Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seemingly Inchoate Post

The post yesterday was a big lie - I queued it up weeks ago and put some random date on it. The truth is I am not in any shape to go to a shop, thrift or otherwise - I am vilely sick, with a horrid cold and a pernicious cough. I spent Thursday and most of Friday curled into the fetal position in bed, shivering and hacking and filling up two wastebaskets with Kleenex.

To make matters worse, the only thing I had to read was the world's most depressing novel, which I doggedly kept at, sure it could only get better. I was so, so wrong. I'll tell you more about that later.

I have lost my senses of smell and taste, so am taking this opportunity to eat vegetables which I normally abhor, drink appallingly sour unsweetened fruit smoothies of powerful vitamin density, and pound back shots of garlic juice.

My daughters are miserably sick and the youngest one is clinging on to me and crying fractiously, "Mama, 'nuggle", incessantly.

Mr HalfSoledBoots is treating us like lepers, constantly Lysoling the doorknobs, and muttering about flu shots (which we don't get).

I was too sick to knit Thursday or Friday, but did some work on Fern today. It's coming along beautifully. No pictures because the camera is all the way across the room.

I had a great time at my brother's place, centre of contagion notwithstanding. Actually I think I was Patient Zero, since my lungs started feeling "weird" on the very day we arrived, when everyone else was still perfectly healthy. Out of the fourteen of us that were in the house, not a single one remains untouched by the Dreaded Lurgy. We have all been huddled under our duvets of pain for a week now, give or take.

I read a book last week - a good book. Yann Martel told me about it. It was maybe the best book I've read in fifteen years. In this book I found a word I had never seen before. That's AMAZING because, not to boast or anything, but there aren't many words, in common usage, that I have not heard. The word is lour.

I tried to look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary but it turns out you have to subscribe to look up words in the OED online, and a subscription costs a mere $295 per year. Or if you can't commit to that you can just pay $29.95 monthly.

Words are important, don't get me wrong, but.....maybe not that important.

Which brings me to - I once had a brilliant plan to steal the entire 20 volume OED from the UVic library, using 9 co-conspirators, five different emergency escapes, and the basement fire alarm. Then a few nights later we would return them through the book drop. Only a geek could appreciate the humour of this plan - startled librarians checking in restricted books that you can't take out the front doors without getting locked down, and baffled classics students trying to figure out what boustrophodon is without the go-to resource......ha ha ha - it still gets me. Nobody would agree to help me out, though, and I regretfully decided that stealing two volumes just didn't have the same kind of punch.

I think I'm going to go make myself a new pillowcase. I picked up some fabric when I was away and I could really use a lift during these dark days.

Hopefully when I return, I'll have something useful to post.

But maybe don't count on it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Out and About

Back to the thrift shop today, where the sight of these did my heart good:

I won't tell you whether I bought them or not.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Out and About

I'm going to be awake all night wondering whether the spelling error on this t-shirt is unintentional - stupidity - or a deliberate irony on the part of the producers - subtlety.

....and the close-up, in case you missed it:

At the moment I'm leaning toward stupidity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Warm Fuzzies.

Aw, y'all are so sweet! Thank you for being so staunch in your defense of my right to post about knitting. You made me all verklempt. (Well, I'm just joking about that part. I'm not actually crying.)

Today is a special day. One year ago on this very day, our little Piper slithered into the world, probably hogging more than his fair share of placenta, and already claimed by us. Happy birthday, buddy!

What a sterling visage.

And in Sheltie Appreciation Part II, Messy Tuesday is visible - thanks to Anna who commanded I post more messy pictures, to cheer her up. Look behind the dog, friends - that's my living room. I usually crop those bits out.

I have some jobs to do today - mostly involving cleaning up getting ready to leave tomorrow for a week-long family visit. I won't be blogging until I get back, so you can just wander through the archives if you're looking for something to distract you from your own life.

Here is the promised picture of my first bobbin of singles.....ain't it pretty? I realised I forgot to take a picture of the fibre, so I'll have to do that for next time.

Everyone else seems to take pictures of their spinning using a dime for scale, so here is the Bluenose to provide a little perspective.

I'm off to Postes Canada Post now, to mail this:

and then I will be absent until next week. (Barring a Friday post I've got queued up - isn't scheduled publishing wonderful?)

Kiss Kiss

Monday, February 16, 2009

V's Baby Hats

One of my roommates from university days is expecting her first baby in the next couple of weeks. She doesn't read the blog, but saw on Facebook that I knit a lot and asked me to make her a yellow hat as a keepsake for the new baby. I was so excited for her - even when we were living together in 1997 she was unable to have children. All these years later, what she thought would never be, has happened - I'm almost as happy as she is.

