Saturday, January 31, 2009

Northern flicker

Isn't this a beautiful bird? I just wish I was one of those very talented photographers who could get him with wings spread showing the brilliant orange underneath.
But this will have to do.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


There are rain drops dashed on the window and a happy dripping sound coming from outside. Ah, the sights and sounds of Vancouver.

I'm happy the rain has come home again. Now for a walk.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elizabethan revel?

I was playing with the idea of tucks the other day and wondered how they'd look incorporated into socks. Here's the result.

When you love words, there's a lot of fun in trying to choose an appropriate title for things. I like to name all my creations and that can take as long as it actually making the item. I mull over ideas, narrow the field and then go back an pick up discarded ideas. So, as I'm knitting the socks, I wait for the character to emerge.

At first, I thought the word 'chocolate' would be in there somewhere. The brown is more like the photo on the left. Kind of an obvious thought, though, and I like a little more complexity. And, the chocolate idea could be reinforced by the mint 'icing' and the varicolored yarn is the 'sprinkles' on the cupcake. Nah! That was way too long and involved. Talk about complex.

The tucks have a picot edge which gives them a frilliness and suggest a Caribbean party. Hmmm...then the brown could be rum and Coke - a Cuba Libre! As I worked on, that became one of the lower choices. I started thinking the tucks looked like the stand-up armor of a stegosauraus. And then again they reminded me of Elizabethan ruffs. Which idea, as you can see from the blog title, won the day.

My favorite reject is : I found my frill" . Now you know just how silly words can make you. No, no, it's not the knitting. That's completely serious. And I'm contemplating further tucking - it's great fun. I'm envisioning a side-to-side knit sweater with tucks of a contrasting color down the fronts. Or a dino sweater for Charlie with tucks on the sleeves. Could work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Easy life

I thought computers were supposed to make life easy!

I decided I wanted to make a slide show Powerpoint presentation for our next annual meeting. It's been a few years since I even bothered with Powerpoint - mainly because I didn't have it. And I really didn't miss it all that much.
When I got a new computer I thought it might come in handy and was glad it came stock. Now, here I am doing my slide show and relearning everything. I had a couple of hundred photos which first had to be sorted and culled for the best effect. Then it took ages to figure out a couple of stupid things I was doing wrong. It's almost done now - just have to do the titles and I'm finished.

But what I thought was going to be a couple of hours work has turned into a few more than that. I know the problem is that the computer is only as good as the operator. I need more practice.

Bring on your slide shows...I can do it now!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


For a non-hat person, I have a surprising number hanging about on hooks and lurking in drawers and closets. I have a Tilley for rainy days, sunny days and trekking through the woods. There's a straw hat for hot days in the garden. Baseball caps keep the snow off my glasses while letting me pull my hood up to keep the snow from going down my neck. But, I never seem to have the perfect hat for cold winter days. Being a knitter means it's easy to make a hat and there''s so many great patterns out there to try. I have a lot of knit hats to choose from when I go for a walk in the winter. That warm hat that stays put over my ears has always been just out of reach. But no more.

I have discovered the Amanda Hat designed by Gina House. Well, I didn't just trip over it...a friend (thanks, Teresa) was talking about it and I was curious as to what it was like. When I found the pattern on Ravelry, I downloaded it immediately and set to work. I had the green wool that I had dyed before Christmas which turned out to be perfect.

I think this might be the answer to the cold ears issue. It looks like a bucket hat on Nefertiti but it fits me snugly over the head and ears - well below the earlobe. The stitch is pretty easy to knit up and yet looks complicated. If I have a little quibble with the design it's the 'seamline' that is formed by the first knit stitch in every round. And, maybe it's not the most flattering hat for me but what hat is? Now I'm warm and happy when I'm walking on cold days.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Here I am escaping from a pile of paperwork. But I'm not leaping into hooking or knitting or reading another good book off the stack. No, this morning I'm traipsing down memory lane.

