Thursday, December 29, 2011

I woke up this morning to the sound of a cricket somewhere nearby in the house.  Every so often it chirps and chirps, but I haven't been able to locate it yet.  I'm always surprised that critters like this - especially crickets - can survive in a house with boys clomping around, two cats, and a large dog who quite likes to snap at insects.

It's really quiet in here this morning.

Randy has gone back to work after his Christmas break, and the boys are away at a friend's house for a couple of days.

Maybe the cricket has been chirping for a week and this is the first time I've heard it.

Last year around this time I took a few days and made myself a planner for the year.  It stemmed from having used planners for 20+ (gulp) years, and not really ever having one 'fit' my life.  For a long time I loved the Polestar Family Calendar, but found that it had more pages than I needed and whole sections that I didn't use, year after year.

The one that I made last year worked really well.  There was enough room in it for all of life's unpredictability, and for the rhythm of the week.  The boys could add important (and goofy) messages to it, and it spent most of last year firmly parked on the kitchen counter within 2 steps of the whiteboard that we use to keep our whole family's week straight.

By some miracle, I kept the template from last year with the stamps, and was able to put the one for 2012 together without much fuss or bother.

There are a couple of modifications, but not many.  The main one is that I made the date numbers substantially smaller, and the month itself doesn't take up quite so much room on the page.  The basic layout is the same, with a week per page, and all the page's dates close to the spine.  I cut the corner off the pages last year as the weeks went by, and occasionally lost part of a phone number or name, so this year will be a bit more mindful about where things will be written. The new book has a 'contacts' area, and a 'frequently used numbers' section, as last year's did.  There are dividers with pockets at the point at which the school year becomes summer, and where the summer meets the school year again.  There is also a pocket divider at the very end of the year (this was really handy for receipts and other papers that had a longer shelf life than a week or two, but not a long enough one to warrant filing).

Once again, I used stamps to show certain things...days with a bird stamp are loved ones' birthdays, and days with a peacock feather stamp are anniversaries.  The above photo shows the week of Randy's and my anniversary last year, and in the year to come. It would seem that summer is not about relaxing!  Last year I pasted little things into the book throughout the year (pictures, fortune cookie fortunes), and doodled. I can see that this year's will be the same in that regard.

 I've been pretty decadent about my time over the holiday.  I found time to finally finish the sweater that was started in the summer, and to start another sweater.  Nelson's needlework and craft store closed this week (sniff), and I bought myself a little cashmere yarn as the doors were closing.

I still need to buy proper clasps for the completed sweater (the photo here shows it being held shut with stitch markers), and block it.  In the meantime, the new sweater I'm working on is coming together rather quickly as there is plenty of sitting-around-in-the-evening time right now.  The new sweater is acid green and seafoam stripes...mmmmmm, cashmere......

Randy has been finding time during the holiday to work on the house.  He built doors for the boys' bedrooms, (yay!) and the caps for our posts.  Bit by bit, the house is coming together.

We're all getting ready to jump in to the new year around here.  Last year my resolution was about drawing, and I managed to keep it going in the intended way for about 3 months.  After that, I started including drawings I was doing for work or other purposes as my drawing 'resolution drawings', but knew that I was cheating myself!  It's funny how we can convince ourselves of things that are so contrary - part of the point of that particular resolution was to ensure that I had a place to invite drawing back into my life in creative, non-commercial ways...and promptly started mentally using my 'work' drawings as my 'recreational' drawings.  Hrm.

So this year I've opted to do a similar (non-commercial) thing in a new way.  I've joined the Sketchbook Project. The whole works has to be wrapped up and sent in by April...and that's about as long as I was able to make my resolution stick last year.  I have to pay to participate in this one - hopefully that will help with my stick-to-it-ive-ness...and at the end of it all the book will be available online for all to see, and in their library in Brooklyn.  I like the idea, too, that all the books will travel around the US, and that someday I or people I care about could go and view the book in it's new home.  I loved the themes and was able to choose one that has a lot of meat on it's bones for me, and can't wait to get in there and start working on it.  I've already been doing a bit of research and getting some ideas down.

Now I'm off to tidy up and reorganize my little corner of the loft is completely torn apart right now as I prepare for the art-ing and craft-ing year ahead.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I realize it's been far too long since I stuck my head in here.  Since August we have been busy - we've been working and playing a LOT of our waking hours.  I'm back working at the school I was at last year (hooray!), as well as working to co-build and co-teach the ShelterGuides course, and am coaching speed skating.  In the quiet corners here and there I've tried to find time to do some crafting, but those quiet moments have been few and far between.  

