Thursday, December 30, 2010

We're all waiting for spring

...even the street art.

She Waits for Spring, Kensington Market, Toronto, Dec. 29, 2010

I took this yesterday with my new camera, a DianaF+. It's an intentional double exposure using 35mm 100-speed film. These are fun, totally manual, very retro cameras that normally use 120 film, but can be modified to use 35mm (thankfully, since processing options for 120 film are few and far between these days). I think I'm in love.

Happiness. I've missed analog photography. For the first time in a long time, I can't wait for the next sunny day.

They All Come at Once, Streetcars on King Street (at Peter Street), Toronto, Dec. 29, 2010 (double exposure)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Time zones are messing with me

So now that this conference is over, perhaps I can update the blog more regularly again. Perhaps I can even knit more regularly again. I have a couple sweaters that were put on hold in the sweaty, icky heatwave this summer, and this is now the right time to pull them out again and add those last sleeves.

I am in Texas. Right now I'm in Katy, Texas, but before this I was in San Antonio for several days for a conference. SA was fantastic. I told someone that it seems to have taken me 10 years of grad school to figure out how to enjoy a conference, but then, I always was a slow learner. Our hotel was right on the Riverwalk. That's a little bit of awesome, right there.

After waking up Wednesday morning in Toronto to FUCKING FROST on my car, it was fantastic when, 36 hours later, I was walking along the river in San Antonio barefoot - I skipped out of the conference briefly (lesson #1 in learning to enjoy a conference: leave the fucking conference once in a while) in search of cheap photocopies and Starbucks, and decided to go back to the hotel via the Riverwalk only to get completely turned around down there and THEN find that I'd worn the wrong shoes, hence the barefoot. While in SA, I had beef and guacamole in some form every day for three days. I would call that a win, wouldn't you?

I still have to double-check what time it is at any given moment. My computer and IPod were still on EST until yesterday, my phone was on Central, and then Daylight Savings time ended yesterday morning, so everything moved back yet another hour. I finally changed the computer and the IPod to Central yesterday, even though I'm going home today... it was just too confusing, and I don't want to miss my flight or some stupid-ass thing. A lot of clocks (like in my current hotel room) are not changed back to non-Daylight Savings yet. One must be careful.

The conference ended Saturday, and Sunday I rented a car and drove to Katy to meet up with a friend who I'd never met in person before! I love the innernets. Trish and I had fun - dinner and good conversation. We had a hard time finding the bathrooms in the restaurant, though. It was a "Baker Street"-Sherlock Holmes-themed pub, and the door to the restrooms was cleverly disguised as the end of a bookshelf. Trish has a pic, once I get it I'll post it. In honour of the pub, I went back to my hotel and caught the last half of an episode of "Sherlock" (seen it before, but whatever), and fell into blissful-full-belly-post-conference-I'm-on-vacation-tonight sleep. I'm still in bed, and haven't moved much since. Bliss.

I should get moving, though. Time to drive BACK to San Antonio to return the rental car and catch my flight home. Well, almost home - I flew out of Buffalo, NY because OMGLESSTHANHALFTHEPRICE. So once I get into Buffalo at 11pm, I have a 90 minute drive home to Toronto. But I'll have company. And there will be a stop at the duty-free.

No pics in this post, because I suck. I brought my camera, as I always do, but never pulled it out, as always happens. Yes, I went to the Alamo while I was in SA. It's still there. Comforting, yes? As for Relics of Americana: I saw a lock of Davy Crockett's hair in a locket, and my life is now more complete.

And now for a bit of honesty: I love Texas. That's right - this Yankee-Pennsylvanian-Canadian-Liberal has fallen just a little bit for Texas. I blame the gorgeous November weather, which Trish assures me is short-lived. And the guacamole.

Monday, September 06, 2010


My honey made crepes last weekend. By God, I love when that man cooks. When he cooks, I know all is right with the world. He is the creative one in the kitchen, I'm more of a "throw that shit in the oven on 350 for 35 minutes and it's done" type (I do make a mean chocolate chip cookie, though).

