Sunday, July 16, 2017

Carbon Copies

A good name is rather to be chosen than riches. -- King Solomon
I had a couple of interesting encounters yesterday. On the way to the supermarket, we stopped in at a Staples because I wanted to have a look for a few supplies. While wandering through the aisles, I came upon this:

If you were born anytime after 1985 (and yeah, I realize there a lot of you whipper snappers out there), you probably have no idea what this is. This, young ones, is where the "cc" comes from in your emails... if you are still emailing, that is (can you cc someone on Instagram? I don't know). For those of the same vintage as me, you are probably as shocked as I am that you can even buy carbon paper anymore. I remember relishing in pulling out a fresh sheet of it, carefully placing it in between two sheets of paper so I could duplicate my document, and then making sure I used every square millimetre of it before I would get a new one. I was so delighted that I picked up the packet, and scanned the aisle to find someone to whom I could exclaim my delight. An older lady was over looking at the day timers, and I trotted over and exclaimed, "Look what I found!"

I guess it's a bit shocking to be accosted by a random stranger pushing carbon paper into your face, but I think, after the initial shock, she took it quite well. "Oh, well look at that," she finally said, after blinking a few times.

"I know!" I continued. "I just have to buy it!

"Well yes," she said with a (forced) smile. "You should keep it as a souvenir of the good ol' days," she said, before slowly rolling her shopping cart away from me.

I guess not everyone is as pleased with this stuff as I am. And I am planning to use it. It's useful for transferring patterns onto canvas and onto fabric. Though, I only have 12 sheets of it... I feel the need to use it sparingly. Of course, I could always make my way back to Staples to get some more... just think of the next poor soul who will get to witness my excitement.

My other interesting encounter was at the supermarket later on, when I scanned my rewards card at the till and the lady behind it exclaimed, "Hey, you spell your name the same way I do!" I looked at her name tag, and wouldn't ya know it: another Adriene. "I've never met another one! It only took my ENTIRE life to find another person who spelled their name the same as me."

And that is how I met my OWN carbon copy.

You must understand: I am FOREVER spelling my name out to people. "No, just one 'n'," I say. "A-D-R-I-E... no E, no A... A-D-R-I-E-N-E..."

Sometimes, I say the last few letters quickly, just to keep people from trying to add -AN at the end of my name. It comes out, "A-D-R-I-eee-ehn-eeeee."

And then, nobody can pronounce my name. "Adri-AANN." "Adri-EHHHNN." I'm often called "Andrea." One enterprising person called me "Arlene," which I have yet to figure out.

At Starbucks, I tell them my name is Lisa. It's easier and faster, which is important when caffeine is involved.

So to meet someone with the same name, and who understood what it's like to be spelling your name day after day, was enough to really lift up my day. Sometimes, the world is really lonely. It felt kinda nice to find another Adriene. "Bye, Name Buddy!" I said as I left.

Yes, I take whatever joy I can get.

Meanwhile, my Over-and-Over Top continues. I was really hoping to have the second side finished and blocked by today so that I could start seaming up the sides, but I am still knitting and re-knitting sections of it. I did manage to wash and block the first side yesterday. I took this photo looking upward from the bottom edge, so it looks a little wider at the bottom than it actually is. It is a bit longer than I planned, but it will still be totally wearable:

You'll notice that I still have the needle at the top end. The yoke isn't deep enough to reach over my shoulders, so I'm keeping the stitches live so I can add a few extra inches at the top, probably with the same colour that I used for the bottom ribbing. I don't want to start it yet until I get it sewn up the sides so that I can try it on and see how much I need to knit. I am quite pleased, though, that the second side is matching up nicely with my first side... not quite a carbon copy, but a very good mirror image:

I think I'll give colourwork a rest for the next project. I'm liking the idea of knitting something with one boring colour... Perhaps something in carbon grey...

And I'll name the project Arlene... you know... after me...

