Sunday, November 22, 2020

Loom-imous Endeavours

Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. --Terry Pratchett
We've had a very wet, rainy, cold week. I usually love rainy weather: no pressure to be outside. In the sunshine, I feel obligated to be out there: go for a bike ride, go for a run, have a picnic, go for hikes. It is frankly exhausting. Rainy weather gives me the excuse to calm the eff down.

The only thing is that this week I had a bunch of things to get finished, a bunch of places to drive to, and a bunch of people to deal with. I feel a little ripped off. What happened to my excuse to stay indoors and knit and nap and play endless games of Spider Solitaire on my phone?

I think one of the reasons I was annoyed about having to be out and about was that I wanted to get started with a new obsession. I've officially joined the ranks of the other folks out there who have picked up new hobbies during this strange and unsettling time. Behold: the loom:

This is not the first time I have had a loom in my possession. Years ago, I had a fancy Dorothy Leclerc table loom that was given to me, but it sat in my basement for years until I finally decided to rehome it with someone who would appreciate it more. I am mildly apprehensive about committing to such a thing. I only have a 50% track record for actually sticking with new hobbies once I take them on. I mean, I still have a spinning wheel in the back room that has two bobbins full of singles on them... plus a couple of spindles with singles waiting to be plied... but anyway...

I decided not to put too much pressure on myself to get started with it right away. I got it on Tuesday for my birthday and it has sat on the floor until today when I finally decided to unbox it:

I even went so far as to go out to buy some linseed oil to finish the wood pieces. I even RESEARCHED it. I never thought I'd know the difference between raw and boiled linseed oil. These are the winding paths that fiber crafts take you on:

I'm supposed to wait 24 hours and then do another coat. I'm already wondering if I can even commit to that. Is this a good sign? I really don't know.

I decided to go with this loom because of its size and relatively lightweight. It also gives you the ability to weave double the existing width of the loom, which is something I definitely want to try, and have already watched a few videos to learn about it. But I'm really trying not to run before I walk with this one. I don't want to get frustrated trying to do something I'm not ready to do, but I am also the person that decided to make a long cardigan out of two different yarns for her very first knitted project. Baby steps are not really my thing. I'm the one who wonders if I can run with high heels before I've even tried them on.

One friggin' step at a time, Adriene. 

I suppose one of the reasons that I have difficulty staying focused on new hobbies is that I find it easier to keep going with a knitted or crochet project. It's a portable kind of craft that I can do almost anywhere (unless I've taken on a mammoth blanket project). And I find that they work up at a gratifying pace... even if they take weeks to complete. Maybe it's because I've done so many of them... maybe if I spent more time on the spinning wheel, I'd get more stuff done.

What a concept. Do the thing you want to get done and it will get done. Heh.

Meanwhile, I am still working away on my stripey sweater experiment. I have managed to complete the back and one side so far. I decided this evening that it would be a good idea to do a quick and dirty blocking job on them just so I can be assured that my slap-dash eyeballing measurements are going to work out. I think I MIGHT have gone a bit overboard with the width of the back, but at least it's not going to be sticking to me. Can I also just say yet again how much I hate the limited daylight I have these days to take photos? Honestly, I am not doing all this work by candlelight, despite what this photo shows:

I have also made a tiny bit of headway on my Christmas cards this year. I've been practicing the design that I've had in my head for a while on some spare bits of watercolour paper, and I think I'm nearly there. I really do need to get a move on, because it only just occurred to me that I only have a few weeks left to get these done. I'll admit that the prospect has made me want to throw in the towel on these things, but looking at this gave me a bit more confidence that I can actually do this:

How weird it is to think of Christmas this year. I will not go into how different it all is. Let's just focus on the fact that this is the year Adriene actually could be bothered to try to make cards. That's enough to make anyone's head spin.