We finally got a barbecue this summer, and it is good. See? This was a couple months ago when we put on the first real steak. It was documented for posterity. And beans on the side burner. Because beans are awesome.

Beans and MEAT

He did this impromptu thing on the barbecue last week with the sweet potatoes where he added maple syrup and cinnamon. NOMNOMNOM.

Enough food prøn. Enough of me feeling like a lazy slacker who doesn't know how to work or get shit done. Let's look at the things I've done recently that don't fall into the SUCK category.

My first foray into entrelac, two of these 8x8 squares for group blanket projects.

Malabrigo worsted in the so-obnoxious-you-have-to-love-it "Lime Blue" colourway

I finished knitting the hat that I bought awesome trim for in mid-June, and finally got around to thinking about blocking and finishing it. One problem: it fit fine before blocking, but when I took it out of the water and tried to block it with a balled-up towel, the yarn stretched like crazy, and the hat suddenly ballooned to a size that comes halfway down my face. I now have it drying flat, and spent a lot of time fiddling with it to try and block it back down to the proper size, but I'm not sure I was all that successful. If I have to, I'll frog it and do it again in the smaller size. It's not that difficult a knit. I'm also now wondering if it's maybe worth lining the final hat to help keep its shape in the future. Of course, that involves sewing. *grumblegrumble*

The amazing expanding hat. Yikes. We'll see what I end up with when it's dry, but I'm betting on huuuuuuuge.

The new Liesl cardigan is flying along, surprisingly. I'm almost done with the body. I'm very much enjoying working with the Cascade220 Heathers wool.

Sleeves soon! It's almost like an insta-sweater.

Finally, an Audrey update! I'm hoping to re-start Audrey the Indigo-Sig Vat for her third season of dyeing. She's been sitting outside in her bin all summer during the heat wave, while I've been sweating too much to even think of dealing with her. One would think that I'd try to get her going again when the weather is possibly hot enough to keep her warm naturally, but that would be too easy. Today was a lovely cool day, and I finally had the energy to do what I've been wanting to all summer, namely strain off the liquid into the spare jar and get rid of the inch or so of muck on the bottom before trying to start her up for the season.

Let me lay this out plainly. This afternoon, I spent 30 minutes carefully transferring nearly 2 gallons of very stale, bacteria-ridden, indigo-infused piss from one jar to another, in the process straining out the rotted remains of 3 years worth of dates, plums, bananas and settled-out urine sediment, using a tea strainer and an old teacup. All clear? OK.

Audrey in her natural habitat, surrounded by Morning Glories for company.

The thing that worries me is that... well... she just wasn't very stinky today. I mean, there's smell, but it's nothing like the normal mind-blowing stench I've come to know and... er, love? I don't remember the smell being this tolerable before... unless, Jebus and FSM help me, I'm actually getting used to it. At any rate, I'm not entirely sure if she'll come back this year. We'll see. I checked her pH (between 9-10, which is just right), added some more stale urine (ask not from where it came - it's FOR SCIENCE!!), fed her some mushy bananas, and turned on her heating pad.

After today's handling, she's now thoroughly oxygenated, so it'll be several days before she even starts to settle down, and a good 7-10 days before we can expect her to be dye-worthy. And then I might still have to add some indigo. You can see some of the mushed-up banana floating here:

Tucked in for the night. I feel like a nervous Mom. Or perhaps, a nervous mad scientist.

Let's see, we've gone from food to knitting to straining pee. All in a week's work, I'd say. Next post: Pennsic loot.

*Translation here. Read and weep tears of joy and recognition at your own life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Daze (the longer, but no less non-sequitur version)

I am quite possibly the most infuriating person I know.

That fucking tunic that I was going to finish before I left for Pennsic, the one that has been on the go 3 years? Yeah, not finished.

That fucking article review that I was going to finish before I finished the fucking tunic before leaving for Pennsic? Went with me to PA, where I carried it around Pennsic with me, slept with it under my pillow, worked on it here and there and finally sent it off a day before packing up my tent.