I wanted it to be a gift from me but she refused, shuddering at the crassness of asking for her own baby gift, and insisted on sending me money. I immediately decided that she'd be getting not just the yellow hat she'd wanted, but a pink and a blue one too.

The yellow one came together fast. I like it but I did briefly wonder whether it was a little too feminine for a gender-neutral the end I figured it was fine - if there's a dude around who can carry off a picot-edged bonnet, he is definitely a newborn.

Note: Hat title links are to the Ravelry project page.

Yellow Hat
Yarn: Mandarin Petit 100% cotton
Needle: 3mm bamboo circular, magic loop
Pattern: No pattern, but based on a baby hat I saw on the web somewhere. It's a simple picot cast-on, a bit of garter, and one eyelet row. I used a five-point decrease for the crown.

Pink Hat
Yarn: Lana Grossa New Cotton, 60% cotton, 40% microfiber
Needle: 4mm bamboo circular, magic loop
Pattern: No pattern. Made up a travelling rib using yarnovers as the increase and SSK as the decrease. Crown decreases in pattern to a swirl top.

Blue Hat
Yarn: Patons Bumblebee Baby Cotton, 100% cotton
Needle: 3.5mm bamboo circular, magic loop
Pattern: No pattern. Moss stitch with a four-point double-decrease every row to make a square top.

I love crown decreases.

Those finished, I wanted to make a cuddlier one, a hat that would really keep the little blighter warm. I took some Classic Al from the stash, leftovers from my father-in-law's Christmas sweater, and cast on some rib to knit this:

White Hat
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Classic Al (50% Alpaca, 50% Merino)
Needle: 4 and 4.5mm bamboo circulars, magic loop
Pattern: No pattern. Used a closed cable from Continuous Cables, changed it up a bit to fit a rib better. Crown decreases in pattern to a four-stitch i-cord for three inches. I-cord is knotted to finish.

Crown decreases and i-cord.

I'm a little bit pleased with myself for coming up with a way to make the cables flow up through the crown decreases and into the i-cord with no's very gratifying that it worked out, first time too. I am writing up the pattern for this hat and once I figure out how to do up the chart for download, I'll post it here on the blog. It's such a cute little thing, I couldn't just keep it all to myself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I've been doing a lot of knitting lately - more than you'd think, from reading the blog. I was over at my friend's a few weeks ago and she remarked that she had been to my blog and was happy to see I had posted, until she saw it was knitting. She heaped scorn on me. She scathed me.

It put me off blogging about knitting, but then I realised there wasn't much to talk about if I didn't talk about that, and got over it.

I'm making Ruby a third sweater - she lives in Ottawa, she needs 'em - and my uncles chose Mason-Dixon's Fern. Fern is a beautiful sweater, maybe the nicest child's sweater I've seen yet. The original is knit in Jamieson & Smith Spindrift, a 2-ply 100% wool - non-washable. For this family, machine-wash is a must, so I needed to sub the yarn.

Some crocuses for you, to break up all this knit-talk.

The problem is, Jamieson & Smith Spindrift comes in eleventy-one subtle colours, six of which are used in Fern - four different greens, a brown, and a turquoise. All of the colours are gorgeous, heathered shades, muted and harmonious. Once I started looking around for a different yarn, I realised just how rare it is to find those colours in a washable yarn.

So I needed to find a yarn that:
1- is washable
2- is heathered
3- is not too scratchy
4- has at least four shades of green, all complementary
5- cost $55 or less for the whole works.

The planning page from my knotebook.

Suffice it to say, I had a terrible time finding something. I thought I had it with Sisu, a sock yarn in quite a few solid, woodsy colours. I was so confident about that yarn, I even budgeted for it during the planning phase. But Sisu yarns are too clear - they have all been bleached before being dyed, and without the heathered look they just looked so unrefined and clumsy. Plus they didn't have a turquoise.

In the end - and this yarn search took me the better part of six weeks - I found Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine. The only thing this yarn was missing to be a perfect match was two shades of green that were in the original sweater. By this time, though, I was desperate to cast on, so I just swapped in an earthy purple, willy-nilly, for one of the greens. For the other, driven as I was to the last ditch, I threw in a skein of Estelle's Arequipa (Rav link) sock yarn in a variegated green, which happens to contain almost all the other colours in the sweater. I was way over budget by this time, but Who Cares? Chances are I'm going to have a fair bit of at least a few of these colours left over, and socks they shall become.

