Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Death of a Wonderful Old Codger

I am saddened to hear that Gore Vidal has died - he was (as I've pointed out before) one of my favourite American cultural and political voices.  In his later years, his cantankerous nature shone through, and I can only hope to be so unabashed in my own twilight.

I refer you again to the last interview I saw him do, several years ago.  Opinionated and argumentative and downright bitchy... gotta love it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Horoscope Shawl

Way back in May, I showed you a progress photo of a wrap that I was weaving.  I finally got the finished project shots back from my photographer, so now I can give you the whole story.

When I was a beginning weaver, I did a lot of websurfing to look at weaving projects.  Somewhere along the way, I ran across Bonnie Tarses' website, and found inspiration in her work.  She was creating these pieces based on horoscopes - she would make a sort of map of the sky in the moment a person was born, and use colour and texture to indicate the position of the astrological houses and planets in that moment.  I was entranced by their beauty, and although I thought it was well beyond my skill level at that point, I ordered myself a kit to make one.

Having made a lot of other things in the meantime, the horoscope shawl was always in the back of my mind, and this year when my birthday rolled around, I thought it would be a perfect time to bring this project to the head of my weaving queue.

Winding the warp was the intimidating part - it involved 12 different colours of Bambu 7, being wound in a very specific order, often with two (or three or four) alternating.  It was a challenge to get it right, while keeping the cross intact and not ending up with a tangled mess of spools on the floor.

After the warp was wound, it was a relatively easy process to dress the loom (thanks to a couple of really helpful tips from Bonnie) and then the weaving itself was simple and meditative, being just a basic plain weave in one colour of Bambu 12.  Throughout the weaving process, I spent a lot of time just admiring the colours, stroking it and feeling the texture of the "planets" nestled in the smooth fabric.

The finished product is a soft and colourful wrap - bamboo yarn has a great hand and drapes like a dream.  As you can see, I added a band of blue to either side of the horoscope, to widen the wrap a bit, and make it a more appropriate size for me.  I think it ended up just about perfect, and look forward to using it to brighten up some outfits, on dressy occasions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jester Socks

It was finally cool enough for five minutes yesterday for me to put on these socks for a quick photo shoot.  I finished them a while ago (and in fact am more than halfway through yet another pair of stockingette socks) and really wanted to show them off.

I know I've already shown a couple of photos of these ones, while they were in the making, but I can't help but think they're just the cutest.  The colour combo is pretty wild, and the little zigzag borders just make me smile every time I see them.

There is nothing particularly remarkable to say about these, although the components of them make them great - the leftover TFA cashmere-blend yarn, the aforementioned stranded-knit zigzags, and the simple backdrop of mindless stockingette to show it all off.  Love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brew Mistress

While the fiber arts are my main passions, I am also an aspiring DIY-er in many other fields, as well.  Artisan breads and cheeses, homemade wine... I have a lot of plans, but most of them take a lot of space and/or equipment.  Living in an apartment means my space is limited, and buying so much beautiful yarn has certainly limited my funds.

Some time ago I found a beermaking kit online that interested me because it was both simple and economical.  Rather than expensive and spacious carboys and buckets and grainmills, this system uses a relatively small 2-gallon PET keg to ferment the beer, and that's about pretty much all the equipment I need.  The smaller volume is perfect for me, too, since smaller batches mean more chances to play around and create something new.

The starter kit I got (on amazon.ca - yay free shipping!) came with two types of ready-made beer mixes, a pale ale and a golden lager - light beers are not my personal preference, but what the heck, they're nice for summer.  I made the first batch (a simple American Blonde Ale) precisely according to the instructions, since that gave me a chance to get used to the process.  It took me maybe a half hour to have it ready to go, and then I had to wait patiently for a couple of weeks to allow it to ferment, before I got to bottle it.  After bottling, I gave it a week to carbonate, then another week and a half to condition (which allows the yeast to do some more work and improve the flavour.)  On Monday, I finally cracked the first bottle and gave it a taste.

As I expected, it's a very basic blonde ale, nothing fancy.  Being an unfiltered homebrew, it is cloudier than most macrobrews, both from the proteins and the yeast suspended in it.  If my response to the first pint is any indication, it seems a lot stronger than the 3.7% than it's purported to be, although I couldn't calculate the actual percentage of alcohol until I get a hydrometer (why do hobbies always require more equipment?)  Today I put a wedge of lemon in there and it brightened it up quite a bit.

