Monday, June 30, 2008

New toys

Well, one new toy and a hand-me-down. Hey! I'm not proud.

I now have a flat-screen monitor. Been wanting one for a long time and my daughter had one going to the recycling. I am so much more worthy than that. And I have the new web cam hooked up - again thanks to daughter. Now, that IS fun. I can make corny videos - or really serious teaching ones. Political speeches, jokes, tai chi demos...the opportunities are endless. But, really, I can see practical applications for sharing knitting or rug hooking info/techniques. A lot easier to show someone how to do some things than just to talk about it. I'll have to figure out how to post videos, though. Maybe I should wait until I'm asked?

And, I have Skype, too. How much better can life be? I haven't really had an actual phone call so I'm not too sure how it'll work. But, it seems simple enough to kind of techno-wizardry.
Big things coming to this blog - all depending on abilities of this human mind.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More shoes, please

Barbies are always losing their shoes. Maybe they think shoes grow on trees. I have a whole tray full of shoes and boots to complete the costumes of the restored Barbies. I have lots of clothes: tops and bottoms, ball gowns and swimsuits. I can make their hair look fashionable even though it may be matted and frizzed. But I spend hours pawing through the shoe stock. Yesterday, I needed white heels - or pink, if no white - and up came 8 white shoes. Not one matched another. I had 5 pink shoes and not one matched. What do these young women do with the other shoe? Do they leave it at Ken's house and cab it home with just one shoe? Do they imagine that Ken will come calling round with the missing shoe and propose a lifetime of bliss?

But I can't just throw out all the singles. When new donations of dolls arrive there are always stray shoes. And, sometimes, one or two match some singles I have. Somehow, it all works out eventually. Maybe that's what Barbie is hoping for, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning to knit

I was reading a blogger's account of learning to knit. And why. It seemed like something that I should remember. But I don't. I know that when I was about 15, I saw a little Carnaby Street doll (remember the Mod 60's?) in a British women's magazine of my mother's and I wanted to make it. I didn't have to learn to knit to make it but needed a refresher in garter stitch. Fortunately, that was exactly what I knew how to do. I vaguely remember making an afghan square of garter stitch for Brownies. Looking at the doll today - of course, I still have it! - there was actually a fair bit of construction involved. And striping.

I think it's pretty typical that I fell into knitting because I wanted to make a doll. I was never one for playing dolls at all. Since I had younger siblings, there wasn't much interest in playing with plastic babies when I had the real thing. Nor was there much thrill to being a pretend mama - the real thing did not seem that exciting. So, dolls propelled me to learn to sew and, later, to knit. I loved making their clothes. Still do.

So, my Mod in a brown pea-coat led me to sweaters. The first was a gold pullover - I can still visualize the Sirdar pattern - made with yarn that I bought in Banff during a summer job. My friends were most impressed and began ordering sweaters. In those days, no one seemed to knit with any size bigger than 4 mm. It took a lo-ong time to knit a sweater. One memorable effort was emerald green cardi (very big color in our high school at the time) in all-over popcorn stitch with a brown crocheted trim. And that's when I learned to crochet.

I was still knitting when I went to UBC but things had slowed down a lot. One of the last request sweaters was an Aran style pullover in appropriate aran-weight yarn. The needles couldn't have been more than 3.5 mm and I remember struggling with the cabling which I had never done before. It was so tight and I thought I'd never finish it. Then and there, I vowed never to make another. A vow I completely forgot when my boyfriend (and future husband) asked for one a few years later.

None of these experiences ever put me off. The challenges kept me interested, I think, and I just sort of accepted each one as it presented itself. I know I never scrutinized anyone's pattern and said 'no, I can't do that'. And I'm still learning...the challenges are still exciting.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Last night, our seniors' group enjoyed a Midsummer Fest dinner. The dinner was authentic Scandinavian fare of meatballs, potatoes and red cabbage. It was fabulous! And all made by one person - for almost 60 diners.

