Thursday, July 31, 2008

Excited sewing

I made a shirt.

There are only two mistakes. Serious, but understandable. This is after all my first time sewing a shirt.

One of them is obvious when you think about it. I tried to make a blouse and ended up making a shirt. Want to know what's the difference? It's where the buttons are. I mixed up the front panels. So much for blindly following directions.

The other, less obvious, but serious mistake is the size. I'm a size 4 these days, so I could not believe that my measurements would make a size 12 on the sewing pattern. So I made a size 8 (it's about half way, give or take a whole bunch). My shirt is too small. But I don't care. I'm just amazed that I sewed it all by myself, and it only took three days.

singing super-villain

It doesn't get much better than a singing, and oh so cute, super-villain. Sadly, the main link won't let me watch it in Canada, but thanks to Charmingly Wicked, this little taste kept me well entertained.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Random ramblings

As for the sewing machine, thank you to everyone for your help and advice (both here and on ravelry). After re-threading, changing the needle, &c. it worked perfectly, for all of three inches. At that stage, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to walk away. I'm very lucky that I have different sewing machine that loves me unconditionally.

The Tour de France ended on Sunday; but, for me, the Tour de Fleece ended on Saturday morning. I wish I could say that I finished early, but even now, there remains a small'ish pile of fleece waiting to be transformed into yarn.

Ever since I was attacked by the car door and hurt my wrist at the beginning of the tour, I kind of lost momentum. After a few days, my wrist healed but I had fallen behind. When the end of the tour suddenly loomed up upon me on Friday, I re-assessed my position in the race. Yes, I had plenty left to spin, but did I think I'd be able to finish it all in time? Yes, if I sprinted towards the finished, I would make it with several minuets to spare. So I sat and spun, and spun, and kept on spinning all Friday and pausing for a brief moments sleep, continued to spin early Saturday morning. Then it happened, with a loud snap, my wrist refused to work. It's some how related to the incident with the car door, and if it's not better when I go see the doctor next week, maybe I will tell her about it.

In the mean time, the wonderful Indigo Moon recommended Arnica, so I promptly bought some cream made from the golden flower which seems to being doing the trick.

It's a shame I didn't finish the Tour De Fleece as Fun Knits gave out a wonderful prize to a random member of team Van Isle who finished the race. I'm also not up for knitting at the moment, which is hugely frustrating as I not only have several knitting commitments that I am knitting in lovely yarn.

It's so frustrating not being able to perform simple tasks like typing with both hands, or knitting. But, let's see if I can look on the bright side: I can still sew (so long as I don't have to pick up anything with my left hand), so that at least is something.

Monday, July 28, 2008

urgent sewing help wanted

What is it about my sewing machine that allows the top of the fabric to look like this

and the bottom to look like this?

What am I doing wrong and how can I do it right?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Design your own

Can you imagine being able to design your own fabric without having to warp a loom or clean up the dye pot afterwards? Have a look at this new idea.

(and yes, before you ask, I am catching up on the 300 odd blog entries I haven't read over the last week - 300 entries in one week, either every one's very busy or I might just be reading too many blogs. At least Google Reader keeps everything organized for me so I know which I've read and which I haven't.)

sea girl

Want to see something pretty and oh so creative? Have a look at the sea girl at the bottom of this post. I'm so privileged to have such talented friends.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dyeing to Sew

I have a new theory. Given that well made clothing in all natural fibres tends to be not only expensive, but also the wrong size; given that I can now sew; and given that fabric and thread can be acquired at a reasonable price at the discount section of the shop; I can save money and get the clothes I want by sewing my own.

This is the theory and I think it might work.

I know, I know, I should save money by buying second hand; however, that is impossible for me at the moment - allergies to the chemicals they use and the scented products worn by the customers and staff. Actually, I have the same problem in the new clothing shops these days which is another motivation for sewing my own.

So sewing it is.

The fabric I like best is undyed cotton.

This is great for, um, PJ's and um, pillow cases, but not really colourful enough for a skirt or a blouse. Don't worry, I have the technology to turn this fabric into 'Marine Violet'.

