Monday, June 30, 2008

cheer me up

I want to say thank you to the Kittens (Mr, Mrs and little Kitten) who helped cheer me up this weekend. I stopped by their house to see all the exciting things they have going on there. Even though I interrupted their dinner (sorry about that), they took me on a tour of their fibre crafts.

Imagine the world's most wonderful fibre arts studio and turn it into a home. Baskets of yarn and of clean, yet unspun fibres garnished almost every room. More spinning wheels than I can count, all in working order, decorated the home like sprinkles on ice cream. Oh, and the weaving! Looms! Small looms, a big loom, woven goodies hung on the wall... You know how I get at a fibre festival sometimes when I'm completely overwhelmed by all the yarn related goodness? Yep, it was like that. I wonder if they would notice if I were to break into their home and sleep in the yarn? I guess I shouldn't have announced the plan on the blog because now they will be on the look out for me.

Even little Kitten (the cat) is so well behaved. She had her own little baskets of clean wool locks for sleeping in and didn't even give the yarn a second look. What I would give to be that cat and to live among all that fibrey goodness.

Despite the heat, my father also gave me a treat to cheer me up. He set up my huge, countermarche loom.

No, the mallet is not for taking out frustration on the (almost) defenceless loom. It's for gently pounding in the pegs. There is only two mettle parts for all of the loom, the reed (for beating the fabric) and some loops for tying the string to the lams. The rest of the loom is all wood and made by hand.

It's a joy to see it all set up and it actually takes up less room like this than it did in pieces. I still need all sorts of things to make it go, like a bench, some yarn, &c. not to mention learning how to tie up the lams. But it's a loom and it's all mine!

Next, all I have to do is learn how to weave. It can't be that hard, can it?

getting better

Thank you all for your comments. You are all so kind and it really helped make me feel better. Reading what you wrote even brought a few happy tears to my eyes.

I know that most people who know me would not agree, but I actually consider myself a very pessimistic person. It's not that I always expect the worst to happen, it's just that I want to be prepared for it when it does. With any serious illness, one's attitude towards life has a huge effect on how the illness takes it's course. It's funny (in a ha, ha, I'm not laughing sort of way) how being seriously ill cultivates negative thought when positive thoughts can lessen or, in some cases, cure the illness. I could quite easily spend my days wallowing in my own self pity, but I know that this is not the way to reclaim my life. No matter what this illness takes from me, I will not let it completely obliterate those small things that bring me joy.

Like this blog. I made a pact with myself that this would be a place for harbouring good feelings. Trampled by Geese would be a place to remind myself of what inspires me. This is a place to remind myself of the small joys in my life. That way, when I'm having the darkest of days, I can still find a little bit of hope by coming here and reading about something that gives me hope. I can be inspired by your comments and supportive words.

It broke my heart to turn down that job. I spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself, but it's Monday now, and I'm not going to sulk about it any longer. I can be very stubborn when it counts. There has to be some way that I can still participate in this world that I love, only by working from home. Yep, that's right, it was a yarn related job that I turned down. I just have to find a way not to let this illness take everything away from me. Even if I can only manage half an hour here and there, there must be something I can accomplish.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Well, I did it. I turned down my dream job. The perfect job, at the perfect location, with the most perfect of people and I had to refuse. All this because of my health.

While spinning yesterday, I felt quite ill (which is a normal course of events these days) and had to go lie down for an hour. If I can't even spin for 3 hours without becoming exhausted, when spinning is a soothing, relaxing, physically easy task, then I cannot be relied upon to work a shift. My body has let me down once again.

I know, my blog is a place for cultivating positive thought, but I just can't manage it today. It's been almost a year since I first became ill. My health has made me almost a complete invalid and I feel in-valid. I cannot eat my favorite foods, I cannot do my favorite tasks. I cannot spend too much time with my friends (inside, outside is fine) because they use detergent on their clothes or shampoo in their hair, &c. I cannot read a book for more than five minutes at a time because of the ink, even outside. I can't even wash the dishes because of the smells from the food and the soap make me have to lie down. It's as if I cannot participate in the world around me. It's as if I'm trapped in my room trying to avoid all the substances that make me ill.

I'm so tired all the time. What's more, I'm tired of being tired. I hate that this illness has taken so much from me. And I despair that they will never find out what is wrong with me.

Don't worry, this will not become a common topic for my blog. Sometimes the frustration builds up and I just need to vent. I'll spend the weekend thinking up positive things to blog about and start next week with a more cheerful disposition.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

rhubarb dye woes continued

Thanks for all your comments.

You know all those things you listed that might have gone wrong, I think I did all of them. It was a great learning experience and as it only cost me the price of camp fuel, it wasn't a very expensive lesson.

As for the green wool/felt I told you about yesterday. I have already tossed out the wool (buried it in the garden) as I was getting too frustrated at it. Sorry, I didn't take any photos of the finished product; however, I did dry it and try carding a bit before I completely gave up on it. For some reason, after dyeing and drying, the wool felt icky, like someone had soaked it in used bacon fat and then packed it in the back shed to gather dust for a few years. I don't know what that was about, but I did rinse it about ten times before leaving it to dry.

I think the conclusion is that one of you needs to invite me over to your house and show me how it's done. I'll bring the rhubarb leaves and the camp stove. But, maybe I'm being a bit cheeky suggesting this.

As for today, I've been spinning Jacob and will continue to do so for most of the day. I need a restful day of contemplation. I've been offered something amazing and I want to know if I'm up for it. If I accept and my health gets in the way then I am not only letting myself down, I'm letting down someone I respect and admire, and I've done that too much lately. If I accept and succeed, it offers me the opportunity to do something I love with people I enjoy and to make money badly needed for the next stage in improving my health (aka. expensive trip to a specialist out of the country).