This photo was taken in bright sunlight. The yarns are actually a lot more muted than they appear here.

I've finally cast this on, and being that it's knit on 2.75mm and 3mm needles, I expect it will take me a while to complete. The knitted fabric, though, is heaven...I wish someone would pay me to make MYSELF a sweater out of fingering weight alpaca on 3mm needles.
Spinning continues to thrill me, and Marianne* and I have made firm friends with each other. I'm spinning an 80% merino, 20% silk top on a high ratio to try for a lightweight yarn I can make lace out of. It's purple. So far I'm enjoying spinning the singles so much, I don't even care if the resulting yarn is knittable (judging from the Beginning Spinners' Group on Ravelry, the chances of my first yarn being knittable is about a thousand to one against).
Marianne Dashwood is the name of my spinning wheel. What....didn't you know all wheels have names?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Out, About

I was in a local thrift shop today, looking through the vinyl records, as is my wont. It's like being in my Grandma's house again, with the Normal Luboff Choir and Glenn Miller and Jim Nabors.
This was my personal favourite from today - what a stirring cover. It brings a tear to the eye...if I was an Indiginous person, I'd be swelling with pride. It's especially nice to see such a historically accurate example of Native American tribal dress.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good Things Come

She was waiting for me when I got to the door, not sure at first that I had the right apartment. "Hello!" she called with a smile, hand held out in my direction. I took it and she drew me into her home, repeating my name to herself, just to be sure she'd remember.

"Come through!" she said, leading me through the kitchen into the living room, "and leave your shoes on."

I stepped through and admired - but didn't comment on - the gorgeous view of the harbour, visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The living room was kind of small and I didn't want to sit without being asked, but we were busy chatting anyhow.

"Well here it is," she said, "It's a beautiful wheel and I can't believe I'm selling it for so little...but I just can't see anymore."

"Oh," I breathed, "it really is so beautiful."

"It's solid walnut, and so is the Lazy Kate. I had one of those Australian wheels but" - she frowned - "it was rubbish. It just fell apart. So I commissioned this one from an artisan in Victoria. It has a little brass plate on it, maybe you can see. It says my name, but you can just pull that off."

I bent down to read it.
Hand Crafted for
Barbara May
by Chris Clarke 1990

"Oh no, of course I won't do that," I said, appalled at the thought. "It should stay there."

"Now I told you on the phone about my son the violinist," she reminded me, as if I'd forgotten, "who died five years ago. Well a few months after he died I lost my sight. I woke up blind. It's the diabetes, it's a terrible thing. And I'm eighty now." She leaned close to the wheel, peering at it, and fumbled with the little hook, trying to show me where it belonged. "And I used to spin and knit and weave and everything! Well I can see some colours now, but....."

She straightened up and handed the hook to me, shaking her head in annoyance. "Here, maybe you can do it. You should put that in your pocket, and this bit too," handing me the tension key and string, "so you don't lose them."

She turned to the table, where a pair of carders lay next to a folded umbrella swift. "You can have these too," she said, "And there's a pound of wool. You should card it again before you use it. I was going to spin this and knit my daughter a dress, but... And, oh, you can have this if you like. It's one of those Australian Lazy Kates - just rubbish, you can have it for a couple of dollars. At least you'll get a few extra bobbins out of it."

"Oh," I said, taking it in my hand, "I think this is Ashford."

"Yes. See," she went on, "it's like the wheels - just made of any old wood, fir or something....but I got mine made of walnut."

"I can imagine you'll be sad to part with it," I said, my heart wrung, "But I assure you I will take such good care of it...and I'll love it so much. My daughter is seven and she knows how to spin on a drop spindle but I'll be able to teach her on this wheel now."

"Oh that will be lovely," she smiled at me, "and you enjoy your time with your children, it was the best time of my life. I had five children and I made for all of them, and they were always at my house with their lonely friends who had no mothers at just be there for your children and they'll never forget it, for the rest of their lives."

"It's too bad we don't have time for a cup of tea. There's a gentleman coming at 3.30, from Family Life to take me for a walk. He usually comes on Wednesdays but it's Saturday today, I guess he was busy."

I glanced at the clock. It was a little after 2.00.

Before my arms were full of spinning wheel I gave her, to her delight, a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. She squeezed me back, hard, and thanked me as I was thanking her.

It was a long drive home - lots of time to think about how differently people value things. I'm so very happy with my beautiful new wheel, and I'm glad it has history that I know about, have heard about first hand. And I'm so sad for Barbara, artist, mother, and maker, who can see some colours now but not the wool in her hands or the view from her beautiful windows.

