Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Week of Variety

The hideous kitchen experiment begins
This past week has had it's ups and downs.  Last weekend I decided that I couldn't stand the painted kitchen cabinets any longer.  The awful peachy pink leftover from the most recent decorating spree of the previous owners, circa late 1980 or so, was so old, worn and icky that I couldn't get it clean.  Scrubbing was a fruitless activity, since everything stuck and stained the old paint.   Plus, I really, really disliked that particular colour then, and 30 years later, it still hasn't grown on me.  

So, I had my sweetie start yanking doors off, removing all the hardware.  I scrubbed and sanded with a scrubbie, then sandpaper and steelwool.  A trip to the paint store and more work, with lots of drying time in between.   It's taking a while, but hopefully it the next week or so, I'll have some progress to show for all this work.  At least it won't be pink cupboards any more.  Now, if I could get rid of that hideous wallpaper and border.. two borders, one at the top and one mid-way on the wall no less.  the problem there is that we've no idea what is actually under that paper.  It may be a job we're not ready to undertake at this time.

I have a first generation fancy sewing machine, which does embroidery.  However the no longer supported software was originally written for Windows 3.1 and apparently the last version of the operating system to support it was XP.  So, when my computer got cranky last winter, I was no longer able to use that part of my machine.  Part of the problem is also because the software is on a 3.5 floppy and the sewing machine needs a serial port to hook up to. A friend very kindly gave me an obsolete to her laptop, which works for me.    I can digitize on the laptop, but had to resurrect the old desktop and play around to get it back working enough to transfer designs.  I got it happening however and I spent most of the day Wednesday stitching out favours for a friend.  I've since found out that there are USB/Serial hookups which could work with the laptop.  That would be awesome if it would actually work with the sewing machine as well!

I finished the second bobbin of the BFL/Nylon blend sock yarn and plied them together.  I ended up with 380 yards of yarn, which should be more than enough for both an interesting dye experiment and a decent pair of socks.

After dropping off the 23 loaves of bread I made yesterday for a friend's dinner - (that was a lot of work, so much so that I forgot to take a photo of the mounds of bread) ,  I popped into the Fibre Garden  on the way home.   It's not actually on the way home, unless I go out of my way, but well worth the trip.  May I just say that the store is filled with the most awesome fibery stuff and the boys  there are friendly, knowledgeable and fun. I spent way too much money but came home with tons of goodies.   The Russian support spindle was a difficult call.  It was a difficult choice between two different styles, this one and a slightly heavier one.  Hopefully I made the right call as I don't have a huge budget for spindles.    I also found a pound of raw Perendale fleece.  Although I'll need to wash it, it's got an amazing colour and lovely hand.  Look at that length!  I'm quite thrilled with it and it will be an interesting change from my usual choice of Shetland.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

15 minutes at a time

As I was finishing up the most recent pair of socks, I was thinking about Leigh's comment about how quickly I knit.  I don't think I'm that fast a knitter, albeit not a slow knitter either.  However, when I have a project on the go, I try to do several things to make it easier to succeed.  First, I firmly believe that one can accomplish anything 15 minutes at a time.  Some days I can only do a row or two of knitting, throw a shot or two on the loom, or sew together a single seam or such in 5 minutes and on other days I can pick up the needles, sew for much longer or weave off half a project at a time.  The point is that I try to actually work on whatever project I have on the go, for at least a couple of minutes each day.
To make knitting easier, I like to put all my materials and equipment in one place.  I have several project bags, with pockets in them.  I put my yarn, all the needles I will need, scissors, tape measure, darning needle, pattern in the bag.  I leave the bag out for easy access.  I can grab it if I'm sitting down for a cup of tea, watching a hockey game, or taking it along with me to a meeting.  It's easy to get a couple of rows done that way.   I have project bags and baskets for hand sewing, embroidery and even spinning, to allow projects to be completed in the same method of a few minutes at a time.

 That being said, while I was thinking about finishing projects, I realized that I had stalled on the current tea towel project on the loom.  As I thought about it, I realized that I really wasn't fond of any of the towels that I was producing.  I wasn't even spending the time to throw more than a few shots at a time as there was always something else which needed doing.  When I was avoiding the project to do laundry which didn't need doing or loading the dishwasher, I realized it was time to give in.  I cut off the tea towels, knotted the threads on the back, since there is still quite a bit left and will plan something new.  It was a bit of a difficult decision as I hate cutting projects off the loom.  This is only the second project I've cut off.  I've learned something from each time I've persevered and struggled through.  However, in this case, there are so many other projects queued up, that I figured it was time to give in.