Today is for spinning and meditating on this new development.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where moths trouble leads to a creative solution

I tried my hand at dyeing fleece a little while ago.

I was given some free fleece left over from clearing an estate. It was wool of unknown kind, and as it had sat unused for several years, I worried that there was potentially moths hiding within. Especially when there were two fluttering around the home where it was stored.

I'm not one to give up on free fleece, especially not these days when I am completely skint and spinning is the only way I can acquire new yarn. So, I thought to myself, how does one get rid of potential nastys? One can freeze the wool for a few days. I'm told this is very efficient; however, it requires the use of one's freezer and since mine is currently filled with food, there's no room in there for wool. I've read that chemicals do no good for getting rid of moths unless you set up a complicated air-tight system and get your hands on some dry ice. Not really my cuppa tea.

As I stood on my balcony (aka. new wool quarantine), I thought to myself, if was a moth, what would I hate? The solution was, being boiled. If I was a moth, baby moth or moth egg, I would really hate to be boiled for half an hour to forty five minutes. I would especially hate it if I was boiled in a tea created from rhubarb leaves. If I was a moth, I would hate it if my home with me in it was dyed.

So, that's what I did. I gathered some rhubarb leaves (containing oxalic acid, a natural mordant, not to mention free if you have a garden), about half again the weight of the wool. Put it in a HUGE pot with boiling water and put it on the camp stove on the deck to boil for forty minutes.

I strained and composted the leaves, then very gently put the, pre-soaked in hot water, wool into the rhubarb tea or dye vat. Simmered it for forty five minutes, then turned off the heat and left it to cool over night., I did something wrong. It made a brilliant shade of green. It also made one giant mass of felt. I don't know what I did wrong. Perhaps it had something to do with my first dye attempt being with locks of wool and not with a more forgiving substance like yarn.

Any hints on how not to make felt next time?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jacob Sheep

Last week I showed you a photo of these girls.

They are Jacob Sheep. An old breed of sheep that is thought to have originated in what is now Syria at least three thousand years ago. From what I can tell, the breed of sheep traveled west with the expansion of Islam during the Middle Ages, through North Africa, Sicily, and Spain. Once in Europe, like so many other agricultural goodies brought to Al Andalus at the time; like more efficient forms of crop rotation, awareness of industrial pollution and how to reduce it, and several hydraulic devices; these sheep spread to other parts of Europe and were especially popular in England (if there is one thing I can say about the English, they know a good thing when they see it).

They are little sheep. The sheep I visited were of a calm and shy temperament which I am told is common for Jacob Sheep. They can have up to six horns growing on their face and head. The rams I saw were of ferocious appearance with two great horns jetting out from their forehead. The ram stood in the pasture like a stoic, and I thought, out loud apparently, that this is a fellow I do not want to have angry at me. I was assured that they were actually quite shy and would be more likely to run away if I tried to get close to them. Still, there is something majestic about the Jacob rams; I was very impressed to see such small sheep with such mighty horns.

Commercially these sheep are of very little value. The meat, though lean and tasty, is of too small amount to bother with and the birth rate is only one lamb a year whereas many commercial breeds have two or three lambs at a time. This makes it very inefficient to grow these darlings for meat. I don't think the sheep mind that much, but it does make it so that very few people take the effort to keep Jacob Sheep these days.

(photo of cut side up and the first glimpse of the fleece that made me fall in love with it)

It's also not desirable for commercial wool processing. As you can see from the photos, the fleece is pied: it's black and white. A solid white or light grey coloured fleece is more popular with the larger mills as it is more easily dyed and a spotted fleece like this requires manual sorting into different colours. This leaves hand spinners and very small mills (if you can find one who is willing to go through the extra work) as the only real market for this fleece. So, I bought four; three fairly large fleeces and one very soft fleece which, I believe, came from a lamb and is going to be a sweater or two as a treat for myself.

(photo lock side up)

There is also, as is common with many older breeds of sheep, a great variation in the different parts of the fleece. The hind end of the fleece is far less elastic with less crimp and more guard hairs than the rest of the fleece. I've decided that this would spin up to make good warp as it the individual fibres are thickest and strongest here. The center back of the fleece is somewhat shorter than the rest of the fleece, but still soft and lovely. I'm thinking I might spin this section woolen to make an extra warm yarn for knitting mitts and a hat for next winter. The sides and the front legs are quite a bit longer fibre staple. Very soft but still strong with good crimp. Not as fine as merino, but much finer than say Romney. I think this would make the best knitting yarn and if I can get my hands on some combs I would like to spin this true worsted style.

Last of all, the area around the neck is (potentially) my favorite. The average staple length is as long as my hand from wrist to fingers, or it would be if the sheerer had spinning in mind. This part of the fleece has the potential of being my greatest joy only to be my greatest disappointment. The sheerer had only the thought that the fleece must be removed from the sheep in mind and not the idea that the fleece would be used to make a wonderful creation. There are lots of second cuts (where the sheerer did not cut close enough to the sheep the first time and had to cut the fleece again, thereby shortening the usable fibres considerably and leaving behind sort bits from the second cut which, if not removed, cause slubby yarn) throughout the fleece, especially around the neck. It seems such a small thing, but when it comes to transforming this soft fluff into yarn, it does make a considerable difference.

