Tuesday, September 30, 2008
But one good thing that has come out of the Canadian Arts crisis is Yann Martel's remarkable crusade to elucidate and......well, enculture the PM. He's been mailing a book to S.H. every two weeks since April 2007, inscribed and accompanied by a letter. Yann Martel is, of course, the author of Life of Pi - his letters, all of which appear on the website linked above, are fascinating. Each contains little notes: some on what Martel finds most intriguing about a certain work, some on the motivation of a character, or on a literary device used by the author.
I, for one, think that if it's good enough for Yann Martel to send to the PM, it's good enough to make it onto my must-read list. I'm going to order some of these from the library, and plunge right in. Maybe Harper and I will start an online book-club.....I'll keep you posted.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I've been meaning to talk about Lisa Lloyd's A Fine Fleece ever since I first peeked into it, but have been busy with other things til now.
This book is one of those ones that you pick up skeptically, expecting to find a few interesting things, maybe some pretty pictures, but not much useful, concrete information. In fact, I almost didn't bother reading it. Happily, I changed my mind - it's one of the most beautifully conceived, artfully designed, and downright inspiring knitting books I've read in at least two years.
A Fine Fleece has a picture of a drop spindle on the front. There's a niddy-noddy, too, and a cup full of locks of some kind of fibre, and a small photo of two girls in sweaters. Judging by the cover, and by the subtitle which is "knitting with handspun yarns", I didn't think I'd get much out of it, not being (at that time) a spinner.
In fact this book is full of gorgeous patterns. GORGEOUS. There are stunning Arans, including a Starmore-inspired Celtic jobbie named "St Patrick". There is a lovely, quiet gansey. There are vests, scarves, hats, socks - there is texture, colour, and quality on every page.
Lisa Lloyd has come up with a great concept - she shows each design in both a handspun yarn and a factory yarn...and with that, a little door in your mind flings open and your inner voice says "HOLD ON. This knitting thing could be so much more." It's really remarkable, the differences between these two sweater samples. (And, interestingly? every single blooming time, the handspun wins, hands down.)
Each sweater includes details on the fiber used for the handspun version. Lloyd tells you what percentage was used of which fibers, and talks a little bit about what made her choose them, as well as characteristics of the finished yarn. She brings life to the sweaters in the book and makes you want to try spinning for yourself...and not just spinning, but KNITTING your handspun.
I have tried to pick a favourite pattern, to no avail. I like the one called Rhinebeck. I like Fylingdales, the oversized, seed-stitch-and-rope-cable cardy. There's a beautiful sweater named Town and Country, with a tiny, four-stitch honeycomb pattern for the hem, and an option for pullover or cardigan. Two Hearts, the last design, is lovely.
If you are a knitter, there is more than plenty here to keep you busy. You could just buy it for the patterns and never trouble your head about all that folderol at the beginning, about sheep breeds and colour blending and micron counts. But if your heart belongs to yarn, I have a feeling that you will be drawn to the backstory - descriptions of the animals, details about their fleece, and methods for preparing it. As a knitter, once I read this book I realised that from yarn shop to needles to blocking board to closet is just the last four chapters of the story - I had Chapters 26 through 30, but was missing 1 through 25. This book makes you want to turn back...if not to the title page, at least to the halfway point. I can't breed sheep in my backyard, but I can definitely learn to spin, and spin intentionally...and this book tells me how to get started. As Lloyd says, "...the path from knitter to spinner is, in many ways, inevitable."
Bring it on - I'm ready.
A Fine Fleece gets
Given to Others: Yes. I already have at least two friends who want copies for Christmas.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
win·some. Pronunciation: \ˈwin(t)-səm\ Function: adjective Etymology: Middle English winsum, from Old English wynsum Date: before 12th century
1 : generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence
There's a little growing room in there - never a bad thing.
She looks like Helena Bonham Carter, don't you think?