I hope you have a satisfactory week, everyone. Stay safe.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

An Experiment and Some Cake

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. --Susan Ertz

I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that I'm feeling a little anxious these days. Let's not go into it. We know the deal and we know what needs to be done and we know we don't want to but we know we have to. That's a lot of words for, "Yeah. It sucks." But here we are.

I've had a few extra days off as we had a holiday last Wednesday and I had no great urge to go back to work for the rest of the week. I'm not really sure that was the best idea as it meant I had a lot of days to sit at home and ruminate, which is not the best idea for me these days. I did have a few things I wanted to do while I was off, but I found myself stalled for a lot of the time... things to do but no real urge to get started. I filled the time with watching tv and online shopping on a lot of virtual holiday markets (which I actually feel pretty good about - might as well support SOMEBODY'S dreams). And yet, here I find myself on a Sunday evening wishing I was just a bit more productive. I don't even feel all that rested after all that lazing around. It would be nice to have more to show for it.

We did at least get out each day for fresh air and dog walks, as required by HRH Seymour. We even went out to the dog park and had a good play. Seymour met a friend who was nice enough to give him treats... and then who was generous enough to leave them in his coat pocket for Seymour to steal and run away with. Ah, Seymour... always giving me opportunities for exercise:

I made a decision that was totally outside of my character to try to hand-make Christmas cards this year. People: I do not do Christmas cards. My brain fails to see the point. And yet, I had an urge to cut and fold watercolour paper and start brush-lettering on them. I have an ink border planned as well. Folks: I even practiced my strokes. I NEVER PRACTICE. My piano teacher would barely recognize me now. I'm quietly confident I can finish these, but I have still more planned and only so much motivation. I suspect the greatest motivation will be when I have literally an hour left to get them done... but here's hoping it doesn't come to that:

Meanwhile, I have also been working on an experimental knitting project using several balls of yarn that have been languishing in the stash for several years along with some yarn I bought a few weeks ago on a whim. I was standing around holding this skein of Malabrigo in my hand, trying to think of something I could make with it that would make the most of its dark, dark, deep forest green that has entranced me for so long:

I finally sighed and gave up and tossed it onto the shelf, where it landed on these skeins:

And that, as they say, was a lightbulb moment. Well, sort of... it was like an LED moment. You know... when you switch it on and it's kinda dim and you have to wait for a while for it to get bright enough to be of any use. Yeah. That kind of moment.

It took me another couple of weeks and a bit of trial and error, but I finally got a project on the needles with them, along with some white superwash yarn that I've had in the stash "just in case I need a neutral." I've finally settled on this stripey experiment, which was inspired by a sweater glimpsed on a YouTube video a few months ago. To be honest, I go back and forth between really liking it and not being totally sure about it. Sometimes, you can hit an idea right out of the park. Sometimes, you can really strikeout. This time, I'm worried that I might think it's a total home run, but the rest of the world is going to boo me out of the field:

And then I remember: this is knitting, not baseball. And I'm not supposed to care what everyone else thinks. Except I do... and then I don't... and then I do again.

Nevermind. I still like these yarns together:

The rest of the project is going to involve being really choosy about when I will use the white yarn because I don't have a great deal of it and it is (of course) discontinued. But I'm hoping the idea in my brain will be as nice in real life...

Either that or I'm going to have to take up baseball. I'd be ok with that, actually. I was pretty good back in the day...

Anyway: I did manage to finish something this weekend. I made a cake... a deep, dark, chocolately, fudgey cake. It's my birthday on Tuesday, and this is my birthday cake. And yes, I know I can buy cakes and that other people can look after that for me, but this is the cake I wanted and I am the only person around here who knows how to make it:

I'm off to eat some cake and then stare at my project for a while. I might even knit it, we'll see.

Have a good, safe week. Take care of each other.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

A Change of Scenery

An optimist is someone who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery. --Walter Winchell

I hereby declare myself a humbug. I can blame the current requirement for social distancing and the limiting of group gatherings, but the truth is that I am not so into group revelry. I don't think I have been for a long time.

