Changing Things Up

May 31, 2010

I’ve been thinking about changing the way I knit for a while now, but its a big decision.  First off it will take a long time to get into a new rhythm, and secondly the good thing about the way I knit is that I have extremely even, it doesn’t change, tension. 

I’m currently a thrower, or an English knitter.  I grasp the yarn loosely between my thumb and index finger, and throw it around the needle.  I feel rather attached to the English style of knitting not only because this is the way my mother taught me when I was young, but how countless Europeans before us knit.  And also because Nancy Bush tells me this way is wonderful, and its the only way to make nupps.  However one question I really wanted to ask Nancy Bush, and did have time to ask her, was how she held the yarn in her right hand.  I’ve been wondering for awhile if I could speed up my knitting by holding the yarn differently, and get away from the fact I completely drop the right needle to throw the yarn, then pick it back up again. 

After consulting my Vogue Knitting reference, looking around on the internet, and remembering the lesson from Nancy Bush, I started wrapping the yarn around my baby finger as pictured at left, and tensioning it with my index finger.  This leaves my thumb and middle finger free to work on the needle.  I try and not use my thumbs if I can, as it tends to hurt the joints after awhile. 

I got out some gorgeous Noro Retro that I treated myself to at Christmas (after drooling over it for months) and started a ribbed cable scarf to practice.  So far I’m finding this method very natural, and I’m already faster!  However my tension is tighter, which means that I need to switch back to the old method in order to finish off my current projects.  But going forward, starting with this scarf, I think I’ll stick with this now. 

And don’t be so surprised that I started what will probably be a warm, thick wool scarf this weekend.  It snowed most of it!

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Knitting in Montana

May 27, 2010

This past weekend was a holiday weekend in Canada, where we celebrate not only Queen Victoria’s birthday, but the current Queen’s as well.  And I say, if it means an extra day off, Happy Birthday to them!!  Around six months ago I had signed up to take classes with Nancy Bush down in Montana, at a cute little fishing camp south of Kalispell, which is about six hours drive from Calgary.  I had signed up for an Estonian colourwork class on Friday, and a twisted stitches class on Sunday.  I had already taken the lace class she offered on Saturday.  I had to make the hard decision that asking for the first friday off at my new job was not a good idea, and instead just go down for the Sunday class.  Mr. J came with me and went on some bike rides.  We camped even though it was a bit chilly.  We’re Canadian, we can handle the cold!  Plus we’re cheap and we saved money.

We arrived pretty late on Friday after avoiding the various deer and large horses on the road, and curled up in our snug tent.  First thing Saturday morning we wandered over to meet the owner of Camp Tuffit.  Now this does sound funny and a coincidence, but honestly it wasn’t.  Within 5 minutes we were talking about water treatment, and he was taking us over to see his water plant.  I usually ask if the water in the washrooms is potable at a rusticy place like this, because sometimes it isn’t.  I usually ask further questions because sometimes “potable’ is lake water with some chlorine thrown in.  I have sold a few water treatment systems by taking this “potable” water, filtering it for an hour, and showing the people drinking the water what was removed.  It normally looks a lot like thick mud.  His system was having problems, and it reinforces my theory that this type of system isn’t the best idea.  He has a multi-media filter which is a fibreglass tank filled with gravel, sand, carbon/anthracite/ and sometimes garnet.  This is a good “rough” filter and removes particles above 10-15 micron (move the decimal point six times to the right of a meter).  He then had a 5 micron filter, and a 1 micron absolute filter, which kept getting plugged up.  Here is the problem: with lake water like this, most of the particles are under 5 micron and go right onto the 1 micron absolute filter, and it plugs up quickly.  He is on the right track, he is taking out the 5 micron filter and replacing it with a 1 micron nominal filter.  Perhaps on another blog post we’ll chat about the different between nominal and absolute filters, because it is SOOO interesting.  Long story short, as he had the 1 micron ab filters out, with just the 5 micron filter, I didn’t drink the water.  Crytosporidium is 3-5 micron and can resist chlorine, and I didn’t feel like getting sick! 