And little Ruby, in these lovely pictures, has done what so many other children failed to do - she has made me all broody. I'm only 34, after all, and I always did want one with dark hair...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
because I am so very, very sick. Just today I came down with a screaming virus - I mean to say, a virus that is loud, proud, and means business, not a virus who shrieks. I'm supposed to meet someone important tomorrow for lunch and at this rate I am not, definitely I am not, going to make it.
So if I'm supposed to meet you tomorrow, you know who you are, and if I don't show up, I am so very very sorry. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that I feel worse about it than you do. Plus I'd hate to pass this bug along - it's a real beyotch.
And to all the girls who went to Fun Knits with me yesterday - I really hope I didn't breathe on you. Karen, I hugged you on Wednesday at knitting - I apologise. Maybe you should take some echinacea.
Friday, September 19, 2008
The Hole, roughly mended to keep the raw edges from unravelling during repair.
The Book. Full of useful knowledge and pretty ideas. I must keep an eye out for this one, for my own library.
The Patch. Stitched in DMC 223, 224 and 3347. Made up as I went along, trying to follow the instructions for "Spiderweb Stitch" and failing miserably, but still coming up with a pretty flower, so all's well that ends well.
And here's a progress shot of Charlotte's stocking.
Have a good weekend - I'm off to Fun Knits tomorrow with my knitting posse. We'll be stuffing ourselves with incredible food at the Lovin' Oven and spending the grocery money on laceweight. Fun!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
"I hate it when I'm boring."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. So do I. I've been so boring lately."
- my friend and me, today.
I thought I'd show you what I'm working on lately, since I am philosophically exhausted today and find myself unable to competently review a book.
Charlotte's Christmas stocking continues. It was borne in upon me that there isn't much time left if I want this done by 25 December, and with the entire family (my side, that is) here for the day, it would be a shame if Charlotte's was the only sock left uncrossed. Even Emily has one - not as big and fancy as the others, nor personalised, but at least hers would blend in.
As you can see, I've made some progress on the toboggan - compare it to this picture from June 18 which was the last time I had anything new to show.
I have cast on a new sweater. Between the purple yarn and the pattern, I've decided to call this "Grape Jaali".
My first attempt at the back of this sweater didn't go so well. I knit the cabled strip for the hem, then turned it and picked up along the long edge to begin the body of the sweater. You're meant to fold the knitted strip in half lengthwise, and pick up through both layers at once. The instructions call for you to pick up almost 1:1 - that is, for every row, you pick up a stitch. Stitches are wider than rows are high, though, and by the time I had a bit (read, ten inches) knitted I could tell this was going nowhere. The stitches were packed in so tightly that they were almost gathered - and with the hem doubled, there wasn't enough stretch to block it out effectively. Also, it seemed like it was going to be too big for me.
I ripped, and began anew. This is the second try, and it's going much better. In case you're curious, I kept the cabled hem the same size, but picked up for the next size down - 126 stitches instead of 136 stitches. I also left the hem undoubled, and will whip-stitch it into place when I have blocked the piece to satisfaction.
And I have resurrected a five-year-old project, my very first attempt at quilting, with plans to finish this and hang it on my daughters' wall. It's not big enough for a bed and I don't have the wherewithal to make another umpteen blocks to MAKE it big enough. A wall hanging it shall be.
My favourite part of quilting is definitely the pressing, with the neat 1/4" seam allowances coming in a very, very close second.
I love miters.
I hope to buy the batting and backing, quilt this (hand-quilted, of course, with an electric needle) and finish it by the beginning of October. Doable, I think.
On the horizon is another sweater for Ruby, who this time will receive a nice thick pullover jumper in time for Christmas. Once I price the yarn, I can start that.
I'd also like to get some Latvian mittens knit this fall, but there are only so many hours in a day and I've got that pesky Ministry of Education insisting Charlotte gets educated...tchuh. Don't they know I've got STASH to deal with?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The year we got married, my mum and dad made us a quilt. Isn't that nice? They did one for each of us kids around the time we all got coupley: and the weddings went as follows.
