder. And after last year’s snow and ice, who knows what to expect?

And now that I’ve finished 2 large fingering-weight sweaters featuring acres of stockinette...I’ve started another:

This is my embryonic Folded by Veera Valimaki. The yarn is again Cloudborn Fibers but this is the rest of my Wool Fingering Twist left after my Seagreen Tunic. Only of course I dyed it differently in acid dyes instead of natural ones. The Twist is a much more hardy 3-ply worsted spun 100% fine Peruvian Highland wool with 402 yards per 100g skein. It’s not superwash (handwash, dry flat) and no nylon or other synthetics. Bouncy, soft, dyes like a dream and knits up easily. I quite adore it and still have lots in my stash after a couple of orders to Craftsy when it was on sale. You will be seeing more as time goes on. I don’t know how it would wear for socks but it’s lovely for everything else. I’m really too hard on my socks but I might try it if I have a ball left sometime. Maybe summer shorties?

I have a couple of more sweaters that I’m trying to avoid starting yet. I want to carry on with my poor languishing spinning and weaving projects! That blanket has been waiting for over a year and I have need for it’s warmth this winter.

Moving right along...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pocketses

Or only one pocket actually. Behold:

All blocked and ends worked in (except for the beginning and end yarn that will be worked in when I sew on the pocket to the dress. I still don’t know if it’s at all obvious but this pocket matches the yoke correctly. Hooray! I finally got the dominant and receding yarns in the correct hands!

Yes, it seems like it’s a subtle difference but it isn’t in Real Life. This phenomenon happens in regular stranded knitting as well. The lovely and talented Ysolda has a blog post on it. And Dianna of Paper Tiger has an even more comprehensive one. I’m not sure whether her explanation is exactly relevant to the Salish Knitting technique or not since the yarns are more intertwined in the back. See?

Isn’t that pebbling lovely? The fact that there are no floats is perfect for pockets where you shove your hands and other things in. Can’t catch on anything. But I digress. Somehow the results of knitting with two colours by whichever method you choose leaves one colour dominant over the other one. Let’s see if I can make this a little more clear than the last post. It’s been raining almost non-stop around here so the light isn’t ideal for photos. Here’s another look at the pocket. This view is from the side:

Even if the dominance on the white and brown wave isn’t clear, I think the yellow spray curls are more obvious. And yes, I did begin to knit them wrong first before I pulled them out and did them right! It was really obvious. After the fact.

Here’s the finished pocket as compared directly with the unfinished one (that I need to frog back yet again!):

That’s exactly the same yarns in both and one is just laying on top of the other with the one I consider “correct” underneath. I see the white areas on the unfinished pocket piece as much denser and the stitches look larger. You might not be able to tell but they are raised slightly above the surface compared to the dark brown. On the completed pocket underneath, the brown areas are raised even after wet-blocking. The white areas look thinner and sunken into the fabric. Clear as mud? LOL!!

Well, you aren’t alone. The whole thing has confused the heck out of me and I’ve been knitting and frogging and knitting again while I try to figure this out. I even put pencil notations on my chart and ended up erasing them all because I got them wrong! Again! Sheesh. I should have read my own last blog post which has it correctly stated that Left Hand yarn is DOMINANT and Right Hand yarn is RECEDING. Maybe I can’t tell my left from my right and I need to go back to kindergarten? Now that I’ve ripped those incorrect rows out again I hope I can finish knitting the second pocket. Sometime before the New Year would be lovely.

Meanwhile my technique for Salish Knitting in the flat with two hands is getting better and better! More even tension and less chart counting mistakes. As always, ya wins some and ya loses some, right? I must remember to discuss the differences between the normal in-the-round method and my back-and-forth “unvention”.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One Down

And many more to go! As you have probably noticed, I have an infinite knitting and sewing queue. Anyway this time it’s my Seagreen Seamus Tunic:

Well, you wanted to see it on me! I might add that this is the closest colour match I could get - at least on my screen. Such a lovely soft green. Why do natural dyers say that green is hard to get with plant dyes? I haven’t found it so. Even a good deep grass green just needs a light to medium indigo and a strong yellow overdye. Or weld yellow overdyed with woad blue which is how I did it before I read that it’s better the other way around. Regardless, that time I got a really nice green on rayon mordanted in alum acetate. In this case though, I used a medium yellow (dyers chamomile clippings) on alum/cream of tartar mordanted wool and modified it with a little iron sulphate (just enough to shift the colour). And it’s very stable. Not even a hint of colour leaked into the warm blocking bath.

