Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Sample of the Ingenuity of Complete Fools

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. ― Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless
I have a finished object on the blocking boards: a product of an ingenious pattern... and a bit of foolishness...

The pattern is called Icterine, from Hunter Hammersen's Curls collection. I've admired it for a while, and I was pretty excited to finally cast on for it. The result has not disappointed. Even on the blocking board, I can't help to stop and admire the cables each time I walk past:

The patterns are "curls" because of the way the fabric curls back on itself during its construction, creating a kind of built-in hook that allows you to drape the resulting shawl in a way that hangs on by itself. It's a fool-proof design, made for those of us who have trouble figuring out how to wear our handknit shawls:

Except... I have a bit of a problem. If you look at the lower left corner, you'll see a button:

I placed it there because I had about six stitches left at the end while I was binding off, and I totally completely, and utterly ran out of yarn. It was late at night, and I wanted this thing finished. "No problem," I thought to myself. "I shall place a button, and therefore I will have an extra little accessory to fasten the shawl around my shoulders."

Except, now that it's all stretched out, I think the button should be on the other end of that straight edge. I think it makes more sense to put a button there. And, since the button is placed in such a manner to hold onto all six of those dangling stitches, I'm not really sure what's going to happen if I try to remove it.

This is what happens when I try to be innovative on a late night.

I think I have a solution. While digging through my yarn stash, I came across some of my own handspun merino yarn, a yellow single spun a couple of years ago:

I'm thinking I might use a strand of that to try to bind off those last six stitches. The trick will be trying to catch them when I remove that button. I'm waiting for the shawl to dry before I do that. I might need a cup of tea and a cookie before I give it a go. Best to be prepared for all eventualities.

I only got this thing onto the blocking boards last night because it's been another long, busy week at work. I got a little bit of a respite on Thursday afternoon when I left early for a doctor's appointment. It had been a rough day, and after my appointment, I thought I'd treat myself by going to look at some pretty shoes in a nearby shoe shop (I call it "shoe visiting), and then I stopped in at a vintage shop near the parking lot where I was parked. There, I found this thing:

I have no idea what it is or what it was used for, but I stood there with it in my hands for a good ten minutes, smoothing my hands over the metal surface, admiring the etched pattern, feeling the weight of it in my hands:

"I don't know what this is, and I have no idea what I will use it for," I said to the lady behind the till, "but it is six dollars, and I've had a hard day, and I think that is reason enough to take it home."

So, I did. And I brought it to work the next day and gave it a job. Tea bag holder. New title, new use:

This weekend, I've been keeping myself busy with daydreaming about how I'm going to sort out my shawl, and a bit of spinning. I broke out a bag of roving: an alpaca-silk blend that has been hibernating in my cupboard. I brought out one of my unused spindles, and I've been happily spinning the soft, squishy goodness into a spindle-full of contentment. I'm playing around with the idea of plying it into a three-ply yarn, which I've never done before and which will take a bit of invention, since I still don't have a bobbin-holder or lazy kate to hold three spindlefuls of yarn:

After my last innovation-debacle, I'm not sure I can be trusted with any inventive ideas. At least I have about 150 grams of roving to ponder through. Stay tuned... this could get interesting...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Need a Reason for Bunting

I haven't got time in my life to do all the things I should be doing, like running and dieting and decorating my house, buying some furniture. --Jennifer Saunders
I came across that quote today, and truer words have never been spoken. If only I could spend life doing all of the healthy things I'm supposed to be doing, and also have all the time I wanted to fix things up around the house and peruse and select all the vintage furniture I wanted, things would be pretty ok. Instead, I plan little weekend adventures like this one.

I was really hoping to have a finished project to share today. I was approaching the end of it this week, but last night, noticed an error in the cables, and so I decided to let down 12 rows of cabling to fix it. It was sort of a "spaghetti situation," for a while... sort of touch and go:

Luckily, I did get it all sorted out and it's back together now, but I'm currently playing yarn chicken with the bind off, and I'm not sure who is going to win this one. I'll either have enough yarn to finish this bind off, or it'll be a long road of ripping back for me. Hmph and hmph.

At least I do have some lovely fibre-y photos to share this week. Yesterday, I decided to go to The Cowichan Valley Fleece and Fiber Festival for the first time. Each year it comes around, I keep meaning to go, but have never managed it until now. I'm very glad I did.