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Conspiracy Theory and Sheep Detectives

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same. --Stendhal
It was one of those strange weeks that felt way longer than it should have given that we had a holiday last Monday. What's even more strange is that I took an extra day off this week, which gave me three days at work, and yet three days have never felt longer. I've decided that there's a secret time-stretcher out there that the government employs to get more work out of you to make up for the day off you got. It's a theory I have yet to prove, and one should not get too stuck into conspiracy theories, but let's just say that I have invested enough time thinking about it that it might be worth taking notes on it... in secret. I mean, I'm not savvy enough to mess with governments... not at the moment...

Anyways... I spent my extra day at home on my own, watching episodes of Father Brown and Murdoch Mysteries while doing a bit of knitting and resting. Earlier in the day, before it got too hot, I went out for a wander around town. I stopped to get a coffee and a cinnamon bun and sat in the sunshine to enjoy it, which was a great treat, as I rarely get a cinnamon bun nor the chance to sit in the sunshine these days.

I stopped in at the local yarn store. It's a place that I spend surprisingly little time in, mostly because it's closed by the time I finish work. I felt fortunate to be able to get a chance to stop in. I really didn't need anything urgently, but I wanted to see if they had any polyester fibre fill to top up the stuffing in the cushion I finished a couple of weeks ago. The ladies working that day both stopped what they were doing to see if they could find some for me.

"It says on the computer that we should have three bags," one of them said, but they looked and looked, and weren't able to find them at all. 

"Perhaps they used them up for the quilting class," the other said. 

"That's ok," I said. "I can try another time. Thanks for looking."

"Ok, but we'll let you know if we find them. We should have three bags... three bags full!" And we all laughed.

Speaking of, I found this in the used book shop:

It combines two of my favourite things in the world: detective stories and sheep. It's about a flock whose shepherd has been found murdered. They take it upon themselves to find the murderer, led by the smartest sheep, Miss Maple... but not before they get into the garden and eat up all the veggies. They couldn't help themselves. They had no shepherd, after all. 

I believe I can relate to them on more than one instance.

Meanwhile, my Over-and-Over-Again Top continues to earn its name. I'm making pretty good headway with it, but I made the mistake of thinking that the second side would be easier going than the first. I am continually having to rip back and do things over. One time it was because I forgot to work the waist decreases. Another time was because I thought I'd changed colours too quickly: I ripped out the new colour, then knitted one row of the previous colour before realizing that I actually was right the first time... so I ripped that row out again. Sigh.

I'm making both sides to the same dimensions but mirroring the colours so that they will look seamless once I sew them together. The perfectionist in me is annoyed because I discovered that the waist-shaping in the first side is uneven, but the realist in me knows that this is not the first time this has happened.

And heck no, I will not rip out the first side to fix it. There is only so much agony one person can take. Now that I think of it, maybe this top is part of my time-stretcher conspiracy theory. Hmmm:

I'm still undecided as to what the neckline will look like. I keep trying to imagine it as I knit, stopping every so often to squint at the air while I try to figure it out. I also can't decide which side will be the front, as I would like to choose the side that has the fewest errors, but at the rate I'm making them, that could be anyone's guess at this stage. I'm thinking that I'll block the two sides first, and then seam up the side and try it on. I'm hoping it'll become more apparent then. That is, if it fits... which is always a worry when I make garments in separate pieces. If it doesn't fit, well...

Let's not worry about that, shall we?

In the meantime, my summer subscription for vegetable boxes from a local farm started a couple of weeks ago. I stop at the farm on the way home on Fridays to pick it up. I always huff about having to pick it up, but once I'm actually on the road to the farm, I always settle back and enjoy the rolling hills and the trees and the sunshine. There are worse burdens than that, surely... especially when the end of the road you get all this stuff:

I'm going to go make some awesome stuff with this now, and then maybe go find out what happens with Miss Maple and her flock. Not everyone can handle this kind of exciting life, but then, not everyone is me. Have a great week!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hypothermic Swims, and The Over-and-Over Again Project

I am a Canadian. I come from a "nice," thoroughly unrealistic country. --Matthew Fisher
It's Canada Day Weekend, and since the holiday fell on a Saturday, we're lucky enough to have Monday off. I'm looking forward to being off on a Monday. I always enjoy being off on a weekday, not just because it's a nice break, but also because I secretly love daytime tv. It reminds me of those rare days when I got to stay home from school as a kid when everyone else had to be at school. I had the same feeling later on as an adult when I was a substitute teacher and took a day off during the week... Man, I loved watching the kids trudging to the bus stop while I was still in my pajamas. What a great feeling.