This dye is a cold water dye which is great for batik or those hot summer days when you just don't want to put on the stove. Apparently, you can even use it in the washing machine. I assume it works via some chemical reaction. At one time I forgot myself and touched the dye bath with my hands (as opposed to rubber gloves) and it made my skin feel all slimy like when it's exposed to bleach. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

The jar told me to use 1 to 4 Tbs of dye powder to 1 lb of fabric. I had 500g of fabric which is close to a pound. The jar only contained about one and a half tablespoons worth of dye, so I used the whole thing. The instructions were quite vague, but I followed them the best I could. At the end of each stage I received an involving phone call, so the fabric got to sit in the dye bath longer than the jar recommended.

After rinsing the cloth in the washing machine (several times) I discovered that 'Marine Violet' dye makes a vibrant amethyst.

I really like how the dye didn't take evenly on the fabric so that it made a semi-solid colour. I don't know why it did this, but I had my fingers crossed that it would.

I am disappointed that the colour didn't come out like the sample in the shop or the colour on the jar label. I was hoping for a rich, jewel, blue-purple, not a vibrant amethyst. Perhaps I need to double the dye amount or the time? Also, from what I've read about dying with wool, the dye bath is suppose to 'exhaust' and the water be quite clear. This was anything but, which could be a symptom of this particular dye. This colour will make a good skirt, so I'm not wholly disappointed, but it is not the kind of colour I would like as a blouse.

The price: $8 for 2 m of fabric, $6 for the dye and other chemicals, $2 for thread = $16 for a skirt or blouse. Considering I usually spend $40-90 on a skirt (yes I know it's a lot, but I'm really fussy about what I buy and where I buy it), I think this is something I will do again. Though next time, I might use a different dye.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Raspberry Vinegar Recipe

Yesterday I made raspberry vinegar.

Raspberry vinegar is a deliciously refreshing cordial that is full of antioxidants and is beneficial for the digestion and the heart. My recipe is especially good for you as it doesn't use white sugar. Stir a few tablespoons of this vibrant red liquid into a glass of water, or for a special treat, add to carbonated or tonic watter; but be careful, it fizzes like a mad thing.

After many an hour searching through the old books and home economic texts, I have yet to find a recipe for raspberry vinegar that I am happy with or that I can eat. So I made my own which I will share with you here. It's not vegan friendly, however, if you substitute the sugar for the honey, or some other vegan friendly sweetener, it would work. Also note, I love sour things these days; if you have more North American tastes (as opposed to an old world love of intense flavour), double the sweetener.

First I juiced the berries (about one ice cream bucket full).

I'm lucky because I have this old style, gentle juicer. If you are doing this at home, don't put it through your electric juicer, it will crush the seeds and make a bitter taste. Instead, put it in a bowl and take a potato masher to it. Then strain the juice through two layers of muslin cloth to separate the seeds. Keep the juice, plant the seeds in your neighbour's (or yours) garden to see if it grows into raspberries at some later date. I don't know if it would work as most berry seeds grow better when processed through a digestive track, but it's worth a try.

Measure the juice (about 4 cups in my case) and put it in a large pot. Combine with equal parts apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar also works, but it's no where near as good. And besides, apple cider is also one of the most healthy vinegars we can get our hands on these days) and 1/4 the amount of honey. In my case:

4 cups juice,

4 cups apple cider vinegar,

1 cup honey (double if you prefer something sweeter)

Stir well and put on the stove at low heat and slowly bring to a simmer (not boil) (took about an hour on my stove), stirring frequently and skimming off any froth that forms on the top.

The froth is quite bitter and the taste that is most desirable in raspberry vinegar is a sour and slightly sweet, refreshing taste. It's really worth it to take the time to prevent bitterness from infecting your concoction.

Once it begins to simmer, turn off heat, place in sterile canning jars leaving half an inch (or about 1.5 cm) space at the top, place lids on top, and heat process for 10-15 minutes. Like any canning, once you take them out of the caner or processing pot, let them stand on the counter top for 24 hours. If the tops have gone down, you can label them and they will keep in the cupboard for no more than two years. And as always, follow good canning procedure to ensure that you do not poison yourself and your loved ones.

If you don't want to can the vinegar, you can keep it in the fridge for about one month in a tightly sealed jar.

One more note: the contents of the the vinegar may separate slightly in the jar, just give it a shake before you use it to remind the raspberries and vinegar to get along.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Luck is a fickle lover

I never could get the hang of Tuesdays.

It all started when I was born on a Tuesday and Tuesdays have haunted my life ever since. If someone close to me becomes suddenly ill or dead, it will happen on a Tuesday. Bad news only reaches me on Tuesdays. Tuesdays are dark days for me. All the evil of the week seems to hold itself back so that it can slam down upon me like the seventh wave on Tuesdays.

