Saturday, August 12, 2006

Six: Busy

From the west this time, from whence cometh our weather:

Fast moving and unsettled - not unlike my current state of mind.


I went for a little wander in the backyard yesterday:

And got lucky with this shot:

However, not being a fan of bumblebee-coloured knitwear, I settled on this for inspiration:

The subtlety of blues mingled with silvery olive has fascinated me since these guys (whatever they are - we didn't plant them) started blooming several weeks ago, but it was quite a challenge to translate that to an attractive charted pattern.

First, pixellated to tease out the component colours:

I settled on these colour groups:

And came up with this:

Which, on reflection, is just a tad busy. However, so was my mind at 0300 today, which is why I was on the computer inventing this instead of not-sleeping in the comfort of my bed.


Thanks to everyone for the lovely compliments on yesterday's tank top. In answer to questions from Dorothy and Netter, the wavy lace stitch pattern on the lower portion is both elastic and drapey, which makes it exceptionally kind to the figure. I laid it out for the photograph to illustrate the integrated waist shaping that was achieved by contracting the stitch pattern. It also sounded like there was some confusion between the two tanks I've been posting about - the white lacy one is actually my own design, knitted in bamboo, cotton/viscose and laceweight linen, and the only reason I'm not finishing it at the moment is because I am rather overwhelmed and distracted with the looming move and don't want to screw it up.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Seven: Help! I Have Only One Measly Week To Finish EVERYTHING!

First, I have to say what a lovely warm fuzzy it is to get all this empathy for my little body image neurosis, and also that it is a rather humbling reality check that one source of said empathy is a woman who is recovering from major brain surgery. So - it's official: the roundabout tank is going for a little lie down in the stash, not to be spoken of again until my moving-induced temporary insanity has abated.

It would be nice to finish up this guy, too:But since it's my own design, it requires more than the usual amount of clearheadedness and planning - and tank top straps are one of my least favorite bits of knitting. Let's hope we have a warm fall - I'd hate not to finish any of my sleeveless projects in time to wear them. That always seems to happen with seasonal knitting - I suppose because I don't get a hankering for a particular garment until the weather clearly warrants it, and then life gets busy and by the time things are finally on the home stretch the seasons have changed and it's just a chore to keep working on something that will have to be immediately tucked away for six months.

I think string bags are going to be the knitting of choice for the next two or three weeks. They are fun, the design process is engaging without being overly taxing, and I am confident the aubergines are not going to fret about the effect on their figures. Also, it will make excellent car knitting - long trips with kids invariably involve considerable amounts of sticky, staining substances passing back and forth.

I am keeping track of what I'm doing, and will write it up to post here as a free pattern once I'm done. (Actually, I will first work out a better, flatter way to do the bottom and then write it up.) I have several interesting ideas percolating away for the next bag, however, I need to get a proper handle on the mathematics of inventing (or unventing, as the case may be) round medallions.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eight: Ouch

Yes, the drop into single digits was a bit disconcerting. This, however, makes me feel better:

I think I made the right decision to rip and reknit it properly. I also added six rounds of plain stockinette after the last round of eyelets which tidies up the appearance considerably. The eyelets are on a 3 stitch repeat, and the lace is a 4 stitch pattern, so they just looked messy in close juxtaposition.

How, you may ask, did I get so much knitting done when I am supposed to be frantically packing? It's like this: The carpet guy came in the morning, and after having a go at all the bedrooms and the stairs, suggested that I have a look at the room that has been my studio, because the "totally washable" bright red paint that my DD secretly dumped out in the back corner under my sewing table where I wouldn't discover it for weeks, did NOT come out of the pale green carpet. After inspecting the damage, I hurried back down the wet stairs in my bare feet, landing without due care and attention on the smooth ceramic tiles at the bottom. Yep. Did not break my tailbone, thankfully, but did turn the ring finger on my right hand into a painful and swollen little sausage.

