Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spring Fever

I know, I know.  It's not really spring.  But I think that from the end of May on, I have a hankering for spring.  It's my very favorite season.  But, no, it is still winter here despite bulbs shooting up and hummingbirds flying around the winter-blooming shrubs.  For the past couple of years we've had hummers over-winter, so it's no longer a sign of spring. 

No, around here, spring fever is heralded by the smell of paint in the house.  There are cupboards being sorted, organized and cleaned out.  Even some stuff moved out of the house.  That's to make room for more yarn, of course!

This year, the bathroom beckoned.  When we bought the house, we didn't plan on renovating the bathroom.  But some rot in a wall made it all necessary.  We had blown our budget just with fixtures and tradespeople to install them, so the decorating was done as thriftily as possible.  The only splurge was for a tiler.

We used the old cabinet and vanity and always thought it looked pretty good.  But suddenly, this winter, it began to look, well, tired.  And, the gray and white that had seemed so fresh a couple of years back no longer appealed.  So, paint chips and shopping trips were plugged into the schedule. 

This is what we came up with.  Nothing like our original plan which was for a green wall and a white cabinet.  While mucking about with the paint ideas, we got stuck on this warm putty color.  And we decided that we wanted a dark cabinet.   A few brushed steel knobs and it's a completely different room.  Amazing.

Oh, yeah. And Mr & Mrs Chickadee have been eye-balling the real estate offerings already.  They're getting a head start on spring, too.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Two Trees; One Ring

Another week in the lives of my two trees.  I managed to get a break in the rain showers this morning to get the photos.

The maple twig's bud is definitely growing. 

And the copper beech is changing, too.   Just a bit more subtly. 

After Monday's frost, we have had a mild week.  I think it's mild anyway.  In fact, I even think spring is on the way.  Although I am probably guilty of wishful thinking.

However, the snowdrops are up at least three inches.  And a hummingbird has been visiting some red flowers on a tree in our neighbor's yard.  I can't get a good photo of either the bird or the flowers and I don't know what the tree is.  But it's all good news.  Right?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Stash

Why do I  feel like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland?  I seem to be always running and running just to stay in the same place.  There are obviously moments of quiet, though, because the yarn does get knit up.  And I am not complaining...the alternative would be unacceptable.  I like being busy and having lots of different things to do.  It's just that blogging gets the push if time runs out.  At least I'm not the White Rabbit.

The socks are finished.  They are much more useful now and actually fit the feet for which they were made.  Always a plus.

I have frogged and re-knit the white hat.  Meet Triple Cream beret.  Triple because there had to be additional yarn found.  A beret takes more yarn that a beanie!   It has some issues - still - in the fit department.  When I blocked it, it had to go over a plate.  The ribbing (which fit perfectly) stretched out to slip over and then didn't just zing back into shape.  I tried and tried to coax it but no cooperation.  So there is a pleat held by a button.  It looks pretty good on Nefertiti.   Very '60's.

The Downton Abbey knitalong mitts are almost half-finished.  We find out tomorrow what the wrist will look like using that provisional cast on.  The fit is great and I'm delighted with mine.  Sorry about the focus, I was trying to shoot the photo one-handed and with my wrong hand.  It was pretty awkward. 

I'm still having fun with the Spring Trees shawl.  Some rows are more challenging and I have to knit with no distractions.  Counting stitches has become a habit with this shawl.  Like my line dancing class:  it's not hard but I do have to pay attention. 

And, of course, there's something new.  When I was much younger, I had a friend who used to get fabulous clothes sent to her from an aunt in Florida.  She would admire them and then put them in a drawer.  I could never get that.  My new stuff gets pulled out of the bag and worn or used right away.   And it wouldn't matter if I needed it right then.  This yarn is the same way.  I had to see how this pretty ragg wool would knit up.  There has been a sweater pattern in my queue practically since I joined ravelry.  I've never had enough bulky yarn.  yesterday at the thrift store, I found six balls - enough for the sweater.  Last night I cast on the 3timesChic by Bonne Marie Burns.  We'll have to have a vote as to which way to finish it: purl side out or knit side. 

Here's the other side. 

