Sunday, 5 October 2008

My Adventure With Flax

I really, really wanted to try spinning flax. I don't know why exactly. I love linen, but I knew I wasn't going to get anything like linen, so that couldn't be why. In any case, on my last trip out to Celeigh Wool, I allowed myself one bag of fibre and after some thought, I headed home with a strick of Euroflax long line flax.

I have to admit, my first experience with flax was pretty comical. I got back to my parents' farm where we were visiting and opened the bag - whew! - what a stink! The heat and tightly closed plastic bag had gathered hours worth of that flaxy smell. Heady, wonderful - ah, no, I don't think so. I called up Marg in a bit of a panic and left what was either a hilariously funny message or a horribly offensive one, depending on how you'd take it. At any rate, I asked if I were perhaps meant to air the flax out on the laundry line prior to spinning? Or perhaps wash it? And did it really always smell that way? I think I likened it horse manure . . . lots of it.

She kind of laughed at me. " I love the smell of flax!" she says. "It's supposed to smell like that!"


She did advise me on how long to boil it once I had finished spinning it and that it wouldn't smell quite so strongly after that. And of course, she was absolutely right. It ended up lighter and softer and definitely not smelly.

Anyway, I did really enjoy spinning it and the smell did ease considerably once the strick was out of that suffocating plastic bag. It really just needed to breathe. I rolled it in a towel, like Marg recommended. Lee Juvan describes the various ways of dealing with a strick in her article for KnittySpin and that includes several photographs of how to wrap in a towel. I did find that my towel needed some hair elastics around it to keep it neat inside. Otherwise it kind of ended up as a bad hair day. A hairdresser's worst back-combing nightmare would be a good comparison. At any rate, once I kept the package rolled a bit more firmly it wasn't so bad and the flax pulled out fairly smoothly.

The unspun flax is quite stiff and hairy feeling, kind of like a horse's tail. The back-combed snarls I was getting seemed familiar too - kind of like trying to untangle that same horse's tail full of a winter's worth of snarls. It was kind of nerve wracking having to spin a whole bobbin full at one time. I rarely sit down for that long with three kids underfoot. I spun the flax wet, as recommended ( a towel on your lap is definitely handy!), which means that you need to get it off the bobbin as soon as you are done, or you risk warping your bobbin or having mildew attack your freshly spun flax. So I was a bit paranoid and went on a spinning marathon to finish each bobbin at one go. I wound the first two off on my niddy-noddy and left them skeined until I was done the third and ready to ply (a week later at least!). Then I wound them back on bobbins with my wheel and a swift.

Here are the yarn stats, all singles spun S, plied Z: 3-ply, 220 m, 12 to 14 wpi, 172 g, 640 ypp. I made up the last 20 g into a 2-ply once I ran out of the first bobbin's length, but I didn't write down how many metres I had before I wound it into a ball - oops!

I was aiming for a sportweight, but I ended up with more like a DK. It is much softer, but still a little bit stiff, and has a nice lustre, which sort of shows in the first photo. I am really happy with the end product though and if I ever get around to finishing up the projects I already have started, I want to make this bag, also by Lee Juvan and published in Knitty Spring 2008.

Catch-Up Time

Well, I finally have an hour or so to myself, so I am going to try and catch up with
some moments from my summer. This photo is one of my favourites.

Surf's up.

Life through brown-coloured glasses. Summer at the beach.

This is what happens when you are not watching.

The watermelon that wasn't.

He has been trying to grow watermelon (for years?) and finally succeeded,
even if it was inedible. A near miracle up here at 52 ° latitude.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


I took this photo a few weeks ago. I think it is so cool. How is it suspended there? Can you guess . . .

Friday, 25 July 2008

Play Silks

This afternoon, the youngest one had an impromptu nap. Taking advantage of the relative calm, knowing that my entire evening would be ruined as a result, the other two and I dyed the play silks I bought after the Waldorf camp last week. I think it was worth it!

We used Kool-Aid to dye the pink (Cherry) and green (Lemon-Lime) and used my Ashford dyes to dye the yellow-orange one. The blue one is from day-camp. They are truly lovely. We used hot water and vinegar to set the dye, with the exception that the orange one was also wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and microwaved for a bit and the green one was brought to almost a boil on the stove. The Ashford dyes bound very strongly to the silk and there was no residual dye in the rinse water at all.

A Gift For Your Feet

Well, really my friend's feet. She is coming up to visit this weekend and it happened to be her birthday the other day, which I purposefully neglected. I suppose I should have at least called her . . . Oh well, too late now and she'll be here tomorrow - yay!!! It is really a wonderful time when close friends come to stay. Even when it is only for a few minutes it brightens up hours and days either side of the visit! This time I am lucky and she's here for a whole day and a night with her fantastic family in tow. The kids can play and we can just visit. Lovely.

