Monday, 23 May 2016

May is Purple

May always seems like the beginning of the Year in Colours to me because of the way nature's palette comes alive.  It starts with irises:

Then moves onto many other variations of purple and green.  
2 kinds of lavender 

California Lilac alive with bees
Everything put together
Lastly, sometimes nature also produces these colours in unexpected places:

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Eucalyptus Soap

This past weekend my soapy friends & I gathered once again to make soap.  It had been a while since we had gotten together for such an occasion.  Since our soap teacher is no longer taking groups, we had not met to make soap as it's difficult to get 4 cooks in a kitchen.

So this past weekend, we were all in the same kitchen at the same time.  2 friends used the mighty attractive Good Planet cold-processed soap kits, while another made her lovelies from scratch.   As for me, with jet-lag and all, I watched the excitement from the dining room as I couldn't get my oils together in time.

It was so exciting to watch all the soaps come together that when I returned home, I measured and melted all the oils, then let them rest while the family had a nice Easter Monday dinner at Mom's.  When we returned, I mustered the courage to get the lye+water going.  This was my first time making soap without a mentor with me.  Although I have made soap for 5 years now, I had never made it on my very own.

 It took a little over 60 minutes for the lye & oils to cool to the right temperatures.  I had to place the oils in the fridge for a while to get them to cool quicker but when everything reached 114 - 117F, I mixed lye & oils together.  I still love seeing the oils develop a new personality when they thicken as they reach the trace stage.  I always feel like greeting them with a "Why hello!  That's who you are!"

This batch was a mixture of:  olive/coconut/palm oils, cocoa butter, water, lye, and eucalyptus/lavender essential oils.  Some bars also have spirulina (for a bit of green contrast), and Deep Bay fennel seeds.  I upped the palm oil % to make the bars harder this time.  They were ready to cut today and I couldn't be happier with the results!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016


In the knitting world, to be struck with "startitis" is to be enamoured with the thrill of starting more projects than being able to complete.  I seem to be currently afflicted with quite the opposite because I  can't decide what to start next.  Am I so intimidated by my yarn's beauty that I'm afraid to crack it open?

Back in December I purchased this:

It's Cosmic Label - Cosmic Night, from Tanis Fiber Arts' now annual Boxing Day Etsy Sale.  The now discontinued Cosmic Label has sparkles and I was lucky to be able to snag a few skeins before they disappeared.  

I'm thinking of making a Sunrise Cardi by Cecily Glowik MacDonald.  A few weeks ago I purchased "Swoon Maine", a pattern collection of knits by Carrie Bostick & friends inspired by the Atlantic Coast.  Every pattern is unique and has a modern understated style to it.  Most of the sweaters are worsted weight, but luckily I found this one in fingering weight on which I could use my prized Cosmic Label.  

I"m looking forward to knitting with this yarn again because the sparkles in the last project made with this yarn had me giggling all the way.  That alone should motivate me to start swatching, shouldn't it?

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