Sunday, December 9, 2018

Planned/Unplanned

Man plans, God laughs. -- Yiddish proverb
There's comfort in planning. It gives you a sense of control, of intention. It is the precursor to the sense of accomplishment, the feeling that the end result is the product of your effort, your intention, your careful discipline...

And then, life happens.

I was carefully picking my way through the last bit of November, carefully planning my holiday spending, rationing my kitchen supplies, making the best of online sales and local shopping opportunities to get ready for December. And I was nearing the end of a knitting project, just one or two rows left before I would soak and block it and get ready for my next project.

And then, life happened, and I found myself in an airport trying to get home to help with a family emergency back home in Winnipeg. The first day there, I thought I'd stay for a week. The second day there, I thought I might be there until after Christmas. Ten days later, I found myself back here on Vancouver Island, blinking, wondering exactly what happened and what it all means. That night, I was gifted with a night of stomach flu. And here I am, three days later, eating solid food like a pro and turfing out anything in the fridge that looks even remotely suspicious.

So yeah, that's why I haven't been posting. But here I am now. Seymour has been looking after me and doing a pretty good job of it:


While I was packing to leave for Winnipeg, I put together a few outfits and pyjamas and toiletries, and then I stood looking around the room and decided that I better bring some knitting. I had a feeling I'd need to keep my hands busy, but I didn't want to bring a complicated cable project when I wasn't sure how well my brain would be operating. So I packed a couple of skeins of a lovely muted purple Fleece Artist 2/8 that had been living in the stash for a while with only a vague idea in my mind of what I would do with them.

I got to the airport and found out my flight was canceled and had to sit around waiting until someone could tell me just what the heck was happening. After pacing the departures hall and crying at the check-in desk, I sat down and cast on and just started to knit. By the time I landed at midnight, I had a strip of ribbing which looked quite nice... there's nothing like knit 2, purl 2 to keep you kind of sane...



And then the next day, I realized it was too small and ripped it all out again.

I worked on it over the next few days, both at home and at the hospital. I am making a version of Cirilia Rose's Loro Vest. I've been fascinated with the construction of this vest, and have been daydreaming of making my own version for a little while now. By the time I got back to the Island last Wednesday, I had made quite a bit of progress...

And then I realized that the cable pattern was just not working with my altered gauge. So last night, this is what I had on my lap:


But darn it all, I want something to work out. I worked on it doggedly, patiently, brow furrowed and lips pursed. Tonight, it looks like this: 


I have one more side to fix. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, my other project was sitting there unfinished, unsatisfyingly so. I decided to pick it up and get it to the final bind off. I added a folded hem at the top and bottom because I plan to make it into a wall hanging, and I want to use some bamboo stakes to sort of frame it to keep it flat. I sat back and looked at it, and decided I could not ignore a mistake I'd made quite early in the cable pattern:


The cabling is so complex and continuous that there was no way I could just let down the stitches and flip the stitches around behind the branch. The only thing I could do...at least the only thing I reasoned I could do... was cut it. I sat there and traced the line of the stitches until I found a stitch I felt brave enough to cut. I admit that I gasped when I did it. I caught all the loose stitches with spare double-pointed needles and got to work. I used duplicate stitches to reinforce the area and tacked down all the ends in the back. And then I soaked it, spun it, and stretched it out to make sure my hack and slash solution was not a disaster....

And by golly, I think it worked:



The only thing was that the whole point of me making this thing was to finally make use of some beads that I've been holding onto for the past couple of years. I wanted to stitch them on so that they hung from the branches like leaves or ornaments. Now that I've made it to this stage, I can see that I just don't think it'll work. I think they may ruin the beautiful simplicity of the cream cabling. So much for that plan:


I'm going back to my family in a couple of weeks for the actually PLANNED holiday break, and hopefully, things will be settling into some kind of normal. If there's anything that has been reinforced for me over the past few weeks, it's the reminder that things go wrong. Pema Chodron says, "If you're invested in security and certainty, you're on the wrong planet." Ain't that the truth. But the thing is, these things don't happen because of something we did or something we deserved. Sometimes, they just happen. What matters is how we treat each other and how we treat ourselves through it all...

...because all we have is each other.

... and the time we have together...

... and maybe we can choose not to dwell on the things that go wrong but the fact that we're imperfectly human...

... and we imperfect humans do best when we stick together.

