Thursday, June 28, 2007

W.I.P. Friday: Mystery Swatch

I'm putting up my W.I.P. a day early because I figured that my Mystery Stole #3 swatch might be helpful to a few people out there. Mystery Stole officially begins tomorrow and I must say, I'm finding it overwhelming. I tend to work in a fairly solitary way and I've never encountered such a busy KAL. I usually don't join the yahoo group things, and I must say, the amount of digest emails I'm getting is starting to drive me a little bonkers. Not that there's anything wrong with everyone's enthusiasm (I think the Mystery Stole ladies are awesome) -- it's just not what I'm used to.

Anyway -- my swatch is posted above. I'm using Misti Alpaca Laceweight (colour: natural white) with a US #3 needle (3.25mm). I'm thinking it's the right amount of lacy-ness and the gauge is good.

I've also started on my Charade socks. They're totally addictive. Pictures and stuff to come once I've knitted a little bit more.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sockapalooza, I Hardly Knew Ye

Well, the knitting part of my Sockapalooza experience is over, over, over. Yesterday I finished stitching up the toe of my pal's second sock. So all I have to do is wash them (obviously, since I'm wearing them in these pictures -- I do have respect for my pal's personal hygiene), pack them up and wait a month to send them. Since my pal seems to appreciate a good yarn more than a super complex pattern, I think she'll like them. Anyway, here are the specs:

Go With The Flow Socks by Evelyn A. Clark (from Favourite Socks and the Spring 2005 Interweave Knits)
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Mixed Berries
Needle: U.S. #1 DPNs
Mods: I skipped the lacy cuff and just did a 2 by 2 rib cuff.

So, I think these will work well. My pal's feet are slightly longer than mine and much wider, so I made the socks about an inch and a half longer than I would have for myself. The foot is incredibly stretchy, so I think that extra inch will accommodate the width of her foot as the sock stretches. Shepherd Sock was, as always, a pleasure to work with and while there was a little bit of pooling, I think these two socks make a good match. The pattern was fun, but mindless enough to work on while watching TV or sitting outside of Ruby's pre-school class waiting. All in all, a super success!

So, what now? Well, my Ravelry page has the Charade socks listed as a WIP, but I haven't even wound the yarn yet. On an impulse I signed up for Mystery Stole 3, so I sped to Make 1 yesterday to pick up some white lace-weight yarn. Right now I'm swatching. I'm thinking that I'll probably never wear an intricate white lace stole, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Expect much frustration, since I've never done any lace more complicated than fancy socks. Hello charts!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Self Portrait Challenge: My Environment

I am a reluctant garden. I enjoy my garden so much -- I just don't enjoy the actual gardening part. We inherited our amazingly beautiful garden, complete with lawn ornaments, from the previous owners of the house, who loooooved to garden. I promised myself that I wouldn't ruin what the left us, but it's hard.

So here I am, in my beautiful garden, feeling much like a did when I was a new mother: just praying that I can get through the summer without many major injuries to the plants.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


We: went to a really nice craft fair; walked down the street; ate Montreal smoked meat; visited friends for a barbecue; watched the kids play in the sandbox; ate raspberries; drank Prosecco to celebrate a huge achievement by a friend; drove to the badlands for a family reunion; visited the hoodoos; took country roads; raised some dust; ate some treats...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And The Livin' Is Easy

Happy summer! I'm celebrating summer with a few other online pals via Andrea's summer postcard swap. Now, I'm not much of a visual artist (okay, I'm not a visual artist at all) and I'm not a scrapbooker and I'm not a paper craft wiz by any stretch of the imagination, but that Andrea is so inclusive in her thinking that I felt comfortable enough with my meager collages to participate. And I like using glue. And I really like mail. So there you have it.

My theme was close to that of the Valentine's swap I did a while back -- I'm so obsessed with the pictures and text from old romance novels that I had to return to that whole motif. I've never actually made it through one of these novels, but I love their whole vibe, if in a slightly ironic way (though not too ironic to be honest). Plus, there's never a shortage of them at the thrift stores. So, I cut up some Harlequins and threw in a couple Sweet Valley Highs as well (a series that I also have the urge to collect even though I haven't read one since I was about 10). I also used a really cute kids book that I got at a garage sale -- the drawings are really kitschy, but the text is pretty horrid, so it didn't make it into Ruby's permanent collection.

