Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lost Knits: Foiling the Fairies

In many ways my life has been rather like a record of the lost and found. Perhaps all lives are like that. ― Lucy Foley, The Book of Lost and Found
I try not to get too attached to my belongings. Perhaps this is because I've misplaced so many things that I know I don't have enough energy to fret over them. Or maybe it's because I keep hoping they'll magically appear again some day, as if the fairies have just borrowed my things for a while.

Hey, fairies: Go get your own stuff.

I had a near-loss the other day as I was running errands in town. It was a chilly day, so I wore my Bubble Wrap Cowl, Cliff Hat, and Cappio Gloves, along with a fleece under my regular "Island winter jacket" (i.e. long, lined rain coat). It was slightly overkill, and I got a little overheated because I was trying as much as possible to walk in the sunshine. I popped off my hat and stuffed it into my handbag as I walked. I made a few stops: the physiotherapist to book an appointment, the bank, the health food shop, and the post office. On the way home, I stopped at the library to use the bathroom, and as I walked out, I was applying some cream to my hands, then suddenly realized I didn't have my gloves anymore.

Losing one of your hand knits is like dropping a $20 bill somewhere: it's not necessarily the end of the world (unless it's your last twenty), but it's really, really annoying. And besides that, you've lost the cost of the yarn and the hours of effort to make them. It's really sad.

I stood there on the sidewalk, wondering what to do. I had a feeling I might have left them at the health food shop, but couldn't be sure. After I rummaged through my handbag, I turned around again to walk back to the library and search the bathroom. No gloves. I walked back to the post office. Nope. At the health food shop, the shopkeeper even helped me look. None, even though I was sure I'd left them there.

I walked all the way home and wondered if I'd left them on the teller counter at the bank. By this point, it was another 15-minute walk to check, and I was wondering how badly I wanted them back.

Does a shepherd forsake her herd? I think not.

I got home, walked straight over to the car, got in, and drove back to the bank. As I walked in, I saw them on the counter, and I said to the teller there, "Oh, there they are. I left my gloves here."

To which she said, rather loudly to the other teller, "Oh, we WONDERED if anyone would come back for those." Which, to me, implied that they were hoping they wouldn't be claimed... and that they'd already started talking about who would get to take them home instead. To which, I nearly replied, "Not a chance, sister."

Gloves: I have saved you.

We're leaving tomorrow morning for a vacation in Malibu. Of course, part of my packing includes a project to work on during the flight. I have decided that I am going to try to knit myself another Straightforward Mitt. I lost one of them a while back, and it was a sad, sad day...

I have hung on to the other one in the vain hope that the fairies may get tired of the missing one and it will sometime reappear. Two years on, and it still hasn't happened. I looked back at my blogposts to find the photo above and discovered that I knitted them during another trip to California a couple of years back. Seems like this is the perfect time to knit a replacement. How lucky that I still have the leftover yarn, and that I have enough of said yarn, and that I actually have the right size needles:

I have these supplies packed safe and sound, ready to go. I guess I better go check to see if I have any of the other important stuff, like a passport, and maybe some underwear...

It would be good if the fairies would do some packing for me. I guess they don't do that sort of thing. Best get on it...

Friday, January 6, 2017

This Is My Emergency Face

Hysteria is impossible without an audience. Panicking by yourself is the same as laughing alone in an empty room. You feel really silly. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
I had an interesting night last night... but first...

I've been trying to drink a lot of fluids over the past few weeks, especially while I was home in Winnipeg, where the cold weather and dry air usually turn my skin into sandpaper and my insides into an aching mess. Since I returned to the Island, I've continued this extra-large fluid consumption to help me feel a little more like myself after all of the holiday excess. The natural result?

Well, I have to pee a lot. Like, nearly every half hour, during the day at least. And a couple of times during the night. I'm ok with this. I drink a lot of water regularly anyway, so I'm no stranger to scoping out the nearest restroom wherever I go. I take it as a sign that everything is tickety-boo.

So, last night, around 2:00 am, I wake up and I lie there, scanning my body, wondering if I need to get up and go to the bathroom. I doze for a bit, but then realize I should probably get up, so I sit up, swing my legs out of the bed, and wait for my brain to wake up enough to get up.

Then I hear it. And the hubby turns his head and says, "What's that?"

It sounds like rain... heavy rain. But heavier than heavy rain.

