Monday, 23 May 2016

(Mostly) About the Gardening

A three-day holiday weekend with warm weather - so definitely what you might call a busman's holiday for me, naturally. I've been out in the garden all three days, besides one trip to buy plants, and one to a friend's to do a little help with her garden weeding and clean-up. But really, how can you resist being out in such nice weather?

I got all my plants in the ground and the planters, except the still tiny things from seed. Man, I've been adding a lot this year. It didn't really hit me until I saw the pile of plant tags.

The biggest garden splurge this year, however, was good old-fashioned manure. And a serious shout-out to Manotick Gardens, who delivered the stuff on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. I finally had a chance to call on Saturday to order, and the woman on the phone said, 'You're not getting it today.' I said, no, that was fine, if I had wanted it for today I would have called earlier in the week. Frankly, I was just glad the office was open so I could order. Then she said, 'How's Sunday?' What, like tomorrow? Hell, yeah. Deal. And sure enough, yesterday evening I came home to a cubic yard of 5-year-old local manure. Which proved to be enough to top-dress everything in the place, down to my planters, so I am thrilled. And all the plants look great against the dark-brown background, laid on like a mulch.

Even pre-manuring, though, things were looking nice, and I spend half the time outside admiring flowers. Pure white apple blossom:

The lilacs and the ground phlox end up nearly the same color:

Veronica whitleyi is in full bloom. It's a ground cover, low and grey-green most of the season but a carpet of blue-purple right now:

The bleeding heart, I think, will look good behind the euonymus, once it's established itself and gotten bigger:

With all this, of course, the knitting is going slowly, but I have hopes of getting some good work done today on the diamond-patterned gloves on the needles - the afternoon is supposed to be pretty hot, so indoor pursuits sound like a good idea.

Sad news from home, though. Turns out we were overly optimistic about the prognosis for the dog's Lyme disease. She did perk up for a while, but then started going downhill again, and the vet said the Lyme had damaged her bone marrow and she wasn't producing red blood cells anymore. No cure for that, poor Vicky, and I don't think she'll be around when I get to the country for Jo's alpaca shearing bee next week.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Not Quite Friday the 13th

Another Saturday off, loving it, despite the fact the weather's turning chilly again, and I will have to bring my plants back in and hope that the fruit blossoms don't get frozen.

Coolest thing this week (although I didn't get a picture): we saw a fox one morning across the road from one of our jobs. Just walking through someone's front yard in the Alta Vista area. I do love that aspect of working outside in the mornings. It's quiet, and you never know what you will see!

I was rather wondering what yesterday would bring, being Friday the 13th, and rain predicted. But I would say it was rather good for a 'bad-luck' day. Sure it rained, but only a few hours, and we were warm and dry by the end of the day's work. And I am rejoicing, just a little, because it was the last day for one of the new garden guys - he has decided on a nursery job. And another new gardener starts Monday, a woman this time, so I am being cautiously optimistic. It sounds really sexist to say it, but really, in three seasons and something like 9 other gardeners and students I've worked with, the guys have been very disappointing compared to the girls, in terms of combined speed and ability. I expect there are good male gardeners out there, but I haven't met them!

Just to round out a nice Friday the 13th, my tax return arrived (with an adjustment in my favour even!) and my lettuce is up, and the lilacs and my little apple tree are starting to bloom.

My Hypnosis socks are finally finished, so that is exciting. Even if I can't wear them until after fair season, because I want to enter them in the fair. I am tempted to make something else for myself (after the gloves for Johanne's stash I cast on the other day), but I know I need to start prep for shows and such...we shall see.

Oh, and good news on our side, at least, from the Fort Mac fires. People are starting to go back home, and my cousin reports that things look better than they did on the news, and in particular, his truck and buildings are safe and sound. Plus there's now lots of work for him in helping with rebuilding.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Spring Scramble

First three weeks of work already done, and busy - we did two Saturdays in a row, and having yesterday off felt like a luxury. So much free time! Two new faces on the garden crew and both, um, not up to the speed of our other (amazing) gardener, who has been helping out with the lawn stuff as well as gardening this spring. This week there was some improvement, so with any luck we won't be running behind all season...Only I'm waiting to see how this works out when one has grass allergies and back pain, and one has pollen allergies and can't kneel for long because of pins in one ankle.

