Thursday, 28 April 2011

Things are Growing

The hyacinths

The daffodils and the pulmonaria

My cross-stitch

And two new projects (more UFOs…)
A sweater/tunic/dress for my cousin’s wedding next month. Pattern is the $5 in Paris sweater. The yarn is an alpaca/cotton/wool blend a friend of my brother’s picked up in South America, and the front motif is from B.Walker’s Second Treasury.

And mitts for Montreal Deb.

The original intent was to use this pair to test my pattern (the mitts I made for Kim this fall).
However, with the yarn I had, they would come out way too big. So now I have patterns for a small pair and a large pair, which will give more flexibility. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Last week I found, all of a sudden, ants hanging out in my kitchen and dining room. It’s very strange, as I’ve lived in the same place for the last 7 years and not had any problems with them before. But they are getting in the cat’s food bowl, and in the cupboard, and I really don’t appreciate it.

I spent time this weekend looking up possible remedies that do not involve buying poison or traps. Borax, pepper, and lemon juice were all suggested. So far, the pepper has had only a minimal effect, and it’s hard to tell with the borax. Plus I have to be careful with that, as I don’t think it would be good for Julia to ingest. But I’ve blown some around the baseboards where I saw them, and put some in the cupboard after taking everything out and cleaning. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll buy a few lemons tomorrow.

 In more cheerful news, the warm weekend brought out lots of flowers. My daffodils and pulmonaria and wood hyacinths are all out in front, and I saw violets and more tulips out on my walk yesterday. No pictures today, though - it rained most of yesterday. Wettest April on record here, they say, and we've still got a few days of the month to go. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


I don't know whether it's just me, but it seems like a lot of people I know have Spring birthdays. Several of my best friends. 3 of 5 family members. Half my graduate lab. I don't know if anyone's looked into this. Is it a holdover from evolution, like all the rest of the critters having their babies in the Spring? A side effect of June weddings and Summer romances and getaways?

Be that as it may, we combined three birthdays with Easter this weekend at my parents', as my sister's boyfriend, my father and I all had birthdays within the month. Lots of food. Homegrown duck. My cousin's ham. Scalloped potatoes and veg, and the berries and apples for pies all from homegrown stuff. Easter chocolates, and homemade hot cross buns. Thankfully we all have good metabolisms.

Mom always encouraged me to keep at my studies. Yet I note that she is the worst one for feeding the hobbies that I would love to make a full-time job someday. This birthday was no exception, as she found me a digital yarn scale, a portable burner for dyeing outdoors in the summer (although this may be just because she doesn't want me steaming up the newly-painted kitchen cabinets above the stove) and a reprint of Culpeper's Herbal. Originally published in the 17th century, it comes up all the time in references to herbal remedies. Culpeper's book has the descriptions and uses of a large number of herbs, and instructions for various preparations of them. I wouldn't use the recipes now without some further research, of course, but it's a fascinating read.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Well-timed Surprises

So Tuesday night I get a call from my friend Shona who I thought was in London, England. Nope, she's here over a school break (she's a teacher) and did I have time to visit the next day? Um, yeah!
It was a wicked nasty day yesterday, rain and wind and just above freezing, not the best day to haul out for a 9am job interview. However, after surviving that and getting home and changing into dry clothes, I got to go out for lunch/brunch with Shona and a friend of hers, and go shopping for the afternoon (I acquired a book and some yarn. Go figure.) Doubly nice, because we had a car. Not sure you would have gotten me out if it required bussing in that weather.

Get home, make supper, settle down to watch Idol - and get a phone call from my friend Jen, who lives in Toronto. She was down here for Easter weekend, and she popped over right then and there for a chat, and this aft we're going out for dessert, in honour of our birthdays (hers was last month, but I didn't see her then). So double thrill, I get to unexpectedly visit with two people I see only rarely, in the space of a day!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Back to Reality, and Cats are Way Too Smart

Job interview tomorrow. I have to get my brain out of it's fibre and color rut and start thinking about things like polymerase chain reactions, and decide what in my wardrobe looks presentable. Supposed to be miserable weather also.

Julia (the cat) has been waking me up at 5 or 5:30 every morning now it's getting light earlier. I refuse to get up until 6, but she runs around the apartment, cries, jumps in and out of the window, and comes to my room every 10 minutes and tries scratching the (antique) bureau to get my attention, then runs away - not when I scold her, but when I show signs of getting out of bed to smack her for it. Tape, sticky side out, or splashing her with water has worked, but briefly, and I'm not keeping tape on the bureau permanently.

