Monday, 30 April 2012

Frolicking With Knitters, etc.

On Friday, Marion and I went to the CreativFestival. I haven't attended in the recent past because there are fewer and fewer knitting and cross-stitching vendors but this year, I went with new eyes, now that I have begun to do more sewing and quilting. I bought a couple of kits to make chainmaille bracelets from Hyperlynks. I need to get flat pliers before I tackle one of the kits. There were three sewing machines I could have bought had I decided to make the investment but I held off. Some were really good deals because of the show, but the time wasn't right for me (that $1000 brake job last week put a real crimp in my budget). I can't remember what else I bought but I didn't spend very much money. I was saving for the next day's splurging.

Saturday was the Knitter's Frolic, a knitting show sponsored by the Toronto knitting guild, the Downtown Knit Collective or DKC. There were about 50 vendors and classes scheduled on many aspects of knitting over the weekend. As it is such a big task to organize and many volunteers are needed, I was contacted to see if I would like to volunteer to help out as I have done in the past. My knitterly friend, Jennifer, volunteered to wind yarn for an hour and our 'payment' was free admission, free snacks and beverages in the refreshment room and we got to wear name tags that said 'Volunteer'.

Jennifer and I did a very thorough investigation of all the booths as soon as we got there and again a couple more times after we wound yarn. We didn't want to miss anything.

I held off buying several things that looked alluring (in a knitterly way) but still came away with some 'booty'.

The first thing I bought was this lovely Jawoll Silk blend sock yarn. It was a show special and I couldn't pass up the price.
Several of my hand-knitted sock are showing their age so I want to get some more socks knitted for myself.

This polyester, flax and silk blend was also a show special. I have no idea what I'll knit with it, but I can't pass up a deal.
Here's another skein of yarn from The Black Lamb for socks for myself.
I was relieved to see more of this amazing overdyed superwash pencil roving. Can you believe it was bubblegum pink and orange before Laurie overdyed it?
Starlight is a double knit pattern. I'll be on the hunt for some light fingering weight yarn for this one. I have some mohair/silk laceweight in my stash that I'll use for Whisper.
I also snagged a couple of vials of soft, rubbery stitch markers.
And who could pass this guy up?
He is actually a Milkbone brand dog toy with a squeaker inside. I bought him to add to my ever-expanding sheep/lamb collection (as if I needed to collect more stuff...).

On Sunday, I took Franklin Habit's "Photographing Your Fibre" class. He explained the basic principles of photography and how to create the best lighting conditions for photographing fibre and knitted projects (natural, diffused light; DIY light tent; north facing window; in the full shade on a sunny day, etc.). I have never really studied these basics so it was perfect for me. He also explained how just by changing the white balance (WB) of the camera, you can change the quality of the photo. Most point and shoot cameras today have everything needed to take a good photo of one's fibre, yarn skein or project. It's just a matter of understanding how you can change the settings to get the best shot. Most of all he encouraged us to take photos all the time, several of the same thing with different settings and lightings and then determine the settings of the photos we liked the best.

Franklin also talked about composition and how 'props' can be used to enhance the photo rather than distracting from the main subject.

He has strong beliefs about what he likes, yet is gentle and, I believe, somewhat shy. I was one of the few people who asked if he is accustomed to posing for photos with 'fans'. He graciously accepted my invitation.
Yes, Franklin is quite compact in stature. We both had heels on our shoes that were about the same height. I'm only 5' 6" and I felt like I towered over him. He had a busy weekend and I believe he really liked our Canadian hospitality (and cookies and butter tarts). He was kind of bummed out to not have seen a Mountie. He thought they'd be wandering around like the cartoon characters at Disneyworld. Once it was explained to him that Mounties do not do policing for municipal or provincial matters in Ontario (or Québec), he understood why he wasn't seeing them all over the place.

That was another item checked off my 'bucket list'.