That large wool sweater that I need to NOT be knitting during a heatwave? Yeah, still knitting it. It has a sleeve now.

To top off the crazy, I started another sweater! In the middle of summer.

Another Liesl cardigan, this time hopefully better-fitting for me, and definitely in a harder-wearing yarn.

Taking a look at that top picture of the "Hey, Lady!" sweater again, I think I've finally figured out my fitting problem with several of my handknits. No, my arms are not quite that freakishly short, although they are pretty short. The problem lies in the back width. I always make the pattern for my bust size, and my sweaters always come out huge - the neck yokes end up going halfway down my upper arm, with the "sleeve" portions starting closer to my elbow than my shoulder.

Same thing happened on the Liesl de no Manos (which has now officially been gifted to my big sister Kath, yay! And it looks fantastic on her.) Same thing on the Shimmer shrug, which resulted in many shortenings of the sleeves.

Problem is, while I am busty* and extra-large-sized because of considerable extra weight, I am a petite build. That means my shoulder-to-shoulder width is way smaller than what patterns for my bust size are designed for. I need to be making smaller back sizes, and fixing the bust size issue with short rows or extra width on the front or something. There are ways. And I will learn them. I will learn how to make them work for me, and bend them to my will.

Because what I really need to do is learn about clothes sizing and proper fitting techniques, rather than work on Big D, right?

Yeah, like I said: infuriating. But very, very me.

*According to the first Real Bra I have ever purchased, after having had my first ever Real Bra Fitting: I am a (UK)40H, which is also a (US)40K. Yes. Fucking K-cup. Baby Jebus could fit inside my bra cup and take a nap.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Daze (the non-sequitur, abbreviated version)

This blog will resume shortly.

Note to self: Knitting a large wool sweater during a July heatwave is stupid. Stop it.

Note to self 2: I will finish this fucking tunic before leaving for Pennsic on Friday. It's only been on the go for three years, and I would like to wear it next week.

Note to self 3: I will write up and email this fucking article review before I finish that fucking tunic before leaving for Pennsic on Friday.

Note to self 4: A day when I have to clean up cat barf twice before noon is just taking the piss.

How is your summer going?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Into the fire

It's hot.

It's really, really, fucking hot.

We are having a heat wave. In May. In Toronto. 30+ degrees today, not counting the humidity.

Did I mention that our AC hasn't worked for over a year? Yeah. Probably need to get on that.

The cat is desperate for cuddles, and I can't stand to have him on me. His fur sticks and I sweat more. Poor thing. Instead, he and I sit at the kitchen table under the ceiling fan, trying to stay cool.

I'm teaching this term, hence the relative silence. We're half way through the first 6-week summer term, only 6 more lectures and a final exam to go. Um, whee? Even when you've taught the course before, it's always more work than you think it will be.

What, then, is a sweaty, cranky fibre fanatic to do? Knit, of course. The "Hey, Lady!" sweater is very slowly gaining sleeves. Well, a sleeve, so far. As the average daytime temperature rises, progress has slowed on anything semi-heavy and made of wool. Pictures once the first sleeve is on.

In the meantime, I'm making a hat.

I was further along last week, but I decided I didn't like the way the hem folded up (the purl row stuck out rather than under), so I ripped back down to that point, added a couple more rows, and re-folded it. I'm at the pleat row now for the second time, and much happier with how the hem looks..

The best part of this hat, and the thing I'm most excited about, inexplicably, is that is calls for a ribbon band. This of course meant that I was required to make a trip to Mokuba on Queen Street, which is easily the best place to go for ribbons and trim in the city, if not the province or the country. It's also likely one of the few places where I could drop $60 on 4.5 meters of ribbon and be thanking them when I leave. But it's that good, it really is. Not being a great fan of sewing, I have little reason to go ribbon or trim shopping, so if I'm going to do it, I'm going to splurge. Considering that they have spools of stuff that go for well over $150/metre, I like to think I did pretty well.

