Sunday, April 29, 2012

where does the wool go...?

It was definitely a dyeing extremely crazy amount of wool passed through my pots.   I will share some snaps soon (I was much too tired and the light too poor by the time I got around to it tonight)...but I did want to share this mystery with you.

Have you every noticed how wool is like a "magic sponge"?  When you put it on to soak, you need a lot more water than you might think - check this out....

Here is a stack of wool next to a bin filled with warm water and jet dry – as you can see, the stack of wool is about as tall as the bin....

Now here is the whole stack of wool (approx. 7-8 yards) immersed in the bin....

Can you see how little the water line has raised (it's below the top piece of wool)?  Can you believe that I needed to add more water to the bin to cover the wool?  I think it's so interesting - it made me think twice this weekend.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fabulousness and Favourites

TGIF.  I'm so glad I've made it to Friday this week, and I'm really looking forward to a weekend of dyeing, dyeing, and drying.  Hopefully come Sunday night, all of the piles of wool being propped up by my loveseat will have some new tints and colours, and be sitting pretty in bins, cubbies, bundles and boxes. Today's list is all about dyeing...

::   Cheap Digital Thermometers.  With my style of dyeing (basically I tint smaller pieces of wool one-at-a-time, then set the dye by combining all of the related wools together of one basic colour family together in one pot with citric acid to steam), I can easily lose track of time.  Different colours take longer to absorb into the wool, so there can be a big range in how long it takes me to assembly a 'family'.  So I'm hoping that the little timers I picked up at the dollar store will come in handy - I bought one for each of roasters.  Now I just need to keep them out of the water - the magnets are not quite strong to hold tight to the metal exterior of the roasters  (definitely not the Lee Valley quality my dad has gotten me accustomed to...LOL)

::  Good rubber gloves - the thicker, the better.  For years I preferred to use disposable gloves whenever I dyed.  I could quickly toss a filthy pair, change wet ones, or replace a leaker.  But a couple of years ago, when I had that really bad burn on the inside of my wrist (not from dyeing!), I decided to try proper rubber gloves as an extra layer of protection over my bandages.....and I haven't looked back!  I love the extra length, which provides more coverage and results in fewer accidental dribbles into the insides.  But what I really love is that they thicker gloves allow me to grab pieces of wool in the dye bath, shove down any peek-a-boo virgin bits, and even squeeze water out of patches to better reveal the true colour.  All things that I would NEVER do with the skimpy disposables.  Plus, less another very good reason to love them.  To keep then from getting skanky, I always store them inside out. My initial two pairs lasted for 2 years - and would have lasted longer if I hadn't worn holes with the string of my salad spinner - I just treated myself to some new ones this month. 

::  My favourite tongs.  I picked up a pair of these last fall in Southampton at the wonderful kitchen shop.....and they are my absolute perfect tongs for dyeing yarn.  No rough bits for strands to catch sudden extra-wide sudden down-pouring of water down the channel if you lift the bottoms higher than the hinge (there is no hollow trench in the handles like many other tongs)....they don't seem to discolour (at least no so far).  The only drawback is that they don't offer a super strong grip - but that's not an issue for me with yarn.  Oh, and the fact that I only have one pair......but hopefully I will remedy that soon!  LOL!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

more matrix ideas

The motifs in my Amazing Matrix Mat series are really quite simple....and to me, the AMMs are just my modern interpretation of the traditional inch mat.  My way of filling in the spaces with just straight rows of hooking, no outlining, and all sorts of subtle (and not so subtle) variation in the same space are my unique twist.  Some of the larger-scale patterns stem from my own doodles and plays with graph paper, while others (like squares and triangle shapes) have been around for centuries in quilts, tiles, and even fairisle knitting patterns.  

Despite having hooked several rugs, runners....and even Jumbo using this method, I still haven't gotten bored yet.  I am often thinking up new possibilities and always on the look-out for any simple designs that could easily translate into this grid format.  I've shared a couple of these before, and I still haven't gotten bored yet.  I am often sketching out new possibilities and I'm always on the look-out for any simple designs that could easily translate into a grid format.  Sometimes the pattern is already in simple grid form - here are a couple that I happened upon this week....

