Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Constant Quest

My yarn and fibre stash got the better of me last year. It was to the point I didn't even know what I had on hand nor where to find what I needed. Sound familiar? I am not a person who obsesses about a neat and tidy environment but I do need to be able to find stuff when I need it. And I like leaving my house in pretty good shape when I go on a holiday.

From what I can tell, the key is to find a system and stick to it. So this week at Canadian Tire, 9L bins were on sale (half price) for $1.99 each. They're stackable, see-through and have clear lids as well. I bought 8 of them and may drop in for more today. I dug out my label maker and started organizing in my office/craft room. You can see my shelves need some work. The paper bag on the sofa is where the cat sleeps.
These bins really only contain the 'overflow' from most of my stash, which are on IKEA shelves in another corner of the room. (That is an old photo. They cubbies are now 80% full of yarn and books). And yes, there are still piles of stuff but the most of them are organized now, too. I have lots of room in my house and adequate storage space, I believe. I just need to keep purging to make room in the spaces I have for the many things I'm going to keep or am not yet ready to throw away.

I have tried to make good use of the space under my desk as well. I like having everything within arm's reach. The binders hold printouts and patterns in various categories and the laundry basket is my paper recycle bin that gets emptied every month or so. The boxes in the top right corner are my beading stuff (they could use a bin, too).
Like most Baby Boomers, I now realize I have been very 'acquisitive' and now am always looking for things I can discard. I am on the constant quest for both simplifying my life and things and storing/organizing them so I can easily access what I need.

Alas, being ultra-neat and tidy will never be a trait of mine, but I have been working on getting things in better shape around the house, in general.  I feel sorry for the person who will have to go through my stuff when I am no longer able to take care of myself or I die. But I'm hoping to make it a little easier for them. Watching "Hoarders" has shown me that I'm really not that far from the 'slippery slope' to being a true hoarder. This awareness (and having more time to explore more domestic pursuits) has really helped get me moving in a positive direction.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Trillium Embroidery Guild - January

I enjoy the meetings of the Trillium Embroidery Guild. I am not a very stitcherly member and lately I've been taking my knitting to our meetings but I do enjoy seeing what the other members are working on.

This month was our garage sale, at which members bring charts and accessories they no longer want and display them for sale for only $1 or two. One of these years, I'll make a contribution but this year I only bought some stuff.

One of my favourite things each month is to see the finished projects people bring to display.

Norah's stitching was displayed on the lid of a beautiful custom-made wooden box.
This is the sampler project guild members (except me and a few others) worked on last year.
I really like these 4 Jeannette Douglas samplers.
Tara brought a couple of items she had woven on a lap loom and a beret she embellished with needle-felted yarn and beads.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sheep Heid is Done!

I finished Sheep Heid last night. Kate's charts were easy to read. She also put the yarn numbers on the right side of the chart for the crown so it was easy to keep straight the 9 natural colours of the Shetland Supreme yarn.

I blocked it with a dinner plate inside so it would be more tam-like than beanie-like.
I have a small head so there is quite a drape to the tam.
 This photo shows the truest colours.
Those sheep are SO darned cute!
The yarn bloomed beautifully after its warm, soapy bath before blocking. It's still a bit scratchy, though. Wouldn't it look amazing in several natural shades of alpaca?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Handspun and Apps

A couple of months ago, Julia, Mo and I decided to form a spinning group so we'd dedicate at least 2 hours per week to spinning. We picked Monday night and found a Coffee Culture in Whitby that would accommodate us. We posted it on Ravelry in a couple of groups and 2 gals found us right away. Last week we were joined by Nancy from Spinning Wheel Alpacas and her friend, Karen. This week, Eleanor also joined us who had heard about our group from Karen.

We're already thinking about cool places to spin in the summer including Nancy's alpaca farm and possibly a retreat up at Jennifer's cottage. 

Last week I finished spinning some Dyeing For Colour 70% Superwash Merino/30% bamboo and firestar. I started chain-plying it last week and finished plying it this evening. What resulted was 288 yd. and 103g of yarn.
It's quite soft and sparkly. I don't know what I'll spin with it but for now, I'll just fondle it.

We also discussed Apps (downloadable Applications) for our iPods/iPhones/cell phones and I learned about iSpin Toolkit ($4.99) and iKnit Needlesizer ($0.99).

