(dis)comfort zone...

as a dyeing enthusiast with some (debatable) aptitude for the craft, it would be easily assumed that i have a fondness for color.  to the contrary, i tend to live life in greyscale, so it took a great deal of willpower to finally go ahead and dye some yarn for my next planned adventure.  there i was, yesterday evening, preparing multiple small batches to achieve the necessary palette for a pair of scarves inspired by one small bird... more on that at some later date.

luckily, it's arid enough indoors that they were all dry by the time i got out of bed.  i draped the hanks across a south-facing window and spent most of today staring at them with equal parts awe and fright.  grant it, some of the yarn is black, but the rest of it is not.  this is so far outside my comfort zone, i'm not sure how i will cope.

don't let the sunshine fool you... it is well below freezing outside.  this winter glow is just a clever trick to lure unsuspecting travelers to their doom.

the yarn is some sport-weight, 100% superwash Merino wool leftover from the recent blanket for my friend's baby boy.  i used Dharma Acid Dyes in the following colors (from left to right):

- brilliant yellow with the tiniest hint of blazing orange
- equal parts blazing orange and brilliant yellow
- blazing orange with a splash of brilliant yellow
- peacock blue (2 hanks)
- true black (3 hanks)

it may not be obvious from these images, but this black is black, and a little bit goes a long way.

i also knitted up a small swatch (a sample, for the non-knitting world) for a toque for my favorite animator (because it is terribly embarrassing for him to be walking around with a Nike® hat, especially when you can't move in our place without tripping over a bag of yarn).  and, as if to prove what a total anachronism i am, i did the math to figure out how many stitches are needed for said headwear using an ancient device known as a five-function calculator (although, this one also has a % button, so it may technically qualify as a six-function model).  this was purchased for the grand sum of $5 US, back when i was teaching a summer course in Statistics and my fancy programmable calculator (the one they made us buy back in undergrad for all those Science labs) died on me while composing a lecture, so i purchased the first calculator i found... and it still works!

i'm not sure where these froggy pincushions came from, but there are a few of them floating around the apartment.  i need to tighten the "eyeballs" before they fall off and get lost, but that involves finding a needle and thread, and... well... that would be far too simple.

oh... and i stumbled upon this object on the bathroom floor.  judging from the size of the holes, i'm guessing the little grey kitty was involved.  poor pencil never knew what hit it.


flowers for my mother...

Mom decided she wanted a headband with a decorative flower on it... so i made her three!!!  this sort of thing is way outside my comfort zone (it's far too cute for my style), so i had to employ my own version of suspension of disbelief before rising to the challenge.  i don't want to give the whole process away, but vodka does play a role.

i started a Pinterest board to keep track of some of the more interesting options, and Mom narrowed the field down to the three or four that suited her best and left the final decision to me.  i settled on the two that least brought on my allergy to girlish-cuteness (it's a real medical condition, i swear)... plus an additional one that i'd formulated in honor of my governing principle... Laziness.

first, there was the crocheted headband with the big flower that she liked very much, but i prefer the look of knitted fabric, so i cast on and made a basic ribbed headband.  i generally try to avoid crocheting (chiefly, because i don't want to be talked into making doilies or anything else of that completely pointless nature), but i did dust off a hook long enough to make a large flower for decorative purposes.

(on Ravelry)

the ends overlap at the back (wish i could say this was planned, but i got carried away and made it a bit longer than intended)...

 ... and it's fastened with a pretty coconut-shell button.

next, there was the Parisian Twist Headband that Mom also liked. to be honest, i made the exact, same headband base as before, except i split it into two strips after the increase section, then twisted and rejoined them before beginning the decrease section.

(on Ravelry)

i opted for two smaller buttons this time, also made of coconut shells (i have a ton of them in different sizes and designs).

for the third (and final) headband, i decided to use one of my favorites... the broken rib stitch.  or, as i like to call it, texture for dummies.  this stitch is incredibly easy to do, but it produces a beautiful ribbed effect that knits up quickly and lays flat, which is why it's so popular for things like blankets and other wide expanses of fabric in desperate need of a bit of lazy texture.

(on Ravelry)

and, in keeping with the theme of unnecessary cuteness, i added a small flower (knitted this time)...  

accented with a large, silver button...

and a matching button at the back.

 but wait... there's more!  this cowl was made for Mom more than a year ago, but it got tucked away in a bag of yarn and disappeared into the ever-expanding, alternate realm that is my fiber stash.

