December 23, 2010

Goals for the year...Breathe and Finish

Last year, my goal word was 'explore'.  I'm not sure I did a very good job at it; perhaps the truth was that I did it in a different way than I expected.  I did explore, but my explorations related to getting a new job, parenting, and becoming a staff member for my Harry Potter Knitting Group on Ravelry.  I think I explored my stress limits, more than my creative limits. 

At the end of this term, I will have been staff for 8 months (hard to believe), and part of the group for two years.  My children have nearly grown up with my knitting for HPKCHC--certainly become teenagers and young women.  As a part of the HPHC group,  I have explored many different ways of knitting, dealing with deadlines and online moderating in a sometimes very high paced environment.  I helped build and grow a new, and hopefully more sound, structure to the group after some significant challenges in September.  I learned some dyeing, and to spin.  It wasn't where I thought I would be going in January last year, but it has been valuable and creative in a different way.  September, though, was absolutely, without a doubt, insane in terms of time and investment and energy.  The kerfluffle, and the aftermath, just took time and energy to work though.  In the end, the structure was sound, but the process to get there was time consuming. 

In September, my oldest also left home for university.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that my oldest left home, and going to university was the side benefit.  She is, as far as I can tell, doing well.  She got her first adult job: seasonal retail sales.  This is something that everyone should try so that they learn to appreciate how much work it is to do, I think.  I think I explored feelings of change and loss.  Our celebrations and traditions are changing because she has left home.  It is expected, but I am finding it hard to feel my way through this challenge of parenting a young adult, particularly one who is dependent on 'bank of mom' but doesn't want to communicate with mom or dad. 

Combine a parenting change of this level with a significant change in job to a new school with very few resources,  and I have had a tiring year.  A lot of time is put into development of resources for teaching, and not so much into cleaning the house or dealing with the changes of having someone leave with all the stuff in two bedrooms still in piles.  I guess that is part of mom-hood--cleaning up someone else's messes.  Well, the house is still a mess, and she is coming home in two days for an unknown period of time to stay with us for an unknown period of time.  Planning is challenging at my house right now. 

Then, I added costuming a play to my fall schedule; a world premiere play, written by a good friend of mine.  The play was awesome.  Costuming, however, was not originally on my goal list.  I don't regret doing it.  I went into it, though, knowing I didn't have a lot of emotional flexibity with all the changes I was dealing with, and I got through it, but it was hard.  I am exhausted in a way that I didn't expect would happen because the fall was simply so challenging.

I'm sure I could have added something else to the insanity, but seriously--three major things, plus several deaths in November, have made me think about my life, and where I want to be next year.  True, I want to have goals, right now my energy level makes me think my goals need to be very simple: get through, build space to breathe, use stash, create within the framework you have with the stuff you have, enjoy the process and the people around you, just breathe. 

December 22, 2010

Too much yarn and what I've been doing in my 'spare' time

November was a miserable month.  I did not knit; what I did knit, I ripped out and stashed back into the wall of stash, or gave away in a fit of frustration in small noodly balls of wool. 

Instead, I costumed an original play, called when Santa's Away, written by Ken Cameron.  It was awesome.  It was exhausting, but here are some pictures:
When Santa's Away   Assorted Elves: DD1 is the artist in the center.

December 5, 2010

Best Laid plans...and all that

We all know about plans--right?  How they rarely survive past the first stage of planning because something happens?  A change of plan because of boredom, fabric choice, pattern get the picture. My wardrobe seems to be suffering from Best Laid Plans syndrome.  At least, though, everything is still black.

I did make a black top. 

It wasn't the top I was expecting to make, but that happens, apparently more often than I though.  It is black, it is knit, and it fits.  I think I changed my mind about the wrap top, partially because I was lazy and partly because I was bored.  After reading about tie neck tops, and how well they work in Carolyn's wardrobe,  I wanted to try making a v neck tie top.  Hers are sleeveless.  Mine has long sleeves, a v neck,  and ties that measured 30" by 4 1/2" cut. 