The blue reminds me of her somehow. Or maybe it's the swirling pattern in the fabric. I think it's because there are always traces of the ocean and blue sky in my head when I think of her. She is an island girl by birth and we met on an island nation. Surrounded by blue sea and canopied by blue sky, our families became fast friends. I'm not sure, all I know is that these have been hers since they began. I stitched the quilting in a swirling pattern that reminded me of New Zealand koru, my favourite Maori symbol. Koru is the Maori name for a new unfurling fern frond, which we call a fiddlehead. It symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace. I think that it's perfect for the twice-transplanted Scottish girl that I met in New Zealand 10 years ago.

And Gawdess, I did not "just whip these ones up". Grin. You will be relieved to know that these have been languishing in my UFO pile for at least a year, along with another terribly cute pair in pink which are destined for my own feet. As usual I could not bring myself to follow the pattern properly, making a few tweaks here and there, but they are quite simple to make and they would be fast if you could make up your mind as to how you are going to pad the sole and make them not be too slippy. I didn't even screw up the binding as I usually do, thanks to lots and lots of steam ironing.

After lots of test stomping, I decided to use up some yucky polar fleece and some totally synthetic batting I had laying around for the sole padding - one layer of fleece and two of batting. To make the sole grippy, I used fabric with little rubber dots all over, the kind you find on the bottom of infant sleepers, rather than the vinyl called for in the pattern. I found it much easier to make it slide along the sewing machine platform if it had tissue paper under it. When I sewed it as the layer facing up, I used a teflon foot.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A New Banner

A few weeks ago we were painting rocks. Again. We seem to do this a lot in the summer out at the farm. I think it has to do with the millions of perfect rocks on the driveway. This time, though, I had a project in mind. I collected 26 lovely little stones and, voila!

Simple Moccasins

My son has been asking for moccasins for a while now and since I had a stash of leather in the basement, I whipped these up. In total it took about 1 hour, maybe two. They are nothing so beautiful as the ones at our historical site, but they are sturdy moosehide and should last a while. Beaded beauties they are not though!

Craft day with Mom

Mom has wanted to do some dyeing for a while so I headed over armed with yarn for me and Kool-Aid for both of us. Well, the Kool-Aid was for all of us actually, we drank the leftovers! Here are the results. A mother-daughter collaboration. Mine is the candy bright skein and mom's is the sweet paler one. A bunch of photos of dyeing in the works as well. I had to use yellow food colouring and vinegar to get the yellow. I added a touch of orange Kool-Aid to make the yellow a bit richer. I also used red food colouring (standard little bottles from the grocery store) to get the gorgeous fruity pink since the Kool-Aid was not cooperating with my FruitPunch colour scheme.

Ready to be wrapped and steamed.

The mixing counter.

Mom's skein in progress.

Mom's skein ready to be steamed.


Kool-Aid is versatile. My son recently attended a cool camp where they dyed silk with Kool-Aid.

A beautiful sky blue play silk that he loves. The purple tinges in the photo are due to the light from the setting sun I think. It's really a beautiful light blue, with water-colour variations in the dye intensity. I bought a few other play silks to dye with the girls, but I am having trouble finding yellow Kool-Aid. We are going to do green, yellow, and pinky-red. Maybe we'll have to settle for orange since I can't find yellow. I'm not sure food colouring and vinegar will work on the silk.

Things I have started lately . . .

Scribble Lace
by Debbie New or Mason-Dixon Knitting depending on who you like to credit.
I think Debbie New did it first.
Subsequently frogged for, although it was beautiful, it was also somehow unwearable.
It will be recreated into a scarf, rather than a stole.

My Future Favourite Socks
created from a variety of patterns, but mostly from:
the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook
and Working Socks from the Toe-Up by Ann Budd
in Interweave Knits Summer 2007

Things I have finished lately . . .

In no particular order:

Knit Picks Lace Headband
from the Victorian Yarn Sampler

Itty Bitty Bear
from Interweave Knits Summer 2005
made from bits of handspun dyed with coffee

Something I finished a couple of years ago, but love so much I made two pairs:
Simple T-Bar Shoes
from 50 Baby Booties to Knit
in Katia Cotton Comfort

Saturday, 5 July 2008


Last summer, I made this top in a lovely blue cotton. Isis by Katia. It only took one tiny ball, I think it cost maybe $6! Fantastic, and it is so cute. But now it is getting a bit short and the back sagged in a not so cute way. I stitched some elastic to the bodice and now its back to fabulous again. Still a little short, but hey it's summer.

I like this pattern so much that this summer I decided to knit another, this time totally improvised. I had some yarn that was a gift from the LYS, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it, until - bing! - I realized it would probably be great for this pattern. The yarn is a ribbonny kind of laddery yarn (well-described, I know) in white with yellow, pink, purple, and green. I knit the smallest size of the Katja pattern adjusting for gauge changes. Originally, I just attached the I-cord neck from one cup to the other in a big loop to pull over her head, but it stretched out waaaaayyyyy too much, so I am redoing the I-cord ties. That way she can wear it until she's at least 6.