I'm currently managing three websites, and developing a new one.  Somehow I managed to stay away from the computer for two full days - only to find more than 70 emails waiting for me this morning!  (*Note to self * NOT vetting the email regularly can be disasterous!!)

A good example of how little crafting time I've had:  the sweater that I cast on in August when Randy was at the coast for his knee replacement surgery is still not finished.  I managed to cast off the second sleeve last night, and still need to assemble the sweater and knit the collar. This sweater may end up taking the longest of any I've ever made!

School ended for us last Friday, and I got busy stitching, making gifts for friends and family.  Now I'm mostly playing. There are just a couple of gifts left to make, so this afternoon has been playtime!

If you've been reading this blog for a very long time, you may remember this post or this post...
I found a local source for verrrrryyyyy inexpensive clothesline ($2.00 for 100ft...100% cotton).  I still have a rather large stash of fabric - and some spare time!!  I've been playing with shapes and sizes, and am finding that I can make a rather nice sized breadbasket with about 50' of line.  The photos here are of my only circular one so far - the most recent experiment involves using up lots of extremely colourful scraps, odd bobbins and ends of spools of thread...and I plan on attempting a lid.  This particular basket is quite a bit larger than the other ones that I've been making.  I'm hoping it will not end up TOO big, and can be recruited to hold all the remote controls and other detritus that collects on the coffee table but needs to be there.  Then again, if the lid thing works out, I may make another one in tamer colours to live in the main room and recruit this one to hold crafting or spinning supplies. :)
 Yesterday I went out for a walk with young Max through the neighbourhood.  Although it snowing now, yesterday was reasonably clear (for this time of year) and cold.  The frost had formed on almost everything in the yard (branches, buildings, fences) - but only on the WEST side.  There was a lot of beautiful furry frost to be seen in all kinds of different corners.

We walked all over the place and Mr. Max left quite a few people prints in different areas...edges of fields, just off of driveways, out in the gravel pit. The area was beautiful and misty, with a low fog hanging in the valley.  I was able to get some really gorgeous photos of the area (some of which are posted on my Facebook account for friends and family).  It was wonderful to get outside together for an hour or so.  The kicker is that it was the last hour before sunset, which is at about 3:50pm these days as we are right up against our shortest day of the year.  Hurry up solstice!  We need our days to start getting longer!

The other night we unleashed our Christmas Chaos, and the boys decorated the tree - and each other from time to time.  It was pretty sweet to see.  They're so lovely together so much of the time.  I count my stars every day that they are the young men that they are. We are so lucky.

Wherever you are, I hope this note finds you well.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Here they are, at daybreak, the first morning on our farm.

Our starter Soay flock consists of 5 sheep, all from Carla at Rhyant Rock Farms.
*ahem-later edit* SIX sheep.  There are SIX sheep. 

It was really nice to meet Carla (and Larry, too!) after the last few months of correspondence.  She was tremendously generous with her information and infectiously enthusiastic about the sheep - and sheep in general.  Not that we needed inspiration for enthusiasm! The boys have helped through each stage of the process of researching and getting ready for flock's arrival.  
 All 4 of us have been so excited about becoming Shepherds!
The oldest of our little mob is Winniandy, and she is the undisputed leader of the group right now.  She's two years old and has come to us with her ewe lamb.

The sheep are very small, even as adults, and are supposed to be good 'starter sheep': they don't need their tails docked, or to be sheared.

 They seem to have settled in okay, and are busily munching down our back pasture area, the area that will eventually be more for the rams.

I think our learning curve is entering it's steep phase...there is certainly a lot to know.

And, for the fellow fibre lovers in the audience, I have already spun up a teeny tiny sample of fleece (Winniandy is still shedding) into's a short fibre, so I'll probably end up blending it with other fibres until I get better at spinning it.  I've been reading about Soay-specific spinning and fibre preparation techniques, and am chomping at the bit to play some more.

We've taken about eleventy-seven-hundred photos of them all already, and are still getting to know who is who a little.  Three of them are very distinct looking, even to our untrained eyes, but I keep getting two of the ewes confused.  As long as they don't expect me know each of their names to call them to dinner, I think we'll be okay.


 The ram lamb's name is Yorick, which I absolutely love.  He's very cute, with lovely markings and colouring.

So, in among all the other changes we have in our lives right now, we are now a farm (as Max said, "We're a REAL farm now, because we have farm animals").