But no matter, I'm am still delighted with these fleeces. The shepherd kept these sheep healthy, which you can tell because there are no weak spots in the fleece from a period of nutritional deficit. Also, he kept the sheep quite clean which is a total bonus from my point of view. It makes the fleece that much easier to wash up and turn into yarn (no picking required!). This is now favorite wool to work with as I can make so many different types of projects from one breed. I think that next year, if the shepherd can get a hold of a better sheerer, or tell the current one that the fleece would be used and not, as so many farmers do, placed in a pile in a shed somewhere, I would love to cover the cost of shearing and take home all of the fleeces. Maybe I could even throw in something like free knitting or spinning lessons for a family member. Do farmers/shepherds/people who own land like that sort of thing?

Well, I have my work cut out for me. As my G'pa bought me the fleece as a cheer-me-up present, I've been bringing my carder and wheel to his home to work on the fleece. He says he doesn't mind as he likes the company and he is curios about how the tools work. He has a wonderful English style garden and a new deck which is sheltered and just the perfect temperature for performing this kind of activity on a summer afternoon. So that's what I'm up to these days, spinning away in a garden, dreaming of the day when I can finally have my own farm and a flock of Jacob sheep to call my very own.

One more thing, I've found a list of places where you can acquire your own Jacob wool.

Monday, June 23, 2008

this is where I learn how many words my thesaurus can substitute for 'lovely'

I quite enjoy the anonymity that my real life provides. I like to pretend that as a person, I’m pretty obscure. I admit it; I’m the very definition of an introvert. I do enjoy being around people; however, I also need me-time at the end of the day. For that reason, more than anything else, I keep my every-day life, pretty much to myself. Me, the actual, walking, talking and knitting self, remains fairly hidden to the world.

My virtual self, the self that writes this blog, is, on the other hand, somewhat better known. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Trampled by Geese is well known in local yarn circles. It’s more like it’s infamous.

I’m laughing to myself when I remember a conversation I had about my blog while attending the Victoria Fibre Fest yesterday. This one wonderful fibre friend was telling me about my/this blog without realizing that the person standing in front of her was me, the author of this blog. (I hear there was a question later on about whether I was a journalist. Yes, if someone wanted me to be; but so far, I’m just a philosophy student who enjoys playing with yarn.) I’m very happy she had such good things to say about my blog. I think that’s the biggest compliment I’ve had in a long time especially because she didn’t even know it was me.

The Victoria Fibre Festival had so many lovely tents. Did you know that you can buy chocolate knitting needles garnished with 14 karat gold dust? Talk about luxury! Chocolate knitting. I’ve only ever seen them at this festival, so you will just have to wait until next year to get your hands on them.

Here is a photo of Kitten next to the Fun Knits tent.

I was thinking that I don’t remember taking this photo, but if you look closely, I’m in it, so that would be why. Still, how did my camera get way out there?

And Curleysalamander spinning away.

It was so wonderful having her sitting at my elbow. Just having her near felt like a giant hug.

It was exquisite to see so many people that, before now, I only knew online. Also, to exchange a few words with all the lovely people who I only seem to meet at these events. Of course there were old friends and new, all of which were delightful. You know what, everyone was a pleasure to be around. I know you are all yarn-people, but I think we must have had the cream of the crop out and about yesterday. I really wish I could have sat down with each and every one of your for an hour or longer just so I could admire your knitting and share yarn-dreams. As it was, I feel as if I didn’t get to talk to anyone for more than a few seconds at a time. But that’s events for you, visiting them is such a different experience to working them. I love doing both.

And of course, it’s not a fibre fest without those blessed creatures from whom we are gifted the fibre.

How adorable.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

it's finished

Tired, had fun, met people, laughed, almost was blown away by the wind, was blown away by the amazing things people had created with their own hands. Going to bed now, will sleep for a week, at least, if not longer. Blog later.

it made me laugh

I just have to share my horoscope for today with you all:

Regardless of your religious affiliation, today can be a profound day of
spiritual renewal for you. But this may not involve church or even a formal
service. The magic of creation speaks directly to you now through the beauty of
nature, the contemplation of silence and the appreciation of the abundance in
your life

Spiritual renewal, eh? Sounds like yarn to me.

Sivia Harding sure can knit lace

Attending the Sivia Harding talk yesterday makes me want to knit lace in the worst possible way. Was there ever a lot of lace.

(I just love bloggers)

Sivia described knitting as a gateway to awe and wonder and by putting beads on a lace shawl opens a gateway to a magical world. It appeals to the child within us. And seeing all those beads on the Harbour Lace Shawl, I couldn't agree more.

I meet some new friends,

What a lovely sight to be greeted by upon entering: a welcoming woman in a lace shawl. It doesn't get much better than that.

Here's Nigel 's feet who knit some lovely socks out of the new Noro Kureyon.

He caught me trying to take a candid shot of his feet and gave me a much better view of his yarn prowess.

A shout out to Sheep's Bane and to Uli who I was also blessed to meet.

I had best get ready for today's adventure. As you know, I'll be manning the Fun Knits booth in Shelley's absence. We sure did miss her last night.

So far the weather is windy, but no clouds which means this might be the first time it doesn't rain when I attend the Victoria Fibre Festival.

The weather says: Greater Victoria. Today..Cloudy with sunny periods. Clearing this afternoon. Windy near Juan de Fuca strait. High 19. UV index 7 or high.

Saxe point is quite exposed which means, it's going to be a windy adventure. I hope everyone has a chance to drop by the Fun Knits tent and say hi to Joan and myself. It's the first time we've had to do something like this without Shelley, so we are a bit nervous. Excited too, I mean, who wouldn't be? I just have remember to not pile the yarn up in a big heap and roll around in it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fibre Festivals

I've been searching my brain to just find one reason why fibre festivals are so delightful for me. What is it about fibre festivals that makes them so magical?