(on Ravelry)

so, now, Mom gets three headbands and a cowl, and i get... well, i get rid of less than 1% of the yarn congesting my apartment.  it's as if it never happened.


post without pictures...

when i decided to start this virtual diary of some of my attempts at distracting myself into (some degree of) sanity, i did so with a few basic understandings:

- i don't talk about anything (even marginally) personal.  i value my privacy, as well of that of my friends and family, so this blog is mostly focused on the absurd and (often) pointless things i do to kill time.

- i don't discuss politics, religion, or anything of that nature.  seriously... i do not make a habit of walking up to total strangers on the street and opening a conversation with comments on either subject, so i don't make (even passing) comments about such in this forum.

and, most importantly...

- i don't express my negative opinions (of which there are many... trust me) about stuff.  sure, i may gripe about the inhumane winters or the absence of caramel corn on this side of the border (seriously, Canada... get it together), but i am always excited to share the general silly things we do around here in the name of craftiness.

i started knitting and spinning when i was back in grad school, incredibly stressed out, and contemplating if it was worth the torture of seeing it through to the end of my doctorate (it was not... trust me, but i stuck it out anyway).  for that reason, i really try to maintain said activities as a happy escape from the rest of life.  as ridiculous as it may sound, pulling out the old dye pot and a few bundles of wool is my idea of meditation.

which is why it pains me to depart from that last self-imposed "rule" just long enough to express two of my (many) pet-peeves... but it's somewhat relevant, as it relates to the stuff i generally talk about.

1.  the overuse of terms like organic and free-range in recipes.  just stop it!  if i'm reading a recipe for what appears to be a really tasty cake, and i come across "3 free-range, organic eggs" (or something similar) in the recipe list... i automatically close the tab and move on.  no kidding.  i have nothing against either organic or free-range (or eggs, for that matter), but i trust that the reader is capable of making food choices that fit their lifestyle... and budget.

which brings me to the second peeve...

2. yarn snobbery.  i love wool.  no... seriously... i LOVEEE wool.  i daydream about someday owning a few sheep and maybe an alpaca (if she/he promises not to spit at me), so i totally get why people gush over the prospect of working with natural, animal fibers.  however, there is an implication of both practicality and affordability in the world of do-it-yourself crafting that seems to get overlooked when discussing fiber content of knitwear.  i am not a fan of high-content acrylic yarns, because i really don't like the look and texture of most of the ones i've encountered, to date.  however, there are a lot of really interesting blends out there that take advantage of the best qualities of both worlds, resulting in attractive and... yes... affordable yarns for general consumption.  if the look and feel of the fiber suit your needs, that's all that matters in the end.  life is too short to waste time looking down your nose at other people because they did not buy a dozen balls of high-end yarn (at like $20 USD, or more, per ball).  seriously... spending a couple hundred dollars on enough yarn to make one sweater. then talking about the "savings" over buying a sweater in the store is ridiculous.  what most professional knitwear designers don't tell you is that they either work for/with the yarn company whose products they use... or... they receive freebies from companies in the hopes that they'll use said items in their designs (which amounts to free advertising for the manufacturer).  either way... they're not paying for the 18 balls of luxury fiber they just recommended to you, so there is zero need for you to feel any less proud of your finished object.

i strongly encourage everyone with whom i engage in any contact beyond mindless small talk (i hate small talk, but that's a whole different topic) to find some activity they're passionate about, and just go for it.  some people find a whole new career path, and others (like me) find some small measure of happiness that makes all the stupid stuff in life a little bit more tolerable.

now, pardon me while i wedge my foot out from under a cat and get the dye pot going for what will (eventually.... hopefully) become a warm, fuzzy sweater for self.  i've taken at least a couple hundred photos today, so maybe i'll talk myself into posting a few of them once the yarn is dyed and dried... maybe.


deep in the heart of winter...

having survived the recent deep-freeze and the cold/flu epidemic that tagged along for the ride, i am back to using the dreariness of deep winter as an excuse for eating yummy things.  i had fried plantain slices and a Mineola orange for lunch every day this week...

and we took a break from eating marathon amounts of sarma (the subject of my very first post here) to enjoy a dinner of homemade calzones...

stuffed with spicy Italian sausage and a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.  i even tossed in some fresh rosemary and oregano from my window herb box...

and served them up along with a very rustic marinara.  by rustic, i mean... too lazy to chop the garlic, so i just smashed the cloves and left them whole.  [the sauce is usually served on the side and NEVER inside the calzone.  if there's sauce inside, then you're not eating a calzone.]

i've also discovered a recent fascination with pears.  it's usually a bit of a his and hers situation around here with him reaching for the pears in the market while i gravitate toward the apples and grapes. but,  i can't seem to get my fill of the delicious pears we've been getting lately...