The other day I heard someone exclaim with pleased surprise: "I can't believe they pay me to do this job!" And that took me to thoughts of all the paid jobs I've ever had. I wondered if I had felt that way about any of them. And, you know, I did. I felt that way about every single one.

I was amazed that I could be paid for picking blueberries as a kid- and I could eat them as well! How great was that? Never occurred to me that I was eating my own profits. A little later, I worked in a roadside diner. I got to make milkshakes and scoop ice cream and felt very grown up.
I spent a summer in Banff (well, just outside the town) washing sheets and towels for vacationers. This was fun because there was a huge mangle that I loved putting the ironing through. I didn't love the mosquitoes that plagued me while I hung out the HUGE flannelette sheets on the line. Yes, we actually dried them outside most days. Very high-tech. But, I got paid to be away from home in a holiday spot almost as popular (for those teens I knew) as Fort Lauderdale.

There were various waitressing jobs and each one meant I got paid. It might be too Pollyanna-ish to say I'd have done this work for nothing. And I did resent the daytime waitressing jobs in the summer when my friends were spending time on the beach. But, a highlight was a night-time job in a very popular restauranthere in the 60's which served Jewish specialties. The food was absolutely delicious! And I learned so much about the food and culture and I met so many interesting people. My best memory was when the cast from "Fiddler on the Roof " came in every night after their show. They were, in my mind, so glamorous and exciting.
I have worked in warehouses full of records, filling orders and shipping them off to stores. I also was paid to work in record stores and listen to the music I loved. I was allowed to order the records and talk to people about the music. At times, I got paid to drive around to many stores and help organize them.

But eventually, we all had to get serious about our Careers. When I was a kid - about 5 - I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Good thing, because there were only a few areas of work for women in the 1950's. I could choose to be a teacher, nurse or secretary. The latter was completely out because my parents wouldn't allow me to learn how to type. And, to this day, I type like a reporter in a B movie. And nursing was out because my mind refused to even contemplate the notion. So, teaching was it and all those other little jobs were just a way to get there. But when I got there, Irealized didn't much like it. And, so, I continued to do the jobs that were fun and interesting.

My last job was the most surprising. I helped to manage an out-of-school daycare. It was truly exciting to go to work each morning. Who knew what the day would bring? What would the kids do today? What challenges would they present? And, just think, at the end of the day, I was paid to play with kids and drive them around in a bus and spend summer days on the beach. It just didn't get any better than that.

I guess my childish vision of being a teacher didn't match up to the reality. But, I have spent many years teaching in various ways as well as working with kids. I still enjoy it. As a volunteer, I get paid exclusively in smiles now which is sometimes better than money.

I think I'll always be a little surprised that whatever I bring to a job is of value to others. And I really hope that the anonymous person who started me down this train of thought also remains as lucky in her work choices.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

That stream

Yesterday, someone commented that the rug (so far) looks very tranquil. I think that's definitely the result of only using two colors. The only movement is, I hope, the directional hooking of the stream. That's my intent.

But this morning, as I was hooking to Jaqueline du Pre playing Elgar, some of that tranquillity came to me. And I had another thought: the whiskey that this stream produces will be smoky and dark. Somehow, the music was working very nicely with the colors of the water and the stillness of the rocks. The cello's tone echoed, at times, the smoky gray in the tweed. I could almost smell the peat fires.

Funny, only yesterday, I was wondering if it would work. Now, I can hardly wait to finish the rug and get it on the floor. The story and mood behind the rug will carry away any little design dissatisfaction of mine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I don't seem to be making much progress on my Stepping Stones rug. It's been a busy week and I seem more content to spend my free time either reading or fooling around on the computer.

Fooling around doesn't include blogs - that's in the reading category. No, I'm talking about playing games: mostly solitaire variations but maybe bingo or an ice fisherman trying to catch fish before the silly little penguins steal them. OK, it's mindless but sometimes one needs mindless.

