holiday crunch time!

the end of december is almost here, and we haven't even sent out our cards yet, yikes!

but at least i got a pair of mittens made for the kid's teacher:

and volunteered in his class this morning making gingerbread houses (actually from graham wafers):

then i had to rush home to finish decorating 75 cupcakes. every year, i volunteer to bake cupcakes for one organization or another for their holiday party - this year it was for youth without shelter.

not even halfway through, my piping bag exploded! whoops.

this is why we always make extras! i added extra sprinkles to make up for the less-than perfect icing job.

i made a bunch of chocolate ones, too!


holiday madness!

getting ready for our holiday party tomorrow! baking baking baking. and cleaning. and organizing. ugh. thankfully, we have the best christmas recod ever: the tijuana trumpets "tijuana christmas party." it was repackaged with different cover art and artist names for sale - so i once accidentally bought a second copy of the same record. i gave it to a friend, who was eternally grateful! tijuana christmas party


craft show coming up!

too much going on!

the kid and i have been sick for the last couple of weeks, and all of a sudden it's almost xmas... our annual party is coming up in just over a week, and then i have a craft fair just after that!

the fair is for a good cause though - the canadian hearing society. it will be at stan wadlow clubhouse on sunday 14 december, from 10 o'clock to 4 in the afternoon. i will be selling cute stuff for cut boys - hats, shirts, bowties, toys. and a few knitting patterns.

hope to see you there!


the incredible hulk: part 2

hallowe'en is over! now we are all about ready to throw up from eating too much candy!

anyway, i finished off the hulk costume today: sewed up the green outer layer, inserted the muscled under layer, and quilted the two together.

here's a close-up of the pecs and abs. i used embroidery floss to do a bit of hand quilting to make the muscles really pop.

and a close up of the shorts. i started with a basic pyjama bottom pattern, and basically made two identical pairs of shorts, zig-zagged them together at the bottom, and then turned rightside out to get a neat and tidy torn/shredded look.

he is already talking about wearing them as shorts next summer!

he was thrilled with the costume over all, and started his hulky poses as soon as he tried it on.

must find a photo with the make-up!

meanwhile, i finished my annis shawl and am currently blocking!

it used exactly one half (i weighed) of a skein of wollemeise. which means i need to find a project for the other half. this was supposed to be a stashbuster, dammit!


a couple of projects, finished

i had so many things that i "should" have been working on on friday, but it was my first actual day off (well, almost - i ended up having to pop in at the office at the end of day for a client) in such a long time that instead, i did something for me.

over a year ago, i cut out fabric for four shirts. i pinned everything nicely, got one shirt done, and the rest... just didn't happen. now? i am wearing shirt number two!

and the cardigan is a newly-finished project as well - it's girl friday from knitty, in berocco ultra alpaca, got from destash. i was destashing as well, so it doesn't "count" as getting new yarn (since i am meant to be on a yarn diet this year).

also, i got our (boring and shabby) hallowe'en decorations up. and i bought hallowe'en candy. and i wrapped a few xmas gifts.

now, i really need to get to work finishing the kid's hulk costume. and all of my committee homework. sigh.


the incredible hulk: part 1

who doesn't love ang lee, director of such thoughtful films as the wedding banquet, pushing hands, the ice storm, and... hulk?

you can guess which film inspired the kid's choice for hallowe'en costume this year.

it's tempting to just feed the kid steroids and paint him green. tempting, and perhaps illegal. so instead, i decided to start with some kind of basic bodysuit, build a physique on top soft-sculpture style, and upholster it with green fabric.

here's the base i chose: classic stanfield pyjamas. "these look like underwear," complained the kid (he's used to tailored jim jams).

i made him put them on and sketched roughly where the muscles should go. sort of like a plastic surgeon might.

now i'm in the process of bulking him up. here i've got the biceps, pecs, and abs basted in place.

you can see a bit of the green fabric in that shot, too. once i get some shoulder padding in place, i can start putting it together and see how it looks!


thanksgiving baking

just got back from our annual thanksgiving trip to the cottage! i made my usual desserts (pumpkin pie and sticky toffee pudding), by popular demand.

and since we were at the cottage, i took the opportunity to get a snap of the embroidered tea towel i entered in the fair! i sketched the oak leaf based on illustrations in a book on identifying trees. from getting started to getting finished was over a year. which reminds me, if i intend to enter that category next year, i ought to start now.

and because you can never have too many (or even enough!) cookies, here's a snap of some snickerdoodles i made the other day.


cardigan season has arrived!

cardigan season is here at last! it's a great time of year to be a knitter.

one cardigan i am happily getting a lot of wear out of is my maple leaf forever cardigan. can't believe how long it took me to get around to starting this one. i am making up for lost time now!

also getting a lot of wear out of the double-leaf saroyan in re-dyed merino et soie. love this scarf.

i have plans for the leftover dye, too. the raspberry pink baby alpaca/silk blend that's been collecting dust for nigh on a decade? that orange cashmere pullover that is so very soft and so very orange? hmm...