Eldest - 1995
Youngest - 1996
Middle - 1997
So it was a hectic few years. My dad was off work due to an injury (broken neck, believe me or believe me not) during much of that time, and spent a lot of his recovery quilting. I love that.
Anyway, I am not one of those people who redecorates their house every year or two and has multiple sheet sets for each bed. I can't justify the money and the waste. But, I hadn't realised just how well-worn this quilt was until I was inspecting the fall linens in preparation for the cold weather, and saw the edge of it up close.
Ten meters of 5/8" double-fold bias tape, a little bit of pretty stitch work from the Pfaff:
and Presto! the quilt is ready for another ten years of duty.
When I was folding it up after rebinding it, I noticed two small holes in the patchwork top. I'll repair those and show them to you next week.
But in the meantime, I'd like to reflect on the concept of stewardship. I think it's one of those things that became unfashionable around the same time as marriage did - during the decades following the Second World War, when people were tired of making do and women were tired of staying home. I recall a magazine article I read in about 1982, entitled "Are You a Supermarket Miser?" It had a little quiz where you could find out if you were committing the sin of trying to save money.....sorry, I mean "pinch pennies". One of the questions was "Do you use plastic grocery bags for the trash instead of buying proper garbage bags?" The whole article was smugly tittering...you certainly got the impression that "Yes" was the wrong box to tick.
The article was written at a time when consumption was the height of fashion, when manufacturers were scrambling to make everything disposable. But you wouldn't have caught a pioneer family, or a Depression family, or a wartime family, throwing away a quilt that could be repaired for less than a half-hour's wage, or a towel that could be cut down into facecloths, or a facecloth that could be turned into a diaper, that could be turned into a rag.
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this in the last while, especially since my bike was stolen and we realised we can't actually afford to replace it. Living on one income is difficult with gas at $1.34 a liter (and we're grateful it's that low), and flour costing me $15 per 10 kilo bag. As expensive as the essentials are, though, they're not what puts us into the overdraft.
Being part of a privileged class in a privileged nation brings with it a certain carelessness when it comes to small luxuries. I remarked to my sister the other day that it would be interesting to save all our receipts for a month, then go through and highlight everything we bought that was nonessential. Every bag of chips, every tall nonfat extra-hot latte, every video rental. I think it would be a little shocking to see the total.
I have a lot of skills. I can patch jeans. I can make bulletin boards, and clothes, and muffins. I can even darn socks, though whole-wheat breadmaking remains a challenge. I may not be making a wage, but I can at least avoid spending a wage we don't have.
As I spend year after year raising my children rather than editing government audit reports, living costs climb relentlessly. Like the Elliotts, we must retrench. Part of that is fixing my quilt, sure, and part of it is buying too-short thrift-store jeans and letting them down, but most of it is attitude. There's a......yes, I would say almost a shame that comes with being careful with money, even when it's by necessity rather than by choice. I had to search, there, for a phrase that wasn't demeaning: the first things that came to mind were "cheap", "skinflint", and "miserly". It's interesting: I'm obviously a product of my generation, latchkey kids raised by two working parents who bought cookies and threw away worn linens.
Is it okay now, at the beginning of a new, expensive century, to value skills like patching and darning? Can I be proud of myself for having saved that $90 for a new quilt?
I think so. I think the world might be ready for a person who spent five years in university, then four years wearing heels to a government office and getting $60 haircuts every six weeks, to stay at home every day educating the children and patching quilts. I might not be Rosie Riveter, but I'm still doing my bit for the war.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I can do twenty pushups - proper ones, that is. I did the initial test on the One Hundred Push-ups challenge, and was moderately pleased with the results, provided I don't compare them to how many I USED to be able to do, back in my rowing days.
Anyway, I am curious as to whether I could, indeed, be doing 100 pushups in five weeks, so I think I'll give it a go. Also, belly dance starts up tonight, and I am in woefully poor shape after this very indolent summer. Not to mention I have to find something to replace biking, since I can't replace my bike.