This is as far as I've gotten with the rug. Four stones and a donut.

Several more to go and a lot of stream. I like (not love) how it's turning out. It does make me appreciate the difficulties of using just two colors. It also reminds me of why I prefer hooking over quilting. It's that I can get a more painterly quality to the coloring. If I were quilting a stylized pattern like the stones, I would probably only be using two fabrics. And I would get a fairly flat result. That's one of my problems here: it is not as lively as other rugs have been.

I think the other problem is in me...I like variety. Being able to pick up a new color or shape every now and then keeps me going. I suppose that's why hit-and-miss is such a favorite technique of mine. A bit like knitting striped socks. They go really fast because you're counting off the stripes rather than the rows.
However, it's all in my head. Mind over matter. I'm not giving up - just kvetching.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's cold outside.

It really is. And it was perfect weather for our hot turkey stew lunch for the seniors. We served 30 people with stew, biscuits and apple crisp for dessert. It was a fun lunch on a cold but sunny day. We even got to sing Happy Birthday.

These three fine penguins were also present as was the big enamel pot. We actually had two full pots and used up most of it.

This is my lovely brown pot and was actually purchased at the thrift store for dyeing wool. And, so far, it has only been used for soups and stews. It's just too nice to ruin for food. I doubt I'll ever use it for dyes.

Years ago, Anne & I had a dream of having a B&B. In our beautifully restored house, we would serve lovely breakfast menus: Anne's usually involved some variation on French toast and I would be baking muffins. This morning, it took us three hours to chop all the vegetables and bake up five batches of baking powder biscuits. That's about as close to the B&B dream as we're probably ever going to get. And that's probably good enough for us now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Time flies

This is a photo from the inside of my grad yearbook of my high school. This morning, on Facebook, I posted a reunion notice for 50 years. I'm still in a kind of daze. The years, for sure! But also because I'm the one posting the note.

A few weeks ago, I commented on a posting by a fellow I went to school with. I say 'went to school with' but he's actually two years younger than I am and we barely nodded when passing in the hall. Of course, I knew who he was but we really didn't travel in the same circles. he was the same age as my younger brother, for goodness sake.

Anyway, we exchanged a few more comments and suddenly we found ourselves seriously considering doing this 50th reunion. Of course, we're hoping that a few more poeple come forward to help make it happen.

A funny thing, though, when talking to Mike. I feel as though there are two distinct people in my mind. One is the teenager who had a name and a face and not much more. And the other is a man my own age who is looks nothing like that boy. The intervening years have seemed to make him into a whole other person. Does that happen to all of us? Or does it matter how well you know the younger entity? Or how many years since you've seen them?

I'm looking forward to this process but it's even farther away than the Olympics. Lots and lots of time to plan.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Do you ever have the kind of discussion that is really interesting but doesn't actually go anywhere?
Anne & I were talking about how we learned cursive writing. I remember that here in BC we used the McLean Method of Writing. This was about Grade 3 in the mid-1950's. There was a workbook that had guidelines to help us keep the letters in place. The style wasn't exactly like the one to the left but close enough.

In it I remember making miles and miles of the letter "O' joined together like a spring. Our task was to make them uniform and regular but at the same time fluid. Then we would do another few miles of what looked like a pointy '7' - over and over and over. The goal was for everyone to have the same rounded, right-slanting handwriting. And I think it did have that result.

In Toronto, there was a similar learning method but it had a different name. Like us, all the students used pencil for the exercises until they got really good. Then, we could begin to use a stick pen with a nib and a bottle of ink. Oh, that was heaven! But I also remember that it didn't happen until Grade 4. So a whole year of proving ourselves first.

As we grew older, we gradually developed our own style of writing. I wanted to have the straight up and down handwriting that looked like printing joined together. My friend from England had learned that method and I admired it greatly. So, I worked hard on the new style and it became mine. I can, however, still summon up the Mclean method if I have to.

