Friday, 30 August 2013


I have been working on the Kandahar socks from Alice Yu's "Socktopus: 17 Pairs of Socks Worth Showing Off".  I'm using the Tidal Wave colourway from Sweet Sheep - a skein in my stash that I picked up several years ago at a WWKIP event. 

I like the way the pattern flows from the 2 x 2 ribbing. 
The swirling pattern is so easy, it almost knits itself. The instructions are very clear but if you're going to knit these socks, make sure you check the errata here.
There is even a chart for the heel flap where the ribbing continues to the heel.
Here's a rear view.

The instep pattern continues right to the toe.
These socks practically knit themselves! I will probably finish the second one this weekend. A pair of socks in one week!? Amazing.
Once I get these done, I'll start picking up the border stitches around the Rams and Yowes blanket.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Eeeek! A Steek!

Today was THE BIG DAY - the day I cut the steek on my Rams and Yowes blanket.

I had already reinforced both sides of the centre stitches with a line of crochet (blue yarn). This morning, I also ran the reinforcement through the sewing machine. There's no way it'll unravel after cutting the steek. I will be cutting up the centre of the centre stitches between the reinforcements.
I'm ready to start cutting.
Here I go!
Ta da! The tube is now a flat piece of knitting.
Here I'm showing how the steek stitches will be folded under and I'll pick up stitches between them and the patterned knitting to knit the garter stitch border. (I'm in desperate need of a manicure)
Tomorrow I go in search of at least two very long 3mm needles to knit on the border. I'm going to block it first so it lies nice and flat and is somewhat square. I will pick up 196 stitches on each side and increase one stitch on each side of the corner stitches for a total increase of 8 stitches per round. There will be well over 800 stitches per round before I finish the border.

Dye Day 2013

Donna and I spent a delightful day yesterday hand-painting yarn out on my covered deck. It was a warm day but there was enough of a breeze to keep things pleasant.

After laying the water-soaked skein down on a couple of strips of plastic wrap we began painting our yarn. My goal with this skein was to do dark and light purple and dark and light lilac.  To get the lighter shades, just dilute the dye with water.
Once the skein was completely painted including the other side and ensuring the dye went right through so there are no white spots, it is rolled up long-ways and then rolled up like a jelly roll and popped into a Ziploc bag to go into the steamer. On the Ziploc bag, we wrote the time it was to go in the steamer (it needs to steam an hour to heat-set the dye) as well as what dyes we used.

I didn't get a photo but I have a big stock pot dedicated to dyeing. I put three cleaned cat food tins in the bottom and then a rack on top of them. I put water in the bottom to just below the rack and get it boiling on the electric hot plate.

After steaming, the bags are taken out of the pot with tongs and opened and allowed to cool a bit. Then with tongs again, the wrapped skeins are allowed to cool on the patio stones. Once cool enough to touch (the whole cooling process takes about 1/2 hour) the skeins are rinsed. Surprisingly, they rinsed completely clear which means all the dye was taken up into the fibre and successfully set. With non-superwash yarn, care must be taken not to shock the yarn with vastly different temperatures as it will felt. Most of what we dyed was superwash or sock yarn with enough nylon to prevent felting.

We then hung them on the clothesline to dry somewhat.
We then hung them on the fence to take some tasteful shots. Donna used teal and sunny yellow on the two skeins on the left (Sisu sock yarn) and varying shades of purple and lilac on the two on the right (Cascade 220 Superwash).