Most of the back bed I wanted to rearrange is done and replanted. What's left is mostly the things that have come from a greenhouse and are still being hardened off. Mom was nice enough to take my wish list with her to a local plant sale at a horticulture school, and brought me piles of pretty things - a fragrant white clematis with a purple centre, and some liatris for the back bed, a ninebark and a fuzzy annual lamb's-ears for the front, and a bunch of things for a planter in yellows and whites - variegated ivy, daisies and coreopsis, New Guinea impatiens, and lantana, plus a few herbs. And since my veg bed is now free, I may just put in my lettuce today.

Knitting pace, of course, slows significantly now we're working. Especially since I'm nodding off in the bus half the time when I could be knitting. But I'm now on the leg of my second sock, and I did a pair of mitts for Johanne's pile, with duplicate-stitched roses on a diamond trellis background.

The cat let me sleep in until 7:30 this morning, presumably as a Mother's Day present, which was much appreciated, since a friend and I went out to contra dancing last night, and bedtime was late. Yesterday it was 5:30 when I gave up the battle and got out of bed, but it was such a lovely morning I forgave her, and went out and gardened for a few hours after breakfast. Actually, I kind of felt sorry for the people who were still asleep and missing the birds twittering, the mild air, and the sweeps of geese going north against the morning sky.

Such a contrast to what it must be in Alberta. I'm keeping an eye on the news from Fort Mac wildfires. A cousin and his family live (lived?) there. They got out safely, but financially it will be awful for them - his work truck and all his equipment left behind, and the two buildings he had bought as an investment (and was still paying for) - not to mention all the personal stuff lost. And to think it will be essentially a whole town in the same boat. It's been great to hear of so many people stepping up to help the evacuees though.

Friday, 15 April 2016


The chiengora scarf I was working on is done, shipped and received.

Now I'm trying to get my quilt square done this weekend, and working on my Hypnosis socks, which are coming along slowly (I'm still on the first sock).

And since it's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend weather-wise, there will be garden time. I want to re-arrange the back garden here, maybe turn the compost (if it's thawed), plus all the plants I was holding over the winter for a friend get dug up and go back to her this weekend.

It's kind of a warm-up and finish-everything-else idea for the weekend, because work starts Monday. Well, I suppose it's about time. It will be nice to get back to work, once I get used to the waking-up-early part again.

I tell you though, one thing I'm going to be doing more of this year is checking for ticks. I've been lucky so far, and never had one. Not sure how prevalent they are in the Ottawa area, even. But my parents aren't that far away, in southern Quebec, about two hours from here, and the tick situation seems to be getting bad there. Several people in their area have been diagnosed with Lyme in the past few years, one probably from a bite months, if not a year, earlier. Both parents and almost all the pets have had ticks, and get checked almost daily. This was a warm winter, with lots of mice around (which are carriers), and the first ticks on the pets showed up before the snow was off the ground. And one of those ticks gave the dog Lyme disease. She was all lethargic and not eating, and seemed in pain, so Mom took her to the vet. And this one vet said she's seen 13 cases of dogs with Lyme so far this spring.

It's treatable, especially if caught early - the poor dog is on antibiotics and vitamins, and is starting to feel better. But obviously the ticks are out there already, hungry, and infectious. So please, keep your eyes open. Check yourself and your pets. Save your ticks if you get them, so they can be tested if necessary. Watch for symptoms in yourself and your pets. Untreated Lyme can cause permanent damage, and it's not pleasant. The Canadian Lyme Foundation is a good place to start for info on prevention, symptoms, and treatment.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Little Bit of Everything

So what about this weather? Can't make up its mind - Easter Sunday it was so warm I sat out on the porch at the parents' in a t-shirt and bare feet and was too hot, then it got cold again this week, and today it's snowing. My library pile, with books on famous English gardens at Sissinghurst and Munstead, seems a nice escape from the snow.

The preparations for spring are moving forward, though. Clean-up outside is mostly done. My seeds have all arrived, and all the windowsills are occupied by flats (spaced so the cat can still jump up in her usual places, though). The zinnias and salpiglossis are up already, and I check the window boxes more often than I check my e-mails, waiting for the next little plants. I feel really happy about the salpiglossis, since they haven't had a textbook life so far. The package said they had to be sprouted in the dark for 20 days at 80 F. Well, I wrapped them in black plastic and put them in the windowsill right by the stove, since I couldn't think of any other way to keep them warm. After less than a week (!) they were up, tiny, pale,  spindly things, so I thought they might be better off with light, and switched the black plastic for clear. And promptly managed to drop the flat upside-down while putting it back on the windowsill. But there were still seedlings on top, in the soil, when I turned it back over - thank goodness for that bag I had over it - so I thought no harm in seeing if they'll live. And they are - they are bigger and they have little green leaves, so all is well!

