Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A work in progress

Remember the unhelpful friend who pointed out that five sets of dishes are probably the reason I keep thinking I don't have enough kitchen cupboards?  Well, he's been back in action.  Behold:

This is a shutter on the front of our house, newly painted in 'fresh start' primer.  (I know you love to collect images of shutters in progress - don't we all - so I thought I'd give you this huge treat today to make up for being away for several days again.)

The backstory about the shutters is that they have been on the house since it was new, and have been painted many, many times.  Usually badly, judging by the number of low-lying areas where whole huge sections have been peeled away and painted over again.  The architects we worked with at the beginning of the project pretty much hated the shutters since they are non functioning and therefore serve no purpose, but we love them because they give colour to the front of the house, which would otherwise just be a brick slab, and relate our WWII house to the much older, more dignified houses in the neighbourhood which also have non functioning shutters.  So: in spite of the objections we were always going to keep them, or maybe replace them with the same thing.  We may yet do the latter - I did find a few local companies that produce wood shutters to this design - but over the last few weeks Ray and I have been looking at them and saying Ya know.... they aren't so bad.... maybe if we just paint them....

Hence the primer, because they can't be the grey any more that they've been for the last ten or so years.  We are still using that shade on the porch floor, but it's in the form of stain now, and the 'stain' ship has SO sailed for the shutters.  I don't particularly want to buy a can of grey paint either, when I have left over black paint to use up from the side door.  And most importantly, everybody else in the area who has a black door and with columns either side, and a white window with shutters either side, paints the columns white and the shutters black.  Decision made.

And here with go with the black.

I was so excited to get this first coat of black paint on.  It felt so DARING.  Because I did not even try to use DAP on the low lying areas to build them up for something resembling a new shutter.  And I had Ray's blessing on that plan.  His point was, these shutters are never, ever going to look new again.  They are geriatric and much loved and they show it.  No matter how good a job I do with the DAP, which is probably not going to be 'Very', they will look lumpy and unkempt.  So, he said, why not embrace the distressed look?  Not to mention that black recedes and the leftover paint is not high sheen, so the low lying areas probably won't show a lot anyway.  What's to lose, we decided, if I paint them black?  If it still looks bad, I can still do the DAP, and if that looks bad, I can buy new wood shutters in the spring.

Done and done.

Enter the unhelpful friend.

"Hey," he said.  "Did you paint those shutters today?"

"I did!" I said, beaming, willfully ignoring the pained look on his face.

"Because they look like you just painted right over all those bald spots without making any effort to sand them down."

"I did!" I agreed, beaming less.

"Yeah.  It's really bad.  Especially with the sun hitting them from the west, now that it's setting."

I went out to look and Dang, he was right.  It doesn't matter that the paint is black and the sheen, low.  When the sun is blazing across at those shutters, every imperfection is visible all the way from across the street, and to every driver that goes past on the facing road... and with traffic so heavy in our neighbourhood these days, there are a LOT of end-of-day drivers creeping slowly past as a detour from the even busier street to the north.  It's a pretty pathetic end to a long renovation, having patchy terrible shutters right there on the front of the house.

So... back I go, the next good-weather day we have when the DAP will cure properly so I can paint another coat of primer and another few coats of black.  Huzzah!

(but MAN, do I ever need to scare up some more helpful friends.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Conference knitting fail

For weeks now, there has been no knitting happening at my house.  Or my condo or even on the bus, because the minute I get a chance to empty my brain and/or hands I am just SO tired and lazy.  This situation made it extra exciting for me to go to the writers' conference with Wrona, where I knew I would not have to take notes and could just knit quietly in the back row.


There's always a but!!

You know that thing where you are going out for the day or longer and you know you will need knitting with you, and you try to guesstimate exactly how much knitting you will need to bring?  I mean we always, ALWAYS overestimate that amount, right? 

I am pretty sure nobody ever says "Oh, I am sure I will only do one round on this mitten so there is no need even to pack markers for the thumb opening."  It's always, "I know I'll finish off this hat so I should bring the extra yarn and cast on the matching cowl.  Let's see, that's two patterns, double point needles for the hat's crown, the second cake and it would be nice to do a contrast border as an option against my face so I should put a third cake into the bag but do I want it to be the pink one or the green... best to take both."

Seriously.  It's like I'm inside your head, isn't it.

Well, I have been burned so many times with this inner dialogue, cramming an additional bag or two of sock up against all my other stuff just because it looks like I'm nearing the end of the one that's been in my purse for weeks, I was not inclined to pay attention to it.

And let's not forget that I have a crummy left hand these days, with the once-broken fingers still a little swollen and stiff and the strength gone from the whole thing.  I really, really need to get back to physio as soon as that condo is cleared out but in the meantime, I am a slow knitter even once I get to the needles. 