The only things I would change would be to make the v two inches lower, so that the neck isn't so high on me, and to shorten the ties; I'm short.  I don't need 30" of tie, more like 27".  The top is a PMB5 draft, with slightly too much ease.  It was drafted for wovens, with 2" of ease; I made the top from a nice stable knit, and it doesn't need that much ease on me, so I took it in about 2".  But, otherwise, looking good.  The tshirt draft is a really nice draft in the new pmb, much better than the old draft.  The lengths are good, and the shoulder curve is lovely. 

Now to make that top again in something red, and sleeveless. 

December 1, 2010

Endless Black--or surviving back stage as a stage hand

Last week was tech week on the play.  This means that I spent the week plus a day or two, at the theatre--evenings and weekends, while I teach full time.  The good part was the play--it rocks; the cast rocks; the costumes rock. The bad part--well, as crew I'm supposed to wear all black.  And, I usually can, except that I actually ran out of blacks on Saturday.  This is unheard of--how can I possibly run out of all black clothes?  Black is my base colour (or one of them at least).  But, by Sunday I was wearing dark brown pants and a burgundy shirt.  Yep--not black.  This means that my blacks wardrobe needs to be expanded.   I decided to make an all black 6 pack (well, in reality more like a 6 pack plus).   Note:  My husband says that I need to do laundry, but we all know that this really means that I need more clothes.

A 6 pack is normally a bottom, and two sets of layering tops, and a coat.  My six packs are more like two bottoms, and two to three sets of layering tops before the coat. 

This one will end up like this: 
I'm going to call it Backstage Baby.

1.  Funnel neck top--black stretch velvet, made from the Travel Wear two pattern.  Quick, easy, fits really well.  Love it.---done
2.  Vogue wrap top with the huge shawl collar, from some black knit.
3.  Extra--black funnel neck top with white daisies (just because I needed a change, lol)--done.

Wrap layers
4.  Black zipper fleece jacket, in my tnt jacket, a PMB pattern I drafted at least two years ago
5.  Black knee length ruffled sweater with hood (the theatre is cold, and I need to replace the black sweater that is getting sad in its old age)

1.  Silouettes Yoga pants--black texture knit--done.  Great pattern, perfect crotch curve.  I shortened the pattern 5" to fit my short legs, but otherwise this pattern fit out of the envelope. 
2.  RPL stretch crepe as Hollywood waist band bants.

Since I like to sew my wardrobes in outfits, my next outfit will be the Hollywood pants and the vogue wrap top.  Both are turning into tnt patterns.  Quick, easy and cute.  I need to do a little shopping:  I have to go buy more 1 1/4" elastic for the waist band of the pants, since I just finished the roll.  And, I want to make the sweater as a refashion from a polyester ruffle sofa throw, which I need to go purchase.

But, this is a wardrobe at its most basic--what I really wear, what looks good on me, and what is already a tnt pattern.   Not exactly exciting, but I will sure wear all these pieces again and again.  I'm backstage for another play in April.  Maybe, with a little bit of sewing, I won't run out of clothes next time. 

November 30, 2010

Sorrow and Loss

Some Novembers are better than others; this one has been a hard one.  A year ago, Remembrance day, my grandmother died.  We had three deaths at church in a week.  One of them was one I didn't expect at all--her breast cancer had returned, but she had been given about three years.  She lasted two months.  To finish off that, our fish is currently breathing his last.  I will be surprised if he lasts the night. 

Snape has been with us since my youngest was four.   He was named Snape after the Harry Potter character, that first year the book was published, because he ate nearly all the other fish that shared his tank in the first year.  After the second year, we gave up keeping other fish with him.  For the last five years, he has regularly followed us along the glass of his tank every morning, giving us the evil 'feed me' glare.  There is nothing quite like sitting to drink your coffee, and wondering what is looking at  you, only to realize that it is your fish.  He has been our companion through many ups and downs.  And, it will be hard to lose him.

I shouldn't complain--he is nearly eleven years old, and his type of cyclid rarely lives longer than 8 years.  But, seriously, losing him will be hard.  We plan to get other fish (in fact, we were looking at other fish his size, knowing that he was close to elderly and probably wasn't going to last past Christmas), but knowing that and watching it happen are just different experiences.

So, here's to the house cup, and all that I haven't knit for this month.  Here is my sweater, and how far I've gotten.  I'm not going to finish my mitten--I'm having a hard time focusing because of my fish.  And, it isn't an excuse that I want to post on the cup, somehow. 

