June 2007

Back in high school drama class, we had to do a research paper followed by a class presentation. Typical stuff, pick a playwright from a list and present a short bio and comparative analysis of three of their plays.

This one poor girl, doomed by a stage mother, an improbable name and an interest in theatre that didn’t really meet the standards of either, did her presentation on Shakespeare. It began, “I’ve always had a particular fetish for Shakespeare…” and pretty much went downhill from there.

Leaving aside the appalling images that her misuse of language summoned up, I remember thinking at the time “no, honey. You just like him. Purt’ near everybody likes Shakespeare, that’s why he’s one of them “great poet” types. Liking Shakespeare is not going to be the thing that will spark your acting career. It isn’t interesting. Especially since, as was effectively demonstrated by the presentation and the discussion following , she’d only ever read the plays we all had to read for class.

I wasn’t a very nice person in high school, although at least I didn’t say things out loud much.

It is thus with much apology that I here speak my own obvious and uninteresting delight: in worm spit. Oh man, oh boy oh golly gee oh wow do I like spinning silk. In my next life, I wanna be a caterpillar. It smells good, it feels good, it spins like a dream – where I expected learning curve, I find only a gentle sweep, like drifting out to sea… Who was the person who first thought of this? Some Chinese peasant, idly unwinding a cocoon on a lazy afternoon and thinking “hey, you could really do something with this stuff!” I bet they went around for the next month with their chest puffed out as far as one of my hens. “Oh yeah, I did it, I rock! Beat that, you flax-growing savages!”

Finished Raven’s monkey socks and have cast on the second of mine. That pattern is so cool, and so easy… I finished Raven’s at Artcite on Saturday and now two other people want to try them, so I’m doing my part to spread that monkey madness!

Got the ribbing done on the green and purple thing (last entry) and started the color change, but I think I must have been high on chicken fumes or something when I convinced myself that the colors would work, because they don’t. I’ve stared at it for two days, willing it to stop being ugly, but it ain’t gonna happen. It’s frog time.


To make up for not having Grackle pictures the other day, meet Francis the baby pigeon:

We believe Francis had a run-in with a cat (not Velcro) – at least, the little tonsure on his head and the missing tailfeathers lead us to think so. There may also be something wrong with a wing – it’s not broken, but is possibly sprained, or pulled or something? So right now he’s living in the bedroom (so he doesn’t have a run-in with Velcro as well), technically in a cardboard box, but actually he likes to climb out of the box and sit on the windowsill. Can’t say I blame him, really.

Actual WIPs – I finished one pink monkey sock, then switched to the darker ones for Raven – now I’ve got one of his done (I took a picture but it was horrible) and am turning the heel on the second.

Look how far away my foot looks in that picture – I must be tall!  Can’t wait to tell Raven I have proof I’m not short.

Also I’ve started a sweater, which is very loosely based on the Mary Lynn Patrick hoodie in Vogue Knitting, Fall 2005. (That link just goes to the magazine, I couldn’t find a pic of the actual sweater. I can try and scan the page later if anyone is interested!

Except of course that hoodie isn’t knit in one piece on a circular needle nor is it done with two strands, it hasn’t got cables in the ribbing, and basically I’m just doing something with that approximate shape.

Still slowly spinning the purple – I think I’m going to ply it with a thread; do a sort of chain ply only with two separate pieces, so the thread chains around the purple. Does that make any sense? I think it does – haven’t actually approached the logistics of doing this on a drop spindle, however. The last chain plying I did, with only one strand, turned out quite well, but took a long time and I frequently wished for at least one extra arm, so I’m not sure if I’m setting myself up for tears!

I’ve also officially started saving Charlie’s fur – I’d like to get enough to make a small scarf for my mom. Although she keeps suggesting I make a sweater for Barney the yorkie, which I have to admit does have a certain ironic attraction!

Final reminder – Windsor knitters, the first Artcite get together, this Saturday, 7:30! If I get there early enough, maybe I can grab the other window!

I’m sorry, but I’m still very happy. I realize how utterly boring it must be to read the blog of someone for whom things are going right… I waited quite a while to give things time to go south or at least do some kind of interesting pivot, but no. Good luck and happiness continue. I do apologize.

Coupla things for distraction, though: Today we rescued a baby grackle, for one. It “flew” out of its nest over at Stalkermom & The Ed’s place – right into the yard where Rexie the Wonder Dog lives. (Otherwise known to me as EvilBitchDogRexie, since the times -plural!- she tried to peel my dog Bryan’s face off. She has a few anger management issues, is all.) Rexie, among her other charming qualities, is a huntress of some note. Babybird on his own didn’t stand a chance, especially since by “flew out of his nest”, we are pretty sure we mean “tried to fly and fell on his underfledged little noggin and staggered around dazed for a while”.