We decided to head out to Lake Cowichan yesterday to see if the water was warm enough for a swim. When we got there, people were already starting to set up their beach chairs and bring in their picnic baskets. I was skeptical about the water temperature as soon as we arrived, as there was still a bit of a chill in the air, and we haven't had many super-warm days to warm up the lake yet this year.

The hubby and I sat on the edge of the beach in our bathing suits and rash shirts, waiting for the courage to wade in. We eventually did, and it was, shall we say, brisk. Bracing. Totally freezing, even. We hooted and waded in a bit further, swishing our limbs about and trying to adjust, and eventually, I took a  deep breath and submerged myself and started to swim as quickly as I could. It got better after a few minutes, and we swam up and down the length of the shore for an impressive 30 minutes or so before we called it quits. It was a brave attempt, nothing to sneeze at for sure.

Nothing says Canada Day like a hypothermic dip in the lake, I say.

We dried off and picked up our things and drove to the town to find a picnic table in the sunshine to enjoy our sandwiches. We were like basking lizards for the first few minutes, just soaking up the warmth of the sun again. It wasn't as busy there as I thought it would be, but I could see more people arriving by the minute. The last time I was in Lake Cowichan was before Christmas when I stopped in for a coffee on a rainy day on the way to a work meeting. This was a nice switch:

I noticed someone had yarnbombed a couple of the trees. I'm not a yarnbomber myself, but the sight of it made me smile:

We wandered over to another table and sat down to eat our lunch. I guess I'd never really noticed before, but it was the first time I noticed the displays of old logging equipment all around:

After we ate, we walked across the pavement and wandered through the little museum featuring life in the area when logging was the main industry. I was surprised at how much they were able to pack into the small space. The displays were all cleverly built, mini scenes from houses and shops... all little glimpses into the past.

 Of course, I loved the kitchen:

And after seeing the sitting room, I left coveting the box next to the organ, which looked like it was overflowing with someone's sewing project:

 And the little scissors on this embroidery hoop are just beautiful:

There were plenty of photographs on display. I'm not sure I would have chosen this seating layout, myself:

And this one just looked like a really, really bad idea:

I guess that's how this poster came about:

There was even a mini post office. These mailboxes were really cool, each one with its own combination lock:

My mom operated a phone exchange like this when she worked at an office in the Philippines:

 And the general store was a delight:

 And just WHAT are these rum soaked crooks dipped in??

Today, I am resting and relaxing. I finished one side of my top a couple of days ago. I'm still unsure of how it's going to look in the end, but I have an idea cooking in my brain that I'm hoping will work out. So far, I like the look of it:

I thought I'd be further ahead with the second side today, but I am still struggling through the twisted rib hem right now. It was nearly complete this morning, but when I compared it to the first side, I noticed that it was much smaller. I made a face... I couldn't have made it with another size needle, could I? I thought I remembered only using one size for the entire first side. Did I actually start with a larger one for the rib? Why would I do that?

This is why notes are important. And no, I didn't take any. Of course I didn't.

So, I ripped it all out and cast on with a larger size needle, but as I started working the first row (which, even when it's not twisted rib, is always a struggle), I became absolutely sure that I did NOT knit the rib with this needle, not at all, no sir. I could only deduce that my gauge had somehow changed, and the longer I thought about it, I realized that I had noticed how much more difficult the second side seemed to knit. So, I ripped it out again.