The due date for the swap is today, but with Ruby having thrown up before lunch (flu? Motion sickness? Heatstroke? Over-excitement? Could be any of the above), it may be tomorrow since I still have to get envelopes since they probably won't stand the international post system. Bon Voyage little cards! I can hardly wait to see what finds its way into my own mailbox.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book Review: Bend-The-Rules Sewing

Wow. I've been excited about Bend-The-Rules-Sewing ever since author Amy Karol announced it on her much-loved blog Angry Chicken months and months ago. Billed as "the essential guide to a whole new way to sew" (which I'm guessing are the publisher's words, not necessarily Amy's own), the book is like a how-to to following the Angry Chicken aesthetic and sewing sensibility, which as Amy's readers know is all about cute and easy projects that are fun, functional, sometimes silly and often kid-friendly.

As many of you know, I love the idea of sewing projects, but I'm scared to actually take very many of them on. I mean, it took me almost a year to take my sewing machine out of the manufacturer's box. So many sewing books assume that you know how to make a buttonhole or how to apply a snap or what slip stitch is, which makes even easy projects intimidating. Amy is great in that she doesn't assume that you're a total idiot if you don't understand these things, but she still explains them all simply enough that even if you are a sewing know-not, it's easy to understand. It's all written in the same conversational style that she uses on Angry Chicken, making the book and its author immediately friendly and likable. It's like she's cheering us scaredy-cats on gently, but firmly.

Of course, the meat of the book is in its projects and unsurprisingly there are dozens that I'm dying to try. Bags, tea cozies, pillows, quilts and of course, Amy's signature aprons are all in here. The pictures are gorgeous and Amy's great taste in fabric makes every single project that much more enticing. And most of them seem pretty simple, so again, there's zero intimidation.

I started off with what is without a doubt the easiest project in the book, if not the easiest project to ever employ a sewing machine: the tea towel apron. Basically, you sew some ribbon onto a tea towel and tie it around your waist. Yup. So, above you see myself in an apron celebrating one of my favourite foods, Yorkshire Pudding. I also made one from a thrifted barber shop motif tea towel that I had lying around. Thrifting and sewing together? It couldn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Socks Pour Moi?

Now that I've turned the heel on the second of my pal's Sockapalooza socks, I figure that it's okay to think about knitting a pair of socks for myself (somehow it always slips my mind that there's a stranger out there in the world knitting a pair of socks for me). I was over at I May Be Knitting A Ranch House and couldn't help but notice some Lorna's Laces that Sandra had purchased in this really amazing colourway. Mischievous Sandra pointed me to where I could buy the stuff (the colourway is called "Downy") and I just couldn't resist it. It's lovely, no?

So, once my Go With The Flows are done, I'm going to dive into a pair of Charades, in honour of the aforementioned Sandra, who happened to design the pattern. I think it's only fitting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Word To The Daddies

I know it's a day early, but Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads out there. The man of our house is returning today after over two weeks of business travel in Europe and boy, are we happy to have him back. Here's a photo from our archives. Ruby would like to point out to everyone that she now has far more hair.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Crown Me

In an attempt to feel productive, I finished up another little Crownie that had been sitting on my shelf half-stuffed for ages. He's made out of some completely awesome vintage upholstery fabric that I bought at the Goodwill a few months ago. I like him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Buys And Dolls

I was truly raring to thrift this weekend (I'm training Ruby early), but after promising my neighbour that I'd join her at the zoo on Saturday morning, I was fearful that it was going to be a no go. As we drove to the zoo I bit my lip as we drove past so many garage sale signs, including one that read "Huge Estate Sale." Eeep. I rarely venture to the sales on Sundays, because there's hardly any point, but my curiosity got the best of me and I dragged Ruby to that estate sale. All I can say is "wow."

Estate sales kind of get me down. While they offer terrific thrifting opportunities, it's also really sad and often creepy to dig through a deceased person's stuff. The woman who owned the stuff from this particular sale was particularly interesting -- according to her daughter, the lady spent the bulk of the past 30 years doing crafts (yah!) and sitting in front of the TV, ordering dolls from the Home Shopping Channel. After rummaging through her craft stuff (nothing piqued my interest) and books (I snagged some old Golden Books for Roo) I ventured into the basement of the house, where, in a small room, at least 200 dolls were still up for sale. Two hundred. It was one of the most glorious/most depressing things I've ever seen. Piles of dolls, and not even necessarily collector's dolls, mostly unclothed, stacked in an unfinished basement. I let Ruby choose one doll (after rejecting her initial choices because I was afraid they'd come to life in the middle of the night and kill me in my sleep). Ruby's doll is named Anya (she came with a little name badge) and she's part of a set released to celebrate the birth of some quintuplets that were born in Ontario in the '80s. I also picked up a suitcase of Barbie clothes (for the future), a suitcase of doll's clothes, a little doll's cradle and then got the hell out of there.

