Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ummmm...

How bad is it when you have to go back and check your blog to remember what you talked about last time? It was over a week ago! Pretty bad, huh? Well, here I am - not completely over the Crud. (And yes, my poor sister took it home with her. So sorry, hon'!) The weather has changed to much warmer and with bouts of torrential rain. The snow and ice that we've had since December 5 are finally melting but it's going to take awhile to get rid of some of the deep pockets. The city finally got its act together and sanded everywhere like they should have done a month ago. I only slipped a little when we went out on Monday. It was worth it for a sushi lunch, tea purchases at Murchies and a Purdies goji berry and cocoa nib chocolate bar! Yum.

So where was I? I've named the spinning project (for the Ebony sweater) Licorice Bulky because the wool rovings before they are carded and blended look like black licorice allsorts:

Don't you agree? Each bundle gets torn apart into 6 equal piles and carded first without the white added and then recarded again with white spread in randomly. The resulting batts are then Z-split and drawn out a little into an airy roving ready to spin. I'm not even halfway through the carding yet and I already have one big basket full ready to go. The processing is slow but I want to get it all prepped before I start spinning.

As for the sampling, you might remember that I wasn't happy with my first sample from the puni/rolags. The second sample was spun short-draw from the carded roving and I had a lot more control so it's much more even. The singles was then chain-plied on a lower ratio than the first sample. It came out light and very bulky:

Sample 1 on the right and Sample 2 on the left, knitted up into swatches on 5.5mm needles. The gauge was nearly right but both have too many rows per inch. The swatch for Sample 2 is rather thicker though not as crisp as Sample 1. After this I decided I was on the right track with Sample 2 but it really needed to be a little less bulky so I tried again doing everything the same but drafting just a little finer.

Sample 3 is visibly thinner than Sample 2 but because it was knitted on larger 6mm needles it actually matched gauge much better. It's still bulky but not too heavy or dense. The Goldilocks Sample! Yay. Now I just have to make about 1000 yards more of it...

And that's all before I can even start knitting. Will I have this sweater done before it's too warm to wear it? Does it really matter? Slow Clothes. Definitely.

What else? Yesterday morning was the opening of registration for the Association of Northwest Weavers' Guilds conference, coming up in late June/early July in Victoria, BC at the University of Victoria campus. For the first time in absolutely ages I decided I would go as a regular attendee so I was right in there online to get the 2 seminars that I wanted. After a few bumps (it wouldn't accept my credit card at first) I'm good to go. Four of us are going together and will share a "cluster", 4-bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 shower plus living/kitchen area in the UVic residences. Now all we need are the ferry reservations because it's going to be over the Canada Day long weekend. Yikes. Probably the craziest time of all on BC Ferries.

Mostly I go to these events to catch up with old friends, ogle the wares in the vendor hall and peruse the exhibits. (Which you can do without an entry fee.) There isn't as much of interest to me in the workshops/seminars area but I managed to find a couple of possibilities. Plus for your money you get a fashion show, banquet, keynote speech and optional strawberry tea. It'll be fun. And now I need to buy a new rolling suitcase.

Not much else exciting has happened around here. I'm nearly done my Tow Hill blanket and haven't run out of too many of the yarn colours yet. Maybe 8 or 10" left to go. Haven't touched any of my other projects but I have already read 9 books so far this year. What does that tell you? Lousy weather and the Crud combined to keep me home with zero energy or ambition. Sigh. Luckily this year on my Goodreads Challenge I pledged 150 books! Though maybe it should have been even more? Last year I surpassed my 125 pledge and read 139. I'm certainly off to a good start but I'm sure I'll be out in the garden again once the weather clears up and I'm well again. We won't be travelling for 2 months this summer either.

We watched some TV too but only a couple of hours max in the evening. I have to say I'm loving Netflix now that we have it. So many good shows that regular network television never had. I absolutely love the way you can watch whole seasons one episode after another. We just finished bingeing on "Trapped", an excellent murder mystery series set in a remote village in Iceland. In winter. Even with the subtitles (dialog in Icelandic, Danish and English) it was a riveting character study with a completely unpredictable plot. So good. Some similarities with "Shetland", another great mystery series from the UK which we've also watched recently. What is it with my fascination with remote island communities? Luckily in real life the crime level isn't quite as crazy, eh? At least one would hope. Heh.

