Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Plethora of Projects

Just because I’ve been maundering on about gardening and historical characters doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting a bit of work done in the fiber division. In fact, totting up the projects, I suspect some springtime restlessness or something is going on.
There are now 3 finished skeins of cria, and nearly two bobbins more ready to ply. And dang, I’m getting a bit bored with it, gorgeous as it is.

I’ve started the neck steek for my Autumn Rose, and I’m on the foot of my first Pamina sock.

I also started a length of tatted lace, a nice easy-to-memorize pattern, so I can take it outside and work while Julia’s prowling, now that there’s a chance I can go out without mitts on.

And I got back to the cross-stitch I started and then abandoned earlier this winter. It struck me that if I want to have it done in time to exhibit for the fairs this fall, I had better get back to it. It does strike me as ironic, though, that my biggest issue in a stitchery of a cat is keeping the (actual) cat hair out of it.

The lace will likely also go to the fairs. Once summer comes, there will be less time to work on things, so entries have to be thought about over the winter. I had a lot of knitting but not much else for handwork last year, so I want more of a variety this time.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Defying the Weather

There was a bit of a conversation on Ravelry the other day on pet peeves – things you’d like to say but don’t. One person mentioned how she hated talking about the weather, and someone else said not to talk to Canadians, then. Well, it’s true. We do talk about the weather a lot, we even joke about the fact that we do. Maybe we just like it as a nice neutral way to start a conversation. Maybe it has to do with the fact most of the country can have such extremes of temperature. It’s definitely a richer subject for conversation when it has such variety, and we’re always having to (or wanting to) think about the next season.

Right now I’m commiserating with a friend and fellow gardener about the cold and wind this past week after that nice warm spell. The gardeners are itching to get out and start doing something – she’s trying to apply dormant oil, which needs to go on when the day is above freezing. I got out this weekend and did some cleaning in the gardens. Despite the cold, guess what? My rhubarb is coming up!

(I always think it looks a bit odd coming up. Red and greeny-white streaked, some years it looks more like flesh than a plant.) And there are buds in the daffodils and scylla and hyacinths. See, the scylla are even showing some blue!
Another week and I'll have flowers. Less than a month and I'll be eating rhubarb. Not bad considering April doesn't start until Friday.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

History – Up Close and Personal

The other week I took a collection of the Monck family letters and diaries out of the library. Monck, otherwise known as Viscount Stanley, was the Governor-General of Canada in the mid-1860’s, one of the faces behind Confederation, and the collection covered this period, from 1863-1868. Sounds dry and dull, no? But it was a surprisingly funny read. The family all seem to have had a rather astonishing sense of humour, and wrote very little about politics, except in passing.

The upshot of this is that as well as getting an interesting look at social life in Quebec and the Canadian perspectives on the ongoing war across the border in the States, I saw a side of the revered politicians of the day they don’t teach us in school.

Take Sir J.A. MacDonald, for instance. Prime Minister of Canada, Father of Confederation, etc. Monck’s niece reports in her journal, “John A. MacDonald is always drunk now, I am sorry to say, and when someone went to his room the other night, they found him in his night shirt, with a railway rug thrown over him, practicing Hamlet before a looking glass.” She mentions elsewhere, of Sir George-Etienne Cartier at a party, “I sang “The Cure” and most of the gentlemen danced it. Cartier jumped higher than anyone.” Further, of another gentleman, “Major Brice’s dancing is not to be forgotten, hopping with his thumbs en l’air.
So much for stodgy officers and politicos. Can you picture Harper drunk and declaiming Hamlet in a nightshirt? Or Ignatieff and Layton dancing wildly and hopping up and down with thumbs in the air? Sure, and I’d pay to see it!

The army were a constant at Quebec, and seem to have been involved in all sorts of entertainments, from tobogganing parties to theatricals. Often a good thing, sometimes not so much. Gov.-Gen. Monck, writing to his son who was at school in England, noted, “Mama had an evening reception last night which was ‘numerously and fashionably’ attended. We had the band of the Rifle Brigade to play, and they gratified our ears very much. I cannot say much for their effect on our noses, as the esprit de corps was rather strong.” Excellent punster, Monck.