We started wondering what method is taught in schools today. Is anything taught in such a uniform way? Do kids still practice the letters as we did? And we also wondered why, if we all learned the same basic method, did so many people develop different styles over time?

I've said that I made a conscious decision to change. But. what I find interesting is that my sisters and I have more or less similar looking handwriting today. And it's very like our mother's was . Is this genetic in some way? See what I mean about no conclusion? I'm sure there's a study on this somewhere. More research needed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book to Cross

I've just finished Paul Bowles' : "The Spiders House" . An intriguing study of the city of Fez in Morocco just as the French colonial government is being overthrown. The story is well-written and the plot while moving slowly, is compelling, as are the characters. I felt as though I were right there, in Fez, surrounded by dusty olive trees, baked by the sun and constantly having to tread a minefield of treachery on all sides.

I have emerged at the end of this novel with enlightenment. I understand, I think, the concept of 'surrender' that is Islam. And, while the mindset of 1955 may not be the same as today, Islam is such an unchanging faith that I'm reasonably sure that many jihadists would share it today.

I'm going to be releasing this book (BookCrossing) - anybody want to catch it?

Ha, ha!

When I went out to get the paper this morning, I noticed this visitor to the porch. I have no idea how it got there...
Is this some kind of cosmic joke?


I hook with wide-cut strips on a burlap foundation. Even though my designs may look non-traditional, they are still being hooked in the traditional primitive style. It's important to me to continue working to produce beauty with a purpose.

The other day I was reading about the virtues of hooking on a linen foundation as opposed to one of burlap. I have often read these arguments and I keep wondering what all the fuss is about.

I watched my mother hook rugs for our home. She saved all the wool - and wool-type - garments and sewing remnants in a cupboard. When she saw a need to have a mat at a door or bedside, my father would get out the frame and he's fasten on the burlap for her. Mom drew her design and worked at the rug in her spare time - she had 5 kids. My favorite design was the Kellogg's Corn Flakes 'rooster' logo. It was green, red and yellow with a gray background. She thought it would be a cheerful addition to our kitchen floor - and it was.

I can't remember how long it took to make one but it didn't seem like more than a month. I was a kid, who knows? Suddenly the mat would appear. And then it would go down on the floor and it would be used. Our floors were hardwood and every bedroom had a mat beside it. Some were hooked, not by my mother, but by older women in the family whom I had never met. They were all hooked on burlap with wool strips or wool yarn. Some were quite old then.

The argument is that the linen doesn't break down as does burlap and will therefore last longer. That rug that you spent time designing, collecting and/or dyeing the wool, cutting the strips and finally hooking them in will disintegrate. Well, duh! Of course, it will. And, do I care if it disintegrates in hundred years or a thousand? Not really. I am not creating museum pieces...I want my rugs to be used. Walked on;, sat on; slept on. Loved for their warmth as much as for their artistic merit.

If I compare the mats I hook to the knitted garments and socks that I make, well, I sure wouldn't want the socks I spent time designing and knitting to be hung on a wall to look at. Is there a difference with rugs? I don't really think there is. I love how working in this way connects me to the story of people who have made garments for their families and objects to use in their homes.

I'm happy with the way things are. For me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not so easy

The photos, I mean, not the socks.

I was trying to demonstrate that with a basic sock pattern and a few knit and purl stitches that anything is possible.

I wanted to have some stripes along the sides of these pink socks and I wanted something cable-y. I decided on two rows of a 2-stitch twist every other round with one strip beginning at the ribbing and the other a few rounds lower. The twisting on each was done on an alternate row so I was actually twisting - on half the stripes - every round.

The back was the tricky part to photograph. I don't know if my model found it hard to stay still or not but none came out really clear. This is the best. I also chose it because the color is perfect which is another hard thing to get right. The back has one stripe in the center and one lower on each side. I think that if I were to do it again I might continue the stripes into the heel. I was thinking of comfort in a shoe and figuring that it wouldn't be visible. But the design doesn't flow and I'm sort of not happy about that.

