Friday, 24 July 2015

Scrappy Socks Rain Dance

Here on the Westcoast, 20 is a good number.  20 degrees C, warm enough for shorts, pleasant.  20 km/hr winds, not enough to cause damages.  So when the thermometer climbs to 30, 35+ as it has for the past few weeks, we're just not  equipped physically or emotionally.  Honestly, we're not whimps, we can survive months without seeing sunlight.  That takes some kind of courage too, doesn't it?

So we have been without rain since June.  Lawns have turned into yellow hay.  Jurisdictions around us have been implementing water restrictions.  Wells are running dry.  Around the province, fires are igniting spontaneously.  Fear not West Coast Aquarians lovers of water, I have found the equivalent to an old-fashioned "rain dance".  This is what I did yesterday:

First, I bathed a newly finished pair of scrappy-socks.  Next, I blocked them outside on a chair so they would dry in the breeze.  Then they were promptly forgotten, as they lay basking in the sunshine.  In the middle of the night the unfamiliar sound of raindrops on the deck should have triggered the memory of these poor beauties in distress.  Around 10am, the now soggy socks returned inside where they are still trying to dry-out in the 20 degrees kitchen.  Here they are in their soggy splendor:

So it rained and you're welcome.  We had a bit of rain today, perhaps thanks to the socks so bravely overnighting on the deck?  I hope we're finally back to our normal temperatures because it feels good!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Aubade Shawl

Last summer involved many trips back and forth between Victoria and Vancouver.   For the unitiated, this involved a 1.5 hr ferry ride, with an hour commute at each end (using transit).  While it was a stressful period, the ferry ride was made easier by keeping busy with a project.  Knitting atop the Sundeck on a beautiful sunny afternoon is a perfect antidote to a stressful situation.

I filled this project with so much dedication and love that it seemed fitting to gift it to an acquaintance recently diagnosed with cancer.  The pattern and colour were so beautiful together that it felt really good to gift it to someone who needed a lift.

But truth be known, I really missed this shawl and kept thinking about how nice it would feel to wear it.  So with the colour only available for a few more weeks, I decided to order more of it and make one for myself.   

I don't often make the same project twice and come to think of it, have never re-knitted the same pattern in the same colour.  I'm glad I did because I have learned that each project really has its own personality.  While the first Aubade was perfect in every way, this 2nd one is slightly flawed and a bit more loosy-goosy, which of course, makes it more endearing!  

I love this new shawl and can see wearing it all year round because it is so light, perfect for cool Westcoast summer nights, or as a winter scarf.

Monday, 9 February 2015

February Soap

Batch #2
A funny thing happened this past Christmas.  I ran out of gift-worthy homemade soap, and was surprised to find out that family members were notably disappointed by this.   I have been giving homemade soap for roughly 4 years now but hadn't realized it was appreciated as much as it was.  To prevent this calamity from reoccurring in Christmas 2015, I will strive to make a double batch of cold-processed soap every month in 2015 (or 12x).   There should then be enough soap to gift, trade, and of course, use ourselves.
Unfortunately, January was a write-off due to illness, so this past Saturday marked the first batches of 2015 soap.  It also marked the first time I made soap in my own kitchen.  As expected, the experience was chaotic, exciting, and super fun!  My soap maven JayKay came along and made her own beautiful 2 batches, and ensured I took a deep breath once in a while.

Ingredients:  Olive oil, Coconut oil, Cocoa butter, Cocoa & Turmeric for colours
Mistake of the day, forgot to take the oils off the stove so the oils were too hot when it was time to combine them with the lye.  Had to cool the oils in the freezer.  Combined them when lye - 106F and oils around 120F.  

Batch #2 again... because it's so awesome!
Batch #1 Essential Oil:  Lime
Poured in oval bars-silicon mould with the cocoa as the main colour, and turmeric in top centre.   Soap became too liquid after incorporating the EO.  As a result, the colours blended together.  I tried to remove the bars from the moulds the following day but they were very brittle so at JayKay's recommendation they spent quality time in the freezer for a few hours.  Bars have now hardened.  Some have circular discolouration in the centre which may be evidence of gelling in the centre.  Perhaps I should have kept them out of the freezer so they could gel throughout.

Batch #2  Essential Oils:  Grapefruit, Litsea, Lime
Used a 5" x 8" form & made bars.  Remaining Batch #1 colours were dumped in one end to make streaks.  The plain soap will be grated and used in a liquid laundry detergent recipe.  Can't wait to use the bars with colours because the results were suprisingly beautiful.  I wish there were more than just a few bars with colours. 

