September 2007

I have been thinking for a while now about sheep. I want a sheep. Actually I want two sheep; I wouldn’t like her to be lonely. We’ve got more than enough property for a couple of sheep, and I’ve managed to sell Raven on the idea based mostly on the fact that he wouldn’t have to cut the grass… I’m not sure he’s totally convinced, but he obviously loves me because he’s at least pretending to go for it.

We’re new at this “farm” thing still, and I still have a lot of figuring to do – we have to design and build a shelter for them, figure out costs because I don’t have a hayfield – people who have sheep, please help – how much will a couple of sheep eat over a Canadian winter? The grass will be dead for almost half the year.

The first thing I needed to find out though, was: Am I allergic to sheep? Obviously I can handle wool, even at its most disgusting, but I’m allergic to a lot of animals in a stop-breathing-and-swell-up kind of way, and so clearly it would be best to find out before adopting someone I couldn’t go near! But, I’ve never met a sheep without a horse nearby, and horses are right out. Horses bad. So I needed to find a sheep in a horse-free context that I could pet and hang out with for a while.

Mom spotted her the other day. In a nearby town, there is a house with a large pen in the backyard, in which live a sheep, a goat, several small chickens and a very old, very contented-looking duck. Yesterday I drove over there, rang the doorbell and asked a sleepy looking young man whether I could hug his sheep. I think he thought he was still sleeping at first, but he said yes and introduced me to the sheep (and the goat, who didn’t want to be left out. The chickens and the duck didn’t care.)

Long story short, I did not have any dramatic reaction to the sheep. I know that I will have some reaction when cleaning their stable, feeding them etc, because I have some reaction to all animals including many humans. But it’s not like horses, seems to be more on the level of dogs, which is quite manageable. So I can have sheep!

I’m very excited. So please, any of you fibre-farmers out there, if you have any advice for me, PLEASE share! I definitely won’t be doing any actual sheep-shopping until next year, but the more I know going in the better. (Process-learning is fine, and all, but I’d like to have some grounding when someone else’s quality of life is involved, y’know?)

Meantime, knocking on people’s doors and asking to meet their livestock is fun. There’s an alpaca farm just up the road from here….


Well gee, it’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but I do feel rather out-blogged by certain other people’s big news this week! Can’t even fall back on chicken pictures, after Jennifleur’s post yesterday!

Well ok, maybe one chicken picture.



This big ol’ machine taking the soy off tells me that fall is here – and the weather is finally starting to act like it might be true! I want to kick myself for wishing it would cool down, since I know how cold it’s eventually going to get… but I’ve been driven from the studio by melting heat every day this past week, and I’ve got right sick of it. I never have been a big summer fan, if you don’t count the “I like being out of school” part – and even that was largely because my family went CAMPING by lakes and in the north – where it was COOLER!

Anyway, this year there’s lots of wool, right? How bad can it be?

Yes, you may remind me I said that any time after about February 12th. Sooner, if the pipes freeze. Which they had better not!

On to bloginess. Work progresses on the bodice (look ma, arms!)


and on Tiny Aran, and I have finished the ribbing on Normal Size Aran.

OK, actually I have finished the ribbing, knit most of the way up the first diamond, decided it was “ugly”, checked the measurements six times, confirmed that I’m not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with the measurements (surely a coincidence, I’ve never been this right before) decided it was still “ugly” and frogged it completely. Now I’m finished the ribbing again. This time I don’t think it’s ugly at all (so far), despite having changed nothing. Maybe I just need to be on the second go-around before I’m satisfied with my knitting? I don’t see why that would be true, I’m still on my first marriage, my first dog, I don’t habitually re-cut when sewing, or double-dip when dying – but when it comes to knitting I’m definitely sensing a pattern.

Mind you, when I look over that list I must say that my approach to all of them is still process-oriented. Maybe I just haven’t learned to “see” ahead in knitting as well as I can in other things. I’ve only recently got to the point where I can knit from pictures, and that’s not entirely reliable yet. (Can’t do it at all with lace.) So maybe it’ll come with time. Or maybe I’ll just keep ripping. The wince-y sympathy face Raven makes when I do is kind of fun!