November 27, 2010

Swap once more

Swap fever has begun again.  For those who don't know, swap is Sewing with a plan (in other words, making a wardrobe that works together).  Not as easy as it sounds, or looks, in my opinion, since I usually end up making two or three pieces that just don't go somehow, and so usually sew 14 or more pieces to get the final eleven.

I completed the very last swap that Julie ever ran, and I've managed to complete two since then, but somehow, last year swap fell by the wayside.  I don't know why, except that I didn't really have an inspiration piece, and it was too....?  I think I just got too busy, and school was extremely stressful towards the end.  Sewing was definitely the last thing on my mind after I was surplused from my position.   I did find a new, and way better, position at a brand new school, but I didn't complete the swap.   And, then I started costuming a play--but that is for another blog post, I think.

The contest this year is here, on Stitcher's Guild.   This year, the options for organizing the eleven garments of the swap are as follows: 

Option #1:
6 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
4 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

Option #2:
2 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
6 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
2 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

Option #3:
5 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
4 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
1 bottom  - jeans, pants, shorts, skirt or kilt.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

3 garments may be purchased or previously sewn.
1 may be knitted or crocheted.

And, every year there is a twist.  This year--Every garment should be made with a technique or feature that you haven't tried, or haven't mastered. 

And here, my friends, is my challenge.  How do I include techniques that I haven't tried or mastered in a wardrobe that isn't full of single amazing inspiration pieces? Those who have done less sewing have a lot more options with this twist, because, let's face it--if you are new to sewing, you haven't mastered a lot.  But, I've been sewing for a long time, and I teach other people to sew for fun.  The things that I haven't mastered or worked at are things like sewing with leather, or traditional tailoring, that don't fit into my casual wash and wear school teacher lifestyle, or a really for garments that are inspiration pieces that you make a wardrobe around.  I'm finding this part of the swap challenge more....challenging....than I expected. 

I think it probably goes without saying that I will be using option 1.  I wear separates, and I don't really wear dresses.  Well, maybe I wear one or two about once every two months.  And, we are going into cold season, so dressing in layers is the norm.  There is snow falling outside as I speak, and I love my wool sweater collection, and pants.  My new room at school also has a wall of windows, which means that the wind cools the room quite effectively, even when the heat is on in the school.  Those sweaters are getting a workout this year.  If I do make dresses, they will be the 'plus' part of the swap--you know, the eleven final pieces, plus all the other stuff that got sewn and works with the wardrobe but didn't make the cut for the photographs LOL. 

My colours are also easy.  Since I started sewing with endless collections, where everything has to go with something else in the closet, I've limited myself to colours that work together well.  So, black (deep grey), blue, red/cranberry, plum, and deep cinnamon brown are the backbone of my clothes colours.  I can't see that changing any time soon.  It makes getting dressed in the morning really easy.

So, enough of the complaining--time to do some problem solving about this swap thing.  There has to be a way of making this work (literally). 

September 29, 2010

What I've been doing for the cup....

 First, there was the dye experiment...all done with food colour.
 Then there was the realization that all our wash cloths were done for. 

 and, the dragon, which is a lot of smoke....
And, what I wish I was working on...the Central Park Hoodie for dd1.

August 6, 2010

Playing with colour

It seems that every time I look at my stash, it is multiplying exponentially. I am always on the lookout to figure out how to use up the stash in some useful manner, particularly those odd balls and bits. One idea is to pull a bunch of balls of stuff, and then, throw the colours into the random stripe generator. What a fun way to just attempt to make a sweater or something else with stripes that aren't matched. On Ravelry, others have used this idea to create blankets and things.

Me--I'm thinking a sweater, bordered in black like my Molly sweater. Except, with more neck shaping and a front band in black to break it up a little.

July 18, 2010

BSJ Hat:

I've been editing my BSJ pattern to create a spreasheet style pattern because I like to check off each row as I go.  I also want to make sure that the numbers are correct as written.   When I have the pattern perfect (or at least closer to perfect)  I will figure out how to upload a link for a  downloadable pdf, for others to enjoy.  In the meantime, here is a a pattern for a matching hat.

