Sunday, February 17, 2019

Topsy-Turvy Weather

Snow brings a special quality with it—the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks. --Nancy Hatch Woodward
When I wrote last week's post, I had no idea how much the weather would turn topsy-turvy. Our usual mild Vancouver Island climate seems to have gotten lost this year. Between major windstorms and power losses to our own version of "Snowmageddon," I think those of us who moved here to escape weather extremes are all feeling a bit miffed these days. At least it's pretty... if somewhat aggravating:

The rest of the country likes to make fun of how hard we find it when we get snow here, but even a prairie girl like me finds it really hard when it snows here. A fellow I know from Ontario explained it properly for me. He said, "It's just that 'snow' isn't the right word for this stuff." And he's right. It's like... gluey ice mush. It has its own properties, and it definitely has its own physics. For example, here how our archway has accumulated snow over the week. It started out amazingly delicate, so pretty that I was afraid of knocking it down before I could get a photo of it:

But by the middle of the week, I had no idea how it was hanging on there:

And then there are my lights. What utter witchcraft is at work with these things?

If someone can please explain how that last photo is even possible, I am all ears...

Meanwhile, the weather flipped yet again and we found ourselves in rain yesterday, which freaked me out a lot because all I could imagine was the death and destruction of folks slamming into each other on the ice. But today, the sun came out and twisted us all around again, and you would never have known there was even a hint of a storm that hit us, much less the three storms that sat down on us this week. There is still plenty of snow to melt around us, but you couldn't tell when you walked along the sea wall today:

Seymour enjoyed a lovely long walk today after having to trudge through a couple of feet of snow this week:

What a difference a few days make:

By the way: that cowl I'm wearing has become one of my favourites over the years. I made it a few years ago out of a laceweight alpaca/silk blend, and I have been so impressed with how well it has worn over the years after being packed from here to Winnipeg and beyond and survived many a washing. In fact, this winter has been the first where I've been able to wear a great many of my yarn creations daily, partly due to the crazy weather we've been having and partly to do with the fact that my workplace is the kind where folks open the door and walk in off the street all the time, bringing in all that lovely "fresh" air that requires a good sturdy layer of wool to keep you warm.

Speaking of: I have started a new sweater! Presenting *fanfare*...

Well, not very much *fanfare fail*...

It's early days yet, but that 4.5 inches of ribbing sure wasn't helping. Man, that was boring. I feel like I am knitting much faster now that I've gotten to the interesting part... except that I got nearly through half the first motif and realized I didn't like the way one of the twisted stitches was coming out. I've already let down a bunch of stitches and reknit a few things. At this rate, perhaps I won't be wearing this for a while...

We interrupt this blogpost bring you this important message: We must remind you of the dangers of happens when you talk about it being too late to finish a sweater. Please refrain from speaking of winter ending soon. The consequences cannot be predicted. And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogpost:

Sorry about that folks. I'll shut up now and get knitting. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I Take Full Responsibility

When Frost was spectre grey,
And winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day,
And all mankind that haunted night
Had sought their household fires. --Thomas Hardy
It looks like we've caught up with the rest of the country. We have not escaped winter:

I think I jinxed it when I was contemplating a new sweater project and had a brief thought that went something like, "Well, maybe I'm too late to start a new wool sweater. After all, winter is almost over."


I just came in from a futile attempt at shoveling the snow. By the time I finished, everything looked just the same as when I started. That was a good sign to come back in and hang out with Seymour for a while. He had the right idea about things:

I'm pleased that I at least have a finished project to share today, and I'm very happy with the result. Check out these beauties:

The pattern is Tacit by Hunter Hammersen, and the yarn is Nuna by Mirasol Yarn, a merino/silk/rayon blend. This is one of those rare patterns that I knew I would knit exactly as written. From the time she previewed the pattern, I practically watched the clock until she released it. You'd think I would have knitted it right away, but I sat on the pattern for a year and a half before I started it. I think I loved the pattern so much that I wanted to make sure I had everything in place before I started.

I was a little worried that they wouldn't work out because it took me three attempts to get the gauge right. The first attempt was woefully too tight. I made it up to the wrist of the first glove and then ripped it out because I was not looking forward to the gangrene from the lack of circulation to my fingers. 