"I don't know," I say.

I get up and wander around, turning on lights, stopping and listening as I go. I make my way downstairs, where the noise is louder. It seems to be coming from the front of the house. I open the front door and peer outside. Nothing. I am standing there when the hubby comes down and says, "It sounds like a burst pipe."

I've never had to deal with a burst pipe in my whole entire life, but as I'm standing there, I realize I can feel the floor vibrating slightly. Next thing, we've opened the closet and he's shoving things out of the way to open the hatch to the crawl space, and I'm moving the stuff out of the way to make room for him. He opens the hatch, jumps down, and says, "Yeah, it's a burst pipe."

I peer down, and there are two hoses that have separated, and one is spewing a waterfall out of it... pressure so hard that it's shooting upwards to the floorboards.

We turn off valves, but we can't find the main. We rent this house, and neither of us can remember where it might be. We call the landlord, who is new to us as of this year, and it's the wrong number. We call another of his numbers, and it's out of service. Meanwhile, we're running around, turning things off, trying to figure out what to do.

We call an emergency plumber, who says he's on his way, and then we call our former landlord, the guy who built this house, who very kindly tells us how to turn off the main and then gives us another phone number for the new landlord. Meanwhile, the plumber arrives and helps us turn off the main. He jumps down into the crawlspace and inspects the damage, while I make my way back up to the bedroom and sit on the bed, breathing deeply, trying to get my senses back.

After about an hour, the plumber has replaced the coupling for the two hoses with a different type, and we turn on the main and find that it's holding. He tells us that there's a drain down there, and the water is already disappearing, but that we'll need some fans for the crawlspace to keep the air circulating for at least 24 hours to get rid of the moisture. "You'll need two. You can rent them and get insurance to pay for them."

But we actually own three circulating fans. Don't ask - we just seem to collect them up. And I crawl down there with one and set it up pointing in the area where the water is draining, then we set another one up in the opposite end.

Before the plumber leaves, he says, "Thanks for being so calm."

Were we calm? I guess a lot of people would be yelling and and in hysterics in this situation. But, apart from having to shout over the roar of the water, I guess we were relatively gentle folk. I didn't feel calm, but I remember being told as a child that staying calm was a good way not to throw up at a birthday party.

Words to live by.

Anyway, here's the crawlspace. We don't keep much down there: a few suitcases, a Christmas tree we never put up, a couple of bins. We hauled those up before the plumber came, and he was pleasantly surprised at how clean and tidy it was... for a minor disaster scene:

The landlord called this morning after finally receiving our messages and our emails. We got the phone numbers straightened out. He arranged for the plumber had to return because the hose was still leaking this morning, but after changing out one of the pipes (which he thinks was damaged during its original installation), things seem to be holding.

Tonight, we're sitting here with the fans running. I keep jumping up at any sound of water. I'm making dinner: fresh pita and roasted vegetables, which I will mix with some leftover ham, oregano, basil, garlic, and ground coriander to make a kind of ragoux. The heat from the oven makes me feel better:

And all of this made me think about a few things:
  1. Renting has its upsides. Our rent includes our water use, so we don't have to pay for the extra water. It also means that the emergency plumber call is not on our dime.
  2. I'm glad we were home when this happened. I've never turned off the main before travel, but we're leaving for California next week, and you bet that thing will be off when we go... and will be off whenever we're gone for any time longer than a night.
  3. It really is important to have extra water on hand in case of emergency. When the water was off, I was looking around the kitchen, noticing that we had a Brita pitcher full of water, plus a half dozen small water bottles and a couple of bottles of sparkling water as well. While it would have been easy to go out and get more today, it would be good to get at least another flat of water bottles, just in case it was a real emergency.
I think we'll eat dinner now. And then I'm gonna knit. That's enough excitement for now.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The "Try and Do" List

Having come to the conclusion that there was so much to do that she didn’t know where to start, Mrs Fowler decided not to start at all. She went to the library, took Diary of a Nobody from the shelves and, returning to her wicker chair under the lime tree, settled down to waste what precious hours still remained of the day. ― Richmal Crompton, Family Roundabout
Happy New Year! Day 2 of 2017, and so far, so good. I woke up this morning, and I could see and hear and breathe and taste, even in the darkness. I'd say I'm doing pretty well, so far.

