Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 4 - Sixteen Cables Hat

I've been plodding away at my stash. Finished object 4 is blocked and I love its wrinkly weirdness:

16-Sixteen Cable Hat by Circé Belles Boucles
I did wet block this but the cables persist in their fall. I was all ready to keep it for myself (it fit perfectly pre-block) but it didn't dry as snug as it had been originally. I made the fitted version in a size small. I also went down a needle size for the ribbing section (the part where the pattern suggests a US6) - I used a size US5. In the end the yarn dried such that the garment got longer more than fatter. I've noted this tendency when I've used Quince Chickadee before.

It's a pretty cool hat, subdued but strangely avant garde.

I'm now about 75 per cent through my first pair of the Kindling Mitts. Hope to have pics of that soon (though I'm making 2 pairs in navy blue, which never photographs well). Knitting cables in small diameter is finicky enough without adding a dark colour to the mix. I practically have to feel for stitch-pattern correctness as it's still so dark here all the time.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 3 - Decalage Scarf

It's such a pain in the ass at this time of the year - there's really no light for picture-taking (though, admittedly, there's much more light now than there was even 2 weeks ago).

No mind, I'm on a trajectory and this post contains photos (see below). I just hope they can convey a little bit of the intrinsic beauty of the Decalage scarf. I suggest you check out this post for more info on how to determine the weights of yarn required.

I should also take a moment to concede that this is not a true stash-bust. This post says it all but buying 1800 yards of yarn to use 250 is a stash-bust fail. Mind you, my mistake has introduced me to a lovely pattern that will facilitate my usage of all the Habu steel/silk eventually. And the end result is fancy-ass. This is the kind of gift that makes an impact. If I were to find this at a shop it would easily cost 350 bucks. (Of course, it fucking should. The yarn alone was 70 bucks).

In brief, there are 6 sections in the scarf: the two outer sections are made up of one strand of Habu and one strand of lace weight yarn, held together. The 4 interior panels are made up of 3 strands of lace weight yarn, held together, in different colour combinations.

Where I'd do this differently - and I will make this again because I'm not done with that wretched Habu - is in making the outer panels longer i.e. the same length as the other panels. That will achieve the end result of divesting myself of the rest of the steel yarn and will also provide more appealing proportions (to my eye). Note to myself: I wrote up the proposed weights for next time in this scarf's Ravelry project page.

But I like this (admittedly tedious) knit so much that I would certainly consider making it in all lace-weight wool in the future. It's a great design. Very simple, but beautiful. It's true textile art. If I were to make an all-wool version I might rib the bottom and sides because I don't like stockinette curl.

And a word on curl: I knew what I was getting into so I'm not surprised or upset by the outcome. The curl blocks out considerably so you cannot skip this step. I urge wet-blocking for maximal effect. Curl sure does give it that "art vibe'.

This knit is all about the care and consideration given to the yarn choice and the blocking. Also, make sure the fabric is knitting up with the tension you prefer. I didn't do a gauge swatch but I confirmed that I liked the fabric my needles were producing and I determined what length my scarf would be with my own gauge (slightly smaller before blocking - longer after blocking - than the dimensions indicated in the pattern instructions). My anticipated gauge was WAY off with the steel/lace-weight combo but right on with the 3 strands of lace-weight. So you might need to use less or more of the outer panel yarn combo to achieve the length of panel you would like.

But onto some photos...

This is the section where 2 strands of the pink yarn / 1 strand of the beige yarn (panel 4) segue into 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5).
This is the section where 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5) move into 1 strand of pink yarn and 1 strand of Habu.
Here's where 1 strand of beige, 1 strand of Habu (panel 1) merge with 3 strands of beige (panel 2).
It's a really gorgeous feeling scarf. The muted colours roll together when you wear it and the Rowan lace-weight blocked beautifully. It's less hairy after blocking.
This really doesn't highlight the "cool" factor of the Habu / lace-weight wool combination. It's a bit crinkly, a bit open. Do I like it as much as the interior panels? No, but it's an interesting counterpoint.