Now I’m concentrating on the Combers Dress which I actually started before this tunic. All the excitement was in the beginning at the yoke and now it’s just around and around and around in stockinette. Until I get to the hem and get to do 6 rows of k1p1 rib. Oh boy! Great reading and TV knitting anyhow. I did start on the pockets - just for something interesting to alternate with - and I think it’s coming out OK:

I had to take a moment to figure out how to work the Salish Knitting technique in the flat but it wasn’t too hard. No, I’m not going to do these in the round and steek them! Do not even go there. I’ve decided I would rather work with two colours in purl than cut my knitting! Just a quirk of my personality.

However, I’m trying to decide if I should tink back the dark brown and cream part and reverse which hand I’m holding each colour in. You wouldn’t think but it makes a surprising difference! I knit this two-handed: one colour in each, Continental (picking) with the left and English (throwing) with the right. The right-hand colour recedes slightly so it becomes the background and the left-hand colour raises a little so it’s the motif/pattern. I noticed that I must have used the brown in my left hand on the sweater yoke but this time I used the cream in my left.

I don’t know if you can see the difference since the pocket is such a small sample and the older photo of the yoke isn’t a very good closeup. But on the yoke the cream lines are narrow and the brown lines are raised slightly above the surface as if they’re embossed. On the pocket the cream lines are wider and the brown sinks back a little. I kind of like the look of the pocket better but it’s far too late to change the yoke! Maybe I’ll just leave the “mistake” alone and use it as a lesson to myself. Or will it drive me crazy? I obviously worked the brown and green correctly since on both the yoke and pocket the trees/shrubs are slightly embossed. Aren’t these subtleties fascinating?

In other news, I’m still stitching away on my Boro Tea Cosy. I’ve finished the front and am about 1/3 of the way through the back section. I seem to be able to stitch for about 2 hours before my hand gets tired so it takes about 3 or 4 sessions to finish a piece. It’s fun though and really goes relatively quickly. I like that I don’t have to be too fussy about perfection. It’s “boro” after all, which is derived from the Japanese word “boroboro” and means tattered, mended and patched. The stitching is “sashiko” (little stabs) but much more loosely applied than the more formal decorative version. We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! Big stitches, thick threads and small scraps = fun! More details coming.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Testing Testing

Helloooo!! Just attempting to see if the (finally) updated Blogo app, my blog editor of choice, is going to solve the crashing issue that it’s been suffering from since the iOS 11 update. It wouldn’t let me put photos in my posts. Humph.

OK. Here goes...

Yay!!! I’m back in business! As I’ve said before (and I’ll say it again) I despise Blogger’s online editor with a holy passion. Though at least it was sort-of useable until Blogo was fixed. Now I need to get over to to the Blogo folks and thank them profusely for fixing it. Don’t worry, I will draw the line at kissing their feet. But it’ll be a near thing.

Meanwhile, that’s a teaser photo of my Seagreen Seamus Tunic that I just finished. Yes, of course I know it’s pronounced “SHAY-muss” (and means James in Irish). But I liked the “sea” alliteration. Or whatever it’s called when you only type it! I was in Haida Gwaii when I started knitting it so the sea was definitely on my mind. I’ll give you a better view when it finally dries in, oh, maybe several days from now? The socks I just washed took 2 days and they were hanging up so the air could circulate. It’s been a bit damp around here.

It certainly took long enough to finish this big sweater and the Combers one which I actually started first is still on the needles. I’m cruising down the body towards the hem of that dress but I still need to figure out the pockets. That’s not something I can do while chatting or watching the tube! It’ll be an interesting experiment. There may be frogging involved. We shall see.

Off to finish the last corner of this side of my Boro-Stitched Tea Cosy. You’ll see more of this project soon too. So glad Blogo is working again! {clapping with glee}