It's kind of interesting to go from working with lace-weight to bulky yarn in the same day. I'll be giving the fingers a good workout this week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Two Trees; One Ring

Time to check in with the trees.  It's still very cold here and yet, I can see changes. 

Maple seems to have some new growth on those buds.

Copper Beech also shows a bit more green on that strange,  pointy bud.

The weather has been fine and sunny: cold and dry for over a week.  No complaints from me. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Stash

Yarn.  Sort of like a teenager.  There is a definite personality to any yarn and if you try to push it you won't end up where you wanted to be.  At all. 

So, here is the result of a push.  I had a vision of where I wanted to go and it was not a success.  This hat is a bit too big and no amount of warm water and negative blocking seemed to make any difference.  Even the alpaca - the purl bumps are alpaca/merino - didn't respond to my quite ruthless handling.  So, it's rip-rip-rip for this one and I'll try again.  I know I won't make such a broad rib this time.  There is absolutely no stretch to it.  I can't blame anyone's pattern, either, as this was all my invention. 

This soft laceweight alpaca/merino yarn was a gift a couple of years ago and I did begin something shortly after I received it.  But the yarn wasn't happy.  So, I waited until I grew up a little and went back with my new Branching Out pattern.  This was the stash yarn I had in my mind when I ordered the pattern - and it works!  This is a really fun, asymmetrical pattern.  Really fun.  Really.

Some finished objects.  The Blue Flame Scarf.  The blend of baby alpaca and cashmere is so-o soft and buttery.  It was a pure pleasure to knit this scarf.  I hardly felt the pain of ripping out half a scarf and starting over.  One of my favorites now.

And, we have half a pair of socks being re-knit.  This wasn't the fault of the yarn...it was the pattern.  When knit up, they fit the recipient - once - and then never again after they were washed.  Odd, because it is a washable sock yarn.  She shopped them around to some narrower-footed folks but no luck.  They finally drifted home to the frog pond and will now just be plain, reliable traditional socks.  Obviously, they  will need some more washing to get the kinks out.

Speaking of kinks...look at my yarn, all washed up.  I think it looks a lot like a sheep standing there waiting to be shorn and made into something lovely.  The winding into balls will take a while.  Gotta get that swift into action.  The first pattern swatch didn't work despite my crossed fingers - or maybe because of them.  Wendy has chosen a new pattern - Mork - and I love it.  It will work very well and be fun to knit up.  

We've  also come to the thumb in the Downton Abbey Mystery Knitalong.  It's not a mystery at all.  Well, maybe a little, since we don't know exactly how the mitts will look.  But it's a fun knit and watching the show is wonderful.  What more can one ask?  Next clue tomorrow morning. 

That's this week's yarn story. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fifty Fridays #24

I had another plan for this photo post.  But, my memory must have been playing tricks on me.  I have searched and searched through the photos and can't find the one I thought was there.  It was of my mother and her bicycle.  Someone else must have it because I know it existed once. 

So, instead, this is the offering for today.  I think it is even more interesting in its way.  This is my mother's grandparents' family photo.  It was taken outside their family farm home around 1899.  I think it might have been ne of those travelling photographers who would come round to the farms.  The whole family would have been hustled into their best clothing.  Everyone always looks so serious in these photographs.  It's hard to believe that they ever laughed or had fun.  I'm sure they must have done. 

From my grandchildren's perspective, these are great-great-great grandparents and the relevant aunties and uncles.  To me they were all people of story.  I heard many many stories about all of these relatives as my mother had known them all her life.   But they are as mysterious to me as they will be to my grandchildren.  I remember some of the stories that I was told but I have forgotten so many details of what Mom shared. 

The farm house was right on the water on the Gulf Shore of Nova Scotia.  It is now gone.  I am told that Anne Murray (yes, the singer!) built a summer home where the house was.  It must have been a beautiful place to have a farm.  Growing up in those times - on a farm - would have been hard work.  Perhaps there wasn't a lot of time to reflect on the beauty but I'm sure that they did.  My mother often talked of spending time on the farm and how much she loved it there.  But she would have been a little girl and not expected to do much more than feed the chickens or collect the eggs. 