We decided to forgo Halloween this year. I wasn't in the mood for figuring out how to give out candy safely to strangers. I was more in the mood for a change of scenery and some quiet solitude.

So we took ourselves to the cabin. Oh... the cabin. We haven't been for a while, but it seemed like a good time to go. It was Seymour's first time he loved exploring the area and snoozing near the woodstove:


Autumn was in full swing at the cabin. I was continually entranced by the rich colours that greeted me every time I looked out the window:

And I stopped many times to point my phone up at the trees to capture the brilliance above me:

I spent a lot of time thinking about how many of my projects have been worked on at the cabin. I feel like I could make a picture book of all the pretty wooly things that have passed through my fingers at that place. We don't own the cabin: indeed, it is available for anyone to visit, but it kind of feels like ours. I think I might know where all the utensils are in that kitchen better than my own. That is saying something.

We were lucky with the weather. I was gratified to have the fortunate problem of having too many warm things to wear. The mornings were chilly enough, but the sun came out to warm our faces as we walked around and explored. The bay was as beautiful as ever, frigid and blue but entrancing with its lapping ripples:

We stopped in at the village where the resident sea lions had returned to put on a noisy show. We thought Seymour would bark his face off at them, but he was more concerned that I might have snacks in my handbag:

We stayed away from people the whole time, which was as pleasant as it was necessary. The majority of time was spent sitting on the sofa, me knitting away while the hubby read and Seymour snored by my side. I put the finishing touches on my scarf based on the pattern Melody's Shawl by Melody Moore. It is such an interesting construction for such a simple pattern. I knitted it in the round per the instructions and cast off all the stitches apart from the group I had set aside to create the fringe:

Then, I took a deep breath and dropped all those stitches right to the bottom. That took longer than I thought because the yarn is spun in such loose singles that the strands were sticking to each other in the stitches at the edge of the dropped section:

The original pattern says to cut the strands and let them hang to create your fringe, but I decided to give the whole thing a good soak and straighten out the strands first. Then I took another big breath and found the centre of them and cut them. I wasn't confident that the sticky singles were going to work as a fringe, so I looked up how to do a twisted fringe as done in the weaving world and was glad to see that I could do it myself by hand. It's very much the same concept as plying singles in spinning. I got both ends done in one evening and then trimmed the ends once the whole thing had completely dried by the morning:

I had attempted to prevent the edges curling by adding five rows of seed stitch to the edge rows, but I could tell that I would have to block the whole thing properly to get a decent result. So I gave it another good soak when I got home and pinned it out for one of the longest blocked projects I've ever done:

And here is the result. I am very pleased with it:

I absolutely love its wispy. delicate nature. For some reason, it brings the musical Les Miserables to mind each time I look at it. It looks fragile and tattered but robust and beautiful at the same time:

And I can't stop looking at the texture of the fabric. It has a surprisingly regular pattern to it. I guess the seemingly random thick and thin sections of the yarn was actually designed rather than random:

I am a bit disappointed at the edges because they continue to roll inward, even with the seed stitch and the hard blocking, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. Perhaps it will sit flat after repeated washings. Or perhaps I can just calm down and accept that not everything is within my control...

I doubt it... but you never know...

Meanwhile, I have been working with another set of yarns in a stripey experiment inspired by a sweater I saw a glimpse of on YouTube one day. Ever since I started working on it, I have been seeing stripes everywhere. I'm not ready to share that one yet as I'm not sure how it's all going to work out and it has already evolved into three different things in this short space of time. I just know that it will make use of some of the stash that has moved to two houses with me. I'm very pleased just to be working with it.