All of which is why I carted along ONE bag of sock, even though I was turning the heel the day before the conference.  And somehow, even though Wrona and I didn't even go to many panel discussions because we were having more fun meeting people in the hospitality lounge, and I was only knitting if I wasn't chatting, I managed to get through the gusset decreases and all the way through the foot by the time I took a single picture for you.


That is a sock with a foot up there at the top of this post.

I was also going to take a picture of the toe decreases, but I was so shocked at what was happening in my hands I just kept going... thinking that somehow, magically, I would have to knit an extra few inches for some reason I hadn't come up with yet.

But no: I finished the sock with more panels to go! 

The agony. And there was a perfectly good sock still on its leg on the coffee table at home, too. 

In good news, this means I have a  set of needles free to start the next ones.  And that is a relief because it's October and I promised Wayson more socks before winter, and I am pretty sure Jan will want a pair of purple striped ones for Christmas, too.  No pressure.  (well, it won't be either, if I can just EMPTY THE CONDO.)

Because it was a writer's conference I did not assume I would see other knitters there, and I didn't on the first day.  Actually I was self-conscious, worrying my moving fingers and bright woolly stripes were distracting to Wrona and especially to Bob, an old friend from her former writing group who had driven up to the conference as well.  

I asked him before our second panel started and he said No, and told me that his wife is also a serious knitter and pulled her needles out of her bag when he took her to a Bob Dylan concert!!!  I mean, I think I would have drawn the line there... but I can't guarantee it so I just tried to mimic the expected level of shock. 

By the second day though, I spotted two other knitters and somebody with crochet, so I wasn't entirely alone.  And a lady dashed over to me at the end of one session to ask what I was making.  Honestly, the authors given tables to meet prospective new readers should have brought knitting with them for their half-hour spots - they'd pull in so many people!

Because I don't have a second knitting picture to show you I'm going to close off today's post with a pic of the two sculptural paintings Wrona brought with her and which are now sitting on my desk. 

I had to turn on all the lights to get this, so it doesn't show the way they positively glow in the soft light from my single desk lamp, but trust me: this is a beautiful and inspiring pairing to gaze at during a pause from writing on the daybed.

Sorry I missed checking in yesterday - I was working on a new idea I had during the conference and I figured you would wouldn't mind terribly if I made book progress instead of a blog report.  You didn't, did you?

Monday, October 16, 2017

My life is a pickle jar full of thread

This is the very cool thing that Trish gave me as a housewarming present when we moved back into the house:

It is a giant pickle jar full of leftover super colourful, tatting-weight thread scraps that once belonged to a seamstress building a business and a new life in Canada after getting through WWII in Slovenia.  When it came into Trish's hands she said Aha!  This is so obviously for Mary.  I think she meant, this is the sort of crafty colourful vintage thing that is right up Mary's alley.  But I think what the universe was really saying was:

Mary's life is a giant pickle jar full of colourful, distracting, raw materials. 

 And boxes!

Yeah... because the condo is still full of boxes and shelves and random beautiful casserole dishes (and I do not even cook casseroles, because Pete is not up for those At. All.  he is so missing out, isn't he?)

That's pretty much where I've been since I said I was going to be posting every weekday again, come hell or high water.  Of course now that I think of it, that is no longer one of those casual expressions that suggest 'unlikely extremity', given the floods and fires in the southerly states of the U.S. lately.  But I hope you know what I mean.

The condo project has been under a crunch because we need to get it listed for lease before the beautiful ferns outside the bedroom windows wither and die in a late fall frost, leaving the low-ceilinged space looking like a long dark sterile cave.  And even if they were going to stay green and leafy for months yet - I am losing my mind having to stretch across two places.  Plus there was pressure because after more than ten years since the last time, my writing friend Wrona was coming to Toronto and she was going to stay with us.  Yay! and yipes.  Amazing how much joy can mingle with terror...  even the day before she got here there wasn't room to open the pullout sofa because of all the unpacking I still had to do, with all the other box storage areas full and unable to take another mouthful.  AND I was going to the same writer's conference she was, so I was going to have to put all that condo work on hold for four precious days.

So... while I was away from Hugs, I was packing and unpacking and sorting and clearing and generally trying to chase down enough thread ends so I could wrap them up and contain them in a giant jar. 

And I did it!  The basement guest room is GORgeous now.  I had to order shelves for placing decorative baskets of yarn, and they are in and assembled and up.  I had to make curtains for the basement windows, and I successfully subbed in tension rods with vintage tablecloths folded over them as an emergency solution.  (I have picture of this surprisingly effective decor move, but I can't find them right now.  Another day.)  And I got the dining room table entirely clear of the junk I was sorting, so that there was space for us to sit down together for a nice meal if there was time for one.  (there wasn't.)