I have big plans for my next keg - something a bit darker, a bit stronger, a bit hoppier...  I'll let you know, by the end of summer, when it's ready.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunny With A Chance of Lazy

The weather here is pretty unbearably hot, right now.  It's been in the low 30s all week, and without air conditioning, there's been a lot of laying around and sweating, while wearing barely anything.  Luckily I had enough foresight to buy a Fast Pop maker a couple of weeks ago, which actually freezes juice into popsicles in literally 10 minutes.  Instant icy gratification, here I come.

In the meantime, I finished and blocked my stripey sweater, but it's far too hot to put it on, even for a simple photo.  Ugh.

I'm also to the point of putting the binding on my quilt, but I don't relish the idea of sitting with it in my lap while I hand finish it.

Last week I was still in the midst of my finishitis and picked up another old project - a woolen aran baby blanket I designed in the fall - but this week, since I can't stand to have any knitting laying in my lap, I have had to scale down a bit and work exclusively on my latest socks.  These ones are using the leftover Lilac and Royal Flush Purple label yarn from TFA.  I added a few rounds of stranded knitting to make a zigzag between the toe and foot (and then again between the leg and cuff) which I think adds to their overall cuteness.  They're going to be a bit short, since I don't have quite enough of the Lilac to make them the length I generally would, but that's okay.  Right now I can't stand the thought of tall socks on my sweaty ankles, anyway.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


The Inspiration
Several years ago I saw a project on Ravelry that was using a cardigan from Anthropologie for inspiration.  Sadly, that project has never been completed, but it was nevertheless an inspiration to me, and I went on to begin to plan my own cardigan based on their inspiration.  In the past year or so, I've seen a lot of Missoni-type chevrons appearing everywhere, and while this particular cardigan is more of a ripple than a chevron, I still can't help but feel it might be received as trendy.  I don't think I've ever been trendy, before.
The Plan

I spent some time last fall perusing the Knit Picks website and came up with a collection of various fingering weight yarns that would work.  I was originally going to stick with the blue/neutral/brown colour scheme of the original, but somewhere along the way my own colour sensibilities set in (probably in combination with the colours available in the various yarns) and I ended up going with more of a blue/grey combo, with some purple thrown in for a pop of colour.  I worked up a plan for the stripes that reflected the tonal sensibilities of the original cardi.  Because I wanted to play not only with colour but also with texture, the yarns themselves are many and varied, including some Stroll sock (merino/nylon), some Palette (peruvian wool), some Gloss fingering (merino/silk), and some Aloft (mohair/silk.)

Unblocked ripples

I started knitting the sweater (in a simple feather and fan ripple) last fall and then stalled out for some reason when I started the sleeves.  I must have been distracted by another project, whether woven or knitted.  In the past couple of weeks, I rediscovered my inspiration, picked it up again and finished the sleeves in no time.  Of course once the sleeves are done, it's a simple matter (?) of joining the body and sleeves and knitting up some seamless set-in shoulders, a la Elizabeth Zimmermann.  All I have left now is the button band, which won't actually have buttons, since I'm going with the belted version of the original Anthropologie cardi.  I crocheted a simple striped belt and now just have to work out the math for the button band (since I'm overcomplicating things, as I usually do.)  I can't wait to show you the finished product!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just in Time for Summer

As you can see from the pretty diagonal lines, I've finished the quilting on my Swoon quilt.  As planned, I just did simple straight lines, spaced out at alternating 1 1/2 inch and 2 1/2 inch intervals.  It turned out fairly well, with a minimum of stress on my part.  I am happy to see that the quilt is starting to look a little puffy between the lines, since the puffiness is one of the most pleasing parts of a finished quilt, in my opinion.  After I wash it, I'm sure the puff will be more apparent.

All that's left now is to cut the strips for binding, machine sew it to the quilt, and then hand finish it by sewing the binding over the cut edge.  Of course, the hand sewing usually entails sitting under the quilt on the sofa for hours, which I don't relish in this heat.  I'll think of something.