Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Triple-Craft Blogpost

I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures. --Geronimo
I'm sitting here wondering how we got to two days after Christmas all of a sudden. It's as though a giant hand swooped me up and dropped me here, blinking and in shock at the sudden change of surroundings. This happens to me every year: the anticipation of the holidays starts a couple of weeks before, and then: wham! I'm sitting on my parents' couch, full of treats, wading through the holiday hangover.

One of the other odd things about this is the time of year is that I suddenly get all fired up to finish lots of little projects, like this little family of felted owls. I actually started them this time last year when I was new at felting. After accidentally stabbing my fingers a couple of times, I decided it was time to give it a rest. This year, I pulled out those three blue blobs of felted wool and made them into a little happy family of owls:

I'm glad I didn't try to do full pupils on the adults. I'm not very good at eyes (things tend to turn out cross-eyed in my hands). I think they look much happier like this:

I also did a last-minute crocheted Christmas ornament with some leftover cotton from my Over and Over Top:

I used an old ornament from the thrift shop, one of those covered in a layer of nylon thread. After I cut it off, it looked like I had scalped Strawberry Shortcake. It was sorta disturbing, I gotta say:

Then, the night before we left for Winnipeg for my parents' house, I decided my backpack needed a bit of personality. It's amazing how much a bit of felt and some embroidery thread can cheer you up:

We flew out last Saturday, the 23rd of December. They say it's the busiest travel day of the year. I've done it so often that I hardly notice the difference. The scenery is always nice, though:

Every time I tell people I'm going to Winnipeg for Christmas, I get sort of a blank look and then some unimaginative (and usually rude) utterance about the one thing they know about Winnipeg: that it's cold, why would I go there? I'm getting kinda grumpy about it, because yeah, it's cold, but it's also my home. I wish people would be more respectful. And those wimps will never know the joy of a winter hockey game on the river:

Meanwhile, I finished my Pincha Shawl. I'm half-and-half about it. It's beautiful, but man, that yarn sheds a lot. I had seven balls of the stuff, but I quit after I six-and-a-quarter because I was so fed up with it.  I'm hoping that, after a couple of washes, it'll calm down:

I did have to do an emergency repair on the inner edge, which unravelled for some reason. I'm proud to say that I didn't panic... not too much. And the repair is completely invisible... for now. I'm hoping it holds up:

I do love its wing-like appearance. It even kinda looks like a bird from this angle:

That makes a triple-craft blogpost this week: felt, crochet, and knitting. Man, I'm good.

We're here for another couple of days, and I'm grateful. It's nice to be close to my parents, and it's nice to just put down all of my normal worries and relax a bit. It's like being given a blank canvas: it's clean and clear and a little bewildering, after trudging through the cluttered brain of my normal life. 

And yeah, it's cold. And it's home. And that's that.

I hope you had a Happy Holiday. Onward to the New Year.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wings vs. Whinge

And then one day I realised I had scars the shape of wings. --S. C. Lourie
This is not what I had planned.

It was an impulse purchase. It was on a day when I hadn't planned to be near a yarn store. I was there with a friend who needed some materials, and I just came along for fun. My stash is of such a size that impulse purchases aren't exactly exciting as they are stressful. And yet...

It was the colours that attracted me at first - soft, gentle tones of beige and cream and grey... colours that I normally pass over, but this time they tugged at me to look more closely.

Then, it was their softness. Loosely plied and puffy, rounded strands held together with a thin nylon thread. It was acrylic, which some knit snobs turn their noses up at, but each ball was so smooth and cool to the touch.

Then, it was their price. They were in the bargain bin. Discontinued yarn, marked down, and in short supply. How could I resist (insert snerky sarcasm here)? I dug through the bin pulled out as many balls as I could find, seven in all.

I had visions of a loose-knit cardi or vest, long and drapey, worn over a cream-coloured long-sleeved t-shirt... elegant and comfortable, with some soft 80's lighting and bossa nova playing in the background.

Yes, my knitting dreams include music and video effects. Don't yours?

I held onto the yarn for a while, pulling it out of the bag every so often to muse over it before tucking it away again. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time...