Oh, but this was about knitting!  On Sunday we learned how to make twisted stitches.  Now I need to start a project to practice them.  During the class I made a finger cosy, which cracked Mr. J up to no end.  As always taking a class with Nancy Bush is not only fun, but you learn so much as well.  Our hosts from Camas Creek Yarn in Kalispell were adorable, and their store was just about as perfect as a LYS as you could get, very well rounded.  We did stop on our way home, but I was so good, all I got was some leather moccasin bottoms.

For Christmas I made my future mother in law a pair of green fuzzy slippers, which seemed to go over well.  So well in fact that she has already worn a hole in one of them.  So in a shameless attempt to make a good impression with the future in-laws, I made another pair, plus one for the Grandmother.  When I suck up, I go the full way apparently.  The Pocketbook Slippers turned out to be a fun pattern, and a good way to use up some Classic Wool that I’ve got hanging around.  They are so durn cute, little and tiny, then they stretch out and fit your big feet! 

I made a few other items over my break which I’ll eventually get around to photographing.  In other exciting news I downloaded my new stash totals into Excel.  I know, spreadsheet fun!  Even with all the recent stash acquisition, I was only up 2000 yards, which I thought was quite reasonable.  I’m hopeful that the totals come down again for my next report on July 1, but with Olds Fibre Fair coming up quickly, I’m making no promises. 

Mr. J and I are busy packing up as we’re off to Montana for the long weekend.  I’m attending a class with Nancy Bush on Sunday!  Its very exciting, but Mr. J is more excited about the fact that he’s bringing his bike.  The retreat is occurring at a fishing camp, and should be a nice relaxing time for us both.  I need a break after a week of work!

Day Two of the new job is complete, and I’m an official car commuter again.  I used to feel so virtuous taking the train and bus, and now I’m a single car driver, not even a blow up doll to make it look like I’m not personally ruining the environment.  I have a plan to start doing a 1/2 drive 1/2 ride my bike into work, but I need to implement it.  I guess on the bright side it took me 35 minutes to get to work, as opposed to the old hour long virtuous commute. 

That is my old view on the left, on my last day in the old fancy office.  It was fancy, it was nice, but I can’t say it felt comfortable.  The new digs are in the industrial area, and I’m in an office that I may one day share, and there are no windows.  If I could see outside, I would see parking lot, and some more industrial type buildings.  I know it doesn’t sound great, but it feels more comfortable.  At one point today I wandered into the back and watched them building a reverse osmosis system, taking photos for the client.  I’m all set up with a lovely work station that they spent Sunday building, a new fancy chair, and a nice working set-up.  I’ve discovered that there is a deli four doors down that makes a lovely latte, which always makes the world a better place. 

As for work I’ve dived right in, as there is a lot to do.  I’ve got two binders to go through that are, I kid you not, about 7 inches tall each.  I need to review them, and then help get a system drawn, priced, and about a zillion data sheets filled out.  I need to get up to speed on their systems, and learn how they do things.  I was looking forward to going into work this morning, and that is a good thing.

Custom Woolen Mills is located in Carstairs Alberta, just an hour north of Calgary, and I had been wanting to go and visit them for quite a while now.  The problem has been that they keep regular working hours, which means that when I’m working they are working, and are closed when I’m not working!  One thing I definitely had to do with my two weeks off was to finally pay them a visit.  Not only do they process and spin their own brand of yarn, but they process fleece from all over western Canada, and into Montana.  Beaverslide gets processed in this facility.  The photo at left is all the raw yarn waiting to get washed, carded, and spun.  It doesn’t seem like CWM gets many visitors this time of year, as everyone was pretty happy to chat with us as we wandered around.  Visiting is free, the men and women working away were very interesting and informative, and pretty darn happy to explain what they were working on.  The only thing to remember is that the spinning area needs to be viewed from an observation deck, you can’t just wander around mucking things up.  Not that I would wander around pushing buttons, no not me, never.