Sigh. I'm about halfway through this section, and I guess I'm more relaxed this time because it seems to be going a lot faster. I suppose that, if you're going to do anything over and over, it's going to get easier each time. I'm thinking that I should call this project "Triple K" or "The Over-and-Over Again Top," because it's looking like I'm going to be knitting each section AT LEAST three times. Lord help us.

I'm pleased to know that I have one more day off tomorrow. Things are just about the same these days at work, and I feel as tired as before, but I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that this will all balance out again some day. I really don't know how I could continue if it doesn't. I don't think I want to contemplate it just now. This weekend, I am reminded of all the privileges I have by being lucky enough to be born in this country. No matter what happens at work, I am grateful that I have this place to call home.

For now, I think I'll go get myself a bowl of ice cream and sit down to knit some good ol' twisted rib for the third time... again...

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hardly Moving


Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word. I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 
The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance. 
Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.
-- Mary Oliver

And just like that, it's summer... and it's hot out there. I was quite enjoying our tepid weather: cool nights, pleasantly warm days, not too sweaty, cool enough to knock out a batch of cookies if I wished. All quite civilized, yes.

And now, I have put away all my trousers and will remain in shorts until October.

I'm tired this weekend. I haven't felt this tired since I had a kidney removed from my body... and I really am not exaggerating. I keep thinking, "Next week, I'll be back to normal," but week after week has passed, and this "normal" we speak of has not appeared. The weekend arrived, and I was so tired that I couldn't sleep, which is totally ridiculous. My body kept twitching and itching, tossing and turning until I finally found myself asleep.

I awoke on Saturday having slept through the whole night, but I was still tired. I skipped my Saturday morning swim for a post-breakfast nap. The hubby came back after his swim, and enticed me with a lunch out at a local winery, which I've been wanting to do for a while now:

The trouble was: it was so hot and I was still so tired that it was a disappointing experience. We were sat on the veranda on the side of the building where there was no breeze, and I was far too grumpy to be ok with it. In the end, I asked a bewildered waitress if we could move inside, where it was at least darker and cooler, and she carefully picked up our wine glasses and led us in, looking back at me like I'd told her that I wanted to dine with my pet dragon.

I am not good company when I am tired.

I had another nap when I got home, then went to bed early and slept through the night again. I awoke this morning feeling almost normal. I turned to the hubby and announced my intention to go out for breakfast, which I almost never do. I think he was glad enough not to have his head bitten off first thing that he quickly agreed. We sat outside on their alley patio, and I looked up and admired the bright, blue sky:

When we got home, I noticed that the poppy plant I had bought for myself a few weeks ago was blooming. These poppies seem to bloom in short, energetic spurts: they flame into life for a day, and then the next thing you now, they wilt away:

Right about now, I can relate:

In the meantime, I've been slowly working away on my current knitting project. So far, I'm loving the way it is turning out, even though I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I keep thinking that I have a clear vision of how I want this thing to look in the end, but each time I work on it, that vision keeps changing. It keeps eluding me, transforming in my brain every few days: first, it was going to be a boat neck tee, then it was going to have three-quarter length sleeves, then it was going to have set-in sleeves... At the moment, I'm pretty sure it's going to have a v-neck and some cap sleeves, but I have a feeling that the yardage will dictate what it's going to look like at the end. The yarn always has the final say:

Anyway, I'm steeling myself for another week.  I know I sound an awful lot like I am being over-dramatic and self-pitying, but you now, right now I actually don't care what anyone thinks. I do know that we have some new leadership at work, and changes are ahead, and I do have faith that the changes will be good. Honestly though: I am not so sure I can handle the earth shifting beneath my feet again. We shall see.

Have a great week.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Berries, Chipmunk Cheeks, and a Stripey Challenge

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. -- Dolly Parton
It's been a cool, wet June here on Vancouver Island. I have no complaints. We've had some nice, bright, sunny days, and have had nice, cool nights where I can sleep soundly and without air conditioning. Not to brag, but I do my best sleeping in such conditions.