I'm sure I'll get some enthusiasm back very soon. Meanwhile back to reading carding!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still Breathing

Well. It's been awhile, eh? Yup, The Crud is still not gone and now Thom has it even worse than I did. Apparently it's the bug that wasn't covered by this year's flu vaccine and is now at mini-epidemic proportions. We are in good company. Bleh.

Meanwhile, back in our winter wonderland, lots of snow and ice still lingers. The city finally sanded our intersection. Twice. But there's a lot of lumpy ice out there still. It rained for a couple of days too but even that didn't make much of a dent in the mess. Not that we care since we aren't going anywhere that we don't have to.

In the midst of all this my sister came down from Haida Gwaii for 4 days and stayed here at Plague Central. She had a dentist appointment and of course attempted to make it worth the flight costs by squeezing in a bunch of other errands. I sucked it up enough to accompany her to my hairdresser and to her current favourite local clothing shop. She goes just a little nuts with all the goodies available in the Big Smoke! It's kind of fun watching somebody else try on all the clothes that wouldn't work on my body. Oh and speaking of bodies, I gave her my Oakmeal Sweater and it looks so much better on her! She hardly took it off while she was here. In contrast I've hardly worn it in the 4 years since I made it. It just didn't feel right on me - even when I lengthened the sleeves. She'll be getting lots of use out of it because she went home to a new pile of snow! I just hope we didn't pass the plague on too.

What else? We've kind of been hunkered down in basic survival mode so not a lot is getting accomplished these days. Except reading and video watching. However yesterday I managed to dig out the fibre for my next spinning and knitting project. Lurking about in the stash I had 3 bags of dyed black roving from Birkeland Bros:

Three different ones marked Perendale (the newest one because the label has the new owner's address), Cross-Breed and just generic Wool - a little over 1200g total. They are very similar but the Perendale is slightly coarser and the Wool is slightly softer than the Cross-Breed. I decided that dead black was too boring plus I needed to blend all the fibres together anyhow so I carded up a sample and added about 5% white Corriedale (also from BB). I like the slightly charcoal-heathered look with just a hint of the white in there. Unfortunately I didn't like the spinning so much. I decided to try a technique that I saw on the Esther Rodgers Craftsy class - making wool punis off a drum-carder. It worked fine to make the cute little punis:

But the spinning on Klaas, my Louet S-90, was really jerky and hard to control. Doesn't help that I'm not very good at long-draw! Midway I switched to a more comfortable short forward draw and had much more control. I'm trying to get a lightweight bulky yarn which is way outside of my comfort zone because I absolutely covet this sweater:

That's Ebony by Cristina Ghirlanda and I love it. Unfortunately I don't love bulky yarn, either spinning or knitting with it. I want this sweater enough though that I'm going to persist. And hope that I can get something that works, preferably before it gets too warm for such a heavy garment. I need about 900 yards or so.

Anyway the sample yarn that I ended up with (and which is sopping wet or I'd show you) after chain-plying my singles is lumpy, a little overplied and probably not quite thick enough. It broke several times while I was plying it which is where it developed too much ply twist while I tried to fix the breaks. I probably also need to adjust the ratio to a larger whorl. It's much too easy to overply while chain-plying because you are doing more manipulating with your hands. On the other hand, I didn't want to bother with a conventional 3-ply which might have been a better choice. Guess it's time for sample number two.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy (?) New Year!!

Gee, I hope yours has been better than mine! If "begin as you mean to go on" was true, my 2017 is in trouble already. The Creeping Christmas Crud that I came down with on Boxing Day has now morphed into bronchitis. Bleh. My ribs are sore from coughing and there's a baby elephant situated on my upper chest. Of course that does mean that chances are good that things are going to improve! Just as soon as I can shift that baby elephant off.