It's hard to take something from her, even though she was ready to sell it, that had meant so much to her. I know I'll honour her by using it and loving it, but it breaks my heart that she is shut out of that world now.

I comfort myself with the thought that, if she had passed away before selling the wheel, it might have ended up with someone who didn't know its worth - maybe sold as simply a decorative piece of furniture. I'm glad I was blessed enough to meet her, listen to her story, and give her wheel a new home. My hours spent with this beautiful piece, creating things to warm and clothe my loved ones, will mean more to me this way - will be a tribute to her passion for the craft, as well as my own.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Stitched in Time

Erudite Mondays at Half Soled Boots

Volume 8 Number 1
by Alicia Paulson

Alicia Paulson writes the blog Posie Gets Cozy, and if you haven't been there you must visit. (After you finish here, of course.)

Stitched in Time, her first paper and ink offering, is full of sewing and embroidery projects designed to commemorate little moments in our lives. Alicia's philosophy is that something beautiful and whimsical need not also be durable - the finished objects are meant to be pretty, and special, without being required to last for generations. Not that they won't - her birthday banner, for example, would be around for a good long time.

Peppermint-heart Garland

There are quite a few family-picture projects, where you use photo fabric and a printer to transfer people's images to couch pillows, or coasters. The items I like best, though, are the useful little things, such as the cupcake potholder or the recipe apron, that I could see transforming my daily tasks without making a big fuss.

The birthday banner, mentioned above, is one of my favourite projects in the whole book. I already have some fabric scraps assembled and, with the addition of a few fat quarters from the quilting shop, they'll make a beautiful banner for the girls' special days.

My friend Karen once said to me, during a long night-time drive, that her goal for her creative journey was just to make her surroundings beautiful - whether it be in the form of a window box full of geraniums, a hand-knit afghan, or a lace edging on the kitchen curtains. I was struck with the contentment of this image - that she wanted to simply be, in her world, where she had made everything nice.

Since then, I have adopted that goal as my own - to make what I can, to make it unique and as beautiful as possible, and to be conscious of the works of my hands. Stitched in Time is a perfect book for my shelf, with its simplicity, and its cheerful ideas. It is a tribute to the beauty of the daily and the humble and, in this frantic world, there is no more admirable subject.

Family Tree.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Out and About

You'd think it would be one or the other.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What Lies Beneath

It's been a long time since I did a Messy Tuesday post, but I have a problem I need help with. See this?

It's my stove. I've been keeping it kind of tidy recently but the stovetop isn't the problem......I know it's time - and past time - for me to pull that sucker out and clean behind it. We've been living in this house four years and it's never been done.

Normally I'd do it myself, but this poor old thing has no feet. Its little foot-screw-thingies are sitting on bits of folded cardboard so they don't puncture the linoleum, (it was a TEMPORARY measure when we moved in - we were supposed to buy another stove but it turned out this thing went like a house on fire - it was just old) so I can't just walk or drag the stove out of its slot - it has to be lifted.

I'm preternaturally strong, of course, but even I can't single-handedly lift a 25+ year old stove from a spot between counter and wall, where it is wedged with a half-inch of clearance.

So I need help.

But if I ask for help, the person who helps me is going to see something.

They are going to see all the things that have gone down the side of the stove since we moved in.

And I am clumsy and tend to drop things, so this person will see the following:

-at least one dessicated waffle
-at least two dessicated pancakes
-several bits of pasta
-a tablespoon of peppercorns (you'd think those would have rolled out the bottom but I think they are caught in the squares of the waffle)
-some drips of various sauces
-probably some things I don't even know about

Mum's out - too clean. My friend is out - too clean. My sister - not here. Also too clean. My husband - I'm too proud. What I NEED, really, is one of you to help me, since you guys know just how bad a housekeeper I am and nothing will surprise you.

Any volunteers?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

No, the unnaturally white teeth weird me out too. I'm just so used to actors having them, anything normal looks downright amber.

Speaking of white teeth, DO watch the vid, it's less than five minutes long...I'm so glad YouTube had this or I would have had to buy the DVDs just to see it again.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Somebody stop me.

You know what's weird? When I watch a movie from earlier than, say, 2001, I can't get over how yellow everyone's teeth are. Take a look at Michelle Pfeiffer in Midsummer Night's Dream, for example. And I just watched Groundhog Day, and stared at Andie MacDowell's mouth the entire time.