Our outdoor mess garden seems to be enjoying this weather as well. We have a riot of strawberry plants that started out two or three neatly planted units. They have since spread haphazardly around the plot. We barely weed them, and we mostly neglect them, apart from watering them when they seem a bit dry. They seem to like it. I quite like the wild look they have about them. Who wants neat, orderly strawberries anyway?

Our blueberry shrubs seem a tad overwhelmed, however. I don't know if it's because of all the rain or because they are so heavily laden with berries, but the hubby had to go out and stake them up so they wouldn't fall over with their own weight. This is not such a bad problem to have, I think:

And the cool weather has given me the excuse to roast some of the almonds I've been hoarding. I buy them in bulk when they are on sale and store them like a chipmunk until it's cool enough to run the oven. I roast them at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour - no oil, no salt. When I pull them out, they are slightly chewy, but when they cool, they are delightful, nutty, crispy treats, and I have to resist stuffing them all into my mouth at once:  

Which reminds me of a baby photo I found of myself the other day. Holy crap, I was cute:

Anyway, I'm a little later than I wanted to be in getting my blog post out today. I have a work trip tomorrow that I had to get organized for. I won't be home until later in the evening tomorrow, so I wanted to get my lunches made and clothes laid out for the next couple of days, because I don't like starting the week off with everything scattered and in a mess (which is more than I can say for my closet, but I digress).

I was rushing around so much that I barely had time to take a photo of my finished embroidered cushion before the light ran out for the day. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I think the simplicity of the pattern overrides my uneven stitches and the fact that it's slightly off-centre on the cushion. I ran out of polyfill to stuff it, so it looks a little understuffed:

Which is more than I can say for my cheeks in the previous photo.

This is not to say that I could not have done all of these things earlier today, but I was having too much fun working on my current knitting project all afternoon:

It's a top inspired by Irina Poludnenko's Bleeker Shawl. I bought the yarn a few months back with the intention of making a simple, striped tee, but when I saw this shawl, I knew I had to figure out a way to make a garment out of it. I had to spend a bunch of time trying to understand how to make the slanted stitches line up where I wanted them to:

And I kept screwing up the short rows and had to rip them out again. In fact, all four of those colour changes have been ripped out twice and re-knitted. I don't know if there's a record for the most times a stitch has been ripped out and re-knitted, but I think I might be challenging for the trophy with this one. I am, however, very excited to see how it turns out... though, at this rate, it might be next year before I finish it.

I have to go and finish getting organized for tomorrow. I'm not all that thrilled to go on this trip, since it's going to be a long, long day, but sometimes you have to do things you really don't want to do. I'm thinking about taking my knitting with me to keep me occupied during my flights, but I might take the opportunity to just sit and daydream for a while. That might be the most rewarding part of the day. And I'm taking some of my roasted almonds with me, so I could theoretically just stuff my cheeks and enjoy myself. There are worse goals to have, after all.

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Good Work Ongoing

I thought that I'd try writing out a quote by hand instead of typing it out for a change. After all, I did take a four-week long calligraphy class. I figured I should put it to work sometime.

I never did report on how it all finished off in the end. It was a great class, and there's another one coming up in the autumn, which I'm thinking about taking. It was the only place where I ever heard anyone utter the words, "Sorry, I'm being italic," and totally understand what they meant. 

I always find it interesting taking art classes and being around artistic-types. It's a neat feeling being with people who feel totally comfortable with someone telling them to pick up a watercolour brush and paint something. You don't get the normal, "Oh, I wouldn't know what to do with that" type comment. Being around people who are comfortable experimenting is such a freeing feeling.

I had an awkward moment near the end, though... the others were sharing their websites and Instagrams with each other, and when they turned to me to ask me if I had a website to share, I choked on my words. I don't know why, but I'm always so self-conscious to openly speak about this blog. It's one thing when people stumble upon it and start to follow it. It's something completely different when I have to speak about it aloud with people. Even when my coworkers openly ask me about it, I feel a wild rush of fear about it and quickly change the subject. I don't know why. I suppose it's because the things I share here are from a side of me that I rarely get to show in my day-to-day life, and they come from my inner-most parts: the things I dream about when real life gets to be too much. It feels strange to have people jabbering away about it aloud.