Meanwhile, I've been amusing myself by moving from my bed to my computer chair to my living room chair. You know - for a change of scenery. And reading e-books. I'm already a book-and-a-half into my Goodreads challenge for 2017. Last year I read 139, 14 books over my challenge of 125, so this year I upped the ante to 150. I know a lot of people think this is some kind of stupid contest, but I like knowing how many I've read. Just for fun. I also tend to read "fluff" books. Nothing heavy or profound. At the moment, that's Urban Fantasy or Urban Fantasy/Romance. Yup, vampires and werewolves and ghouls, oh my! Go ahead and chuckle. I don't care. I won't laugh if you prefer mysteries or biographies or hot human romances. Or regular fiction, self-help, politics...whatever. Reading pretty much anything is good.

Ever since I got my iPad Mini last year, I've been reading books online or in digital format. Yes, paper books have their adherents. But the cheap newsprint and small type of paperbacks plus the fact that you have to do something with them when you're done means that digital is far more convenient. Between the library and other free Internet sources, I rarely pay for a book anymore. I can read in the dark, change the typeface and size, and delete the file or URL when I'm done. No fuss, no muss. I still have a pile of paperbacks that I haven't even looked at in a year, except to take a few of them with us on our Transcontinental Trek, just in case I ran out of digital books or something. I think I read one or two. Perhaps my tastes have changed since I bought them? These are more straight-up classic fantasy than I'm currently reading. I may have to re-home them.

When my eyes start to blur on the words, I've been working on my crocheted lap blanket. I've renamed it the Tow Hill Blanket after the special place in Agate Beach Provincial Park on the north coast of Haida Gwaii:

(Photo borrowed from BC gov website.)

I love that now the blanket is big enough that I can work on it while covering my legs to stay warm at the same time:

I truly hope I have enough yarn to make it an adequate length. I seem to be running short on a few colours and I'd like to go at least another 20" longer. Yet another game of Yarn Chicken! That's what I get for using stash leftovers. And crochet uses up quite a bit more yarn for the same area. At least it's quick! The two-row stripes are equivalent to at least 4 rows of knitting plus they go twice as fast. The downside is that I can't crochet and read because I need to look at what I'm doing nearly constantly.

I can watch videos though, unless I'm missing any important action. So I've been sitting in front of my desktop computer and watching Craftsy classes and Interweave videos. I much prefer the Craftsy classes because of a couple of important differences. They both have good production values (more recent Interweave ones have improved a lot) and excellent instructors. But Craftsy has the advantage that there is a forum for questions and answers and posting examples and finished projects. Craftsy breaks the classes up into chapters and there's also a way to pause the action anywhere and add a marker with a personal note. The videos are continuous and it's hard to find the place where you want to watch something over again. No way to mark a section you want to repeat either and it doesn't hold your place if you have to shut down. Kind of annoying.

That said, I've been on a spinning research kick so I watched Esther Rodgers' "Fiber Preparation for Spinning" on Craftsy and Jillian Moreno's two Interweave Videos: "12 (Plus!) Ways to Spin Batts" and "12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top". As an old dog who can learn some new tricks, I especially liked Esther's class. I have no desire to make wild batts for art yarn but I do want to use up various fibres and bits in my spinning stash and combine things to make large enough amounts for a half-decent sized project. The technique of making smaller tighter rolags using 2 sticks to wind the fibre onto as you doff off the drum carder is new to me. I also like her tips to card some smooth wool on first before adding more exotic ingredients to a batt and covering inclusions with more wool well burnished down before trying to rotate the carder. There have been a lot of newer ideas since I got my first drum carder in 1975! And yes, I still have the old beast (possibly an early Patrick Green but no logo) and with 45 teeth per inch and I still use it for coarse wool. My newer carder is a Pat Green Deb's Delicate Deluxe with interchangeable production (72 tpi) and fur (120 tpi) drums. They pretty much cover any carding needs I might have.