also in the spirit of the season, there has been baking going on.

there have been snickerdoodles, and wowbutter cookies, and there is pastry resting in the fridge, just waiting to be a pie. next up: the hallowe'en costume for the kid. he wants to be the hulk.

pardon the poor-quality photos, but if i wait to take the time to take decent ones, i'll never get around to posting anything!


the performance bonus chart

here's a little project i did on the weekend. in order to "inspire" the kiddo to mind his behaviour, we came up with "the performance bonus chart." his suggestion was to double his allowance if he did something nice. my suggestion was this.

it's made out of felt, stitched onto a cotton twill backing for stability. i added the tan borders to give it more of an old-time schoolroom feel. the dowel at the top keeps it from drooping. all of the materials - felt, fabric, velcro, thread, glue, dowel, eye screws, yarn, binder clip - were things i already had on hand. is that awesome, or just sad?

if he does something good, he gets a check. if he does something bad, he gets an x. at the end of the week, we add them up, subtract the x total from the check total, and he will get a quarter for every extra check.

the checks are just cut out of white felt, with a bit of velcro (the hook side) attached with fabric glue. here's a close-up of the back of an x:

i also have a few hearts and stars, just in case something amazing happens.

the extra checks etc. are in a ziploc behind the paper in the clip; the paper is to keep track of what he's saving for (inspiration!) and what each x or check is for (just a general note, not agonizing details). we'll see if he meets his goal on time.


knitting knitting knitting knitting knitting

yes, it's that time of the year. cardigan season. chilly.

i have been so very very good about not buying yarn this year. and i destashed a ton. but i got this lovely purple bua from someone else's destash - who can resist a sweater's quantity? and so. i am working on a girl friday cardigan, which i can see getting a lot of wear. also, i love that it looks a bit like a honeycomb from certain angles (not blocked yet, obvs).

and the double-leaf saroyan is chugging on nicely as well. half done! so pleased with how this dye job worked out. gorgeous colour, and amazingly not coming off on my hands. yay.

once these are done, i'm going to try to focus on finishing the ruddy reindeer sweater i started years ago. we'll see how far i get...


i'm dyeing here

i've been doing a bit of a purge lately, going through the stash, using it up, getting rid of leftovers, etc. one of the things on my "what do i do with this" list was a sweater i knit ages ago but never wore. it was tempting in merino et soie, which was the wrong yarn - too drapey, when i needed something with more spring - and the wrong colour. i'm not a pink person. why did i even buy pink yarn? i get funny ideas sometimes.

anyway, i frogged it, and planned to re-skein and wash the yarn and see if anyone else wanted it, when someone suggested i dye it. why not? what did i have to lose, if i was getting rid of the yarn anyway? and so soft!

i started by reading up on how to dye your yarn with food colouring and kool aid and whatnot, and when my head was overfull and hurty, i decided instead to just use plain old dye with instructions on it, and headed to fabricland to squint at the various packets of stuff. maybe i'll try food colour dyeing when i have more experience.

anyway, i needed to stick to the warm- and cool- water dyes, since my yarn contained wool, so i ended up choosing a bottle of rit liquid dye in teal, for a couple of reasons: it seemed easier to handle, it was exactly the colour i wanted, and was a better price (when you consider it's enough dye for a full kilo of fabric, and the dylon was only enough for 250g). also, it specifically mentioned instructions for wool and silk on the label, so that seemed a good sign.

i also got colour remover, because i wanted to end up with teal, not purple. for that i chose the dylon, because it included specific instructions for wool and silk. it said, "bring to a simmer, not a boil, and stir constantly for 20 minutes. allow to cool in the solution for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to come to room temperature before rinsing in warm water.

it took far less than 20 minutes to get this light! the solution didn't even reach a simmer, either.

but then i realised i forgot a skein. whoopsie.

i decided to throw it in anyway, why not? a few stirs and the colour was mostly gone. then i set the timer for 10 minutes for the "cool in the solution" stage, and by then it looked the same as the others.

next came dyeing. i had 250g of fabric, so i decided to use 1/3 of the bottle (since the label said "double the amount for really deep colour"). for wool or silk, the label suggested adding 1 cup of vinegar to the mix - since i was using 1/3 of the bottle of dye, i used 1/3 of a cup of vinegar. the instructions for sink-dyeing (as opposed to in a washing machine, which i do not have), said "stir constantly for 30-60 minutes." augh! so i checked the time and started stirring. about 10 minutes in, i noticed the water was clear! this is what they call "exhaustion." once the dye is "exhausted," why keep stirring? i stirred a while longer, just because. maybe 20 minutes total?

amazing. i gave the yarn a rinse - and another and another - until i finally got a bit tired of it. silk will take a lot of dye and give a lot up - i have red silk pyjamas that i've owned for over a decade, and they still turn the sheets pink if i wear them!