Whether they last a few hours or a few weeks, fibre festivals are transitory. They are not like a yarn shop which is always there for you in your time of need. If you need to replace a broken needle or to brighten up a bad day by buying that extra special skein of yarn, you Local Yarn Shop (LYS) is always there for you. Fibre festivals aren't like this.

(This photo is from the Button & Needlework Boutique who will be participating in the Victoria Fibre Fest, both as part of the yarn crawl and at the Knit-Out)

Sometimes we travel a long way to attend fibre festivals, sometimes they happen in our very own back yard. The festival itself is an experience of extended bliss, anxiety, enjoyment, soothing comfort and a burst of energy. But then, far more quickly than it came, it's over. You go home to you life. It doesn't matter if you walk a few blocks to your front door, or travel half way around the world, the festival is still over. It's finished. Full stop.

But, it's not a full stop. The event may be finished, but it still lives on. You get home and you read the blogs of all your new friends. You take a moment out of your busy day to enjoy a cuppa tea and your new memories. Maybe you join a new knitting or spinning group that you learn about at the festival. Maybe, you took a class and carry this new skill (and the tools that go with it) home. Maybe, ah, who am I kidding, there is no maybe about this one, you have brought home a skein of yarn or ten, and you place this yarn in a delightful pile to the left of your computer monitor, that way, you have something comfort you while you work.

The projects you make with your newly acquired stash last far longer than any fibre festival. I still have the socks I knit with the yarn I bought at last year's fibre fest. I still have some alpaca fibre waiting to be spun up into a project. These things last for years. Even after they are gone, you have friendships, skills, memories, inspiration... All these things are what makes a fibre festival so very special to me. It doesn't just last a day, it lasts for as long as I will remember.

Then there is the next fibre festival; a whole new experience to be had. Though, not in the same way a yarn shop, there something permanent about fibre festivals. They are like the tide, transitory and everlasting at the same time. Always moving through time, but always there when we need it most.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fibre Festivals: Friends

Knitting has a great paradox inherent within it. The action of knitting is a solitary thing. It is something that one person does with their hands alone; making one piece of cloth at a time with one lot of yarn. It is a singular act that by definition, is committed alone.

Yet, knitting also lends itself to communal proceedings. People flock together and knit in harmony with one another. When one knits, one participates in the grand tradition of knitting and, in a metaphoric way, knits with all those who have knit before and with all the people who have yet to pick up the pointy sticks. Gathering together in groups, at cafes, pubs and parks, people continue this tradition. Knitting has at it's very core this ability to take loose strands and gather them together into something stronger than each knitter is as an individual.

Knitting friends, yarn friends in general, are something different. We already share an intrest and it makes it easy to talk to another knitter even if you have never meet that person before. Even when we come from vastly different backgrounds, we bond. I love that about yarn-people. There is an understanding that, yes, we are very different people, but we love each other. The connection we share with yarn, allows us to interact peacefully with people we normally wouldn't come across in our daily life. It allows us to expand our horizons, and I feel, makes us better people for it.

I love my yarn friends. What's more, I love fibre festivals because I meet so many new yarn friends there.

Last year, at the Victoria Fibre Fest, I got to know some wonderful people. To name just a few; Shades of Bliss, Close to my Heart, Fun Knits, and Knittingfool. I still read all of their blogs avidly (even if I almost never comment). Something else magical happened last year. I took a beginners spinners course with Brenda, who subsequently invited me to a spinning group where I met a wonderful flock of people and found a gateway into a world of yarn that has existed in this city, right under my nose, for generations.

This year, I hope to meet even more wonderful yarn friends. I'll be working at the Fun Knits booth which is great because it forces me to overcome my natural tendency to be shy so I can make even more new friends. I can't wait to see what this year has in store for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fibre Festivals: Knotty by Nature Fibre Arts

I think, what I love most about fibre festivals is that it provides the opportunity to get to know businesses and people who live locally and share the same enthusiasm for yarn that you do.

In this day and age, the need to support local artisans and farms is more important than ever. You would be amazed to learn just how far commercial yarns travel before they reach your needles. The amount of fuel and the amount of money required to make a finished skein of yarn on a commercial scale is, well... you've been yarn shopping right? Then you know just how expensive it can be. By using even a fraction of your yarn budget on local products you not only help the environment by cutting down on transportation, you help your community. And isn't that what yarn is all about? Community.

I love keeping track of local companies that support local communities and have (more or less) secretly been keeping an eye on a couple who have taken this ideal to heart and are in the process of starting a business that focuses primarily on local fibre arts (from fleece to finished product and everything in between). Stephanie (ravelry link) has kindly granted me an interview which I would like to share with you all.

An interview with
Knotty by Nature Fibre Arts

Thank you for doing this little interview. I understand you have an exciting project on the go, can you tell us more about it?

My name is Stephanie and I grew up in Victoria, although my roots are Inuvialuit (Inuit) and Australian. My fiancé Ryan is from London, Ontario. After last years’ Saltspring Fibre Festival, Ryan said he would be interested in opening a fibre arts store with me. Something I had thought of doing but found the task too daunting on my own. For the past year we have been developing a business plan, speaking to banks, and local fibre artists, business people, friends and family. From there we have decided to go in the direction of focusing on supporting the local fibre artisans, and farms. There are 75,000 sheep in BC, over 30,000 of these sheep are raised on here Vancouver Island. At Knotty by Nature, we feel it is crucial to support our local wool industry, to this end we have spent the better part of the spring sourcing and buying fleece from local farms. We will cater to all textile artisans, including First Nations, local designers, weavers spinners, felters and knitters. As well, we will provide a venue, workshop space and social scene for these artisans to sell their creations. Our plan is for the store to be open year-round, in Victoria (location still to be determined) selling textile tools and supplies, and consignments made by local artisans. Although we plan to still carry other items that are not locally based, but will try to support locally whenever possible!