In the iSpin Toolkit there is a tool to measure the angle of the twist, wpi and tpi gauges, a calculator, a ruler in both inches and cms and a table of contents for all the references. It is a very handy tool.

In the iKnit Needlesizer, you lay the needle across the screen and can fairly accurately determine the gauge. I tested several needle sizes and checked with a regular gauge.

Android and Apple have a voice feature on the free Google Search app (blue icon). Touch the mic icon and just say what you're searching for. With voice recognition, it will put the text in the window and do an instant Google search.

A very fun and free app is Dragon Dictation. It is a very dynamic voice recognition app that then allows you to edit or add more text and then send directly to Twitter, Facebook or as an email. You can also copy and paste the text into another application.

Shazam is a commercial mobile phone-based music identification service. Say you're in a store and you want to know the title or artist of the tune you're hearing. With the mic on your device, Shazam takes an acoustic 'fingerprint' of the song and within seconds, will tell you the title and artist. With the free app you get unlimited tagging and Lyric play (where you see the lyrics in time to the music you're hearing) but can enjoy more features if you upgrade to Encore for $3.99/yr or $5.99 for lifetime. It's the 4th most downloaded app in the world!

What cool apps (knitting, spinning or otherwise) can you recommend?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sheep Heid and an iPhone!

I've been working away on Sheep Heid.
I can see using that sheep motif on quite a few project designs.
Click here to see the cowl that Anne made with it!

It's different using the 'sticky' Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme yarn. It's a bit rough but it feels very 'authentic' and scratchy. It's somewhat like the feel of Briggs and Little yarn.
It's about half done. I'm looking forward to being able to wear it during our wintry blast. I may block it in a more tam-like configuration rather than as a beanie.

The reason I haven't finished Sheep Heid in a lickety-split manner is I've been a bit distracted. Yesterday I bought a not-previously-owned unlocked 32GB iPhone 3GS.
It is very exciting because I paid about half of what they're going for on eBay. All I had to do was take my Rogers SIM card out of my Nokia C3 and slap it into the iPhone and I was in business.

Rather than knitting, I spent most of last night synching it, putting apps on it and creating ringtones for it. I wasn't happy with the generic ringtones so I googled how to add a ringtone from a music file. I found this awesome, step-by-step video and in fairly short order was able to convert some music files that were deemed ringtone-worthy into ringtones to synch to my iPhone. Never one to do things in a small way, I then spent about 1.5 hours creating about a dozen of them so I now have quite a variety of them to choose from.

This morning, I started keying in some of my contacts and shortly thereafter realized that there had to be an easier way to transfer them from my iPod Touch to the iPhone (I don't have iCloud - yet). Back to Google I went and sure enough, I found a free app called 'Bump' that allows you to transfer Contacts, Photos, Apps, Music, Calendar and Social networks between devices.
There wasn't a lot of explanation but after downloading Bump to both devices and a bit of experimentation, I was able to transfer all 325 of my contacts to the iPhone by literally 'bumping' the two devices together. Huzzah!!! 

Now I have pretty much everything that was on my iPod Touch on my iPhone AND the ability to use it as a phone (no data plan - yet) and a Skype device when I'm in a Wifi zone. 

And now, back to my knitting...

Friday, 13 January 2012


Frigga is the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named. Triskadekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. So Friggatriskadekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th.

I normally do not suffer from this affliction, however, today had a few no good very bad elements.

Element The First: It was snowing and blowing when I got up this morning.

Element The Second: I had a flat tire on my car. I apparently drove on it enough yesterday and last night that the tire began shredding on the inside and this morning had to call the CAA (Canadian version of the AAA for you US inhabitants) to come and fill or change my tire so I could get it to the garage and get the problem diagnosed and if possible, fixed.

In spite of the crappy weather and innumerable accidents that were occurring this morning, the cheerful CAA guy showed up within 15 minutes of my call. I only got half of the driveway shovelled before his arrival (See Element The First above).

He filled my tire, claimed it was holding air and left. I put the snow shovel away, grabbed my purse and knitting, hopped in the car and headed to Canadian Tire for the diagnosis.

Element the Third: The tire was indeed shredded and Crap Canadian Tire doesn't carry the brand of tires on the other three wheels so the cute, petite mechanic, Avalon, who has pink hair,  put my spare tire on and tossed the rim in my trunk. She waved goodbye as I drove off to the tire store where I was sure I could get the replacement tire.

