Monday, April 28, 2008

From the Kitchen

DH and his brothers were busy for the last few weeks making maple syrup. What a lot of work and money was invested into the process! This is truly liquid gold.


I think we got about 12 litres of syrup this year... that means nearly 500 litres of sap was collected for our syrup only, to say nothing of the syrup that DH's brothers took home. Crazy, and a whole lot of work. It surprises me that this sells for about $9 a litre in the stores... I know the large operations are way more efficient than DH's wood-burning boiler and manual bucket collection, but it seems to me that the price ought to be higher.

Dh was cooking dinner last night, pepper steak on the barbeque with veggies and potatoes. His cutting board with the chopped veggies was a work of art in itself.



For dessert, I used up a half-dozen pears that I bought in the over-ripe fruit bin at the store. They became a happy part of this Pear-Cardamom Kuchen.


The Sound of Inevitability.

Wasn't this inevitable? There I was, clicking along on my cardigan, knitting to the sedate sounds of Buffy, season four. I reached the end of a repeat and moved the marker on my chart down the page to a lower repeat. Easier to see, you know.

Four rows later, as I watched Oz leave Willow in a melty puddle of tears, I froze in horror. I try to not just read the chart, but also to have a feel for the pattern itself. What the chart was telling me and what my eyes told me should happen next were very much in conflict.

It turns out that my hand-made chart bore a user error; the numbers I had on the side didn't actually coincide with the repeats. Close, but no cigar. Thoughtfully, I tinked back the half-row I had done before the steek repeats, and had myself a think. Tinking four rows of Fair-Isle seemed needlessly tedious. There had to be a better way.

I am a fan of the Rainey sisters, they of the extravagantly elaborate projects that make me hold my breath with awe. They talk sometimes about life-lines. I thought often as I worked on my cardigan that I ought to put in a lifeline, in case I made a crucial error. Like this one.

However. I am the boss of my knitting. My lack of life-line isn't really a terrible thing... is it? I learned while making more mittens than a woman should have to over the winter how to pick up stitches for mitten thumbs. Pick up every right-hand-branch of a stitch, all the way around, at the last-known-good portion of the pattern, and I will have implemented my own life-line. Sounds easy enough. And a bit scary.

Life-line drawn in with a smaller circular needle.

Here we go!

Nerve wracking.

Et voila.

It went about as well as could be expected. Some rows I took stitches below or above the target row, and in-stream adjustments needed to occur. However, for the most part it was a matter of carefully zipping the yarn back stitch by stitch to my new life-line. The process to remove four rows of inaccurate knitting was about 40 minutes... I don't know how long tinking stitch-by-stitch would have taken but I suspect much more. A successful surgery, altogether. Now I need a couple of more episodes of Buffy to gain back those lost rows.

Speaking of the cardigan. I learned a new technique for Fair-Isle which results in no stranding along the back. This pattern at times required the running of strands for up to 11 stitches... way beyond the recommended 5 stitches. I was manually twirling the yarn as I did the longer runs, but I knew there was a better way. And there was.

Woven Fair-Isle. Thanks for the nifty video, Philosopher's Wool. You've made my wrong sides go from this...

stranded close-up

to this.

Woven close-up

How tidy is that?! It's a super-easy technique and I will never Fair-Isle without it again.

The bottom four inches or so of the cardigan are stranded before I learned the woven technique... it's not all nice and uniform, but this cardigan is a learning experience. I'm okay with the difference.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Knitting Content

Our Lady of Wool graciously commented that my lack of posts and cute-kitty filler content surely must be due to the frantic knitting of the Damask cardigan. I seriously don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

These last two weeks have been challenging in almost every way possible. Last week, it was emotionally trying. Our eldest daughter has been having a classic case of pre-teen angst and has been engaged in a steady stream of petty thievery from the house, lying, neglecting her duties, and just general poor behaviour. The tasty bottle of grapefruit vodka that DH and I picked up after a couple of days helped (us, not her), but could not be applied first thing in the morning and was not the best long-term solution. Beatings are apparently illegal and of suspect efficiency, and the black market isn't interested in pre-teenagers who simply WILLNOTSHUTUPEVER. (And I mean EVER. She was babbling randomly one day and I simply walked away. She
then started talking to the cat.) (I assume it was the cat. It might have been the toaster.)