On the left is the skein of my handspun that I dyed with a couple of shades of sunny yellow. The dye was very concentrated and could have been diluted a bit more. The next two are my handspun (superwash merino spun from pencil roving in 2010) which I dyed with spruce and teal (a couple of shades of each). The next skein was some natural coloured 'On Your Toes' sock yarn (with Aloe) that I dyed with two shades of purple and two shades of lilac. The right-hand yarn is some merino superwash yarn (singles) that I dyed with a couple of shades of burgundy and grey (black that I diluted quite a bit).
It has been very humid so they didn't completely dry overnight but I reskeined a couple of them this morning to show the blended colours. I had a heck of a time photographing them on the deck table. There was either too much light or too much shadow.
I called the 'On Your Toes' yarn colourway 'Lilac Festival'.
The burgundy and grey yarn I called 'Private School' because it reminded me of burgundy blazers and grey flannel pants or skirt colours.
This is the sunny yellow yarn I spun and dyed for Jennifer. She gave me an ounce of baby camel/silk/merino fibre for Christmas so I spun it for her and plied it with the singles sock yarn. Yellow is Jennifer's favourite colour so I was pretty sure it would be a hit (it was). Do you like the nifty stamp? I received it as a gift after teaching knitting at Continuing Education last year. I believe it was ordered from CherryTree on Etsy.
The last two skeins of handspun were a last-minute decision. This is one of them reskeined after dyeing. I really liked the result of spruce and teal.
Our hand-painted skeins were very impressive at 'show and tell' today at our monthly tea house knitting luncheon.

If you have undyed or light-coloured yarn, dyeing it is a great way to jazz it up. I hope to get another dyeing session in while the weather is still nice.


Our tomatoes are in season. We only have a couple of the Roma (paste) tomato plants. The dastardly rabbit mowed down a few plants back in June. Skip replaced them with mini paste tomatoes called Juliets.  They're teeny  but very juicy and we have TONS of them.

A few years back we invested in this nifty tomato press from Lee Valley. Just toss the skinned tomatoes in the top and crank away. The juice and fibre get pressed out the bottom (metal bowl)and the seeds go out the chute on the side.
We put the seeds through a few times to ensure that we get all the tomato juice and fibre out the bottom
Then we're left with lots of pasty juice
which we then boil down in the crock pot or on a pot on the stove. This boils off some of the excess liquid and concentrates the flavours. We just toss some basil in and then fill containers with it to freeze for later use.
We'll enjoy eating from our garden in the winter time when we thaw and cook with some of these processed tomatoes.

I'm such a 'Suzy Homemaker' sometimes. LOL.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Pavillion Sock

I finished my first Pavillion sock.
I enjoyed having only to knit and purl to create the textured fabric.
I'm still thrilled about how well the Fish Lips Kiss heel worked out.
I'm about 10 rows away on the second sock from starting the stocking stitch heel stitches before starting the FLK heel on the second sock. Wheeee!

Last Monday at our spinning group (we welcome any and all interested new people who would like to sit and spin or knit and chat about knitterly and spinnerly things), we were talking about double knitting. Jennifer was interested in learning how to do it and just happened to have two contrasting yarns in her car. With a minimum of instruction, she quickly picked up the technique and started knitting her beginning swatch. We needed to find a better cast on so the end would look like a tubular cast on.

Today on Pinterest, I found a couple of videos on the 'Christina Creating' blog which had what looks like the perfect double knitting cast on for our purposes. I hope to knit a swatch to try it out. In the meantime, I think Jennifer is beavering away double knitting so she can 'show and tell' on Monday. I was very fortunate to have been taught the technique by Lucy Neatby at the first KnitEast in 2011 (name dropper that I am - wink, wink).

On Monday, Donna and I are having a dye day. I bought a new hotplate for steaming our hand-painted yarn so I don't have to worry about running out of propane on the camp stove. I am considering doing some immersion dyeing as well so I may end up using the camp stove after all.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Contest!

My BFF (Best Fibre Friend), Mo (Maureen Foulds), is launching a joint venture with an independent dyer, Lola-Doodles and they're having a contestStarting September 1st, Lola-Doodles will be hosting an exclusive yarn/sock pattern combo in her Etsy shop. 
You'll have your choice of 2 colorways to go with Mo's pattern, Dowager's Prize Diamonds.
If you'd like a chance to win a pattern and one of two colourways of the Lola-Doodle sock yarn, click on this contest link to Mo's blog and follow the instructions.

Good luck!

They Grow Up So Fast...

The second and last butterfly hatched today. This morning the chrysalis was very dark with the black and orange of the wings showing through the transparent casing.
I knew it would be hatching any time.