Now that the time has moved back an hour, everything seems darker and colder in the evenings. It's time to settle in and daydream and enjoy the warmth we are so fortunate to have. If I have to stay away from people, I am grateful to be able to do so in a safe, warm place:

Keep warm and safe, my friends. Have a good week.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Never Bored

“That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.” ― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette
I feel like I can officially declare it autumn here on Vancouver Island. I've put away the shorts and the sandals and brought out boots and sweaters and hats. I grieve not, for I am a long-time lover of autumn. I prefer bundling up instead of dripping sweat and piling on warm clothes instead of peeling off t-shirts stuck to my back. And the colours are always, always the best in autumn:

I've been trying hard not to get distracted by the newest acquisitions of yarn in my stash. I am a compulsive shopper strong supporter of yarn stores and more particularly of small, independent yarn stores of late, and have consequently built up an impressive stash that may or may not live in separate collections throughout my house. I will not confirm or deny this fact.

I finally decided to make something with this lovely thick and thin alpaca blend yarn acquired from a trip to Sweden a few years ago. It is called BC Garn Alpaca Flamé which is a blend of alpaca, wool, acrylic, and a bit of polyester. I have been both charmed and intimidated by its texture since I purchased it, and was perhaps more so once I got it onto my swift to wind it into a cake. Some parts appear so thin that it could snap if I looked at it the wrong way, while some parts appear so under-twisted that it looks like it would drift apart with a puff of breath. I was surprised how robust it was as I was winding it, possibly because of the strength provided by the acrylic and polyester added to the blend. It took the tension from the winder pulling it from the swift quite well:

Despite this, I wanted to find a pattern that would be easy to fix if I made a mistake because I didn’t want to subject this yarn to ripping out multiple times. I’m usually fascinated by intricate patterns, finely detailed stitches, delicate lace, and complex cables. This is one of the few times that I have allowed myself to sit back and let the yarn do the talking. I spend a long time thinking about it and searching for something that would work, and it was interesting how distracted I became with more complicated patterns. I eventually settled on Melody's Shawl by Melody Moore, which is a simple shawl/scarf pattern but has a unique finish to it at the end where you drop a bunch of stitches and cut them to make a fringe. 

Cut? What? Cut your knitting, you gasp? Well, yes. It will be fine. I am becoming more and more fascinated by cutting dropped stitches, steeking, and sewing knitted fabrics together. I think I might even employ a twisted fringe as used in the weaving world to consolidate the strands at the end, we shall see how I feel about it at the end.

For now, I am mesmerized by the texture of this fabric. It makes me think of some woven fabric wall art I saw a while ago which used different weights of yarns in its warp and weft. One of these days I will delve into the world of weaving, but this is a nice way to daydream of it for now:

So while I am pleased to be using up some of this long-stashed yarn, an impromptu stop at a yarn shop might have created a bit of a distraction:

I mean, at least I bought two skeins instead of just getting one and then stressing about whether I have enough to make anything out of it. And I've already been daydreaming about combining it with some more white/cream-coloured yarn in my stash and experimenting with Fair Isle knitting and steeking. I might queue it up for sometime later this winter... or whenever I get through the pile of other projects percolating in my head...

I know, I fail at yarn diets, but I figure it's not the worst problem I could have. At least I will never be bored... though I read an article recently about how allowing yourself to become bored is the best thing for your creativity. It's the reason I try not to reach for my phone to mindlessly play Spider Solitaire in those little "nothing gaps" in my day. 

But just so you know: I am EXCELLENT at Spider Solitaire.

Anyway, back to dinner and knitting and sitting under cozy blankets. So glad to see you, Autumn.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Not Actually

I suppose there’s a time in everyone’s life where you discover you’re a fool. Sometimes, maybe, it’s a slow revelation. For others, there’s a moment when it becomes obvious.-― Catherine McKenzie, The Good Liar
I must confess. I'm not who I say I am.

For years on this blog, I have declared myself a monogamous knitter. The truth is, I am not.

The reality is that I always have half-finished projects going on in my head at the same time. For me, they’re ongoing projects, as real as if my hands have already worked on them. I might be working away on one project, but my brain is often far away, thinking about other projects.