For those who have been in closer contact lately...yes, we did sell the van, but it won't change hands until later next week.

Randy leaves tomorrow to go to the coast in preparation for his knee surgery, which will take place in the middle of next week.  Our thoughts are all about his speedy recovery and increased mobility. His pending surgery would completely occupy my head if I let it.

The course that I've been writing with my colleagues launches on Sept 12, at Selkirk College.  I'm still working on aspects website which will be the portal for the course, both in this iteration as a pilot, but also in the iterations to come. More pieces of the site are there, but not visible until we go live. We're currently putting the finishing touches on everything, and getting ready to work with some real live students.  It's so exciting, I can hardly stand it when I think about it sometimes.

So, yeah, lots going on right now.

Change can be really good, not baaaaad.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011


 It's official, I'm obsessed.

I think the rocks have gotten into my brain (would that make me a 'rock head'? Haha) and I'm now dreaming about rocks fitting together....when I close my eyes I see interlocking shapes...much like back in the days when I played too much Tetris!

The scale of the project is pretty big.  I wanted to be sure that the area would be big enough to be useful ( at least to fit a cafe table and a couple of chairs, and maybe our fire pit).  As it turns out it's plenty big for that. And more, I think.

I can't wait to get that little flower bed part finished and planted up...maybe a little ornamental shade tree in there?  A star magnolia, or a dogwood?  Some day lilies around the base?

 And the grass is all coming in beautifully.

These photos were taken at about 7:30am, when this side of the house is still cool and shady.  Later in the day it gets pretty hot over here...I'm hoping that the stone will warm up in the sun and radiate the heat back to us if we sit out there into the late evening.  There's almost a ton of rock there...many of the individual stones are 3" or more in thickness...that's a lot of thermal mass!

DH got an email last night from the lady we are getting our sheep from, and she thinks she can deliver them at the end of the month. (!)

Exciting, to be sure - and there is still a lot to do to prepare for the little wooly gaffers.  That and DH's knee surgery is scheduled for the 31st of this month...

This fall is going to be verrrry busy.

So, I've been placing rocks, as fast and furiously as possible.  There's still a long way to go across the front of the house, and I'm starting to wonder if I'll have enough, or will need to make another trip out to the quarry.  We'll see.  Stone by stone.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quiet Saturday morning

 I'm still home, writing.  I managed to snap a photo of one of my companions out here...the hummingbird who sits on the jade plant out on the deck...

It's usually when the feeder is occupied by some of the more noisy birds, tussling for position, that this one will sit and watch.  It's been hard to catch it in a photo because it doesn't sit for long, and I'm usually clumsy and loud about getting the camera ready.

Finally I got the photo by leaving the camera set up on the table, pointed at the jade plant so that all I had to do when my friend arrived was to reach over, push the 'on' button, then the shutter.  A little grainy from the zoom, but there it is!

 Couldn't stand it last night anymore.

After a day of writing I just had to get my hands on those rocks!  I played until it was too dark to see what I was doing.  It's a good thing I stopped, too, as there's one there that's sitting too proud and will have to be re-set.  No amount of pounding with my rubber mallet will get it to sit lower on that corner, so, biting the bullet, it will get pulled  today.

I love how the river rocks give way to the flagstone.  Soft edges meet hard corners.  And all the colours in the's amazing.  I can't wait to get it all in so that I can clean it up a little and let the colours glow.

As usual, this is going together in an kind of unorthodox way.  I figured that this sand is all pretty hard packed because we walk on it all the time, it's been under that piece of fake grass you can see folded up to the side.  As the rocks are not all the same thickness, there's not a lot of point in me excavating everything to the same depth before putting the rock into it.  I've been working with my line level to ensure that the walking surface is flat and level (slight grade toward where the lawn will be, as I want it to drain that way), and scraping out the area for each group of rocks as I go, putting sand back in and pounding the heck out of it when I need to, and pulling more out when the rock sits too proud.  It's a slow process, but very satisfying.

The final shot here is of the area toward the driveway, across the front of the house.  I want the stone to continue across in a walkway through here.  The idea behind this is that it will be easier and tidier for mowing maintenance - and I think it'll just look good.

Well, I should get back to writing - er, writing what I'm supposed to be writing!

Happy Saturday,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Watching the grass grow...among other things...

 My fellas are all still away, camping up in Nakusp with friends and family.  I'm here at home, watching the grass grow...and writing like a madwoman.