Thoughts for future soapy projects:
- baby soap
- spirulina
- oatmeal, poppy seeds, rice
- thick textured top
- one solid colour cut in chunks to add to other soaps

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Toe-up Socks

Hand-made socks are such a joy to make and to wear.  Each pair is unique, so soft & cushy.

Many years ago I taught myself to knit socks using an ancient pattern.  The heels on my first two pairs were a bit wonky because I had misread the instructions.  I finally figured out how to turn a heel properly, and have made many more top-down pairs.  I have sometimes used cable patterns but my favourite socks to make are what is known as "plain vanilla socks" on 4 or 5 double-pointed needles.

Then I mysteriously fell into sock-knitting rut, about 2 years ago.  I became aware there were other techniques out there such as toe-up, using 2 circulars, toe-up 2 at a time, ...  Surely I should push myself to learn something new.

So I bought a pattern book to learn how to knit 2 socks at a time.  I also knit individual socks using 2 circular needles.  And honestly, using circulars killed my sock-knitting Mojo.  I realized that I really enjoy working with double-pointed needles.  They make for a small, portable project, ready for an outing at a moment's notice.  For some reason, the floppiness of the circulars drove me nuts and I hated having to push all the stitches along those long needles all the time.  I was trying so many new techniques all at once, that I stopped enjoying making socks altogether.

I finally found my sock enthusiasm back a couple weeks ago after reading Tanis Lavallée's blog.   Perhaps I just needed someone to reassure me that toe-up socks were not a big deal.  There was a link to the funny Cat Bordhi toe-up cast-on video, and another to the afterthought heel.

To celebrate this new found knowledge I tried my skills out on a new pair of toe-up, afterthought heeled socks based on this cardigan, to use-up some leftover scraps.  They were so much fun to make!  I can see making many more toe-up socks in the near future, perhaps always having a pair in the works.

Project notes

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Thanksgiving Hat

This past October, we celebrated Thanksgiving up-island with friends visiting the island from the mainland.  The long weekend felt special because it was my first free weekend since Labour Day, as I had been spending weekends working through an awesome Yoga Teacher Training program at Moksana.  So, working full-time during the week and studying full-time on weekends meant there was little time left for knitting.  I couldn't wait to have a weekend off and start a new project!

I received a skein of "Jean Jacket" Amber Label Tanis Fiber Arts in late September as part of the Year in Colour Club 2014.  It was quickly hidden and I didn't even *dare* look at it until the Thanksgiving weekend because I knew it would prove to be too great a distraction from work and studies.  Good thing I waited to use this skein because the digital version of Shannon Cook's hat pattern "Schwimmen" was finally released the day before our 3hr drive up-island on that Thanksgiving weekend (for non-knitters, a long drive usually = knitting time).  I had seen a sneak-preview of the collection but thought it was being released at a later date.  Couldn't wait for the paperback version of this pattern so downloaded the pattern at home minutes before our long drive.

The weekend turned out to be a rainy one, so we mostly read, played games, and I knitted, of course.  This hat proved to be a very quick knit and was done by Monday.  It feels super light & soft.  I'm usually partial to fingering-weight hats for our mild Westcoast climate, but this DK yarn/design combo is very comfortable.
One last picture of this Thanksgiving Hat sitting atop the underside of Tippy, my Dad's row-boat.
Project notes

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Papaya Shawl

Back in July 2013 I received this gorgeous skein of "Paprika" yarn as part of the Tanis Fiber Arts 2013 Year in Colour Club.  As soon as I opened the package, a flurry of ideas buzzed through my head.  The Red Label was so soft and the colour so rich and vibrant that this skein had a life of its own and needed to go into production right away.

I had been eyeing this project.  I liked the airy, spring lightness produced by the lace pattern within the body of the shawl.  However, since the weight and yardage of my skein were much less than the pattern, I decided to make my own design.  That way I could also incorporate a few baubles, a recent obsession.   After testing a gazillion top-down baubles & vines constructions, I finally settled on a simple 3 baubles pattern.

This became shawl #2 for my Mom.  She looks awesome in orange and I knew she would love it.  I hope she doesn't tire of shawls because they are so fun to knit!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cakes o'plenty!

Someone received a ball-winder as an excellent gift this season!  Thanks J. you're the best!