How did you come up with this idea?

I have found knitting to be a gateway craft into the fibre arts world, leading to weaving, felting and then spinning. We would have to drive to Duncan/Nanaimo or wait until a fibre festival/event was happening nearby to buy spinning and felting supplies. It seemed like an opportunity and something we were both really excited to get into it even more!

How long have you two been interested in fibre arts?

I have been in the fibre arts for about 9 years now. Ryan has been weaving and spinning for more than two years.

What was the first craft that introduced you to the wonderful world of fibre arts?

I was first introduced into the fibre arts world by a pair of socks that my son’s great aunt knit while she was blind. I figured if she could do that, then I must be able to learn. My first project was a pair of socks. The first project I got someone to knit was also a pair of socks. I have since realized that this is not a typical good project. It didn’t help that the socks were for her husband who is over six feet tall and had huge feet. She didn’t knit them for long until another friend got her back into knitting, starting this time with a scarf!

I introduced Ryan into the fibre arts world, with an Ashford knitters loom. From there he has also had a hand at knitting, but really took onto spinning. We have both been to Terri Bibby’s Saori weaving workshop and studio on Saltspring Island, where we learned a zen-way of weaving. Basically you can do no wrong, along with some other great philosophies. We have applied this philosophy to spinning and now make some really great spun wool for weaving!

What type of goodies are you going to have in your shop?

Supplies for weaving, spinning, felting, knitting, crocheting, etc… Finished fibre products by local artisans.
Lots of wool!

  • on cones, in skeins, and by the meter
  • rovings -In various forms, from the raw (but skirted) fleece, to local cleaned and carded wool -A fibre club for spinners
  • white wool for dyeing
  • handspun wool, etc… New and used fibre arts books Dyes Knitters loom rentals Etc… I can go on and on! But I think you get the idea.

This sounds exciting, when are you planning on opening?

We are hoping to open late summer, we are still working on getting a business loan and are hoping the outcome of the festival will help inform our business plan and make the story more compelling for someone to lend us money.

I understand you will be at the Vitoria Fibre Festival for the Sunday Knit-Out and vendor market, what exciting stuff can we expect from you there?

We are going to be selling local wool, some raw fleece (skirted= removal of poopy yarn), a little bit of washed and carded. As well, my girlfriend has made a few beautiful things like little girl princess capelets, felted purses and dyed wool. We will have some felting kits, a couple of dyeing kits, and we have been dyeing wool rovings in some beautiful colors. We will also be selling a weaver’s pallet that Ryan invented for weavers, which is pretty cool. We will also be selling Ashford products, like looms, spinning wheels, etc. We are pretty lucky that the Ashford wholesaler lives in Victoria, and they are a super great family. We are also going to bring our Saori and knitter loom for people to try out.

Last of all, how can people get in touch with you if they would like to learn more?

You can email us at

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to shopping from you.

Thanks! We really appreciate your support!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fibre festivals: luxury


Fibre festivals are about treating yourself to something you wouldn't encounter in your every day experience. Even the simple act of attending the event is like an exceptionally rare bite of chocolate. It is an experience for all the senses: the colour of yarn; the friendly noise of the crowd; the texture of fibres against your fingers; the smell of the wool, silk and flax; and the taste of an extra special fibre day lunch. For those of us who love yarn, it is far more luxurious than a day at the spa.

I always end up bringing home a skein or two of yarn for which I have no plan. For a person who plans every project to the extreme, this is a luxury in itself. There is something about the atmosphere of the festival which allows for me to unplan, as it were, to relieve myself of the idea that I must know exactly what I will knit with the yarn before I put my hands on it. This impulsive skein usually has silk in it and is quite often of a sock variety. That is the thing about luxury, it allows a level of freedom that one wouldn't normally get in one's life.

Lace, for me, is luxury taken to the extreme. Lace is delicate and open, it speaks of other worlds, of another time and another way of life.

This white shawl is knit in 100% cashmere. Knit by the Victoria Fibre Festival organizer, Marilyn, in the Harbour Lights pattern designed by Sivia Harding specifically for this weekend.

It was designed on the theme of Victoria being a harbour city. The center ray is like the light houses that protect those who sale into our harbour and the large panels have rays of light radiating across a shell pattern like water breaking over the rocks as the tide comes in.

This red shawl is the Phoenix rising also by Sivia Harding Knit by yet another amazing lace knitter.

And this WIP is Tuscany, designed by Amy Singer. It's knit in this amazing yarn of linen wrapped in silk by VicKnitChik (ravelry link).

I've always found lace to be a challenge, but once it's finished and blocked, wow, is it ever worth it. It's a bit like getting ready for a fibre fest. You have to remember to get cash out of the bank, arrange a carpool there and back because, one, it saves on gas, two, makes parking easier when there are less cars, and three, we are environmentally conscious yarn lovers. You have to make certain you eat a hardy breakfast so that you can last through the shopping and other events until lunch. Sign up for classes so that you can extend your fibre skills, and don't don't forget acquiring your ticket to the talks (like the one by Sivia on Saturday night). There is a lot to do. But, boy oh boy, once you arrive and see all the amazing things, it sure is worth it.