I'm working on something kind of special, something that I've been involved in for over a year and half...and before that there was at least 1 and maybe 2 years of background consultation and research done by one of my colleagues in this endeavour (who is also my friend).

There are 6 of us writing and preparing a training course that will be offered through Selkirk College this fall, in their CE (Continuing Education) catalogue.  It's a Home Share and Respite Care course to train people who would like to work in those capacities with people who have disabilities.  The Province is moving away from group homes as a housing model, and toward Home Share which is a really good option for many people.  At this time there is not a lot of training available for people who would like to do this type of work, to share their home with a person who has a disability and support them in their daily endeavors, and we are hoping, respectfully and humbly, to fill that gap. We've formed a small company called ShelterGuides.  We're in the process of building our website, and of filling the Moodle (teaching/learning content management system) with our coursework.

Writing the curriculum is an interesting experience.  We're doing everything collaboratively, mindful of the different draws and claims that exist on each other's lives.  We initially joined together not knowing each other, or not knowing each other well - but through this process have become friends.  I'm amazed by the intelligence, strength and experience that each of these women brings to the table.  It's phenomenal.

 So, I'm sitting here, out on our deck, with my dog and the crazy hummingbirds.  There are so many birds right now that it feels dangerous sometimes to sit here...I realize that I have a lot of faith in their reflexes, that they won't actually skewer me with their little beaks (at high speed)!  There have been a couple of moments that have felt (to me) like close calls...those pesky birds are probably buzzing me for fun, then going off to laugh about it...

It's pretty peaceful.  I mean, aside from the crazy birds.  The grass is growing, the dog is snoring.  I'm typing.

Yesterday I took time out to go and get rocks...thanks to our neighbour and his kick-ass trailer.  We moved a ton...yep a ton of flagstone from the rock yard near Salmo to here. 

This morning I went and bought a mason's chisel and maul, and tried my hand at splitting one of these bad boys...and, although I definitely have lots to learn, I think I'll be able to split some of the thicker ones down to approximately the same thickness as the others before setting them in to the patio area.

But I'm being very good, very disciplined.  I'll get my piece of the writing done before going out to play with the rocks.  I promise.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Something that's just for fun

I'm on my own here today and for the next few days while all the boys are up camping in Nakusp.  The weather is gorgeous for them - and I think this has been on of the coolest Julys on record! 

The fellas all left this morning and I have been here writing in the 25 minute intervals between each move of the sprinkler. It's strange to spend a day in little, measured increments like that. Why moving the sprinkler? Because we have a large swath of land that we're improving to be pasture for the sheep we're expecting this fall.

Toward the end of the day here I got playing with the functionality of my laptop - it's still pretty new to me and I've not really just let my hair down and monkeyed around yet.  So here I offer you a silly little video to introduce any of you who have not met him to our big dog, Dude:


I think that moving the sprinkler and Dude will be forever linked in my mind as, with all the baby grass out there, we can not just let him roam free the way we usually do... the poor oaf is sentenced to the end of the leash until the grass is big enough to withstand his Brobdingnagian paws.  Poor pup.  Oh look - it's time to move the sprinkler again - and Dude is waiting at the door for a walk! 


Friday, July 01, 2011

A little experiment

I've been playing a bit here, on this sunny Canada Day morning.

Yesterday was the last day of work for me at school. True to form - I'm sick.  It would seem that every time we come up to a school holiday for the past two years I take the opportunity to grab whatever airborne bugs are out there and offer them a home in my upper respiratory system! I've had no voice since Tuesday, and now have a cough as well.

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy with school ending for both boys and for me, and all the other things that seem to happen at this time of year.  Soccer ended (temporarily - it starts again in the fall).  Each of the boys and I all had different end-of-school activities (mostly field trips of one kind and another).

We had lovely company for a few days, with DH's sister and brother in law coming from Oman.  It was pretty special for us for them to come at this particular time of year and be part of all our different celebrations. They live so far away these days that we rarely get to share our milestones with them.  We not only got to do the big, important things (like see Youngest complete Elementary School), but little day to day things (like eating together, playing cards, hiking, visiting).  All in all, a really sweet time.

This morning found me up with nothing in particular on my agenda for the first time in a very long time.  I sat down with my little water colour set and played with painting a couple of special things that we've received as gifts over last year.  The table runner is indigo dyed (from Japan originally) given us by my Mom-in-Law last year at Christmas.  It seemed the perfect backdrop for the Koran stand that Sister-and-Brother-in-Law gave us last year when they visited from Oman.