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

hard to ignore....but not impossible

You would think that this sight (including the three teetering stacks of flannel and the rug log that I have to step over each time I go past) would be enough to spur me into action when I'm home.  But alas I have spent most of the last couple of nights on the couch, cuddled up under a blanket - too 'tired' from my day at work to do much else. In fact, I'd like to just lay there all day today.  Don't we all just have days like that.... ;-)

Luckily I've recruited my mum (again!) to come over this weekend to dye.  This attempt at scheduling should help me stick to my plan, and soon the place will be awash in wool dust while I snip and rip and cut the lot.  The prep work for the Annual is going well, maybe that's what's causing me to be such a slacker...?  Probably - when I have a lot to do, I usually get it all done....but when I have just a little to do, I often get nothing done.  Inertia. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jumbo goes on a crash-diet....

Today has been filled with more unpleasant and annoying events than is fair (beginning with my return to work and finishing with the snow that's currently falling outside, with lots of in betweens), and I'm looking forward to a whole new day tomorrow.  This is actually my third attempt, since 8:15am, at posting today....and fingers crossed that it's the charm!

Yesterday PP (Princess Pfaff - my trusty sewing companion) and I headed up to my mum's to perform lypo on Jumbo.  We chose a nice sunny day on purpose, since we thought it would be a lot easier to confine all of our activity to just one location - the deck - and reduce the amount of furniture moving, shuffling, etc.  required to make a big enough space for Jumbo to lie down and be unrolled and rolled again several times. 

 We set up the sewing machine at one end of a big table and arranged some chairs to help support Jumbo, as it passed through the machine.

One side at a time, I pulled a thread (snipping it in several shorter pieces), about 13-14 threads out from the edge of my last row of hooking.  The pulled thread serves two purposes: it acts a guide for zigzagging (sewing on the hooking side of the gap), and also helps to reduce the amount of fraying after it's cut (since you mostly have just end pieces of cotton, not sideways pieces as well - they are either caught up in the stitches or cut off, since you cut in the 'ditch' where the thread used to be).  I always use the stretch zig-zag (marked with the dotted line zigzag - each zig is comprised of 3 stitches, and so is each zag) to finish the edge of backing.  It seems to be a lot more stable than any other option, including serging (IMHO, of course!) 

Once we 'loaded' it onto the chute, I sat and stitched and mum manhandled the rug....moving it along the queue, trying to keep the unrolled section flat, pushing and pulling.  Several times we remarked that we didn't know whose job was worse - but we agreed that neither job was easy!  LOL!

After the first pass, the excess rug warp was trimmed off, and then we sewed a second row for insurance.   Next the rug was unrolled and then re-rolled with another side facing out....and the process was repeated.  And repeated.  And repeated.  And then we re-rolled it one last time, so that it was rolled along the short side - and it could fit in my car for the trip home again...

So now it's lying on the floor again in the middle of my living room, waiting for the serious hand-sewing that awaits.  It's a brand new week, and I'm hoping that there is lots of time in the evenings for sitting and sewing....

Friday, April 20, 2012

MP by OP • Joanne's Paisley Bag

I just love to receive pictures of people's finished's so exciting and inspiring for me.  I especially love it when someone has really made them their own, with unique colours, motifs, whatever.  So you can imagine my delight when I received this picture in an e-mail a couple of nights ago.....

Joanne added her own designs to the "Blank Canvas" Bala Bag: fun paisleys!  She's right on trend as far as I can tell – paisleys have been popping up everywhere, including the latest issue of Vogue!  I think she did a really good job of coordinating the background fabric with her leather handles - not always easy to do, but definitely easier when you have the handles first ;-)

Great job Joanne!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

since Monday

Well this week isn't quite working out exactly as I had planned....perhaps because I didn't really have a refined or defined plan...? It has been very enjoyable so far, though.....but I am starting to feel the need for a swift kick in the butt to help me improve my productivity. Thinking about the long list of things that need to happen between now and the Annual is enough to bring on a panic attack.

So since Monday, I've...
  • read 2 books
  • been to the gym twice (for the first time this year)
  • cooked a delicious salmon dinner (with yummy leftovers :-D)
  • ripped up a couple of dozen yards of wool (it still litters my floor....)
  • steamed and squared Jumbo
  • Dyed and dried 27 skeins of slub
  • had a haircut
  • Fabreezed and sunned the stink out of my latest shipment of sari ribbons and yarns
  • visited my local quilt shop that is (sob!) closing, and scooped up a few more batiks and met a local rug hooker for the first time, while I was there.
  • done 4 loads of laundry
  • gone grocery shopping
  • made a shambles of my mud room by taking out 1/2 of the boxes from the closet and being too busy dyeing to put them back.
  • made a shambles out of my whole place, actually. Too many piles of things on almost every surface. That (hopefully) ends tonight.