Padded Footlets

I started the Padded Footlets from Interweave Knits last summer. I finished one sock. In the photo it looks okay, but actually the heel is atrociously large and sags unbecomingly. Well, I knit the other sock this spring and it was great. Wonderful in its neat-and-tidiness. Nice small stitches. Lovely. But a completely different size than the first one due to, you guessed it, the ridiculously large heel. Well, scissors met my knitting again and this is the result.

Yes, I cut out the offending heel flap and the attached cuff. Picked up all the stitches and grafted them all. Knits, purls, pick-ups. Yup. And it looks great, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Stamping: First Attempt

My first attempt at cutting stamps. It seems my ink pads need refreshing . . . oh well. I stamped a card for my dad and hand coloured it with crayons. I need to get some wood blocks on which to glue the stamps. Squashy styrofoam does not work all that well!

New Art Supplies

Ah, the lure of new art supplies. We are going to attempt to do Illustration Fridays. We also picked up some lino cutters and are going to try and do some stamp cutting. Geninne has a fabulous tutorial here.


Yesterday for the first time we visited our local Reuse Centre. It's great!!! A bit overwhelming though. Bins and bins and bins of great crafting finds. I think there were almost ten bins of fabric alone. Of course the most hilarious was the sign that I finally noticed on the way out:

"Unattended children will be fed raw sugar
and given a box of trophies."

Look at what we brought home.

They are so smart.

But we also brought home these! Vintage knitting pins, adding machine tape that fits perfectly in our sticker-maker, vintage patterns for my sewing room wall, some weird thing called a But-o-fix that I can't wait to investigate, and a large upholstery fabric sample book that I think may be destined for purses.

Monday, 9 June 2008


My youngest, in the truest sense of the phrase, has a pet rock. It is her kitty and she pets it and strokes it and says meow. It is very sweet.

Sunday, 8 June 2008



I made this coat a couple of years ago from an old IKEA curtain. It is really heavy cotton, lined with a super cute ladybug fabric that my MIL gave me. I love this pattern. It is an Ottobre pattern, #21 from the Spring 2005 issue. I found a great NikWax product called CottonProof and soaked the coat in it. It didn't change the handle of the fabric much, it is just slighty smoother and the waterproofing is great. I can dump an entire jug of water on this coat and it just beads off.


I found these photos today. The colours of the petals are so lovely. Maybe inspiration for some dyeing? Maybe not, nevertheless, they are very happy colours.



Saturday, 7 June 2008

Blue Chocolate

Ah the loveliness that is merino and silk . . . This is a present for my aunt, who is fabulous and spends a lot of time with my children and me. She is great and deserves some beautiful yarn to knit for fun. She is on a yarn diet. That's a sad, sad thing, a yarn diet. Hence the name Blue Chocolate.

Anyway, not that my yarn is anything amazing, but I am happy with it. I was aiming for laceweight, but I ended up with sportweight. Oh well. It isn't super consistent but it's better than I've done before. I spun the whole 28 g on my broken spindle since my wheel does not seem to have high enough ratios (only 6 and 9). The fibre is from Louet and is 80% merino, 20 % silk. The yarn is a 2-ply, sportweight, 13 or so wpi, 15° twist angle, and measures in at 2500 ypp. Since I consider myself still to be a new spinner, I am happy. And besides, it is such a pretty colour!

While I was at the whole yarn statistics thing, I made up a table of all the neat little facts I looked up. It used to be called a Yarn Grist Table. Isn't that an ugly name? I had to rename it The Twisted Facts of Yarn. It's so much less grisly sounding! I'd really like to share it with you but I have yet to figure out how to upload a pdf to Blogger. Anyone know how??

Silly Me

Well, I just realized that I have had the settings set to Do Not Allow Comments on all of my previous posts. No wonder no one has left me any comments! Not that anyone is actually reading this of course, but maybe my mom at least might leave me a comment???? Anyway, I have rectified the situation and all previous posts have been edited to allow comments.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

A Bag for my Sister


Here is the purse that I made for my sister's birthday. Actually, I've been making it for about a year, maybe even two, but hey, who's counting?? I was kind of hung up on the needle felting design. The knitting and fulling were done a loooong time ago. The photo above more accurately shows the colour of the bag, but the photos below are better for the details. Amateur photography is apparently not my long suit. Yet. Self-betterment is always a good quest, don't you think? Especially in this case.


It is the Sophie Bag pattern from MagKnits and it is really fabulous. Easy, pretty and only takes one skein of Cascade 220. At less than $10 that's fantastic.


I lined it with some quilting fabric and made sure it had lots of pockets: one for lip balm, a pen, two side pockets on one long side and one larger one on the other. Add a magnet clasp and all is done.


Yay! I love it, too bad I had to give it away! Nah, all along I made it with my sister in mind, so it was easy to give it away and she was thrilled. Happy smiles.