I've wanted to try to paint or draw the stand for a long time, as it has such wonderful texture.  Each of the individual tool marks show on the carved part of the stand.  I love being able to see the actions of the artist in the art!  I had a drawing teacher once, years ago, who said we should only take photos of things no one would believe if they saw them in drawing form...and I have to say, that stuck with me.  There are many times that I take photos for reference for drawing only to sit down and discover that the photos cannot be interpreted that way.  There are places both for photos to record what we can not draw, and a place for drawing to record all the rest of what we see.  Sometimes the actions of the artist would obscure the art - then it is always better to simply take a picture.

The second half of the experiment was to try to use Gimp to edit my photo for posting.  I'm new to Gimp, but wanted to give it a whirl after all I've been reading about it.  It's open source, which seems to be the direction that I'm heading with all the programs in my life.  I missed using PhotoImpact10 (simply because I've used it for years and it's like second nature to me anymore), but it's not available in the form it used to be - maybe it's becoming obsolete?  Hmmm.  Gotta try to stay current, whether it's easy or not!

Here's to summer, here's to family, here's to time to play and learn.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A little time, and JJ

 The JJ blouse, that is.

With a little extra time tonight, I got started on a blouse similar to one that's been rolling around in my head for the past year or so.  This pattern is called the JJ blouse, and it is available here.

I've blogged about BurdaStyle before, and about just how dangerous it can be to wander around in their free pattern section!  I'm not exactly sure how I ran across this blouse, but it was probably in a Flickr pool or something.  Regardless of how we found each other, this pattern has been crying out for me to make it for ages now!  I love the unabashed femininity of it.

There was a bit of a lull in my afternoon, so I hunted through my fabric boxes and found 1.5M of this lovely older Jinny Beyer fabric from 'way back when I had the shop.  Most of the fabric I have is in relatively small pieces, as I was a quilter for so long.  Back in those days I never bought terribly much of any one thing unless it was for borders or backgrounds, or backing in a quilt.

I was a little worried that the cotton fabric would have far too much stiffness and the ruffles would be completely unruly, but things seem to be working out just fine.  The fabric has enough body that it's easy to work with, but enough give that the ruffles don't stand straight out like fins or something.

Obviously this is not one of the heavier cottons I used to love for quilting.  In fact, now that I think about it, I can remember kvetching with customers that my beloved Jinny Beyer had gone to a new, lower thread count stock to have her patterns printed on!  Funny, eh?  Tonight I was glad for that lower thread count.

Things have a way of working out, I guess.

Now my head is a-buzz with ideas for variations on this pattern...maybe pleats instead of ruffles, maybe different fabrics for all of the different pieces (that would certainly be more useful for using up some of the stash...), a redrafted bodice, some sewn in elastic to nip in the waist a little more.....

Or maybe I should just concentrate on finishing this one...


My progress tonight got me to the point of finished the fronts and back.  Soon, sleeves!!


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sunday, Sunday

Monday last week I fell at skating and chipped a little bone from my hip, necessitating a bit of time off work. The week has been very quiet, punctuated with brief interludes of going out for brief errands.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm terrible at sitting still.

I spent the first few days reading Shantaram - well worth it if you've not picked it up yet!

It took until Friday for me to come up with a list of things that could be comfortably done from the couch in the odd, not-sitting-not-lying-down posture that was most comfortable...and now I'm in the thick of chipping away at the list.  The first thing on it is something that has been languishing in the background of my life since I sold my shop - my pantograph patterns!  Over the past few years I've been working on ideas, jotting down little scribbles and doodles here and there, photographing various things as references, etc., but not really just sitting down and banging out a few patterns.  During the last few days I've been able to do just that!  It's so exciting to be messing around in my sketchbook for this purpose.  (oh, and for those keeping track of my New Year's resolution...I'm almost caught up on my Illustration Friday challenges, the last few have just not been fit to blog).

Today was my first day out walking in the neighbourhood since my is the perfect day for it, too...sunny and warm!  Spring is certainly in the air here in Krestova, though the snow is still very deep.  As you can see in the picture at right, the snow piles along our driveway are 5 feet high in places (the ones at the back of the house by the parking lot are substantially higher). The sun is out, things are dripping into puddles, and the neighbourhood is waking up from Winter. I really love living here where each season is so distinct, with its own character and colours.

Our school district has one more week of instructional days, then the two week Spring Break begins.  

I returned from my walk to discover that my family is not interested in waiting for full spring to come...bring on the epic deck backgammon battles!! Chess and Risk are next!