But I guess that's just me.

In the meantime, last week was a really crazily busy week, so I'm sort of glad I don't have a big complicated knitting project on the go. Instead, I've been picking away at a little embroidery project. This is a cushion cover I bought on a whim at Ikea, and I'm using some leftover silk yarn from my Going Places Shawl to embroider daisy chain circles onto it. Here's what it looked like yesterday afternoon:

And here's what it looks like this evening. It's not easy, and the stitches are wobbly and uneven, and I barely know what I'm doing, but I'm enjoying it. The yarn is helping a lot: the sheen adds to the elegant simplicity of those circles. I am looking forward to washing it and getting all of the wrinkles out. I think it'll be very pretty:

I have quite a lot of the yarn left, and I've got another cushion cover left. The wheels are already turning for what I might do with it. My Pinterest boards are already overflowing with ideas.

Except... I have a big stash of yarn looking at me. Man, I need more hours in the day.

If only I had more hours in the day...

Sorry, I'm being italic (snerk). I had to say it.

I think I'm going to spend the rest of the evening daydreaming. Happy Sunday, all.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Rendezvous in Lace

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” ― Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib
I have this vague memory of something I said a couple of months ago. It went something like, "I have a hankering for a complicated lace knitting pattern." It was sometime after finishing my Big Comfy Sweater, after knitting hours and hours of plain stockinette stitch in the round.

I must stop living in these extremes.

I finished my Rendevous Shawl yesterday and got it on the blocking boards last night.  I don't knit many of these "bottom up" shawls, so I'm not used to starting off with hundreds and hundreds of stitches and working my way to just a handful. This project was a long, sluggish trudge at the beginning. I felt more optimistic after the first few weeks, and then all of a sudden, I was finished. It was like I woke up from a dream with a finished shawl in my hands. It was startling.

I was particularly amazed at how I reached the final rows. I can't fathom how a pattern writer would know that I would end up with the prescribed 55 stitches after working 46 rows of a complicated pattern with decreases and wrapped stitches. I kept trying to predict how it would end, but like any great mystery, I simply couldn't. And like any great mystery, I simply marvelled at how it all turned out. This knitting thing... it must be witchcraft.

But then, what does that make me?

I usually have such a hard time blocking these large shawls, mostly because I don't really think it through before I start sticking pins onto a pile of wet knitting. This time, I actually figured out how I was going to place this thing before I got out all the wires and pins. After that, it went surprisingly quickly onto the boards.

I moved it out onto the deck this morning to let it completely dry:

And then I took it off the boards and marvelled again at its beauty. The colour was hard to photograph. It's sort of a dark coral pink:

I really love Lily Go's patterns. They remind me of Art Deco or Art Nouveau architecture, and they satisfy my love of complex lace patterns, however long they might take me to finish. I am particularly astonished at how the wrapped stitches created those ridged arcs. I feel like I'm looking at calla lilies and bridges at the same time:

As usual, I was afraid I'd run out of yarn, but Lily's genius predicted almost precisely how much yarn I would use for 12 repeats. I actually have some left over, which would typically annoy me, but I'm actually ok with having about 60 yards left. After all, I still have a substantial shawl to show for all my efforts:

I am thrilled, as you can see:

I'm very proud of this shawl. I'm also feeling really proud to be able to work my way through these complicated projects and to see them through the end. I think that's what makes yarn people different from other people: we have this willingness to sit through the discomfort of not knowing how it will all turn out. 

That sounds suspiciously like a metaphor for life.

And so.... now on to something else to divert my attention. I thought about pulling out a summer cotton to make a simple knitted tee... or maybe I could try another shawl pattern with a skein of sock yarn... or maybe...

Maybe something completely different. Let's see how this one goes: