Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another Postcard

My plans for today were sort of kiboshed by a head cold--not mine,mercifully, but I do have sympathy for my now ailing friend.  And I had to find something else to do.  So I took a walk in the fog along Jericho Beach and did some knitting.  

I am about half way through the lace border on the "Diamonds..." sweater.  For some reason, it took me forever to figure out the rhythm of the pattern, but I have it now and the repeats are flying by.  The biggest problem is that I didn't take the time to dig out a shorter set of circulars and I am working a  4 inch wide band on 29 inch needles--and fighting the cord every time I turn the row.  Slows me down!

I am off to the frigid north tomorrow, then back to the grind.  At least I got a break from winter!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Greetings From Sunny Vancouver

Well, it's sunny today, anyway!  And this was yesterday's sunset as viewed from Third Beach at Stanley Park.After three weeks of 45 below, this is Paradise!
I'm having a great time out here on the Wet Coast.  I believe that I am naturally inclined toward coastal living, but it is certainly a change of pace from the frigid North.  I can walk around in a sweater, though the locals are all bundled to the eyeballs.  I can get a latte that tastes like coffee.  There are smiling people, and the sales clerks and servers don't scowl at you and act as if you are inconveniencing them by being in their establishment.  Well, except for the two dudes in the coffee place I went to this afternoon--fantastic latte, crappy service.  I guess even Lotusland isn't totally perfect.
I have made pilgrimages to many of my favorite fibery places, including Birkland Bros., Maiwa Supply, and the Silk Weaving Studio.  I have done a wee bit of stash enhancement.   I have haunted several vegetarian restaurants (my hostess, the lovely and talented Miss Lexi is a vegetarian).  I went to the Mika concert on Friday night and had waaaay too much fun for a grown-up.  I even went to the Vancouver Aquarium  with my best friend from high school and our daughters!  Once again, too much fun for a grown-up.  I love vacations!
This picture just turned out this way--I am not very technical, so I could never replicate it, but I love the way the Beluga whale glows...
...it's kinda magical.
In between long walks on beaches and mad shopping sprees, I am spindling some amazing Black Diamond bamboo.  I will have to find out a little more about this product, because I really like the way it spins and it has a lovely natural grey color that sort of glows.  I know it is "carbonized" bamboo, which suggests to me "burnt", and I have found wee bits of charcoal-ish stuff in it.  I just want to know how it is prepared, and the environmental impact, before I get too high on the stuff.
There has also been much knitting.  I have knit a chunky scarf for my hostess while on various assorted bus rides, I finished the cuff and turned a heel on a bright red heart sock on the plane, I am chipping away at the grey diamond cardigan.  Lots of fibre time.  Have I mentioned that I love vacations?
Well, I'm off to join the throngs watching the sun set over English Bay, then back here to cook up a vegan stir fry for my hard-working daughter.  I'll catch you again when I get home!

Doh!  I have no idea how to get rid of the underlined sentences at the beginning of the post.  There is no link, and no reason for the sentences to be underlined.  Also, I noticed that I spelled Birkeland Bros. wrong.  My apologies!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Going Grey

At the risk of turning this into a pet blog, I have to post the following picture...

...because I am beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Look at the "Who, me?" expressions, and Orlando is once again concealing his face. Bobbins everywhere...Beware!

So, on the spinning front... I am more or less finished spinning the merino/silk blend that I have been chipping away at for the last month. I'm very happy with the yarn, which is a 3-ply woollen, roughly sportweight, though I managed to take a photo of a slub that makes it look a little heavier. The yarn is very soft and cushy, and I had great plans for a coat with intarsia concentric circles in various shades of cochineal reds or pinks.

Oh, I dreamed of the wonder and glory of the design as I spun. I debated adding beads to the pattern. Should I knit them in or embroider them on later? I could see the glorious hues of burgundy, rose, blush, scarlet, vermillion. I pondered the length of the jacket's skirt, whether to put a pleat in the back, buttonhole options. Then came dye day.

I wound five skeins of 50 yards each for a series of shades. I carefully mordanted and weighed out my cochineal. I ground those little buggies into powder and gently simmered a beautiful deep red dyebath. Then I carefully lowered the first skein in. And let it simmer for 6 hours before I got this:
Yes, there is a hint of pink, though the photo does not show it well. The dyebath was very strong when I started, but was fairly well exhausted when I pulled this skein out, even though I had used enough cochineal for four more skeins. The fibres were just too dark to let the color read well. The skein that did get dyed is very lovely and interesting, but there is just not enough contrast to make the pattern that I had designed work.

Back to the drawing board. Perhaps something in a solid grey and lacey pattern. Out came the Harmony Guides, Barbara Walker, Nicky Epstein. There was a brief consultation with EZ. Much heavy pondering and navel-gazing. Then, inspiration struck, and sampling began.

I have now officially cast on the diamond lace border for a Chanel-style jacket with diamond motifs, knitted in one piece. I have already named the pattern "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend", and I am at peace with the Universe, which is apparently still unfolding as it should.

This will be my travel project, along with a pair of bright red socks. I am off to Vancouver for a week to visit my lovely and talented daughter and get some much needed R&R. I am somewhat concerned about the effects of knitting grey in grey Vancouver, but those red socks will snap me out of any doldrums that may arise. I'll try and send a postcard!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Usual Suspects

The following is a graphic portrayal of a true crime investigation. Some of the images contained in this blog post may be disturbing to sensitive viewers. Discretion is advised.

At approximately 4:45 on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 5, 2008, unsuspecting fibre artist Michelle Boyd entered her residence. Noticing that things were amiss, she followed a trail of splinters into her home and discovered the victim.