In general, I am very lucky. Just look at the lovely items gifted to me over the last few months: a loom, a carder, &c. Please don't think I'm not grateful for my good fortune overall, but, I do pay for it. I pay for it dearly.

This week's bout of bad luck (yep, today is definitely a Tuesday): The one thing I've been looking forward to all summer, taking my Level One Masters Spinners Course, is cancelled. Not enough people signed up to take it. sigh. (that, and apparently I have moderate arthritis in my jaw, which is funny because it doesn't hurt anywhere near as much as my knee or my back, and hurts only slightly more than the rest of my major joints - could it be that the human body isn't suppose to hurt all the time? I thought this was just a symptom of being in my late 20s.) Anyway, it's a double whammy today, and it's not even 10am yet.

At least I know that tomorrow isn't a Tuesday, so after midnight tonight, I'll be safe for another week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seattle North

Many of you won't know this yet, but I spent much of last week in Seattle on a rather expensive medical thingy. I am hopeful that this expensive medical thingy is going to finalize a diagnosis so that I can start to get better again; but, I won't know that until the end of next month when I get to go on another very expensive medical thingy. But enough about that. All you need to know is that there is hope for me yet, but it's not confirmed.

We took things easy on our journey and spent most of our time travelling. I did, however, make it into two yarn shops during my trip. I bought some weaving supplies and some fibre samples for spinning including seacell and corn fibre.

I discovered some beautiful sources of inspiration for future pattern designs.

And these adorable little sheep that live in La Conner.

There were many amazing things to see as we drove through the country between Anacortes and Seattle.

One of the things I found most striking, in a beautiful yet horrifying sort of way, was this facilty.

I don't know what it did, except make lots of smoke/steem.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Still taking it with me

Here is a portion of an email I sent in responce to the questions about that ingenious food wrapper I wrote about earlier in the week.

As I understand it...

...the food wrapper was made from linen cloth and treated with a mixture of beeswax and other oils. I asked [the person who made it], and she said there was no soy in it. It's not 100% air tight, but when keeping (non chemical) foods [short term], you don't want air tight. Food, especially fruits and veg. off gasses (I wish I could remember which gasses) which increase the rate that the food goes off. That's over simplifying.

For example, if you put an unripe tomato on the counter, next to an apple or news print, overnight the tomato will ripen faster than it would under normal conditions because it is exposed to the gasses naturally expelled by the apple. However, if you put a ripe tomato in an air tight container with an apple, the tomato will go bad much faster than if it is in the air tight container on its own; which in turn, goes off faster than if it was left out on the counter, uncovered.

This is one of the reasons why you don't store plums or tomatoes in plastic bags for any given period of time.

I really like that the wrapper uses natural materials that would have been used in times before plastic came along. I have her email address if it you wanted to get in touch with her to learn more.

I bought the food wrapper at the Moss St Market: a local, all organic, farmer's and craft market we have in town every Saturday all summer long.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Phone book

You know what really annoys me?

I get really annoyed when look up a business in the yellow pages or phone book only to find that there is no phone number, only a web address. This is wrong!

If I had access to my computer, I would have used it in the first place. I only turn to a phone book at times of extreme need when no computer is to be had. It is times like those when I need a phone number and I need it now. I need to talk to a real person and not some annoying phone tree (a rant for another day perhaps?).

Now I love the Internet. Please, do not get me wrong here. Sometimes though, we still need to phone and talk to a person. It's a fact.

Now I ask you, what kind of world do we live in when large businesses, nation wide businesses, don't think it necessary to print a phone number in the phone book?

What kind of idiot came to that conclusion?

Of course I'm going to shop at your competitor, even at twice the price, because you (not you, the business) is a total DORK.

End of rant. Sighs, I feel better now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Honeycomb coming

My Honeycomb is coming along, slowly but surely.

I hope against all hope that I'll have enough of the alpaca-silk yarn, but, if I don't I have the alpaca-wool-and-silk-blend to finish up the edges.

My dream is to have this knit up in time to enter it in the local fair. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Take it with you

I picked this up at the local market last weekend. Any thoughts as to what it is?

It's for food.

I'm very much the kind of person who is loath to used plastic for keeping food. So, Tupperware sandwich containers are right out. But I'm also in a position where making all of my own food is an absolute necessity, even when I'm on the go. So, when I saw this, I knew it was for me.

