Saturday, July 30, 2016

Linen fabric - a closer look

The stripey linen for our kitchen windows arrived this week!

Bonus: it does not smell like fabric softener.  It's a bit musty, but that's understandable given its age, and it just required one run through the washer.

The first thing I noticed is that the non-stripey part of the fabric is very dark - if I understand correctly that's because of the flax, which will fade to off white as it's washed.  You can see the contrast with an off-white background mostly strongly here:

But against the other stripey tea towels I found, which have a herringbone weave in the same light brown flaxy fiber, it's less obvious.

I am so happy with how these three different stripey towel fabrics look similar without matching perfectly.  It should go a long way to give the impression of a house pieced together over many years (you know, instead of just two.)

Also, the darker background should soften the transition between our dark brown dining table and pale floors and walls.  I won't be washing the fabric that's going over the windows nearly as often as I will the towels that will serve as basket liners, small table coverings, and - well, tea towels, so unless I make an active effort to wash that yardage a lot before I sew the curtains it should stay pretty brownish.

I guess I'll have to decide which would be better in a kitchen with slightly off-white cabinets and walls, a soapstone counter, and maple floors.

What would you do?

I'll tell you one thing I did straightaway:

I did a zigzag stitch on the raw edges so they could stand up to the washing machine.

Isn't it cool to see the size of the linen singles that went into the weave?

Love that.  Best purchase I've made for the house, not counting the dining chairs and dreamy daybed (pix coming, as soon as there's space to photograph it without a wrapped, too-big sofa in the background.)  I especially like how I didn't have to weave this fabric myself, heh.

Now I'm going to see how far I can get with a new sock over a long weekend with card-playing friends.  I won't be back here till Tuesday, but hopefully I'll have some fun pictures to share.  Have a great weekend yourself, and I'll see you then!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What chompy socks eat

Ever since I introduced the chompy sock some time ago, I am pretty sure you've all been wondering: What do chompy socks eat?  Because of course, all sock knitters want their chompy socks to grow up to be healthy and hardwearing, and all non-sock knitters want to know what to keep away from their friends who knit socks. 

The answer?  Rocks.

Well, obviously, not just rocks.   My chompy socks seem to be willing to try to eat anything within range.  But I noticed on the weekend a very strong determination by this travel sock to consume one particular rock.

That was disappointing because the rock had just come come up from the lake, near the shoreline, where some glittery bits had caught the imagination of a relaxed and inquisitive bather.  The glittery bits don't show up on camera apparently, but trust me: they were there.  Also, it was such a nice square shape. 

Maybe the chompy sock mistook it for a brownie square, or a piece of fudge?  Or not.  I mean, chompy socks are many things but sugar-happy does not appear to be one of them.  And look how neat and colourful its stripes are now, too:

That is a well-fed sock.

So now you know.  Hide your favourite lake rocks when socks get to the chompy stage, and all shall be well!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Making yarn

To me, spinning fibre is very different from plying singles.  When you spin fiber you go from fluff to string,

but it's string that's very easy to pull apart if you just untwist it again.  On the other hand, when you ply that string together...

You get fully recognizable yarn.  Even two strings plied together is a lot stronger than one, which is to say, it's much harder to break, or even pill.  Probably not a coincidence that DNA is pictured as two strands twisted around each other, you know?
Of course, your plied yarn is only as good as your spun singles.  And as I mentioned, some sections of one of my 'Ranger' singles was more than a bit overspun.  Plus, I never seem to get all the colour sections in the different lengths of fiber to be the same length, so I ended up with a lot of barberpole.

While I was plying this on the weekend, a non-crafty neighbour dropped by and asked what I'd do with the finished product.  I have no idea, I told her, and felt a bit stupid.  I mean, there's making for a purpose, and making for the satisfaction of making, which is a purpose also, but was I even achieving that?

In the past, I've found that a lot of the yarn I make in summer becomes my priority material for gift production in winter.  And maybe that will be true with this yarn, which I was able to ply with minimal disruption from the overspun bits.  If that's the case it won't matter that I didn't get to read as much as usual with this batch of fiber (thank you, kindle app on cell phone, which perches so neatly on my leg while I spin) or that I feel I failed by not having a lot less barberpole.

At least the beginning and end of the line will be solids, right?

And at least I turned something soft and vulnerable to breaks into something strong and resistant.  And compact, which in my current situation is a definite advantage!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fabric is our friend

I'm illustrating today's post with pictures of my latest French linen tea-towel purchase.

I know nothing about French linens really, but it became clear after a brief period of eBaying that 'metis' means 'linen and cotton blend' and 'Fleur Bleue' is the one you want if you are buying metis.  Apparently the blue print along the side of the tea towel wears off as you wash it, so if it's bright you know it's probably never been used.

Of course, having the sticker still attached is another clue:

Also, this particular pair of towels are still crisp and sleek, suggesting they have rarely even been unfolded.

There's no blue in the stripe, but otherwise: perfect for my Pyrex.  And actually, I have a set of red and yellow square bowls that I use a lot for serving condiments and other small portions, so these tea towels will be perfect to set under them.  Plus, they don't smell!!! And neither does the large linen sheet any more, after ten days on the cottage deck.  It does have a pine sap stain I haven't been able to remove yet, but it's near the bottom hem so I decided not to fuss about it.

I didn't post Friday as you know, because I was expecting furniture.  It was supposed to come at 9am and didn't, so around 11:30 I called the store to ask whether they were on their way yet, whereupon I found out that they thought they were coming in three weeks.  Pete and I had already removed our original dining table and loaded it up to drive to the cottage, so I was very grateful when they arranged to race over that afternoon instead.  Even though it mean there was no time post-delivery to put our living room back into any semblance of 'liveable' before we left again for the cottage.

That was about the peak level of the last few days, on the house front.  (On the cottage front, we had perfect weather and all our neighbours who weren't away were super happy, so good times were had by all.)

Sadly at home, after the delivery started, everything started to go very wrong.

First off, I realized that our dining table's pedestal base was a huge mistake.

We should have ordered legs, because the top is only 36" wide and the feet of the pedestal fill that space so completely, it's not possible to get the chairs under at all without lifting them in, and the don't line up neatly along the side because the middle one wants to sit in farther than the side ones are able.  I realize this is a character flaw on my part but that is WAY too messy looking for me.

Love the chairs though.  They are crazy comfortable and, I suspect, perfect for spinning.  Probably weaving, too.

So we'll have to correct the table situation somehow.

Then the sofa came in and I thought Wow! Leo told us we wouldn't be able to seat three people on this thing but we totally can! and also, Wow! I must have mismeasured the wall I cleared for this thing because it is jutting out about 14"!


No, and no.  It turns out that in all the mayhem of ordering all that stuff in one afternoon, Leo accidentally left off the critical word 'condo' from the 'sofa' on the order slip.  Consequently the workshop built us a full sized sofa that won't fit in our future living room, and which is now sitting at the side of the current living/storage room with a cover over it until the store can send somebody to pick it up again.  In, I don't know, three weeks?

Right now I am casting my eye over the rest of our main living space, which resembles a crowded warehouse, and feeling grateful we will be leaving regularly for the cottage, and hoping the store will actually call me back with a solution to all this.

While I was waiting for the delivery though, Ray broke his foot, which is incredibly painful and will take 6-8 weeks to heal.  Even as we all wince and think Whoa, that is so awful for him, I know you are also realizing  the same thing I am and that Ray, to his credit, is too.  If he's not back to work until the end of September and the house looks like this right now...

We have some serious logistical pretzel time ahead of us.

So let's take a moment to say how great a good fabric is, and how wonderful it is for the way it can be hung up and drawn over large areas of clutter almost as though it's not there.

Okay, maybe not these particular towels.

But they are still a powerful reminder of the power of textiles, right?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spinning at the cottage

Just before we left for a longer-than-usual stay at the cottage, new fiber arrived from the Twisted Fiber Art club:

and oh, man.  I love these colours.  As soon as I touched it, without reading the label, I knew it was my favourite fiber.  There is nothing else that feels the way Blue-Faced Leicester feels.

I made myself finish the first installment from the club before I got going on it, and then I debated how best to handle the braid.  Two, three, or four strips?  I opted for two, so I'd get a very long run of the main colour repeat without doubling it, the way you do with four strips.

The thing I forgot about that is, when you are spinning - what, 57 grams of fiber? - you are going to be sitting in your chair a very long time before you're done.  I'm used to spinning a quarter of a braid at a time. Well, I was used to spinning that much... I haven't done that in two years, which seems astonishingly long, and my body is definitely out of practise.  I didn't realize how much of my body is engaged when I spin, especially when I'm keeping my left knee steady so I can rest my phone on my leg and read from the Kindle app while I spin.

Plus, it turns out that Diane's chair - a very petite wooden rocker favoured by our longtime neighbour when she drops by for a visit - is not as comfortable as I remember.  Wood gets harder, right?  It's not just me? (please tell me it's not me.)

It took a couple of days, but I finally finished.  Even our new windup robot, Lilliput, was impressed.

and then dismayed, because I have to do it all over again now.  aiiieeeee

My sentiments exactly, Lilliput...

In other news:

I'm not even going to try to post tomorrow, because after a prolonged period of logistical Tetris I was able to organize having our new furniture delivered to the condo at 9am.  Since we're not getting back there ourselves till tonight, and I hadn't managed to clear a landing spot for said furniture before we left for the cottage, and to do that we have to dismantle some other furniture to bring back up to the cottage Saturday morning (thank goodness I've been able to make space for it here), as well as shift some furniture that has to stay and be accessible, there will be neither knitting to talk about nor space to set up for typing.

So: have a wonderful weekend, and I'll see you again on Monday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The story of the blue shed

I spend a ridiculous amount of my free time thinking about sheds... I'm a sucker for a cute mini-home, and what is a shed if not a potential mini home?  (don't answer that.)  Despite many years of longing, though, I've never actually come close to possessing a shed of any description.  Let alone one that looks like this:

I am so in love with this thing! 

It's such a shame we can't use it straightaway for a guest nest, but I don't think a guest would really want to be sent out to sleep here.  The space between the shed and cottage doors is the buggiest of all areas at the cottage, making for a long and adventurous walk to the bathroom at 3am.  Probably the barn doors don't create a good bug seal either.  Not a good sell for repeat visits.

note the tiny bug lantern on the ramp, making photography possible

Now that we have it, I'm wondering why we don't have a cool shed like this at our house, and the answer is, garage.  It's been years since we parked a vehicle in the little freestanding garage at the back of our lot, though we did when we first bought the house and before we started filling it with junk.  It has become a shed by definition, and it's hard to justify a 'shed' when you already have one big enough to accommodate a pickup truck.

The reason this cute new cottage shed exists is because the original shed, a practical metal structure that had served my uncle well for several decades, was finally starting to fall apart and had a massive dent in the roof from a fallen tree that impacted the door operation.  The door frame itself was already pretty short and Pete kept hitting his head on it, which made the dent sort of a last straw.  Plus, we were trying to simplify the process of closing up in the fall - we felt that a larger shed with a taller roofline would let us store a few things in a shelter that isn't the cottage, so that when we show up in the spring, we can just unpack.

(fun fact: the only outdoor thing we have been storing indoors, other than the super heavy deck furniture we drag a few feet into the living room, is the canopy for a pedal boat. logic is not my strong point when it comes to homelike structures.)

After several years of trying to figure out how to acquire a bigger, better shed - truly, this proved to be a much more complicated procedure than we thought it would be, mainly owing to the remoteness of our location - we had
a/ upped our budget and
b/ met Mike. 

Mike, who is extremely handy and took on a few cottagers' home projects as a way of easing into retirement, had time to build us a shed after rebuilding our deck, a project that really was necessary.  Bonus: he subscribes to a magazine that had instructions for this design.  He thought it would be fun to build and given that he would be working out in bugsville for the duration, we were more than happy to let him choose the actual project.  He started last fall, after we'd closed up and left for the year, which is why I am still so excited every time I look out the kitchen window and see this thing, or pull into the driveway.

It's very, very blue, isn't it?  That's the first thing I notice about it, and then the cool roofline which will never need to be propped up to support a snow load. 

When the project was well underway Mike e-mailed me to ask what colour we wanted him to stain it.  I wanted red because I always default to red, but Pete was not a fan.  We asked Bob what he thought - he's renovated so many properties, he's my go-to guy for decision-making help - and he suggested blue, to echo the lake on the other side of the cottage.  Pete and I could agree on that, so we told Mike blue.  Mike asked, Which blue?

So I searched the site for the local lumber chain Mike was using to see what brands of stain they carry, and after that, the site for the stain manufactuere, and after that, presented the on-screen depiction of various shades of available blue to all our stakeholders.

We ended up with this blue, and I absolutely LOVE it!  Mike sent us a picture in the fall when it was done, but a picture is not the same as seeing this thing in person, even though I am doing my best for you here. 

And he didn't tell us about all the moveable shelves he built for us and put inside, so that was a fantastic surprise.  What do you think of this 50s grey sideboard?? My uncle found it somewhere and has been using it all these years to store tools.  It dominated the old shed but looks tiny in here, if you ask me.

The only thing I would change is something I wouldn't change anyway - the shed faces the driveway now, instead of the lake, the way the original one did.  Because we changed the location of the shed (we kinda had to - we had stone poured and compressed to make a pad for the new shed, then moved everything from the old shed into the cottage, built the new shed, then tore down the old shed, and it's tough to overlap all those activities in one physical space)  the lake-facing slope was going to be too steep for rolling the barbeque into the shed for the winter.  Also, the position of the trees at the driveway frame an entry here perfectly. 

But the only windows now face east, and that makes the shed a little darker than it needs to be.

Oh well.  The view is still kinda pretty!

Now that we have the shed sorted out for the next few decades, I find my thoughts turning to a different conversation I had with Mike, about how to enlarge our kitchen.  The cottage roofline is a bit iffy but he thought it would be possible to extend one section of it, where it's peaked at the correct angles, and that section coincides with the exact width of our countertop and eating area. 

It would be wise though if I left this whole idea at 'thinking about'.  I mean, by one school of thought, it's good to get all your renovation experience into one compact block of time so it doesn't spoil the rest of your life - plus, when you find a great contractor, use that great contractor - but by another: how are ya gonna pay for all that work? 

I guess the best thing right now is for me to enjoy the shed, and do a little more spinning while I ponder.  Spinning always helps me get things straight!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hanging out the textiles

For the last few days I have been giving those excessively scented linens exactly what they deserve, which is: fresh air.

I almost don't want to hang wet bathing suits on this clothes dryer because the tea towels look kind of pretty, don't you think?  I hadn't shown you the multi-coloured stripey ones before - they match all my vintage Pyrex just like the yardage I am going to use for kitchen curtains, and I am pretty excited about using them.

The solution for the giant sheet is less elegant:

Rocks, basically.  We couldn't find the old clothesline when we moved sheds (more on that another day.)  I did tell you this was a big sheet I think, but to put it in perspective, that railing is a bit taller than the building code requires, and the fabric hangs down another two feet or so on the other side.

I'm glad I sourced these very special fabrics for the house before I need them, and not just because they'll obviously need a lot of time to acclimatize to my scent-free life.  It's just so lovely to have a visual reminder that our house, once it's move-in ready, will feel like us and capitalize on the things we love.

It's still going to be very small, though.  I feel a bit sad about that because I won't live anywhere else, now, till I am too infirm to climb stairs, and it's unlikely I'll be able to justify big sparsely furnished rooms at that point.  The other day I pored over my mockup of the living room trying to figure out how to fit eight seated people, and it's possible, but tight.  If it's Christmastime and we put a tree there, it'll be seven people max, and anybody else will have to be on the floor, or else sitting at the kitchen table on the other side of the tree: the horror. 

The fault is, of course, the fireplace which eats one entire wall.  Plus maybe the built-in bookcase and TV nook which eats another.  I think the tradeoff is worth it, don't you?  We still have a nice big room in the basement after all.  And we can put a tree there if we have to.  We're very lucky to have such a nice place no matter what the size.

Still, it makes me appreciate the large rooms at the condo.  I'd like to enjoy them while I can, but...

... did I tell you we bought living room furniture for the 'new' house because the rooms were going to be too small for what we had?  And had some of it custom sized?  Well, that chicken has come home to roost.  The manufacturer is now ready to deliver two dining tables, six dining chairs, a 4' dining bench, a 76' daybed, and a 65' sofa, and they don't have warehouse space to keep them for us any longer.  Which would be fine if we had drywall and something more than a subfloor at this point, but we don't, so the furniture can go either to a storage locker or to our condo.

It's gonna be pretty cramped at the condo for the next few months, is the short story here.

On the upside, we'll get to see the colours and styles of all our furniture together in one room before we commit to any more fabric!

Isn't it lucky that our new bed frame is backordered till September?

Monday, July 18, 2016

The committed spinner

Sometimes you have to make yourself do things you really don't want to, and it's such a treat when your reluctance is based on reasons other than the task being actively terrible.

You might recognize these colours as the last bit of fleece I was afraid to finish because the bit before was so desperately overspun, and I didn't want to face down my mistake come plying time.

You might also recognize this wooden fish-shaped salad bowl (aka The Fishbowl) from last summer, when I used it to corral my knitting projects.  It's actually fantastic for spinning because it keeps the as-yet unused fiber in such a clean, smooth space to flop around in.  Plus: IT'S A FISHBOWL.  I mean honestly.  I may never get over the cute.

While I was spinning, other people came and ministered to the stereo, putting on an interesting sequence of records.  We had Nat King Cole, a repeat of last weekend's percussion album, and a 1960s-era children's singer who sounds a lot like Burl Ives.  I don't know by what measure my uncle chose his collection but it's impressive.  It's a very eclectic mix and we're never short of the perfect sound for any occasion.

As I worked my treadle I was thinking about the iconic cottage experience, as practised in Ontario and Quebec.  The weather gets hot in the city and we go north, to lakes that offer cool nights and fun-filled days.  And endless bugs, obviously.

Some decorating magazines I brought with me this time celebrate the version that features soaring ceilings and great rooms where all one's plentiful guests can gather, when they're not in a giant, well-appointed kitchen preparing meals as a group.

Our version is SO not like that.  I mean, our 'great room' is certainly much larger than our living room at our house (be it pre- or post-renovation), as is the kitchen frankly, but it doesn't feel huge when there are eight adults in it.  The kitchen is narrow and galley style, its floorspace serving as the flight path to the only bathroom, so group food prep is discouraged.  Actually, any food prep is discouraged - Pete and I find that the best way to exclude stress from the cottage experience, especially when guests join us, is to bring prepared salads and pre-washed salad greens that can be tossed with dressing at the table.  Tonight I made a big omelet with chopped spinach and ham and onions, and I thought we'd both implode from the complexity of sharing such a tiny space for so many micro tasks.

Mostly we stick with simple: I wilt prepackaged spinach in a frying pan while he grills steak out on the deck, and we call it a fine supper.

But the feeling of togetherness is the same as the magazines describe, and most importantly, the grounded quality of the Family Cottage.  It's looked and felt the same here for decades, and since we bought it, we have done the same things every summer - danced to my uncles' records, laughed, fought each other over cards and Scrabble, napped, listened for the loons at night, and read books in the sunshine.  We've enjoyed the amazing scent of the forest air here and, in my case, taken endless photographs of the almost-unchanging view from the dock.

(which, this year, was set up for us in a completely new configuration.  it's a bit unsettling, but still functional, so I'm trying not to notice the difference.)

It's like spinning in its way.  You work through the same motions as you always do, even as you're shoring up something more than you had before.

And look, now I just have to face down the plying! 

But... maybe next weekend would be good for that.  I mean, it's summertime.  Why push myself?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Knitter on a radio show

I don't know why it should be news - a knitter on a mainstream sort of radio show - but I was so excited when my cousin sent me an e-mail with a link to an interview Kate Davies did on BBC Radio 4's women's hour.

Kate's interview starts at about the 12 minute mark, and it's great - she talks about the practical impact of the stroke she experienced at age 36 and how relearning knitting helped her rebuild a working life.  My cousin said she was quite busy doing something else at the time but had to stop and listen because it was so interesting, and since she is a decidedly non-knitting person I took this as a compelling recommendation.