After I ran some errands and got home, I checked the "Bug Bottle" and it had hatched. I got it to climb out on the stick.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good photo of him (he had the telltale spots on his wings) before he flew away but I did get a video. This is a screen shot from the video from my iPhone. Sorry it's blurry. See the dot on each wing? He, too, was a big one.
And then he was gone. I didn't see where he went for his first flight, which was disappointing.

So this year we had a female and a male. I sure hope I get to hatch more next year.

No fancy equipment is needed. A wide-mouthed jar is all you need. I always start with a mayonnaise jar with a wide mouth because when the larva (itty bitty caterpillar) hatches from the egg, it's small enough to crawl out the air holes in the top of the "Bug Bottle". I just put a piece of pantihose over the neck of the jar with an elastic. I have also used a single layer of paper towel over the mouth of the jar - a barrier so the larvae can't crawl out but air can still get in.

The larvae are voracious eaters and need to be checked once or twice a day so the poop can be cleaned out (it gets bigger as the larva gets bigger) and fresh milkweed can be added. As the plants get larger, I only use the newest, tenderest leaves. Since we have had the "Bug Bottle" on hand since Scooter was little, we graduate the larvae to it when they get too big to crawl out the holes. We have used a glass jar all the way through the process with success as well. When time comes for the larvae to form the chrysalis, something relatively horizontal or with a good slant is needed for them to hang the chrysalis. Any lid with air holes should do the trick.

Once the larva has formed the chrysalis, nothing needs to be done. After a week or so, keep an eye on the chrysalis. Once it starts to turn dark, hatching is imminent. The butterfly will take several hours from exiting the chrysalis to unfurl and dry the wings and stretch them out before it is ready to fly away. Remove the lid. A longish stick left in the container will let it crawl up and out. This year's butterflies were so big, the "Bug Bottle" was too narrow for them to turn around to crawl up on the stick. I had to move the stick over to the butterfly so they could crawl out. Once out of the bottle or jar it will open and shut its wings and just sit. Then when it's ready, it just flies away.

Things happen fairly quickly once the eggs have hatched so every day there is something new to observe.

With a source of milkweed from which the eggs are harvested and then used for feeding the larvae, and a wide-mouth jar, you, too, can follow the one month life-cycle of the monarch butterfly.

Give it a shot next summer! And let me know how it goes.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Backyard Bliss

I love this time of year. Our summers in central southern Ontario are glorious! Except for the few steamy heatwave days, we have the windows wide open day and night and it is very pleasant to work and sit outdoors.

One of the things that drew us to this house when we were house-hunting 17 years ago was the 60+ foot wide lot - a rarity in suburbs of the greater Toronto area. The garden is mostly perennials and is supplemented with swatches of colours of annuals here and there. Basically, you stick a nasturtium seed in the ground, stand back and after a couple of months, voila!
Skip always plants a bunch of marigolds, too.

Our bird feeder is popular with chickadees, nuthatches, grackles, housefinches,
American goldfinches,
and cardinals. Pictured below is a female. You can really see how the beak is suited to cracking open the seed casings - a lot like the business end of bolt cutters.
We hate the destructive rabbits and have managed to 'relocate' a couple of them but chipmunks are always welcome.  This bright-eyed little fellow hangs out under the feeder with the mourning dove and fills his cheeks with seeds for his stash.
The best thing about our deck is the metal 'gazebo' we put up a few years back. The top disintegrated years ago but with a generic tarp cleverly folded and anchored, it provides the necessary shade for the southern exposure. This creates our outdoor living space which we enjoy.
From the table I get a good view of the bird feeder and its denizens.
With a cool drink, my camera, laptop and wifi, I can spend hours out here listening to my tunes on iTunes, editing photos, blogging and generally thoroughly enjoying the time al fresco.

Wow! Three blog posts in one day!!


Fish Lips Kiss Heel

Mo and I were chatting the other night as we sat and knit. She told me about a cool short row heel technique she had just learned about called the Fish Lips Kiss Heel developed by the Sox Therapist. It is supposed to be easy and not use traditional wraps yielding no holes or gaps.