I love the father's stern look.  I think it would have been like that whether the picture demanded it or not.  Those drooping mustaches just seem so dour.  Only the smallest child seems to have any life to her.  I think she looks like she's ready to spring away from the group. See how Mother is holding her hand tight against her lap?  And I'll bet she was Father's favorite, too.  That little hand on his knee seems to be there for comfort.

My great-great-grandmother would have been about 36 when this photo was taken.  There would be two more children - boys - yet to come.  The oldest son would have been around 17.  He already looks like a man full-grown and ready to do a man's share of the work.  My grandmother is the tall girl on the right. 

I wish I could remember all those stories. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Two Trees; One Ring

Oh, I have suffered for this post.  It is freezing outside...really!  It amazes me that there could be any growth at all in this weather but I think I see some changes.

This is the maple branch.  I've tied yarn around both branches so that we do see the same one each week.  This one looks different but that's because today I've included the top branch.  I'll try to continue that as I think the photo looks better with that in the frame.

Can you see just the hint of growth on the buds this week?

The copper beech bud doesn't seem to have grown much at all.  But look how the leaves have changed this week.  There is a kind of frost dust on all the leaves.  But they are also a bit more curled up.  That may be because of the dry cold.  No more have dropped off this week, though, even in the icy weather.  I tugged at some to see if I could make them fall.  No luck...they are firmly attached.

The last few days have been cold and dry but the rain is coming back.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Stash

Sorry this post is so late...just in case anyone noticed.  I had a busy week and had to get the photos all done this morning.  But I also had to arrange some of the props.  Then I became distracted by cleaning in order to have the room to prepare.  One way to get the house chores done is to need the counter space.

I finished the Grapes'n'Honey scarf  but didn't get it blocked until today.  It's meant to produce a bias and it does.  But the bias effect really only shows when the scarf is hanging.  It was super easy and will be a pretty - and warm - accessory.

It seems this was scarf week. I don't wear any jewelry, as a rule, but I do wear scarves a lot.  So, excdept for two silver rings, they're the jewels.   I had two balls of this  beautiful blue alpaca/cashmere to add to my treasure box.  I like this simple lace pattern.  I had almost used a whole ball when I realized that it wouldn't be long enough so I took it all out and began again with one less repeat.  There's a bit more to rip out this morning since I should obviously have put the knitting down last night.  I must have been knitting in my sleep.  Somewhere I gained five more stitches over half a repeat.  I know what I did but the only remedy for that big an error is to go back.  Only a few rows, though, and it's small. 

When is cream not cream?  In a box from the thrift store was this ball of wool that gave me an idea.  After making my alpaca lopi into a hat and then re-knitting it into mittens, I realized that I kind of wanted that cream hat.  Et voila!  Some cream yarn just appears as if summoned.  I want to use both yarns and I'm hoping that the color variation won't be too noticeable.  Still swatching to see how it will work together. 

And, of course, before I could wash all that yarn from the Christmas frogging party I had to wash it.  Not having anything big enough but the tub...yes, I had to clean the bathroom before I could start that.  So, here it is after about twenty minutes of water therapy.  It doesn't look quite as much like ramen noodles as it did.  I think there's probably over 2000 yards of yarn here and I have a request for this sweater.  It says aran weight yarn so I'm swatching with some of extra little pieces that I kept dry.  Crossing my fingers. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fifty Fridays #23

I am so glad that the sun is shining on the snow which fell in the mountains.  I can see it from where I'm sitting and that's the  way snow should be.  Well-behaved and knowing its place.

However, when I was much younger, I was much happier when it snowed.  Look!  I've shovelled enough to make a snowball.  I'm throwing it at someone - probably my Mom since she was always the one with the camera.

This photo would have been taken the winter I was three.  We were living in East Vancouver then.  Our house looked almost exactly like the one across the street. Most of the houses there were post-war housing and they were all quite similar.  Obviously, I don't remember much at all from those days.  I'm sure that we went down  to the city center on the streetcar.  Well, maybe we didn't.  Apparently, I embarrassed my parents once by becoming sick on the streetcar.  If not, then I can't think where my mother shopped. But there is a small shopping section now that could have been around at the time. 