Lesson learned? Don't buy a car with aluminum (aluminium for my UK readers) rims.  Once they oxidize - and they will - you will never get a good seal between it and the tire. I have had no end of problems as a result of this. Buy a car with steel rims or find some at a wrecker's yard.  But I digress.

I got the tire ordered but it won't be in 'til next Tuesday and won't be installed 'til Wednesday so I will be driving around on a spare tire that doesn't get good traction (front passenger side on a front-wheel drive car) in slippery, icy, snowy conditions. (sigh)

After running my errands, I headed home to update Skip on how my day was going so far. Whilst reading a Future Shop flyer, I noted the Nokia C3 mobile phone they were selling listed Wifi as a feature. What???? I have one of those phones and never even noticed that I could have Wifi access to the internet with it. Of course, I immediately tried to access the internet and failed which brings me to...

Element the Fourth: I called the people who sold me my phone and with whom I have mobile phone service. They tried to help me as much as they could and I was able to get connected but unable to get service. I called my Internet service people and she got me connected and with service. However, when I backed out and tried to access it again (after having hung up, of course) I could no longer get service. So I called my ISP again and Luis did all he could, including changing my security system and security code on my modem/router and we concluded that it was indeed a setting problem with the phone, not the Internet service. Luis suggested I call the Nokia customer support. So I called Miguel in the Philippines and he took me right back to removing the SIM card and battery from my phone and going back to the factory settings for the phone (but not deleting my contacts, etc.).  And miracle of miracles, I was finally able to get Wifi!  Yay! I thanked Miguel profusely and started playing with my phone.

Unfortunately, Nokia doesn't have a Skype app, nor some of my other favourite apps, but at least now I know I can access the internet with my phone if I'm in a wifi zone (and don't have my iPod Touch with me).

I don't usually have a day when a lot of stuff goes wrong but then I realized IT IS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!!! It all makes sense now.

So today I guess I had a touch of Friggatriskadekaphobia or shall I say F@#$$atriskadekaphobia.  It will be interesting to see what happens on the two other Friday the Thirteenths this year - in April and July.

The day wasn't a complete loss, though. I got about 6 rows knit on my Sheep Heid.

Fair Isle Fascination

I really enjoy stranded two-colour knitting. On our UK tour, I became aware of the designs of Kate Davies, a Scottish designer of knitwear.

I knit one of Kate's free patterns, her Stranded Colourwork Headband using 5 colours of Knit Picks Palette yarn I had from a Fair Isle sweater kit I abandoned last year. It's my first finished project of 2012.
I lined it with some 3 ply Sport Handwash yarn from Hubbert Farms . It's a blend of 75% Alpaca, 10% Finn, 10% Mohair and 5% Seasilk. It's deliciously soft and warm.
We have been fortunate to not have had a lot of wintry weather yet but all that is changing soon.

I think I'll look smashing trudging out in the snow with my new headband.
I have cast on Kate's Sheep Heid hat. The pattern was inspired by the Sheep Heid Inn near Duddingston Loch in Scotland.

I purchased the pattern on Ravelry a while back and then learned through Anne Featonby's blog that Debbie Wilson at Sheeps Ahoy was selling the yarn packs for the hat. The kit arrived this week. I expected to receive 9 50g skeins of yarn. Instead, the yarn was carefully measured out and labelled, ready for me to start right in on the project.

In my future, I hope to knit Alice Starmore's Oregon Cardigan.

I'm not a big fan of boxy drop-shouldered sweaters so I hope to modify the pattern for set-in sleeves. I found the Vogue Knitting 2007 Holiday issue on eBay which contains the pattern and it is winging its way to me as I write this. The next project will be to obtain the yarn for the project.

Skip and I are getting ready to go on a holiday and I've been planning what knitting projects to take with me. I won't be taking my spinning wheel or sewing machine. I may take a drop spindle and will definitely take some stitching projects and, of course, a bunch of stuff to knit.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Shaun the Sheep

I knit the Shaun the Sheep case last night while watching "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" DVD from the library. It was an easy intarsia knit. I knit the entire project during the movie.

My handspun was too thin so I found some blue acrylic and it worked well with the black wool and fuzzy white yarn.

I had the googly eyes from some other project.

I modified the pattern by doing 3 rows of stocking stitch after the cast-on then a purl row then the 28 rows of plain stocking stitch for the back. When I finished the chart on the front, I again did a purl row then 3 rows of stocking stitch before binding off. The 3 rows of stocking stitch will be the seam allowance for the zipper.