On final reflection, here's what I'd say to a knitter thinking about making this:
  • The work is all in the planning. Anyone can do that planning (new or experienced knitter) but a new knitter's going to have that much more of a challenge - particularly if (s)he isn't math-minded.
  • It's a study in colour-blending and in that respect it is a very enjoyable knit. You get to see the fabric come alive - and, if you've chosen well, the colours will thrill. But otherwise it's boring, boring, boring. Mind you - it goes together pretty quickly if you plod on. 3 strands of lace-weight knit up as quickly as DK.
  • Make all 6 panels of equal length - if for no other reason than that you'll use up your yarn more evenly. Note that your gauge with the steel/silk yarn is likely to be very different than that with the 3-strand wool.
What do you think of the finished object?

Friday, February 5, 2016

From Pain to Equilibrium: Body Brushing (A Recap)

Hola Peeps. It's been one of those whirlwind weeks at my course (the last one!) so I've been ridiculously occupied. Having said this, there's a topic I've been meaning to return to, lo these past few weeks - body scrubbing. As you may know, it's  something I've been doing for a couple of months.

For those with myofascial pain, I believe that this activity is arguably practical. Of course, my proviso is that everyone is different. Chronic pain (even if it emerges from the same - or a similar - source) reflects itself differently in most people. What works for me is a confluence of numerous supports: my "head of nails" and "bed of nails", MELT and Yoga Tune Up, yoga (active and supportive), anti-inflammatory supplements and cold-pressed juice (namely turmeric), Advil, heat, distraction and meditation. I'm not covering all the bases. The lengths I've gone to, to mitigate pain, are far-reaching. Those of you who struggle will no doubt understand.

What I'd say to anyone who experiences regular pain is that is, at its core, a reaction. It's the terribly unique (and therefore solitary) way one's body responds to neurochemical stimulus. The beauty of this is that every cure is just as unique - and just as probable (though sometimes it can take a long, long time to find).

But back to the topic at hand: Body scrubbing, or brushing, is a fairly easy prong in the multi-faceted approach to pain-relief. If you can bend, you can do it. It takes about 5 extra minutes in the shower, 2-3 times a week (you should let your scrubber dry out completely between uses) and it has a fairly delicious, flexibility and energy-inducing outcome (at least for me).

What I do is work from toe to head, drawing little circles on my skin, moving towards the heart. You don't need to overdo it with pressure but definitely hit all of your large muscle groups. Spend extra time on those areas that are predisposed to pain

One thing I neglected to write about, the last time I referred to body brushing, is the after-brush experience. Frankly, that's weird because it's a perfect segue to body oil (which itself is a perfect segue to CURIO). You think I'd have explored that cross-marketing option on the first go-round...

When you get out of the shower, I encourage you to pat your body with a towel (so that it is semi-dry) and then to massage in a high-quality emollient. (Note: this isn't a sales tactic - you can easily make your own oil.) The thing is - you don't need a ton of ingredients to gain the benefit. A good base oil and one or two, targeted essential oils will be more than adequate. Make sure you love the scent. It matters. Sure: Immortelle and lavender are particularly lauded for pain management, but choose a fragrance you love. The key here is to massage (if briefly) in the same direction as your original scrub. The semi-dry massage will lock in moisture and encourage body awareness. My perspective is that those high-quality essential oils also work on pain but you can determine that outcome for yourself.

This end-to-end scrub accomplishes self-body work (a key element in managing chronic pain), myofascial release, lymphatic release and circulatory improvement - all in the context of heat therapy (that would be the warm shower component of the exercise).

I do many things to mitigate pain - and I've been pretty successful in some ways. This is definitely a tool in the arsenal, and one I don't intend to neglect. It's easy, inexpensive and independent.

But how about you? Have you tried scrubbing for pain management? Do you scrub just cuz it's fun (never mind the pain angle). If you do, I have to assume that you have a reason. Why bother if there isn't a benefit? Do tell and let's talk...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What Passes For Activity On A Saturday Afternoon

Yesterday, I put on my candle and I sat down to knit. Three minutes later it went out and I knew it was done, in that way when the wick gets all drown-y with wax at the bottom of the jar and you can see a bit of metal from the wick. It's not like I didn't know the end was near.