Regrettably, I didn’t have my camera and so cannot show you pictures of Raven holding the baby bird and trying to “be” a nest, while I ran all over the yard turning up rocks and hunting worms. Upon finding a worm, I would bring it back to babybird, stuff it in his mouth and then kind of flush it down with water from a pipette, which would stimulate him to swallow. Mom, meanwhile, was cooking up some corn porridge, which when cooled allowed me to sit and drink beer (the intended purpose of the visit) with her and Nest Boy. (My ‘job’ wasn’t so bad: At least I didn’t get coated with baby birdshit!)

We were figuring on bringing him home for a day or two until he could get the hang of this flying thing, but we were pleasantly surprised – not only did he try flying again with much greater success, but the extended family of grackles all came out to cheer him on and call him back to Mommabird and Nest. By the time we left, I’m not sure whether he’d actually made it back to Nest, but the family was still around and watching over him, and he’d got safely out of the yard. Go, Babybird!

What else have I got? Some purple plies – learning curve is a bit steep on the mohair, but I’m getting there. That stuff is slippery! I am spinning it – Gecko Grrl is right, there’s always more fibre… but I’m not talking about “more fibre” right now, let’s change the subject. Look, a bird!

Oh right, we covered birds. How about a wheel? Someone else’s wheel? Now that she has blogged her news, I feel better about telling my side of the “And that’s why Emily has a spinning wheel” story. ‘Cause I’m not just some crazy person who’s giving away equipment, you know. There was a great big hole in the rightness of things, just in the place where Emily’s spinning wheel wasn’t. And I was totally, utterly, absolutely and quite irrationally convinced that this would be fixed. That she should have a wheel, and a wheel would come to her.

Mind you, it doesn’t hurt to kind of prod fate along in these situations. Just in case. Confident though I was that the universe, being so kind to me and mine lately, would look after this problem, I figured that just in case the Christians have something with that “the Lord helps those who help themselves” thing, I’d better put in some effort.

So I started researching wheels, how they work, what is different about different styles, all that good stuff. Because I figured if a wheel hadn’t turned up by the time her borrowed one had to go home, I was going to have to make one. (yes, I was becoming slightly obsessive by this point. It happens.) I picked up a broken chunk of spinning wheel cheaply – the important part that would be the hardest to make, especially if like me, you refused to just go buy plans for a spinning wheel. Because, you know – they’re SO hard to come by. Not.

And then one day, as I was deleting the giant pile of freecycle emails that I delete every day, I found one that said “offer – spinning wheel”. So I climbed back into the chair that I’d just fallen out of and responded.

It took at least two days for the lady to get back to me, which two days are the source of the “cryptic” emails Em refers to, since I knew perfectly well that I was going to get the wheel, because that would be “right” – but until I had it, I couldn’t very well tell Emily! I did get it in the end (of course): the lady told me that she gave it to me “because her daughter’s name is Kelly, and she likes crafts too”.

Thank you, oh Universe.

It has a broken leg, and I think it is missing a small piece of doweling or something in front – something connected to (I think) the yarn brake, that no one ever takes pictures of so I don’t know what it should look like. I can fix both these things.

So you see, it isn’t just me, at least. Things are good. Just keep putting your money in other people’s parking meters, and it will all work out just fine!

I stole that title from a really excellent short story by Greg Egan, which you should all go read. Since I read the story, it’s one of those phrases that has stayed rattling around in my head for years, popping out now and then and filling simple thoughts about cheerful moods with complex evocations.

Which has very little (but not nothing) to do with what I’m thinking today… See, I need to retrain my brain. Or adjust the settings, or something. I am constantly hampered by the conflict in my head between doing something for the sheer joy of doing it, and doing the same thing for a reason, with at least a partial goal/purpose. On the one hand, I like having fun, making things is fun, and I am constrained by few external forces or causes demanding that I do or make any specific thing. So I should be able to make or do whatever I want without guilt or more-than-reasonable hesitation, right?

Except that leads to impulse-driven behavior that actually restricts my range of skills and/or experimentation, while attempting to restrain the first impulse leads to irrational hesitation and inaction.