The pattern and kits for the Harbour Lights Shawl will be unveiled at the Fashion Show on Friday night and will be available for sale at the Knit-Out on Sunday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Victoria Fibre Fest and Fun Knits

I had received some sad news. Shelley of Fun Knits, the main sponsor for the Victoria Fibre Festival and Knit-Out is not able to come to the fibre festival due to an emergency with her other job. She has asked me to care for her booth in her absence and I have accepted.

Shelley is amazing. Just being around her makes yarn look that much brighter. I've unofficially appointed her as one of my mentors (I haven't told her yet) as she has this almost magical insight into knitters, knitting and yarn. I know it is devastating to her that she won't be able to come to the festival, it means the world to her, but she chose to do a good deed rather than fulfill her own desires. I'll do my best to make her proud next Sunday at the Knit-Out, please stop by the Fun Knits tent and say hi.

It is people like Shelley who sponsor events like the Victoria Fibre Festival and make them possible. If you are someone who enjoys attending the Victoria Fibre Fest, please stop by her blog and tell her how much her contribution means to you. If you are out of town and not attending this year's festival, stop by and tell her how much people like her mean to you. I know she would appreciate it.

Another way to show your gratitude is to stop by the Fun Knits tent (and at all the other sponsors of the event) and buy yourself a special treat. This works for every fibre festival and yarn event around the world. Sponsors put a lot of themselves into the event and are part of the trifecto that makes a good fibre festival: sponsor, organizer and participant. By attending the event we tip our hats and say thank you to the organizers (they also love an in-person thank you) and by shopping at the vendors we say thank you to the sponsors.

My thoughts are with you Shelley.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Friends and Fibre Festivals

Knitting In Public Day was a great success. We sat in the sun on the lawn outside city hall; there must have been at least 25 of us knitting away. Lots of people saw us (which is the whole point - promoting awareness of the craft) and some curious onlookers stopped to chat. I was pleasantly surprised by a few friends, like Curlysalamander, who stopped by to knit their stuff.

The day was organized by Marilyn who is also the organizer for the upcoming Victoria Fibre Fest and Knit-Out (June 20-22). In honour of this fibre fest and of fibre festivals everywhere, I dedicate this week of blogging to The Fibre Fest and many things it has to offer. Each post will explore a different aspect of fibre festivals. There is so much to talk about that I realize now, a week isn't going to be enough. There is the shopping, the classes, the people, the talks, the fashion shows, the friends you meet, the demonstrations, the way a single day can change the direction of the rest of your life. There is also the element of how what you picked up at the fibre fest stays with you during the year, whether it be the skein of yarn or a new friendship. There is a permanent element to, what by it's very nature, is a transient event. Even if you cannot make it to this fibre fest (and I hope you can as the grape vine tells me it's going to be even better than last year), don't let the fibre festivals in your area pass you by. There is nothing quite like it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Online yarn resources wanted

Since I now need to learn how to weave, I am chuffed to discover the WeaveZine. Isn't life amazing when things just come together like this?

What are your favorite online resources, magazines, zines, &c. for yarn based activities? Doesn't have to be just weaving, I love all yarn related activities.

Today is International KIP (Knit In Public) Day.

Happy Knit In Public Day Everyone!

So everyone, dust off your needles and yarn and knit where everyone can see you. If you are in Victoria BC, there is a KIP day event at centennial square from 1pm to 4pm. Bring a lawn chair, some water and sunhat, and your yarn and sticks. It's a block away from the Beehive yarn shop, so if you forget your knitting, it's a great excuse to pick up something extra special in honour of the day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The add said, free to a good home, so I called.

I answered the add in the newsletter. "Free to a good home," it said and when I phoned the number printed at the bottom of the advert, I was subsequently grilled. What sort of history did I have in the field? What did I intend to do with this item? Where did I intend to keep it? Do I have anyone who can teach me it's proper use and care? How long did I intend to use it? Would I pass it along to someone deserving when the time came that I was no longer able to enjoy it?

I must admit, it was a longer and more grueling interview than I had ever had for any job. Yet, it was a topic I love and eventually I earned the right to come and visit said item and interviewer to see if the item and I would be a good fit.

I had my doubts before I arrived, but when I saw the loom (yes, that was the item, a huge countermarche loom) I fell in love. I tried to act all cool and professional when all I wanted to do was to jump up and down with excitement and hug everyone and everything in sight (yes, I did end up hugging the loom).

Needless to say, the loom and I were a match. The kind weaver gave it to me at no charge; this most valuable piece of equipment that will fulfill my weaving needs for decades to come. It was a gift of unmeasurable proportion and I am truly grateful.

We took the loom apart and put it in the van. It will be an adventure to put it all together again.

I feel almost as if I just got married to the loom. I imagine this is what marriage is like: the love at first site, the anticipation, the nervousness, the excitement of the day when you finally belong to each other, and now I'm at the stage where I've carried my 'husband' over the threshold and all that remains is to train 'him' not to leave the toilet seat up. I think we are going to get a long just fine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

90 years, can you imagine it?

My G'pa is turning 90 years old this week.

Can you imagine it? 90 years old!

He's the only person in our family know to have lived this long and he is in fine shape. I love him to bits and it fills me with pride to think of all the things he has done in his life. I know he doesn't use the Internet, but I am so happy that I just needed to tell the world that my G'pa is turning 90 years old! HAPPY BIRTHDAY G'PA!

The rest of the week is spent helping him with his party, so blogging will be intermittent until after the party.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Victoria Fibre Fest and Knit-Out, one year later

Did you ever have one of those days that changed the way you live your life? I'm talking about a happy kind of day, a day when you leave your house mildly excited about the nifty thing you plan to do, and come home again filled with a new sense of hope and pocket full of new friends. You know the type of day I mean, right? The type of unsuspecting day that, without you noticing right away, set you on a new path that changed the way you approach the world? A happy, bliss-filled kind of day.