Curiously, although I am quite limited in the amount of squeezing and lifting I can do with the hand, I can knit without difficulty. (My DH finds this curious too.) In fact, it was very instructive to see just how much of the knitting motion (I knit continental, and pick, rather than wrap) comes from the wrist. I discovered that by being unable to exert any sort of gripping pressure with my right hand, I naturally fell into a significantly more fluid and efficient rhythm. Always a silver lining.......


Since Juno asked: I am 5'10" and naturally ectomorphic. Not quite so ectomorphic as I was a couple of months ago, though. I developed a love for distance running and heavy weight lifting over the last several years, which had the side benefit of achieving a most satisfactory figure. Unfortunately, with great exertion comes great appetite and the latter did not abate in the slightest when I let the workouts slide to focus on preparations for moving. I am just the teensiest bit sensitive about my newly acquired muffin top, which likely explains my present disinclination to swath my torso in horizontally oriented "vines". All will come right once we move, and perhaps I should just leave the wretched thing until I am once again happy with my shape.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nine: Hot and Bothered

It is hot. Far too hot. Far far far too hot to be roaring around clearing the floors (as I spent yesterday doing) so the carpet cleaners who could only come today on short notice, can Deep Down Clean with STEAM. Perhaps if we boost the indoor humidity level just a little more, we could create our very own miniature weather system, complete with Severe Storm Warnings.

Never mind that, we need a Severe Mom Warning, because while I make myself dizzy and miserable with overheated household exertion, the kiddos undo my handiwork with equally committed effort. As in "Mooooommmm, you can't throw away that scrap of paper with old food stuck to it because It's Precious To Me," and "we NEED to upend this box of overpriced plastic building materials and play with it Right Now." I swear, I am transmogrifying into Molly Weasley. You know how usually women hear echoes of their mothers when they nag their kids? I sound exactly like Molly. "You could have DIED" - I've actually said that. I just need to start work on a couple of monogramed jumpers for Christmas and the transformation will be complete. In my defence, I must point out that my DD could give Fred and George a serious run for their money.

Every so often, I did have a little sit down with a glass of ice water and the twine.

I noticed the error in the early lace rounds.... early. And I did not rip at first, because the sensible, not-obsessive part of me pointed out that this was a prototype, and also a grocery bag made of TWINE, not handpainted baby camel tummy fur, and once the big tub of blueberries from the farmers market stains it irrevocably It Won't Matter. The slightly more neurotic aspect of my psyche pointed out that it is virtually certain that, while I am traipsing through Whistler looking oh-so-Bohemian-chic (yes, Charity is absolutely correct!) with the bottle of wine and the crusty artisanal bread and the plump aubergines nestled in my handknit grocery bag, someone will ask wherever did I get such a handsome and functional bag, and I will modestly admit to making it, and then they will look at it closely and ask "is it supposed to be all crooked at the bottom like that?" And I will be shamed beyond measure. So........

Now that I can spread it out flat, I notice that the centre bulges slightly in a nipplish sort of way, despite having followed the "doubling on rounds 2, 4, 8, 16 etc." rule. I don't have to rip that section however, because it is an interesting exercise in three dimensional mathematical modelling, as opposed to the other, which was just a Grievous Error. Also, I'm sure a 4L jug of milk will block it out nicely.


Thanks to all for the lovely compliments on the quilt blocks - I hope to get back to making more once we are settled. Regarding the roundabout tank - I fervently hope that LeeAnn's belief in the power of tallness to compensate for horizontal design features is justified. I have by no means given up on it, but I think I will set it aside for a few days, because in my present frame of mind I am likely to make the sort of mistakes which really will make me hate it forever. Hopefully I can bring myself to finish it before we move, because knitting projects take up an awful lot more space when they are still in progress.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ten: Bits and Pieces

Things are a bit eclectic today - not unlike my present state of mind. Much excellent sorting and packing was accomplished over the long weekend but, as personally satisfying as a wall of tidily stacked Stuff may be, it's not especially photogenic.