(ooh, look at the snow piles in the background)

Come on Spring.  We're ready.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011


 Last night we had a special guest come and skate with our club, Scott Bickerton.

The whole club was terribly excited to have him come - Nelson is his home skating club, and he was among the founding skaters of it in 1999.  He now trains in Calgary, at the long track, and competes in World Cup, World Junior and National level races.

We were all a little star struck, to be honest!

Scott was lovely: friendly and generous with his time and autographs.  I hope he knows how much it means to all the athletes to have had him come out and skate with us.  It was so inspiring for everyone!

We all learn so much by watching, by listening, by being out there with skaters who are further along in their journey of perfecting technique.

As a family with two young men growing up in it, we are always aware of the male influences in the world around our boys: in the culture in general, and in our community. I think this is a pretty confusing time to be growing into a young man.  Many of the boys that I meet in the same age range as our two are heavily into video games, often 1st person shooters (and think that they'll grow up to be video game testers). Having the opportunity to meet Scott, with his kindness, his openness and his obvious dedication to his sport was a real gift.

Thanks, Scott.  Spending a few hours of your life with us was a major event in ours.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

A first of sorts

It's not a gold, but it a first for me.  It's the first medal I've ever earned for any sport.

Great fun speed skating day yesterday in Vernon...


Happy to be home,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recent finishes

 This past weekend I got a lot of spinning and knitting done...

Most of the fleece from Bella is spun into yummy thin singles.  I'm doing wool that's about 15 WPI (wraps per inch) as a general rule, which makes me happy!  I found that the secret with this particular fleece seems to be: comb, comb and comb again.  The final wool from this fleece is much softer than what I was spinning up from the previous one.  There could be a couple of reasons for that:

  • Greater time and care directed to the carding/combing process
  • cleaner fleece
  • more experience
  • soft undercoat hairs distributed well throughout the wool
I'm getting better at the spinning part, too.  This fleece has been easier to spin straight from the rolags without pre-drafting.  Again, I'm not sure why that is.  I'm sure more experience will teach me.

In the meantime, I made the thrummed mitts above using purchased Merino roving (that I originally intended to do needlefelting with and now will probably just spin) from this pattern.  For those who are not familiar with thrumming, look it up!  It's Canadian!

The first time I saw a pair of thrummed mitts was a pair my friend Frances was wearing at an Elementary School assembly that we were both attending as parents.  In those days, Monday mornings would consist of walking the boys to school, then heading to the gym to watch the weekly school assembly...and catch up and visit with friends!  Considering the size of the community and the groups of parents who would routinely attend on those mornings, I think most of the behind-the-scenes connections for volunteer powerhouses such as soccer league, youth society projects, etc., were made during that brief weekly convergence at our kids' school.  Funny, I haven't thought about that in quite a while!  It was a real gift to be working at home during those years, to be able to attend things like that.

The other thing that got finished this weekend is my short sleeved cardigan...with wool that was a Christmas gift from my Mom and Dad. (THANK YOU!!)  I would link up the pattern here, but it seems to only exist as a Ravelry download.  If you are a member, look it up as 'Star-cross'd love'.  You should be able to find it through the pattern search function.  Or write me, and I'll hook you up to the .pdf.

I managed to get it done and blocked and was able to wear it to work on Tuesday this of my co-workers, whenever I was working on it during my lunch break, would come over and say, "So, watcha making for me?"
The first time he did this, I said,"A vest, but I think it's going to be a bit small for you." We had a bit of a laugh, as he is quite a bit bigger than I am... and it became a bit of a running joke.  He would ask how his vest was coming along, etc.

So I made him a little vest.

A very little vest.  It measures about 1" wide, finished and worn by the little man at left.

Tuesday morning, I left it in his mailbox at work.

You see, he never asked what I was making for myself!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bella and 'Surrender' it's not a finished picture, but it's progress.  I think this one might end up being something that I work on digitally, using the tablet and Corel Painter. 

The idea of this is from the ruminations about the word 'surrender'...the idea of surrendering to the blank page, to the process of the work, not to work only with the finished product in mind.  Though I love having finished products (and producing them), having had the shop (Threads in Motion) for all those years helped to dissociate the joy of making things with the need to possess them.  To truly surrender to process, one must not need to possess the outcome. 

Culturally, here in North America, that's a pretty rebellious idea. 