We headed back to the Island on New Year's Eve Day, which is the date we've travelled on for the last few years. It's generally a pretty laid-back time to travel: most people are staying put to do the fireworks and countdown thing rather than getting on a plane and going somewhere. I was relaxed as we entered security at Winnipeg Airport, and even took the time to take a photo of this mobile display before we went in:

The airport in Winnipeg amazes me these days. When I left home, there were two departure gates. Now, there are fifteen. There used to be one large hall before you went through security, with a video game arcade, a couple of restaurants, and a viewing lounge where you could watch the planes landing and taking off. I used to know the airport really, really well: my mom used to take my brother and I there on the odd weekend, and he and I would run around and explore the whole place. We rode the escalators, looked through the magazine shop, and played Pac Man. We even knew how to plug the meter if it got low. I guess that was her way of finding an open space for us to let off steam. Maybe that's why I always feel so at home in an airport... and why I'm so good at Pac Man.

I have some extra time off before I go back to work. I wanted to make the most of the time I have off (instead of doing my usual faffing around), and so, in an effort to be organized, I made a list. It's not so much a "to do" list, as much as it is a "try and do" list. It goes something like this:

1) Take a photo of my gift from Linette.

My Winnipeg yarn-friend and I have made it a yearly tradition to give each other a little handmade gift each year. This year, she got Olaf, and I got this lovely little Christmas tree ornament. I love the little beads and the vintage buttons she used for the star on top. She messaged me the day after we got together to ask me to take a photo of it for her, and so, voilĂ . Job done.

2) Make challah.

I've been wanting to try making this bread for a while. The reasons were purely aesthetic: it is such a beautifully crafted bread, and a girl I grew up with always shows beautiful photos of her handmade challah on her Facebook page. I had never actually ever tasted it before, but hey, it's bread. If you can put jam on it, I'm sold.

I impressed myself with how well I managed to braid it. I followed the instructions in the recipe and it turned out better than I imagined. Here's what it looked like after the second rise and with the egg wash brushed onto it:

And here it is cooling from the oven. I missed a few spots for the egg wash, but it was otherwise a pure triumph! 

And it is delicious: soft and pillowy inside, slightly sweet and somewhat laminated like a croissant. It slices well with a serrated knife, and toasts well in a toaster. I am trying not to eat it all in a day!

3) Reorganize my jewelry.

I am ashamed to say that I am TERRIBLE at putting my jewelry away. And I love jewelry so much that there is a lot of it strewn around the house: on the coffee table, in the bathroom, on my bedside table, and in my "jewelry area," which was just one of the surfaces in the office which I had commandeered for my mess. I was ruthless in this process: any costume jewelry I hadn't worn in a year was out. Anything that felt like a burden to keep was out as well. I have no "before" photos of this process - it was embarrassing how much stuff I had lying around - but here's what it looks like now, two boxes, with the "big thug" necklaces clasped together in the middle:

The box on the right was given to be my friends when I left home to go and work in the UK back in 1999. It has moved around with me ever since, but it wasn't really being used for much, apart from holding some momentos from my previous lives. I decided it was time to put it to work. 

Since there are only a couple of divisions inside the box, I needed some containers to keep stuff from getting tangled and mixed up. I lay in bed last night thinking about it, and realized that I had plenty of things in the house that would do the trick. My tea cup collection, while pretty to look at, are cups that have always been a tad too small for a barbaric gulper like me, and the my vintage ceramic candy dishes have sat on my shelf gathering dust as well. Coupled with a few extra boxes and little jars, they seem to make lovely little organizers:

Here they are with the lids off the candy dishes. It looks haphazard, but each container has a purpose: one is holding small, stud-like earrings, another is holding larger "regular wear" earrings. The corner is holding my bracelets, which I don't wear all that often, but I like to know where they are in case the mood hits me. The teacups are holding necklaces: necklaces with large pendants, necklaces with smaller pendants (with the chains draped to the outside to keep them from tangling). I have boxes for longer necklaces, and one corner has some of the larger statement necklaces grouped carefully together:

And to the left of that is my vintage jewelry collection, mostly necklaces again, but grouped in drawers according to size and "tangle-ability." I've laid everything in there carefully to keep them from getting all messed up. The box itself is a sweet little vintage jewelry box I picked up a few weeks ago, when I first thought about getting this all organized:

4) Knit, for heaven's sake.