Now that the house is in its ultimate, habitable form with just a few manageable boxes tucked out of the way for dealing with over time, I can go back to the condo and focus on that much more exclusively.  It's going to be as terrible there as it was before, but at least I get to leave it and end my day someplace orderly and welcoming.  It's definitely progress and gets me that much closer to my dream of having writing as my default mode, instead of managing a renovation.  I am SO desperate to get writing again, especially after the writer's conference.  It is always so energizing to do those.

Well - let's look at the front of this jar shall we?

In case you thought this was a random association I'm making between me and this thing.  The pickles were produced just a few miles from where I grew up!

It is a huge jar, about a foot tall, and super wide.  Really striking, and there are just an incredible number of colours inside so it matches everything.  Right now it's on a kitchen windowsill but once Ray builds them, it will go to live on one of my fireplace mantels, along with the two sculptural paintings Wrona brought me in a totally uneven trade for the pittance of manuscript formatting work I do for her (she is a professional artist as well as a writer and SO TALENTED.)

Okay this is a very long post after a very long silence... when I'm back tomorrow I hope to be more moderate but now you know I didn't disappear into a sickly green mist of pickle fumes.  Hope you've been well in the meantime and I'll see you again soon!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How to tell if you have too much yarn

We joke that there is no such thing as too much yarn. I mean, how can you have too much of something as pretty as this?

Well... when the rest of the picture is a giant lump of yarns, the mostly finished knit three sizes too big with no hope of ever being salvaged...

... and there are many more errors in knit-based judgement filling bins and boxes, it's hard to think you need even more yarn, ya know?

Unpacking all the knitting bins on Friday, I found unfinished projects like this sock yarn hat (on the left) and another, smaller attempt at the soft stripey garter stitch hat (on the right):

The sock yarn hat looks promising but the needles I was using... ugh.  They are lace tips.  SO painful in this application, so I had just set aside the hat.  I will have to find different needles and get back on that horse.

Fearful of moths, I've packed most of my yarn into plastic bags.  Those bags made the sorting pile on the kitchen table even more daunting.

And I guess it's good that I somehow missed renewing my Vesper Sock Club membership for this season? 

I still have a lot of sock yarn I haven't even caked yet, plus 10 pairs ready to cast on.

The 10 sets of socks-to-be tucked themselves neatly into the drawer of our new coffee table, ready to put onto needles as soon as I have some free and need a new emergency knit.  They look so cute in there!  Every drawer should open to reveal bright colours begging to be worked with.  But sadly, on the shelf below them, I have a bag with four pairs already knit, waiting for toes to be grafted and ends to run in.  Ugh.

The soft alpacas unsuitable for socks and the wrong colour for hats have gathered together with some handspun yarns to pair with hardier yarns that can handle the abrasion from a heddle moving over them.  Luxurious scarves are not only a practical use for these soft, vulnerable yarns, but weaving is superfast, so there's hope I might actually make it through the pile some day.

The yarns that I know I will kick myself for handing off - things that will one day be a joy to rediscover when I want to make a special knit for a friend - are gathered together too, in a box of noncommittal options I can put away as my 'yarn store' next time I want to go shopping.

I found the green cowl I've been working on since we visited Newfoundland, but not very hard because I don't enjoy the knitting needles I was using and couldn't find my knitting needle stash to sub in a better option.

I also found the knitting needle stash, which bodes well for both the cowl and the matching yarn I bought so I could make a hat.

And I noticed that a two-colour stripe is maybe even more appealing to me than three or more.  It's so clean!

(I ripped out the giant  hat anyway.  That yarn - a blue-faced Leicester blend from Debbie Bliss - is stupendously soft and I don't want to waste it.)

In good news, it turns out that this edition of our house - in spite of all that top-grade spray foam insulation we put in - does get cold when the temperatures drop outside, as they finally did a couple of days ago.  We are not quite ready to turn on the in-floor heating, and when we do I may well find I'm more comfortable in bare feet, but right now I am making good use of both my heavy mohair socks and my mid-season, lightweight Vespers.  Whew!  I love knitting the mohair socks especially, but it would be awful not to be able to enjoy wearing them any more.

The unwavering bad news though is that even after I filtered out all the yarns even I can admit I am never, ever going to get around to working with, and assigned all the yarns I am certain I have a use for to their various bins...

I have too much yarn.

Maybe not too much for a person who loves textiles as much as I do, but certainly too much for the space I have.  And there is only one thing a knitter can do when s/he has that much too much yarn.  Right?


(mine are arriving on Friday.  cannot wait.)

Hope you've had a good weekend, see you tomorrow!