It always amazes me that all the minuscule, incremental decisions and accidents that happen along the way are what ultimately add up to the final product, whatever it may be.  I had a drawing instructor 'way back in College (a College that's now a University...that's how long ago it was that I attended) who encouraged us to make every single line on our page one of intent.  He would not accept 'scribbles', and certainly not as an excuse for shading.  He was, however, the teacher who introduced me to the idea of the 'character of line': that the intentional mark on the page could have uncontrolled elements to it - thick and thin areas, slight meandering within the path, and lighter and darker points along the line.  This 'found' or 'accidental' element within the intent and decision making of drawing is really all about our surrender to the process of drawing...the cumulation of all those tiny decisions.  And ultimately, it's what gives a drawing it's dynamism, flow and personality.

 Speaking of surrender and of process...

(a little heavy-handed for a segue, but it will have to do! :) )

The fleece from last post's sheep is working up into wool of lovely character. 

The singles are about 12 WPI (wraps per inch).  I'm hoping to ply them together into an aran weight yarn.  The first project from this particular wool will be a beret for my neighbour's daughter, in black, as requested.  The ewe that this comes from is named 'Bella', making for a 'Bella Beret'! 

I've spun up 9 oz of the fleece so far, into about 208 M of yarn.  The soft undercoat of the fleece is a charcoal grey, the outer coat is a dense black.  They are coming together into a heathery black colour that is quite lovely.  I keep thinking that the icelandic wool would be beautiful knit up into this - especially in this gorgeous grey-black.

I've completely surrendered to the rhythm of spinning, the process of making yarn.  Each moment gives little chances at decision making for the final product, and opportunities for the yarn to dictate the way that things are going to go. 

As I spin, I can't help but think of the multitude of generations that had to rely on this fibre process, this hand-intensive process, for clothing and furnishings.  To completely outfit a family and home would be a huge undertaking, especially in a climate like this one.  That the health and welfare of the family would rely on the health of their animals is a foreign concept today.  The idea of the wealth of the family being expressed in the quality and quantity of their garments, and in the skill and speed of the family's clothiers...well, it is just not something that we think of in a first-world country where we are so dissociated from the origins of our possessions, the things that give us comfort and protect us from the elements.

Food for thought.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Dusty...but not

 All right.  So it's not actually a good response to the 'Dusty' challenge, but it was a challenge to do - and filled my quota for the number of drawings I need to get done in order to stay with my resolution! 

I think I did anthropomorphize this ewe,'s her wool that is soaking in the tub and on the drying rack right now.  That hint of a smile is probably a little projection of how I feel about playing with fibre, and how grateful I am to my neighbour and this sheep for the opportunity.

As I've been following the Sketchbook Challenge blog since the beginning of the year, I thought I'd include a progress photo.

Many of the people formally participating in that challenge not only share finished drawings, but much of the messy stuff that leads up to them.

When I know I'm going to be doing a 'finished' style drawing, I will do a bit of a line map before drawing in earnest.  If you click on the drawing at left you'll see some thin, spidery lines here and there that are my visual code to guide the light, shadow, proportion and different 'planes' of the drawing.  I tend to think of the object I'm drawing (even from photos) in all three dimensions...mapping out the planes helps me to keep foreshortening, light and shadow all in the right places. 

In the case of the sheep, it was also about dividing the space between the different textures - there is a substantial amount of space on the sheep's face that has straight hair.  Part of the challenge in this drawing was to create different textures between the different types of coat, the horns, and the eye area.  As you can see in the progress photo, I'll often jump straight to the details that I think best characterize the subject once the initial mapping is done.  If I can get the eye area (often the part of a drawing that we will focus on right away) right along with any other important characterization, the rest of the drawing really only needs to be hinted at in order to be successful.  The viewer's eye will SEE the parts that are tight, drawn to describe the subject, then their mind will FILL IN all the other details.  My favorite drawings are certainly audience participation in nature - and I believe these are also the ones that hold the widest appeal.

So now to go back and rinse out more of these lovely black locks, and to think about my challenge word for this coming week...'Surrender'. 

Happy Friday,


Chicken (and skating!)

Better late than never - right?  It's my contribution to Illustration Friday's challenge, 'chicken'.  The last couple of weeks have been silly busy with life and skating.  This is the first chance I've had to get myself across the street to photograph some chickens at our neighbour's house - so my challenge entry is two weeks late.  Does this still count for keeping my resolution to draw more?  I hope so.  

Now to do 'Dusty' (last week's challenge) and 'Surrender' (which was in my inbox this morning).

