Thursday, August 20, 2009

At long last Emily posts

I'm a luddite when it comes to technology. I don't oppose technology as the term implies but I'm not one to run out and buy the newest thing that happens to come out on the market. To be honest I haven't owned a computer since my days as an undergraduate which was about ten years ago. As a graduate student I just used the computer labs at my department. I've been hesitant to add technology, in particular a personal computer and the internet, to my repertoire of daily activities. I guess my concern is I'll spend more time on the damn computer and less time knitting as well as studying.

Irmy's already got six posts on me...I think this will likely be the norm. Right now I'm still working on my Oregon themed scarf. I went to the annual Black Sheep Gathering in Portland, OR in June and had a wonderful time! This is the Pacific Northwest Mecca for knitters, spinners and weavers and I encourage all of you to go at least once. I discovered public wireless internet access while in Portland which I thought was a novel thing since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned.

This year I've had to refrain from going to Gibson's Fibre Festival because...gasp...I'm fibered out. I never thought I'd see the day.

Have you all got the fall Interweave Knits?...Oooo! So many cool patterns I am partial to the Trellis and Vine Pullover. I was pouring over knitting and weaving magazines at Chapters and I'm always amazed at some of the monstrosities that make it into certain knitting magazines. I saw one pattern that was for a sunflower scarf...EGAD! It was horrible! Like watching a train wreck it's difficult to look away but I think it could have been the bilious yellow colour they used in the scarf that ensured that it's sheer depravity was into my psyche forever.

I hope everyone is knitting away and I hope you all get your own copies of Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain. Irmy and I went to see their presentation at the Surrey Fibre Arts Festival. It's has some really interesting interviews with various yarn bombing groups and some yarn bombers closer to home like Strathcona's KnitGirl. You'll find out how to build your yarn bombing arsenal, and knit some cool yarn bombing patterns as well as ideas to get you started. Irmy and I had our own very cool yarn bombing brain waves while listening to Mandy and Leanne.Stay tuned we may share some of them with you.

Stay posted everyone and don't forget to spread the fibre love to all your friends. To everyone on Ravelry I'll be there soon...I just need to find my password. Take care!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who Taught You to Knit?

Paying respects to my Nana

Greetings my lovelies, if you're eagerly awaiting fall like me, you'll have welcomed the rain in the Terminal City these past few days. Two days I didn't have to water my out-of-control basil, oregano, and catnip plants. The tarragon may have a good chance of recovery too.

The cooler days have me also awaiting the fall fibre mags, especially Knitscene because I will cast on the Heather Hoodie Vest by Debbie O'Neill, in a reddish-brown shade of Bernat Softee Chunky yarn, my favourite acrylic. Warm and soft, it will be that extra hug I'll likely be looking for this fall.

My Nana taught me to knit and crochet at my request when I was about five years old and I've knit for the past 32 years since then. I've knit many sweaters, hats, and scarves over the years, designed some of my colourwork charts, and crocheted doilies and Christmas ornaments from many antique pattern books. In later years, Nana has been impressed with my fibre arts; knit and crocheted baby clothes, more complicated sweaters, hats, larger lace projects, my search to teach myself tatting, and finally my dream to knit socks.

Sadly, my Nana has had several strokes in the past six months which have now left her blind and with serious bleeding in her brain. The care home where she and now my grandfather both live has an amazing staff who don't just check on her every hour, but the care aides sit with her and listen to music, hold her hand and describe the day outside her window. They paint her nails a different colour each week. They make sure she's had a little puff of perfume if she's up to visiting in the great room. They promised us she would be not only kept comfortable but also kept groomed, cared for, and kept company. It's difficult to admit even to myself that we are just left to wait for her passing, but we are reassured that above all else, she will not suffer, and neither will her dignity.

I left her care home after hearing the doctor's prognosis and the promises from her care staff that they will take care of her, and stopped at my LYS initially for the fall Knitscene and Interweave Knits but they were out, so instead I picked up some sock yarn. When all else fails, I knit socks.

And really, the best way I can think of to honour my Nana for all that she taught me is to keep these skills and traditions alive. In my last post I wrote about my first foray into home canning, something I'm excited to keep up. It worked through the Great Depression and was a common household practice in the 40's and 50's. I hope home canning and preserving makes as much a comeback as the fibre arts have; I knew many classmates growing up whose parents didn't can fruits and veggies, make their own jams and relishes, nor did they knit or sew like my mom and my Nana did.

Because of the moves from a gated community to assisted living, and now to a care home, I've been receiving things that belonged to my Nana. Some are heirlooms, some have a monetary value, some only sentimental. There are jewelry pieces and antiques that were already decided would go to me, but some of the things I wanted most were my Nana's recipes. And the devilled egg plate with the centre pickle/relish dish with the chicken-shaped lid. I love that plate. Nana taught me how to make devilled eggs, too.

