Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cleaning House

I've been working on finishing up WIPs lately. I finally tracked down a ball of the red Regia 4-ply from my ill-fated Sockapalooooza experience, A YEAR LATER. The dye lot was drastically different, but I didn't care - I plowed through the last half-sock and got 'er done. Here are Cookie A's Gothic Spire socks, finally finished.

Pattern: Gothic Spire, by Cookie A.
Yarn: Regia 4-fadig. 75% superwash wool, 25% Polyamide
Yarn Source: Uptown Yarns, Courtenay, and The Wool Shoppe, Parksville
Yarn Cost: $24
Needles: 2.5mm Susan Bates circular, 100 cm long, for magic loop
Tension: 9.5 sts/inch in stockinette
Cast on: May 2007
Bound off: July 31, 2008
Modifications: None.
Notes: I loved this pattern when I first saw it but I don't know that I care for it as much now. It's complicated to look at and my eye finds it hard to decipher the design. That being said, the socks are nice and long, comfortable, stretchy and warm. I am finding them a bit roomy - I originally cast them on for someone else, so used the largest size. I'd prefer them tighter, but that's what the dryer is for, no?

I must admit I wouldn't make these again. They are impressive and pretty, but the yarn wrapping bit is a bit much. This is what you have to do: slip next four stitches onto cable needle. Wrap working yarn twice [or four times, depending] around the four stitches. Knit the held stitches. It's a right pain. You can't get around the required cable needle - there's no way to do the wrapping without holding the stitches on a separate needle. Very time-consuming.

But it's nice to have another pair of socks in the drawer - and red ones, no less.

So I'll keep 'em.

Sing Ho! for Water and Soap

Dave, I should have included washing instructions with my first post. As a person who wears wool and dresses my children in it, I sometimes forget that not everybody is willing, or will remember, to use unusual care in washing.

To answer the question in your comment, BOO is made of wool, silk, and mohair. Though it won't need cleaning often (wool self-cleans) it will be dry clean or "hand wash cold lay flat to dry". If it's put in the washing machine it will felt, which means irreversibly shrinking to doll size.

Here are the washing instructions for each design in the yarn called for:

1. Reid - knit in Patons Grace 100% mercerised cotton, yarn cost approximately $25 Hand wash lukewarm, lay flat to dry.

2. Boo - knit in Noro Silk Garden 45% silk 45% mohair, 10% wool, yarn cost approximately $70 Dry clean, or handwash cold with care, lay flat to dry.

3. Pinwheel - knit in Elann's Peruvian Highland 100% wool, yarn cost $20 Hand wash cold, dry flat. (Note: I found out the yarn cost - not $45, as I had estimated, but around $20.)

4. Drifting - knit in DK weight superwash wool, yarn cost approximately $50 Machine wash cold, lay flat to dry.

5.Secret Garden - knit in Alice Starmore Hebridean 3-ply 100% wool, yarn cost approximately $70 Hand wash, lay flat to dry.

I can substitute washable yarns for the ones given in the patterns, though. BOO is the only design which really couldn't be made in a different yarn while preserving the look of the sweater as given. All of the others can easily be made machine-washable, though they will all still be "dry flat".

So don't let it bring you down - I'll take care of it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Right Round Baby

Thanks for your input on the last post, and would you believe we got over 200 votes? I'm shocked, even though it WAS possible to vote twice. That's still a lot of people.

So far Boo is in the lead, but Joe and Dave haven't made a final decision you need more possibilities, guys? Because I can come up with more...and now that I know you want "girly", I can certainly deliver that.

Yesterday I took my sister-in-law and niece to the local Ashford/Louet dealer for a private drop-spinning lesson. We took the camera, but when the rep gave us each a spindle to try, we completely forgot about the camera and didn't take a single picture. I was using a locally-made maple spindle and fell in love with it, but didn't buy it quite yet. I did, though, buy my niece her choice of spindle - an Ashford top-whorl. She also came home with 250 grams of fiber - mostly Corriedale, but with 50 grams of merino in the mix as well. She picked up the knack quickly, and is a fair way to being obsessed with spinning.

For my part, I loved it. I loved the meditative nature of the task, though my results were fairly imperfect:

Today is Messy Tuesday, so here is my laundry pile from camping on the weekend:

but instead of doing it I swatched my handspun:

and enjoyed that very much.