This was the year that the song "There's a Bluebird on your Windowsill" was released.  It was written by a Canadian and I remember my Dad singing it around the house.  This is the Doris Day version that came out the year I'm helping to shovel the snow.  I'm sure I haven't heard it in that many years but every now and then it flits through my mind. I remember that I liked it a lot and would ask my Dad to sing it for me. 

Have a listen...it will make your day a little brighter. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two Trees; One Ring

A series.

Sounds like a good title for a forestry romance, doesn't it?  Instead, I'm indulging myself in a project I've wanted to do for a couple of years now.  I have wanted to chronicle the life of a tree with a weekly photo.  It may be a bit like watching paint dry but I'm sure there will be some moments of drama during the year.  I have selected two trees with very different habits for comparison - and because I couldn't choose.

Both trees were foundlings in the garden having been planted by birds or squirrels.  This maple is ten to twelve years old and stands about 12 feet high.  This is the view I have while I read or knit.  I love this tree and like to watch the birds seeking out insects and the squirrels looking for the seeds. It is an ornamental maple not the kind that has huge leaves. 

This is a macro of one of the younger branches taken today.

The second tree is a copper beech.  It is not bald at this time of year and that makes it different already.  It leads a rather sheltered life and I think the winds haven't been able to scour the leaves off.   It is about ten years old and we know its parent who lives next door.  So, we have an idea of its genetic background.  Mom/Dad is about 70 feet tall  - and leafless now - and baby isn't four feet tall yet. 

This is a macro of one of its younger branches.  I will photograph the same branch each week.

So, one ring is one year in the life of a tree.  Rings are fatter or thinner depending on the water and nutrients available to the during that year.  Right now it is raining...so far so good for a fat year. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday Stash

The traveller is home; the Christmas decorations are put away and it's time to start a whole new year of stash knitting.  I have a whole bunch of yarny goodness to share this week.

Ta, da! The first finished project of 2013.  I was so keen to get started with my alpaca/merino blend.  And I really wanted to make the brimmed hat.  It was an easy knit - complete in an evening.  So I tried it on...and remembered why I never make myself brimmed hats.  NOT FOR ME.   I didn't even take a photo it was so horrible.  I just frogged right away and went searching for a mitten pattern.  Because, all the time I'd been knitting the hat, I was wishing that I'd have enough for mitts, too.  So I chose Dingle Bobble mittens by Jamie Marie Binkley.  I love how the yarn feels and the mittens are so toasty warm. Perfect for me who always seems to have cold hands in the winter.

I made a start on the two balls of grape baby alpaca/silk that I bought myself in December.  Another scarf which will take a while.  For some reason, it's not a fast knit although it sure looks like it should be.  I'm using Bias scarf by Helena Bristow. 

One of my Christmas gifts - I hinted very loud - was a 9 inch circular needle in my favorite sock knitting size.  It is so handy.  I don't mind the little-ness of it at all and I can knit those complex cable patterns that trail over the break in traditional dpn socks.  I'm not a fan of two circulars so this is wonderful. I even had to cast on a sock cuff to try it out.  This won't be anything...it's just a remnant of yarn. 

And along with the sweet little circ came a skein of  Fleece Artist BFL Sock.  Such beautiful colors and such a subtle color mix.  I'm detecting a purple theme here. I love purple socks.  This will be my fourth pair.  Thanks to Deb and family.

Apparently, this pile of natural wool was an Aran-style sweater which was too big for anyone.  So the family had a frogging party over Christmas and it became all these professional-looking skeins.  I have an order for a new project but I don't know what it is yet.

Also about to jump into the frog pond is this thrift store vest.  Doesn't it remind you of the one I just finished?  But it's heavier yarn and, again, too big for anyone who likes it to wear. The yarn's the thing.   It also has five very nice wooden buttons.  There must be a pattern that will use them both together.

Among my other knitting goodies:  I will have the pleasure of shopping for something lovely on elann.com thanks to Wendy and Marlin.  And, over the Christmas holidays, I was gifted with  free designer patterns from Elena Nodel, Tin Can Knits and Shui Kuen Kozinski.   Thank you to all of these designers for their generosity. 