What the heck am I going on about? Well, for example: Today I got fluff in the mail. A lovely box of joyously purple mohair. It’s fluffy and slippery and curly and very very purple:

Now, I’ve already managed to talk myself out of the “I spent money on fibre” guilt. Mostly. As much as is ever likely to be possible. I’m pleased as punch to have this box of purple looking at me, waiting to be spun, calling my name in it’s curly little voice…

And it showed up less than two hours ago and I’ve already spun some of it. Just a tiny bit, to see what it was like. And to stop that finger-itch that started the second the mailman’s car slowed down in front of my driveway. (What IS it with this spinning thing? It really is like crack, you know. Or maybe more like heroine. I AM SPECULATING. I DO NOT DO OR SUPPORT THE DOING OF DRUGS. But I mean, smack is one of those drugs where you don’t just pop a pill in your mouth or snort something, there is preparation involved. Tools are required, a series of activities that must be pursued in the correct order, or they are meaningless, an altered state, and even perhaps a level of intuition… it’s very like a craft that can kill you.)

So completely beside the point. Sorry. Which point is that this mohair hadn’t been in my house for ten minutes, and I was ready to go; I’d broken out the cat brushes, I was all set for working my way through the (really quite large) box of purple. I was seriously considering taking a drop spindle in the car to Windsor (where I’m going later today) instead of a sock.

If I do that, I will have a bunch of fine purple thread. Which is great, but if I hang on to it for a bit, and don’t spin it, maybe I could do something a little more complex? Fibre blending, for example? Which I haven’t done yet, and as such is a mountain that must be climbed. Must, not as in “gee, it will take some upwardly mobile effort to get over that mountain” but must as in “get your butt moving up that mountain now you lazy lout!” On the other hand, if I don’t spin it – I will not be spinning it. And it is unspun! It will just be sitting there looking at me, being loose fibre! And finally, on the third hand I sometimes wish I had, if I spin it it will be gone, and I will not be able to spin it any more. I know you understand this, that’s why we all have a “stash” category in our thoughts and on our blogs.

I hope you’re not all waiting for a resolution from me right now, ’cause I got nothing. I do this will I/won’t I/how/when thing all the time. Comments welcome. (Comments welcome anyway, who are you people? Oh well, it’s ok. I’m shy about commenting too.)

I am playing around with a fabric sample for this wedding dress I’m doing.

If you picture it in white, that’ll probably make a lot more sense, but I did the sample in what I had because we’re chopping up the bride’s mother’s wedding dress and re-using the fabric, so I wasn’t going to waste that on playing around! Basically it will be this, with a LOT more tulle bunched over it, and the tulle will be over-embroidered and beaded here and there. and the part where it looks like two leaves? There’s actually a tulle-bunch flower there too, but I’m thinking in the picture it doesn’t show very well, so in accordance with the ten-foot rule*, I think I’ll put beaded lace behind those flower-bunches as well. That should pop ’em out a bit.

*Ten-foot rule: Stand back at least ten feet and gaze upon your work. If it is blurry, blobby, blind-making or just plain ugly, fix it. Most of the world will get their impression of your work from about that distance, if at all. Coming in closer and finding fantastic detail is a GOOD thing, but as with everything, first impressions count.

A quick and scattered post, since there are several things I need to do today and these are none of them:

Is it creative use of available materials, or is that just PC terminology for white-trash crafts?

4.5 metres of fingering weight (17 wpi) natural tan… St. Bernard fur. Actually about 80% St. Bernard and 20% husky-something mix. Very short staple, but no worse than the cotton really, and actually easier to spin, although a right nightmare to join if you break the ply – fortunately that only happened once. Stalkermom and the Ed’s dogs are shedding their undercoats.

I was persuaded (yeah, like it was difficult) to relocate some more of the IYS over to my house yesterday. Managed to spread the disease a bit though- mom is now also making a pair of monkey socks out of a really nice brightly colored variegated which I didn’t steal the other day specifically because she ought to be knitting socks out of it – and Raven likes the pattern and wants a pair too! Boys in lumpy lace, gotta love it. It really isn’t a particularly ‘girly’ pattern though, especially with the gauge bumped up.

Everyone is used to my watching movies for the costuming, it’s an inevitable side effect of my job/interests – but I’m not the only one who now needs to knit several clunky dark cardigans after watching Pan’s Labyrinth, right? Right?

Finally, in addition to the abundance of awesomeness that the universe has been dropping on my head (I know, you’re sick of it now) there is another kind of abundance going on: I’m really pretty sure the cat is pregnant, and we also have a broody hen.

I’ll try for a more coherent post later when my brain gets its ducks (and thoughts) in a row – and there’ll be a finished sock in about 7 more rounds as well. (Just the one sock so far, I’m not that much of a junkie. Yet.)

I can’t prove anything, but I think my mom has been slipping more yarn into the Incredible Stash (IYS).