EDIT – or maybe my fingers don’t work. This post would be more organized if I didn’t keep clicking what I didn’t want to click, but I do. So I’m going to give up, hit save, and walk away! urg.

So I’m knitting this “clan aran” for my brother. Which in a moment of obvious insanity I decided to spin all the yarn for and knit the thing by Christmas. In an equal or greater moment of insanity, I decided to knit a teeny tiny matching sweater for his daughter.

(gratuitous cute baby picture)


The pretense of an argument being, that I can knit the sweater up in miniature and ‘test drive’ the pattern, so to speak.

ksaran.jpgSo far I think it’s looking pretty cute.

There’s no actual pattern for this (that I am aware of), I totally just yoinked it off the picture on this site that sells very nice Clan Arans for a great deal of money.


I am thus probably swindling some poor Irish knitter out of her £50 fee, or something. Assuming, of course, that “hand knitted” actually means “hand knitted” in the commercial world, unlike “hand sewn” which means, “not made in a Chinese sweatshop”. But I digress. Anyway, I don’t feel a bit guilty about this, because if the company is going to support its own commercial premise – that there is such a thing as a “clan aran” in any historical sense – then as a member of the clan in question (Kilpatrick) I obviously have every right, nay, responsibility to make one of my own, and should probably even be offended (to stretch a point) that they would presume to expect me to pay for something that already belongs to me.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The sweaters really are very nice, in a heavy natural wool sort of way, and there are a million of them, despite the apparent lumping of different septs (or indeed different but linguistically related names) under the same sweater. So if you want to go there, for licit or illicit purpose, and scope out some nifty warm things, the site is here.

First, some whining: Spent the last couple of days in horrible pain for a reason that is looking suspiciously like arthritis in my left shoulder. Joy. Not. Couldn’t sew, couldn’t type, couldn’t spin – couldn’t knit either, but I did anyway. This was a Bad Plan, as it turned out, because it really did hurt. A lot. But the alternative was sitting around all day staring at a pile of things that needed doing and thinking, “wow, my shoulder sure does hurt! Yep!” which sounded like a little piece of hell. So, I knitted.

What I knitted was a pair of those Fibre Trends clogs, which I can’t show you a picture of, because I was so excited to get them knitted up that I dropped them in kool-aid and then tossed them in the washer without even thinking to grab the camera. Now they are felting.

So, instead of a picture of silly floppy clogs, you get a picture of the current costume WIP:

front.jpg back.jpg

a reproduction Victorian bodice, out of grape cotton/linen with silk accents. Ah, I’m loving this project. Bands and boning, silk lining… it’s like doing the stuff for Dorian Gray, except for ‘real’. Dreamy.

What else? Oh yes, the furnace! We have finally actually got our wood boiler. Here it is, parked out behind the house


And there it will sit, doing absolutely nothing until next year. Alas. But think of the motivation we’ll have to get the piping done next spring, since every time we look outside this winter, there it will be sitting, smugly, reminding us of how warm we would be if it was only hooked up to something!

Right, that’s all for now, as the last couple of days put me even further behind than usual… I keep resolving, you know, to sit down and make some resolutions… to schedule myself somehow… anybody know where I can get me a nine-day week?

If someone called you in the middle of a holiday weekend, and said “I’m out on a chicken farm with my girlfriend, you should come out here too”, would you go?
Apparently, some people would. I’m not sure I myself am one of them – and it was my party and we were having a pretty good time, but that just seems like a kind of strange phone call to me!

I’m sorry, I’ve been falling completely behind on this blog thing. I’ve been spinning. Because you asked, here is a picture of the now-completely-finished-and-functioning wheel:


I made it be pretty.

And here is a picture of what is going to be a so-called traditional aran sweater for my brother, when there is enough of it.


So-called, because some company in Ireland is selling these sweaters, with all sorts of “information” about how each sweater pattern belongs to a particular family, and what the stitches represent. I find it very funny, but I’m knitting one anyway, because our “family sweater” is kind of pretty, and what the heck, people get all silly when presented with a ‘clan tartan’. Same difference. (This sweater is the actual and whole reason I made the wheel. I want to knit this sweater for xmas, and with a drop spindle – it simply was not going to happen!)