Of course the first step is to wash the fleeces, and coming in from a chilly day outside, to the hot and humid washing room my glasses fogged right up.  The gentleman hand feeding raw fleece into their washing bath was very informative, except he was very tired due to his recent acquisition of a 9 week old kitten.  I know…ahhhhhh.  He showed us the photo on his phone.  I couldn’t help myself however, I seem to have the unstoppable water and wastewater bug.  I started asking where the water was from (obviously well water with high iron and presumably high hardness as well, I know this from a bathroom inspection, dirty water in toilet, red iron stain on sink) and where their waste went.  The wasted water goes into a lagoon treatment system somewhere over there (waves hand in general direction).  They use chemicals to wash the fleece like soap, and a few other harmless things.  If they cleaned up their raw water they could see benefits such as lower soap and chemical usage, and increased fleece cleanliness.  They also use water to rinse the fleeces, I would love to get a wastewater treatment system in there so that they can recycle all the water and use it for rinsing purposes.  I’m not so sure the cost saved would outweigh the cost of the equipment, or benefit to their process however, and may be unjustifiable.  I would love however to build an old fashioned water treatment filter utilizing gravel, sand, and a layers of fleece.  HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?  Okay, down water engineer, down.

The carding and spinning machines are over 100 years old, moved from another older mill to this location.  It was a purple and red day at the mill!  I asked the fellow doing the dying if peoples moods change depending on which colours they dye, bad moods with black, good moods with red.  He looked at me weird and said he had never thought about it.  Funny how often I hear that…

Not only do they spin yarn here, but they also make woolen batting for quilts which you can buy already made, or if you send them your finished quilt they will put the wool inside and stitch it up.  They also knit socks!

The quilting machine was built in the forties, and is very interesting.  On top is a wooden guide that moves the sewing apparatus around in a pre-set pattern.  A whole quilt can be sewn up in 8 minutes once its all set up! 

We visited the gift store and dived into the sale bin, I bought a sweater amount of deep brown 3 ply wool, Joce picked up some more Beaverslide, and off we went home, very happy to have finally seen Mule Spinners!

FO: Lacy Baktus Scarf

May 13, 2010

Have you made one yet?  They are the must have accessory of the spring season!!  I know, I shouldn’t pretend that I’m the least bit fashionable, but I have been finding the lacy Baktus useful this spring.  Someone asked me if I recommended making the regular Baktus sans holes, or the lacy Baktus with the holes.  My answer was that this light lacy scarf made from 100% merino is too light for our harsh winters, I definitely need my heavier Baktus made from worsted wool and no holes for that.  But for our chilly spring mornings, over a spring jacket, this scarf is just the ticket.  It is made from sock yarn from Pigeon Roof Studios that I got at Stitches West in February, I love the white, purples, and blue colour combination.  I’ve been getting a kick out of pretending that I’m such a trendy knitter because I have Pigeonroof Studios yarn around my neck. 

One of my favorite things, and its something I’ve been doing since I was a teenager, is photoshoots with your friends.  If you want to have an awesome time, and giggle like a mad woman, grab a good friend, insist she stop at an old community center on the way home from your field trip, and have a photoshoot.  Do your best model poses, smile with your eyes, do the turtle to get rid of that double chin.  Ignore the odd car that goes by, with its passengers staring at you!

And most important, end with a jumpity shot!  Thanks Joce, you are the best photoshoot buddy evah!

Spring Knitting

May 12, 2010

So far this spring I’ve been on a knitting mittens kick like this:

Why do you ask?  Well, because it won’t stop snowing that is why!  Actually today is a nice and sunny day out, and I intend to go for a run after my nap.  This may sound very lazy, but in my defense I have already been down in the basement doing another coat of blue paint in the bedroom and bathroom.  PLUS I’ve watched 3 episodes of Dr. Who, first season (circa 2005).  I think the cats are a bad influence, since they are busy napping away in the sunshine, its hard not to want to do the same.  I’ve also installed a Windows Office on the new laptop so that I can finally get back to uploading all my photos!

These are another pair of Bella’s mittens using two strands of Eco-Ull held together.  They are about an inch thick and should be incredibly warm.  I’m not sure if they are going into the Xmas box, or will be for me!

I do have actual spring knitting plans, I’m almost finished the knitting on my Tempest and should start the trim and finishing very soon.  I ran out of green yarn on the top of the second sleeve, and therefore did a bit of doctoring to remove the bottom green stripe on both arms, so that I can finish the sleeve nice and proper.  Its going to be a great thin sweater to throw on over a t-shirt, very useful.