Assorted items done: Got things up in my Etsy store again - and this time they are set up to auto-renew if they expire. Yay, because I'm really bad at paying attention to that little job. Got my taxes done today. Finalized the garden plans I made for Liz last spring (she had a busy year too, so it wasn't like she was twiddling her thumbs waiting on me), and did some estimating for a patio a friend wants.

Work hasn't started yet, except for our first job of the season, which was building a garden at the Home and Garden show the other week. We took a day and a half to do the planting, between deciding how things would look best, and juggling the plan when some plants didn't show up in good condition. Trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs in bloom, we had it all, in a stone and wood backyard patio setting the construction team built. I was worried tear-down would be a long job also, but it went like a team of army ants had gotten in. Three hours only, and we kept all the plants for use this summer.

A treat Easter Monday - a whole flock of Bohemian waxwings showed up and hung around for a while, eating the little crabapples on a tree in the front yard at the parents'. Gorgeous birds, and watching them eat crabapples is a hoot. They were eating them whole, but if the apple is too big...bird opens beak wide, apple slides down, bird closes beak, apple slides back up!

There has been fibre stuff going on as well, of course. Mitts for the ranch store, and now I'm on an interesting project; a request for a chiengora lace scarf. The dog is more of a hair than a fur type, so I mixed it with half Romney wool, spun a couple bobbins of fairly fine 2-ply, and now it's on the needles in an Estonian floral lace pattern.

The mitts are both from a book by Solveig Larsson, and it is a lovely book.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Spring On The Way

Baby socks for a friend of my sister's, finished this week just a little after the baby made her appearance:

Little people, and now little plants. Several days of mild weather means the snow is retreating, and in its wake, the daffodils in front of the building are coming up already.

And that means I have to get my act together and order seeds. I don't usually do that - it's a small garden, and what I need can usually be assembled from what I save myself plus some extras from my mother, and the occasional purchase at the store or garden center.

This year, however, I got a catalogue from Heritage Harvest Seeds in Manitoba when I was demo-ing at the Farm Show last week, and I couldn't resist. Plus I have a gift certificate from Stokes that should be used. So I've been hemming and hawing over decisions. Flowers from Stokes, veg from Heritage, that was pretty straightforward.

After that...well, there's less varieties for a lot of the veg, but Heritage has something like 200 types of tomato, and I have space for maybe 6 plants, so no point getting more than one type. I settled on Forme de Coeur, a nice multipurpose, productive, Quebec heirloom. But I could have had anything from White Currant (cream colored and half the size of a cherry tomato) to Ferris Wheel (where a slice is bigger than a piece of bread), or Silvery Fir Tree with delicate ferny foliage as well as nice fruit, or red-and-yellow-streaked hollow stuffing tomatoes, or a long-term keeper that ripens from the inside out... Deciding on beans was just as hard, but I ended up with 2 dual-purpose (fresh or dried) ones - Blue Jay, a green bean with navy blue and beige seeds, and Dragon Tongue, a yellow wax bean with purple-streaked pods and purple-striped beige seeds.

And it will be nice to have some pretty annuals to start from seed and pop in gaps in the beds for colour. I'm getting multicoloured zinnias and pink and cream celosia, and multicolored painted tongue (salpiglossis), which I've always liked the look of but never tried. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

3 FOs and a 30-Year Photo

My sister and her partner Erik made it down to the parents' to visit this past week, so my brother and I both took time to visit also. First time in over a year I think we've all three been there together. And in chatting over the supper table, somehow the subject of family photos came up, and someone mentioned the time we all went to get one taken at the photography studio in Malone (which, even though it's in a different country, is actually the closest place we had a movie theatre or a large library or chain restaurants or such things). And then the notion of recreating it came up. So we did - kind of. Mom found the old picture, and my sister even managed to find the same little teddy bear she had been holding in that photo, and we all headed for the living room couch with Erik for our photographer.

So this is us, roughly 30 years ago, based on how old us kids look in the picture. (Apologies for the flash).