Note the position of the victim, prone, amongst muddy foot prints. No evidence of splinters around the scene, leading investigators to suspect that the actual crime had occurred elsewhere and that the remains had been moved by a suspect or suspects unknown.

An autopsy revealed that the victim had been dismembered before being chewed beyond recognition, as this graphic photo shows.

The whorl was apparently removed, then the victim was rolled around on the floor and chewed upon for sometime. Portions of the victim's body are missing and presumed eaten. Note that the victim's shaft is completely split along its full length. There must have been considerable suffering before the victim's actual demise.

A canvas of the area surrounding the crime scene turned up several suspects, many of whom were already under suspicion for other crimes against fibre.

Miss Molly (good golly!), glamourous and fastidious feline goddess. Miss Molly is known to nest in prepared fibre and to sit upon the laps of spinners and bat at attenuated fibres, breaking fragile singles.

Orlando, international cat of mystery. No one has ever successfully photographed his face. A known spreader and tangler of fibres and notorious chaser of yarn, he is frequently seen napping in the vicinity of the crime scene.

Oliver, local rodent. Known for his propensity to chew wooden objects, Oliver was eliminated as a suspect early in the investigation when his alibi that he was locked in his cage was substantiated. However, statements given by Oliver led to our prime suspect...

Teagan the Wonder Schnoodle. While not commonly associated with crimes against fibre, Teagan has frequently been sighted chewing upon contraband items and was observed sniffing at the scene of the crime. And just look at that guilty face!

Investigators are also investigating this man...

...a known associate of the suspects. The muddy footprints at the crime scene match his shoes, and though he has an airtight alibi, he is the suspected criminal mastermind behind all of the suspect's criminal activities. A patient and supportive patron of the arts, he claimed responsibility for Teagan's activities because he is working an extra gig and not walking her regularly. He has even offered to compensate the victim's surviving kin with another bobbin. Highly suspicious behavior, indeed!

While the death penalty was briefly considered for the guilty party, a return to regular kenneling when human supervision is absent was deemed the most fitting course of action. The fibre artist involved was also reminded that this is why her studio has a door on it, and will ensure that the door is firmly closed in future before leaving her premises.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Of Fibre and Frogs

This is what's going on on my kitchen table today...

...hence the title of this post.

Due to space problems and cabin fever, I am now sharing my working space with Mr. Odd-Lot (a.k.a. Number One Son). He is building frogs for an upcoming puppet show about water and the creatures who dwell in it, written by a brilliant new playwright--yours truly! Needless to say, the January blahs are well in the past and life has resumed its insane pace around here. It is a lot of fun to have someone to chat with while you work, though.

The work at hand hit a bit of a snag today when, working through the last bag of a lovely merino-silk blend, I hit a snarl of crap. This fiber was beautifully prepared in smooth rovings for four and a half bags, and it was a dream to spin. Then, right as I was coming into the home stretch, broken, tangled, chunky carded fibres in no particular visible preparation format appeared. So my afternoon of spinning became an afternoon of making rolags. Insert unhappy face icon here. This was fibre from a reliable source, so I am bewildered as to this development. Was there a cat-astrophe that I was unaware of? Did the shopkeep put this stuff in a bag to set aside and then forget that it was supposed to be garbage? Did aliens invade and mess with my stash? The mystery may never be solved.

Thank the universe that I am a mighty Master Spinner and can deal with these crises as they arise. This is why there is a pile of rolags residing on my kitchen table with the frogs.

Moving on...I finally delivered the yoga shawl to it's happy recipient.

She waited patiently for almost a year for it, and seems fairly satisfied. She hinted that others who frequent her studio would be willing to have one as well, but I don't know if I can keep up the pace of a shawl a year!

Before I wrap up, I would like to thank everyone, in Blogland and out, who has responded to the Blue Duck. It's awesome to know I made Marie's day, and friends and family have rallied around with Blue Duck stories of their own (including Number One Son, who shares my story). In honor of the Blue Ducks everywhere, there is one being knit, with pictures to follow soon!

Friday, February 01, 2008

I've Looked at Clouds From Both Sides Now

This is the anti-rant to the last post.

I had a wee gathering of like-minded folk here at the old homestead yesterday. There was spinning and art and coffee and intelligent conversation. A wee oasis of sanity in the middle of cabin-fever season.

Anyhoo, the subject of Blue Ducks arose. I told my little story and repeated my rant. There was commiseration and laughter. Then everyone went home, the family all retreated to their various activities, and I was alone with my thoughts for a bit. And I had an epiphany, of sorts.

The latent Bhuddist inside of me brought me around to compassion for those I railed against...I realized that those people who are so angry when confronted with the artsy, unusual, or just plain weird are to be pitied and nurtured themselves. They are reacting from a place of fear and don't know any better. Those of us who are proud to live and work outside of the parameters of "normal lives" don't have those same fears. Or perhaps we do, which is why we become so defensive when others attack us or our practices. We just face them differently.

In the end, we all just want a sense that we have a place in the universe, and that we know what that place is. But we all have a different place, and we have to just accept that our place is scary and threatening to somebody else. That's just the way it is. Perhaps their place is scary to them, too. So I stay positive, and I smile in the face of their fear and anger, and I keep on doing what I do.

I will continue to nurture the Blue Ducks of the world, and I will do my best to have compassion for the Duck Hunters and attempt to ease their fears.

And, for the record, there are Blue Ducks. They are an endangered species (carrying on my metaphor, perhaps) native to New Zealand. Wikipedia has the most concise description here.