I'd love to hear what family traditions you're keeping alive, so please leave us a comment below, or email us at

On My Needles

With my need for a quick knit fix, I picked up a skein each of Noro's Kureyon Socks and Silk Garden Socks, on sale at 30% off at 88 Stitches in Langley's Walnut Grove neighbourhood. I've just started the toe decreases on the second cuff-down sock in Kureyon, and debating whether the Silk Garden Socks skein should be actual socks or the first fingerless gloves of the year.

But good news still happens in my family, I just found out my brother and sister-in-law are expecting a little sister for my nephew! Hooray! I get a niece! No plain booties and sweaters, I can knit something lacy and pretty! Squee!!

Review: Pic-Knit at Surrey Museum

Emily and I had a great time this year, the event coincided with the Cloverdale Blueberry Festival so there were local artisans in the courtyard with a stage for musicians along with some of the yarn vendors. Inside were our usual local vendors, an info table from my guild, the Fraser Valley Knitting Circle (more members for fall?), and the guest speakers were Vancouver's Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of Yarn Bombing: the art of crochet and knit graffiti (Arsenal Press). We had met Leanne and Mandy at Fibres West this past spring as they were promoting the book, and it was great to see them again, hear about their experiences in putting the book together, and obviously to get our very own signed copies. We hope to score an interview with them for a future podcast, once our professional-quality microphone arrives.

Barbara Braaten of Langley Yarns and Crafts was happy to see us again, and I was even happier to show her... a finished project! My Entomology scarf made out of some Yarns Plus tencel in colourway "Twilight" I bought from her near on three years ago. And I didn't have them with me, but I also knit a pair of socks in the Opal sock yarn I'd purchased at the same time.

But Barbara knows she'll see Emily and I at these events and she steered us toward a new project from Ashford, a kit to make your own nuno-felted scarf (see kit here). with silk merino sliver, a piece of silk chiffon (upon which the felting takes place) and complete instructions, you can bypass the sold-out nuno felting class at Maiwa and teach yourself for about $16 Cdn. Things you need to have on hand to complete the project include a rolling pin, hot water, detergent (for the felting), bubble wrap (for cushioning), a long flat surface to work on, and towels. It looks like a fun kit, I can't wait to give it a try!

Another yarn vendor I want to mention is the new line of yarns called Yarn Candy by Melissa. Melissa is the daughter of Sue, owner of 88 Stitches yarn shop in Langley and has been working her way into the yarn world. She started out selling handmade stitch markers and shawl pins on consignment and through her own etsy shop,, and she's now expanded to her own hand-dyed yarns.

She currently offers a range of base yarns including cashmere, cashmere blends, silk blends, and a super sock merino, in a variety of weights. Identifying her colourways by batch number rather than name, her eye for colours truly speaks for itself. I picked up two skeins of Super Sock Merino - she recommends two skeins for a pair, most people knit longer socks than I do - in a fuchsia-violet mix that caught my eye.

The yarn knit up beautifully, the colours blending perfectly with NO POOLING! I knit a sock from each skein and the colour shifts were subtle but still held their own. And after washing and blocking they were some of the softest socks ever on my feet. Next time I'm getting that brown-and-pink silk blend! Check her out online or pop in to 88 Stitches to pet her yarns and check out their stock of great yarns.

Housekeeping Stuff

As previously mentioned, Emily and I are awaiting the arrival of our new, professional-quality, "Snowball" podcasting microphone from Blue Microphones. It better work, and I just hope there's no import tax on it. But soon, my yarnies, soon we will be regaling you with our tales of bad fashion, rowdy SnB's, and our plans for dominance over the West Coast's fibre-arts community!

Coming soon: FALL KNITTING!! Hooray!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's a Heatwave!

This past week the inhabitants of the Terminal City - and pretty much the rest of the province - were the hostages of a heat wave the likes of which we rarely see! Meanwhile, Emily has been dealing with the rain in Ontario during her trip back east to see friends and family. Harumph. But the long-term forecast sees rain around Wednesday/Thursday. We can only hope!

So in the days of sweltering, sticky heat where the sweat trickles down into the crack of your butt, what are people knitting??

Me? Nothing. A pair of booties for my mom's coworker. Beh. I thought the other night that spinning might be easier. Not so much, as I'm drop-spindling soy silk and having sticky, sweaty fingers are not suitable pre-drafting tools.

So it's too hot to knit. Too hot to spin. Too hot to blog as well, since the laptop was shutting down when it overheated.

The solution: FOOD! The folks' gardens are just teeming with gorgeous green veggies including beans (yello, green, and purple bush beans), sugar snap peas, beets, green peppers, cucumbers, and the ubiquitous zucchini, all twenty-seven of them. The corn isn't ready for picking yet, but I swear the stalks are near nine feet high! There is some concern that the bees didn't make it far enough into the greenhouse to sufficiently pollinate the tomatoes, as there are a lot of blossoms, but not many tomato buds yet. The carrots are doing well, they always do well in the greenhouse, too. There were rumours of lettuce, but I haven't gone to check on it yet.