which means that there's probably another upside-down pear cake in the near future (this one was from a few months ago, and it was yummm).

on the fiber end of the diet, i've been doing a lot of dyeing and even a touch of spinning in the last few weeks.  i finally got around to to finishing up the merino top i started working on waaay back in October.  this drop spindle was a gift from my Sweetie when i first started spinning for sanity back in grad school.  it is still the only one i have that i did not make myself.

the wool was dyed during last spring/summer's dyeing frenzy, in a combination inspired by my calico kitty...

i added a healthy splash of goldish-yellow to the mix for bright cheerfulness.

to preserve the color changes, i split the top lengthwise into 4 thinner sections and lightly pre-drafted each into a loose nest all ready for spinning...

into a single-ply, fingering weight yarn.

i left it on the niddy noddy for several days...

but there was still quite a bit of twist in the end.

it needs a soak to set the twist, but... that is some mighty sweet-looking yarn, if i do say so myself.


road tested...

it was -35°C (-31°F, to my fellow Americans) out last night, and i'm still getting over something that keeps crossing the line between the flu and the common cold... so, naturally, this was the perfect time to put my deep-winter gear to the test.  after 10 minutes standing on the sidewalk, listening to strings of profanity being whispered by folks passing by (it's a time-honored method for staying warm in the extreme cold of Montreal winter), i came to the conclusion that this is officially the most awesome hat on the planet.

the pattern is Sunflower Tam from Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature.  the yarn is a bulky baby alpaca, purchased from my LYS (local yarn store, for the uninitiated) when they were still located near le Marché Atwater... way back when Montreal was just a place i visited in between semesters (before i lost my mind and decided it's where i wanted to stay).  i knitted the hat around 2008, when i was lecturing in Massachusetts, but it proved far too warm for even the coldest of days, so i shoved it in a bag with plans to recycle the yarn into some other project.

until... i found myself rushing out in a hurry last night, and neither the go-to fuzzy purple slouch nor the slightly-less-loved rose-pink beret were anywhere to be found, so i stuck my hand into the box of random knitted accessories above the coat rack... and out came this forgotten gem.

because this is "a Norah" (trust me, her designs are that recognizable), it has to be more than just a run-of-the-mill warm hat.  this one features an array of cables that mimic the growth pattern of the humble sunflower.

there's even a little corded "stem" to add to the cuteness factor.  perfect!


bienvenue à 2014...

to be perfectly honest, the Holiday season is typically not my favorite time of the year, but i made a concerted effort not to be a total Scrooge this time around. apparently it worked a bit too well, as not a single one of my attempted photos of our Christmas dinner (lamb, roasted baby potatoes and whole mushrooms, and sugar snap peas) turned out even remotely in focus.  guess it could be said that i didn't exactly get into the Christmas spirit, though quite a bit of the Christmas spirit got into my glass.  cheers!!!

yesterday, i stepped into the -20°C (that's roughly -5°F for my fellow Americans) Montreal air just long enough to carry the trash out to the corner of the building, and by the time i got back inside, my lungs were absolutely screaming in pain. slumped there on the floor just inside the apartment door, coughing so that my whole body shook violently, i was struck with the disappointing realization that this was how i would start the New Year.  i usually complain non-stop when i'm sick.  luckily, i have the internet and a lot of yarn to keep me distracted.

this was a swatch i knitted and blocked on the previous night.  it's a little honeycomb lace over 3x1 ribbing done in a sport-weight mercerized cotton yarn. i twisted the stitches in the ribbed section at the top, which made it a bit too tight for the lace, so i will stick with the regular ribbing, like at the bottom of the sample.  this is intended to be knitted in the round (i.e., in a tube), so i carried the yarn across the back of the work at the end of each row, so that the knitting was all done on the right (front) side of the piece.  the carried strands were cut before blocking, meaning that i won't be able to unravel the swatch and reclaim the yarn if needed, but it was worth the sacrifice.

it even looks good from the back side... which, i'm sure you will agree, is never a bad thing.

i did a bit of experimenting while sorting through the Cheviot fleece i purchased last month.  this was my first time spinning in the grease (which simply means, before washing any of the dirt or grease from the raw wool).  i purchased a pound of lightly-washed wool some years back, and it was an absolute joy to feel the slippery fibers slide through my fingers as i spun, but this was my very first time spinning the stuff as it comes right from the animal.

after washing with a small amount of the baby shampoo i keep exclusively for yarns and fibers, it looks pretty good in the magical glow of the screen.  i'm already looking forward to the Spring shearing season so that i can get my hands on a fresh, greasy fleece.