I have done a couple of short row heels but never successfully enough to adopt it as my 'go to' heel style. Instead, I usually default to my preferred 'eye of partridge' heel flap.

Last night I bought the instructions from the Sox Therapist's Ravelry store for the princely sum of $1 US - a paltry sum for all her years of research and development.

I had no trouble following her instructions and within a few minutes I had a perfect short row heel! Woo hoo!
Why is it called a Fish Lips Kiss heel? Off the foot and looking straight on, it looks like how we suck in our cheeks to simulate fish lips. Do you see it?
I'm about 1/3 of the way finished the foot of the first Pavillion Sock. I'm loving Mo's pattern and the colours and feel of the Kidazzle yarn.

It took me a long time before I could find the perfect pattern for this multi-coloured yarn. Anything lacy would have been dominated by the stripes in the pattern. But a nice, textured pattern works very well.

Butterflies 2013

For several years we have been cultivating milkweed to attract monarch butterflies to our yard. Early in July each year, I inspect the undersides of the milkweed leaves for the monarch eggs. If I find any, I take the entire leaf into the house so we can hatch the eggs indoors away from the earwigs and other insects that prey on the eggs. We have had quite a bit of success in past years hatching up to 10 butterflies in one season.

This year monarch butterfly numbers were the lowest in 20 years for an, as yet to be conclusively determined, unknown reason or combination of reasons.

I was only able to find 2 eggs this year in mid-July - a couple of weeks later than usual. An all-time low for our back yard. When Skip and I were away 1.5 weeks ago, they both pupated - transformed from the larva (caterpillar) to the chrysalis. Our kind neighbour not only house-sits when we're away but he also feeds the cat and any monarch caterpillars we have on hand.

Once they pupate (form the chrysalis), it takes a little over a week for the new butterfly to emerge. This morning I thought to check the 'Bug Bottle' and one of the butterflies had hatched!

I had warning last night that it was going to hatch as the chrysalis got darker with the black of the wings starting to show through the chrysalis.

I could see the orange-coloured drops on the bottom of the container which are from when the butterfly first emerges with its crumpled furled wings.
It must have occurred a couple of hours before because its wings were fully unfurled and dried and it was just waiting patiently at the bottom of the container.

There was no way for the butterfly to climb out so I got a stick from the yard so it would have something to climb up. I then lay the stick on top so the butterfly could take its time to ready its wings to fly away. The lack of black spots on the wings indicate that this is a female. Click here to see a male monarch and its spots.
This butterfly was a big one! Its wingspan was about 4" which was surprising because its chrysalis was the smaller of the two.
Here you can see the empty chrysalis on the left and the other one with the curve of the wings starting to show through. The second one will hatch later tonight or tomorrow morning.
It's disappointing that we were only able to hatch two this year but that is two more than if we had let nature take its course in our garden.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Ready to Steek

Today I reinforced the stitches on either side of where I am going to cut my steek.

I used a crochet hook to run the stitches on either side of the center stitch of the 5-stitch steek.

Here you can see where I will cut between the two lines of waste yarn.

For now Rams and Yowes is a big tube but soon it will be a flat piece. I am looking forward to getting the steek cut so I can pick up all the stitches around the edge and start the garter stitch border.
I will be meeting with my monthly knitting group in a week and a half and will cut the steek then with a captive audience.

The many yarn ends near the steek will get hidden between the two layers of the garter stitch border.  I shouldn't have to weave any in if I do it right.
I also started a new sock pattern designed by my friend, Maureen Foulds, who is also quite the prolific knitting designer. Her Pavillion Socks pattern is perfect for the multi-coloured Fleece Artist Kidazzle yarn I've had in my stash since Cat Bordhi recommended it at her workshop I attended at KnitEast 2012. Kidazzle consists of 70% merino, 20% kid mohair, and 10% nylon.
Although it's not marked on the label, I believe the colourway is called Stone.
I am enjoying just knitting and purling without doing any fancy stitches. The chart is easy to follow. I'm going the smallest (54 stitch) size. I like the striping and don't feel it is taking anything away from the diagonal pattern.