My big Fleece Artist blanket-thing continues. It is now large enough to drape over my lap, and over part of the lap of the person sitting next to me (as I realized halfway through my flight - sorry about that). The ball is getting smaller, but I still have another ball from the same skein sitting in my knitting bag, which broke off when I was winding it. I won't lie: it's dull. I'm getting tired of it now, but it's got to the stage that I HAVE to work out it to get it out of my life.

In truth, it IS pretty. I'm still wondering what it will be in the end - it won't be large enough for an actual blanket, but maybe it'll be a nice throw? Or a centrepiece for the bed in the spare room? We'll see...

I have other things on my "try and do" list, but I've been trying to do only one thing from the list at a time, in order to give myself the time to rest as well. That has turned out to be a good rule for me, because I am nothing if I am not easily distracted. Besides, if I try to pack a bunch of tasks into one day, doesn't that turn a day off into a work day? I know what I'm like. A "to do" list becomes a "to conquer" list, and I am not in the mood for battle. Not just now.

Let's see: tomorrow, I can either clean and service my sewing machine or try to ply some of my handspun. Or I could eat some more bread. Decisions, decisions...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Snow Musings, and a Resolution

I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still. Cozy couples lazily meandered the streets and children trudged sleds and chased snowballs. No one seemed to be in a rush to experience anything other than the glory of the day, with each other, whenever and however it happened. -― Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Home again for the holidays... days of spending time at my parents' house, watching game shows and entertaining visitors, eating way more food and worrying far less than I normally do, and just taking each moment as it comes. I've wanted to feel this comfort for a while, and now that it's here, the days have slowed to a gentle stroll... not dull and boring, but slow enough to savour and breathe. I'm grateful for it.

We arrived last week, on a bright, windy day, when the flight we were on was nearly re-routed back to Regina, and by the time we landed, I wasn't sure who was more grateful, me or my stomach. My parents picked us up in their van, which has The Carpenters or Rod Stewart playing on repeat, and we were brought to the house, which always has a warm meal ready for us.

Is that civilized or what?

Since then, we've enjoyed a few days of wandering around: out to the pool for a swim on a few mornings, or outside for walks in the cold, fresh air. Yeah, it's cold, no shock there, but why dwell on it? It's winter in Winnipeg, and it is as it should be.

I like lens flare. I think it duplicates what it feels like to be blinded by the sun on a snowy day:

I think I might have figured out why the snow was annoying me so much a couple of weeks ago. I think it's because I had places to go, things to do. I didn't want to respect it for the force of nature it actually is. I suppose that's what comes of living in a region where snow is so infrequent.

And yet here, in my hometown of Winnipeg, where the snow is ubiquitous as stripes on a zebra, the snow fell last night. It fell and fell and fell, and by the morning, we had over a foot of snow to get out and shovel (which was welcome exercise after the piles of food I ate the day before). The roads were blocked, the highways closed, the Boxing Day shoppers thwarted (for the moment). 

Here, the snow falls, and I look out and I say, "I think I'll stay home."

Luckily, I never have trouble finding something to do. I'm still working away on this blanket. In truth, I'm getting bored with it, but I'm determined to keep going with it. I try to work one side per day, but that's getting a bit difficult to do as it grows. I'm interested to see what I end up with, and I'm even considering experimenting with felting it when I'm done:

I finished my little embroidery project, and brought it home to show my mom. I'm pretty proud of it, and I'm inspired to try out all sorts of things now with my leftover yarn ends. I'm thinking about sewing this one onto a cushion:

In fact, I have so many ideas that I've started to write a to-do list for when I get back to our own house. I've got a few more days off before I have to go back to work, and I'm really looking forward to working on some things I've been putting off for a while. So far, I've got:

  • clean and service sewing machine
  • spin and ply alpaca
  • re-organize jewlery box
That doesn't look like much, but I know what I'm like: I'll start one thing and get distracted by another project for sure. I figure that, if I don't make too many plans, I won't be disappointed if I don't get them all done.

How's that for a modern New Year's Resolution?

Truth be told, I do actually have a resolution for myself: to be as kind to myself as I can, and in turn try to recognize when others are suffering from their own worries, and empathize as best as I can. It's sort of a tall order, because I come from a lifetime of discipline-by-berating, but right now, in this moment, it's not a habit I want to continue. Maybe it's because I've been home with my father, whose health is still not great... maybe I'm realizing how precious each moment is.