That's what photos do: show you the little things that you thought you could live with. And, of course, I would rather move on to new ideas than re-work one I've already done. So many little time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Doesn't this look great?

I'm finally back at tai chi after a whole month away. Stupid snow and ice.

It's amazing that the mind and body don't forget the moves even though I didn't practice every day. Maybe if I had this kind of place to work out I would?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dye job

Being a rug hooker is being a recycler. It fits very nicely with my personal philosophy of re-using and making do. There's nothing so satisfying as finding a new and unexpected use for something others would throw away.

The other day, I was reading Gene's blog about dirty salt and was inspired to try it, too.

When I mix the dye colors, I have to clean off the measuring spoons after each color. How I do it is to clean the spoon in a bag of kosher salt. Then I further clean it with a cotton swab. The bag of salt never got changed and just continued to take on the various colors. As his salt grew dirtier and dirtier, Gene was tempted to discard it. But instead, he dyed with it.

I thought: hey! I can do that, too. And I did. I used some white wool cloth that had very little texture. I scrunched the soaked wool in a casserole pan and just shook the salt mixture over it. Then I cooked it in the microwave. This is the result. I kind of like the birch tree look it has but of course that might be lost in hooking. It's also very earthy. Who knows what it's next life will be? It was fun playing, though.
Now I have to wait until I get another bag full of dirty salt. Could take a while.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


No, I'm not reading great literature. Last week, all the relevant files were passed from the former president to the current president (me). It's just amazing how much goes on behind the scenes that as board members, we're simply unaware of. There are lots of piles of paper which are fascinating reading. This reading illuminates so much about the organization that was little or badly understood or, as I said, didn't know even existed.

Now, having done this kind of work before, I'm not totally surprised by the amount of background information there is. And I know that most of it is a read-once experience. I'm sure I will continue to generate this kind of paper pile for the next president. Imagine what can happen in two years!

But while I'm reading and learning, the hooking isn't happening. Nor is the book list being reduced. I do think this is almost as much fun, though. I love organizations, meetings and reading minutes. It's all about people and that's the most fun of all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

'Beauty' and the 'Beast'

Finished the first knitting of 2009! Is this an omen? Does this mean I'm going to spend the whole year knitting socks? Maybe, because that's what's on the needles as we speak.

I do have other plans. I do. The new Knitters magazine was pushed through the letter slot yesterday. As I've probably mentioned before it is not consistently full of patterns that I would want to make. I'm sure that would be a pretty odd knitting magazine. But there are so many interesting, challenging and just pretty patterns in this issue. Now, since these are all subjective words, you might want to just browse at the bookstore before taking the leap. I think there's a lot to this one and I'm mentally sorting through my stash putting together ideas for some of the patterns. I might even splash out on some new yarn!

And I'm also looking forward to the completion of their sock design contest. My idea of a sock design is to work within the boundaries of the pattern I always use. And since there are so many, many ways to use knits and purls I can be happy just as I am. All the sock designs do inspire me, though, to make that plain sock just a little bit more interesting.

And that leads right back to the 'beauty' socks. They are very plain except for the row of bobbles around the top of the ribbing. The confetti-like flecks of pink and purple are so subtle that I didn't want to detract from them at all. The yarn just kept quietly saying "little girl' and "spring-time" could I resist some little white ankle socks for Becky?

And I've had the black/white yarn from Upper Canada Village for over two years. And since I only used a small amount, it's still a yarn to be used. I have a basket full of knit slippers for visitors to the house who get cold feet. But the only pair of small ones were purple - with pompoms! And the traditional style doesn't really stay on little feet very well. So, when I saw this pattern I figured it could work. We'll have to see. The intended boy seems to prefer being barefoot - a preference I can easily identify with. I think the slippers are so very chunky and primitive looking beside the fine white socks that I called them the Beast. Not the boy who might wear them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


They say a picture's worth a thousand words. I'm counting on that being true.