I'm going to line it with some fabric or other - maybe from my stash, maybe I'll buy a fat quarter.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mo!

Friday, 6 January 2012

QR Codes

Yesterday I bought a deeply discounted (1/3 off) Blackberry Playbook at Staples. When I got it home, I discovered it couldn't do a couple of things I really wanted it to be able to do on it. The Blackberry people are WAY behind with developing apps. One app they don't have is Skype. There is a circuitous way to get it through but even with that, I was unable to do Skype calling to landlines with my monthly plan. The other app not yet available is the Google Search app with voice recognition.

I returned it today for a full refund and discovered overnight that they increased the price 50% to bring it back up to its pre-discount price. It would have been an amazing deal had it done what I needed it to.

I will either purchase the cheapest iPhone (1st generation) I can get or a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 at a deep discount (if I can find it). Altho' the Samsung isn't an Apple product, it does have the highly regarded Android system and the nice people @ Android have been working very hard to develop apps for their products.

All that being said, I did discover a couple of cool things on the Playbook. Yesterday I downloaded an app to read QR codes, those funny black and white square codes one sees more and more. With any smart device and the QR download, it only takes a second or two to scan a QR code to get the information.

Last night at knitting, Mo and I were talking about them and today she sent me a Ravelry message about a knitter who has designed a square with a QR pattern on it. And it's even scannable (I hope that's a word).

So I found the QR creator online and made a code for this blog.

I think I'm going to graph it. Now what should I knit with it? Another idea, I could print it onto transfer paper and iron it onto some fabric and make something with the printed fabric.

Maybe I just have too much spare time on my hands...

Angry Birds and Shaun the Sheep

I saw a lot of Angry Birds stuffed items for sale this year.

Skip and I played the game obsessively on our iPod Touches at one point.

Today whilst reading Dani Miller's blog, 'Knit, Stitch, Click' she cited a tutorial for making an Angry Bird stuffed toy.

It looked like fun to make out of fleece or felt but wouldn't it be fun to knit?

Sure enough, on my Ravelry search, Knitterbees has designed free patterns for the red bird,  the green pig, and the yellow bird.

Last night my enabling BFF, Mo, was knitting a Shaun the Sheep DS cover by Kirstie McLeod. Later at home, I found some fuzzy yarn (Patons Pixie) in my stash that would be awesome for Shaun's fleecy coat. I knit a swatch and I will need to use worsted weight yarn for the background and Shaun's face. Like Mo, I'm going to create a fabric-lined, zipper bag for knitting or sewing notions. (Photos by stacyprince)

This post-Christmas knitting is going to be fun!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Potato Chips

In a blog I was reading the other day, someone referred to a project they were working on as a 'Potato Chip' project. From the context, I inferred that they meant a project of which they couldn't just make one.

The Christmas balls have been like that for me. In fact last night I knit another one. It is my own design based on the Selbu star. This time I did use a white background and just didn't anchor the strands of red yarn.
This is the fifth ornament I've knit from the same two balls of red and white yarn. I've used exactly half the red skein (the colour I've used the most) so I will be able to get 10 ornaments from the two balls.

I've also been working on a comfort shawl for a friend of mine whose husband of 52 years passed away at the beginning of December. It's the Everyway Wrap from the Winter 2009 Interweave Knits magazine. I'm using Cascade 220 superwash and am about half finished.
I like that the cables are reversible and not hard to execute.

Speaking of potato chips, I feel a sock project coming on...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year! Bonne Année! ¡ Felíz Año Nuevo !

Skip and I had a very nice New Year's Eve at home. He watched football 'til about 9 and I was working on my little sewing project, a business card holder from this tutorial.

At about 9 we started watching a delightful French-Canadian movie that we had borrowed called "La Grande Séduction" (The Seduction of Dr. Lewis). It was quite reminiscent of a French movie we had seen last year called "Bienvenue aux Ch'tis" (Welcome to the Sticks). Both about city people forced to move to a very remote area to live and how they learn to appreciate the simpler way of life. Note: The public library is about the only place we can find DVDs any more. Check your library's DVD collection out. You'll find lots of good movies to watch and for free!

At midnight we toasted the new year with our tiny bottle of Freixenet
 and then played with our computers for a while, then went to bed.

By the way, I completely forgot to mention my 43rd 2011 knitting project - my denim-coloured Cassidy cardigan.

Happy New Year!