So to recap the steaming.....basically the new steamer is the Cat's Ass. It is awesome. I used to think the Elna press rocked the rugs I've hooked, but now I know that it's just a long-lost cousin of my Rowenta DG5030 Pressure Iron & Steamer. It makes miracles happen right before your eyes. I had some serious wows and waves along the borders, but they have now vanished. I was pretty worried earlier this afternoon, when I was just starting. I thought there was no way that I was going to get one of the long sides to lay flat. But a couple of steaming sessions later, it looked just as good as the other side.

Armed with tape measures, rulers, pencils and paper, we set about the big job of blocking the ginormous rug (actual measurements today were 128" by 93" 10'8" by 7'9") Because of the sheer size of Jumbo and my desire to really straighten all of the edges, I did try something I've never done before - I nailed it in place while it dried. Yes, this made for extra work, but it was very much worthwhile IMHO.

My Mum and I were having a hard time getting everything squared (90º corners), but after a quick consultation with my Dad we knew the secret -- measure the two diagonals (they should be the same). Apparently this is what builders do for walls....and it appears to have done the trick for Jumbo, too. The two diagonal measurements, from corner to corner, should be identical (as should the measurements for each of the two sets of parallel sides, obviously). We had to do a little shifting on one side by 1.5" or so, but once that was done, it was simply a matter of holding it in place with nails (small finishing nails, placed about every 6" or so. The finishing nails have such small heads that it's easy to make little adjustments without having to change the nail position (just lift off the backing and then place it over the nail in another place to stretch or retract the edge). I tried to place the nails about 1" outside of the hooking (to allow for wiggle room and adjustments), and made sure they were inserted in between the backing threads (not splitting them)

Because the sun was so warm, it dried very quickly. I did end up re-steaming most sections of the rug a couple of times, and then did one last final tour around the outside edge to tweak it a bit more.

The next step is to zig-zag around the edges and trim off the excess rug warp....but as we've decided it's a 3-person job, I still have to coordinate a good time for that with my sister. It's so great to have family so close by! :-D

P.S. I know that the steamer is pricey, but I think it would make for a great group or guild purchase. Or hey, you could always recoup your investment by charging your hooking friends each time they want to use it -- $5-10 per rug would pay for it PDQ, especially when they see what an amazing job it does, and so quickly..... ;-)

Monday, April 16, 2012

ta da!

Not universally exciting, I know.....but yes, that is my taxes sitting in my purse, all complete and ready to go out in today's mail. Yippee! I managed to cross off several other things from my long list this weekend, as well, including mostly reducing my inbox to zero (from a whopping 65 that needed tending!) – and I will be responding to the last two right after I finish this post (I promise, xine!).

On the 'fun' docket for today is to dive into the closet and pull out some wool for dyeing, measuring, ripping, and making bundles for my dye-fest later this week....and hopefully there is time for a little play on the sewing machine. It's a somewhat miserable day weather-wise, so I won't be dyeing more slub today....but at least the rain has really greened things up outside. Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dear Jumbo....

Dearest Jumbo,

I'm writing today to let you know that I'm setting you up on a blind date. I recently found her online and I picked her out specifically with you in mind. I really think she's just what you've been patiently waiting for, these last few weeks. Here is her snapshot....

Doesn't she look amazing? I know she may seem a little bit like a mail-order Bride, but are you excited or what? It seems so many people are meeting their soulmates online these days, and who knows you better than I do? We've spent so much time together these last months. I'm planning to introduce you formally, later this week, when the weather is right for a nice picnic out on the deck and the two of you can enjoy the Spring weather and get to know one another a little better.

I have a funny feeling that the two of you are going to hit it off right away, and I expect you'll be spending quite a bit of time together. A lot of intimate time together, if you know what I mean...
Now, I don't want you to feel nervous, but sometimes in these situations things can happen quite quickly. Not always, but sometimes - you form a immediate bond and in no time at all, it can get very hot and very steamy. Regardless of the outcome, remember to just relax and enjoy yourself.

There may be a swirl of emotions, as you're stretched and pulled in all sorts of new directions, and sometimes the anticipation of discovering every last inch of one another is almost painful.....but I'll be right there by your side, to make sure that it all goes off without a hitch - and no-one gets hurt.