This morning, I dropped into Lena's school where she is the vice-principal and has a knitting club that meets every Monday at lunch. Participants are in Grades 6 - 8. I took my drop spindle and spinning wheel to show them how yarn is made. Some of the kids had seen spinning wheels on TV before. After my demo, I sat and knit with them until the end of lunch.  It was fun. Hopefully, they'll knit together again next year and I'll be able to drop in more frequently. (I blurred the kids' faces because I wasn't sure I was permitted to put their images on the Internet - erring on the side of caution).
This young lady had her own knitting loom.
It's great for knitting in the round.
Tonight, I met with my spinning group at the coffee shop. There were 5 of us and we took up almost a whole section of the place. I hope we can find a good place to go sometime soon. I have a couple more ideas of places where we might be able to go.

After I got home from spinning, I was feeling somewhat tired. After reading what I just wrote, I understand why. Having all this fun can be tiring! Who knew?

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Did you have a good sleep last night? I didn't.  I was up 'til 2 finishing Ewan.
I'm very pleased with the result - it was worth the sleep-deprivation.
Skip thinks it looks like a little 'Perry Como' sweater. But I think a cardigan is a very useful garment for a one-year-old.

I liked the various textures.
I modified the pattern by knitting from cuff to cuff to avoid an unsightly seam down the middle of the back. The finishing took me a while but it wasn't difficult.
The recipient's family oohed and aahed when it was opened at his birthday party this afternoon. Unfortunately, I wasn't there to see the gift being opened. I'm hoping the mother will send a photo of the birthday boy wearing the sweater.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Yesterday was my birthday. I did a little of this, had my free birthday lunch here, did some shopping here, and spent the evening spinning with my homies.

I took a photo of a couple of lovely items from Skip...
on this... my new iPhone 4S!!!
Back in January, I bought an iPhone 3G (which the vendor told me was new - liar, liar, pants on fire) and have had nothing but problems with it (a very long story that I won't bore you with) and finally returned it for a full refund last Saturday. On Sunday, Skip and I ventured into the city and picked up the brand new iPhone at a place I found on Kijiji. The guy who sold it to me threw in the Otter Box case, as well. It has the full Apple warranty and is locked to my cellular provider's service. I'm not sure how he can sell them for $100 less than the Apple stores but who am I to question his entrepreneurial abilities?

Unbeknownst to me, I needed to get a different SIM card for it as many of the new cell phones use a micro SIM card now. I couldn't just swap the one from my old Nokia phone (which also fit into the iPhone 3G). My cellular service provider swapped me for the new one - no charge, thank goodness - I'm sure glad they're open on Sundays. It took a bit of fiddling to get all the features/and Apps that I wanted fully operational and synched with my iTunes (which needed to be upgraded first) but now it's working perfectly. Yay!

The Apple logo shows through the back of the Otter Box case. I have learned that the logo can serve as a mini mirror, too! ... very handy for applying lipgloss or checking one's teeth for food debris. :-)

I also did a little knitting on my birthday and got more than halfway done on this sweater I'm knitting for a one year birthday party for a grand-nephew. It's Ewan, a free pattern on Ravelry using Butterfly cotton DK yarn from my stash. It is knit sideways. (the yarn is more of a light tan than the photo shows)
The pattern requires that the right and left side be knit separately ( each side knit horizontally from the cuff to the centre of the back) and then grafted down the centre of the back but because of the cable and the textured stitches below it, the grafting would surely be noticeable. And I don't like the idea of that. As suggested by another Raveler, I'm knitting from cuff to cuff. That way, there will not be a graft down the middle of the back and the only seams will be the side seams. The pattern is pretty neat as it includes little underarm gussets. I have to decide what buttons I'm going to use right away (maybe from my stash) as I need the whole thing done, blocked and ready to wrap by Friday night.