Strokes and other brain injuries are no joke - several people in my family have had to deal with this kind of medical situation over the last eight years and I have spent a lot of time providing support and sourcing rehab opportunities.  So I found it helpful and validating when Kate said you never really recover from an injury like this because your brain is always just trying to compensate for the parts that are gone.  However, you can get incrementally better every day.

You can also find yourself gaining skills you might not have cultivated otherwise.  In Kate's case, though she notes that she's constantly battling fatigue, she's been able to make a business out of what most of us are lucky to have time to indulge as a hobby.  But it's also true that therapy to help manage the emotional aspects of brain injury gives you insights and resources that your peers might take years to figure out.

Pete has a friend who rowed across the Atlantic, solo, in a very small boat.  I asked whether he found he'd learned anything new about himself doing it and Pete said, "That he can."  I think that much the same can be said of people who work to move forward from an assault to the function of their brains - you can.  Faced with adversity, humans can stand up to an awful lot.

I took these pictures on the Canada Day weekend down at the harbour.  The weather was amazing and there were SO many people around enjoying the views and the boat tours and the food trucks.  I don't love being in crowds so I found myself looking up to quieter spaces, which is how I noticed the amazing sky behind the ships' dark rigging.  But at another point I noticed a woman speeding past us in the other direction, lying on her chest on a gurney she was propelling herself, and not for fun either.  I was so impressed because as one does, I immediately imagined how I would cope in that situation and my answer was: staying home by myself.  Not her!

I guess the bottom line for me is that there's a lot to be gained just by reaching for what we want, what we've lost, and what we hope to recover.  You may not achieve the dream, but you're sure to achieve something.  And something is not only definitely better than nothing - it may bring you something quite unexpected.

Also, how cool is it that BBC Radio 4 does a Women's program that you can listen to from anywhere in the world?  I enjoyed it so much I listened on to the end and I think I will tune in again.  What about you?

ps have you seen Kate's new Book of Haps??? How badly do you want this?  (me: very badly)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spinning denial

So much for doing this year's Tour de Fleece!  My spinning wheel is out and I have spun two of the three strands of roving I got from Twisted Fiber Art's latest club...

... but I haven't been able to make myself do the third.

I'm either in denial, or feeling passive aggressive.  Probably both.

The tension peg on my wheel sort of moved at some point in the last year when I wasn't using it, and I've forgotten where it normally sits.  I thought I got it right but when I was winding the second section into a ball I noticed something terrible:

It is HUGELY overspun.  I mean, you want a little bit of excess energy in a single, but we are talking crazypants overspun here.  It's going to corkscrew around the other singles beyond the beyond when I go to ply them together.  Plus, who's to say I won't overspin next time too?

So naturally, I am doing the sensible thing and not spinning the last section at all.  If I don't spin it, I don't have to ply, and I won't ever face the consequences of not paying attention to what I was doing.  Perfectly sensible.

Oh dang... I should just spin it, shouldn't I.  It's too pretty to ignore!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Welcome to the lake

Somebody gave my aunt and uncle a plaque to put on the driveway side door of their their cottage that says 'Welcome to the lake', and I have to say, it's hard not to feel welcome when you are greeted by a view like this.

Although I visited this cottage for a week every summer from the ages of 7 to 14, I didn't realize until recently how lucky we are to have this particular vantage point.  The lake looks so much bigger from our little curl of the shoreline than it does from other cottages.

The shoreline directly opposite us looks far enough away to create a sense of privacy, but it's close enough to get to in a beginner kayak.

And when you look up, it's all sky, and even when it is mostly sunny you will be treated to the most gorgeous panorama of clouds I have ever seen in one place.  Every day it's a different collection, with different levels of cloud shifting past each other at different speeds.

I mean, look at this.  You could be forgiven, I think, for thinking that this was taken from space, looking down at a mountain range.  But it was taken from the dock, looking up at cloud cover.

This past weekend I watched two ragged clouds swirling toward each other, like reverse continental drift, until they met and merged.  And I admired misty forms scudding past puffy clouds that sailed serenely some distance higher than them.  It's art being created in real time, and it's so, so beautiful.

I know you can't see the wind, but it sure feels like it when you're at the lake.

What is your favourite place to see skies like this?