It's an old idea and I've often wondered why people don't continue the tradition. It reminds me very much of something out of Lord of the Rings or an old adventure book, only jazzed up a bit so that it looks fantastically modern.

So far I've tried it with Righteous Orbs and it works great. It's an excellent, eco friendly way to keep my food fresh when I'm on the go. Know what else makes it better than plastic? It folds up nice and small once I've eaten my food. Yummy.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Have you ever been to Coombs? There are goats on the roof, you know.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Knitting down the street

Yesterday as I was going from one place to another, I saw someone walking down the sidewalk knitting with orange yarn which flowed from a little yarn sack on her wrist. It made me smile.

Y's Socks

Last year, I bought some yarn from See Jayne Knit and designed some socks to match. It was lovely sock yarn with bright vibrant colours hand dyed by Jayne to match a clematis flower found blooming in her yard.

I knit these socks at the Victoria Fibre Fest last year, during my lessons for spinning and weaving, during the talk by the Yarn Harlot, and even during my visit to the Knit-Out. The socks were very quick to knit, in part because they were ankle socks, and in part because the colours were so delightful, I just couldn't put the knitting down.

Recently Y's socks (from a few Christmases ago) finally gave out. The hole had developed far beyond my limited abilities to fix knitting, so I convinced her that it was easier for me to knit her a new pair of socks. She had her eye on my BC Socks (the socks I had just described to you) and after very little deliberation, I agreed to make her a pair.

They didn't knit so fast as the first pair of socks, mostly because I have so many other projects on the go at the moment. But they did turn out delightful. I used the same yarn and the same pattern, the only difference is that I added some extra thread in at the heal and the toes for longer life.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Things that go bump on the wrist

Thank you all for your kind words. All my bumps and bruises are starting to feel better at last. Look, I'm even typing with both hands (I'm not certain how long that will last).

Yesterday I finished pre-drafting the first half of my fibre to spin for the Tour de Fleece. If things keep going the way they are, and we all know they never do these days, I'll be finished my goal about the same time as the tour ends.

Now I have a whole bunch of emails that need replying too (oh my wrist... just kidding, but honestly, there are so many emails.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

yesterday in pictures

That is one cute dog. So adorable.

Lucky today I'm feeling better and don't need the cane anymore.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Limping around the house today, trying to decide if I should get my wrist x-rayed. Afraid, that if I let the doctor look at it, she will tell me to put a cast on and that would really cut into my knitting/spinning.

The postman just delivered a huge box of yarn for one of two knitting commissions I have (shh... top secret both of them). It's the most wonderful yarn ever and I just want to start knitting. Will have to learn one handed knitting. Perhaps get a knitting sheath - do they still make them?

anyway, this made me laugh the first time I saw it, so I went back with some knitting friends to get a photo.

I do have a one track mind? - even my yarn-friends thought I was odd.

In other news, one hand typing is hard.

Monday, July 07, 2008

tour de fleece crash

Well, I feel like a total dork.

not only did I turn up to spinning on the wrong night, I got into (and lost) an argument with a car door. First crash for team Van Isle. My left side is all bashed up, so no spinning for a day or too. But I'm not out of the race just yet. I'll take a few days off easy then sprint towards the finish line later in the race.

also means that I'm bloggin one handed. Since my camera hand is still functional, it will be mostly photos until things shape up.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Thanks to for making us Tour de Fleece avitars for ravelry - ravetars. Mine makes me smile:

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Preparing for the Tour de Fleece

I am overly excited about the Tour de Fleece. My goal is to spin one pound of fleece into fine singles that will be eventually plied to make a fingerling weight yarn. I might have to do some plying as well because I only have a few bobbins to work with.

As the challenge begins today, I spent much of last night predrafting my fibre so that I can get off to a good start today.

I've joined Team Van Island and have learnt a few interesting facts about the island (and it's surrounding islands) that I would like to share with you.

(image made by )

tells us:

The 2008 Tour de France will be 3554km long.
Vancouver Island: Length from North to South: 460 kilometres
Width from East to West: 50 - 80 kilometres
Length of coastline: 3 440 kilometres

I also want to offer a prize to the Team Van Isle contestants. If you meet your
goal. I will put your name in for a draw and you can win 2 skeins of Lorna’s
lace Quadra island colour and 250 gr of really nice silk to spin.