But nothing would work. I cast on and ripped out and cast on and ripped out over and over again. I tried some experiments with short rows, then some simple garter stitch squares, then a short stint with the Ten Stitch Blanket Pattern, which I thought I could somehow twist and turn into some kind of garment.

Nope. Nothing.

I can't remember how I decided I'd try the Pincha Shawl pattern. It's designed to make the best use of more variegated yarn, but something in me decided to try it with the long colour changes in this yarn. I struggled a bit with the stitch counts and the wraps-and-turns, and was pretty sure I was just going to through the whole lot into the garbage.

After the first repeat, though, I was surprised to see how much it looked like a feather:

And now, I have a group of feathers... nearly a wing:

I can't help but feel it is all somewhat symbolic. I'm at a time in my life where I'm forced to look at familiar things differently, to shed old ways of doing things, and to try to see things in a different light. I suppose I'm growing. Even my legs hurt right now, mostly because I've been doing a lot more walking lately than I have been doing over the last few months and my muscles are a bit shocked, but even so... they remind me of the growing pains I had when I was a teenager going through my awkward growth spurts.

This project has been difficult: each repeat is different, the stitch counts are out, and I've had to fudge it over and over again. And the yarn is shedding, which is odd for acrylic, and it's pretty annoying to get up to brush myself off each evening. More than once I've wanted to give up on it, but I haven't. After all, growth is not easy, and it sure isn't that easy to grow a wing.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to grow in other ways. I've been playing around with watercolour pencils:

Trying my hand at some folk art (I don't think it's for me):

And sustaining my growth with just a few homemade ginger and molasses cookies. Growing takes energy, after all:

By the way: that cup was handmade by a local artisan, Blackbird Studios. I was so excited to land one at a market yesterday that I had to show it off. Thank goodness I had the cookies to test it out.

The holiday season has snuck up on me, and it's only just hit me that it's only just over a week to Christmas Day. I have some things I need to get ready for the holidays, but I'm loathe to put my project down to do them. I think I'll have to grow up a bit and gather my wits together and get on with it. I might be whining. Just because I'm growing wings doesn't mean I have to give up whining, does it? Is it ironic that winging and whingeing have such similar spellings?

Onwards, I suppose... and Happy Sunday!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Baked Hats or Something Like That

Wild is the music of autumnal winds  
Amongst the faded woods. --William Wordsworth
We've been having a reprieve from all the rain over the last few days - just a few showers here and there. It has been unseasonably warm, and I'm not complaining. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how I can't stand it when it snows on the Island. I'll take rain if it means I don't have to deal with icy roads and sidewalks.

It was quite windy and stormy this morning while I was at the gym. I greeted an older fellow who was warming up and said, "It sure is windy out there, hey?"

To which he replied, "Yeah... looks like it's going to blow everything away."

And then, he looked out the window for a long while and said nothing, seemingly lost in thought. I wondered what he was thinking about. He didn't say... he eventually just picked up his stuff and carried on.

You never know what people are carrying inside of them.

The damp weather has stalled my knitting, since I'd finished a hat two days ago and soaked it for blocking, and it was STILL damp this morning. I decided there was nothing for it: the knitting MUST dry. So I employed the most effective method for drying blocking knitting projects:

I did some baking. Nothing like firing up the oven to get the knits drying. And no, I didn't bake the hat.

I made two loaves of wholemeal soda bread and a double batch of blueberry and cranberry scones. I even broke out my cake stand for the scones and set it all next to my birthday flowers (which are still strongly in bloom). I temporarily forgot about my blocking problem and reveled in the sight:

And yes, by this afternoon, the hat was dry. I improvised it from a similar pattern on Ravelry. It was one of those patterns where I said, "I bet I could knit that." And I did... but it took me three tries to get it right:

I knit it with just over two skeins of Shibui Knits Sock yarn, now discontinued. It's a kettle-dyed colourway called Mulberry, which I love, but like all purples and plums, it's notoriously difficult to photograph. I think this photo is probably the closest (that is if your monitor settings are the same as mine). It was the cast on that kept messing me up - too tight, too small, too loose... I eventually figured out how to do a long tail tubular cast on, and that ended up being just the ticket. I held two strands together to keep the purple and black lowlights from pooling.