I suspect I would have remembered more of History classes in school if we’d had a few such human touches between the names and dates.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Presenting Snowdrop

Maybe it was having both the snow and the snowdrops the weekend before I finished it, but somehow Snowdrop seems the right name for the shawl (well, shawlette). Winter white, kind of a snowy pattern on the upper part, something a bit more floral on the edge.

I was kind of wondering how the points would turn out and all, but it worked.

Stats: almost 300 m/361 yd of laceweight silk/cashmere (1 ball Diamond Luxury silk/cashmere, with a few meters left), 4 mm circular needles, finished size 37” wingspan by 19” deep ( I think a bit bigger might have been nice, maybe I'll make that adjustment when I write up the pattern). Bound off loosely using the (K2tog, slip stitch back on left needle, repeat), which gave enough room to stretch the points – I was a bit worried about that part, kept checking during bind off, but it couldn’t have been better.
I must say, doing all the figuring for this, I think I am getting much better at reading and understanding lace. Excited to use this success as a take off point for more lace design.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


1. For spring. I dreamed the hyacinths and scylla were blooming last night, woke up to a wind chill of -10C. Someone up there has forgotten to check the calendar.

2. For my shawl to be done (almost there, I should be blocking tonight!)

3. To get spinning the cria finished. Three skeins done, and I picked a bunch more over yesterday while watching "Fiddler on the Roof".
4. To hear from my job interview, which won't be until about a week from now. But if I get it, things will be moving fast after that. I just hate the limbo part.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Out to the parents’ for the weekend – an 1843 farmhouse on a hill, with a woodstove doing most of the heating. Hung the laundry out on the line Saturday, as the sun was shining bright and the wind was blowing the woodsmoke away from the clothesline. My aunt sent 4 braided rugs for me to mend – her daughter is being married this summer, and the reception will be at their home. She wants it to look nice, but my aunt has neither the time, inclination or skill for most needlework. I had her crochet curtains to mend a while ago also.

The signs of spring continue to increase. Mom found the first flowers of the year, can you imagine? Snowdrops, hiding under a pile of leaf mulch. The geese were honking overhead while I hung the laundry out, and the chickens were all happily strolling about the lawn and clucking, cleaning up the seeds under the bird feeders. And the barbecue was shoveled out and used for the first time this year. (It's basically a large stone fireplace shaped a bit like an easy chair. Wood-burning, not charcoal, and the results are seriously tasty.)

Of course the weather went nasty again Monday, all rain and snow, but you don't mind so much now. It'll all be gone again soon.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Green and Go

Top of the mornin' and a Happy St. Paddy's to all. Almost forgot that was today, I had a bit of news yesterday that drove all other concerns out.

Yesterday was grey outside, nothing good in the job postings, and I went home feeling as grey as the weather, and bought myself a Cadbury Creme egg because I wanted chocolate.

The message light on the phone was blinking when I got home. I've got a job interview Monday! And I won't jinx anything by saying where, but I'm super excited, because this is for something I've wanted to do for years. I will admit the cat thought I was going loopy for a few minutes, and came over very concerned to know why I was making those noises and whether this would affect her snack ;) More excited than nervous so far, just so much to do in the next few days - studying, and deciding what to wear, and everything!

If I drank, I suppose this would be the night to go out and do it. But I don't, and tomorrow will be Irish enough, being it's the theme of our Fiber Spa day tomorrow. But I think I will go out knitting tonight after errands. I wonder if there's anything green in the stash I can cast on?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

News on the Knitting Front

Because, y’know, it’s kind of a knit blog, but it’s been a few days since fiber got mentioned. I’ve been busy, honest! I started a shawl…

The yarn is some I had extra from a Christmas project, beautiful laceweight silk and cashmere from the Diamond Luxury collection. I’m kind of doing my own pattern for it – what’s showing is the blueberry motif (super easy) from Nancy Bush’s book on Estonian shawls, and I’ll put a nice edge on it. I also managed to whip up two pairs of fingerless mitts from project scraps, and they’ll go to the Etsy store.