First up:
Way back in the murky mists of time before kids, I was an avid quilter, and one of the first classes I took involved a hand-pieced, hand-sewn, hand-quilted wall quilt. (This is not that quilt.) I fell in love. Not only is it easy to match up all the little corners, but the look of a finely hand-sewn seam has a dimension that just isn't present in machine sewing. Plus, I love the portability of hand-sewn blocks - eminently suitable for small spaces. I have been unhurriedly compiling these 4 inch blocks from some of the tiniest scraps in my stash, each one individually planned and pieced as a little experiment in form and colour. One day they may grow numerous enough for a bedspread, but I find them curiously satisfying just as they are.

I didn't forget the twine:

I was rather hoping it might exist in black, or maybe a dark olive green. I found some braided nylon fishing leader in a lovely shade of green, but there wasn't much yardage for the price, and this is supposed to be a thrifty and utilitarian project. After some swatching, and a few false starts, the grocery bag is now underway. I was thinking it would be great fun to make a set, each in a different lace stitch, and offer them as a series of free patterns. It's also a great way to swatch and practice lace.


Last, and possibly least, the roundabout leaf tank:

I have fallen out of love with this top. Maybe, if I persevere and finish the straps, it will miraculously bloom into a shapely and fashionable bit of clothing, but right now it looks like a boxy, albeit novelly constructed, tube that sags and curls in all the wrong places. If it were wool, I'd put faith in the magic of blocking, but raw silk? Doubtful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Eleven: Wings of Hope and Sorrow

I've decided to try to post a bit about my jewellery projects on Mondays. (The phrase "Metal Mondays" popped into my head last week - it's a bit cutesy but, as Dave Barry would say, would make an excellent name for a rock band). I have another blog for jewellery, but it has become more of an archive of gemstone information than an artistic outlet, and since much of my jewellery focuses on the interpretation of textile techniques such as crochet, knitting and weaving in precious metal, I thought it would not be out of place in a fiber arts blog. Plus, I like the idea of self-imposed deadlines to keep me focused and productive - my Saturday and Sunday projects are turning out to be great fun, and very creatively stimulating. This piece, crocheted in fine silver with Gaspeite and Sleeping Beauty turquoise, sat on the bench for three weeks, waiting for a clasp and a final polish. (It would likely have remained unfinished until after the move if I hadn't started this Monday project - it's working already!) I was moved to create it after learning of the Cormorant crash back in mid July. I can't say as I intended any specific representation, I was just in a heightened state of emotion and reflection and felt compelled to deal with that by creating. Design is most often a mundane process of drawing and calculating, and patiently redoing, but every so often the barrier between intent and execution disappears and what appears in the hands flows directly from a subconscious place of truth. This was one of those moments - I was absolutely certain of the lines and the colours, and lost myself in the making without giving intellectual thought to symbol or meaning. When I finished though, I realized that I had created a bird, graceful in flight, teardrops streaming from its wings, and carrying green new life in its feathers. I felt a sense of closure and peace, as though what needed to be said was done.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Twelve: Cars of the Heart

I confess, I have never driven a Ferrari. Nor any other luxury car, for that matter, despite the fact that a fancy car magazine arrives in my inbasket monthly along with a multitude of other physician-targeted publications. I'm briefly torn between being amused by the persistent myth of the wealthy doctor and wondering exactly how many of my colleagues do, in fact, drive this stuff and how they manage to afford it. Then it goes in the recycling.

It's not that vehicles haven't played important roles in my life, I've just never identified with them as status symbols or longed to own something that could, in 3 seconds, achieve speeds not legal anywhere in Canada. (My husband feels much the same, but did put a little Alpina to good use on the Autobahn during a stint in Germany.)