Last night, I filled a cup with water, put it on the bedside table, and angled the door so I had a clear shot at where she goes for the bureau. Apparently, the threat was sufficient - I woke up to the alarm for the first time in over a week, with the cat sleeping beside me, despite the fact that it was sunny out. No early morning crying, races, or bureau attack. Huh.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Fun with Color

Last Friday’s Fiber Spa day ended up being very little about fiber, and a lot about dyeing. Easter is coming up, so we had fun coloring eggs. I haven’t done anything like it in years, it was lots of fun, and took most of the morning and most of the kitchen. We tried dyeing with silk waste, with food coloring, and with vegetable stuff (onion skins, red cabbage, and beet juice). The eggs look pretty amazing, too!
Oh, dang, lettering too small. OK, clockwise from top left are waste silk plus onion, waste silk alone, onion skins, wax resist with food coloring, leaf print with food coloring, red cabbage, and beet pickle juice. 

We also tested a microwave dyeing apparatus, which basically looks like a square with rods sticking up from it, 3 to a side, to wind yarn around. Someone showed us a picture of one, and that was enough for our hostess to set her husband on to making one out of CPVC from Canadian Tire. You wind the yarn around the uprights, and apply the dye, then set it in the microwave. I was curious to try it as another method of getting a skein shaded from one end to the other, and am happy to say it worked pretty well. Wound yarn from a solid pink skein around three groups of three uprights until each set in turn was full and I had used up about 2/3 of the skein, then draped the remaining third around the fourth group of three. I used three different dilutions of blue food coloring, so that the first three sides got dark, medium and light blue overdyeing, and left the fourth section plain. Result – a skein shaded from pink to blue-purple, and very pretty.
Oh, and the garbage can came back. It must have been the landlord, but where he hid it and why are still a mystery...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Strange disappearance

First yard waste pickup of the season today, and I had two trash cans full from cleaning the garden. However, one of them, along with its cargo of grass stems and sedum heads, has vanished from the back yard. I thought the landlord had put it by the curb, but it's nowhere in sight. It can't have rolled away in the wind - it was behind a concrete bumper, and the back yard is fenced. Nothing appealing in it for animals, and why would they take the can? And if a person took it, why take the contents - and why take the plastic can and not the metal one? And why now? Those cans have been sitting in the same spot, used for the same purpose, for years. I'll be checking the neighbors' places out on the way home, but it is most peculiar.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Election Debates

Um, yeah. Guess what was all over the TV (well, the two channels I get) last night? Yup, the great debate for next month's Federal election. Not half as entertaining as the normal block of Big Bang Theory and DWTS I would have watched. Still, it had three things going for it. Firstly, it didn't really require me to watch it, so I could work on my embroidery and still keep up. Secondly, it is an election, I'm going to vote, and it's as good a way as any to get a feel for the opinions of the, ahem, candidates. Thirdly, I suspect election debates would make a great drinking game. Drink every time a candidate repeats their favorite phrase; they all had at least one phrase/idea they repeated several times over the course of the evening. I almost wondered if they commit, say, two or three ideas to memory and try to answer everything using those. Or whenever a candidate gives an indirect answer or veers off topic for a question (no, wait, everyone would be passed out halfway through the debate). Well, I'm sure there are other possibilities.

At any rate, I didn't get to watch the end, as the cat was insisting on her evening stroll. Which did leave one question unanswered in my mind - what happens after the debate? Do they exit the room politely (no, after you, sir)? Do they each get their own door to exit from, in case of conflict? Or is it all a sham, like wrestling, and do they slap each other on the back at the end, say, 'Well played, old chap' and all head to someone's house for a beer? (Actually, I've occasionally wondered the same thing about celebrities in Hollywood.)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dye Experiment

First playing with dyes of the season!
I read about this technique on Ravelry (you can find anything on Rav) last year and have been itching to try it. Rav post on shaded dyeing. By rolling the yarn in a ball before dyeing, the idea is that the dye penetrates less to the inner layers, and you should be able to get a ball/skein shaded along the total of it's length. I used cochineal with alum mordant, and a silk/merino blend laceweight I bought at Knit-Knackers. The idea was to test the technique for use on my Guild challenge project later this year.