This particular candle didn't burn as evenly as my first. I did keep it going for 2 hours on its first burn and all of the wax at the candle surface melted well, but somehow it was always veering to one side. Eventually it tunneled that way. Which means I was left with quite a lot of soy wax candle and no way to enjoy it.

A while ago I bought some wicks with the intention of making candles. I haven't done so, as yet, because I just can't seem to get into it. I guess I'm not adequately motivated. But damned if I was going to throw away 25 per cent of a candle cuz it burned wrong.

Which is how I came up with this:

The wax hardened to a pure, milky white colour when it set... just like the original.
I realize that this photograph isn't art work but there was no way for me to move the subject to a more attractive spot (than the hideous kitchen counter) once I'd poured the wax and precariously set the wick. BTW, the thing holding the wick upright is a moose cocktail pick. Those things are endlessly useful and they work for martinis too.

This project wasn't rocket science. The soy wax ejected from the original candle jar quite easily with a knife. It's much softer than beeswax, btw. I carefully removed the old wick and stuck the wax into a short mason jar which I then put into a pot with water (filled half way up the height of the jar). I set the heat on medium low and watched the pot carefully, occasionally stirring. In 10 minutes I had melted candlewax which I poured it into a smaller jar, fitted with a wick of the correct height. That part was more accidental than anything. Next time I buy wicks, I'm getting really long ones. They're easier to work with because you can cut them to the appropriate size. In the background of the photo, you can just see the one other candle I produced from this recycle project - a little tea light version.

Even if you never intend to make a candle, you should most definitely have some wicks on hand. That way you will be able to eke out every last moment of that candle you spent 60 bucks on. It'll take less time than frying up some eggs and even the most craft-challenged person can manage it.

I for one am very impressed with myself. Have you ever tried this?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On Chateaux in Medoc...

I'm deep into pretending mode. On discovering, earlier this week, that our reno is going to be delayed by 3 months (for reasons of municipal cash grab that I cannot bring myself to get into), I've decided to approach this whole thing like I'm a naive, English-speaker trying to restore an ancient chateau in the outer reaches of Medoc. Regrettably, I won't have a restored chateau in Medoc to show for it, at the end of the day, but it's so much more romantic and understandably problematic than my own renovation. Apparently well-planned, well-navigated and native doesn't make for a knowable downtown Toronto reno.

Delay means my careful manipulation to avoid a major rebuild in cold months is pretty well a thing of the past. You'd be wise to point out that (at least) this delay occurred before half of my house was taken down, so I suppose I should be grateful. But spending an extra 5 grand - on permitting that shouldn't be required but for the whimsical expiry of a by-law - is a real kick in the teeth. Not to mention that delay keeps me in stress stasis for that much longer. Have I mentioned that I could buy a small suburban home for the cost of this project? Have I mentioned that I'm a nice, double-income, urban-middle-class lady. I don't exactly live in Rosedale. My kid does not go to private school. This expenditure isn't exactly within my comfort zone.

Yeah, I know. It's a first-world problem of the highest order. Don't feel sorry for me. Well, actually, if you'd like to feel sorry for me - or to commiserate in comments - I'm sure as hell not going to interfere.

All I can say is that, when this fucking reno is over, I'm going to be the one with that magazine-worthy, awesome house that everyone in the neighbourhood tries to copy (but can't possibly) because mine will be one of a kind. Who'll need trips to chateaux in Medoc when I will have my century/modern tour de force to hang in?

On an entirely unrelated note, I totally copied Peter and had a stamp made to create twill-tape labels for my knitted (and sewn) goods:
I'm still learning how to apply the stamp to the fabric smoothly.
Very Portland, wouldn't you say?

I'm particularly happy to have this for my stash-busting knitted projects because most of them will be gifts and I want to blow everyone's mind with my urban-hipster forethought. Of course, I neglected to moderate the sizing of the wordmark (I wish the second line were smaller than the first). Live and learn. I guess I'll have to make another stamp at some point, but I'm not buying from America in this economy. The other day I told Scott that I'd bought something for M from the States (she tormented me with endless, plaintive requests till I gave in). I said: It cost 30 bucks US - how bad can it be? To which he wryly replied: I don't know. 100.00 CDN? That's what passes for humour here these days.