6 sts/inch makes a preemie bsj that is 11" around.
Changing the gauge to 4.5 sts/inch (4.5 mm needles, worsted weight wool) makes a 14"  preemie bsj, which is good for a 5-7 lb baby.  One ball of Red Heart will make the whole set.  I made the blue set out of a ball of ombre/paints (3 oz instead of 4 oz), and I had about 2 yards left. 

BSJ matching hat:
Hat is knit back and forth on two needles and then seamed.  Gauge should match sweater.

Cast on 64 stitches.  Knit 20 ridges (40 rows).
Row 1: (k6, k2tog) across row.
Row 2 and all wrong side rows: knit
row 3: (k5, k2tog) across row
row 5: (k4, k2tog) across row
row 7: (k3, k2tog) across row
row 9:  (k2, k2tog) across row
row 11:  (k1, k2 tog) across row
row 12: k2 tog across row.
row 13: k2tog across row.
Finish hat by sewing tail of last row through all stitches to gather.  Sew up side seam. 

BSJ matching booties:
gauge and needle to match sweater.
Booties are knit from the bottom to the ankle, in garter stitch. 
Make 2.
Cast on 35 stitches.  Knit 6 ridges (12 rows).
Toe decreases:
row 1: k15, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k15
row 2: k14, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k14
row 3: k13, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k13
continue in this manner until you are knitting k10, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k10 (23 stitches).
Next--eyelet row:  k2, (yo, k2tog) across row, end k1.
Knit 5 more rows.  Bind off wrong side, knitwise. 
Sew up back seam and bottom of bootie.

Ties (make 2):  Cable cast on 80-90 stitches.  Cast off.  This makes a tie that looks like an icord, but it is much faster.  You could use ribbon instead.  Thread through the eyelet row in the bootie, and tie in a bow. 

March 20, 2010

The spinning wheel--part 2

I made the flyer assembly holder, and it works when it is all strung together.  Or at least, everything moves the way it is supposed to when you move the wheel.  Tee hee.

Pithy notes:

 The flyer assembly has an elbow with a t attached.  The T goes onto the top of the wheel upright.  I cut the connector piece about 2" long, just long enough to connect the two pieces with very little showing, which lets the flyer assembly be directly above the wheel.  The upright part where the front of the flyer assembly sits is 4" long. On the top of this upright, I drilled a part hole (with difficulty!), and then madly sanded the whole thing, because it was rough and would make a mess.  It sits nicely in the depression now.

The piece connecting the t to the back elbow is 4" long, and can be adjusted back and forth so it will be in the right position for the flyer.  The hole for the back upright to line the whole thing up is at the 4" mark; it is a 3/8" hole so there is a little bit of movement for putting the flyer assembly into the flyer holder. I still need a brake assembly on the back of the flyer assembly holder, but that will happen tomorrow. 

Still thinking through the footman and pedal assembly.  My wheel doesn't turn on the front post--the post goes through the whole thing, and doesn't move, so the plan to attach the footman drive to the post won't work.  I need to drill a hole in the wheel to attach a footman upright and the pedal.  But, I can see it working. 

March 19, 2010

The spinning wheel--part 1

I want a spinning wheel.  I don't need it, but I want it. 

I've tried drop spindling, and it makes my hands ache from the twisting, and then I have trouble writing; drop spindling is not for me.   My mom offered me her wheel as a loan.  It is a traditional style Canadian wheel,  but the orifice is 17" off the ground.  I have to sit on a 6" stool to spin.  That was great when I was 10 and learning to spin, but I can't do that now with the way my hip keeps deciding not to work, or my knee creaks.  It is a great wheel for her, though. There is no way I can talk the man into a spinning wheel made of wood.  The least expensive one I have seen is about $600, and it goes up from there.  I also prefer the centered wheel style of wheel, like a Kiwi, or a folding wheel, like the Ashford Traveller ($800 to $900 where I am).  Definitely not in the budget with the older one going to university in the fall. 

So, in the spirit of "Can Do" that I grew up with, I started gathering bits and pieces and making plans to make my own wheel.  This is a record of my process; I don't know it if will work or not, but, hey, it is worth an experiment or two.  Right?