So, what does $60 of trim get you at Mokuba?

2 metres of 50mm golden-yellow grosgrain ribbon, and 2.5 metres of complimentary floral tape

The floral tape will be tacked to the grosgrain in a wave.

Finally, I've been feeling a bit bereft this past week, since my favourite show has wrapped up. No, not Lost. Give me some credit, please. I mean Ashes to Ashes. Not quite sure what I'm going to do without my weekly dose of Guv Luv. Keep an eye out for the next good thing, I guess, and in the meantime, watch A2A and Life on Mars from the beginning again.

I'm going to be deadly serious here for a second. Gene Hunt: Best. Character. Ever. Accept no imitations.

Last night: Jonathon Coulton, Paul & Storm, in concert. Always a wonderful show, wouldn't have missed it for anything. So we didn't.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Better living through technology

At last, Mother Nature, that Tease, has decided to let us have a real taste of spring. I wore sandals outside yesterday for the first time this year. "They" say it's going to be nice for at least the next several days, but I don't trust her, Mother Nature, that Bastion of Bitchiness. She's pulled this stuff before.

In the meantime, knitters work to clothe ourselves and our loved ones for all contingencies. For example:

The finished "Liesl de no Manos" cardigan:

Made with almost exactly three skeins of Malabrigo worsted, in the "Plena" colourway

I suspect I'll be making a couple more of these, as gifts. It was a relatively quick knit, too. But first, another one for myself, this time a concert-appropriate black version for over the sleeveless black concert dress. Here's a preview:

Fingering-weight spun wool-soysilk, to be knit together with a worsted-weight black to make another Liesl cardigan

I'll start a gauge swatch shortly.

Finally, the continuing progress on the "Hey, Lady!" Sweater:

No sleeves yet, but it's almost long enough.

I got far more done on it than I realized while visiting PA a couple weeks ago. Since I have such a short torso, the body is much closer to being done than I expected. I tried it on, and it's looking like a couple more inches of the lace pattern are all that's needed. Then it's the final couple inches of garter stitch, then sleeves.

In other news, I'd like to officially welcome the newest member of our household:

Oh no, I didn't...

Oh yes, I did.

An antique Canadian Production Wheel, bought from a lady in my concert band who is moving and downsizing. Purchased by her father in 1967 from an antique shop in Baie-St.-Paul, Quebec, it was kept in her parents' cottage and home, and following that, her home, as a decorative piece. They took great care of it, so although it hasn't been used as a working wheel in well over 40 years, it only requires a disassembly for a good cleaning and oiling, replacing the dowels that are missing on the wheel supports, and putting on a drive band.

Bandfriend Derryl and I had talked about this wheel last year. She mentioned she was planning to sell a bunch of things, including a wheel that had been in her family for decades. She wondered if I knew people who might be interested. She didn't even know if it worked, and she wanted to have it appraised, so I told her to let me know when she had an amount and I would put out feelers and drop by to see it. I promptly forgot about it until she mentioned a couple weeks ago at rehearsal that the appraiser had suggested CDN $200, if I was still interested, otherwise it would be put up for auction. Some phone calls and 24 hours later, my friend Jean and I (she's a wheel spinner who knows what to look for, so I was hoping she could come with me) went to look at it. Within five minutes, we knew the only real question was, "Will it fit into my car, or does it need to go in Jean's truck?"

It fit in the car. I called DH on the way home to warn him. He was... understandably surprised. Heck, I was surprised.

There's no maker's mark on it. It has been refinished in its past, and the mark was likely a simple stencil that was stripped off. However, thanks to the magic of the innernets and some wonderful research being done on these wheels by an online group, it has been tentatively identified as a Michel Cadorette wheel made in St Hyacinthe, Quebec, some time before 1929 (when Michel died), and likely before 1922, when his son Phillias took over the business. A woman in the online group has an exact twin of this wheel, with identical wood turnings, maker mark intact.