It's been so dreary around here with days and days of rain and storms, so it was simply lovely to walk into the hall and be greeted by such beautiful colours: roving of all kinds, all beautifully displayed for my eyes to drink in:

And bags and bags of lovely fleece to feel and touch and smell:

The main hall was buzzing with people, all happy to be inside and warm and dry and hanging out with the wool and the cool people who like wool:

Skeins of yarn everywhere:

Lovely fiber-y items of all sorts, including these alpaca and llama coasters:

Colours absolutely everywhere:

One of the vendors was selling fleeces and locks, and had this fascinating finished piece made from felted locks. It was absolutely lovely: light and airy and unusual. So gorgeous:

And I loved this combination of colours in this lace piece. What a wonderful idea. It got the wheels spinning in my head:

Ah, sheep. You're the best:

And, I went in with the intention of being really careful with my purchases, since my expenses have been a bit high with our trip to Montreal and all. I was pretty well-behaved, but I did come away with some treasures, like this pretty little drop spindle, made by the same person who made the spindle I purchased at another fiber festival a couple of years back. His work is so beautiful, and I just couldn't resist. This one has a whorl made from pear wood, and has a black walnut shaft:

And, I saw these two bundles of yak combed top when I first walked into the hall, and I managed to do an entire circuit of the hall before I had to come back and buy them. I am so excited to try to make something with this grey cloud of loveliness:

And well, I went back to the same table to look at some of the camel combed top, when the woman behind the table pulled these two bundles from a bag and plonked them in front of me. My eyes widened, and I looked up at her, as though she had placed a bag of gold coins in front of me. Could I walk away from a blend of chocolately/caramel ripple-y/cappucino-y fiber blend of merino, alpaca, camel, and silk? Heck, heck, h-e-double-hockey-sticks no:

Here's a group shot. What a lovely family:

Afterward, we stopped in at Union 22 in Cobble Hill. I'd only recently found out about this shop, and as soon as we walked in, I wanted to move in:

I thought this bunting was a lovely idea for all of the vintage lace and doilies I keep seeing in thrift shops. I just need a reason to put up punting. Do I need a reason? I will take all bunting suggestions freely:

It's funny: this is the second time I've attended a fiber festival on a rainy day, bought a spindle and fiber, and stopped in at a vintage shop on the same day. That almost sounds like a tradition: a yearly thing. Perhaps even a reason for bunting. Interesting.

I'm off to go fight with my bind off. When I complete, I shall celebrate, perhaps have a bit of a treat, and contemplate a bunting party. Hmm, yes... must muse...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Like a Mad, Miserly Pirate

Hide things everywhere. Forget about them. Find them randomly and feel surprised like a pirate finding buried treasure. Avoid scurvy. Love more. ― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not FOR SALE
It's Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada. I'm thankful for a lot of things: my family, a warm home, a secure, safe life... and, perhaps more prosaically, the weekend. Man, I am so glad to have a long weekend.

I was not prepared for how busy I was going to be the first week back after being away on vacation. Part of it was my fault. I had appointments and activities scheduled after work nearly every day, which made for a lot of running around and a lot of long days. On top of that, the hubby caught a cold, and therefore I spent all week trying to dodge it. I have sprayed and wiped surfaces, taken doses of echinacea, tried to get a decent night's sleep each night, and have been really careful with what I've been eating and drinking. 5pm on Friday was a welcome sight.

It poured with rain on Saturday. We had errands to do: brought the car in for a service and to get the tires changed, did the grocery shopping, and did some early reconnaissance on a new couch. That last one we are not taking lightly, given the name of this blog. Adriene's Couch has got to be the right one.

Yesterday was a lovely, bright day. I had planned to get up and go to the gym, but my body was still weary, and so I decided to lie in a little longer and forgo a morning of huffing and puffing and sweating. We went out later for a walk in the sunshine, which was even more invigorating. I noticed the leaves starting to change colour. It always seems to happen in an instant each year... one moment, they are green, and then the next, they turn into my favourite colours of the year:

We walked by the marina and saw this stunner sitting there. My brain first thought, "Submarine!" but then I realized that it's a lifeboat like the one the pirates took in Captain Phillips. I hope I never need a lifeboat, but if I do, I might be ok with this one, at least for a short while. My seasickness is bad enough that anyone who might get stuck in a lifeboat with me would soon be jumping out to get away from me:

In the midst of my busy week, I have actually been enjoying a bit of knitting here and there. I decided to pull out one of my most treasured skeins of yarn and finally make something from it: a skein of Camelspin yarn by Handmaiden, a blend of 70% silk and 30% camel. I remember the day I bought it a few years ago at Olds Fibre Festival. I saw it hanging on a rack, and I circled it a few times, tentatively touching it, sighing quietly at the price tag, leaving it behind, and then circling back again to buy it and take it home. It was not a bargain find. But it was mine... all mine... I had a sense of what it might feel like to strike gold... or to be a pirate in search of some...