It's not just one project at a time in my head either. I usually have a few on rotation in there. It usually starts with me picking up a skein or two of yarn in my stash. I gaze at them for a while and then set them apart from the other skeins and leave them out in plain view. I walk past them each day and look at them, stare at them while I'm stretching on my yoga mat, think about them as I'm falling asleep in bed. In my mind, I am making shapes, thinking of textures, casting them on with needles or working stitches with my crochet hooks, hand-stitching seams, adding and taking away buttons... It's like an imaginary workshop where I have half-worked projects lying around, and I pick them up, work on them, and then and put them down again for me to work on later.

These are the "mind projects" I currently have on rotation: 

1) I bought this skein of thick and thin yarn on a trip to Sweden a few years ago, and I think it's about time it became something. Ever since I bought it, I have imagined something that was a mixture of undulating forms and imperfect details. I am experimenting in my head with plain knit stitches to highlight the bumpy texture but with an overall shape with curves and swerves... like the images you see of shifting sands in the desert. I think I will use size 6 needles. I think it will be a slender, curvy shawl, but we'll see what happens: 

2) I've written about these two skeins of yarn before, but you can see that they still remain skeined up and unworked. I've tossed them around in my head a number of times, but I have yet to settle on what they are going to be. I want to do some kind of colourwork with them, probably stranded/Fair Isle, not too intricate, but complicated enough to keep me interested. I want it t be something elegant and structured, something that reminds me of the detailed stone masonry you see in cathedrals and castles... I think I will be a tubular cowl, but again, we'll see what comes of it:

3) This project so far does not have yarn assigned to it, but I am looking through the stash for the right one. I've been wanting to experiment with Tunisian crochet for quite a while now, but so far I've only managed to buy the hooks. I am interested in the texture of the honeycomb stitch, but until I find the right yarn, I'm not sure what it is going to be. I think it would look best either in a long-stapled single ply yarn (either worsted or bulky) or a high twist fingering weight yarn. I'm leaning towards the fingering weight because the research I've done on Tunisian crochet has shown that you need a larger hook than you would normally use as the resulting fabric is quite thick and prone to curling. I don't know if it will be a full garment or an accessory or a blanket. I'll know when I find the right yarn:

4) This one is not a knitting or crochet project at all. I wrote about the original plan a few weeks ago before I actually got the materials. I was thinking about making this crochet mandala and stitching it onto the sweatshirt, but when the sweatshirt finally arrived I was really not happy with the shape of it. I kept trying it on over and over, but each time I do I feel like a faded Oompa Loompa... not my best look. I'm thinking about turning it into a cardigan by cutting the front straight down the middle and finishing the edges. The problem is that my sewing machine is out of commission and I can't decide if I want to have it repaired and serviced or if I want to see if I can borrow someone else's machine to do it. It would be nice to have an operational machine, but I know that to keep a machine in good working order one has to sew regularly. I do not sew regularly... but would I sew more if I had an operational machine? Until I work that conundrum out, this one is on hold for technical reasons for now:

Apart from these projects, I also have countless photos and screenshots of not just clothing, but colour palettes, leaves, frost, book covers... things that catch my eye and make me wonder about how I might represent it in yarn. Like this photo of some frost on my windshield from a couple of winters ago. How cool would that be as a shawl in a silvery yarn?

Here is a shrub I saw on another winter's day. It's as though the fairies forgot to take down the Christmas decorations. I imagine something in a light brown yarn, maybe with beads... maybe it's a wall hanging, or maybe a hat...

Here's a mushroom on a tree. Don't you think that looks like a golden butterfly shawl?