Until then, rest up my sweet - we're both going to need all of the energy we can muster....

all my love,
Jen xxoo

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fabulousness and Favourites

Happy Friday the 13th! I can hardly wait for the clock to chime five times tonight -- I'm taking next week off for a little stay-cation. Nine glorious days in a row to play in the dye pots, fondle wool, make up some patterns, read a book or two, exercise daily....and do my taxes. Yes, that last one is a bit of a drag, but a necessary evil. My plan is to try to do the bookwork early in the week, so that I can really relax and just enjoy the rest of the days.

I had originally planned to take a week and sew a quilt top, to satisfy my 'inner maker*', but my mind is telling me "no- don't do it! There is too much else that needs to happen first...." (* if you haven't already read it, check out this Yarn Harlot post from earlier this week - so clever and so true!)

While I was still dreaming of quilts, I happened upon a couple of share-worthy sites - both new to me this week....

:: Barbara Brackman blog is jam packed with information and eye candy on old quilts. Whether you are a quilter or just like looking at textiles, there is definitely lots for you to feast on here....

:: I love, love, love this quilt. Sujata shares how to make the individual blocks here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

closer encounters of the moose kind

Over the weekend, family gathered at my parents for our Easter dinner - it was just a skeleton crew of 7, as both of my sisters and most of their families were at a hockey tournament with the girls. Shortly after he arrived, my mum asked my nephew Michael to take out the compost....and once we realized he hadn't returned quite a while later (don't worry, he's 16... we don't keep tabs on him like we did when he was a child), we texted him. Oh, the ease of tracking children in the 21st century.... LOL!

He replied that he was out by the tree house, watching a moose. He came back into the house a short while later and then left again to see if it was still there. He texted us to say that yes, it I quickly grabbed my iPhone and most of the rest of us (4 out of 6) went out to see it, too. After trying to make our way though the bush as quietly as possible (which is practically impossible, given how dry and crispy it is this year, from the lack of snow accumulation)....we caught our first glimpse.

It was a young bull, probably last year's calf.....happily standing in the middle of a small pond, drinking and munching on branches. Over the half-hour or so that we stood and watched him, we edged closer, and were completely fascinated. We even heard it chewing. In the last picture you can see both my niece (in purple) 'hiding' behind a tree and the moose, to get a sense of just how close we were. Of course, what you can't see is me panicking when the moose started walking closer to Hannah.....or when Michael was practicing his moose calls....but one thing is for certain, it's an Easter - and a moose - that none of us will soon forget.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the blocking miracle

I knit this large blanket back in January, during the last few days of my holidays....but hadn't yet managed to find the time or motivation to set about the chore of blocking it. And, since I had left it up at my parents a month or so ago (secretly wishing that my Mum might get tired to seeing it and just do it for me), I was mostly able to ignore it. Truth be told I was a little worried that it wouldn't work out -- either the edge was going to be too tightly cast off....or the waves and buckles in the centre would be permanent.

But this weekend, everything seemed so perfect, so peaceful and yet still so productive, that I decided it was as good a time as any to haul out the blanket. My parent's weathered deck was the perfect place for this task -- we were able to line up two of the sides parallel with the boards and then eyeball the other edges, plus the texture of the wood helped to keep the wool to stay put, pretty much, and 4 little thumbtacks worked to hold the corners and get the maximum stretch along the cast-off edge. Still, it was very much a two-person job – that was a lot of wet wool to wrestle!

The warm sun dried it in short order, and I was reassured that all was well in the world of my mitered blanket. I just have about 4-5 ends to sew in, but it's absolutely perfect! :-D And now I have renewed energy to start the bed-sized version I was dreaming about back in I'm looking forward to (hopefully) starting work on that in June, once the OHCG Annual is put to bed. Visions of reds, pinks, oranges and touches of turquoisey blues and greens are dancing in my head....

Monday, April 09, 2012

the spoils

I have so much to share - from a really busy, yet lovely few days - that I am going to have to break it up a bit into several posts. Since I'm feeling a little remiss about the lack of hooking posts lately, I'm starting off with the snaps of the weekend's worth of dyeing.

My mum came down on Friday to be my Dyeing Dog (filling and heating the kettle, moving wool from pots to cooling lids, to rinsing and wringing), and she was an awesome help. While dyeing with two people in my little kitchen isn't quite twice as fast as going solo, it's definitely a lot more fun and less stressful. By the time she headed home with 'three bins full', we had dyed about 80 skeins of slub! Since I don't have a washer at my place, she took it all home with her to spin out and then hang to dry up on their deck. I kept dyeing and managed to rack up another 15 or so skeins, spinning each one out in my trusty salad spinner....and then set about cleaning up the mess.

