Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dictionary, Please and Parental Dilemmas

I was walking home yesterday and saw the following sign, crudely printed and propped against a tree.


Dudes, I don’t know whether you’ve got a case or not, but I don’t think the sign is going to help you. I mean, I’m sorry, I know there are people who have trouble with language, and I know what with not teaching spelling and grammar in school and the rise of text messaging, things are a bit shakier than they used to be. But if you’re trying to communicate something and be taken seriously, you might want to verify things like homonyms, spelling, and appropriate places for word breaks. I’m pretty good with language, but I was halfway down the block before I figured it out, after trying and rejecting theories involving aspirin (included in a class of drugs called NSAIDs for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), religion, and possibly sex-change operations.

Reminds me of a T-shirt I saw back in high school, printed with “Huked On Foniks Wurkt For Me”.

And the parental issues: Julia caught a mouse last night while she was out on her leash with me! Just came to attention all of a sudden, stuck her head in a clump of soapwort, and came out with a cute, very plump, white-bellied mouse. It was still apparently unharmed, but squeaking most distressfully, so I asked her if she was going to kill it and eat it. But she wanted to trot off and play with it instead, so I made her let it go. Poor thing took a moment to get its bearings, and headed off into the bushes, with a tale to tell the grandkids, I suspect. And Julia looked for it for a few minutes, and looked very reproachful at me. She squawked to go back outside again once we got in, too, despite the rain.
 I feel kind of bad – I mean, this is what cats do, right? And I’m sure she’s caught them at the farm. She will be out in the field for hours at a time, and only stop in for half a bite of food now and then. Chances are she’s not emulating T.S. Eliot’s Jennyanydots and teaching the mice ‘…music, crocheting, and tatting.’ But any of the other cats there bringing their prey home bring it dead (except for the time Lily tried to teach old Nick to hunt again) so I don’t have to hear it squeaking. Besides, who knows what these city mice eat? And it’s not like she’s starving. So while I’m proud of her hunting prowess, um, let's go with the catch and release method, please.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Errand Day

Since I do most of my travel in the city by bus, it’s become second nature to lump as many stops into one session as possible – get the most for my money, as it were. In one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, he mentions a practice of requiring three reasons to go anywhere, and that’s something like what I try for. So Monday after my e-mail check, I went to work off accumulated errands, being out of cash, out of reading material, and requiring a saw. Stop one was downtown, for the bank and library. I think I did pretty well with my library session. (There seem to be issues with adding pictures today. This is as good as it gets, sorry.)
I always like to see what people get at the library and the grocery store, as a way of learning something about them. Wonder what my library pile says to others? This week’s run included 2 Victorian-set mysteries, 2 sci-fi/fantasy, Ovid’s Metamorphoses in two volumes, a book on Louisburg and one on the English conquest of Canada, and two on rural schools – Glengarry Schooldays by Ralph Connor and Tales from a Village School by Miss Read. Sadly, I’m on the third book of the 10 already. I have this issue with putting books down.
I ran down to Lee Valley also before going home, for the saw. Just a small folding one for pruning, as I’m cleaning up the garden for someone nearby, for a little extra money. They have lots of soft maple invading, and an old honeysuckle interfering with the clothesline, among other things. I suspect they haven’t done much at all in years with the place (he says, ’The garden is here, or it was 8 years ago.’), and it will be satisfying to see it come alive again.
I also bought garden shoes there. I had a couple of gift cards to spend, and I know these shoes are comfy and tough – my parents have them also, and if Mom can’t kill them, they’re pretty darn good. I use them when I’m there, and love them, except they’re a couple sizes too big, so now I have my own. And in red not green like the others, so it’s hard to mix them up – think of the confusion three pair of almost-identical green shoes would cause. Bad enough our rubber boots are the same.    

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kool-Aid and Food Coloring

I finished my 4th square for a project one of the Sunday knitters has going. She got the JK kids at her daughters’ school to do some Kool-Aid dyeing, with the idea to felt knitted squares of this yarn and make it into pads for the kids to sit on. They are to go into the school library, which is getting revamped this summer, and each grade is contributing something. There was supposed to be a knitting machine involved, but when that fell through she recruited us. Well, garter stitch rectangles are sufficiently mindless to qualify us as machines, I suppose.