So how many can you do? C'mon, you know you don't want to let me win.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Georgette Heyer, for the uninitiated, was a funny, shrewd, and dignified author who published between 1921 and 1973. She created the genre of Regency Romance, and her work both inspires and defies imitation. It's getting harder to find her novels, unless you count the new(ish), abhorrently-covered Harlequin printings. I won't have them in the house.
Obviously I am not the only person decluttering, because this tidy pile was sitting, pretty as you please, on the shelf at a local dingy, smoky booksellers.
Isn't that something?
They all came home with me, to join their adoptive family:
and so far I think they are adjusting well.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I have a theory, actually, that people in modern Western civilisation suffer from depression, boredom, apathy, and stress partly because they are suffering a conscious disconnect from the natural world, while still being unconsciously affected by it. If we weren't affected by its cycles, or if we were aware of them and embraced them, I think things would go a lot more smoothly for us.
Anyway, this is all to say that I've been mucking out the old HalfSoled stables, and thoroughly enjoying it. (The only problem is that spiders keep creeping in to the piles of stuff I have carefully organised and sorted, and freaking me out.)
The other day I found several cards that I had stashed on top of my bookcase. They had been sent to my children by a lovely kind blogger and I had put them up to avoid damage. I searched for an album to put them in, but to my dismay there was no room for them. What to do?
I don't know what you'd do in this case (I suspect you'd probably go buy another photo album, which would take less than an hour and cost less than ten dollars) but what I did was make my children a bulletin board for their mementos from afar. Here it is:
It's a fairly simple project, and you, too, can have one just like it (possibly not featuring Strawberry Shortcake, but to each his own). All you need is:
- a foam core board about 20" by 30"
- lightweight cotton fabric, 45" wide, approximately 1 meter
- batting cut to the same size as your foam board (I used Thinsulate because that's all I had)
- about 6 meters of 5/8" grosgrain ribbon
- hot glue
- $2,500 sewing machine to make pretty hearts. Totally worth it!
This project gives me major destashing points. I had all these things lying around, with the sole exception of the grosgrain ribbon which I bought for $0.75 per meter at a poorly lit Fabricland while REO Speedwagon serenaded me tinnily from a small radio sporting a huge, cornea-threatening antenna. (After all these years they still can't fight that feeling, in case you were wondering.)
Lay the foam board face down on the wrong side of the fabric, and trace around it. Add 2-3" on each side for wrapping and glueing, and cut out.
Baste the batting to the base fabric, keeping in the lines you marked in step 1.
Cut a pocket piece 2" longer than the base fabric, and about 8" wide. Mark the centres (by folding fabric in half) of both pieces, and then the quarters (by folding in half again).
Hem the top edge of the pocket, and lay the grosgrain ribbon along it. Stitch along both long edges of ribbon. Embellish with your very expensive sewing machine.
Lay ribbon across base fabric in a cross-hatch pattern, pinning at junctions.
Use costly sewing machine to make little embroidered hearts at junctions, to tack them down and look oh, so pretty.
Pin pocket to bottom of base fabric, matching centres, quarters, and edges, and pleating extra fullness into pocket edges as needed. Baste. Tie off all threads. Press whole shebang.
Lay fabric face down on table, place foam core board atop it. Hot glue around the back edge, wrapping the fabric tightly around the foam board as you go, to stretch the ribbons on the front. Trim and miter corners.
Turn over to admire your work and realise you've forgotten hangers. Crochet some chains and with difficulty hand-sew them to the back of the fabric, cursing yourself for doing such a very thorough job of hot-glueing.
Hang on a wall, preferably with a level.
Adorn with lovely postcards from Denmark, if you're lucky enough to have some, and if not then make do with a few woebegone photos of your family standing in front of the Grist Mill, or sitting under an orange tarp as rain hammers the campsite.
And when the craze sweeps the continent, you can say you saw it here first.
Friday, September 05, 2008
It narrowly missed my hand. PALPITATIONS, anyone? I called Mr HSB over in a faint voice, to get a look at it. Please note the similarity in diameter between the spider's leg span and the drain basket in my sink.