The plans after that are to finish my Flower Child, languishing since last fall when it got chilly.  Back from the sleeping pile!  Then I’ve got some lovely teal Drops Alpaca to make my own Buttercup.  After that, I’m hoping I’ll have time this summer to make a lace cardigan from Country Weekend Knits, if I can find some lace weight Jamison that is.  I’ll probably have to order it from Scotland if I can’t get it locally.

Currently I plan to start a new pair of mittens, in hopes that the next week will be lovely and sunny, rather like carrying an umbrella so that it doesn’t rain.  Druid mittens, here I come (finally).

Dear Mum,

May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day to you, so far away down in Honduras.  I was going to send you flowers, but it is pointless to send you northern flowers when you are living in a beautiful tropical paradise.  A card generally gets to you well after a holiday, after it goes to Miami and then gets on the boat to the island.  If it gets there at all.  Do you remember all the times I came to visit you and then had to wear your clothes for the first three days since my luggage never showed up? 

This afternoon I went to see Stars on Ice, and it was a wonderful show as always.  If you were here I’m sure we would have gone together and clapped and cheered until our hands were sore, and our throats raw.  Did I mention my hands are sore?  Virtue and Moir skated their “hockey player and diva” routine, and then did their Olympic routine which is moving in person.  What a treat to see it live, since so few saw it at the Olympics, we all were glued to our tv’s crossing our fingers, toes, eyes, so close to the edge of our seats.  Joannie Rochette skated a moving routine that she dedicates to her mother, and also skated to a nice slow version of “Summertime”.  Cynthia Phaneuf has to be one of the most beautiful women skating these days, with a huge smile, and a gorgeous back.  She wears a lot of backless costumes.  Jaime Sale and David Peltier, brought the house down with a routine to a Michael Jackson song packed to the brim with over the top moves, and smack on, intense choreography.  David is always mesmerizing to watch as he maneuvers Jaime around the ice.  They got an immediate standing ovation from everyone, people practically leapt to their feet!  Kurt, as always, was so much fun to watch.  His first routine was done to a medley of old time movie songs, among them”Dancing in the Rain”.  His second routine was on hockey skates, on which he jumped spun, and used the rounded front and back edges to their utmost advantage. 

I ran into my skating coach and got to meet her new baby boy.  I suggested she get Kurt to bless the baby, as I am expecting the new baby boy to win the worlds in 16 years or less.  My coach got out her phone and TEXTED KURT.  I repeat, TEXTED KURT, as him she has his phone number, and well, they are friends.  It took a lot not to grab her phone and text “Pls. run away with me now”.  Maybe next year.

As I waited for the show to start I remembered going to the Gardens in Toronto to see Kurt years ago, when he was still skating in the shadow of Brian Orser, the new guy on the scene.  After he started making a name for himself, the show took on a crazy rock concert feel, we never really could hear the music, the crowd was so deafening in that place.  Do you remember getting Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini’s autograph?  Or seeing Torvill and Dean?  Or when we saw Brian Orser just after the 1988 Olympics, in that smaller arena, I can’t remember where.  You always bought me a program, which I’m too cheap to do myself these days, however I did splurge on second row seats.  Close enough to see the expressions, see the ice flinging from the blades, and detail on the costumes.  Such sparkly, sparkly costumes.  No dirty overalls or Blue Avatar costumes here! 

Now that I”ve got the new laptop up and running, I promise to figure out how to download photos tomorrow, I’ve got some really good ones waiting to show you.  Week 1 of Funemplyment has wizzed by, I feel like I slept most of it away, but like you said, I probably needed it.  I”m hoping next week it doesn’t snow (like this week!!) and I get out and do my “work in the garden” goal.  The basement painting is coming along nicely, bathroom should be all done soon, and in useable condition!  The goals I’ve really failed on so far are to bike 5 times a week, and to even out my bike tan, I’m blaming all the snow for my failure there.  I’ve excelled at “cat patting” and “making a lap for a cat to nap on” but two furry rotters would disagree, and insist on more commitment on my part.  I’ll keep trying.

All the best today,

Love Anne