I don't want to spend so much time being impatient and angry anymore.

I think I'll go knit for a while... Happy Holidays to you all.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sheep, Gnomes, Needles, and Cake

It was a funny old week this week, full of strange circumstances and an explosion of creative projects. It didn't start out all the promising. In a strange flip of the universe, I got stuck at home on Monday due to the snow.

Let me be clear: I have not had a snow day since I was eight years old and living in Winnipeg. WINNIPEG. The land of snow and ice and occasional six foot snow drifts. And here? We got hit with a few inches of wet snow, and I am stuck in my friggin' parking lot, which has an exit that is sloped at a 45 degree angle. So. Irritating.

I did eventually manage to get the car out, but then I drove it down the road to the gas station, put some fuel in it, and then promptly charged back up the hill and parked it on the road. I walked back into the house, fired up my laptop, and worked from home that day.

That afternoon, I opened my freezer and nearly lost my toes to a package of bacon that fell out. Given my broken foot experience last summer, that was a hazard I was not willing to live with.. So I pulled out some stuff and made something with it to make room.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my oven made for me: a rhubarb cake to go with coffee. No, I'm not going to do the whole song. I don't think I have enough ingredients.

I think I overdid it with the cinnamon on top, but, as with most things, it's the inside the counts. It's full of all the nice flecks of cinnamon and brown sugar and good things that make a cake good. I reduced the sugar in it, and I'm wondering if that was a good idea because the rhubarb was still eye-squint tart, but with another mouthful of cake, it wasn't that bad.

All things are bearable with a mouthful of cake, I think.

That night, I sat down and taught myself how to needle felt. I used a kit that I bought a while back from this Etsy shop. There's nothing like poking yourself multiple times with a felting needle to improve your mood... or at least improve your productivity.

He started out kind of scraggly and scrawny.

And then he started to fill out.

And then I really got the hang of it and gave him some shape.

The hubby suggested ears. That made him adorable.

But it was the flower I put on his butt that just made him unbearably cute.

The next day, we had to help shovel and push our neighbour's car out. Oy... island winter.

The week carried on and filled itself with lots of challenging situations that inspired me to come home and comfort myself by crafting the heck out of each evening. I stitched and stuffed and felted and sewed. I finished this little gnome in a couple of evenings. I used this pattern to make him. His name is Olaf and he is awesome. His hat made him quite difficult to photograph (that is 90% hat in that photo), but he cheered me up immensely:

After such an upside-down week, I was looking forward to attending a local artisan Christmas market on Saturday. I had signed up for a couple of workshops that were taking place at the same venue, and I was so determined to get there that I made sure I parked the car in a spot where I knew I could for sure get out in case the snow came down again. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night and peered out the window to see what the roads looked like. I woke up two hours earlier than I had planned to and got up to get my things ready, eat breakfast, and watch the clock until it was time to leave.

It didn't disappoint. One of the workshops I attended was a freestyle embroidery class. I have been thinking about embroidering something with some of the leftover yarn scraps I've been gathering up, but I just haven't been able to get my thoughts in order for it. This class seemed like just the thing.

There were six of us in the class, and each and every one of us was excited to be there. We all had a paper bag placed in front of us and inside each of them was an embroidery hoop with some fabric and a pattern drawn on it:

It was a lovely class - truly freestyle, in that there were no steps to follow, just some inspiration and encouragement to try stitches and play with colours. And I was so happy to be with the others in the class: it was amazing to be around people who were all brave enough to dive in and give it a go. We were all smiling throughout the whole workshop, and at the end, we put all of our pieces together and the teacher went through each and talked about what she liked about each of them. We all beamed with the praise, and then we all skipped away with our unfinished works, feeling accomplished and happy. That is what I call a successful class:

I got home and carried on with it into the evening:

And here's what it looked like this afternoon. The green thread in the leaves and stems is some leftover laceweight from a shawl I made a couple of years ago. I love how the colours are coming up in this piece. What a neat way to see the possibilities in a ball of yarn:

My last day of work is tomorrow, and then we're off to Winnipeg to spend the holidays with my family. I am so looking forward to seeing them and getting some rest and relaxation. I feel grateful to be able to go home to them and enjoy their company. We've never been big on presents and shopping this time of year. It sounds corny, but the greatest gift I could have is to be with them right now.

