Monday, 30 August 2010

Planning Ahead

I am SO excited! I have signed up for KnitEast which will take place in St. Andrews, NB from September 30 - October 2, 2011. I have always wanted to take a class from Cat Bordhi or Lucy Neatby and on this weekend, I'm signed up for classes with both of them!!! Marion and her friend, Mary, are also taking classes and we'll share the information.

On the Saturday, I'm taking Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters with Cat Bordhi. It is a 6 hour class based on her book

I need to take '5 yards of worsted weight, excellent quality wool' and several sizes of needles, a pencil and eraser, a piece of cardboard large enough to trace my foot on (like a cereal box), scissors for cutting it out. Excellent quality sock yarn in a weight I expect to use often. There is no homework.

The next day the 6 hour Lucy Neatby class is called Mirror, Mirror; Sea Lettuce and Falling Leaves. Using practice yarn, we'll sample these three patterns and receive instruction in the many and various techniques involved in each project: i-cord cast on, elegant increases, modified conventional bind-off, picots, short rows, working from the right needle to the left (aka knitting backwards, provisional crochet cast-on, two colour double-knitting and more. I need to bring two plain, contrasting colours in Sport or Worsted Weight, appropriate needles, scissors, a crochet hook, blunt darning needle and my 'usual knitting paraphernalia. There is no homework.

Marion is signed up for both of Jane Thornley's all-day sessions: Free Range Knitting 101 and Knit a Beach. Both are based on free-form knitting where they will experiment with different yarns and textures and use guides rather than patterns.

I've booked Skip and myself at the Fairmont Algonquin where KnitEast will take place. We plan to fly out to NB a week or so before KnitEast and visit lots of my newly-found cousins, do some sight-seeing, golfing and birding.

I continue to work away on my Sea Lettuce scarf.

Tomorrow, Mo, Elaine and I are going to the Textile Museum of Canada in The Big City to see the Orenburg shawl exhibit and tour the rest of the museum. Orenburg shawls originate from the region at the southern edge of the Ural Mountains in Russia. They are knitted lace using goat hair fibre and are very warm. Very few authentic Orenburg shawls are still in existence and only one is on display at the Textile Museum. 

It was decided that we'll take the GO train so we'd have lots of time to knit.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

More Detail

I finally got some decent photos of the seacell/silk yarns I dyed last week.

On this one, I started with sky blue at the most saturated and then added water to at intervals to get lighter shades. One of the fun things about hand painting yarn is naming the colours. I'm calling this tonal one "Blue Skies".

It would work well with a lace shawl with lots of detail.

I haven't named this one. I think it was dyed with vermilion, purple and teal.

I used turquoise, spruce and lilac on this one. It will look better once I reskein it.

I tried to copy Elaine's version of these colours: chartreuse, turquoise and sun yellow. I'm calling it 'Parakeet'.

And this is my favourite, "Autumn Splendour" in its reskeined format. I has teal, russet and Aztec gold.

Reskeining involves putting the hank of yarn on my swift and winding it on my yarn winder, then rewinding it onto my swift at its maximum circumference. Thus all the colours are blended instead of appearing in swatches as they were painted.

Then at Knit Night @ Kniterary, Martina was working on a short row ruffle scarf using Jawoll Magic sock yarn in beautiful autumnal colours of yellow, orange and green (84.0059). Once home, I got onto Ravelry and found Lucy Neatby's "Sea Lettuce" scarf and bought the download on Patternfish. I had some KnitPicks Imagination Hand-Painted Fingering weight sock yarn in my stash that has 50% superwash merino wool, 25% superfine alpaca and 25% nylon. This colourway is called Seven Dwarves.

The short row stitch pattern is quite simple but Lucy uses 7 pages of notes and instructions. Ever the teacher, she methodically outlines how to do picots using the 'modified conventional bind-off', unwrapped short rows, provisional crochet cast-on and reviews the knitted cast on. I found this YouTube video for the provisional crochet cast-on because I'm not always able to decode diagrams. And I was away to the races.

There are two versions to this scarf a 20 stitch version (to be used with DK and heavier) and a 32 stitch version (for DK and lighter). The scarf gets quite heavy as the knitting of it progresses so the 32 stitch version is definitely not desirable for the heavier yarns.

I'm really liking how the adjacent picots are all different colours. The alpaca and merino content make it very snuggly - perfect for a scarf.

I finished the Provence Lace Baby Cardigan and just need to sew it together and add the buttonbands.