I've done a lot of research online.  There are not a lot of diy wheel plans, except for the great wheel style.  The great wheel is a spindle based wheel without a foot pedal drive.  It works well for cotton and fine yarns, but it takes up a fair bit of space.  The chakra spinning wheel is a smaller version of this wheel.  There is a more traditional style plan, available from a wood working site, but, well, I'm not going to talk anyone into turning a wheel for me.  And, the wood alone is more than I want to invest.   The electric spinning wheel here is a great plan, and those who have made it love it.  But, I want to have foot pedal  power that is not dependent on electricity. My goal is to make a babe inspired wheel.  I like the idea of their wheels, and the cost, and the light weight, but two or three hundred dollars is still out of my budget. Eventually I will get one, with a woollee winder.  Right now, I want to try and make a wheel of my own. 

You can make everything for a spinning wheel, including the flyer head and the bobbins.  The most reasonable plans for a flyer and bobbins I've seen are included with the electric wheel plans.  But, after looking a long time at the electric spinner, I decided that I was not going to make the flyer and bobbins.  Maybe with the next spinning wheel, or as a variation of this one.  I purchased an Ashford Traveller fly assembly and three bobbins, for about $85.  The assembly came with a drive band, a brake band and an orifice threading hook (yeah!).  The only problem with the Ashford flyer, though, is that the drive wheels are on the front of the flyer, and all of the pvc style spinning wheels I have seen have the drive assembly at the back of the flyer.  It was a small set back; my original plan had to be changed a bit.  Well, a lot.  The good part about this style though, is that the issues with the flyer head popping out of the front of the PVC holding pipe will probably be eliminated, since I'm expecting that the drive band will hold it down. 

The frame of the wheel will be made of 1" plumbing pipe--the cream coloured incredibly hard pipe that is very sturdy.  The short sides are cut 13" (so far); front long side is 18"; the back sides are 8 1/4" on either side of the T connector to fit the upright.  I've cut the upright 22 inches, and marked the hole spot for the wheel an inch above center.  The wheel is a 17" plastic wheel rim for a bmx bike, that cost me $20 at a second hand bike shop.  Including the glue and the pipe cutter, I've spent about $70.  (Yeah, I know--I could have bought a babe for that; but now it is the challenge of the thing, right).

Next--to figure out how to put together the flyer assembly, and the line it up with the wheel. 

March 1, 2010

Body of the dragon

This is the body of the dragon (one third of the whole thing!).  It is way bigger than I expected (about 23 inches before the head or the feet).

February 28, 2010

Olympic Sweater, but the gold was wishful thinking.

Like the last time, my goal was to knit an olympic sweater.  Perhaps if that had been the only thing I was doing, I would have made it, but I also made another sweater this month, and part of a dragon. 

Here is the   olympic hoodie, not yet blocked on its intended recipient:

I got the hood half way done, and realized that it would not make the closing ceremonies deadline with two sleeves to go.  So, this week, my goal is to finish the sleeves, put in the zipper, and work on my other unfinished projects (including my dragon).  

Crochet Blanket of Doom

Well, hoping to use up stash, I started this:
I'm a third of the way along, and so far, so good (but I'm still a knitter at heart.)

January 12, 2010

Knitting again

DD1 found some soon to be recycled yarn in the mysterious bags and asked to learn to knit again.  Yippee.

January 2, 2010


I love the idea of a single word focus for the year. It lets you evaluate all your goals, and simplify your thoughts and ideas.  My touch word this year will be Explore.
  1. explore new horizons, and learn 10 new techniques in knitting, like knitting with thrums, and double knitting
  2. explore a new technique and craft: learn how to crochet, including reading patterns
  3. explore my stash of stuff, and what it can do for me, and what I can do with it, letting go of what isn’t helping me explore the possibilities, and explore the things I can do with what is left.  This is a ten out before a ball or pattern or yard of fabric in kind of goal.
  4. explore a consistent goal of one sweater a month, and the discipline of being focused for a long period of time
  5. explore how to connect with others more often in RL (join a knitting group, have people over to play cards once a month, be part of a community)
  6. explore a healthy lifestyle–including going to the gym, eating more vegetables, and learning how to destress from work, which is really important for me, as I teach middle school children and I prefer little ones
  7. explore life as debt free–work on establishing habits that let my debts decrease, and my life be full without stuff