Anyhow. Last week, my energy was spent just trying to make it through each day without harming myself or others. This week, too, but it looks, and feels, a little differently.

DH and I are full of ambition and willpower and have been getting up a half-hour earlier than usual this week and going to the gym for either a spin class or weight-training. My body hurts in places I had forgotten about, and I can't manage to get to bed sooner to compensate for the early hour... I never get enough sleep at the best of times. Add to that the dance lessons- not content with an hour of private lessons a week, we're also taking an hour of group lessons. The extra work-outs, lack of sleep and general bodily fatigue really took a toll on the knitting time this week; most days I knit at lunch but this week I've been napping in my truck. At night, if I have time to sit down, pulling out that complicated chart is low on my list of things to do.

We went to a two-hour dance party last night and were thrilled by the costumes and the dancing and thoroughly intimidated by the hoards of skilled dancers that we had to navigate through to find a square inch of floor to dance (or perform a reasonable facsimile thereof) upon. Perhaps not the optimal venue for two newbie dancers to cut their teeth on, but it gave us something to dream about.

All this is a long way of saying, no knitting content. I cast on the toe of a new pair of socks, but they're lace, and that requires more concentration than I have on tap at the moment. I am so looking forward to a nice long sleep-in tomorrow and a day of futzing around with seeds and soil, thread and fabric.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Have A Laugh.

You probably need it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pushing the Envelope

Kate calls me crazy. All right, a few people do, with regards to knitting. I've taken Knitting Daily's "Knit Fearlessly" one step further. I knit dangerously. Not "poking people's eyes out with knitting needles" dangerously, but "knitting by the seat of my pants and without a net" dangerously.

This project even has me questioning my sanity. Having never made a cardigan or sweater in my knitting career, I chose this to be my introduction to the art.


Fair-Isle? Check. (or Faux-Isle, depending on how orthodox you are.)
Garment shaping? Check.
Set-in sleeves? Check.
Button bands? Check.
Complicated charting? Check.
Multiple steeks? Check.

My, my, won't this be a learning experience?!


Sandwich, Anyone?

Last weekend I made some major progress on my "Your pick" quilt. Borders were chosen and applied, and the entire quilt was made ready for quilting. The steps for making a quilt sandwich:

Tape backing fabric, right side down, to a flat, hard surface with masking tape. Tape it tightly so the fabric is completely flat, with no ripples.


Lay the batting over top of the backing. I used a thin cotton batting, somewhat larger then the finished quilt size. Starting at the center, smooth the batting onto the backing with a flat palm, massaging out any ripples and folds to the outside.


Center the top over the backing and batting. Once again, starting in the center, smooth the fabric out.


Using curved quilter's pins, begin pinning the quilt through all three layers. Start in the center and working out, saving the border for the last, and smooth as you go. There should be pins at least every three inches.


I was taught to rip the whole thing off the floor after pinning to check that the backing hasn't un-smoothed itself during the pinning process. I've never had a problem with this so I skip this step. With a self-healing mat, an Olfa rotary cutter and a quilting ruler, trim off excess batting and backing.


The quilt is now in the sewing room. It's not a masterpiece quilt or anything, so quilting treatment will be light... I'm stitching in the ditch on the sashing and posts, and highlighting one feature within each block with quilting. I'll do some free-motion play for the border.


FO: Dreaming of Crocuses

Shortly before our very own crocuses appear, I finished the socks that acted as my lifeline to spring. Their happy vibrant greens with that occasional shot of purple, the toes-up construction, the picot hem all charm me utterly. I think these are my favourite hand-knit socks ever.




I made them almost exclusively to wear with my Chaco sandals... an homage to my West Coast granola girl soul. I know Kate appreciates the fashion statement. Just for her...


And Tsarina? Thanks for the inspiration.


Monday, April 7, 2008

At Last

This last weekend, several encouraging signs of spring were noted. I had the distinct pleasure of putting in the screens... although I miss the 2 lux or so of light that they block, having to put them in means the weather has gotten warm enough for flies. You know it's been a hard winter when the sight of the first fly of the season has you all misty-eyed.

SD the Eldest and I did some wicked spring cleaning. The vacuum and she did some serious bonding. It was sweet.