I'm quite happy with the result, though I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to wearing a slouchy hat. I haven't yet figured out how to make them look as cute on me as they look on other people. Maybe it's because I always hate taking photos of my hats while they're actually on my head. I think most people hate hat photos. We're so used to having our hair framing our faces that a hat just seems jarring:

Yeah... that's a lot of face in that photo:

Meanwhile, I dug out seven balls of yet another discontinued yarn to play with yesterday:

I have a few ideas of what I want to try with it, but for now, I'm just enjoying the sandy tones in it. They remind me of the badlands of Alberta, where I used to live... I want to experiment with some short rows to see if I can echo some of the undulating sandstone layers I drove past every day to work:

It's the season when all of the Christmas stuff starts popping up: Christmas muzak in the supermarkets,  craft markets popping up here and there. I keep thinking I want to attend a market, but my festive spirit is not really firing up... not sure if it will. I may need to drop out of sandstone knitting and try making a snowman or something to cheer myself up.

Or maybe not. I think there are plenty who will hold up the holiday cheer for now.

I'm off to find some suitable needles for my next project. Have a good week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

More Printing, a Bunny, and a Spotted Lamb

"It's so dark right now, I can't see any light around me."
"That's because the light is coming from you. You can't see it but everyone else can."  --Lang Leav
Sunday again. I had a week where lots of things I didn't expect to happen, happened. And I find myself standing here blinking, wondering how I got here. But here I am.

We had last Monday off in lieu of Remembrance Day, and I took the opportunity to make my way down to the print studio to work on an experiment that has been brewing in my brain since I did the woodblock printing workshop a few weeks ago.

I loved the results from the workshop so much that I wondered what it would look like with a coloured background. Since then, I've been playing around with washes of watercolour paint on medium weight watercolour paper. You're supposed to stretch your paper before you paint on it, but each time I did I only ended up with a mess, so I didn't bother with it for my final versions. Besides, I've spent a whole life doing things the "right way," thinking I'd somehow get rewarded. Turns out, it wore me out as I watched other people who skipped the rules all getting ahead.

I went into the studio with these sheets. You can't really tell from the photos, but the paints I used are pearlescent, so each sheet has a pearly sheen to them when you stand in the right light:

There, I met two women I'd never met before, but who were so welcoming and happy to see me that they helped me test out my idea on some scrap newsprint and gave me pointers for how to ink my block better. I ended up walking out with these:

I got a few accidental ink smudges, and they're positioned both landscape and portrait because I was a bit flustered with having the keep one of the more experienced printers waiting. She was extremely helpful to me, probably partially to get me moving faster, but also because she was so kind. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with them. Right now, I'm just enjoying looking at them:

It was my birthday on Friday. My parents sent me these beautiful flowers the night before:

We went to Victoria this weekend for a short getaway. We got lucky and got a dry weekend, possibly the only dry one we'll get for a while:

We met with a friend for a lovely dinner, and then the next day, we did a lot of walking, had a nice lunch, and looked around at some shops. That afternoon, we walked down to an open house at a gallery called arc.hive. There, we met lots of interesting artists showing off their workspaces and their current projects. Whenever I go to these things, someone always asks if I'm an artist, to which I never know what to say. This time, someone asked me, "Are you a maker?" and all of a sudden, I felt very confident about saying, "Yes, I am."

Because yes: I make things. And I make them not because I need them or want them. I just have to make things because I must.

But the real reason I went to the gallery was to pick up this box:

... to take this little guy home:

He's one of a litter of five made by a wonderful local sculptor and illustrator named Karina Kalvaitis. The creatures she makes speak to my soul... when I look at them, I get the same feeling I get when I see shelter animals: I want to give them all homes.