Not that getting all that out of the way has diminished my stash much. Besides taking advantage of the sale at Knit-Knackers last weekend to the extent of two balls of laceweight merino/silk and one of sock yarn, I was just gifted with a ball of undyed merino/silk roving from a friend, as a thank you for babysitting. Yes, she’s a knitter and dyer, so she knows what I like!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different…

OK, so that’s Monty Python popping up again. But seriously, I’m taking a bit of a plunge. As of yesterday, I have an Etsy shop, Wayside Weeds and Wool. I’ve kind of been thinking of this off and on for a couple of years, but what with graduate school, and all, it wasn’t really something I had the time to set up and maintain. Now I’m out, but the job hunting has been slow. I’ve taken time this winter to write a few knitting patterns, and have ideas for a dozen more. There’s rather an excess of natural-dyed and hand-spun yarns kicking about in the apartment, and since the fall I’ve sold several knitted articles, at the Guild sale and to other people, so I’m thinking I’m just going to enlarge the audience for all this a bit. Spring is a good time to start -  if people like the natural-dyed yarns, I can restock when plants start growing over the summer. And if it doesn’t take off? Well, I’m out a few dollars for listings fees, and that’s about it. I’m kind of excited, actually. I’d love to be able to make this a permanent thing, and this is the first step.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Give ‘Em an Inch…

One thing you have to say about Northern climates – as soon as the vegetation can possibly get going, it does. Really, it’s encouraging. I mean, look at this. It’s mid-March in Ottawa. I suspect that thanks to the snowplow, I won’t see the garden under that pile until June unless I shovel it out.
The front lawn is still very much snow-covered, despite the influence of a few days of rain and relatively warm weather. But note how fast the snow has melted off close to the building.
Can you see near the arrow? There’s a bit of green. Look closer. There’s this.
And this.

And these.

My bulbs are coming up! The green ones are daffodils and the red ones are tulips! And I can see where the hyacinths are poking up a bit further on!
Spring is so exciting that way. I mean, maybe people in warm climates have it easier, but how would you get this thrill there? Every day something new will be happening now, and I love watching it, every year.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Revisiting Monty Python

On my last library run, I swung by the video section and picked up a couple things. One was an old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers, “Shall We Dance”, and one was Monty Python live at the Hollywood Bowl. I was introduced to Monty Python back in college, and watched every one I could get my hands on during undergrad. I hadn’t seen any for a while though, so I wanted to revisit an old friend. Well, I remembered most of the sketches – the Silly Walks, and the Whizzo Chocolate Company, and ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK’. For some reason though, this one had completely escaped my memory – how, I don’t know.

Unfortunately, the rhythm of my spinning wheel fits it very well. It’s been popping up in my head at intervals ever since.

Mental comment 1: The making love in a canoe thing? Makes a good joke, but I suspect it would be rather impractical IRL. Besides cramped space and benches, I can just see it being very easy to tip the canoe and then have to scramble to retrieve your clothes before they sink. And the lifejackets would get in the way.

Mental comment 2: The line '...just as sloshed as Schlegel.' was genius. Try saying it five times fast. Now think of what it would sound like if you were drinking.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A Family of Bookworms

I was down to my parent’s place this past weekend, as the cat and I both like to have a visit to the country every couple of weeks, catch up on what’s new and interesting. My parents are currently redoing the TV room, which also includes the computer, games, puzzles and books. That is, the part of the books that is not my personal collection, or the random stuff in crocks and cupboards, or the magazine archives, or most of the how-to books. It’s funny how I always realized we were maybe more than average readers in the family – it was not and is still not unusual for dinner conversation to be completely absent because everyone is reading at the table – but it never quite hit me how many books we’ve managed to accumulate. Mom and I spent part of Saturday going through the books to see what we might get rid of, as Dad wanted to see if we could clear some shelf space for him to use for filing. We went through old university texts of Dad’s, novels, children’s books, comics, local history, dictionaries and phrase books, gardening books…you name it.

A couple hours later, we had 6 boxes of books to donate at the second-hand store, plus some puzzles and games, and some stuff set aside for my aunt’s children. Now those 6 boxes do not represent more than, say, a quarter of the total of the books in the TV room, and that room has maybe, maybe, a quarter of the books in the house. They get read, and re-read, and on top of that, Dad and I still make good inroads on the public library, I have my stash at the apartment, Mom trades books with her sister, and my sibs do a fair bit of reading too. Almost makes me wonder how we manage to get anything else done.