(Note: the skeins were all pulled backwards for the photo, but they spent most of there time on the outside of the railing)

Placing all of the skeins onto these long weaving sticks was a great, evolutionary step (thanks Mum!). Not only did it reduce the number of times we had to play "go down and find the skein" in the yard, on the driveway or down in the field...but it also made bring them in and out at night (they weren't quite dry) a lot easier, and there was little need for rotating or shifting the skeins around to dry. Wonderful!

By the time I arrived at lunchtime on Saturday, the skeins were mostly dry, but we left them out for a few more hours anyway. Just to admire, and give them a little more bouncy breeze.

I started dividing them up into braids in the late afternoon.....and the process continued (with a few interruptions) for almost a full 24 hours, finishing yesterday afternoon. And then it was time to play....

First I hauled a box out onto the deck and dumped it out (above), and then I sat and quickly arranged the skeins in colour order. Since I was a young child, I've always liked to arrange things in order (markers, crayons, pencils, etc. - nothing was safe!)

Not a bad haul for a couple of days work. I have about 45-50 skeins still to dye up....but that shouldn't take too long - especially if I can recruit some help again.... :-D

P.S. If you're counting I think there are only 92 braids in the photos. 3 skeins were rejects that need another turn in the dye bath....and 1 is AWOL.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Fabulousness and Favourites

Hoppy Easter everybunny! I received a large Lindt bunny yesterday at work, and he is mocking me still....but (thankfully!) so far I've been able to resist. My Mum is coming over this morning for a little play in the dye pots - the wind forecast is good, just hoping it warms up a bit - so I should have some fun pictures to share soon. There are lots of little jobs on my list for this 4-day weekend, with some family time mixed in, too.

Just a short list this week - not much time for random surfing and discoveries....sorry!

:: Here is a quick and easy, no-machine-required vest that you can make out of washed/dyed wool yardage. If you work quickly, you can wear it this Spring! :-) Personally, I think I'll save it for a late summer, early Fall project....there's just not enough hours in the day for me right now.

:: Speaking of not enough hours in a day....I decided to take a little break last night and just lay about reading and watching TV. I managed to read the Hunger Games (1st book) from cover to cover. Such a quick read - I loved it! - and now I'm ready to see the movie. Yes, I really prefer to read the book first, then watch the movie.....don't like my characters to be tainted by the visuals, yada yada...

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

feeling a little boring....

The last couple of nights I've done little but press, cut, fold, and tack strips of batiks into little parcels. It's all a part of my 'new thing' that I will share soon (I promise!)...and I'm not trying to tempt you, but just hoping to explain a bit about why I've been a little quiet lately. Truth be told, I do enjoy these repetitive, manual tasks (Hallo! I'm a rug hooker....! LOL!)

Hopefully soon I will be hitting the dye pots, and then there will lots of fun lovelies to the meantime here are a few snaps of the tidy bundles. So many pretty colours and patterns - I just love batiks....and appreciate any excuse to delve into my stash...

Monday, April 02, 2012


Since I arrived home from my business trip only late Saturday afternoon, I tried to make the most of my one-day weekend. That evening, I lazed about and finished reading my book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - recommended reading, for sure!), all the while luxuriously sipping my new tea (from David's Tea - a splurge earlier in the week, but I reckon I deserve it!)

Sunday was a sleep-in, revel in lying in my bed, catching up on blogs, the news, etc. morning. Then I met my mum in town and we headed to check out the Huntsville Art Society spring show. It was nice to see some local works in a casual setting. Fellow rug hooker Diane had some of her fine shading pieces on display and was blowing everyone away. I couldn't resist adding a new mug to my collection - it just screamed Spring to me - and to complete the 6 degrees of separation theory, the potter Karen has been hooking away on a kit from Ann Hallett! Oh, 'tis such a small world!

After lunch with mum, a quick tour of the grocery store, I arrived home feeling a little bit like doing nothing. I forced myself to do something.....and after a short while I was immersed. I figure that even if I'm not doing what I had planned, as long as it's something else that I need to do, it's not a total loss. Yes, the prep for the OHCG Annual is officially started around here....with weeks and weeks more to come!

In between all of this, I flipped through a couple of new books that I picked up last week. Lately I've been getting very frustrated with my photos (which at the same time feeling like even bad ones are better than none....hence what has been showing up here), and I'm hoping that this book will help me in that area. Obviously I still have some more reading to do.....LOL!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Mother Nature's idea of an April Fools Day joke...

Last weekend, on my walk....

Snapped from my front steps, just now....

Welcome to April!