I had a day like that about a year ago. At first I thought it was simply a fantastic day of fun and fibre - The Victoria Fibre Festival. But then, I got together with some of my new friends to practice my new spinning skills, and that led to other activities like spinning at the Saanich Fair, which led to me joining the local Guild. Now, a year later, I feel a different kind of person. I have skills that I never thought I would have and friends, well, I didn't think they made people like that anymore; they are truly wonderful and always willing to help.

The Victoria Fibre Fest and Knit-Out 2008 is on June 20th - 22nd and promises to be even better than last year (don't believe I had fun? Read this.). There are a lot more classes this year(including the Spinning course with Brenda that started everything for me), and I hear that there is still some room left in them.

The guest speaker will be Sivia Harding, wow, can that woman knit lace, who has designed a shawl especially for the occasion: The Harbour Lights shawl. Sneak peek here and here. I'm really tempted to knit this, it would be perfect to wear to those extra special occasions. As the festival is nothing but fun and fibre, the main sponsor is of course Fun Knits yarn shop; who by the way, will be selling kits for the Harbour Lights shawl at the Knit-Out and market on Sunday. There will be a special discount price for these kits just for the Knit-Out, so if you are tempted, don't let this opportunity slip by you.

Don't forget to mark it on your calenders and book the weekend off from work and family obligations. This is a weekend well worth treating yourself too.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Compost compost - worms or electric?

Why am I obsessed with rotting food?

Food waste accounts for about half of what we toss away each year. Food waste (as opposed to food refuse which is food stuff that can no longer be used to make anything else to eat - see the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences especially the introduction to the first volume) is stuff like carrot peals, the outside leaves of a cabbage, too old leftovers, and apple cores. Things that sure, if I was completely impoverished, I would be using to make things like soup stocks &c. or at the very least make better meal planning so that there was not so much waste, but as it is I tend to just toss this stuff.

Half of my rubbish is food stuff, but it's not that I'm an overall wasteful person. I am very careful not to use paper towels if I can get away using a rag cut up from old t-shirts which can then be re-washed. In fact, a roll of paper towel lasts us almost two months and would last twice that if I didn't eat so many poppadoms. Same with packaging; I buy things with minimal amount of packaging and in the size that will be consumed before the expiry date. So when I say that half of what we toss away is food waste and refuse, you have to take into account that for two people living in an apartment, we produce precious little garbage.

We don't just toss this stuff away. Over 1/3 of it goes into the recycling (often after being used and re-used like using the back side of scrap paper for notes before sending it on to it's new life) and just under 1/2 of what we produce, the vegetarian food scraps, goes to the garden to feed lovely little worms. Even plastic grocery bags have three lives before they find their way into the bin - they bring groceries home from the store, they bring vegetables from the garden, and then they go and wrap up the garbage we toss into the dumpster (strata legislation demands that it be wrapped in plastic to deter rats and other pests).

I'm very conscious of what goes into the trash. But that's not really what I came here to talk about.

I want to talk about compost.

I keep an allotment garden. It consists of two VERY small garden beds that live on land owned by one of the local community associations. For reasons that do not need explaining at this time as they would spark considerable protest against the community association and probably result in considerable legal action if not simply financial auditing, not to mention it gets me all hot and bothered just thinking about it, but they are having a hard enough time of it right now so I won't tell you who they are and I would rather they just keep on pretending that the garden plots don't really exist while they deal with their own problems... for reasons like those, composting is not permitted at the place where my garden grows. We even have to pay to have garden waste carted away and we have to pay to have soil and mulch transported in. It's not really a win-win situation here; more like lose-lose.

But I'm here to talk about compost, not politics.

In the winter, when practically nothing grows in my garden except aphids and slugs, we trench compost. Its a way of putting the food scraps into the soil without attracting rats or the attention of the community association. It's also very efficient as it takes only 3-8 weeks for majority of the compost to turn into worm poo. When summer comes around, this is no longer an option as it would mean digging up my vegetables to plant compost.

So for the first time, I cannot trench my compost, I cannot take my compost to the garden and put it in a bin, and I am not willing to toss my food scraps down the garbage shoot and waste all that lovely potential soil. I need another option!

I need a composter!

Lately I've discussed two composting options: an electric one and one that grows worms.

Worms are far more affordable.

I like the worm system I showed you because, with most worm composting, it tends to be a messy series of complex tasks that need to be completed every few days to keep the worms alive but with this system, you don't need to sift through the smelly compost to get the 'black gold'. It seems quite quick and easy to use, it composts paper and most food waste.

There are a few drawbacks. First off, the worms do not eat meat waste. Not a problem if you are vegan, but still an issue for my home. Second, the worms can't be too hot or too cold. Easy for most people as the temperature range is quite forgiving, but not so easy for me. I want my compost to live on my balcony which is south facing in full sun. In the summer it gets too hot, in the winter, too cold. Basically there would be two months out of the year when it wouldn't kill my worms to live outside. There are also a few other things to worry about: do they have too much liquid, is there enough food for them, is there too much? It's a bit like keeping a pet. You can't just go on vacation and hope they will fend for themselves.

Conclusion: the worms are a good option if I had the right place to keep them and I wanted to put the effort in. They are affordable and efficient, but not the right choice for me just now.

The electric composter is kind of pricey;

but, it seems a good fit for me. It will handle the amount of compost we produce, it processes meat scraps and just about everything else we could ever want, but no junk mail and not too many citrus fruits. It can go out on the deck or inside as it claims to produce almost no odour. And, the upkeep is about $10 per year. It's also pretty cool looking! The biggest drawback is the initial price. But I hear that the Government of Canada is sending me some money to be more eco-friendly (but I'll believe it when I have the check in hand), so I can pool that with what they send my dad and it will pay for most of the price.