I choose to dwell on my fiscal prudence (stash busting) rather than my theoretical excesses (cold-pressed juice delivery habit). And hey, that juice was pressed in Canada.

That's me so far this weekend. How about you? Up to any exciting activities? Whatcha think of the stamp idea? Should I hand sew the labels into the knitted projects or should I machine them? I don't want it to look twee but I do want to work with the vibe of hand-knits. Thoughts?

Monday, January 25, 2016


My kid has this saying: If it doesn't matter in 10 years, it doesn't matter now. Apparently, that sentiment is courtesy of my mother. And, while I totally don't get with it as a justification for academic laziness, I have to say it's apt when it comes to all of the things that we bring home and keep.

To wit: We've been culling (intermittently) for 2 years - to prepare for a reno (which was more theoretical than actual till recently). Every weekend my husband does an hour of recon/reorg/recycle in the basement - and I assist. We are endlessly productive as goes divestment of stuff, but there's always more to contend with. And I'm one of those people who culls extensively. I mean, I'm a cusp minimalist.

Admittedly, my husband is a pack rat of sorts. He's not a hoarder but he can find a sustainable use for just about anything. And really, we've benefited endlessly from his storage of certain odd-ball nails or tools or pieces of wood and plastic. So it's difficult for me to blame him given that this world is teeming with unnecessary duplication and waste.

But it's easy for things to pile up as a kind of metaphor for sustenance. Don't misunderstand - when I say easy I mean, for a divester, it can take a long time. But eventually I'll fill a drawer with things that never see the light of day. Today, I went through one of my night-stands and discovered that more than half of the contents were obsolete. In truth, I found only a couple of letters and keepsakes that were dear to me still. But I also rediscovered a dove-shade cashmere wrap - originally bought for 250 bucks (like, 15 years ago) from Ewanika. It's almost etiolated but in perfect condition. It's perhaps the only thing I've ever stored (rather than worn) because of its dearness and perceived delicacy. Generally, I find that path absurd. I really don't know what element of my psyche has condemned this beautiful garment to the darkness of a wooden drawer as it's in the top-10 of the most perfect textures I've ever worn. No mind. What's done is done. I'm wearing now it as I type.

I'm ruthless when it comes to the craft supplies (and fruits thereof). If it doesn't work, if it doesn't thrill, I give it away. I'm pretty tough on the perishables of the wardrobe too. But how do I toss the last, little white plastic ball that fit into M's Fisher Price box (long gone). How do I say goodbye to the note from my one-time 5 year old, scribbled and misspelled: Pleez dont be mad at me. What about the letter wherein my mother tried to explain to the 4-year-old in me that moving to England was a veritable necessity? Is there any usefulness in half-completed journals?

My point is that, while I'm not vulnerable to sentiment, the edge of nostalgia touches even someone as practical as I happen to be.

I urge myself to keep an eye on things, not because they'll overwhelm me with their eternal concreteness (there's always a charity or, in worst case, a landfill to accommodate them) but because, if they're worthy or useful, I need to remember them. A closed door that acts like dam is very different than one which stores treasures.

But you've got to catalog those treasures. It keeps one honest, no?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bust The Stash: Finished Object - Mirri Cowl 2

So I'm having a knitting moment. More to the point, my objective is to post a photograph of every finished Bust the Stash project, on completion. So here's Bust the Stash Project 2: Mirri Cowl knit with Shibui Staccato:

Lord, I love this yarn. I love this pattern. The stitches did not twist. The finished object is beautiful and it drapes well and it looks great. So here's to an unqualified success (at 413 yards for a modified large).

Wait - I can qualify it. I actually had to weave in a new ball on my bind off row?! (It's ok.) And that means I have 180 yards of this yarn remaining. That's code for: I'm going to have to knit another freakin' pair of fingerless mitts. Yup, back to 23 items on the stash list.