It's going to be tough to focus on the drawing today as my neighbour sent me home with another one of his fleeces - black this time - and I'm looking forward to knitting his daughter a beret with part of it!

Last weekend I was not drawing on Saturday morning because I was here: Nelson's first Speed Skating Comp. Our club hosted, and the day was fun and friendly.  We each skated 5 different races, the distances based on our age categories.  Both of our boys skated, too, and DH was an official timer.  It took all of the available parents, grandparents and friends of the club to make this happen - would the world still spin on its axis without volunteers to power it?
 The boys and I combed through the 200 or so photos that were taken of us all out on the ice to analyze for body position, weight distribution and technical form.  It was fun to go through them and enlightening to see, with a critical eye, what we are ACTUALLY doing on the ice vs. what we THINK we are doing on the ice.  For myself, I know that I need to get lower and not allow my upper body to move as much...

Now - off I go to rinse out the soaking fleece, then figure out what I'm going to draw for 'Dusty'.  Hmm.  I have some lovely pictures of sheep here, maybe I want to draw one of them??


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If you're not a fibre freak, turn off your computer NOW

A little magic happened here for me yesterday.  After spinning up several 50M skeins, I tried my hand at plying.

Mmmmmmm.  Yummy.

I've read a lot about plying and there are many good technical articles out there about HOW to ply, but nothing about WHY one should ply.

What I discovered is that - at least with this yarn - the singles knit up a bit scratchy.  Plying the singles into a balanced 2ply yarn made it squishy and soft.  That was the magic...the transformation from scratchy to soft.
I downloaded an app about spinning for my's pretty cool, really. It's full of information and different calculators, twist, grist, etc.

I thought that my roughly 13 wpi (wraps per inch) singles would ply into a 6 wpi yarn that would be a worsted it turns out, it came out more of a chunky weight.

I was so entranced with the squishy softness of this yarn, that I started knitting a toque last night with it...and finished it this morning.  It's sitting blocking now, waiting to go to it's new home.

My neighbour spent some time with me yesterday, carding up rolags.  Much of the wool he carded is spun up into this toque...



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

another thing to do with fleece

One of the things I got up to last weekend with the fleece was making felted soaps.  It's really very easy and low tech...and the results are so worth it.

Why felt soap?
Gentle exfoliation.
Subtle, natural antibiotic properties of fleece.
Regular contact with wool ;)

There is a wonderful soapary (is that a word) up the Valley from us - Mountain Sky.  The greengrocer down the hill from us carries end cuts (or off cuts) of this lovely soap in a big bulk bin.  The pieces can all be different kinds, and non-standard sizes, but are always first-rate quality.  I had a bag of these in the cupboard that I used for my project.

It's very simple.
Have ready some rolags or combed fleece, a sushi mat (or washboard), some chunks of nylon stocking, a towel, soap and a drying rack.

Wrap the soap in fleece, making sure that all the corners are covered, and that there are no thin spots.

 Stretch the chunk of nylon stocking over the wrapped soap carefully, to not shift the fuzzy fibre coating.  Because I was doing several, I did each step to all the soaps, production style.

The picture at left is a bit decieving...the nylon stocking is only tied at one end.  It's twisted and tucked underneath at the other.  If you tie both ends of the stocking, you'll have to cut the stocking to get the soap out...and eventually your stocking pieces won't be big enough to do anymore soap!

Dribble a bit of dishsoap on the nylon-wrapped bundle, then dribble some hot water on it.  Start rubbing it in your can be pretty vigorous!  If it feels too dry at first, add more water until it's all frothy and foamy (you don't want it dripping wet).

Rub it on the sushi mat (or another ribbed surface) to speed along the felting process.  Make sure that you rub each edge, end and flat plane of the soap.  When it starts to feel like all the fleece has compressed evenly, you can slide it out of the stocking.

Keep rubbing it in your hands and on the sushi mat until the fibre is completely compressed and not loose around the soap anywhere.  Rinse it in the sink, roll it in the towel to blot out most of the water, then set it on the drying rack to dry. Et Voila!  Finished!

I made about 8 of them for gifts.  It's got me thinking about other things that I could felt. Hmmmm.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Making good on my resolution

I'm trying to be a good girl and follow the Illustration Friday suggestions, but this week's topic (deja vu) just didn't catch my fancy.  I opted instead to try the Sketchbook Challenge's topic: 'Highly Prized'.

 So, rather than draw my family (which was my first thought) or my hands (which was my second thought)

I drew my skates.  

You can click on either picture for a larger version.