I was afraid the dye would penetrate too much, but it was just the opposite - after 1.5 hours in the pot, the center of the ball was still white when I reskeined it. So I dunked the whole thing back in the exhaust for a moment. This also helped even out the color a bit - the middle part of the ball was a bit tie-dyed in effect; with the ball looking rather patchy. It looks good (if you can tell by the very mediocre photo), but I think the next round I will try rolling the ball a bit looser.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Yet Another Project

I completely forgot to blog yesterday. My computer time for the morning was taken up with arranging testers for the Snowdrop shawl pattern. They're all raring to go, comments already flying this morning, it's all very exciting.
And lately, the afternoon computing has been, on bright days, devoted to yet another project I’m working on. Take a look at these:

Two lovely needlepoint panels I found a couple summers ago at an antique shop. My mother had been there previously with a friend, and suggested a trip to me (twist my rubber arm, eh?) The place was closing at the end of the season, so we had to check it out then. She had her eye on a copper bedwarmer, which she ended up buying. I poked about, and found these tucked away in a pile of linens. Think of all the work that went into them. Well used – the colors are faded (the back is brighter), and some of the stitches are missing. The ragged edges and slashes at the corners suggest that they were used to upholster the seat and back of a chair. So what am I doing with them?
 I’m sitting at the computer, and working on graphing out the pattern, trying to approximate the unfaded colors. I know it’s going to take a while, as some of the shades are hard to tell apart unless the light is good. The brilliant maroon and blues and gold are easy to pick out, but some of paler shades and the varied greens require closer scrutiny. At some point, this should result in being able to re-create the two pieces in (close to) their original glory. If I get ambitious, I could even dye the yarns myself with the natural dyes. But right now, I will be happy to get the graphs done. The smaller one is getting close to a third done, and that's been three sessions!
This afternoon I know I should cut the session short. Lovely sunny weather and I really ought to get back to garden clean-up. There are not enough hours in a day as is - I shudder to think of what it will be like when I get a job. Maybe I start buying lottery tickets. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Change in the Air

Not in the pennies from heaven sense, which would be interesting but dangerous. And not just because it's spring and things are expected to change almost overnight. But it does seem that there will be changes in the near future. I'm not against change, but it takes some getting used to.

One of my dear friends got her acceptance to medical school last week, to start the Fall semester. I'm thrilled for her - she's been wanting to go for years. But she'll be going overseas, so I won't see her more than maybe once a year, and I'll miss her. She says, "Come see me", but, well, it's an expensive trip. We'll see what my bank account looks like.

I didn't get the job I was hoping for, but one other interview last week and one in two weeks, so maybe, if one of those pans out, I will be gainfully employed soon, and can save for that trip.

Then there's the Federal elections coming up. Although this is one place I wouldn't mind a change (really, I will vote just about anything but Conservative), I suspect that, like the last couple times, the only real change will be that the government coffers will be depleted after spending the money to hold the elections.

Of course, there's good change too. One of the knitters I know just announced she's expecting. I'm excited, because that means a chance to try out a pattern or so in my new book, making a baby gift.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Road Trip

Three of us spinners headed off to Montreal on Saturday morning. Object of trip: meet up with an artistic someone who knew about a little place where they make handmade paper, which she described as 'crack cocaine for artists'. Subsequently, lunch and yarn crawl before heading home. As one of our number is a printmaker, and the other two are fiber-focused but multicraftual, this was a fully agreeable plan.

The paper place proved to be very much what you might expect of somewhere selling the artist's equivalent of illegal drugs. Old brick factory building, well graffitoed. Entrance via a minimally marked, basement-level steel door. Inside, nothing fancy. Concrete floor, one side having pulp tubs and screens and supplies for making the paper, printing presses scattered about, a broom closet-looking bathroom, and the rest having a variety of shelving, tables, and piles containing paper, and random buckets and boxes with trimmings. Not standard 8.5 x 11 sheets, mind you. Heavy, textured, deckle-edged sheets in a variety of colors and sizes. Some with seeds or rags or leaves incorporated. Linen paper. Even vellum. Our two artists had a lovely time, kept drifting off distracted, and finally came out with a bundle each. We then had to return as one had gotten so distracted she had left her coat there.

After lunch (a little Indian place which rendered us all too full to think about supper) was yarn shopping and the turn of the yarn and fiber crew to get distracted, although the artists had fun as well. I was not intending to splurge, but...I saw a copy of Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, flipped through, and didn't let go of it. Now I know what the fuss is about her, and I shall definitely be keeping my eyes open for the other three Treasuries. I have several stitch dictionaries about, but I have never seen most of what was in that book, and it is making my designing node itch.

Oh, and I also bought a skein of yarn. I needed it to test the pattern for Kim's mitts I made last year. (Justify, justify!) And bagels, because that's what you do in Montreal. I haven't had a Montreal bagel in years, possibly not since I moved away from there. They will be breakfast this week.