i had skeined it beforehand and tied it loosely with scrap yarn. next time, i will use cotton string - because while my merino et soie was fine, the scrap yarn i'd tied the skeins with was a felted melted mess! my skeins were a mess, too. this yarn does not look great wet - like a persian cat. i re-skeined it (and boy, were some tangled) to dry, and just doing that helped it get some of its loft back.

finally i wound it back into cakes. i'm pretty pleased! i think one ball does look a little lighter than the others, but over all they're pretty decent. this is going to turn into a scarf i think!

and this has me thinking of other yarn in my stash i might want to dye... colours i fell in love with and no longer remember why.


back in the city means busy

a week at the cottage, a week on the road, a week of back to school, here we are back to the city routine.

there never seems to be a moment's rest! we got a lot done this weekend, in between hosting and going to playdates.

first off, just for fun, the kiddo and i are working on a science project: the classic baking-soda-vinegar volcano! here's the papier mache shell:

we got the first layer of papier mache done early, so it could dry while we went out to get supplies for all of our planned activities. and i got a hairdo! (warning: terrible blurry pic)

then we made cookie dough (as yet unbaked, sacre bleu) and brownies:

(don't tell the kid they have black beans in them, he doesn't know they have any health benefits.)

then it was time to tackle the dreaded grapes.

i had swept up and tossed a good deal of detritus, but after friday's storm, there was more of that work to do. then, the harvest. harvesting grapes is harder than it sounds. they're above your head, which gets tiring for your arms, neck, and shoulders, and it's hard to see what you're doing. and they are a favourite of wasps. we have three varieties of grapes and at least that many kinds of wasps, all buzzing around angrily. the kid got stung the other day, so i was a bit more anxious than usual, and he, in the role of "basket handler," was extra-anxious. can't blame him.

but, we got all the concords. after washing, picking them over, and removing the stems, we had about 10 lbs.

then came the tedious work of separating the skins from the blobby middles. boring nasty work! watching the muppet treasure island made it a bit more bearable.

Lew Zealand knitting a Jolly Roger

then the straining, the re-weighing, the cooking. ugh. 7 jars of jam, but that giant jug of juice tells you that i only got half the grapes cooked. the rest will just have to wait. i need more sugar and jars.

while waiting for the jam to climb those final few degrees up to the jelly point (about 221f), i got a few rows done on my canadian kal cardigan:

we finished off the weekend with veggie lasagna (sweet potatoes, spinach, and ricotta):

here's a side-view shot:

and for dessert, apple crumble. we picked the apples with our neighbour, from a tree growing in the alley behind our houses.

finally, we put a coat of paint on the volcano:

he wants to add a few more details after school, and with his teacher's permission, he'll take it to school on tuesday.


a trip to the fair, or, how to block your knitting without any pins or anything.

just back from another lovely week at the lake, our summer tradition. swimming, knitting, baking, eating, and re-reading evelyn waugh (a new obsession since re-watching the amazing 1981 production of brideshead revisited).

this trip, i pioneered a couple of new methods for blocking!

with no blocking boards, or pins, or any tools at all really, i came up with two methods. for a washcloth: wet it, smoothed it out on a cutting board, covered it with a tea towel, and flattened it with a stack of magazines. later i set it out on a picnic table in the sun to dry completely.

method two, for an alpaca scarf: i was already sitting by the lake when i finished it, so we went for a swim together. then i laid it out along the length of one of the boards - it was the perfect width! - and weighted the corner down with stones, to make sure it wouldn't blow away and be lost forever.

then i treated myself to my annual pedicure while it dried in the sun!

with that done, it was time to get all of our fair entries together. there were many tags to be filled out - i made sure to bring a pile of blanks home, so that next year i can write them in at my leisure. my hand was sore after filling in all the tags.

i did have quite a few entries.

but all's well that ends well. the blocking techniques seem to have worked okay - the designed-in-canada knitalong dishcloth came in second, and the scarf won first prize.

my gloves came in first, too!

here's a better picture:

my pyjama pants won, too! haven't made the top yet, no rush on that as the category is "ladies' sleep pants."

the kid has a full set of prize-winning pyjamas. these will go under the tree on xmas eve.

the argylette cardigan took top prize as well! one of the women accepting the entries joked she might walk off with it!

my "ladies' pullover" was also a hit.

i finished this tea towel at the cottage... a year after starting... can't believe i didn't get a better photo of the finished object! and i left it up at the cottage to fulfil its destiny as a dishdryer, so no photo is likely to be forthcoming. ah well.

i also got a couple of seconds in baking - brownies and shortbread - but no photos.

my mitts took a prize as well.

not everything did though! this hat to go with the mitts? nothing.

and my strawberry jam and pepper jelly were a bust, too.

honestly though? that was entirely expected. i usually overcook jam; this time i overcompensated and undercooked it. and the pepper jelly? well, have a look - the pepper bits are all at the top instead of evenly distributed throughout!

none of my photos won either. but, i did achieve my goal of spreading my wings and entering categories i hadn't tried before. maybe next year!