I went up two needles sizes and started the second attempt but I thought the big change of gauge meant that I would have to cast on fewer stitches... All this time knitting and all these projects and it turns out I still get defeated by gauge.  I made it all the way up to the middle of the palm before I admitted defeat and ripped it out again. I loved the pattern and the beautiful, icy, silky yarn too much to knit something I was going to hate in the end.

The third attempt nearly didn't happen. I was getting impatient: I just wanted to see my beautiful mitts, finished and warm and pretty. I cast on and just soldiered on, plodding along stitch after stitch, patiently watching my mitts come into existence. It was like the eternal wait for the beef stew to be ready when you're totally starving and you're forced to sit in the gorgeous aura of beef stew vapors until it is finally time to eat (guess what we had for dinner the other night?).

And finally, here they are today:

I'm not super happy with the bind off, as the stitches are kind of sticking up at the top of each cable panel, but I'm hoping that will settle down after I give these a soak. I think they look amazing even without blocking:

So, I guess now that I've finished these, I better get started on that sweater. I figure it's my responsibility to get it started because for sure as soon as I get those stitches cast on, the sun will burst out and melt all the snow and it'll be too warm to wear it...

Here's hoping. Sorry, Vancouver Islanders. I'll keep my mouth shut next time.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Waterfalls and Falling Asleep

Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow. I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will--tomorrow. ― Gloria Pitze
It's been a quiet, drowsy weekend around here. I have lots of things I could be doing, but none of the conviction to do any of it. I used to push through a lot of that and get the list done anyway. These days, I just let it all lie until I feel ready to get started again. I'm not sure if that's age or if this is a phase. And I'm not sure I really care either way.

I've been in the market for a new project and spent a bit of time dithering about what I wanted to work on. I've been wanting to knit cabled pullover for a while, something like Pomegranate by Bonnie Sennott or Beatnik by Norah Gaughan, and I'm thinking that I should get started on one soon before it gets to be too warm to wear it, but my brain seems to be rallying against anything too complicated or lacy at the moment.

I went shopping in my Ravelry library the other day. I am rather sheepish to admit that I forgot that I owned half of the patterns I had in there.  I thought I might pull out something bulkier and knit something simple for a change... maybe a simple lap blanket in squares...

So, true to my contrary nature, I've pulled out a sport weight yarn and decided to knit a complicated cable pattern with small needles. Yeah, because THAT'S restful. I'm loving the pattern, even more so after I decided to rip out my first attempt and knit it a larger gauge. It's Tacit by Hunter Hammersen and I'm knitting it in Nuna by Mirasol, a merino/silk/rayon blend that has a beautiful sheen and is lovely on the hands. I'm very much looking forward to wearing them, even though I still think they feel a little tight. Maybe they'll stretch with blocking. Or maybe I could live with cutting off the circulation to my fingers once in a while. We'll see.

I decided to skip the gym this morning since I just wasn't feeling up to it, but I told the hubby that I wanted to get out for a good long walk instead. Mr. Seymour was due for a bath this weekend, so we decided to go somewhere good and muddy and let him have a good time out there. We found a new trail (new to us, anyway) that lead to Christie Falls, and we are fortunate to live quite close to it. We didn't go right up to the falls, as it was quite high up. I'm not afraid of climbing hills, neither am I afraid of heights, but I am afraid of coming back down hills. I freeze up when presented with a steep trail downwards. I'm a prairie girl, after all. Still, even part way up, we got some pretty impressive views:

Seymour impressed us by bounding up and over fallen trees and logs on the way out - this from the dog that demands to be lifted into bed every night. He got properly muddy and sandy and was unceremoniously carried into the shower when we got home. We both enjoyed a good nap this afternoon:

Lazy weekends aside, I do have a finished project to share. I finally finished and blocked my heavily modified Loro Vest the other day, and I am very pleased with it. It was mild enough for me to take photos of it in the back yard yesterday, and I was glad I could because the natural light really brought out the lovely colours of the kettle dyed yarn:

There is a visible difference in the two skeins I used, but I think it's only noticeable on the back, and only in certain lights:

I am very happy with the length. I never dreamed I'd get such a long vest out of this gauge:

I do wish I hadn't decreased the back so much as I have quite a wide back and I think it took away from the shaping for me. I'm also not super happy with where the cable ended up sitting. I wished it was a little further forward, but considering I was mostly winging it with this project and ended up adding the ribbed shawl collar at the last moment, it's not too bad:

Still, I adore the colour, and I think it turned out to be quite a nice garment for me. I don't normally wear vests, but I've found myself getting a bit annoyed by the bulk of sweaters inside of coats. I can see myself wearing this quite often:

We're heading into the last week of January, and I must say that I've found it to be quite a long, drawn out month. We've been blessed with mild weather, but even so, I've found myself feeling quite cooped up and cabin-feverish. Perhaps February will bring along brighter days and the oomph I've been lacking for the past few weeks. Until then, I think we'll just continue to practice our napping skills:

Have a good week!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Crumpled Knitting and a Blue Bottle

You do not have to be good.You do not have to walk on your kneesfor a hundred miles through the desert repenting.You only have to let the soft animal of your bodylove what it loves. -- Mary Oliver, from "Wild Geese"
I was so sure I'd have a finished project to share this week. I had been sailing through the final sections of my vest, but I seem to have hit a series of setbacks that pushed the finish line out of my reach this week. I think they call this problem, "Life."

Just as I was doing the final bind-off for the collar, I realized that I had completely forgotten to do one of the stitch patterns for the final four inches of the left panel. It's like I left the planet for a while as I was knitting. I thought I could live with it, but it bothered me so much that I sat back and sighed and ripped back those last four inches to re-knit it again. Pah.

And then, I worked my way back to the final bind-off again and finally finished it. I was pretty happy, especially because I still had plenty of yarn leftover. And then, I tried it on and realized that the fronts were floppy and not sitting right, and while they're the right width, they just looked too small. So, I did the thing I hoped I would not have to do: I picked up a trillion stitches along the front right edge, all along the neck, and all the way back down the left front edge, and I am now in the process of knitting twisted k2 p2 rib all along these trillion stitches. So. Dang. Tedious.

So, here's my crumpled mess. Yay knitting.

I think I'm officially tired of this project, and I'm not even really sure I'll like it in the end. I've changed the pattern so much that I've ceased to call it by the original pattern name. Right now, I think I'll call it annoying. I'm hoping that will change.

Meanwhile, I've distracted myself with baking sets of bagels with the 2-ingredient dough recipe I made some pretzels with a while ago:

And yesterday, I was thrilled to bring home a bargain: a set of cobalt blue vintage glass items I bought from a local lady for $5.00. I've been trying to be really careful with my money since the holidays, so it was nice to bring home a little treat for myself:

The bottle is quite a bit taller than I expected. It's really hard to capture the scale of it:

I think this photo really shows it true to size... and also shows how pleased I am with it:

They're now living with some of my other blue vintage items above the fireplace, where I can look up and admire them regularly throughout the day. When the weather improves, I imagine the tall blue bottle holding a pretty long-stemmed flower, while some of the others will hold some shorter bunches of posies:

Except we're all having trouble imagining the spring right now. I think we're all in hibernation mode right now. Seymour and I competed for the title of longest afternoon nap today. I think he won:

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Oliver last week. I only recently discovered her poetry, and she was one of those rare gifted people who knew how to express all of the things I wish I could say, especially when I am struggling through tough times. She often wrote about the brevity of life, and the challenge of living authentically, not as a luxury, but as a necessity. It's something I think about daily: about how the search for contentment has become a method of survival for me now, that pushing through the misery of a terrible job and impossible situations were shortening my life. Her words were a justification of this truth, and they're a balm to me in my daily struggle. Here's to her wisdom and to her willingness to share her words with the world. May she continue to inspire us all.
tell me,
is it you plan
to do with
your one wild
and precious life?
-- Mary Oliver

Sunday, January 13, 2019

That Time I Made a Dog Bed

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. --Robert Benchley
My modified Loro Vest has been coming along in leaps and bounds. Now that I've finished the one side, the second side is much more straightforward, and I think I might have a bit of yarn left over to do a bit of finishing along the front edges. It's been going so well that I was pretty sure I'd be finished by this weekend.

And then my goldfish brain kicked in and I decided I'd make Seymour a new bed.

I suppose it wasn't really a last-minute decision. Seymour's bed has been slowly falling apart for the last couple of months and we haven't really found a bed we liked enough to replace it. I really want to be able to wash the bed, because dogs are dogs and no matter how often we wash his paws and clean him up, the dog bed will end up smelling like a dog bed. I'd been tinkering around in my head about how I could make him a bed with a removable cover that could be unzipped and washed.