I played tennis on the road with SD the Youngest. We both severely suck and managed to hit a couple of people's cars (no alarms, thank god) but no windows were broken. What a joy just to be outside and actually hear the snow melt.

I went online last week and purchased a large quantity of seeds and plants from Richters. I've dealt with them for years now... you wouldn't think plants via Canada Post would be a great idea, but they always get here healthy and happy. Excellent service from those people, highly recommended.

I just cranked out an 800 word policy paper on municipal taxation for my philosophy class. Just one! more! essay! and I am done this course... with the exception of the final exam. With a course that's all essay questions, it will be interesting to see if I am expected to remember stuff (fact regurgitation) or ponder my navel... or both. Can't wait to have this course done. It's been a long, interesting ride.

I am knee-deep in a quilt right now... pics of the process to follow. I sandwiched it last night and hope to begin machine quilting it tonight, or at least this week. It's an old project that I'll be glad to get off my roster.

I'm also many nights of finger-cramps into a Fair-Isle cardigan. It's pretty... very pretty. It's also a major Pain In The Ass as the chart is complicated and I seem to get messed up often. Knit a row, rip out 20 stitches. Re-knit, re-count, re-rip. Repeat. Pictures are coming... I want to have a full pattern repeat before I post so you can admire her in all her glory.

I hope you are filled with joy, hope and awe as you watch the earth shed her snowy mantle and come back to life once again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Do You See What I See?

Zagreb, Croatia, June 2007. Mom, DH and I checked ourselves in to the Regent Esplanade for a couple of nights of pampering and swank before we bid farewell to the Balkans. We decked ourselves out in our finest, and went down to the in-hotel restaurant for a meal to remember.

Zagreb- Dinner Trio
Since we were kind of already living beyond our means, we decided to go big. Champagne cocktails before dinner served with a divine amuse-bouche, a soup course, throwing ourselves at the mercy of the sommelier for our fabulous dinner wine (that complimented our salt-crusted bream wonderfully), cognac with dessert. We each had something different for the sweets course and shared, as gauche as that may be for such a fancy restaurant. We laughed often and lived every moment of that meal to the fullest, knowing that such an event wouldn't happen often in our lives.

We were happily looped by the cognac stage, and waxing philosophical. The object of our attention was the candle that had nearly burned out its life during our meal. The dripping wax had sculpted it into amazing forms, and we all saw different things in the fabulous shapes.

Zagreb- Linda and the Candle

It was a small lesson on how we all see things differently. The same object can be seen by five different people in five different ways- and all are accurate descriptions of the object. Perhaps each individual description doesn't encapsulate the wholeness of the object, but represents facets.

Today I said goodbye to a girlfriend who was leaving for a long trip. She hugged me and made me promise to write, saying as I left that she looked forward to my letters, as they'd no doubt be funny and entertaining.

It made me pause as I walked away. Me, funny? I totally don't see that about myself. I'm the over-analytical girl with OCD. I'm the shy, socially awkward wall-flower in any public situation. I'm the list-maker and the planner, but I simply don't see myself as funny.

I have another girlfriend with a cutting, evil wit. She's funny as hell and wicked (in the best possible sense) and just having her in the room make me feel better about everything. Her smile and personality is genuine and lovely. Unless you ask her. In her own eyes, to herself, she's broken and strange. She thinks she looks at people strangely and that she is mocked behind her back and stared at. She simply doesn't see herself, her essence, with any level of clarity.

This is the thing I have been working to understand about myself... about us all... for years. I see myself as shy- but I bet no-one else does. (Some people might see me as anything but!) My girlfriend sees me as funny, and she's not wrong... I suppose I do have a facet of me that can make people laugh, and she brings that side of me out. There are days when I feel like nothing but a huge pile of contradictions, all tied together and vying for dominance. And it's all true, to some extent.

Challenge how you see yourself. Try to look at yourself through someone else's eyes. When someone says you're compassionate, for example, but you don't see it in yourself, try looking harder. It's there. We are this crazy hodge-podge of our own perceptions and the perceptions of others, never the same from one minute to the next. Don't accept anyone's opinion of you as being all there is to the story. To that matter, don't accept your own opinion, either; we are far from unbiased and clear when we look inward. We are gloriously complex creatures.