The first car in which I ever rode (long before my conscious memory begins) was a little white Volkswagon Beetle. I am told I loosened my brand new baby teeth on its dashboard one day when my father braked hard to avoid a careening Citroen - I was of course, seated on my mother's lap, long before the days of car seats and, for that matter, seatbelts. Not long after, my parents bought a Volkswagon camper - apparently, the first on the French Riviera. As it was purchased from an artist who was a great personal friend of Princess Grace, we were routinely saluted by the Monaco police for the first year or so.

The camper hosted food and laughter and adventure and comfort. My father worked long hours, and my mother would pack up supper, pick him up at the office, and we would park by the waterfront and eat and watch the people and the poodles, and the impossibly luxurious yachts. Weekends, we explored the backcountry of Provence, and the fold-out table with the plaid cloth held fresh crusty bread and tangy Gouda for our lunch.

To me, the swish-clunk of the side door was the sound of security and home. I adored the smiling Volkswagon "face", and the musical crescendo of rising rpms, followed by the reassuring thunk of the gearshift, as we climbed steep mountain switchbacks. When we camped, the top popped up to accomodate my little hammock. Chilly spring mornings in the Swiss alps, I would wake in the soft orange glow of the canvas walls, bells and good natured shouting in the distance, as the cows were herded to summer pasture.

No vehicle since has taken that camper's place in my heart. I suppose its charm was inextricably linked with its location, and perhaps also with a happier, more innocent phase of childhood. We had another, right hand drive version in South Africa, but it wasn't the same, and the old Chevy station wagon, which was all we could afford during my teen years in Calgary, was just a car, its occupants folded onto sticky vinyl seats, volatile tempers incarcerated far too close for comfort.

When I graduated medical school, I bought a little red Toyota pickup, packed it to the brim with inadequately culled possessions, and headed east for Newfoundland. TW, though utilitarian and not at all ideal in snow and ice, was my ticket to independence. I spent many solitary weekends during the 2 year residency exploring the island and camping. Although the covered truck bed was not technically connected to the cab, there was a small opposing window in each which I could just squeeze through. This meant that I could lock the back and crawl into it from the cab, giving me a secure place to sleep in campgrounds (or roadside gravel pits) where I felt vulnerable as a single woman. I was just out of a very bad relationship, I had moved as far from Calgary as I could get and still be in Canada, and it was vitally important to me to be able to be alone with my thoughts and to go anywhere I liked without asking or waiting or depending on anyone but myself.

During my second year of residency, I spent 7 months in Labrador, where I met the man I would later marry. Our courtship was conducted in his ancient and highly unreliable Chevy Blazer, invariably accompanied by Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell", which was semi-permanently stuck in the equally unreliable tape deck. That truck came with us to Vancouver Island, where it died emphatically and with great billows of smoke at an inconvenient bend in the Malahat. We bought a three year old Toyota Forerunner the next day, which has served us faithfully now for 12 years.

The Forerunner brought each of our babies home from the hospital, brand new car seats anxiously checked, rechecked, and honey-are-you-sure-that's-as-tight-as-it-will-go? It is intimately familiar with the Trans Canada from Winnipeg to Vancouver, having carried our menagerie in unairconditioned discomfort to the coast and back every summer for six years. In a little less than two weeks, it will haul us to Whistler one last time, and enter a well earned, eco-friendly state of semi-retirement in the underground parking lot.

Yes, the next phase in our vehicular life is to be largely free of them, or at least the fossil-fueled variety. Whistler has a fabulous system of trails, the climate is mild, and there is really no reason not to walk or bike everywhere one might wish to go. It's great for the planet, and an excellent way to stay slim. I believe bike trails are an absolute prerequisite for lessening dependance on fossil fuels - I would have biked everywhere long ago if I didn't have to risk grievous injury and/or death to do so, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

And the future? There is still a part of me that longs to come full circle and trundle my family about the countryside in a camper just like the one from my childhood, warming up a pot of stew on the little gas stove while the kids play, slicing crusty bread onto Melmac plates, setting out the "camping" silverware and calling them in for lunch. Someday perhaps, but for now, the memories will suffice.