And so here it sits, in my kitchen. I'm pleased, if a little bewildered. Seriously, I wasn't planning to buy a wheel any time soon. I'm very happy with my large collection of drop spindles. I use them regularly and productively. Being of the belief that to really understand how things work, you have to start at the beginning, I've often considered a wheel something of an unnecessary technological luxury in my own "process" spinning. But there was no way I could walk away from this one. From her. She's a proud old lady who has stood the test of time, and she wants to be used, put back into production.

Also, she needs a name. Preferably something French Canadian - suggestions welcome. I'll learn to pronounce it properly, I promise.

The week after I brought her home, I showed pictures of the new girl to Lady S while we were chatting at the beginning of our weekly meeting - I figure it's just as well your supervisor knows exactly why you're distracted from work, no sense hiding it. Later in the meeting, my computer began to act up. I was charting something for Lady S and trying to print it, while Excel (that bastard) was crashing, taking Word (that farging arsebadger) with it, and with that the rest of the system. I cussed firmly and force-rebooted the whole dratted laptop.

"Just in case you ever wonder why I bought a spinning wheel," I said over my shoulder, "or why I have a loom, or a tendency to use two sticks to knot string into fabric a lot, this is why."

Lady S raised an eyebrow in question.

"In 40 years, this thing" - I waved jauntily with my middle finger toward the rebooting laptop - "will be junk. It won't work. I depend on it daily. I rarely leave home without it, and in a few years, it'll be a paperweight. But I'd put hard money down right now that in 40, or even 60 years, that 80-year-old spinning wheel in my kitchen will still be working."

She smiled. And she did not take me up on the bet.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough make stuff.

Some times are meant more for creating, it seems, and others for talking about and documenting the creating. The last few months have been more of the former, less of the latter. I notice that the last couple entries are about losses. January and February were pretty arse-tastic in that respect, I suppose. My brain's response has been to prod me to make things - things to keep me and others warm and wrap us all up in comfort.

Makes sense to me.

I finished those mittens that I was working on in December, according to my notes, on January 10, and they have seen wear almost every day since. The pattern was for fingerless with the option of making them into mittens. I decided to make mittens with removable tops:

Mostly-Fingerless Malabrigo Flip-top Mittens

We also have another finished baby blanket for a friend. Little V, daughter of Vanessa, is nearly a year old now. This blanket has been on the go since before her arrival was imminent:

Crochet really can fix anything, it's true. Consistent sized squares? Bah, that's for wimps.

Truly a group project in every way, Lydia, Manami, Sarah, Chris, Tanya and myself worked out a layout, went shopping together in December 2008, divided up the yarn squares and got creative with picking our favourite stitch patterns for the squares. Several of us even took up hooks over the last couple months and learned (or re-learned, as the case may be) to crochet so that über-crocheter Liisa wasn't stuck putting it all together on her own. It was finally delivered last weekend, and pics of a happy Little V with her blankie landed in our inboxes earlier this week. Hurrah for finishing before she's ready to go to grad school herself, I say!

And then there are the cardigans. I recently decided there is an appalling lack of cardigans in my wardrobe. Enter the Liesl cardigan. I originally started it as the "Liesl de Manos", in a lovely light colour of Manos del Uruguay silk blend. Unfortunately, I needed size 15 needles to even come close to gauge, and I didn't like how it was looking, so it was frogged a few rounds into the yoke increases. I re-started using Malabrigo worsted, and redubbed it (in intentionally bad Spanish) the "Liesl de no Manos":

The Liesl of Not Manos, in Malabrigo worsted (Plena colourway), ready for some sleeves.

The left sleeve is done now, and I'm working on the right one. The back will be as long as the remaining wool allows.

It's going so well, and so quickly, that I've decided to make a second one, this time as a "concert black" cardigan for when I don't want to sweat my butt off under stage lights wearing the Shimmer shrug for band concerts. I love that shrug, it was a true learning experience. But it has its problems, not the least of which: it's heavy. Really freaking heavy. And despite all the re-engineering of the sleeves, they are still a little longer than I'm totally comfortable with when playing the horn. I really need a short-sleeve concert sweater.