Have a good week.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mountain Views and Gummies on a Log

It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end. — Ursula K. Le Guin
We were away this weekend on a little mini-break which was sorta to celebrate my birthday and sorta for just getting a change of scenery. We decided to go someplace new, to a rented suite overlooking the Sooke Hills on the southern end of Vancouver Island. It was a last-minute change: we had originally booked a weekend right in Victoria, but the threat of rain with a little doggy in tow would make for a very difficult weekend where he'd have to stay locked up in the car for most of the trip. Not a great choice for Mr. Seymour:


I was really hoping it would turn out ok, and I was quite relieved to see what a nice place it was, sparkling clean and very quiet with spectacular views. I am not oblivious to the fact that much of North America is sitting under ice and snow right about now, so I am extraordinarily grateful to get a chance to share this view with all of you:


People always ask us what we get up to while we're away, and I'm always somewhat embarrassed to say that we don't do very much. We go for lots of walks, stop in at shops (if there are any around), find a nice place to have lunch, and then go for another walk before coming back to have a nap and a cup of tea and muse about where we might find some dinner. It's enough for us, and certainly enough for the pup:


As usual, I got distracted by a few pretty sights along the way. I liked the look of these dark dried out seed pods against the dried out grass behind them. It was like a giant had flicked a big, inky pen across the landscape:


And this fungus growing on a fallen log was such a pretty colour of orange that, if I didn't know better, I would think the tree had sprouted a gummy bear:


I also took the time to work on an ongoing project that I'm still picking away at. I THINK it's going to be a wall-hanging, but I'm really not sure yet how it's all going to work out. It's made from three separate charts, two of which I had to chart out myself from the written pattern. I'm quite amazed I made it to the end of the tree without too many mistakes. I can't say I'm going to try doing that again. Hear me friends: never try to knit a cable chart when you're feeling tired. Never. Ever.

The central tree is by Ariel Barton, and is a cable pattern I have admired for a long time. It did bend my brain quite a bit, because the charts only include half the pattern - you have to knit to the centre and then go back and knit all of the instructions backwards to get the mirrored effect. I've been knitting cables long enough to be able to decipher the intended stitch without having to read every instruction, but I have to admit that some of them where quite a doozy for me to figure out. I made it through with one glaring error at the bottom branches, and I agonized for a while about how I was going to fix it. In the end, I decided I'm just going to leave it. I've got plans for a way to hide that problem later on:


I'm feeling a bit out of sorts today because all of a sudden I feel bombarded by Christmas muzak and holiday markets and Black Friday adverts all around me. I'm not really in the mood for it all this year... at least not yet. I'm hoping that will change. The shock of it all has bamboozled me enough to mess up a batch of scones I made this afternoon. They were an alien shade of purple earlier, the result of forgetting to put in all of the flour until all the wet ingredients were added in. The blueberries had started to bleed their colour into the batter and I had a huge soupy mess for a while. I think they remedied themselves by turning a lovely golden brown in the oven, but the proof will be in the tasting...

I best get to it. Scones must be taste-tested, after wall. Have a lovely week!


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words

ambisinistrous - adjective: Clumsy with both hands.
We live in a world that is obsessed with photos. I think it's because it's so easy to take and share photos these days that you feel the need to whip out your phone and capture an image and immediately put it up on Instagram and Facebook. I remember the good ol' days when a carefully crafted 140-character snippet of text was all you got to try to catch someone's attention on Twitter. Indeed, when I first started blogging, I don't think I had many photos to share. It was always such an ordeal to drag out my camera and find the cord to attach to my computer that, if I could get away with it, I'd do my best to limit the number of photos in my posts.

I'm not ashamed to say I've joined the hordes of folks taking photos all-over-the-show. The fact that I try to blog regularly keeps my eyes open for things to share. I try hard to capture something worthwhile and carefully composed, but I've noticed recently that I seem to be collecting a number of mysterious images in my camera roll.

Some of the photos I do recognize. In this one, I think I was trying to take a photo of the pretty colours in a climbing vine that I saw on the way to work:



This one was obviously taken one evening when I must have been balancing my phone, a cup a tea, and a snack:


And this one.... well, I guess I must have been running from the law again:


I have developed some interesting techniques for taking photos of finished projects. For example, this I took these photos by propping my phone on the edge of the kitchen counter with a jar of shredded coconut on top of it to keep it from toppling over the edge. It was the best way I could think of to show off my newly-completed fingerless mitt:


I'm really happy with the way they've turned out. They're so warm and cozy while being incredibly light. That's a wool/silk blend for you, luxurious and practical.  I've already taken them to work and I've also already nearly lost them. That means they're truly a part of the knitted-item rotation:


Check out those cute cables, and those swanky thumbs. I do love a good thumb. It's a marvelous feat of knit-engineering, right up there with sock heels and top-down raglan sleeves. That's the knit geek talking:


Meanwhile, I have been plagued by a case of startitis, where I just want to cast on ALL THE THINGS. After being scuppered by my plans of playing with newly acquired yarns last week, I've been obsessing over how to work with this skein of laceweight yarn which has been in the stash for a while. I was thinking I might use the grey skein of BFL I bought last week with it, but now I am not so sure. My fingers are itching to cast on with it to see what it will do. I am quite pleased with the look of it in this photo. Who wouldn't want to work with this yarn when it looks like that?