I haven’t done any kool-aid dyeing myself, but I spent one afternoon last week doing a little dyeing with food coloring at a neighbor’s. She had a special project on the go, to celebrate her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I was playing with some roving bought last fall. Because of the tendency of food coloring dyes to ‘break’ or separate, it is a bit of an art. So my roving doesn’t look quite how I envisioned, but it’s pretty, and not felted, which is the other big worry with roving, depending on how you treat it and set the colors.
Seeing as how the batches ended up a little different, I suspect they will get spun separately and plied together, to maximize uniformity while keeping the color variegation.

Monday, 20 June 2011

3 Days of Fiber

Knitting, spinning, etc in public is, I think very important. We are gradually training the various restaurants and coffeeshops in the city, as well as the general public, to regard packs (well, skeins, I think) of fiber folks as normal. All part of the eventual plan to take over the world. This weekend’s plans were all about that.
The weather having finally turned into a decent summer-y state, our Friday spinning days are now established at a lovely spot in a park near the Ottawa river. We have a waterfall, shade and sun as desired, and the chance to see radio-controlled sailboats nearby. It rained a little in the morning this time, so we took refuge in one of the pavilions.

This gave us not only a lot of people coming in to chat, but a lovely view of a Tai Chi group in the morning and a wedding in the afternoon, in addition to the view of the river.

 I also bought yarn – one of the spinners recycles yarn (unraveling thrifted sweaters) – with the aim of a cashmere sweater for Jen for a going-away present. I bought a little extra too, just so the remaining white cashmere wouldn’t miss its friends.
This past Friday also being the third one of the month, the spinning was followed by a knit-out at the Bridgehead, with a spot of supper (Thai) sandwiched in between.
Saturday was WWKIP day (world-wide knit in public) at Confederation park, right downtown. The Franco-Ontarien festival was going on across the way, so we had music too. I succumbed to temptation and bought myself a poutine for lunch rather than eat what I had packed.  (I’m spending more than usual lately, it seems. Must be the prospect of a salary.) I cast on another sweater for myself at WWKIP. It’s the February Fitted Pullover, and the yarn is my blue (indigo and logwood) handspun from this winter. I’m very excited, as it’s my first big project with my handspun. 
Sunday: the usual knitting thing, chez Raw Sugar. Quiet day though, only two of us, presumably due to it being a gorgeous day and Father’s Day weekend. So we had a leisurely sit and knit, and I had iced tea – homemade jasmine green and lemon, which is lovely.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Spinning Along and Convocation Report

Two new spinning projects to occupy my time in the next little while.
Doing the Ravelympics last year was really fun, so I decided this year I’m signing up for the Tour de Fleece. I’ve been reading about the Tour de Fleece for a couple of years, but never got around to taking part. It runs concurrent with the Tour de France (naturally), and essentially, the idea is They spin, You spin. In other words, we have to spin yarn every day that the athletes in the Tour are biking. Like the Ravelympics, it’s a good time to challenge yourself, and set goals. I plan to use the time to try to finish the fawn cria and the peacock yarns I’ve been spinning.
The second spinning project will be the Guild challenge I mentioned a little while back. We finally received our fiber at the last Guild meeting, and have now to identify the 2 fiber types, and turn it into an FO. I had thought the fibers were to come separately, so we could choose how to blend them, but it is an already blended roving. I’m a little disappointed in that – it’s that much less variety possible in the making, so less appealing to show off to the public in the projected exhibition of the finished work. But it seems to be a nice blend, crisp but soft with the possibility of drape. I’m sure of the fact I want to do lace, but I’m debating color and pattern. So many possibilities, but once I commit, I might not be able to change, so this will take thinking.