Edit: I forgot to show you a picture of Piper, who has grown a lot in the last few months. Isn't he cute?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Decisions

In Tuesday's comments, Uncle Dave asked me whether I would consider knitting something for Ruby for the occasion of her second birthday. I happily accepted, and we thought it might be fun to get your input on a suitable project.

I was going to wait until next week to post, but since I'm going to be away for several days beginning tomorrow, this will give you more time to weigh in.

There are many things I'd like to knit for a small girl, and of course the internet is filthy with ideas, so here are some things to start us off.

Firstly, two designs from Knitty. Reid is a lace-patterned cardigan with a crocheted edge: quite cute I think:

and Boo is absolutely fun and completely gorgeous - I think in real life it would be a WOW piece:

I also quite like the Pinwheel Sweater from Shelley Mackie, winner of the Elann design contest a couple of years ago:

There is Drifting, a beautiful stranded pullover from Inspired Fair Isle Knits:

and lastly, representing texture and quality, Secret Garden from Jade Starmore.

Some stats for your interest...

1. Reid - knit in Patons Grace 100% mercerised cotton, yarn cost approximately $25

2. Boo - knit in Noro Silk Garden 45% silk 45% mohair, 10% wool, yarn cost approximately $70

3. Pinwheel - knit in Elann's Peruvian Highland 100% wool, yarn cost unknown as pattern temporarily unavailable, while does maintenance...I would guess at about $45

4. Drifting - knit in DK weight superwash wool, yarn cost approximately $50

5.Secret Garden - knit in Alice Starmore Hebridean 3-ply 100% wool, yarn cost approximately $70

So - a little poll for your asses? (Thank you Bethro)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Someone asked me the other day, "Are you still knitting?"

So it's obviously time to do a fibrey post...the last time I talked about knitting was on June 18. The thing is, as Kristine noted not long ago, people are interesting because they grow and change, and converse about more than one subject.

But here's some knitting for Annalea, who bemoaned the lack of knitterly content on the blogs lately.

My cousin had a little girl a while ago, and I knit her a sweater. But I knit the three month size and finished it when she was nine months old.

So I gave that to another, newer baby, and cast on another sweater. This time I knit the 1-2 year size.

And now she is two years old. And here is the sweater:

But it's a drop-sleeve, so I think I can have it finished by the weekend, if I try really hard. It shouldn't take me too long to knit two little drop sleeves - they are pretty short. Then next week I can do seaming and button bands and buttons and weaving in........

I have a feeling it's not going to fit her for long, if at all. Maybe I should start something else.

I like this pattern - it's a Sirdar, from book whose cover has ripped off so I can't tell you the number. This is the fourth sweater I have made from it - two of the others are here and here. The only thing I don't like about the patterns is that they are all written out. No chart in sight. It makes it very hard to keep my place, and very hard to spot a mistake in the pattern. (This sweater had two so far.)

The yarn is also Sirdar - Snuggly DK. I still like it even though it's all synthetic. It's incredibly soft, not too pilly, and washes well. It took me a bit of practice to get the tension right on the stranded bits though - it was quite tricky. By the time I knit this piece it was coming along, though, so it doesn't look too bockety.

I am working on getting my WIPs out of the way so I can knit the Rheingold Wrap. I have been resisting the temptation of swatching this project, but last night I fell and now this is on the needles:

The swatch is half-done - sorry about the unsatisfactory picture. (My tension is apparently unsatisfactory too - I can see white bits through that knitting. I'll have to go down a needle size.)

Can I just say I HATE this method of swatching fair isle? You are supposed to cut the yarn at the end of every row, knitting all the chart rows from right to left. The problem is, I'm such a cheapskate and a yarn-hoarder that I kept trying to find a way around Alice's directions. I tried knitting it in the round (messed with the tension), tried carrying long loose strands across the back so I could rip it out later (kept entangling my fingers) and tried snipping the ends really short (unravelled the knitted edge). In the end, bitterly defeated, I just did it the way she wanted me to. But I hate the trailey ends of yarn and I hate the waste...I have this horrible feeling I'm going to run out of yarn and have to order more, which will of course be a different dye lot. I did order extra yarn (I wanted an additional 30 centimeters) but I've grown pessimistic about my ability to eke out yardage.