I just have to make sure we can get the car to the airport. Better go move the car now...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Snowy Days, Cottage Pie, and Mr. Bond

Necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife. -- Jonathan Schattke, scientist
Well, would ya look at that.

We've lived on Vancouver Island for just over three years, and this is the first year that we've had an actual dump of snow. I hoped it wouldn't come. I find it really inconvenient and awkward when it snows here, mainly because it's that wet, heavy, slippery, icy, can't-get-out-of-the-parking space kind of snow that shifts and melts and turns the sidewalk into a skating rink

That's the long way of me saying that I hate it when it snows here.

That aside, I suppose it's good weather for playing in the kitchen. I made a "cottage pie" today. I put that in quotes because there's no actual beef in it, and I substituted sweet potato for the mashed potato. I used some textured soy protein to replace the beef, and used a recipe for miso gravy to give it some flavour. It would be vegetarian if it wasn't for the beef broth I added, and it would be vegan if it wasn't for the milk and butter I added to the mash. I am neither vegetarian nor vegan, but I find it a very convenient way to eat foods low in fat, high in fibre, and with a decent amount of protein. I think I added too much liquid because it ended up bubbling through the mashed potatoes:

But for all that, it went into the oven looking good and came out of the oven tasting great, so that, as they say, is all that matters:

In the meantime, I've been trying to find something to make with a skein of Fleece Artist that I was trying to make into a top in my last post. I thought it was going alright, but I picked up the project one day and just couldn't make myself like it. I think the colours contrast too much with each other to make a wearable garment... at least a garment I want to wear. No matter what I did, I was going to end up with distracting splotches. So, with a big sigh, I ripped it all out and decided to try Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ten Stitch Blanket, which is a pattern which starts out with a square that is ten stitches wide, and then spirals on itself around and around until you get to the size you want...

...except, somewhere along the way, ten stitches turned into thirteen. I'm not sure how that happened, but at least I have not added any more random stitches for the last few turns. I keep thinking that I might still be able to make this into a garment at some point, but if it ends up being a blanket, I would not be unhappy about that result at all:

I would have made it much farther with that project if it weren't for our company Christmas party, which took place on Friday evening. It had a James Bond theme, and last Sunday evening, I opened my closet and pulled out a dress that I thought I'd never have the guts to wear: a black, form fitting dress with a slit up the leg and a low back. A very Bond girl dress, and this was the only opportunity I could ever see myself wearing it. The thing was, I wasn't very comfortable with having so much of my back exposed, especially with the pending snow in the forecast, so I decided that a drapey scarf would be just the thing. I cast on for Sachiko Uemura's scarf pattern, A Different Breeze on Monday evening. I knit like a mad person all week, and by Thursday night, I soaked the finished product and gave it some light blocking:

And it was exactly what I wanted. I would have modeled it with the actual dress, but it took way more engineering to get that dress on than I cared to repeat. Suffice it to say that it draped nicely across my throat:

And reached all the way to the small of my back:

To speed up the knitting, as well as to force it to lie flat against my throat, I substituted the lace stitches for plain knit stitches, and retained the twisted ones in the pattern to give it some texture:

The sad thing is that it was so chilly in the hall that I ended up wearing a wrap nearly the entire time, but at least the vision was realized... if but for a short time. I feel pretty proud of myself for being able to whip up such a nice accessory for myself in such a short period of time. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

I have just over one week of work before I take a break for the holidays. I am so looking forward to some time with my family, and then to some time to myself, not to mention the scads of knitting time that I'm craving so much. I have 1000 metres to work through for that blanket. I'm just hoping I don't get too bored with it in the meantime. And I feel a bit sorry for my blog readers, because that might be the only project I have to report on for a while. Sorry, y'all. I'll try to jazz it up for you with some baking photos or something...

Now that's a pretty good promise! It's a good thing I like  cake  cookies  you guys enough to  go eat all the cookies  slave away in the kitchen. I shall endeavour to find some interesting baking recipe the sake of your entertainment. It shall view it as yet another necessity... a duty... a service to my faithful blog friends...