And now you get this.

Teddy is obviously the one who's changed the least!

Our generation is the one with kids now. My knitting for the visit included two baby sweaters - one for my sister to give to a friend who is expecting, and one in handspun for a cousin's baby. And I finally cast off  the shawl that's been on the needles for a while!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Looking Through a Window

Snowing like blazes out. I need to make a milk run later, but I think I will postpone the library run for a day or two.

One of the books I had out this round is the diary of a parson in late 18th C England. I love things like this - they're a fascinating look at the everyday life of the time and place. Pepys' diary is well known as being full of detail (although I must admit I didn't finish that - it was too full of details of his affairs with other women and fights with his wife and servants). Parson Woodforde is calmer, and of course rural rather than urban, but still full of detail.

We hear about his worries and annoyances over the frequency with which his brother comes home drunk, and we learn about the ubiquity and cheapness of alcohol in the era - one party where he hosts 5 others they go through madeira and port, beer, cider, and ale at dinner, and then arrac punch and port wine after supper - 8 bottles of port total for the night, beside the rest. Travelling, he records that a glass of wine at an inn is 3p, and at the parsonage he has gin and whiskey delivered by the barrel by a local smuggler, but brews his own beer and mead. He is also proud of his farm, and we see his barley, butter, and apples being sold or gifted.

We see the going rates for servants - from 2 to 10 pounds per year for live-in people (who get food, board and clothing paid for), and a shilling a day for outside hired labour (with 20 shillings in a pound).

The market town is 2 hours ride away, and they get letters and newspapers there, but people come around selling also. The cloth-peddler often gets good custom there - on one occasion he pays over three pounds to the peddler, buying gown material for his servant girls, waistcoat material for the men, and morning coat material and lining for himself.

Travelling is slow, and if you visit, you stay for a while. On the rare occasions he visits his sister and family, it takes a few days to get there, plus they usually stop in London to shop and see the sights when passing through. He is away from home for several months for such a visit, and with shopping and travelling expenses and tips, it can cost 70-80 pounds (out of his yearly tithe collection of maybe 260 pounds).

Charity, and giving money or goods, is a constant thing. From sending a piece of veal or a shilling to a sick parishioner, hosting Christmas dinner for several local old men and women, giving sixpences to beggars, to donating to a relief fund for the poor during a particularly cold winter, to giving pennies to children on Valentine's Day, his money is always going out.

Medicines are basic. Rhubarb (a purgative or laxative, I think) is as commonly mentioned or used as aspirin or tylenol nowadays. Basilicum ointment and blistering are also used, among others. On one occasion when his niece is feeling ill, the doctor recommends she drink 2 pints of wine daily.

The parsonage is thatched but apparently not insulated, as in cold weather it can be frigid. He records days where the apples freeze indoors and the chamber pots upstairs as well. And yet it is the rare day he records that he has his bed warmed or a fire in the bedroom, while noting that he slept badly because of the cold. You would think he would take a hint and warm the bed at least. I know from experience it helps!

There are the thousand and one other things that make daily life interesting as well. News of the war (England is at odds with America, France and the Dutch during this period)and the accompanying tax hikes, of local alarms (his neighbor's dog, thought to be mad, escaped and bit a number of animals and a person before being caught and killed), of special events (a concert of Handel's music in the cathedral, or rubbernecking with 5000 other people when the king and his family come to visit a local lord), and social issues (his maid is found to be pregnant, and swears to the magistrate about the father's identity, which meant the man in question would be put in jail until he paid a large fine or married the girl).

Altogether, it was a lovely wander through a bygone era!

Friday, 12 February 2016

New Word and New Project

Staying inside hunkered down and knitting rather than going out in the cold? We now have a word for that. The husband of someone on Ravelry described her as 'hiberknitting'. I like it. 

This morning I carded the rest of the white wool I'm working on - 2 skeins' worth, which means I should be done tomorrow, since my target is 1 skein per day. 

The rest of my projects, I'm feeling a little less enthusiastic about, it seems. I settled down after supper last night to do some work on the shawl in progress, and did a few rows, but it really wasn't holding me. The rows are getting long, and there are no real changes to the 4-row repeat until I get to the border.