The videos with Jillian Moreno were quite good but somewhat repetitive and limited in scope. If they left out the reiteration, some of the spinning demos and a lot of the colour choosing (in the tops video) they could perhaps have combined the two into one more complete package. (But then, I guess, where's the profit in that?) I was hoping there would be something about actually making the batts and tops but Jillian only concentrated on the commercially available ones. I prefer not to buy them but to make my own. However I did learn a few good ways to use what I have which was the point of the exercise.

I also watched several YouTube videos on fibre prep which I won't bother to detail. As you might guess even if you haven't done this, the quality varies. A lot! Some are very good, some are tedious and some suffer from bad technical quality. Somewhere in all this though I got a great tip about layering colours on the drum carder, pulling it off and then turning the batt sideways and carding again for a slightly blended stripe effect. There's more interesting details to try but my snotty brain isn't working up to snuff right now. (Hah! Pun! Bad.) I will be working on the next great sweater project as soon as I have enough energy to climb around in my attic storage to find the fibres. Stay tuned.

And, no, I haven't done any more on the woven blanket project. Just in case you were wondering. No? You weren't? Good.

So. The weather is sunny and cold. Our intersection is so icy:

There were people ice-skating on it! I swear I have lived in this neighbourhood nearly my whole life and that is the first time ever that I've seen skating on the street. Cross-country skiing, yes. I've done it myself. Sledding. That too. But never ice-skating. Only very rarely have the ponds in the city parks been frozen enough to skate on and right now they aren't. But they might be soon since the temp is supposed to dip more in the next few days. This is just weird. Thank you, La Niña!

So I'm concentrating first of all on getting better. I actually got up, dressed and did the dishes today so there's improvement. Maybe I'll even be up for a wee bit of cleaning and grocery shopping before my dear sister gets here on Wednesday from Haida Gwaii for a visit.

Hope your 2017 is peaceful, productive, and fun!

Breaking news! This just in:
Now they're playing ice hockey out there! Even weirder. This is not Manitoba, OK?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another Year's End

My goodness! This 2016 year certainly flew by on jet wings! Of course in my case, there was a heap of vacation prep and then we were gone for 2 months so that could be why it feels like such a short year. In checking through my list of projects accomplished I realised that I probably made as many items as I did last year and the year before but the mix was different.

Knitting:

  • Accessories (including socks) = 4
  • Shawls = 3
  • Sweaters & tunics = 6
  • Other = 3

Sewing:

  • Dress = 1
  • Tops = 3
  • Bags = 5
  • Other = 2

Weaving:

  • Placemats = 8
  • Towels = 6

Dyeing:

  • Yarns = 2
  • Fabrics = 3

Carding & spinning:

  • 3000yds

Paper:

  • Lanterns

Still Unfinished:

  • socks
  • woven blanket
  • crochet blanket

I made a lot of sweaters, including 2 from handspun and dyed yarn. And I made a lot of bags, all for specific uses. The single most time-consuming project (a full 6 months from start to finish) was the Flaming Intersect cardigan which I adore and am wearing as I type! Warm.

I didn't sew very many garments. That will change in 2017 since I'm getting somewhat desperate for some new things. I think I'm going to have to assess the fabric and pattern stashes and identify what exactly I need to fill the gaps. I want to make a list of what types of garments and silhouettes I wear most often and am most comfortable in. This will help me avoid wasting time (and fabric) on items I won't be as happy with. I hope. Sometimes sewing your own clothes is kind of a crap shoot because you can't just take it into the dressing room and try it on before you put in all that work creating it. Experience seems to have made me much more successful these days though. **crossed fingers**

Another thing I want to concentrate on in the new year is spinning up some of my vast fibre stash. And not just for accessories but for sweater amounts. For starters I have a project in mind that needs 900 yards of bulky yarn. For me that's elephant-sized! It'll be a challenge not to make rope that would hold back said elephant. I want light lofty yarn. I'm going to have to sample. A lot.

And there will be many more makes because you know I can't help myself, right?