Onwards I march to the kitchen. Have a good week.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chocolate and Handspun Wool: A Study in Time

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking. -- William B. Sprague 
And just like that, it feels like winter. Granted, we don't get the same kind of winter that I grew up with back in Winnipeg, but all of a sudden, there is a definite nip in the air, and I'm wearing my knits with regularity just to stay warm and comfortable in my frigid office. I am so grateful for all of my scarves and cowls and fingerless mitts right now: they're the only thing that help me start my workday. By noon, the heat in the building seems to be normal, so I shed my layers throughout, but I maintain that it's better to shed layers than wish you had them on.

I finished my cowl made with my merino handspun early last week. I soaked it in some Eucalan wool wash, and then added a healthy dollop of my hair conditioner because it was feeling a bit scratchy. I think it's helped, but I could have done a better job of rinsing it. Right now, it smells so much like my hair that I feel like I'm standing behind myself in line when I put it on, but I'm hoping that sensation will fade along with the scent from the conditioner. I am so pleased with the result:

I still have just over a ball left of this batch of handspun, and I think I might make it into some mittens so that I can admire the yarn even more. I haven't made a set of mittens since I moved to Vancouver Island, but if the office stays as cold as it has been, it's going to have to be a necessity...

But I digress.

I went back to spinning a some of my alpaca silk, but I got a bit frustrated with it because I couldn't seem to get a good rhythm going, so I've put it aside for now to try to make something out of this huge skein of Fleece Artist BFL that I've had for a while now:

I've pulled out at least a dozen patterns that I thought might work with this yarn. The trouble is that I'm really not sure how all the colours with work in a garment. I can't help but think that I need a simple lace pattern to break up the colours, but so far, I'm not sure what that's going to be. I settled on Pam Allen's Modern Lace Henley, as I've admired it for a while, and I thought it was simple enough to break up the pooling colours, but lacy enough to make the most of my limited yardage.

I started out with the idea that was going to alternate balls of yarn each row to try to prevent the pooling. That lasted all of two rows, and then it turned into a tangled, horrible mess. The yarn seemed to revolt against me as I tried to pull it apart. "How dare you try to control me!" it seemed to say.

How dare I indeed.

I cast on again and started knitting the lower band again. It's starting to pool now, and I am simultaneously enchanted and concerned: enchanted by the colours I am seeing, and concerned that this thing is going to turn into a big, splotchy mess. I changed my mind about the pattern and went looking for a wavy lace pattern that might work best with the undulating pools that I'm seeing. I ripped  out stitches again and again to try to make the best use of my current stitch count, but I've since abandoned that idea and gone back to the Henley pattern. I'm glad I started knitting it from the bottom up in the round: if I end up really hating it as I go, I could always bail out and turn it into a big rainbow-y cowl.

Because, of course, I need more scarves and cowls. See above for my comments about my office temperature.

As I was placing the stitches back onto my needles after my last ripping out session, I recalled someone admiring one of my handknit sweaters one day. She asked me, "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" I said.

"Make sweaters with no mistakes in them?"

I think I might have snorted. I can make a sweater yes, but I am EXPERT at putting the stitches back on my needles after ripping out hours and hours of work. If you're the sort of person who makes things by hand, I think it means that you think about time differently than a lot of other people do. You don't churn out perfect things, and you don't wait around for the perfect time to make something. And you don't feel like your time has been wasted when you have to deal with a mistake. You might shrug your shoulders and carry on, or you might pull it apart and start over, but you always know that, whatever time you are going to put into this thing, you've elected to use it for creating something, and that time is always time well spent.

Speaking of: I decided I'd make some chocolate truffles to give away as little Christmas gifts. Chocolate itself has its own schedule. It's both slow and lightning fast in the same time. You have to be patient while melting your chocolate, but if you give it 5 seconds longer than you think, it will seize up into a horrible mess in your bowl. And then, even when you get it right, it sets in no time if you dilly dally for too long.

I will admit: I would find it hard to mess up a whole batch of this stuff. Chocolate isn't something you can rip back and start over with... but at least the mistakes are delicious.

I had prepared an extra pan in case my first one wasn't enough to take all the chocolate ganache I had prepared, but it all fit into one after all. I'd spent enough time carefully buttering and lining the pan that it seemed a waste to pull it off and clean it without having made something, so I whipped up a batch of lemon slices and used the pan for that instead:

I'm not sure if that's an example of striking when the iron is hot or making it hot by striking, but in the end, the cake was warm and my tea was hot and I made them both myself, and that's all that really matters.

And here I am talking about cake again. Hmm... oh well...