Skip and Scooter will represent our branch of the family at the birthday party but I won't be going as I'll be attending the DKC Knitter's Frolic!! Wheeeee!!! The Frolic is like Christmas morning for knitters in the greater Toronto area. On Saturday, my knitterly friend, Jennifer and I will be roaring into Toronto to gain free and early admission because we're volunteering to wind yarn for an hour.

Then on Sunday, I will return to the site for a 3 hour workshop with Franklin Habit on "Photographing Your Fibre". I'm pretty geeked up about it as I definitely need any help I can get with my photography skills and also because Franklin is such a personality amongst 'kniterati'. I hope to take lots of photos and plaster my blog with them early next week.

All in all, my birthday was a very fine day, indeed.

Friday, 20 April 2012

In Stitches

On Wednesday night, I attended the monthly meeting of the Trillium Embroidery Guild. This meeting was a project meeting where we stitched the tops of flowerpot pincushions. Our instructor was guild member and internationally known needlework designer Carol Arsenault. The project is featured in the Spring 2012 issue of A Needle Pulling Thread and is pictured on the top right of the cover.

Carol distributed to each of us a piece of muslin, two needles, coordinating threads and a little flowerpot about 1.5" high.

First, we drew a circle, the circumference of the flowerpot, onto the fabric. Then, with the fabric stretched taut in the embroidery hoop, we filled in the circle with the perle and DMC embroidery threads using French knots and colonial knots until the entire circle is filled in.
I used French knots with two wraps first, then single wraps filling the last, wee empty spaces. The key was to do a random pattern as there were a variety of colours of threads. The result was to look like tightly packed flowers.

I finished mine that night. I just need to trim the fabric, stuff the flowerpot and glue the 'flowers' just inside the rim. I could also attach a ribbon around the edge of the flowerpot.
I really like the 'make and take' meetings we have.

On another stitching note, while I was in Funchal, Madeira last month, I found this needlepoint kit in the back of a souvenir shop. (It was neatly packaged)
The canvas wasn't painted, rather, the colours were indicated by hand-stitched one-ply horizontal stitches which were then to be covered by the stitcher with the diagonal needlpoint stitches with the yarn provided. It is very easy for the stitcher to match the yarn with the coloured horizontal stitches.
I completed half of the design in just one evening.
It won't take much to finish the 3" x 4" design. Then I'll have to pick a background colour. The finished piece will be about 7" x 7.5" and could be a little pillow or a small, framed picture.

The entire kit (which did not include a needle) cost only 8 Euros ($10.64)!  We were so rushed, I didn't really have time to look through all of the kits, I just grabbed the smallest one I could find. Now I wish I had picked up several of them. I guess I'll just have to go back... someday.

I loved the fact that they were authentic as indicated by these tags.
And included in the blue one, was a brief history of the embroidery industry in Madeira, Portugal. 
We saw several embroidery 'factories' but didn't really have the time to stop in for a look. One only gets to 'sample' the ports when one is cruising, making a return visit a necessity for further exploration.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Spinning Update and Seeing Double

Last night at our spinning group there were 9 of us! We're definitely going to have to find another place to use for our get-togethers. We'll have to do some investigating.

Here is the fibre I bought at The Gathering on Saturday.

These 70% lambswool/30% silk batts were from Harvest Hastings. They're the same colourway, I just flipped the one over to the other side. Some of the fibres are still rather curly. I'm looking forward to sampling them.
I bought two 50g bags of 100% cashmere and a 50g bag of lime merino roving.
I also bought a 50g bag of Key Lime Corriedale and have been working on getting it spun.
Once I spin the merino, I'll ply them together for a kind of faux cormo yarn. I'm not sure what I'll do with the cashmere - perhaps blend it with some merino???