But I've also been dreaming about another project involving cables and beads for a long time now, and I decided it was finally time to give it a go. It hasn't been an easy start... in fact, it's been a bunch of failed takeoffs and clumsy tumbles, like a fledgling struggling to get off the ground for the first time. It's not helping that I had to write two of my own charts and am trying to mix it with a third. Trying to track which row I am on for each chart may eventually drive me batty. Here's what my lap looked like last night (which by the way, was not an easy photo to capture - go-go-gadget arm!):


Seymour is exhausted by it already. Wait till the beads come out:


Meanwhile, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a book at the library which contains a pattern I want to try use this yarn for. It's some yarn I got during my visit to London last year, and it's been calling me from the stash. It's another merino/silk blend, and if my fingerless mittens are anything to judge by, these beauties are going to be just as warm and cozy:


For now, I am going to hold true to my monogamous knitting pledge and try to finish this project before I start any others. I'm working with all white yarn, so I'm hoping that it will be easy to photograph. I'll have to start practicing my camera skills so I can accurately capture all that work I'm doing right now. You can see I've already got a knack for it:


Heh. More training required, I guess. Have a good week!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Scuppered

Major General Urquhart:
Hancock. I've got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven't arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea? 
Corporal Hancock:
Couldn't hurt, sir.
--From "A Bridge Too Far," 1977
I'd planned to go two months ago when we picked up a leaflet reminding us of the date at a market we'd attended. The Cowichan Fleece and Fibre Festival is held every year usually on the same weekend of Rhinebeck, in the hamlet of Cobble Hill, about 35 minutes south of where I live. I'd been once before, but never with a yarn friend, and this year I was looking forward to going. These things never disappoint. It's a small Festival in comparison to many others, but it's always a good place to spend a couple of hours:


We planned it well: we decided to start the day with a relaxing brunch at a local cafe, and we didn't arrive at the hall until an hour after opening, after the big rush and lineups of excited yarnies that attend these events. It was relatively non-crowded and we could really spend our time looking at the wares, squishing the yarn, and feeling the fleeces. I love that kind of shopping when I can really take my time and get lost in colours and textures and start imagining what I can do with the goodies on offer. I always leave with a contented sigh.

Close by in the town of Cowichan Bay, the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild were holding their annual show and sale. Since we were in the area, we popped down for a visit as well. It was held in the Maritime Museum, which was a lovely venue for such an event. It was a very different event, quiet, but busy in its own way. My friend bought a couple of beautiful woven tea towels, whilst I wandered around admiring the items on displays. Not all were woven: there were some lovely knitted hats and shawls, as well as braided rugs and seat pads:


We wandered around the town a bit longer, stopping in at shops here and there, as well as into a couple of artists' studios I'd never visited before. It was so pleasant to walk in and chat with each artist, especially with a friend who is as equally enamored by folks living their dreams as I am. I left feeling really lucky to have had the experience.

We stopped at the cafe once more for some tea and a cookie and some more chatting, and then I had to leave to get home. I drove away feeling like I'd have a really good visit with a good friend...

... and then I remembered I'd left my yarn goodies in her car. Gah. 

It's a funny feeling when you lose something you'd only just acquired. I start wondering how I can quickly undo the mistake, how I can get them back... right now. But the reality was that my friend lives a couple of hours south of me, and I had somewhere to be, and by the time we both turned around, it would be far too late. I gave her a quick call and she offered to mail them to me, but I'm heading down her way in a few weeks and it would be just as easy for me to wait until then.

And so... scuppered is the only word I can think of right now. I would have loved to sit today and get some good daydreaming in, but welp... I guess have to wait.

She did send me a couple of good photos this morning so I could share them on the blog. Yeah... they're sure pretty. There are four skeins of handdyed aran weight wool (mixed, I think) which I am thinking would make a really lovely, cozy lap blanket. I also have one skein of pale grey BFL in fingering weight:


I adore the touch of purple/blue in the grey aran skeins, and the richness of the raspberry aran skeins. I'm looking forward to having the BFL because I have another skein of mixed grey laceweight that has been languishing in my stash waiting to be used, but there's just not enough yardage to do what I want with it. That makes the BFL a "helper" skein: if I hadn't bought it, that laceweight would probably sit for a lot longer... at least, that's my story:

It'll be the weekend after my birthday when I get down to pick them up, so I guess I'll call these my birthday present. It'll be worth it. Delayed gratification must build up some kind of character, I'm sure...