My responsibility is the herbs, and I currently have a good three pots of lush basil, two plants of golden oregano, a lonely lavender that has finally decided this year that it likes the pot it's in, some wayward mints in a windowbox, and a resurrecting lemon thyme. This year I'll move the herbs into the greenhouse for the winter to try and keep them growing all year rather than dying back.

And for summer I decided the next appliance to master after the bread maker was the ice cream maker. There was one attempt last year that did not go well and while the end product tasted fine, the texture wasn't quite right. Sadly the freezer chamber wasn't frozen enough, so the ice cream maker was put away early.

However this year I thought perhaps the chamber had been put in the wrong freezer, so it went into one of the deepfreezes. Success!! My first attempt this year was the "easy" vanilla recipe using 500ml of whipping cream, 250ml low-fat milk, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix together. Turn on machine. Add mixture to machine, and in one hour you become the Dairy Queen! Or either Ben or Jerry, such would be your preference. I have since made chai tea ice cream and cafe latte ice cream, both to rave reviews, and am now pondering my next flavour. I'm hoping I can find a recipe for gelato at home with a minimum of fuss. If not, then ginger ice cream is next on the list.

Growing up, summer also meant home canning season and pretty much anything that could be put in a jar got canned. My childhood canning memories of my mom were mostly fruits (pears, peaches, cherries), jams, pickles, and relishes. My best friend - whom we refer to as "Matter", of "Matter" and "Kansas" in Seattle - has become our gourmet jam-maker with blends of different fruits and spices, including my current favourite, spiced blueberry peach. The cinnamon really gives it a nice warm flavour.

For my own first try at home preserving, I chose a mango chutney from the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. The recipe said it yields 5 cups, but I got seven 250ml jars out of it. Even better than making a great-tasting chutney was hearing the SNAP! of each lid as it sealed. I giggled each time a lid sealed, and my mom found it a bit funny. But it's a cool thing to do something like this for the first time. In the age of convenience foods and many people losing that connection to food, there is also a loss of respect for where our food comes from.

More importantly for me with home-preserving and home-cooking in general, you can control the ingredients in your recipes. No food dyes, artificial preservatives, or chemical additives for me, thank you. And if it's organic? Even better! My chutney will include an ingredient list and - for gifts - a "Nutritional Facts" table attached to each jar.

This is much the same feeling I have behind my knitting and sewing; I get to control the components going into my finished product. Rayon fabric for a summer wrap top; superfine tencel for a lightweight shawl; alpaca yarn for toasty-warm winter hats. And next? Apple crumbles, spiced apple preserves, and apple pies from my generous neighbours' apple trees.

Because it's still too hot to knit.

Things Missed from the Previous Post

I meant to mention how excited I was at finally getting myself a swift! ripnknit from Ravelry has several cross-arm-style swifts listed in her Stash under the "trade/sell" tab. If you're a Ravelry member you can PM her to check how much for shipping to your address and she will send to Canada! Her father-in-law is the craftsman and they come in a variety of stain colours (mine is cherry!), they're incredibly easy to set up and pack away for storage, and if you happen to lose any of the hardware, all the washers, the hex nut, screw, and wing nut are easily purchased at your local hardware store. She was great to deal with, uses PayPal for convenience, so if you're looking for a crossarm-style swift, I am thrilled to death with mine!

Upcoming Events

Pic-Knit at Surrey Museum Saturday, August 8th 10am - 4pm. Knitting demonstrations, local guilds, llamas and alpacas, and - of course - our local vendors! Do go upstairs to the Textile Studio & Hooser Library to view a demonstration on the weaving looms! Bring a snack, your water bottle, your latest WIP, and BRING MONEY! Because you WILL buy yarn! I'm taking my Entomology scarf to show Barbara to prove that I don't just buy and hoard her yarn!

Langley Arts Alive! Saturday, August 15th, 10am - 5pm. Fraser Highway between 204th and 208th Streets. A family-friendly event featuring artists and artisans, crafts for the kids, music, and it's all free. Come on out and see what Langley is celebrating in its arts community!

Farmer's Markets It's prime time for the farmers markets in and around the GVRD, so check out the many options; there's bound to be one near you! Re-use your grocery bags, stock up on cloth bags, or if you're a crafter create your own eco-friendly shopping bag with leftover fabric, cotton yarn, or cut up some plastic bags to make your own "PLARN" for knitting or crocheting a new, durable bag (like this one from RecycleCindy) that also makes a great statement on environmental responsibility. Check out the schedules for the various Vancouver area farmers markets at, the SFU Local Food Project at, and the Surrey Urban Farmers Market at

PSST!!! It's less than five months until Christmas! (I know, I know...) Have you started your crafting/making list yet? No? Me neither! Maybe we should mosey over to to check out their get-started pattern ideas!

Alrighty my lovelies, that's all I've got for you today, there might be more to come before the next podcast (provided we can record audibly!!) when Emily returns to the Terminal City and we can talk about all things yarny, badly dressed, and/or drunk.