While browsing the blogosphere yesterday, I fell for the Monkey Socks. Fell hard. I don’t know why it suddenly became imperative that I make these socks, and make ’em NOW – it’s not like I haven’t seen them before… maybe it was just the happy pastel colorway on January One, which is where the urge hit me, maybe it was just the fact that with all the sewing and spinning there hasn’t been much knitting lately. It’s true that I’ve been hankering for something “real” on the needles. (‘Cause don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that there has been no knitting, there just hasn’t been any knitting I give a damn about. I’ve knit the same ball of mohair into about three things and then ripped them back, just for the sake of tying knots in string. The mohair seems to have found it’s final form in a long glove.)

Whatever the reason, I needed to knit the Monkey Socks. Now. In variegated yarn. Only I don’t have variegated yarn, insert one of those arguments between hands and brain here. As usual, hands win and I have to get some yarn.

I’m looking after the house and animals at The Ed’s place, because June is the month they often go up north (several times), and I’m also painting a dresser over there. On which the tiny checkerboard will drive me blind, I’m sure. So when I hit the point where the checks were driving me blind and there was nothing else dry that I could switch to, I went rooting in the IYS for variegated. Which, obviously, wasn’t a big challenge.

Yeah, I’m stealing yarn when Mom’s not looking. But it’ll be ok, because a) she reads this, so it’s not like she won’t know where it went, and b) the yarn I stole was pink and Mom’s a redhead. I’m doing her a favor.

But while I was looking in the gray yarn bin (no, I didn’t want gray, I was looking at yarn) I noticed some stuff that I don’t remember from the last time I was digging in that bin. I think there’s new yarn.

I don’t feel the least bit guilty about spinning, if she’s going to go thwart our efforts at IYS reduction by importing yarn!

Yesterday I worked on the dresser, cleaned the bathroom, made a dress, did laundry and still managed to get this far on the first sock (gauge adjusted for stupid-bigness):

Yeah. I definitely needed that.

‘Awesomeness’ continues, there’s still one outstanding Thing-That-Could-Happen which I won’t jinx by talking about, but even if that doesn’t come through, I’m well into the Cup-Runneth-Over zone, so I’ll have nothing to complain of. My cup did indeed runneth over on Thursday, good things spilling over into the lives of a couple of friends who needed stuff-wot-I-got — which is in and of itself: Awesome!

I just quit my day job.

Gosh, doesn’t that look all “leap into the void”ish? But no, not really. See, I sew for a living, and I still sew for a living (well ok, I sew for a pittance, really, but it makes me feel like I’m contributing if I say ‘for a living’), but I’ve just told my theatre group that I won’t be their “house costumer” any more.

I have been dithering and waffling and whining about this for ages. I love costuming, it’s fun, it’s always different, there’s always some kind of crazy challenge and problem to solve… but I put too much work into the shows for not enough return, and I can’t bring myself to cut all the corners that could and perhaps should be cut. So I love it, but I’m tired of being tired, I’m tired of spending 10-12 hours a day in an unheated studio all winter, I’m tired of missing two seasons out of every year – I’m not tired of never cleaning the house, but I am tired of the house being dirty!

Designing for the stage is very different than designing a single outfit or even a set, and sewing for the stage means pretty things that just aren’t always quite as pretty when you get up close. Like those Dorian dresses. On the one hand, they’re really cool. On the other hand, what I want to do is make “real” dresses like that, not “period cut/modern finishing” sturdy cotton knock-offs. It’s all part of the jonesing for quality, I feel like I’ve got nothing to be proud of as a seamstress when all I ever get to do are “fakes”. I know that on some levels that is a ridiculous way to feel, and I am proud of my work in its own context… but as a historical costumer I can do more/better, and not doing so irks me.

Not that I expect recreationists to be beating down my door or anything, I’m sure I’ll be doing nothing but quilted satin and crazy stuff like that coat. But that was fun and challenging too, and didn’t eat my life! (Plus it was the wimpiest resignation ever, and they will still hire me to do stuff – I really just arranged it so that I can say “no”.)

Life. I like my life. We’ve been out here for four years and I am still pleasantly surprised every day to find how much I like my life. I mean, I wasn’t kidding with that Laura Ingalls crack a couple of entries ago, I’ve always known that I could live like this, but finding out how much I enjoy doing it, how I’m just freakin’ happy to be getting up in the morning… it’s like being a kid again, a kid in summer vacation. Even the things that you have to do are kind of “fun”.