BTW, I'm loving my Woolee Winder (pictured above). The flyer on my Ashford Joy had hooks on both sides in the exact same place rather than one side off-set from the other. How useless is that? The Woolee Winder has a sliding flyer hook that slides back and forth, thus evening out how the yarn is wound onto the custom-made bobbins. The Woolee Winder comes with one bobbin and additional ones can be purchased as the regular bobbins don't work with it. There is a little cog at the end of the bobbin that meshes with a cog on the flyer which enables the flyer hook to slide back and forth. I ordered 2 extra bobbins at the time of purchase. I honestly think I've been spinning and plying faster and more consistently since using my Woolee Winder. Robert and Nathan Lee hand make Woolee Winders for every commercial make of wheel.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot! I finished the second Practice Makes Perfect III sock last night while I was watching my download of the first episode of this season's "Mad Men". I really worked on making them identical twins. There was a bit of fudging but I believe I was successful.
I like wearing them when I'm spinning or wearing my Mary Janes.
They were a pretty fast knit as the pattern is basically a plain sock with 12 sts of a cable pattern on each side down the leg and 6 sts of cable pattern on each side of the instep on the foot. This Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line yarn wears quite well.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the new Regia Kristin Nicholas Garden Effects sock yarn.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Gathering, etc.

Yesterday I attended The Gathering in Port Hope, ON sponsored by the Great Pine Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild and was held at the Recreation Centre.

There were 4 rows of chairs set up back to back - probably 80 in all and around the periphery of the hall, vendors were set up. It was a fun day of spinning and networking. Jennifer and Karen from my spinning group, the Whitby Spinners, were there and a couple of other spinnerly or knitterly acquaintances. Julia dropped in for a few minutes, too. I met Judy Findlay from the Shuttlebugs, a group of spinners and weavers from Greenwood, north of Ajax. Our spinnerly friend, Diane, belongs to their guild and recently has put out a call to see if any of us are interested in learning how to weave. Both Jennifer and I said 'yes!' so hope to get started on that in the next month or so. The guild has a couple of Leclerc Dorothy table looms for loan to guild members so I'll be able to try it out before investing the money in my own loom.

What really inspired me was this blog Pat's Knitting and Quilting, and particularly this post. I loved how the scarf turned out using the handpainted sock yarn. I also am so inspired by how she separates the light and dark fibres from a braid, spins and plys them separately and then knits two-colour designs with the contrasting yarns. Very cool.

I finished spinning two batches of fibre this week. The first is some Bitsy Knits Custom Carded Roving I purchased at Rhinebeck last year. It is 46% Romney, 30% BFL, 12% Yearling Mohair, and 12% Firestar. The colourway is Fall's End. I was attracted to its autumnal look and the shine of the Firestar.
Last night I finished the Dyeing for Colour superwash merino. I spent much of the week working on it and am happy to now be finished. It's 396 yards of slightly thicker than fingering weight. It should make a nice lace shawl of some kind.
I must confess, I have never completed a knitted project using my own handspun. How crazy is that? I look at the skeins wrought from my own hands as little pieces of art and I'm afraid to knit them up because the yarn will be gone. However, I really do have a lot of the stuff piling up and must start looking at appropriate knitting projects for my skeined 'babies'.

That's another thing I was impressed by with Pat's (of the aforementioned blog) spinning. She knits it up right away into attractive and useful projects.

I'm not like Michelangelo who felt he was freeing his sculptures from the marble. I don't look at my handspun and envision a finished project. I really am more of a technician than an artist. No matter, I'm going to really try and find some good projects to knit up some of my handspun.

Friday, 13 April 2012


While on the 17-day cruise, I had quite quite a bit of time to knit during our 8 full days at sea.

I finished the Katwijker Frok socks.
It was a pretty simple 4 row pattern.
I think it's a unisex design.

I then started another pair of Practice Makes Perfect socks using Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line yarn. I wore my last pair out so need a replacement as they were my favourite socks. These socks are my own design inspired by the cables from Fiona Ellis' 'Practice Makes Perfect' scarf from her book, "Inspired Cables".
I used my favourite eye of partridge heel and a K1, sl1 stitch on the bottom of the heel for a few centimetres. I then continued a 2 x 2 6 row cable down each side of the foot.
I've finished the gusset decreases on the 2nd one and am working on the foot.