Sunday, we boiled up a pot of walnut husks and chestnut hulls and onion skins to dye old sheeting. Mom is going to weave a rug to go with the TV room's new look. It;s going to be very cool. Pictures, though, will have to wait until my next trip.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Brilliance in Action

A couple summers ago, I dyed a bunch of fleece with logwood and indigo, and got it all carded together on a drum carder to make nice tweedy batts. I finally finished spinning and plying it, counted the yardage and decided there's enough for a sweater. I think it's going to be this one.
So I set the twist, and then noticed one of the skeins looked a bit funny. Most of them looked like this:

One of them looked like this:

It was still all kinky and hadn't smoothed out at all. Now occasionally I try to ply something in the wrong direction, so I checked and that wasn't (quite) the issue here. Turns out I spun one of the singles S-twist and one Z-twist. Yep. And didn't notice anything wrong before this. Some days ya wouldn't think I managed to make it through grad school, eh? Now I'm going to have to take the plies apart and ply each one to itself if I want a decent yarn. Good thing I wasn't planning on starting the sweater right away! 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Fiber Spa Fridays

Tomorrow is Friday, and that means spinning day!
In the Fall, several of us got together to do some natural dyeing, and it ended up as a weekly event, now known as Fiber Spa, complete with pot-luck. When it got too cold to do the dyeing out in our hostess's garage, (and most of us had used up our available fleece and yarn), we switched over to spinning and knitting and crocheting...always accompanied by good food, lots of laughs, and an appreciative audience to show off our work to.
We missed last week, thanks to the storm that wasn't there (predicted 10 cm of snow, actual fall closer to 3mm), so I'm looking forward to it. Now Spring is coming, plans for next season's dyeing are beginning, and so far it looks like indigo fermentation and wood chips and bark are on the list. Such simple things keep us happy, eh - really, where else would you find people excited over pots of sawdust and things that smell like stale urine? 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Last spring, my mother decided that she would like to get some heritage-type chickens for our yearly meat/egg replenishment, and since a friend of hers was hatching some, that's what she got.

Not the best as meat birds (very slow growers), but very pretty, all different colors, and she kept a few for eggs. There appears to be some Chantecler and some Auracana (sp?) blood in the mix. Which latter means we're getting...
Green eggs. And sort of olive ones also. I think I need to see about some ham (but pink, not green), just so I can tell people that I had green eggs and ham for breakfast.
My Autumn Rose progresses, albeit slowly. Julia helps by holding my book open.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

New Challenge

The last couple of years, I've been a member of the local weaving and spinning guild. This year, they're doing challenges, and I've signed up to do the spinning one. The basic idea is that everyone gets  an identical 150g (or a multiple thereof) package of fibers, and has to turn it into a finished object. It's going to be really neat to see what different final products come from different people, as I've seen happen in similar challenges for quilters.
Part of the challenge, when we were initially discussing this idea, was to have a chance maybe to work with fibers you hadn't before, and experiment with how they behaved. I've tried quite a range of different things, though, and as I've been thinking about this, I'm planning to challenge myself in a couple other ways.
- Fine spinning. The cria is probably the thinnest I've done, so I want to spin laceweight for this also. Plus I only asked for 1 package, so spinning fine will get me more yards of yarn to play with.
- Shaded dyeing. I saw a really neat dye technique where you roll it all the yarn up in a ball and dye it like that so the color will shade from dark at one end to light at the other - or from one shade to another if you redo it starting from the opposite end with a different color.
- Lace design. I haven't done a lot of lace knitting, but I am liking it, and I'm challenging myself to design a lace shawl that will use this shaded yarn. It would end up with the center one color and the edges shading to another, which I think would be really pretty.

So I've started working on the lace design, even though I haven't even gotten the fiber yet. It's tougher than I thought, probably because I can almost picture what I want, but it's the figuring out how to convert from brain to product that's getting me. If all goes well, it will have buds and blossoms on it, shaded light rose to deep cerise/magenta, and I'm going to call it 'Crimson and Clover'. I was listening to the song last week, and it does fit what I want to do. And I want a title, because the finished challenge projects are going to be displayed at the MVTM - the textile museum in Almonte - which will be pretty cool.