Then we were treated to an hour of mostly energetic folk dancing from the Scandinavian Dancers of Vancouver. All were in various Scandinavian country costumes - their little dog, too. The dancing was accompanied by two fiddles and an accordion. There were waltzes, schottisches, quadrilles and a kind of line dance. So many of the dances looked familiar, especially the schottische. I remember learning it in Grade 8 as part of gym class. And we actually did this dance at our school dances. Different times.
There were a couple of dances that were termed 'ancient dances' and were very prayerful. Slower, minor key music and simpler moves contributed to the contemplative feeling. It was a little like looking through a window to a faraway time when Midsummer was a joyous occasion with reverence as a solid foundation.
We all got a chance to participate in a simple circle dance which got more and more complicated as the music played on. From the smiles on people's faces, I think they were having fun. Even the dog got to dance a few turns. He looked quite pleased with it all.

The Scandinavian Midsummer Festival goes on all weekend in Burnaby...we're planning to take in some of the events tomorrow. Should be fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Magpie ready to fly

The Magpie's Delight is finished! I love it! I am hoping that my model in SK sends me a picture on the bod. This just doesn't do the style justice. It's so swingy and feminine. Well worth any hassles I had with those silly sleeves. Like the pains of childbirth - all is forgotten when we see how beautiful is our creation. I would make this again...maybe just in one color for something a little more flexible.

And I have also finished the angora shrug. It's a bonus made with the frogged yarn from the garage sale - see Skeining post. I'm pretty happy with the pattern although due to yarn limitations (not enough), I had to change several elements. The sleeves are short and I would like to have made them long. I was stretching out the yarn as much as I could. At the end, I had exactly 10 inches of yarn left after seaming. This economizing had it's problems. I couldn't knot the yarn with long enough ends to weave in. So, I have some knots that aren't very pretty. All hidden on the inside - I hope - but I wish they weren't there at all. Since it's too small for me, it goes to SK as well. It'll keep the summer drafts away.

Snail's pace

This rug is taking so-o long to get anywhere. Not the rug's fault - it's mine. I get so busy with other stuff that I can't seem to find enough time to settle down. So, Sunday I concentrated really hard and got the rest of green field done. Then I cut about half the strips I'll need for the hit-and-miss background. You can see the beginnings in the upper right. I just had to start it to see how it was going to look. I'm pretty happy with it now so more will just be more happiness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why make it easy?

I am not a Luddite...but I started wondering as I hand-cut the many wool strips I'll need to fill in the background of my current hooked rug.

I always cut my strips by hand and I feel a greater connection with my ancestors who cut family garments into strips when there was no further wear in them. The strips would be cut by hand into 1/4 inch strips - a job that was often done by the children. Today, there are a variety of strip-cutters which will turn out uniform strips with lovely straight sides. I try to keep them all uniform but I kind of like the eccentricities that are inevitable. Because I was cutting such a pile of strips yesterday, it occurred to me that a machine would be faster. However, I quickly dismissed that idea as I'm all about the process. It's nice to finish a project but the joy is in the making.

I also hook with a older style hook rather than the newer ergonomic models which are easy on the hands. And I prefer burlap to linen as a backing. It's not the cost; although it is much more expensive. But burlap was the original backing material and again it just feels right. Linen will last much longer than burlap but in the great scheme of things, do I care about that? Antique burlap rugs of 100 years old are not unheard of: the world would be littered with these rugs if all mine (and the many others) all lasted for eternity.

Like my ancestors, I make my rugs to be used. Feet, both bare and shod, should tread on them. So, perfection is not my aim nor is timeless art. It somehow seems wrong to me that rugs are hung on walls. How can you feel the softness of an old sweater on your toes if it's on a wall?

I am not a Luddite...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Clear sailing

This is about the Drawstring Raglan cardigan from the latest issue of Interweave Knits. I fell in love with the style, the pattern and the colors. And it looked so quick and easy to knit up. So I went to my knitting model in SK and she was happy to have such a pretty sweater.

What an exciting day when the yarn arrived. It was shiny and drenched with color. The photo doesn't do the colors justice. What looks like blue is actually a lustrous silver. I quickly started the ripple pattern and was delighted with the results. Then I got to the underarms and sleeve caps. Well! I had been reading in Knitting Daily that there might be a problem casting on 64 stitches over a two stitch space, so I was prepared to have to work at this. But, I tried double points and another circular in attempt to get some flexibility. Nothing worked well nor did it stop the obvious end result of stretched and distorted stitches. The rows were ripped out twice.
OK. I give up. Over to the Ravelry discussions...surely someone has finished this one. Thanks to all the knitters who have worked this thing through. And to Sandi with her EZ solution - I have passed the challenge and it's clear sailing from her on.
I have been knitting for over 40 years and have never had a pattern that had such a strange construction technique. Oh, some have errors and you get screwed up until it's obvious something's going on. I've ripped out more unsatisfactory knitting than I care to remember. But, this is the first time that I've encountered a pattern which actually incorporates in its design something which is not only difficult but which doesn't enhance the appearance of the garment.
That's my rant for today.

Monday, June 9, 2008


After my Mandarin lesson last Friday, I have been practising and practising. What I am learning is respect. A profound respect for those adults everywhere who are learning a new language. The last time I studied a language was in high school and then in university. Learning languages wasn't as hard then because no one expected me to actually speak French (long time ago!) or Latin. I can still remember some of the vocabulary and grammar and if someone from France (not Quebec) speaks slowly I can usually understand. Sort of. But we started right off into conversation last week. Granted, the conversation was limited to a few phrases I had learned but that didn't make it any less difficult. I listened to my instructor who did not slow her words down for me. I tried to tease out the sounds and match them to the words I'd rehearsed. I sat mute while my mind examined the sounds. Then, the sound and the word would suddenly come together and I knew what she was saying. Whew! all I had to do was take that knowledge and rummage around in my brain until I could find the right response. Once I found it, I had to say it. That required visualising each word as it looked on paper so I would get the right tone. Then I had to say each word. Slo-o-owly. Needless to say, a conversation with me is not a sparkling affair.
Sometimes, I 'conduct' my own voice so I get the tone that is needed. I have four different hand gestures - one for each tone. The hardest to get right is the one I call 'A'. It always reminds me of the sound of the pitchpipe when tuning a choir. Since I have very little musical ability with my voice, this is a continuing challenge. Without constant vigilance, I'm sure I would say a lot of things which could range from funny to insulting.
If I had to emigrate today, it would be very difficult, I think, to integrate into a new society. It would take a huge effort to learn the language and not be isolated. And if I needed to become fluent enough to conduct business, well, fogeddaboudit! Fortunately, neither my life nor my livihood depend on learning Mandarin. So, kudos to all those who have learned as adults to speak another language - I am in awe of your accomplishment.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Kids are great!

Babysitting has its pleasures. We buried some old bits of costume jewelry in the sandbox for Becky & Charlie. It was fun to watch them carefully sift the sand and discover the treasure. The old ladybug sandbox is getting pretty crowded, though. When we bought it, there was only one very small girl to sit in it. How will three kids play here?

Then we had a rousing - and very noisy - game of catch with buckets and a football. I'm sure our cheers were heard all over the neighborhood. We should have been on 20 acres instead of in a city back yard. We all improved as the game progressed and we graduated to a soft spiky ball that required a bit more skill because it was bigger and floppier. Then, the ultimate challenge: a little ball with a cloth tail attached. It was quite erratic in its flight pattern and rarely hit the buckets.

Before we were all too tired to work, the compost bucket had to be taken to feed the worms. The bracken ferns are really, really tall when you''re only 2 - or 4 - years old. But they struggled through the trail because worms need to eat just like them. Good thing Becky was still packing her shovel and could push those branches aside.
All in all, a successful morning. Naps all round in the afternoon.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


It's probably kind of obvious to think of bloggers as being part of a village. But I was thinking this morning, what kind of villager am I? Once a day, I like to go around the 'main street' catching up with the people in my blog village. But do I really? Walking around would seem to imply that there is a shared acqaintance. But really, that's far from true. Most of the blogs I read have no idea who I am and frequently don't even know I read them. So I came to the conclusion that I was like the person who rarely goes out and who instead observes most her neighbors as they walk around the village on their daily rounds. But since it's not possible to have relationships with everyone you know, I'm happy to interact with a very few and keep reading the blogs that amuse or enlighten me.

Just so I get what's going on here.


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