If I had to do it again, I would knit the 5 moss stitch button bands as I knit the fronts. I also mirrored the lace detail on the front. It is an 8 row pattern so to mirror it, I started on row 5, knit to row 8, then 1 to 4. Easy peasy.
This afternoon I went to look at an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that was for sale and in my price range. Unfortunately, as I tried it out, an annoying squeak developed and got worse and worse in spite of oiling, adding bushings to a tenon, etc. I decided to wait and see if the owner's husband, who is well versed in spinning wheel repair, could eliminate the squeak. Nothing is more annoying than a squeaky spinning wheel. It really interferes in the serene atmosphere whilst spinning. The owner was mortified that I had driven 45 minutes only to find a squeaky wheel but I assured her that I enjoyed the drive. I listened to my current book on my iPod Touch (Craig Ferguson's autobiography, "American On Purpose") and stopped for fries at the chip truck at the corner of Ramsey Road and Simcoe Street at the turn to Valentia. After having tried the Ashford single treadle, I really think I prefer a double treadle wheel after all. There's still a DT Lendrum on eBay that I'm keeping my eye on.

Too Pooped

I'm too tired to write much so I'll just post a couple of photos of what I've been up to these past couple of days.

I finished the first of Freny's socks knit with Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line yarn. I reinforced the toe with Regia 2ply, ergo the marled effect.

These colours are more accurate.

I started a Sea Lettuce scarf with KnitPicks Imagination sock yarn in Seven Dwarves colourway.

This is my "Autumn Splendour" 70% seacell/30% silk yarn that I hand-painted last week and has been re-skeined. I really like how it looks with the colours all blended.
I got my laptop back from the laptop hospital today and joy of joys, they only charged me the $39 diagnostics fee to reinstall my operating system (Windows XP) which was corrupted. My hard drive was fine and the RAM 'tested fine'. I am SO impressed with this 5 year old Toshiba satellite laptop.   It's my second one and when I buy another to replace this one, I'll start by looking at what Toshiba has to offer. But for now, I can save my pennies. Yippee!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Our Dye Day

Last September, Marion, Elaine and I participated in a yarn dyeing workshop at On The Lamb in Uxbridge. We had a wonderful time handpainting three kinds of yarn: Corriedale, seacell and a sock yarn. After our success, we decided we needed to have a dyeing day of our own and have been planning it ever since. We have been accumulating the supplies, yarns, dyes, containers, rubber gloves, dyeing pots, camp stove, propane canisters, etc. and finally found a day that the three of us were in town at the same time and available to spend the day outside dyeing yarn.

Last night, I prepared the dye solutions. The dye powders are fairly toxic and easily airborne so I used a mask and kept things pretty low down into the laundry tub.

We had 18 different colours to choose from.

The technique we used was hand painting the yarn. For the most part we used foam brushes that we'd dip into the dye solution and literally paint the yarn with the colour.

First we soaked our yarn for an hour in warm water and a squirt of Dawn dishwashing liquid. It has a surfactant that removes any sizing in the fibre and prepares it to receive the dye evenly. Then the excess water is squeezed out and the painting begins.

Here you can see Marion and Elaine hard at work. On my skein, you can see that I paint fairly narrow bands of colour and repeat the sequence all the way around the skein. This prevents stripes and pools of colour when knitted.

You will note the table is covered in plastic and we are all wearing bummy clothes. Painting yarn can be messy and is best done outdoors.

Once you've painted the one side of your skein, you need to flip it over and paint the other side so as to cover up all the white spots and the colour goes all the way through. The dye really adheres to the fibre and doesn't really bleed down through the layers so one must be careful to get all the white areas covered with colour.

These solutions yielded dark colours so they could be diluted with water for paler shades.

Here I was using Aztec Gold, Vermillion and Teal.

The next step is to sprinkle vinegar (the acid that makes the dye really 'stick') on the skein and roll the skein up in the plastic wrap long ways and then roll it up along the length like a jelly roll.

The the roll of yarn goes into a medium sized Ziploc bag.

Here some of our labelled bags of yarn are waiting to go into the steaming pot.

We steamed our yarn on Marion's camp stove she hadn't used in 20 years. Miraculously, the thing started on the first try. There were cheers of joy because our Plan B would have been to steam the yarn on the barbeque and I didn't know how well that would work. I certainly didn't want to do the steaming in my kitchen because of the toxic fumes.

A couple of inches of water is put in the bottom and heated to boiling. The bags of yarn are then placed in the pot on a steaming rack (I used a cake rack) that is raised above the level of the water in the pot by cat food tins I had on hand. The water shouldn't touch the bags of yarn.