Notes on last night's convocation:
a) We get lined up in 'chutes' and have individual barcoded tags. Efficient but makes you feel like a herd of cattle. Thankfully no cattle prods.
b) As compensation for having to sit on the stage for 2 hours, Ph.Ds get their photos free, and get to keep their hoods. Mine looks like nothing so much as Christmas, red with a green stripe.
c) I didn't fall asleep, even without knitting. I watched people's shoes as they came on stage. Everything from glittery flip-flops to 5 inch heels were represented.
d) The parents made it up in plenty of time, and we went for dessert at Oh So Good afterwards. Mom, being a darling, brought me a huge bouquet of everything in the garden that smells good right now, peonies and roses and black dianthus and irises, and a sweet, tiny, vintage opal ring.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Change of Pace

I got a job offer the other week from the Government, for a temporary 4-month position, a 3:30 to 11:30 pm shift. Of course I accepted right away – Government pays well, and after living mostly on my savings for a year, an income is a nice thought, eh?
It’s a bit sad though, because as a student and then job-hunting, the schedule has been pretty flexible. And this afternoon/evening shift is going to screw up so much of my social life, as the 4 months covers the busiest time of year for me. No more week-night knit outs. I’ll miss a couple Guild meetings in the fall, too. No house-sitting and spending a week berry-picking while Mom’s out road-tripping. The agricultural fairs will be coming, and I won’t be able to bring flowers or baking this year (for the first time in years – I’ve been entering those since elementary school), because that always gets done the Thursday and/or Friday and I won’t be at the parents’ to do it. And no trip to Rhinebeck for the Sheep and Wool Festival this year, since we have been in the habit of leaving the Friday morning early, and getting half a day of touring in at local historical sites besides the two days of fiber-y fun.
I know, it’s none of it crucial, and it’s only for this one year. But dang!  

OK, that's it, I'm finished grousing. Tonight is convocation, so since I have to go, I've got my nails painted for the first time in a while (lapis/garnet iridescent, now let's see if I can keep it intact), and maybe I'll wear my new sweater, if the weather isn't warm enough for a dress. The sweater is the one I wanted to finish for my cousin's wedding - well that was a warm day, and the sweater got done the day after. 

And I have to decide what project would be small and unobtrusive enough to bring if I start nodding during the ceremony. The Ph.Ds go first, and have to sit onstage for the rest of the time, and I have a tendency to fall asleep if I'm sitting idle - like a computer screensaver, kinda.

Monday, 13 June 2011

June is…

June is the month of roses, as the poets have sung. The rugosas are out all over the city, and my roses are out, pink and yellow, single and double, and all smelling as a rose should smell. I like the look of the hybrid tea roses, but for scent you can’t compare with the old, ruffled, short-lived roses.

June is the month of weddings, and I had my cousin’s to attend last Saturday. She had a lovely day, which was both a good thing, as the reception was in a tent on her parent’s front lawn, and a bad thing, as they (and many of the guests) are farmers, and given all the rain we’ve had, the loss of a whole day of work in nice weather for the wedding must have been an annoyance.
As with many weddings, a few things occurred which will furnish amusement for a while. The one leaving the biggest impression was probably that the poor groom was misnamed twice – once when the priest used the wrong name during the ceremony, almost marrying the bride to the assistant priest, and once during the speeches after supper where someone used the bride’s mother’s name instead.

June is the month of sheep shearing and school trips, which two got combined last Monday at Upper Canada Village. I was helping with demonstrating spinning that day as part of their Fabulous Fibers weekend. It’s always fun demoing, but this was the first time I’d done one where the audience was mostly school groups, and it felt odd, as there were always either 20 kids around or no-one. Harder to do the one-on-one stuff, and they want something to do or they move on, so a lesson for next year. What went over great with them was the Kool-Aid dyeing across the hall from us.