In the meantime, I came home and found this on the couch:


We've been looking for a good raincoat for Seymour, but we couldn't find anything that would cover his belly, which is really the part we need to protect the most. Being a vertically challenged pup means that he gets a really mucky undercarriage on a wet day. The hubby stumbled on this coat at the dollar store, which was almost perfect except it was a bit tight around his chest and belly. Being adorably short and stout comes with its own challenges, it seems.

So I pulled out my sewing box and went to work and sewed in a zipper to give him a bit more space. I was especially impressed with myself because I had to cut the zipper, so I sewed in a couple of zipper stops to keep the zipper from zipping all the way off the teeth. I even sewed in a hook at the top (it's a bit small so you can't see it, but it's there) to keep the zipper from working its way back down the teeth:


And it fit:


He is thrilled, as you can see. I'm guessing he wishes I hadn't forgotten my yarn, too:


I do have things to work on in the meantime. Who am I kidding? I've got the biggest stash in town, I'm sure. I'm working on the partner to this fingerless mitt, as well as a few projects blooming in my brain. I've got plenty to keep me busy:


But man... I wish I hadn't... oh well. It'll be worth the wait, worth the wait, worth the wait...

Sunday, October 21, 2018

An Abundance of Leaves

We are thickly layered, page lying upon page, behind simple covers. And love - it is not the book itself, but the binding. --Deb Caletti
My commute to and from work has changed since we moved. I've been walking on fine days, and while it is a longer route, the view on the way home is so beautiful that I can't help to stop and admire it... and also to catch my breath because there are a heckuva lotta hills around here. And since it's autumn, my most favourite season of all, I'm loving the colours of all the leaves all around me:


I also feel so grateful because our house is surrounded by trees, and this is the first time I've ever been lucky enough to have Japanese maple trees in our yard. There's nothing like maple leaves to really show off the colours of autumn:


And I'm lucky enough to have not just one maple, but three:



And, by golly, I also have holly. Its leaves are pretty and prickly, and I'm wondering if I'll be brave enough to make a wreath of it this year. It may end up having the added colour of my blood after I prick my fingers multiple times:


And on the stairs, I have my rescued primula, which is growing huge, luscious leaves, and blooming big, beautiful blossoms. It's a very happy plant these days:


It's been a while since I've gotten out to take part in any classes or workshops, and this weekend I jumped up and took two. On Friday night, I made the last-minute decision to attend a bracelet-making class at a local cafe. It was really fun and brought me back to my jewelry-making days. I loved playing with the colours and mixing and matching the beads, so much so that I totally ignored the sales pitch for the essential oils they were selling at the same time. I did take a few drops to put on the black and grey lava beads to enjoy later, though:


And speaking of leaves, I went to a bookbinding workshop where we played around with glue and paper string and awls to make a sketchbook of our own. I always find it so interesting being around artists who work with paper. They say things like, "Oh, that's a lovely edge!" "This is the best ruler I've ever had," and "This paper has more give than that paper." I sat quietly and listened to people chat as I folded and cut and stuck my fingers together:


But it was when I had my needle in hand and settled into stitching that I really fell into a zone. Threads and needles are my thang, and I managed to catch on fairly quickly:


And voila: I made a book:


No, I don't know what I'll do with it yet, but I intend to enjoy its beauty for a while:


I especially love the flyleaf, which I deliberately chose to be dark and contrasting to the rest of the pages:



Oh yeah, and I knit stuff sometimes. I finished this hat yesterday, and quite frankly, I'm amazed it worked out. It is the Barley Hat by Tin Can Knits, designed to use a fingering weight yarn, which is what I used. What I did NOT do was dig out size 2 and size 4 needles, because 1) I don't have any size 2 needles and 2) I had absolutely no desire to knit anything on such small needles. I blindly chose a size, cast on with size 6 needles and hoped for the best. And well, in the end, I got a hat:


I love the shimmer of this yarn, and at the risk of stretching my leaf theme too far, the bumpy gold reminds me of gold leaf used for gilding. The hat is very light, mostly because of the large needles and fine yarn, but I don't think it's too holey. Besides that, I think it will keep my head quite warm because of the silk content in the yarn (50/50 wool silk, in this case);


I am quite struck by my freckles in this photo. I never pay my freckles much notice, but I had a coworker once that just could not stop talking about them. Meh. My face, my business, my head gilded in gold leaf:


And Seymour... well, he's not that impressed. He's a bit tuckered out from frolicking in all the leaves outside. Maybe he'll appreciate it more when he wakes up:


So yes, I'm in a leaf-covered world these days... but the downside to that is we have a ton of leaves to clean up outside. I think I better go have a look at the pile right now and see if there's any more I have to shift.

Happy Sunday!