I didn't want to work on my cross-stitch. I didn't want to sew on the quilt square. I didn't want to get into picking or carding. All this work to do and nothing I wanted to do. Really, rather ridiculous. Something new and exciting was clearly indicated. And it's been over a year since I knit anything for me. So I pulled out the skein of sock yarn I bought at Rhinebeck 2014 from Hudson Valley Sheep And Wool Company, rolled it into a ball, and surfed on Ravelry for a bit. I'm going to make me a pair of Hypnosis socks. 

But I think I will do toe-up instead of top-down, and make them a bit longer in the leg. That should keep me entertained for a while!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pick, Card, Spin, Repeat

February project goal: get the fleece from my aunt's sheep all spun, so I can knit the baby sweater she wants for her son's firstborn. This is going to be a job. Part is still white, part is already dyed. The white is going first. I got the picking done, and filled a bag with it, now I've started on the carding and spinning. I figure as long as I'm spinning it, I might as well spin all of it, not just what I think I need for the sweater.

Based on how fast the level in the bag is going down as I card, I figure it'll be 7-8 skeins of white total. (There may be a few darker hairs in the white, though, since someone has decided she likes to help keep the fluff from escaping while I card.)

Then will come the fun of the coloured stuff! I figure by then I will be happy to spin something not white, so royal blue and taupe will be a treat.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Real Applesauce

Sunday is often a day to make food for me, and today is no exception. The bread is rising beside the radiator, and I soaked beans last night for a crockpot of chili that will be supper tonight. And I'm making applesauce, which I've been meaning to do for a while. I even brought real apples back from the parents' last time I was down for that specific reason.

I know, they're not the prettiest apples at this time of year, but that's kind of the point. They're apples from a tree belonging to someone my mother does the gardening for. The tree had a bumper crop, and since the owner is only around on weekends, he let her bring a bunch home. Like 2 bushels. And random homegrown apples make the best sauce and pie. Some years all the semi-wild stuff in our bush does really well, and we use those. No idea what they are, each tree is different - you sample a few and gather the best ones. No sprays or anything means they're maybe spotty or bumpy (these look a bit like I kicked them all the way here) - and after a few months, getting wrinkly - but you peel 'em and cut out the bad bits, and cook 'em, and you get something that is to store-bought applesauce what a sirloin steak is to a McDonald's hamburger.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

On the Needles and On My Mind

The fish mittens are completed as of yesterday morning. Also, the second pair, with cats, are well started despite several tinkings (because I get distracted reading, and forget something crucial like colour changes). So definitely on track to get both pairs done and delivered for the 11th.

End results of the January spinning attempt to destash: 4 skeins alpaca-silk to Johanne, 1 skein mohair to Constance, and 4 assorted skeins in my basket - from top to bottom, a mouse-brown mohair/Romney x Leicester blend, some white Jacob, kid mohair, and yearling mohair.

February's goal will be to get the spinning done for a baby sweater on the list - the white fleece for the body is mostly picked but needs carding and spinning, then there are the dyed bits of fleece for the yoke to pick, card, and spin. That will be the focus after the mittens are done.

I have been bringing home copies of Vav magazine from our Guild library, less because I weave than because they have great articles and occasionally something way inspiring that could transfer to knitting. Right now I'm crushing on textiles from Skane, and a 3-shaft weaving from Bosarp which I think has some major possibilities as a knit:

I do love traditional textile patterns and history, and have a number of books and magazines with motifs and knits from many countries, mostly European. But it struck me the other day that there is very little from the Netherlands that I've seen. It would be nice to have more information on something more in my heritage. My mother is Dutch, and she knits, her mother knit, the relatives in Holland knit (and sent mittens to her family when she was growing up.) There is certainly a knitting tradition there - what little information I turned up in a few searches mentions guilds, and glove exports, and damask knitting, and old photos show people knitting (often what looks like socks, and hey, there's a Dutch Heel). I know I saw an article on knit lace caps also. One book mentioned in passing that colorwork motifs were limited, small and geometric. But with a plethora of books on Baltic and Scandinavian, and Shetland knitting, the only ones on Holland I could find are of fishermen's ganseys, which are nice - but where's the rest? Wouldn't a country with sailors habitually travelling to other countries with strong knitting traditions have brought back some souvenirs that might have been copied and elaborated on? And despite the stereotype of hard-working Dutch practicality, I can't see that a people whose folk costume has starched lace bonnets, gold ornaments, and ribbon trim would have only knit plain things. Where are the colourful mittens, the clocked socks? I need to do some investigation.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Day of Rip and Re-knit

I should be knitting - I've got two pair of mittens to make for someone - but I needed to take a break and play on Ravelry and come here and whinge a bit. The first pair of mittens is being what you might call frustrating. I'm sure once I get it started properly it will be fine, but the getting started seems to be the problem.