I also finished Wingspan that I knit with Katia Darling sock yarn. I haven't blocked it yet but it looks lovely as is.
Hmm, I seem to continue to gravitate towards blues...

I had two balls of the Katia Darling yarn and cast on using the recommended 90sts. There are supposed to be 8 wedges in the completed project. I didn't finish the 4th one before using up half the yarn (one ball). So I frogged it and started again, casting on 75sts this time. I was on the 7th wedge before I ran out of yarn on the first ball. So again I frogged it and re-knit it with 86 sts and it worked out pretty well with only a few grams of yarn left over. I think it'll be even more drapey when I block it.

Here's a picture of the only yarn shop I entered during my entire holiday. Case di Lana in Siena. We were walking to get our bus back to the hotel and had no time at all to explore the shop. I was in there for 15 seconds and then had to continue on my way. They sold crochet cotton, yarn, needlepoint canvases, books and pretty much any needlework supplies. 
While in Madeira, I found needlepoint kits way in the back of a souvenir shop. Again, I was in a hurry and grabbed a small project for myself. It only cost 8 Euros and contained a canvas and all the yarn for the design - just not the background yarn. The canvas wasn't painted, rather a single strand of yarn was woven horizontally where the diagonal stitches should go. One simply stitched over the horizontal stitches with the tapestry yarn.

Now I wish I had bought a couple more for gifts. They were locally made and excellent quality. Oh well, next time. (sigh)

Jet Lag

I'm back! Did you miss me? Did you wonder if I'd fallen off the face of the earth?

Skip and I got back on Sunday from an excellent adventure that included a 6-day Caribbean cruise, a 5-day transAtlantic crossing, a 6-day Mediterranean cruise, and a 6-day land tour in Italy (Tuscany and Rome). Then we had a 9 hour flight on Al Italia which seemed interminable and where we were served inedible food. I almost dared one of the flight attendants to eat what she had served me.

I will blog about some of our holiday but I'm still kinda pooped and just glad to be home. I've been taking it easy and aside from tackling "Mount Washmore", grocery shopping, petting the cat who really seemed to miss us (he didn't stop purring for a day and a half after we got back), visiting some of my friends, getting back to my regular schedule of spinning and knitting get-togethers, I haven't done very much. I also went back to rehearsing with the nearby concert band in preparation for our summer concert schedule.

I finished Wingspan and a pair of socks and started another pair on the trip but haven't any pictures of them to show yet.

What I can show is a pillowcase I made for my friend Aiden who turned 10 last month.
I used this tutorial and French seams to make it without any exposed raw edges.

I don't think he minded that his gift was my first time using this technique.
I liked the dragons and the blue flames.

I also sent him one of the earbud cases I made with the dancing cats. It was like this but with a black zipper.

We gained 6 hours returning from Rome on Sunday and still are feeling somewhat jet lagged. We tried to stay up late Sunday and Monday nights and were finally waking up at about 5:30am then going back to sleep for another hour or so. Last night we both went to bed at 9am and woke up at about 6am. So today I think we're almost caught up on our sleep AND re-adjusted to GMT -5. I did have a snooze on the couch this afternoon, though, so I could make it through the rehearsal without yawning every two minutes.

I will get some photos of my FOs and prepare some blog posts about our superb holiday.

Here are Skip and I in Funchal, Madeira with our ship, the MSC Poesia, in the background.
In Málaga, Spain our friends, David and Susan, and Skip and I happily found a place that sold churros and sipping chocolate. Yum!
And here we are in Firenze, Italia (Florence) at Piazza Michelangelo with il Duomo in the background by Skip's left ear. The person who kindly offered to take our photo didn't get the concept of framing the picture with us AND the Duomo clearly visible - sigh.