And just at this moment there is compounded awesomeness going on… some of it is still “imminently awesome”, and I’m not 100% sure it will all work out, so I can’t tell you about those parts yet. (Because I’m superstitious.) But here are few awesome things (non fibre related, as Emily guessed) that are already happening/have happened. I’ll start small, but they get big pretty quick:

Raven put the carriage lights up in the upstairs bathroom. That hole in the wall over the mirror was where the old fixture was – one of those bars of bulbs like in a dressing room, only they were huge round bulbs and the bar was wooden instead of chrome. (Because I guess if it’s wooden it somehow looks classy and antique in a big old house? I dunno.) I hated that stupid bar of too much yellow light. It was ugly, it was a waste of hydro, it didn’t go with either what we’re doing to the poor house, or what anyone else had done in the past. So we got these lamps, which are supposed to go outdoors, but what has that got to do with anything? I was still a little nervous about it, but now I’m not, they look great. Granted, the above picture does not show them to their best effect – and obviously I am still in the process of painting that wall. I had to stop because Raven was going to need to cut holes in it to install the lights, of course.

See, that’s what’s happening to the wall. In purple, eventually. So I am confident that they’re going to blend in quite well. (Yes, I’m just gratuitously showing you my walls. I like my walls, they make me happy too. See? Just like a kid. Wanna see a picture I drew? Like that.)

Ok, next piece of awesomeness-in-progress. This one and the third are maybe about the same calibre, but I have pictures of this, so it goes first.

This is our bog. As in “john”, as in toilet, as in we haven’t had indoor plumbing since christmas, and it hadn’t been working well since the previous September. I will not go into details about the arrangements that have been made, but let’s just say that the return to a simple lifestyle has been taken further in the past few months than most people are entirely comfortable with. So, Raven is constructing this do-it-yourself composting toilet system, otherwise known as a “tree bog”. Inside the box is a big hole in the ground. The box itself only really exists to a) hide the pipe outlet b) vent the hole and c) be lockable, just in case. We know people with children now, y’know?) Around the box will be a willow hedge, which will both conceal the box and – well, recycle – the contents.

Outside the box, comfortably ensconced in the bathroom just like a real toilet, will be a chair with a fancy hole in it. I’m painting the chair now, it’s salvage from someone’s dining room set. And the rest is up to gravity! (Well, gravity and a little water from the charming pitcher I will provide in case gravity requires some assistance.) See, even that sounds kind of fun, don’t you think? Water from a charming pitcher? Ok, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, you might not want to live here, but you’d visit me, right?

EDIT – If you want more information on this ‘bog’ and how it’s put together, there’s a page about it here, which I will be updating as we run and debug (not too many actual bugs, I hope!) the system.

That hen in the bog picture is Brat the Erstwhile House Hen – she was being a diva, so I took a couple of pictures just of her:

They have perfectly nice nesting boxes, you know. Full of soft litter, all dark and safe…

Whatever. On to the third Awesome Thing of which I have no picture (yet): Last night we bought a wood boiler! We are going to have heat!

Let me slide that into context for those of you who haven’t been to my house, since you vastly outnumber those who have – I live in Ontario. Which is in Canada. Now, there are many places in Canada much colder than southern Ontario, and I assure you that in February I am mostly glad I don’t live in them. It is quite sufficiently cold right where we are. Which is in a field, in Canada. With no heat. We have a charming little franklin stove, which really outdoes itself in trying to raise the ambient temperature – in December we can sometimes get the room where the stove is up to 70 degrees F. In January/February we’re lucky if we can hit 60, beside the stove, and it takes all day to do it. Mostly in Winter it is 45 degrees when I wake up, and 55 all day. The kitchen – and it is a great kitchen – becomes The Room You Don’t Go In, because it is (ironically) the furthest from the fire and also the least well insulated. I chip ice off the dog’s water in the mornings.

(I feel the need to insert here that for me this is still “fun”. Cold, damp, and sometimes painful, but “fun”.)

Every year, the plumbing (which was crap to begin with) freezes, and we have no water for however long it takes to get it going again. This year we were about two months with water running to one tap, and it kept trying to freeze. Meanwhile, poor Raven has to crawl under the house and shout bad words at the pipes until they work again. That part is not ‘fun’. So this year, the toilets will not freeze because they will be completely off that system, and soon we will actually have heat! I don’t expect that the boiler will be running this year, because there is still quite a lot of piping to do, and there are other jobs higher on the list of Must Be Done. But it exists, and if not this year then next year, we will have heated floors.


Ok, one more picture, so there’s at least some fibre in this post: Remember that white fibre from Emily? Boiled it in the leftover walnut dye yesterday:

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