See, they need to be a different size than the pattern is supposed to make. And normally that's basic math. Do a gauge swatch, do a little math, find out how many stitches are needed, and adjust pattern accordingly. It is not working out according to plan today. I have ripped out and restarted the mittens 4 times so far, and half the problem is that my gauge swatch was a big fat liar, giving me an extra stitch per inch. The other main problem was me missing the fact that they use a Norwegian construction where you start with less stitches on the palm side, and I was doing the calculations as if palm and back started with the same stitch count. 

So the day went like this. Start with 80 or 90 stitches, realize it's too big a cuff, rip out. Start with 72 stitches of cuff and increase to 86. Realize the increases should be part of the thumb gusset instead and rip them out. Start the pattern, realize it's divided incorrectly between palm and back of hand, rip out. Restart the pattern, realize halfway up the thumb that the mitt looks big, recheck gauge, discover your stitch count will result in a mitten too big by at least an inch, and rip out yet again. 

Sigh. That mitten had better work this time (knock wood, hopefully I've made all the mistakes now...). I will get to it right after I make a cup of tea. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Quilt Square 2016

When I did the square last year for a local quilting group's fundraiser at the fair, it was 'easy' fabrics. That is, the fabrics supplied were nice blues, one solid and one print, and it was easy to find fabrics to match with them for the square.

This year's are a little more challenging, and it will be interesting to see what everyone else produces, in their choice of colour and pattern. Because we got two prints, and one is a little...intense. The other one is uber-neutral, almost washed out. I'm betting someone destashed those because they had no idea what to do with them. The orange one, certainly - I'm not sure why anyone would have bought a large piece of it, or what they would have planned to do with it.

Both my mother and I decided we wanted to tone it down a little, and anyway, the only orange material in stash was too red to work with the colour on the large print. After a little hemming and hawing, and a rummage through the cupboards, we decided on similar-but-not-identical additions. A blue-black to match the large print, plus a colour that picks up one of the shades where other colours mix; olive in her case, burgundy-rust in mine.

The flowers on my orange-print square were centred enough that I thought it might be nice to try and keep them as a centre motif, so I looked for a pattern that would be fairly simple and have a large central piece. And I found this one:

Black for the corners, beige and red for the triangles, and the orange stuff for the centre. I think it'll work. Now to draft the pieces.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Filling the Gap

It feels like this has been a super-productive weekend. Besides teaching a spinning class at L'Ourse Qui Danse ranch, I managed to finish off and deliver two fairly large projects. The first was a sweater going to a client of the ranch, so she will get it in time for her birthday next week.

Pattern base was Pioneer from Knitty, with mods to account for different gauge, stitch pattern, and sleeve length. It makes life so much easier when the client has measurements close to my own - so easy to try on and check things. Especially when it's a large, fitted item like said sweater.

Came home from the ranch yesterday and knitted all evening, and finished off the second project, a lace shawl (#28 lace shawl from Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2012). Yarn, an alpaca/silk laceweight dyed with blackberry canes. Blocked it before bed, and it was dry in the morning, photographed after breakfast, and delivered this afternoon.

I normally block lace on the bed or the carpet at the apartment, but since I was out at the parents', it wasn't an option. Beds were all in use overnight, and there's no carpeting. Mom had the brilliant idea, though, to block on the TV room rug. Not only is it the only rug in the place large enough for a shawl, but the TV room is right above the kitchen and the woodstove, and heat rises. It's the warmest room in the house, so the shawl dried quickly, even sandwiched between towels and flannel sheets (I covered it to prevent any feline 'help' overnight, especially since Gail has taken to misbehaving in baskets in the TV room).

Now I have a few days' gap to poke at projects that are not commissions, and it feels a little peculiar. First time since early November I haven't been knitting a commission. Thursday I'm meeting with someone to choose patterns and colours for a couple pairs of mittens. Until then there will be spinning, and some work on a pattern I've been promising myself will get done soon, especially since I have a couple test knitters lined up already. And I want to start this year's quilt square for the fair - Mom and I chose fabrics this afternoon, and I think I know the pattern I want.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Fight Against Distractions

I'm falling behind on the spinning...there's some kid mohair on the wheel, and I do a little every day, but not much.