Meanwhile, I repaired the hole in the alpaca shawl:

It does show a little because I had to do quite a lot of duplicate stitch to reinforce the edges of the hole. It's wearable again though and hopefully won't develop any more injuries. I think I might have pinched it in my backpack's front clasp. I'll be more careful in future.

And one last finished object that you haven't seen yet:

A flock of knitted tawashi! They should be enough to keep me washing dishes for the foreseeable future. It'll be interesting to see if they hold up as well as the crocheted ones did. Best use of acrylic yarn, hands down.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Snow Dye

The snow is melting faster now that it's raining though there's still plenty of icy patches to watch out for. Before it goes away entirely I remembered that I had promised myself a chance to try snow dyeing. Digging in the fabric stash I found some white cotton interlock and some luscious hemp/silk yardage that I bought a few years ago at Dharma Trading in California. I happily sacrificed 2.5 yards of each to the experiment.

First I machine-washed both fabrics in hot water and Synthrapol to make sure they were clean and finish-free. Then I soaked them for a half-hour in soda ash solution - 1 cup soda ash to 4 litres warm water. (Excess solution can be saved indefinitely for future use.) I hunted down two containers to catch the drips and a piece of aluminum mesh but was stuck on what to use for the second rack. Ah-ha...one of my precious stash of plastic seedling flats! Of course I gave it a good scrub first. The fabrics were arranged on the racks:

The hemp/silk (left) was scrunched and the cotton knit was crumpled up along its length and zigzagged onto the rack. Then I covered the fabric with several inches of snow:

It took a whole bucket! Next I donned disposable gloves and a dust mask and sprinkled Procion MX dye powder on top of the snow. The hemp/silk got plum, moss and rust and the cotton knit got navy, special brown, Havana brown and emerald. Each fabric got about 2.5 teaspoons of dry dye in total. All dyes are from Maiwa except the Havana brown which was from Dharma and some of them are discontinued colours. I was using stuff up. The snow cones now looked like this:

Notice I used some clamps on the aluminum mesh because it was starting to bend inward from the weight of the snow. After this I left everything to batch. Here's what it looked like with the snow partially melted:

At this point I spread a piece of plastic over top to keep the fabrics from drying out and left it all overnight. The next morning was like unwrapping presents!

I put on my heavy rubber gloves and rinsed each piece in cold water a few times to get the soda ash out and then they went into the washing machine on hot wash with several good squirts of Synthrapol to help with getting any unfixed dye off without "back-staining" - having dye migrate where it doesn't belong. I hung the hemp/silk up on the clothesline but dried the cotton knit in the dryer. Here's some highlights of the results since I can't photograph the entirety of each piece:

I mixed them up! Can you tell which piece is which? There were a lot more white spaces on the cotton knit which I think was a product of both the wider, heavier fabric and the way I folded it. The hemp/silk came out more delicately patterned all over. So. Much. Fun. It will be exciting to cut them up and sew a couple of tops to remember this very snowy December 2016!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Solstice Celebrations

Ah, the light is coming back now! Slowly-slowly. The dance of the solar system continues. The wheel of the seasons goes around. All is as it should be.

Thom and I decided that this year we would go to the annual Solstice celebration on Granville Island. We've attended in the past but for the last few years either we've had our Solstice Family Dinner on that day or somebody wasn't feeling well or it was raining. This time it was cold but no rain in sight. First we made our lanterns:

We used these really clear instructions. We didn't have any watercolour paper or watercolour paints so we used white construction paper and liquid tempera paints. After they dried we marked and did all the folds but didn't glue anything yet. We coated the sheets with olive oil (that being the only kind of cooking oil about) and then we left them overnight to set. The oil makes them beautifully translucent like parchment paper. The next day we finished the folding and gluing and then hunted around for lights. The LED candles we had were too orange and their light dulled the colours into ugliness. Instead I found some tiny blue-white LED flashlights that we taped two at a time into the bottom of the lanterns. The handles are simple chenille stems. These little lanterns are surprisingly sturdy and held up well to being lugged around all night!