The two things standing in my way were:
  1. I hate installing zippers.
  2. My sewing machine needs a really good servicing, and I just don't have the time or gumption to sit down and do it.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across this video, which I thought might just work:

On Thursday afternoon, I stopped in at the thrift shop and found an old fleece pullover for $1.50. I put it on the chair that contains all of the other things I keep meaning to do... papers to file, new socks to put away, return shipping labels to get rid of... and I figured I'd get to it when I felt the inspiration to do so.

And then, suddenly on Friday night, I jumped up and got out my sewing box and got to work. I sat through a couple of crime shows and a Graham Norton episode while I handstitched and stuffed and re-stitched and re-stuffed. I realize that not everyone does Friday night like I do, but hey, there are worse things I could be getting up to...

And then, by the end of the night, Seymour had a new bed, and he liked it so much that he kept getting into it each time I tried to get a photo of it:

I had to wait till he was outside to get a proper finished photo:

I put a zipper into the neckline so that I could open it up and take the stuffing out of the "arms," but there is currently no way to get the stuffing out of the centre part. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to do that yet, and I think I need to take another week before I get brave enough to install yet another zipper in there somewhere.

I was a little worried that it was going to be too small, but Seymour is making it work. Dude loves his bed:

I think if everyone got as good night sleep as this dog does, what a wonderful place it would be.

So, that's done. I guess I can settle down now and finally finish this vest. Except... one of the local yarn shops has their yearly sale on, and I sort of forgot that I said I wasn't going to go and I kind of brought home some new yarn. But it was 70% off and it's enough to make a top and you can't get six skeins of anything for $24.97...

Whatever. It's pretty and it was inexpensive, and like I said, I could be getting up to worse things... like knitting my dog a new sweater. Now there's a thought...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Status: Unfinished

Reader's Bill of Rights:
  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes
― Daniel Pennac
I think I have an actual New Year's Resolution this year: to finally finish reading some of my books. I gathered up a pile of them today and sat there looking at them, trying not to feel too bad about myself. This pile doesn't even include the collection of self-help books that are gathering dust on the shelf. I mean, I can read... I just DON'T read. But that doesn't seem to stop me from going to bookstores bringing home yet another book: 

Some of them I have barely even started, so I can't remember anything about them yet:

But most of the time I can remember where I have left off, even if it's been a while since I picked up the book. I started this one over the holidays. I'm currently at the part where the war has just broken out and the doctor is wondering if he should join the military hospital:

I started the one on the left about two years ago. It's about textiles and the role of women in history with them. I'm at a point where the researchers have re-worked an ancient woven piece and realized they worked it in the wrong direction. And the one on the right is about how our brains have evolved to enjoy music... I last picked it up about five years ago. I was at the point where the author was explaining how ancient reptilian skulls show the early evolution of the three bones in the mammalian ear:

And in this book, I'm at the point where the long lost brother of the old ram has come back to the flock, and nobody knows where he's been... which is so exciting that I can't understand why I thought I could put it down:

I think I'm not the only knitter that struggles with reading. It's impossible to read and knit at the same time (unless someone's come up with a way to do it that I haven't found out about it yet). And I usually knit in the evenings after work when my brain is not really awake enough to try to take in information in the written form.

And then there's the weekly food prep that usually takes up half the weekend:

Along with trying out new baking recipes, which takes up the other half:

And well, let's be honest: I am also distracted by random sunny days in the midst of weeks and weeks of rain. Sometimes, I just have to abandon all plans and get outside:

Most of the time, I am just so enthralled by my current projects that I loathe to set them aside, especially when they are going well. This is my current Loro Vest... which has been so severely altered that it's not really anything like the original pattern. The alterations have kept it really interesting for me. I found a way to work the left side all the way up to the middle of the back of the neck without having to do any seaming, so I'm quite excited about it. Combined with the fact that it's working up relatively quickly, it is quite impossible for me to place anything else at higher priority:

Except for maybe napping:

I do have some spare time this afternoon, so maybe I will just kick back and do some reading for a while... just as soon as I get the dumplings ready for dinner... and clean the bathroom... and get my gym bag ready for tomorrow...

I guess I picked the right New Year's Resolution. It'll be an absolute triumph if I manage this one...