The yarn is then steamed for an hour as it is the heat combined with the acid (vinegar) that really sets the dye. Very little pigment rinses out after the yarn is finished steaming. It is wise to avoid scalds and steam burns. Everything that comes in contact with the dye or steam can no longer be used for food so must be labelled as such. I didn't want to sacrifice my trusty kitchen tongs so the fireplace tongs were nice and long and enabled me to remove the steamy bags of yarn from the dye pot and not get scalded.

Here the bags are cooling after being taken from the pot.

After a few minutes, the yarn is dumped out of the bag and allowed to cool further until is can be handled.

It is then rinsed with a bit of Dawn to remove any excess dye. If the skein seems to be bleeding too  much dye, another rinse in water with vinegar helps arrest the bleeding.

Elaine is very pleased with today's first skein. It is very exciting to see how it actually turns out.  In one case, the colour (chartreuse) changed before our eyes when we sprinkled vinegar on it - from a medium green to almost a lime green. Chemical reactions that can be seen are a fascinating part of this process.

The water is then squeezed out of the yarn and we hung all our skeins on the fence to start drying.

Then, of course, we had to take lots of pictures of our beautiful hand painted skeins. The one on the left was just different shades of sky blue. The middle one I called "Autumn Splendour" and the one to its right I called "Parakeet".
Marion posed with all the skeins.
Then Skip came out and took a group shot.
They'll look really spiffy once completely dried and re-skeined.

It was a lot of work but the results were sure worth it. Now we have to decide what we'll knit with our lovely fingering weight hand-painted seacell yarn. We still haven't used our skeins we dyed last September. As the yarn is really one-of-a-kind, it's really hard to decide what to knit with it.

We have lots of dye left over and without too much difficulty could do a single skein at any time. The dyes last indefinitely and just need to be shaken up before the next use. The possibilities are endless.

Great news! If you want to learn to do what we did today, Ellen is offering her Dyeing to Dye class again this Saturday at On the Lamb in Uxbridge. It's $110 and includes the yarn, dyes and delicious catered lunch! Sign up today. You won't be sorry.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Family Ties

95 years ago today, on August 23, 1915,  my grandparents, Geraldine Isabelle Brown and George Renwick Anderson were married in this church in Mt. Whatley, NB near Aulac, just a few km from the Nova Scotia border.
My grandmother's family has attended this church for about 150 years and continue to do so today. Many of my ancestors are buried in the cemetery.

This is George and Geraldine circa 1916 before my mother, Muriel, their only child, came along.

They were a very handsome couple. I'm told Grandma was referred to as 'the pretty one' of the three sisters. I see why. Grandpa looks pretty dashing here, too.


Muriel arrived in 1917. Here they are circa 1920.

And many years later,  in 1954, their youngest grandchild (ahem), Geraldine was born.

Grandma was thrilled that I was named after her. I never really liked the name, Geraldine, but after my visit to New Brunswick, I realize some pretty nice people in the family were given that name. But I still prefer Geri.

Grandma and Grandpa were married for 51 years until Grandma died in 1966. Two years later Grandpa married Grandma's sister, whom we referred to as Aunt Emma. It is some of Emma's grandchildren and great-grandchildren with whom I visited last month in NB.

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa.

Time Crunch

Today I had to abandon my knitting for a while to get a book read. About three weeks ago I found Adrienne Martini's "Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously" on the New Books shelf of my local public library.  I had read about it in someone's blog and was thrilled it was available to me right away. Of course, it has sat on my desk since then because I always seem to have tons of other stuff to do. I do like to read but I find it relaxes me so much I have a tendency to doze off. Although the napping is good, it doesn't get me to the end of whatever it is that I am reading. Realizing it is due on Tuesday, I tried to renew the book but can't because someone else has put a hold on it so I had to get it read pronto. And that was my main objective today after getting back from the gym.

I finished the book at about 11pm. In it, Martini writes about her experience acquiring the pattern and yarn for an out-of-print knitting pattern for the very intricate Alice Starmore Fair Isle style sweater, Mary Tudor. It's kind of the knitting equivalent to Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" whereby she writes about attempting to make all 524 recipes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". I really believe Meryl Streep should have won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Julia Child in the movie. But I digress...

With the book done, I was able to get back to my regular knitting. I continue to putter away on Freny's socks. I turned the heel and am almost finished the gusset decreases. I should be able to finish the first sock tomorrow.

I really like this Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line colourway (04452).

I have been looking for vacation properties online for Skip and me for the winter in the south. I sent an inquiry today for a 'villa' with all the amenities in our price range. We're keeping our fingers crossed that they indeed have the vacancy indicated on their website. We hope to hear back tomorrow. Wish us luck!    

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Kindred Spirits

My long-time friend, Freny, and I are musical kindred spirits. We were in the same music class in Grade 9 where she took the clarinet and I selected the oboe. In Grade 11 we both transferred to the same school when our respective families moved to the same part of town. The summer we moved, Freny and I attend Ontario Youth Music Camp (OYMC) and had a blast. Freny has been living in Australia for about 25 years. This summer she came to visit her mother and other family and friends in Canada for about 5 weeks. On Thursday, she came here for a visit before beginning her trip back to Australia yesterday.

Thursday night, I hauled out my oboe and she sat down at the piano and we jammed for about an hour and a half. I hadn't played for about eight years since retiring from the local community concert band. Surprisingly, my lip held up and my reed was pretty stable and aside from a few 'clinkers' we did a pretty good job. It was a blast. I videotaped a couple of the tunes with my nifty new camera but unfortunately, I had it on the wrong setting so the video portion was WAY too dark. All one can see is the faint light of the piano light over the music. However the audio wasn't too bad. We played 'Night and Day'

and 'Unchained Melody'.

It certainly wasn't the best performance we'd ever done but it sure was fun. And it felt great to be playing again. I realize how much I miss it but I really don't want to commit to a group that rehearses from September to June, as my absence during my winter holiday would not be fair to the group.

I stared some socks for her using some Kaffe Fassett Design Line Regia yarn. I got almost the whole leg done on the first sock today on the way into The Big City to see "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" - a documentary made about her life. The jokes were great. She sure is driven to work, work, work to maintain her staff and opulent lifestyle. During a tour of her NYC apartment, she joked saying, "This is how Marie Antoinette would have lived had she had money". I'm reprising the Practice Makes Perfect pattern I knit for myself a while back using a generic sock pattern and incorporating a portion of the cable from Fiona Ellis' 'Practice Makes Perfect' scarf.

I really like the colours in this yarn. The gold reminds me of turmeric and the turquoise and fuchsia are very tropical. Then there's peach and teal and olive green. Wild! I love knitting for people who appreciate what goes into the creation of a knitted item.

It is so cool to be able to pick up with Freny wherever we left off during the last visit. Thursday night we were 15 again. I guess there's still a lot of those young girls still left in us.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cross Stitch Gallery

I'm in the process of going through a bunch of cross stitch UFOs, collecting all the odd skeins of DMC floss and finding small projects that I've finished stitching that just need to be framed or finished into ornaments. Some of the items are almost 15 years old but I can always pick out out the stitching of the date and update it.

So here's a gallery of some of my little UFOs.

I have one of these dated 1996 (the year we moved into this house) framed in my kitchen.

3 1/2" x 5 1/2" on 14 count Aida

I stitched this little 'Told In A Garden' piece on Monaco cloth.

2 5/8" x 2 5/8" over 2 threads

I bought this stocking kit at Hedgehog Stitchery two years ago. I have the backing fabric and they're ready to finish.

2" x 4 5/16" on 28 count linen over 2 threads

I bought this little kit in Harlingen, TX at Judy's Stitchery Nook. I think I stitched it in two nights while on vacation on South Padre island.

2 3/4" x 3 3/4" on 32 count linen over 2 threads

I stitched this up two nights ago. It's the 'Friends' FlipIt from Lizzie Kate. I used a scrap of linen.

I do prefer stitching on evenweave fabric rather than Aida cloth. I believe it gives a more 'polished' look to the piece.

A couple of years ago I took a couple of Hardanger classes at Hedgehog Stitchery and have completed a few small projects as well.

Hardanger is fun to do and very easy to finish most pieces. You just cut around the buttonhole stitching and add a hanger to the back and voilà! You're done!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Dim Sum

Last Tuesday we visited Skip's mother's grave - about 80km from where we live. On the way back we stopped into our favourite dim sum place in Markham, Grand Lake Chinese Cuisine & Banquet
Often we order from the carts of food that roll by at different intervals but that day we ordered from the dim sum menu and they brought the dishes to us.

On the top left is shu mai, lovely pork steamed dumplings. Top right is har gow, steamed shrimp dumplings and below them are shrimp and snow pea dumplings.

We also enjoyed these baked dumplings that had delicious, a sweet flaky pastry exterior and barbecued pork inside.

They had a glaze on the top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

My favourite dessert is mango pudding. At this restaurant they are made in fish-shaped molds and are carefully turned out onto the plate and then evaporated milk is drizzled on them.


We have had a hot summer with plenty of rain. The fruits and vegetables are about two weeks early this year. With no trees along our back fence, our back garden gets a lot more sun so things are looking very lush and verdant. Skip wanted me to take his photo amid the plants.