Since then, it has lived in my yarn stash, popping up every so often whenever I dig through to find a rogue skein. Each time I find it, my eyes widen, I stop what I'm doing, and I sigh as my fingers stroke the fibres. It's a treasure, for sure, and I've been waiting for just the right project for it.

I found it recently in Hunter Hammersen's Icterine, which is one of the patterns in her Curls Collection. It's of an unusual shape, a curl indeed, but it looks like a wearable shape. The sample photo reminded me of my little golden treasure, and as soon as I had time to do it, I found my skein and got started.

I wound the skein into a ball by hand, instead of using my ball winder, and I draped the skein around my feet so I could delight in the softness as I did it. So far, it is such a delight to knit:

And the cables are delicious, and they seem to come tumbling out of my needles in a beautiful, ripply cascade. Each time I finish a repeat, I stop to admire it, stretching and stroking the rippling shapes. I am eager to block it to see how it will turn out... but I'm also enjoying it so much that I half-wish the ball was larger so I could knit it longer. We'll see how long that feeling lasts...

In the meantime, we've had our turkey, and and I'm bracing myself for another busy week. I feel somewhat depressed at the prospect of the dark, lonely office awaiting me, and the rain forecasted for later this week, but I figure that, if anything, I've got a treasure in my knitting bag under my desk. If the going gets tough, I can pull it out and chuckle over it like a mad, miserly pirate. That'll make me feel better. It'll at least freak everyone else out enough to stay away...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Epic, and Not Expendable


(of an object) designed to be used only once and then abandoned or destroyed.
You'll never believe it: I finished something. A knitting project. No, really, it's done. And I did it all myself.

We arrived back from Montreal last Thursday night, and I've been enjoying a few days off around the house, getting a few errands done and resting up to go back to work. Montreal was great, but I'm always glad to get back to the slower pace of Vancouver Island. There's nothing like going away to make you appreciate home even more.

I've also been working away trying to get my latest knitting project finished. At the risk of using an already over-used word, this project was epic. I looked back at my Ravelry page to see when I started, it was was all the way back on July 24th. Dat's a long time. And, honestly, I was getting so sick of working on this thing. I just wanted it done.

I've been resisting taking any in-progress photos of this thing for the past few weeks, simply because the trouble with lace knitting is that it looks like absolute crap while you're working on it: sort of like a tangled up fishing net... or how I imagine regret looks like. Heh.

But it has turned out amazingly beautiful. I've said it over and over again: it's amazing what blocking does for a lace project:

In review: the pattern is called Going Places Shawl and the yarn is Handmaiden Lace Silk, a 100% silk yarn in laceweight. I wish you could see the lovely sheen of it in the photos. The drape is so, so lovely. I honestly didn't think it would turn out so well, but maybe that's because I've tried out so many patterns with this skein that I was just resigning myself to whatever result came of it. I'm especially happy with how the diamond shapes work with the variegated colours in the yarn.  

I managed to get a lot of it finished while we were away. I don't normally get a lot of knitting done when I'm traveling, but we spent each evening after dinner in the apartment we rented, resting after each long day of walking and exploring. I sat in front of the tv, catching up on The Voice and knitting repeat after repeat, reaching the end of each and glancing down at the remaining ball and thinking, "I think I can do another." I kept knitting until the very last evening we were in Montreal, and then declared it time to do the edging.

And by the way, yes, I like watching The Voice. I think it's refreshing to see people succeed by using their talents, instead of for taking selfies and posting them on Instagram.

I was all ready to do the edging, which you knit on sideways along the perimeter of the shawl, but when I started, I realized that I didn't really like the look of it. It was too loose and loopy-looking for my liking, and not at all complimentary to the diamonds in the design. Against my better judgement, I sat on the bed in the apartment before we left for the airport, scrolling through my phone, looking at Ravelry and every other online knitting stitch dictionary I could think of until I came upon this one. It had the same number of rows in each repeat as the original, so I figured it would work.

I sat in the airport and started knitting it. I stopped a few times, stretching it out, trying to imagine what it would look like blocked, squinting and cocking my head throughout. I decided to change the wrong side stitches to all purl stitches to make look smoother. As I knitted it, I was really, really unsure if it was going to work, and I was even less sure that I was going to have enough yarn to finish it. I worked on it through three more episodes of Downtown Abbey during the flight home, and then through watching Noah (with Russell Crowe) on Friday night, and The Expendables 3, followed by The Expendables (1) on Saturday night. Yes, I watched them in that order. No, I didn't choose that order... that's just how they happened to be broadcast. Not that it mattered. They were both kind of the same movie.