I've carded up 100 grams of Superwash Blue Faced Leicester /nylon blend to be spun into sock yarn so I can try a variety of new dyeing techniques.  Since I seem to be on a sock knitting binge right now,  it would also seem timely to be spinning sock yarn.  This stuff is soft, silky and lovely to spin.  The occasional black hair is the dog, who sleeps in the room with the carder and is shedding something awful right now.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Just a little update..

 The little quilt top is done.  It's a pretty enough pattern.  I'd thought that I'd have enough of the border fabric to use as backing, but I'm slightly short.  It will only take a metre of fabric, but I've nothing that looks totally right at the moment.  Horrors of horrors, but I don't feel like fabric shopping right now.    When I do get it backed and ready to quilt, it will be the perfect size to practice fancier machine quilting techniques.
The plum tree is blooming.   We had quite the frost last night, so no idea whether it will still be in flower this afternoon, but it is pretty for the time it lasts.   The tree is fairly wild, shadowed by Cedar and Maple trees, so doesn't get enough  light or nutrients to produce more than a few small plums, which are sour.   Still, it's a glorious sign of the beauty of spring.  I'm just happy that the pear trees haven't blossomed out yet.  The pears are edible and abundant.   I've been debating trying to make perry with them this year as we've had several large harvests of small pears.  However, the past couple of springs, I've done some pretty major pruning to the younger tree and maybe this year will be the year that we get not quite so many, but larger and easier to harvest fruits.  The old tree is very old and hollow.  I fear that pruning would stress it more than necessarily.  It will have to come down soon, but until then, the pears are a delcious, old and sweet Bartlett  type and too yummy to lose if not necessary.
Scottish Traditional Dye samples by Margaret Stalker
Two nights in a row I've been to guild meetings which were energizing and inspiring.   The first was a new guild that I joined.  I've been debating this for a while as it's a bit of a long drive to get there but they are such an exciting and active group of people, that I finally broke down and joined.  The program was mechanical sock knitting machines, which was well presented but not quite an area of my interest, but the people and the projects presented were awesome.    Last night at my home guild, we had Margaret Stalker in, speaking on Traditional Tartan dyes.  It was more than fascinating.  It makes me want to veer off into deeper dye studies , play with tweeds and tartans, spin, dye and weave.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

On Cats and Gardens and Other Projects

 Yesterday my poor kitty was unhappy.  He's fairly routine oriented and his routines have been pretty much shattered of late.  I woke up yesterday to a kitty who I think was showing major signs of separation anxiety.   At one point he was actually hanging on my arm and trying to pull me toward him.  This is a cat whose human touch needs are fairly minimal.    He wanted non-stop attention and even when he'd settled a bit, if I'd move away from "my" chair, he'd give me the evil eye and stare at me until I'd sit back down.   If I didn't he come beside me and fuss.   This morning however, it has paid off and he seems to be back to his old, active, talkative self and his routines are back in place.  Now to deal with a day and a half's worth of emails and other chores.

I started a new pair of socks.  The colourway is nice enough, though I'm not sure about the pastel greeny blue colour.  If I were dyeing it, I'd have likely used purple there.  The last pair of 3/1 ribbed socks I made with 64 stitches, turned out a tad looser than I like, so I made these with only 60 stitches.  Of course they are a tad tight.  I 've had to redo the toe 3 times already, so this one better work.  I could have left the last one as it was a fitting issue.  However then the socks would have fitted my daughter, rather than myself.

Cotton seedlings are on top with the large, round leaves.
I found the small packets of cotton seeds that the Master Spinner 2 class had been given.   There were green and white cotton seeds.  Because we live in a cold climate, where cotton cannot be grown as a crop, there are no issues with growing coloured cotton here as it won't contaminate anything.  They'll pretty much be house plants anyway.. big house plants hopefully and with any luck, set a few bolls later this fall.  I've no expectations that they will produce a lot, but I hope they'll grow and survive long enough to produce something.  It could be a fun experiment. 

I'd planted Wild Indigo, but nothing has germinated.  Some Weld has germinated, but I don't know whether it was purchased seed or donated seed as I planted both.  Woad, both regular and Chinese are growing and Dyer's Knotweed seed has come up although somewhat unevenly.   The Purple Calabash and Black Cherry tomato seeds did nothing, but the Black Krim, Red Robin and Orange Sun Salad toms are doing well.  I'm a bit disappointed in the germination of the peppers as only 3 hot chili peppers germinated out of 9 pots and only 7 of the mixed colour sweet bell peppers.  Coreopsis, some herbs and some buttercrunch lettuces are doing well.  It's still too early to plant the cukes, pumpkins and zuchinnis.  Anything else I need, I'll buy.  I planned that in this year as the allure of garden centres is always too much for me to ignore.

The fabric store was having a sale of cotton yardage for $6 a metre.  I loved the black print and have been eyeing the blue with brown dots for a while.  They went nicely together and I added the others.  The little square print is an animal print which I would normally avoid like the plague, but it had the right colours and was the only thing I could find that worked.  I would normally not choose these colours for myself, but I've found that stretching colour choices can be a very good thing.   I've been wanting to make small project, just to practice machine quilting skills.  It's easier on a small quilt.  This will be a table topper, just under 1m in size. 
The blocks are half done. They still need trimming before I can assemble them.   The colours are pretty and work well together bu for the life of me, I cannot think of where I would put this piece.  I guess I'll have to wait until it's done.  I am a little ticked because although I measured at the machine, the seams are a tad too wide.  The 8 1/2 inch blocks will have to turn into 8 inch blocks.  I wonder if they still make feet compatible with this old machine as a 1/4 inch foot could be useful.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Socks and Dye days..

 A dye day had been planned at our guild, acid dyes on  protein fibres.  Long skeins for self striping sock yarn was one of the suggestions.  I was going to dye roving, but decided that spun yarn would be easier.  I started spinning the roving and realized I'd not likely be done in time.  I ended up purchasing some suitable sock yarn and skeined it into the required huge skeins on my warping board.  I did two, one 15 yard and one 12 yard skein.   Then I packed up my skeins, dye gloves, apron and checked the time I had to be there, only to find that the dye day was the day before and I had missed it.  sigh...

I did finish the bright orange socks last week.  Just when I realized that I wasn't making any progress whatsoever, on the second sock , I also realized that I hadn't knitted in a couple of days. I picked up those needles and they seemed to knit themselves.  I wonder if there are knitting elves who come to one's house in the evening to finish knitting up the easy parts of socks.  That's certainly what it felt like.  I had planned on doing the long repetitive knitting at meetings, but I ended up mainly have only the counting parts to do, which is at home knitting.  I can knit repetitvily and still pay attention, but when I have to count, it's time to pay attention to only what I'm doing.    They are certainly going to be sunshine for my feet on grey winter days.
I did get the superwash merino sock yarn spun.  I have approximately 320 yards, so I'm hoping it is enough.  I should know by now that for handspun sock yarn, I want more than 100 grams per pair.  I have more roving, so I can always spin more if I decide I want the margin of safety.  I had been worried about the yarn  being too thin.  I adjusted my thickness and while it means there are a few yards of not perfect yarn, the rest is a suitable size for socks as a two ply.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The end of March ..

March came in like a lamb and limped out like an old, faded lion.  We got snow and cold, blustery weather, but it wasn't horribly frigid cold, nor incredibly blustery or a huge dump of snow.  It was just icky.  I woke up and the cold frame was covered with snow and a bit of ice.  We had sleet, hail, ice pellets and a little bit of snow, which looked horribly out of place on a lawn which is almost green and almost long enough to need mowing in places.

The poor daffodils looked so sad.  All the incredibly early blooms were bent to the ground.  Were they doing so in a desperate bid to go back to the safety of the rich,dark earth and their cozy little bulbs or just huddling away from the nasty weather?  

The few peas I got into the garden early, liked this weather.  They have already germinated and are a bit more than an inch tall.  I'd love to get the rest of the peas in the ground, if the chooks would let me.
  The chooks were out and about in the snow.  It was starting to melt by the time I'd let them out.  Still, it was such a change from the glorious warmth of the previous weeks.  They were only putting one foot down at a time and holding the other up as if they'd stepped in something horribly yucky and uncomfortable.   They spent half of their day huddling on the deck, hoping I'd pop out and give them treats.   It was a good day to cuddle up with a book and a cup of tea, that's for sure.

Then the other day, on an errand day, I happened across one of my horrible "ooh shiney" type weaknesses.   I can look at a whole slew of antique crockery and what speaks to me is Lusterware.  It's not horrible old, nor horribly collectable and it tends to be rather inexpensive.  But I do love it, in it's variety of colours and patterns.   This small set of 6 cups and sauces was very well priced. I've not yet seen a pattern in this deep blue.  The colour is gorgeous and the pattern is unique and charming.  I was smitten and I'm happy to say, even with the new addition, there is still space in the china cabinet.