Nominally, that's because I have a knitting deadline coming up. A sweater, in bicolour half-linen stitch, which I want to be done by Saturday. The first sleeve was finished this morning, so one sleeve and the neckline trim left (the picture was taken a couple days ago).

But half-linen stitch, in fingering weight, is, um, boring after a while. And I should be spinning when I need a break, I know, but I have another distraction. I'm puzzling. I like doing puzzles, and I got this one for Christmas.

So I do a bit of that when I get tired of knitting...then a little more....and the time slips away too damn fast. (I told you about the time I got so caught up in a puzzle I let the woodstove go out, and sat there wondering why it was so cold in the house, right?) Next thing I know, an hour's gone, my tea is cold, and the knitting isn't getting done. Time to exercise some willpower (and set a timer). Because when that puzzle's done? There are more. A friend of a friend was destashing, and several of her puzzles came home with me...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

More Spinning

I'm feeling reasonably productive with the spinning. The beige cria/silk for Johanne was plied Friday afternoon, washed Saturday, and dry and measured this morning. Total of 287 yards of 2-ply in beige (the two skeins shown) and 532 yards in the brown.

The third skein in the picture is yesterday's work. I spent the day picking, carding, and spinning a small skein of mohair from some fibre I was given on commission. I lost a lot in the picking process that was too felted or too short to salvage. It turned out to be only 68 yards of 2-ply in the end, maybe sport-weight, but at least it is enough for the owner to do something with it. And it is very nicely white and shiny, even if it wasn't the softest mohair. I was thinking I could add some mohair from my stash if necessary - if it looked like there wouldn't be much to spin after picking. But I didn't, so I guess today's spinning can be some nice kid mohair roving...

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Old Year Out and New Year In

We did have our dusting of snow before Christmas, just in time to cut the tree - then a meltdown and the rather astonishing fact of Christmas eve being something like 16C, warm enough to go out without coat and mittens after dark, warm enough to not need the stove on at all. And warm enough to find a few flowers in the garden and have a tiny bouquet on the holiday table, something new in my experience. I mean, really, who expects flowers here in late December? But the lamium was blooming and the hellebore in bud.

The snow came two days later, starting as rain. The ground stayed soft long enough for the sad necessity of the day, burying our older dog. He had some sort of attack Christmas night, and lost most of the use of his back end as well as his desire to eat. We helped him drink, and stretchered him outside and held him up for calls of nature for the day after that (two sweatshirts, two hockey sticks, and two or three people required - not the usual use for one's first-aid training), and he didn't suffer much. Sad to see him go, but glad it was fairly quick and calm for his sake. It felt odd, though, having normal life flow on right afterwards, as I was headed to brunch soon after with friends I see only rarely, and then preparing to return to the city the next day.

And with normal life comes the fibre, in my case. Not that that aspect was absent over the holidays, with a pair of leg warmers to knit and ship, and my brother's special glove liners to knit. Oh, the time we had with those liners. He traced his gloves and measured it all - in centimetres, if you please. Only he left out a few measurements I wanted, and a phone call didn't really help, since I ended up with some numbers that didn't add up. So I waited until he came home on the 23rd, did my own dang measuring, and knitted them up. In laceweight black cashmere. But they turned out well, only I didn't think to take pictures. But the sketch will be handy for another time.

I fought with a lined hat next. I always seem to fight with hats. No matter how carefully I measure head and gauge, they end up too loose or too tight. In this case it was the latter, and I had to rip back most of the hat and redo it, since I had started from the crown. Then the brim was flaring and that had to be fixed. But it is now mostly done. (At least, I know what I need to change next time!)

First project of the new year was another (quicker) hat, for a commission, and now there's a shawl (also commissioned) on the needles. I kind of love the hat, because it matches my normal hairstyle and colour.

But my focus is shifting towards spinning for the rest of the month. Heather of hellomello and I decided last fall we would do a little destashing SAL. New Years' revolutions instead of resolutions. And I'm a little slow off the mark, but I have managed to get a bobbin spun and two plied of Jo's cria/silk blend, and the second bag of the stuff is started. Now I just have to see about getting set up on Instagram to share my progress ;)