Prize! I didn't know there would be prizes! How wonderful. What a great prize (I know, I've seen the yarn, and I want it). Now I have even more incentive to spin up this wool. I did choose rather a large challenge though, I wonder if I was a little too eager. Too late to change my mind now, so I'll be spinning like crazy for the next little while.

Friday, July 04, 2008

500 and the Tour de Fleece 2008

This is officially my 500th post since starting this blog. I think that's pretty amazing.

The Tour de France begins tomorrow and so does the Tour de Fleece (ravelry link).

The idea, as I understand it, is while those brave people are cycling around France dressed in vibrant colours, we challenge ourselves to spin something extraordinary. For me, I have a pound of red fibre that I really want to turn into a sweater. Just spinning that much yarn into singles in such a short period of time is a huge challenge for me, and if I manage to ply them as well, just think of that as an added bonus.

I'll be spinning for the Vancouver Island Fibre Lovers group on Ravelry - team name yet undetermined. If you live on or around Vancouver Island (we include the wonderful surrounding islands of our archipelago in the group) and would like to participate as a member of our team, but are not on ravelry, feel free to do so though my blog. I understand that their might be prizes, but I'll talk more on that later.

You can read about last year's Tour de Fleece here and as I understand it, the guidelines are the same for this year's event, only the dates are different.

To quote the ravelry group for this year's challenge:

Guidelines (NOT RULES):

Spin every day the Tour rides, if possible. Saturday July 5th through Sunday July 27th. Days of rest: Tuesday July 15th, Monday July 21st. (Just like the actual tour)

Spin something challenging Wednesday July 23rd. (The last hard climbing mountain stage in the Tour - the famous L’Alpe-d’Huez)

Take a button if you want one. Then we can use the button on our blogs in show of solidarity. Take it from here or grab a clean one from the flickr pool. Come join
the flickr pool!

Wear yellow on Sunday July 27th to announce victory. Why not wear yellow on any day you feel particularly successful? (Yellow is the color of the race leader in the Tour - but here we are all ‘race leaders’)

Other colors if desired: Green (sprinter - think FAST), Polka-dot (climber - as in
uphill), and white (rookie)

This will be my first year watching the TdeF, so I'm rather stoked. I've always wanted a good excuse to watch it.

I don't know how well I'll do, but the idea is to challenge myself. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


This post will probably seem weird to you, so if you are not in the mood to read weird rantings, just ignore it.

But I just have to tell someone that I hate plucking my eyebrows. It's really annoying. Before I became ill, I was able to pay a highly trained professional to apply wax and pull off all the hairs. But I can't do it any more because of the chemicals and the perfumes. I miss it. At times, I miss it more than chocolate. It is one of the few socially acceptable occasions when you can pay someone to inflict undue amounts of pain on you. That is, without puncturing the skin (tattoo artists and phlebotimists come to mind).

What I need is a place, a salon, where I can go and pay a kindly but highly skilled individual to forcibly remove my unwanted hair in an unscented environment. I don't suppose anyone knows of an unscented, petrochemical free, salon complete with esthetician in town anywhere? I think some cunning person should open one up. I would be there with bells on (and hopefully leave there with better shaped eyebrows).

oh yes, I really need a hair cut as well.

That's the end of my rant. I feel better for getting that off my chest. Thanks for listening.

edit: I don't actually know if tattoo's hurt or not, but they involve needles and I find getting blood drawn highly painful. But then again, tattoo needles are smaller, I think, and they don't go as deep. Still, I'm not brave enough to try it for myself just yet.


This week has been a total dud blogging wise. I guess it wasn't so easy to get out of my little funk as I thought it would be. For most of the week I felt as dismal as lost seaweed left limp upon the shore at high tide.

Yet, even seaweed in this state is beautiful. A symphony of colours and textures shimmer in the sunlight. The pale sand is painted with green and red and gold; each leaf gives a hiding place to a plethora of life which would otherwise be destroyed by the sun or the hunting birds who walk the beach looking for lunch.

But I think that today the tide has finally turned (enough beach metaphors yet?). Yesterday I did a major clean of my room. I had help as the dust is horrid. The simple act of removing my computer desk, prefab MDF, and replacing it with a solid wood table has made a considerable difference. Now my computer is the only synthetic object left in my room (yeah for down pillows, the most comfortable pillow in the world).

Still, I wonder if this will be enough. Will it keep the symptoms at bay another month or two... and then what? Do I go back to feeling like uprooted seaweed again?