Not twelve hours later, I was crossing the living room floor in the dead of night, and saw another, smaller one, in the middle of the floor. Then, the next morning, I threw the kitchen window open again and ANOTHER one fell into the sink, just as it had before. Then last night, someone moved a box of donations I was gradually filling up, and Surprise! Thing Four.
I used to be afraid of them, but I got over it when I was really drunk one night at a weekend-long bachelorette party at Whistler, and in a moment of liquid courage saw fit to slap one with my bare hand. It was pretty funny at the time, not to mention a little disgusting, but the greater implication was that I realised I was more menacing than they were. Breakthrough.
And in the last part of this pointless and arbitrary post, I direct you to my sister's blog, where she and her children compose a touching poem about the many beauties and bounties of fall. (Warning - vegetarians may be disturbed.)
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Dear Asshat BikeThief:
Dear Lazy SOB:
Dear Poo Stain:
Dear Stupid Idiot:
Dear Cancerous Polyp on the Anus of Humanity:
I hope no one ever knits you anything as long as you live.
Monday, September 01, 2008
From Victoria Lace Today
by Jane Sowerby
The Ravelry entry for this shawl is here.
Cast On: January 3, 2008
Bound Off: August 30, 2008
Finished Size: 99"
Weight and Yardage: 178 grams, 1958 yards ETA: A Raveller has calculated there are 89,214 stitches in the Cap Shawl. That's a lot......a lot of stitches.
Needle: 4.5mm bamboo circular
Yarn: 3.2 balls Fiddlesticks Zephyr 50% silk, 50% merino, colour Ruby, 630 yds/2 oz (~56 g)
Yarn Source: Village Yarns, Cumberland, BC
Yarn Cost: $64
The pattern does not use directional decreases: that is, all the decreases are k2tog, even when the lace is sloping left. I used the left-leaning SSK decrease when called for as I felt it created a less choppy, more elegant line in the left branches of the crest o' the wave section.
A word on blocking circular lace. What you want to do is this: take a huge sheet, folded 4 times and centre marked, and pin it flat to a carpet. Pin a measuring tape at the centre, or you could use string, and hold a fabric marker at approximately the radius measurement of your desired finished size. Mark a perfect circle. Block to the circle, or to a consistent distance away from it. Circle perfection, and no irritating measuring and repinning.
Also, use blocking wires.
At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this shawl. I wish it were a bit more complicated, both because I was bored while knitting it, and because I like intricate lace. However, the sheer size of this mammoth shawl makes it impressive.
As to wearing it, as Annalea asked yesterday, I think it will do well with the top third folded down. It will still overlap a lot in front, but I think it'll be okay. The real problem will be storing it. I don't necessarily want it folded up somewhere between layers of tissue, but because it's a circle there's no good way to display it, unless I want to run a bunch of pins into my wall. Anyway my walls are not big enough to accommodate it - I only have an 8 foot ceiling. I guess I could buy a 100" curtain rod and hang it, in half, from that...we'll see.
Practical considerations notwithstanding, I am in love, sweet sweet love, with this shawl. You can tell by the fact that when I went to put all the photos from the memory card onto the laptop, Photoshop told me I had taken 83 pictures of my shawl. News to me.
Here are some of them, with grateful thanks to the beautiful, angelic Jen for being a good sport and modelling for me. Do click on the pictures, as they look much better when bigger.
It was quite a windy day here, and the beach seemed perfect, but it did prove a little tricky to get photos that were even moderately well focussed.
I like the motion shots though.
After a half-hour at the beach, I went home and played around in the shrubbery, lying on the grass and crouching awkwardly trying not to get the neighbour's house in the shots. I was hoping someone would notice me and come over and exclaim over the shawl, but no one did.
Yes, for you I hung my brand-new lace on two apple trees and a rhododendron...
...and let it drag on grass.
Herb garden fence, ornamented.
Thanks for all your wonderful comments yesterday. I just meant that post to be a blocking update, so I hope you can summon up the will to comment again today, on the very same piece of knitting...I like comments.