When I wasn’t spinning last week, I was painting. In the course of the Giant Re-Plumbing Project, Raven will be moving the water heater to a different spot. We thought maybe we’d try having pipes on inside and/or insulated walls, rather than what we’ve had since moving in, which is pipes resting up against uninsulated stone. For a novelty.

Since it isn’t often that one has a chance to do a really good job painting behind a water heater, I took the opportunity to paint the wall before we move the thing, and to do it in such a way that I won’t have to do it again for some time. So I decided to do fake wooden boards, on the theory that if when I change the color of the room later, it still won’t matter that there are fake boards behind the heater. I’ve got the same thing over the counter in the kitchen (adjoining room) so it will sort of blend in. I hope.

If you want to paint fake old boards on something, you will need:
your base paint (latex not-gloss)
your board paint (ditto)
a paintbrush of whatever size you find convenient
a teeny tiny paintbrush for fine lines
some very light acrylic paint for highlights (I use dollar-store craft paint, it’s fine)
some very dark acrylic for shadows
a woodgrain tool (something flat with notches in it, pictures below)


Isn’t that a scary green? It’s ok, there is no place where it will exist unaltered. Anyway, the scary green is the background – you can use whatever you like, to go with your room, just be aware that a) it will show between the ‘boards’ and b) there is going to be some high-school art level colour blending going on here, so it will affect the surface shade.

Paint your boards on. This does not have to be neat and tidy, I definitely do not mask it or draw straight lines or anything. I mean seriously, have you looked at old boards? This is the part where that colour blending happens. Due to the fact that I’m taking pictures in a small room with no windows and fluorescent lights, it was durned near impossible to get a decent image of the boards colour, but they look like a very dark rich brown. What I actually used was purple (because I had that) but if you’ve done kool-aid dying you probably already know that if you mix purple kool-aid and some green, you get a brown. These paint colours are eerily similar to kool-aid colors, and the results are also the same.

The purple that I used is in fact one of those glaze paints that stay wet for a bit longer. If I were Debbie Travis, I would tell you that you really really need to use that. But I’m not. All you have to do is make sure you do this next bit before the paint dries, which means you’ll probably be painting two or three lines, then doing the next bit, then back to painting lines.

The Next Bit:

Take your wood grain tool or Other Object with Notches Cut In. (The first time I did this, on the chicken coop, I used a piece of rubber that I found lying in the road and cut some notches in the end with kitchen scissors. Later, I found that thing in the picture above. I don’t know what it is, but it works. What you want to do is drag it through the paint, VERY GENTLY, so that it scrapes off some of the wet paint. Vary the angle at which you hold it, and the ‘grain lines’ will get closer together or further apart. Swoop it in a narrow arc, down then up or up then down, and you’ll get a knothole or a place where a branch was.


Next, take your light colored acrylic and paint lines on the tops of the boards and down one side. These are supposed to be highlights, so be logical and put them either facing the actual light source, or most common light direction (if outside.) This part is very very very boring. Sorry.

Now guess what you’re going to do with the dark colored acrylic? Yup. Shadows on the opposite side to where you put highlights. This is also very very boring, but it has the advantage that when you begin to feel you’re going mad, you can mix it up a bit by painting dark spots in some of those knotholes. I usually paint little nailheads at the tops and bottoms of the boards too, and then when everyone is impressed I laugh and think, “you have no idea how bored I was! Ha-ha!”



…and that’s pretty much it. If you wanted to, you could do a wash over top in green or gray, to make them look kind of mildewy. My laundry room tends in that direction all on it’s own, so I didn’t feel like encouraging it, although I did do so in the kitchen. Just mix a bit of (not glossy) paint with water – half-half or so (have you gathered I am not precise?) and paint completely over everything you just did, then take a rag and pat the whole surface, removing most of the paint wash, and wondering why you bothered. But there will be a light tint on the surface that ‘ages’ it, I promise.


Now as soon as I get around to painting the wall around this corner, I will look slightly less crazy. I hope.

(The chicken coop door on which I used that chunk of rubber stuff and regular paint instead of glaze):