Conclusion: I think I've already decided to go with the electric composter. I just wanted to write out my reasoning to make certain I wasn't completely insane in spending that much money on something that makes dirt (can you believe that the government puts tax on this?!? Outrageous!). With the amount of compost I'll be keeping out of the land fills, that thing about it not producing bad gas, and the amount of soil and fertilizers I won't have to import to my garden, I think that it will more than compensate for the environmental impact of the electricity, shipping and manufacturing of this product in a year or two, if not sooner.

That was a long post, even for me. I bet no one will read the whole thing, but I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sourdough Bread

Baking sourdough bread is one of my personal joys. It is delightful to nurture yeast to make any sort of bread, but there is something especially wholesome about making sourdough. It takes longer to make a loaf of sourdough, true, but it takes precious little effort. Most of the time that goes into making this bread is simply waiting for the yeast, the wild yeast that you nurtured and kept alive in starter form, the wild yeast harvested from the air in your kitchen, wild yeast that has none of the chemical processing that commercial yeast hast, the wild sourdough yeast that your body is already familiar with and for most people is easier to digest; most of the time spent in making a loaf of sourdough is spent waiting for that yeast to grow. I usually make my dough up Saturday mornings and leave it to rise while I walk to the local farmer's market. When I get home after lunch it is ready for the next stage of development.

Sourdough has a different smell and a different texture to breads made with commercial yeast. Making sourdough bread begins with a starter. You can make your own starter, but it is best to receive some from a friend. The yeast in sourdough is very sociable. You can tell that it likes being around human activity by the way it reacts by having someone pottering away near by. The older the starter, the more yeast live within it and the better the bread will taste. Starters can be made and maintained with several different sorts of flour (mine is 100% rye). It's basically a fermented paste of flour and watter, kept under certain conditions, that captures wild yeast from the air.

This is the basic element that all sourdough (true sourdough) share. What happens next can be as varied as the person who bakes the bread. This is such a long standing and traditional method of bread making that there is scarcely a wrong way to bake sourdough bread.

If you are interested in baking with sourdough, I recommend Nigella Lawson's book, How to be a Domestic Goddess. It has a recipe for starting sourdough starter (in case none of your friends have any on the go) and a couple of basic bread recipes to make with it. After your starter is three months old you can leave out the commercial yeast entirely. The bread will take longer to rise, but it will taste a whole lot yummier.

I admit, I don't follow this recipe very much anymore; rather, I simply put in what feels right, or I follow one of my own recipes I've perfected over the year and a bit that my starter has been alive. But it's a great starting point. Also, I think the starter recipe calls for milk, but I remember I didn't put any in (if I remember correctly, there wasn't any milk in the house that day for some reason). That makes my starter 100% Vegan which is always a bonus when I have Vegan friends over.

On a side note, Nigella also has one of my most favorite recipes from that book online (although now I cannot eat any of the ingredients, life sure is a funny thing): Peanut Butter Squares . These taste fantastically good and far better than the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups she compares them too.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Design element

I decided to call my mistake a design element as it's such a small little thing I was making.

A pin cushion.

One of the troubles I've been having with sewing, other than learning to preshrink my fabric, is the pincushions. They are all so big. I like to put the pincushion on my sewing machine, next to the arm that goes upright. The big ones keep getting knocked around by the fabric. I have one that is shaped like a tomato with the green top glued on so I cannot put any pins on the top of the cushion which is what I naturally tend to do when sewing, I can only put the pins around the side.

So I've been thinking about pincushions. I even spent an hour or so browsing Etsy and looking at all the lovely pincushions other people had made, but none of them really spoke to me. What I really wanted was a simple knitted pincushion like the ones I read about in Jane Austen. Jane Austen never really described what they looked like, but I had this image in my mind. This weekend I set out to imitate my vision of a perfect little knitted pincushion, and I did.

Isn't the bottom cute?

Now I'm completely in love with making these little things. I think I'm going to have to make some more. Soon my home will be overflowing with pincushions of various size and design. I must admit it, I think that having the right pincushion makes sewing so much more fun.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More compost

I've found a composter that will compost junk-mail along with food stuff.

It's a worm composter, but I think I can manage to produce at least half a pound of food scraps and junk mail a day. It's also more affordable than (but not as cool as) the last composter I talked about.

Flaw or intentional?

What do you think?

Can I get away with calling this a design element, or must I admit to making a mistake when following the pattern?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Why I'm not a doctor

Thanks for the sore throat advice everyone. Those are some good tricks to keep on hand. About the brandy, it was actually a GP that recommended it as the 'world's best cough suppressant; far better than anything I could prescribe for you.' I usually add it to some hot lemon and honey (never mix with medicated stuff though).

I went to the doctor's office today since it has now been hurting me for over a month. It seems that it is not my throat and ears that are sore, it's my jaw. Apparently I cannot tell the difference, so it's a good thing that I'm not a doctor. So it's a liquid diet for me.

Anyone suggest some easy to chew, high calorie recipes that don't contain any: blueberries, yeast, soy, cane sugar, processed grains (Whole grains fine), all dairy, garlic, barley, eggs, malt, peanuts, or sesame?

owe question

What do you do when you have a sore throat and you don't want to take any cough medicine (do they even make sugar-free, soy-free, cough medicine?)?

I've tried hot lemon and honey, I've tried gargling with salt, I've even tried a spoonful of brandy. Nothing has worked so far. Any thoughts?