I think his name is going to be Remiel, after the archangel: Angel of Visions, the Angel of Hope, and the one you are to call if you are depressed... because sometimes, you need reassurance that things are going to get better:

He's one of her Secret Nest Animals, a species called a Nocturnal Spotted Lamb. I like lambs, and I like him. And he has a look on his face I've felt often on my own:

And he also came with his own Certificate of Authenticity, which completes the wonderful-ness:

Meanwhile, I am still knitting away. I have a hat in progress, which as of yesterday has been ripped out three times while I get the gauge and cast on sorted out. In between all of this, I whipped up this little bunny for my friend's son who also had a birthday last week:

He's made from one of those patterns where you knit a square and then use some clever stitching to fashion various animals:

But I'm most impressed with the pom-pom I made for his tail. I've never been much good at them, so I hope it lasts:

And well, that's all I have to say today. Have a good week.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Holy Sheep, I Made Two Cushions

The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfillment of its own nature, which was to fall and fall. --Helen Garner
We are engulfed in rain... I can't understand why I can never remember how much rain we get on this island every year, yet here I am after four years of living here and I am still amazed at how little it rains in the summer and how MUCH it rains all other times of the year.

Good thing I know how to knit:

I had a day off today in lieu of Remembrance Day, which was last Saturday. It was a good day to finish these two cushions off. Here's my Jacob Cushion, complete with stuffing and a happy ram on the front. For such a hardy fleece, it is surprisingly soft to the touch, and even after giving it a wash, it still smells mildly sheepy, which is the best scent of all:

I played a lot of "yarn chicken" while finishing these two cushions off. Last weekend, I played around with knitting a panel to put on the back. I tried using a larger gauge and a bit of moss stitching to make the most of my dwindling yardage:

And then, while that panel was blocking, I picked up the Geoffrey and Marmite panel and decided to play around with a lace pattern to make the most of the even smaller amount of cream-coloured yarn I had left. I paged through loads and loads of lace motifs until I remembered this pattern that I used when I made my Sonata shawl a couple of years ago. In this yarn, I think it looks like a flock of sheep... almost like a fuzzy mirror image of the other side:

A couple of days later, I put this one onto the boards to block and went back to the other panel again. Incidentally: I'm really liking these blocking pins from Knitters Pride. I've used them a bunch of times now, and while I still think blocking wires are excellent, these things are great in a pinch, and even better when paired with the wires. I've used them enough times to think that I might invest in another set soon:

Anyway, I went back to my Jacob cushion and sewed the panels together with an interlocking stitch, then sat and stared at it for a while to try to figure out a way to close it up. I attempted to set a zipper into it and failed miserably. One of these days, I'm going to have to figure out how to do that without it looking like I've installed a roller coaster track into my knitting. 

Then, I remembered this lot of vintage buttons that I picked up for $10 a couple of weeks ago:

So, I did some thinking... got out some spare mercerized cotton and a crochet hook and made a band with some button loops along one edge:

I set the loop band in with a crochet slip stitch along the inside of the open edge of the back panel:

And, hey look: a closed cushion! Those buttons are way more red in natural light than they were when I was sewing them on under the lamp by the couch. I'm not so sure about them, but I think they'll do for now:

I liked that method so much that I used a similar method on the Geoffrey and Marmite cushion, except I crocheted the band directly onto the edge. I'm very happy with the result:


Here it is from the front:

And the back:

I am really pleased with myself that I was able to use all of three of the skeins of Jacob yarn I got during our trip to Devon in not one, but TWO sheepy projects. I did have to cheat a bit and use some merino to seam up the Geoffrey and Marmite cushion, and I did have to use the cotton for the button loops, but I'm still quite impressed that I was able to stretch those skeins out the way I did. I'm not normally driven by "theme knitting," but it's been great having a focus for my creativity: it really helped me make decisions to get closer to the vision I had in my head.

I guess the lesson here is: when in doubt, think of sheep. Not a bad motto.

I will admit that I'm really glad these things are finished. I am a TAD tired of thinking about them all of the time, but that's just what happens when your projects become an obsession. I have cast on for a new hat because I was in the mood for a quick project...

... except I've had to rip it out twice now because I keep messing it up. Hmm... I wonder if I'll ever figure out that speed is not my forte.

Onwards to hat weather... if it ever stops raining, that is...