To make it even more of a celebration we decided to go out to our favourite sushi place for bento. Yum! Then we headed for Granville Island, stopping at the liquor store for a mickey of French brandy - you know, in case we needed to warm up later. It was only just above freezing at this point! We got to our meet-up spot at Leg-In-Boot Square (yes, there's a story to go with that name) a little early and there was only one other person with her lantern. But by the time our drummers arrived there were more and as we walked together on the very icy and slippery seawall, we gained at least a hundred in total. Ours was only one of the three parades that ended up at the Water Play Park next to the False Creek Community Centre where we were welcomed by the Carnival Band and then the Vancouver Morris Men sang us Wassail:

After that everyone headed in to the community centre for various activities. We hung out in the main hall for singing, an all-ages (and hilarious) community square dance and of course, the Morris Men's traditional mummers' play. At 9:45pm the Carnival Band led everyone out to the nearby park hillside where we watched the Urban Haida singers and some spectacular fire dancing:

Not a great photo from Thom's cell phone but hey, it was dark! Then we walked home - 5 kilometres uphill on some very slippery sidewalks. We were holding each other up by that point! (No, we didn't drink all the brandy. Heh.) The only thing we didn't see was the candle-lit labyrinth. You needed to pay and have a particular time to get in and it was really busy. We had lots of fun anyway! The sun has been welcomed back in style.

Today I'm feeling kind of stiff thanks to the combined efforts of trying to walk on crazy lumpy ice and also standing on a cold hill slope for an hour without being able to move because of the tight crowd. I didn't want to lose our good viewpoint. And then when I got home I noticed this:

A hole in my suri alpaca Aeolian shawl! Right at the most obvious point. Whaa! Now I need to hunt down some of the leftover yarn and mend it. Hopefully as invisibly as possible. I bet it happened right after some nice lady complimented it too. Wouldn't you know?

Today I decided that since we still had some snow left I would do some snow dyeing before it all disappears in the rain. I've never tried this before and the results are currently melting away nicely so we'll all have to wait to see how it turned out. More details coming.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Crystal Clear

I finally finished my Red Earth Candelia cardi! Of course after all the mods I made to it, it barely looks like the same pattern. I only had a couple of yards left of the yarn when I was finished. Cutting it very close! Nice to get a real project out of the Flaming Intersect leftovers since it took so much work to create that yarn. This sweater is loose enough to fit over the top of other layers. Warmth is important right now.

The photos don't show the exact colour because somehow I just can't capture it with my iPad camera. It's really a little darker and a little warmer. Oh well. You get the drift! Also there are little rainbows on me from the sun (!) shining through my crystal:

I've had that thing hanging in my window for literally decades. And you can see some of the snow that still remains outside. It's supposed to snow more tonight and tomorrow and then finally warm up and rain. Yuck! I also thought I would take a photo of the cool sculpture that our water garden has created all on its own:

It changes day by day and today it looks like the spout is trying to fill an ice bottle! I'll be sad when it melts. It's very interesting to watch in action. Yeah, it normally doesn't freeze much around here. And I'm easily amused.

Meanwhile, the little boro zipper pouch I showed you last time has gone to its happy forever home with a fellow weavers' guild member and in return I received these:

So cute! A tiny little sock and an equally tiny little hat encased in ornaments - including tiny dpns! I joked that I hoped that I didn't have to be the one to graft the sock toe. I also got a tiny wooden shuttle pin but didn't take a photo yet. It was a very pleasant party and I enjoyed meeting a new guild member who has come to us all the way from Washington, DC. She's quite new to spinning and weaving and I had to tell her not to apologise for that. Everyone has to start somewhere! I hope she will bring some of her projects next time for show and tell.

What else? Here's the small ripple blanket that I started to crochet instead of winding my blanket warp. (Procrastinating damselfly!)

The colours were just too pretty together so I rescued them out of the pile of wool and there's still plenty left for the blanket. If I ever get around to working on it again. Heh.

Anyhow the house smells lovely now that I've baked my yearly quota of butter tarts for our Solstice Dinner tomorrow night. The festivities just keep coming! Hope you are enjoying some fun times too.