I finally cast off last night and decided to get straight to blocking it. It was enormous, nearly four blocking squares wide. And this was still with nearly one quarter of the skein left. 

I took it off the boards this afternoon to take photos of it. My arms were getting tired from trying to get a full wingspan shot of it:

But I'm so pleased to have a shawl that reaches all the way down my back:

And I'm very, very happy with the edging:

I think it'll be nice over a dress for an evening out. After all this time working on it, I'm determined to wear it as often as possible. It will NOT be expendable, at any rate:

Now that it's finished, I have this weird sense of freedom. I was feeling terribly guilty whenever I had my hands free and I wasn't working on it. I suppose it's because it's been so long that I had a finished project to share on this blog, and I was running out of things to write about (you can only write about cake for so long). I'm not sure what to do with myself now... except maybe watch The Expendables 2 this afternoon. Yeah, I don't know why it's on now. I still have no idea what is going on. Not that it matters.

Happy Sunday!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Where I Don't Talk About Cake

Canada has never been a melting-pot; more like a tossed salad. – Arnold Edinborough
So, I'm super-conscious of the fact that my last two blogposts had cake in the title. I feel the need to clarify that I do not actually eat cake all of the time, but when cake presents itself, one must partake with modification... or with gusto, depending on how many hills you've walked up that day.

We're in Montreal this week. I have a week off work and we're spending that time exploring this city for the first time. We arrived late on Saturday night after a long enough flight to watch three episodes of Downtown Abbey and to get a bunch of knitting done. We stayed in a hotel near the airport, then moved to an Airbnb apartment yesterday afternoon. So far, it's been a pretty nice visit:

I think it's interesting to visit other parts of this country. Each place feels different, and I'm not just talking about the climate. Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Regina, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal all feel distinctly different from each other: different people, different atmosphere... like different little countries all of their own. Montreal is in Quebec, where French is spoken more than the other official language of English. One of the reasons I wanted to try Montreal was because I had a feeling it would be like visiting France without the exchange rate, and with people who don't get as irritated if you don't speak perfect Français. So far, I think that's a pretty good estimation of the place.

It's enough like Canada to have people who care passionately about hockey, to have maple syrup in every tourist shop, and to be amazingly (and wonderfully) multicultural, especially in its city centres.

It's enough like France to have cafes that serve perfect cappuccinos (i.e. not piled to the stratosphere with fluff), pastries made with real butter, and to stick up a middle finger to non-smoking signs.

I say that with a smile.

We went out last night to a nearby grocery store get a few things for breakfast and snacks, but I got distracted by this:

... but again, I am determined not to talk about cake again, so instead, I focused on interesting architecture that we saw today:

And quirky features:

We walked up several steep hills around the Mount Royal area, and took a break by the little lake there, that I think must be turned into an ice rink in the winter time:

As evidenced by these seat/lockers I found in the building at the end of the lake:

After that, we decided to try to find the Marché Jean-Talon (Jean Talon Market). I am always so happy to find a market wherever we travel. I delight in the colours and scents, and it reveals so much about the people who live there:

On Vancouver Island, we're lucky to have so much local produce. This region is also blessed with a long growing season, and therefore, so many beautiful fruits and vegetables, even late in September:

The fall veggies are in full swing. I watched jealously as a woman paid for one of those lovely pumpkin squashes and put it in her bag. They're a bit big for the ol' carry on bag, but I'm thinking I'll need one get one when I get home:

I am not a cauliflower fan, but have you ever seen such psychedelic ones? Did you ever think cauliflower would ever be so interesting? Did you ever think you'd see "psychedelic" and "cauliflower" in the same sentence?

And do you think they'd look at me weirdly if I wore a strand of garlic on the plane ride home?

With some chilli pepper earrings?

Needless to say, with all the hill-walking and after being around so much delicious food, I had to partake in an egg, ham, cheese, and potato crèpe (French) with a side of maple syrup (Canadian):

The thing is, there were cakes everywhere:

And, well... I did walk for hours today... including all those hills, so...

Sigh. It's just the way things are, I guess. There's no point in fighting it.

At least I'm almost done my knitting project, so the NEXT post will be nothing about cake. Really, it won't. I don't think so. I think...