And, of course, I'm all ready for the Downton Abbey Mystery KAL.  The yarn is dyed and wound into balls.  The swatch is knit up and I'm just waiting for the "start your needles" flag drop.  I took a quiz he other day on which Downton Abbey character I was.  Apparently, I am John Bates - which didn't really surprise me.  If you want to play with the quiz, it's here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fifty Fridays #22

Thinking about  our new year and the awkward age that she is: this is what 13 means to me.

This was taken on a family camping trip to BC's cowboy country:  the Cariboo. We were newly a family of six since my younger brother would have been about a month old.  In my memory, we swooped down on the hospital and whisked Mom and baby away in the family car on our way north.  But, surely, that can't have happened?  Even though moms and babies stayed at least two weeks in hospital in those days, the dates would still be wrong.  But, my brother had some health issues so it's entirely possible that they were there a longer time.

And, yet.  We went away on a camping trip when school was out.  That much is true.  This holiday was wonderful for me.  I'd never been away like this before.  It was camping in cabins - not in tents - but it was still pretty rustic.  we woke up by a lake and I got to ride horses.  Yay!  As you can see, I hadn't been kitted out in cowboy clothes.  In those days, one wore what one wore.  We travelled all around the area visiting all sorts of historic locations.   Our farthest destination was to Barkerville: a gold rush town.  I remember climbing a hill covered in tumbleweed with my brother one early morning before anyone else was up. 

Thirteen is an interesting age.  Adult in some ways and yet still a child.  I was such a serious kid - my wild child had yet to emerge - and I know I took the responsibility of being the oldest very much to heart.   I had the story-book younger brother who was close in age and who teased me all the time yet would be my greatest defender if needed.  He did not have any cares as I saw it.  I had a little sister who seemed to me to be golden girl.  She had it all: looks, talent, brains.  I was only a little jealous.  But I had a new baby to 'mother' and that was the best!

Like today, my grade 7 was still in the elementary school.  My favorite sport was skipping and the best kind was double dutch.  I could do that for hours.  But it was only second best:  in a corner, reading a book was where you were most likely to find me.  Hiding out in case there were chores to be done.  Unless it involved the baby, I wasn't too keen on working around the house.  Books were - and still are - an escape from housework.  My mother tried to be patient with this tactic as she would have preferred to be reading, too.  Thirteen is not the most understanding of ages.

What does this mean for our new year?  If my experience can be trusted, it will be awkward, shy and serious.  However, we all have different memories and experiences of the age.  We'll just have to wait and see what the year brings.  And, fortunately, all thirteen-year-olds  have birthdays.  It's only a year. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's 2013!

"Another year over - and a new one just begun..."  John Lennon

Happy New Year, everyone!  The century is officially a teenager.  I remember that I liked being 13 although there is always a certain amount of push-back and turmoil.  Does this mean anything for our world this year?  And who is the parental unit in this teenage fantasy?

I am most happy to begin the year with a clean knitting slate.  Last night I finished the vest-cardi that I've put on hold for months while I partied with more dazzling patterns and yarns.  In the end, I think I like it's quiet, lady-like personality.  I have given it suitable buttons: hand-made ceramic with tiny roses.  I was planning on pearl buttons but I found these first.  I think they're perfect.

I now have the luxury of two projects awaiting me.  The first will be with this undyed alpaca which came in my Christmas stocking.  I'm thinking a hat and probably the Leafed Hat from the last Knits mag.  I've never made a brimmed hat before so I think it's time.  I'll leave this yarn in its natural state.

I have been preparing for the return of Downton Abbey to PBS.  It's Season 3...yay!  Jimmy Beans Wool is hosting a Mystery KAL and I've found some yarn in the stash.  This is from a larger bag of Blue-Faced Leicester that I've had for some time. 

So now, I've dyed enough for the mystery project.  The yarn took the dye way better than I had expected.  Sort of disappointed since I was  hoping for a bit more tonality.  However, I love the color...kind of like grape jelly when you see it for real.  I still have quite a bit of this yarn left to play with and now I know how it does in the dye pot. 

Bring on the New Year!


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