I've been explaining to people my vision for this rug design and it's quite difficult to understand, it seems. So, show and tell time.

I love the rocks which seem so smooth and rounded just as a rock in a stream would be. And I also like the stream itself but I'm not sure it's meeting my vision. My intent was to have the water run diagonally across the rug, splitting and flowing around the rocks. The fabric, which is otherwise perfect, has quite small color squares and so it's difficult to make a continuous flow of one color. Right now the flow is apparent but when it the design starts to fill up it may not be so clear. I think this is one of the downsides of the two-fabric challenge but I'll continue to hook on.

So, does that help?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The poor worms in the compost box are going to have to survive on the scraps they received today. I'm hoping since it's cold that they aren't as active as usual. We haven't attempted the trek to the side of the house since Christmas and the bucket contents had been compacted as much as possible. It was time.

But, emptying the compost bucket this morning was an adventure on the order of an Arctic expedition. Snow seems to be higher on this path than anywhere else. The gumboots fill up with snow when you walk where no one has gone before. Returning, you feel like King Wenceslas' page: walking in your own footprints. Or trying to. That's actually harder than blazing a new trail. So, I guess the King had it easy; he just didn't know what he was asking the page.

But I digress. Here's to the hard-working worms! May they find morsels to help them last another few days.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


OK, OK. I know, it's a pest. But it's a hungry pest and it's so cold outside. The finches throw down the feeder seeds they deem unworthy and usually it's the juncos that benefit.

Later, I saw a fox sparrow helping itself to a few of the seeds as well. This is the first one we've had at the feeder all winter. Normally, they don't come at all. Does this mean spring is a long way off or that it's just around the corner?

Now that is wishful thinking.

Cable cozy

Number Twelve is safe at home in Toronto and already working hard to keep the tea hot. I think this was it's first job...a nice cuppa before crashing after the long flight.

I'm sure the residents are happy not to have the snow we just got. I guess the magic of the 'scare-snow' isn't very good. Or maybe it has the exact opposite magic. Better get the hats and mitts put away quick.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A beginning

You know how sculptors will say that the shape is already in the stone? That's exactly what happens to me, sometimes, with wool that I get.

I mentioned before that the jacket fabric looked like a mountain stream to me. This image was calling to me to hook it up - and quickly. So I am. I have further challenged myself to use only two fabrics. I have never done this before and not getting out all the colors in the paintbox is quite hard for me. But, resist I will.

The rug is square-ish (approx. 35") with random stepping stones of different sizes which will all be hooked in a lovely Harris tweed. I think it looks like granite. Then the stream part will be flowing and twisting around the stones in a diagonal course across the rug. As I'm hooking the word "skeining" keeps flashing through my thoughts. That's what I'm hoping the water looks like.

And because I began this while listening to a CBC program connecting Celtic music with drink, I know this mountain stream is somewhere in the highlands of Scotland. The peat-colored water flowing quickly to bring water to make the whiskey.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I saw this arrangement standing in the hall yesterday. After shovelling the snow, our hats and mitts are always wet. So we just pop them over a handy yardstick, hiking pole or umbrella handle to dry. It is now our official 'scare-snow' and I hope it works!

I think we'll leave it this way until, say, July. That should do the trick.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


The jacket that came in our Christmas box is now on its way to becoming a rug. This is the journey every garment takes when I recycle it.

It takes about an hour and a sharp pair of scissors to separate the jacket into pieces. Then I wash the pieces in hot water and throw them in the dryer to full the fabric. I then cut the fabric into 1/4" strips. And I hook them into the burlap.

There's no design on this backing yet because I was impatient to see how the checks would hook up. I really like it - reminds me of a mountain stream: grays and browns like the rocks with a bit of pale green. I think I could hook a whole rug with this alone and it would look pretty good. Can't say that about every garment that comes my way.


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