I also managed to find some crockery this week, after lamenting to Leena that Pyrex is getting so hard to find. At the aforementioned estate sale I got a nice divided depression glass plate (which Leena herself tried to buy on Saturday, but at that point the woman was asking three times as much as she gave it to me for). Not satisfied with my haul, I went to the Sally Ann on Monday and found a boon of Pyrex. I ended up with two casseroles (one in Verde, one in Butterfly Gold) and a covered Verde divided serving dish. I also found a really sweet glass chip 'n' dip set with a cherry and gold leaf pattern. Score!

Friday, June 08, 2007

W.I.P. Friday and Bonus Thrift-o-rama!

I joined a postcard swap hosted by the lovely and talented Andrea and I'm feeling like I've so little time to cut and paste. But, I managed to get four of my 12 cards done this week. The very loose theme of the swap is "summer," and I've taken on a mini-theme of "summer reading," taking most of my material from this really weird kids book that I bought at a garage sale last week. I kind of like them.

Speaking of garage sales, there has been a very tiny bit of thrifting over here. Ruby likes the adventure of hitting the garage sales, since there's usually a toy or two to be found, so we hit the road on Saturday without so much as a map or a newspaper to point us to the goods. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Royal Doulton-style figurines, so I've decided to start Ruby a collection of prissy ceramic dolls for when she's older. Hence the fancy porcelain lady you see. Then, just today, I happened upon this milk glass pie plate, which is exactly the kind of thing I go nuts for. I'm finding the milk glass pieces few and far between in garage sale land, so I was happy to snap it up.

And, from a church garage sale last week, a couple issues of McCall's Needework & Crafts -- one from 1963, the other from 1966. Check out the Wilma Flintstone chic!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We're Halfway There

One down, one to go. Last night I managed to complete my first Sockapalooza sock and I'm lucky that my sock pal's feet are bigger than mine, because if this thing fit me properly, I'd probably be keeping it. It is, as previously reported, a Go With The Flow sock from Interweave's Favourite Socks book (and the magazine before that). I hate to sound like a broken record, but I apologize for the lousy photo -- not only am I still using my parents' awful old camera that insists on flashing all the time, but there's no natural light here as it's been raining something fierce (this city's weather is very dramatic). I guess this all means that by the time the second sock is finished and I have my regular camera back there will be a much more breathtaking reveal. Because I assume if you're still reading this, you're the type who finds socks breathtaking.

Anyway, I've heard so many horror stories about Lorna's Laces variegated sock yarn and pooling and all that, but I think these ones look pretty good. Variegated yarns all tend to get kind of goofy around the gusset area, but I can live with that and I'm sure my pal can too.

While there's still a month and a half before these socks are due to be sent off, I'm glad I started early. I haven't been getting a lot done these days and with a couple other swap things on the go, I may not be finished as far ahead as I'd dreamed. Stay tuned for progress on sock #2.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Return To The Valley Of The Shawls

What's more difficult than knitting a lace shawl? Photographing it. Apologies to all -- my regular trusty camera isn't available, so I'm borrowing an ancient digital camera of my parents' which doesn't have a "no flash" setting. Yikes. So, these pictures don't do my beautiful shawl justice. Plus, I'm all frazzled, because I'm operating on zero sleep (that's what'll happen when you host an all-girl slumber party, even though you have a toddler who wants to get up at 5 a.m. so she can see the ladies who slept over -- insanity).

Pie-Wedge Shawl pattern from the ball band on the yarn I used
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace in Gray's Corner
Needle: Uh, I think it was a U.S. #7 circular...
Mods: Absolutely none. None, I'm tellin' ya.

I don't think I can even really call this a lace shawl, because, aside from a few eyelets and a saw-tooth edge, this baby is pure garter stitch. This piece is all about the yarn, because basically it's just straight garter -- aside from the saw-teeth all I had to remember to do was turn the piece two stitches early at the end of every other row. Easy. I still managed to bungle up the top a bit by weirdly unravelling and dropping a bunch of stitches, which was hard to repair, since it was where the short rows were their shortest. But, I pretty much faked it and it ended up looking fine. Since the gauge is so loose, anything really goes with this shawl.

So, was the Helen's Lace worth $65? Abso-freakin-lutely. Oh boy, is this fabric ever soft and luxurious and so so spongey. Before I bought it I extensively handled the sample shawl in the store and was amazed by its sheer spongey-ness. And it's also light enough that it can easily be bunched up and worn as a scarf. I love it. I've already had occasion to wear it and with Calgary's hot days and mercifully cool nights I think it'll get a lot of mileage.

Oh, and to prove my crap photography skills/lousy camera, here's an outtake of my "photo shoot" of me actually wearing it. As they'd say on America's Next Top Model (or, the even more awesome Canada's Next Top Model) "and this is your best shot!" Yikes.