And finally, June is apparently the month to spring-clean, if you’re as lazy as I am. I felt inspired to clean Saturday morning (shock!). It happens so rarely I had to take advantage of the mood, and washed the windows and the dishes, and vacuumed and mopped, and sorted papers and project bags. I feel very pleased with myself!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Textiles in TO

My friend Jen will be leaving at the end of the summer for Ireland, to attend medical school. Her visits home for the next few years, therefore, are likely going to be few and short. So I took advantage of the fact that I had three days between shearing and my cousin’s wedding, left the cat to enjoy herself at my parents’, and took the train up to Toronto to visit Jen – and my brother Joe, who is in TO also. He is the sort who always knows somewhere cool to go (he introduced us to Gadabout, on Queen, last year – a fun little vintage store), so he treated us to dinner at a chic and tasty tapas place one night, and we cooked dinner for him the second night.
A couple days isn’t a lot of time to go exploring in the city, but I did see a few things. St Lawrence Market, where we went for dinner supplies. Absolutely a ton of tasty things there, and I suspect I would shop there a lot if I lived nearby. Paul Kane’s house, which I stumbled on accidentally strolling with Jen to her work. It caught my eye, being an old, farmhouse-style place in the downtown, with pink-flowered chestnut trees in front. And last but not least, the Textile Museum.
About the Museum – it’s not a big place, and there wasn’t a lot of permanent collection on display, so I’m not sure I would have gone if the special exhibits weren’t of interest. But the two exhibits on – one on central Asian Ikat (and some embroidered things as well), and one on African textiles – were wonderful. You are allowed to take pictures without a flash, so I can show you a little of the fun, even if I can’t give a real idea of the colors of the ikat. It’s amazing to think of the work in them, as for each color, the silk warp threads are tied in bunches, the sections to stay undyed are wrapped, and the bundles are dyed. Most of them have several colors, and the color patches showing on the warp-faced weave form flowers or stylized designs.

 The embroidered suzani were gorgeous too, richly colored and detailed in pattern. I’ve seen pictures of a few in a Piecework article, but the real thing was much better.

Then came the African things – such a variety. Woven blankets with supplementary weft giving spots of color. Embroidered caps. An appliqu├ęd door hanging. Lovely patterns my fingers want to produce and adapt.

And in the permanent collection, I had to take a picture of some adorable Chinese childrens’ hats and collars, with stuffed and embroidered detail.

The gift shop was a wonder, too. Many textiles similar to those in the exhibits, and I only wish I could have justified buying a few, or spending longer poring over the books (largest collection of knitting and needlearts books I’ve seen in a while, and possibly rivals Chapters). But, I had to go help with dinner, so I tore myself away.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Shearing Day

So how behind am I with the blogging? Where do I start? With last Tuesday, I guess – we may as well go in chronological order. Tuesday was alpaca shearing day chez Joanne, and my first time. A good shearing is rather like an old-time bee – a lot of work, food, and camaraderie. It was a sunny, sticky day, and I was glad we were working under a roof. I suspect everyone present, including the alpacas, felt the same. Even under the shed, it was warm enough that fleece would stick to you. Chantal took advantage of this to test out the goatee look.

Cred for photos goes to Deb T, who took a bunch of pictures in between sorting fleece and giving expert advice.
Here’s a glimpse of an alpaca being shorn (off to the right; that's me in the foreground). They’re strapped to a tilt-top table, and it takes a team for an efficient job. We had the shearer doing his thing, and three more collecting the fleece, taking samples, and bringing the first and second quality sections over to the tables for the sorting team. An extra set of hands or two helped restrain the animal, and while each alpaca was on the table, they got teeth and hooves trimmed and vaccinations.
Then the table is tilted down again, and the freshly trimmed and manicured alpaca can go join the others.

I wasn’t helping with the shearing part per se, but the sorting. Each fleece was separated into first and second quality during shearing, and brought to the appropriate table (wire bases in wood frame, to let short bits and dirt fall through, you can see the corners in the picture with me), where we had to record fleece characteristics (color, crimp, length, luster, density…), pick out any short bits from second cuts and the worst of the hay and dirty spots, move any lower-quality bits to the appropriate grade, and bag the fleece for weighing.
Random things learned: Fresh alpaca fleece smells like canned peaches. Even sorting fleece is hard on the back after 5 hours (don’t ask me how the shearer manages to do three months straight of 8+ hour days). And even with a hot day, a bowl of homemade chili is unexpectedly good when you’re tired and hungry. I will definitely go again next year.