Speaking of which, I have run out of yarn on the lace shawl. I am about 45% done the border, and have three inches of yarn left....just enough to spit splice the new ball in. It has arrived at the yarn store, and I just have to drive 40 minutes to get it.

I've read elsewhere that the yardage guidelines in Victorian Lace Today are unreliable, but I didn't know HOW unreliable until I ran out of Zephyr on this project. The book calls for 1700 yards and I bought 1890 yards. I should not have run out.

In other news, the visit with Ox and Ames is going so well. We are having an absolute blast. We are getting a lot of swimming, canoeing, and eating done...luckily the first two are so far balancing out the third. Until they leave for their new home at the end of July, posting here will continue to be spotty and unreliable. Hopefully there are still some readers when I get back...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Of Love and Other Demons

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 4 Number 4

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What an incredibly interesting book. It reads like a fable or a legend - the story of a South American girl, neglected by her noble parents and raised by her own African slaves. She is bitten by a rabid dog, and is subsequently believed to be possessed with a demon. She is taken to a convent for help, and immured in the strange, hostile, Catholic mixture of religion and superstition. The young ascetic priest, sent to the convent to prepare her for exorcism, falls prey to her magnetic beauty. The pair fall in love, and plan to escape together from the convent before the exorcism can take place.

This is a strange story. It's full of the kind of weird, miraculous occurrences that one feels could only take place in South America....or maybe in the Caribbean. There are voodoo rituals, animal sacrifices, plagues, odd languishing fevers, plants behaving in peculiar ways. There is an uneasy sense of wonder, a desire for it to be true and a fear that it might be. The characters are fascinating, but I wasn't sure why I was so attracted to them - was it because they were well-drawn, with a kind of reality that catches the interest? or is it the sensation you feel when you're driving past the scene of an accident and you're pretty sure you just saw a body bag?

There is a lot of cruelty and death in this story. At the same time, it's not horrific - the narrative style is quite distant, lending a kind of farsightedness to the book. Reading it, you don't find yourself wondering what happens next, but instead how does it end?

I won't spoil it for you.

Of Love and Other Demons gets:

Reread: Yes
Given to Others: Yes
Bookplate: Yes


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Third, Taurus.

I did some transplanting last month. My best girl was here from Victoria and I took advantage of her amazing arms (she paddles an ocean kayak for a living) to help me acquire two thirty-year-old rhododendrons. These rhodos belonged to my friend Cameron, whose walkway they have encroached on for the last ten years. She and her husband cut them back ruthlessly a couple of times a year, but these monsters will not be put down. Access to their front door was being seriously impeded by these titanic shrubs, so Cameron offered them to me.

Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #1:
Be Ruthless.

First you prune. And this is going to take you about 15 minutes. No time at all. Bring a set of 1" branch loppers and a saw. But don't get cocky: you will spend the next 2.5 hours getting to the next stage:

Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #2:

Just Keep Digging. You're Not Done Yet. Keep Going. No, Not Yet Either. Dig More. Bit More. Little Bit More. Dig More. More. Not Done Yet.

At this point, we could not even rock the plant yet. That's how much this rootball did NOT want to let go of its life-giving Mother Earth. This is also the point at which my friend straightened up, wiped her brow, leaned on her spade, and said "I hate to say it Shan, but...."

"DON'T SAY IT," I warned her sternly.

She said it anyway. "I think we need a man."

"We do NOT need a man," I snapped, not looking up. I redoubled my efforts.

And, I was triumphant and smug when, twenty minutes later, we were here:

Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #3:
It Is Not Easy To Get A 175-or-so-pound Rootball Into A .8 Meter-high Wheelbarrow.

But, manless, we managed it.

See how teeny my friend Cameron's wheelbarrow looks? It's not teeny, my friends. Neither is Paddlegirl's truck:

Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #4-5:
Check The Tire Pressure Ahead Of Time and Bring Rope

That sucker was heavy.

When planning this wee bit of gardening, we had the happy delusion that we'd move both plants at once. As it happened, we barely got even ONE of them fit into the back of her truck at a time, and that only because her tailgate was pretty strong and the canopy window goes WAY up. And we had the devil of a time wrassling them onto the truck from the wheelbarrow - if I had had the forethought to take pictures of our arms you would see how much bloodletting this whole exercise involved.

Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #6:
Have The Hole Dug Way In Advance

Here the lovely rhododendrons, in three years' time, will provide a screen for the less attractive area of our back garden, and will visually anchor that whole area. They are now in dappled shade, with lots of bone meal and peat under their poor traumatised roots, and with a soaker hose running cool soothing water over them.

One last note: it just happened that my friend came over just when the moon was almost perfectly situated for transplanting. It could have been very slightly better: fourth is better than third, and Cancer is better than Taurus, but we only had 24 hours' notice so I'm not complaining. The roots of this plant should do well (that is, if they prove resistant to the juglone from the nearby walnut tree).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Gap Minded, Thank You

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 4, Number 3

Mind the Gap
by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

This is a very peculiar book. I don't know if it's ever happened to me before but when I finished reading this I thought to myself with a frown, "Huh. Am I going to read this again? Did I like this book? Was it any good? Was it bad? I'm......not sure."

The premise is this. Jasmine's mother is gruesomely murdered, leaving a last message for her teenage daughter, written in her own blood:

Jazz hide forever

The girl goes to ground, trying to evade capture by the sinister Uncles, a group of men who have haunted the edges of her life and her mother's. Jazz stumbles into a hidden world beneath the London Underground, taking refuge in forgotten bomb shelters and finding sanctuary with the ghosts that inhabit the deeps.

The book is equal parts mystery, fantasy, and coming-of-age story. This blending of genres felt a little uncomfortable to me - it felt at times like Stephen King trying to write a historical romance, or maybe Judy Blume trying her hand at a comic strip. I couldn't really put my finger on what it was that left me unsatisfied, but I think I like my fantasy to be fantastical, and I like my murder mystery mundane. In this book, worlds collided.

Many things are very well done indeed. The descriptions of the underworld, while not ponderously written, or terribly complicated, do give an impression of weight and claustrophobia to the reader. A lot of the scenes take place in the tunnels, and I could almost hear the water dripping, see the spectral light of a bare bulb, or smell the staleness in the sealed shelters.

Jazz takes up with a band of child thieves, led by a gentlemanly old scoundrel called Fagan......I mean, Fowler. She is mentored by another boy, Cadge, a roguish pickpocket who teaches her the tricks of his trade. The Dodger - oops, I mean Cadge - trains her well, until she is ready to perform the big heist on the Maylie's.....make that Mayor Bromwell's house.

Sure, it was a little derivative. It didn't bother me too much, however: there's nothing new under the sun. What did bother me was a feeling that the motives, the backstory of the novel, when these are finally brought to light, should have been explored more fully. I can't decide if it's a bad thing or a good thing, to be left wanting more at the end of a novel. This book was 400 pages - I wanted it to be 700. The plot, mostly in ghostly flashback form, really goes back to the 1940's, and it would have been great to have presented this backstory in more detail, and possibly even concurrently to the present-day sequences.

I'll tell you something weird. I saw the weaknesses of this book easily, but I couldn't put it down. I stood at the stove, stirring cheese sauce for my kids' lunch, reading. I took it with me when I biked downtown to meet my friend for coffee, on the off-chance that she'd be late and I could get a chapter in. I sat amidst piles of laundry unfolded, stacks of dishes unwashed, and a lace shawl partially knitted, and read this book to the last page.

Mind the Gap - strange book. Quite grisly - I wouldn't hand it to a tween for a bit of summer reading. It starts off with a shudder of revulsion, goes into quite a long, violence-free pause, then suddenly assaults your inner eye again with macabre sequences of appalling brutality. It's a bit unnerving.

Mind the Gap gets:

Reread? Yes
Given to Others? Yes - well, loaned...I don't think I'll buy copies as gifts or anything
Bookplate? No.

So, surprisingly, it ends up with a score of


By the way, I'll be posting sporadically as my long lost brother, Travelling Mack, has arrived with his family from the States. He'll be staying for a few weeks and we're all planning a lot of day trips, several afternoons at the outdoor pool, more than our fair share of barbecuing, and a good many hours of gabbing. It won't leave much time for posting, but that doesn't mean I don't love you.

Dear Mr President

You are a putz.

Did I entitle this post "Yo, Bush"? No, I didn't. And did I say "Hey, Georgie"? No, I didn't.

Because we speak respectfully to people here in THIS THING WE CALL A SOCIETY.

That is all: thank you for your attention.

A Canadian who thinks you are a putz but who still refers to you by your proper title.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008