Anyway, here's the real-life project, all finished up today. It's a cushion for the new furniture, and I am very pleased with the result. It's based on the Pointillist Cowl by Katie Green, but with more stitches and fewer colour changes:

I am very pleased with myself because I actually set in a zipper properly for once in my life:

And I never thought I'd love a whipstitch as much as I love this one:

So, I guess I'm off to work on another project in the queue in my brain. It might be one of the projects I shared today... unless I get distracted by something else. Stay tuned.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Discussion About Aliens and a New Sweater

The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.-― Bill Watterson

I was listening to a podcast the other day that discussed the presence of extraterrestrial life, of other beings that may be out there who may or may not be observing us, beings with whom our greatest scientists have been attempting to contact for years and years. It got me thinking: is there anyone out there observing us? And if so, what would they make of these humans as we are today? What would they make of us dully scrolling on our phones or watching our screens or playing with our dogs or cooking our dinners? And... what would they make of me sitting on our couch night after night with yarn and needles and hooks in my hand, spending hours and hours making loop after loop, stitch after stitch?

Well, aliens, check this out. Here's what I was doing all that time. I was knitting a whole bunch of tedious stitches and got a sweater out of it:

If the aliens were indeed watching, they would have seen this human knitting like a maniac last Saturday and Sunday to try to get it finished in time for me to share last week. I decided that it would be better (both for the project and for my hands) to finish it off for this week instead. I'm really glad I did, as I was able to give it a good soak to even out the stitches. I am very pleased with the result:

I am also very glad that I decided to take the time to re-engineer the construction of this sweater. This is what the front looked like in the original pattern. If I were the sort of person who did not fiddle with her clothes all the time, it might have worked out. But, as Gloria Gaynor says, "I am what I am..."

I think it is much more wearable for me as a drop shoulder sweater with a more traditional front. I'm really glad it worked out because it involved picking up about 400 stitches along the front edges and back of the neck. It also involved ripping out the first twelve rows I worked because I realized I didn't like the look of the stitches I originally chose. If the aliens were listening at that stage, they would have learned a few choice human words from me at that moment.

I am also pleased with the weight of the overall garment. I am one of these crazy people who is ok with knitting garments with lightweight yarns, but I just adore the result. This was knit with Scheepjes Whirlette, which is a cotton/acrylic fingering weight yarn. It made for a lightweight fabric that had enough drape to keep it from being too wispy. I wish the photos captured the colour better, but it is a lovely charcoal grey that will go well with a lot of other things in my closet: 

As I mentioned in my last post, this project is one of the few where I actually took notes of everything I did. I detailed quite a few of my notes on my Ravelry project page. I dithered quite a bit about whether or not that was a kosher thing to do, but I think the feature that draws everyone to this pattern is the back panel, so you need to get the pattern to get that part anyway. If my modifications motivate someone to give the project a go, then all the better.

Meanwhile, we have a new couch in the house. Here's Adriene's New Couch... or couch and loveseat. Note the furry little beast who has already claimed a spot:

I kinda thought that given this blog is named after my previous couch, I would feel a bit more emotional about it being replaced. It turns out that it's true what they say: all things have their time. And it was time to get a replacement... even if it took two and a half months for it to arrive.

I've begun a new cushion to add to the collection, as the ones from the old couch were looking a bit grubby. This one is being made with colours that I discovered when I made my latest blanket. I'm hoping the lighter colours won't disappear into each other, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out:

And Adriene not only has a new couch. Behold Adriene's new chair:

 It sits in the office next to the window. I have so far used it for chatting with friends online, for quiet contemplation, for knitting (of course). And even as I sit here typing away, someone else has found a pretty good use for it as well:

It's Canadian Thanksgiving here this weekend. It's been a doozy of a year so far, but I was chatting with a friend of mine this morning about how I refuse to join the chant of how 2020 is such a terrible year. For my own mental health, I can't really afford to slide down that slippery slope. And I have been practicing a lot of gratitude this year, and it's shown me the abundance I live with. And I am grateful for all of it, even during the tough times.

I wonder what the aliens would make of Thanksgiving. I bet they would join in. I made a custard-filled cornbread this year. Those aliens wouldn't be able to resist:

I'm grateful that you stopped by to visit my blog, earthling thing. Have a good week.