Not to make it too easy, because what's the fun in that, I'm planning to spin some lightweight singles to knit together with the plain black yarn to give it a little shine. I found this marvelous roving last month:

Wool and Soysilk, Louet "Karaoke Black Tiger" roving

Spinning is underway. I'll need a good 800 yards of it at least, so it won't be an instant gratification kind of thing, but I'll have enough by the time I finish the "Liesl de no Manos" to be able to start knitting, and I'll continue to spin as-needed.

Finally, in a fit of crazy, I started a second cardigan. This one is a bigger project, definitely not for instant gratification. It's also intended to be another on-stage-appropriate cardigan for over the sleeveless black concert dress. I'm making a February Lady Sweater, or what I have dubbed my "February 'Hey Lady!' Sweater":

The neverending garter-stitch yoke increases on the "February 'Hey, Lady!' Sweater." Yarn is Cascade 200 wool.

I can't wait to separate off the sleeves so that it no longer takes me 15 minutes to knit a single row. The never-ending garter stitch is killing me here, I'm looking forward to the lace pattern. My friend Jean, who is a glass bead maker, offered to make me some buttons for this, because she is made of awesome. I can't wait - this sweater definitely needs special buttons, and what she has in mind sounds perfect.

When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, my friends and I will be ready. We'll have plenty of warm blankets, we'll be wearing sweaters, and we'll be kicking butt and taking names.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


The world lost a Teacher yesterday. A dear and unique man, with a most infectious laugh. A stop by his office very often led to a discussion about something else once business was taken care of. Maybe Celtic languages. Or typefaces. Or computers. Or a story about the department in the 70s. Or why he had a dried chunk of dirt wrapped in plastic in his desk (it was a peat brick from Scotland, which of course led to another conversation). Or how his latest cooking class was going. Or books.

Gems of conversations, each one held dear.

He was kindness, calm, generosity and philosophical wisdom all rolled together with a twinkle in his eye, a smile, and a bottle of Diet Coke in his hand. He is the reason I didn't give up on one particularly bad day. The books he passed on to me when he retired are cherished and regularly put to good use.

He taught me an enormous amount about teaching.

Once, during a discussion about bell towers and carillons (a topic arrived at by a perfectly logical course of discussion that I couldn't replicate if I tried), he recommended a particular book. Today I can't get it out of my head.

To my friend and mentor:

"The voice of the Bells of Fenchurch St. Paul: Gaude, Gaudy, Domini in laude. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. John Cole made me, John Presbyter paid me, John Evangelist aid me. From Jericho to John A-Groate there is no bell can better my note. Jubilate Deo. Nunc Dimittis, Domine. Abbot Thomas set me here and bade me ring both loud and clear. Paul is my name, honour that same.

Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul.

Nine Tailors Make a Man."

- Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors

Many, many people will miss you dearly, Hank.

I will miss you dearly.

Toll the bell nine times. The world has lost a Teacher.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


We lost Tiger on Wednesday evening. It took us by surprise, but was mercifully quick, and we were with him, at home. In retrospect, it's surprising he lasted as long as he did, even though that very day we were still holding out hope that he'd rebound and pull through like he did last month. But really, he was nearly 17, and he had been through too much. It was his time.


DH and I are melancholy on and off. We're grateful for the good long time we had with him. He had a wonderful life, and he was a joy to us every day of it. Sweet, curious, gentle, affectionate, persistently yet kindly demanding and without a cranky thought in his fuzzy little brain. We knew it was coming, but I don't think you can really be ready to lose one of your guys.

I'm mostly fine until I try to find a couple pictures to post, and I start to go through my archive. There are a lot, thankfully. He was with us since spring 1996, when he was three years old. I even found some short MPEG movies, but I don't think I'm ready to share those yet. Later.

ca. 2004, age 11, in the old apartment

late 2008, and very comfy thank you

Hug your fuzzy ones. Give them a treat and a skritch and a belly rub if they are so inclined. Feel the love returned back tenfold.