Thursday, March 31, 2005

The grand pink shawl


Pink shawl, fringe detail

Close up, fringe detail, beading

Pink Shawl, body detail

Kate and the big pink shawl Posted by Hello

This is one of my favourite pieces of 2004. It's actually the second crack at this project. The first one was done in blues and while I was in the process of knitting it, I got the colour "pink" stuck in my brain. As it turned out, the blue shawl was too short for me and it wasn't deep enough for me. I like a shawl with some serious fling ability.

Additionally, and this is an entirely personal prejudice, I firmly believe that shawls edges need to be weighted. It is my never humble opinion that if the shawl edge is left unweighted, the entire damn thing tends to creep and crawl all over the place. It just doesn't hang as well.

I will eventually post a copy of this shawl done in blues but I happily sold it to Trish Campbell at Singers. I'm sure Trish will lend it out for an hour or so, long enough to photograph it.

Talk to you all laters; thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bedside musings

Thanks to both Ellen in Conn and Karin for your kind words about my mom's illness and for your blessing of Peace. Actually, I've got a lot of that going down lately. Mom's imminent death is neither unexpected nor unwelcomed to some degree. She has had Parkinson's for a decade and in the past year has suffered additional neurological and cardiological issues, including an episode in January when we were all summonsed to her 'death bed' (only for her to snap out of a totally unresponsive state in about 4 hrs, after having been in a coma for 3 days). It was a trial run and I think we all had a chance to make our peace with her death then. Now the curtain's up for the real performance.

I've taken the night shift staying with her. It makes sense. I'm used to being up all night anyway, although I do doze off for little naps through the night. My father, understandably , is very upset with the pending loss of his life-long companion (next week will be their 49th wedding anniversary). My sister is much more useful at dealing with his issues and fending off the hordes of ever so helpful friends and neighbours who have the overwhelming need to "tell", not ask, about how things should proceed from here. I have no patience with this nonsense and Kelly is so very diplomatic, so my time is better spent with Mom. I knit and talk and she listens. We talk about textiles a lot. My mom was a very good textile worker and fearless in her project tackling capabilities. She was in her 40s when she went to the New Brunswick Craft School to study weaving for two years, just because she wanted to learn weaving. This was well before the day when mature/adult learners were commonplace in the classroom, but my mom was never one to let convention stifle her.

She knit and took up the crochet hook when she developed arthritis in her hands while still in her early 40s. She didn't bother herself with these silly assed granny squares...no, not MY MOTHER. Instead she crochetted a Queen sized bedcover out of butchers twine made into hexagonal pieces. It's gorgeous and it weighs approximately 5000 lbs. But that was my mom...go BIG or stay home.

Mom was 50 or so when she decided it was time to fulfill her life-long ambition of becoming a nurse and it was off to nursing school for her. She graduated and worked most of her career in the geriatric/rehab unit of the hospital where she is now dying. It's been an amazing thing these past couple of evening as I've sat by her bed, knitting away and reflecting on our life together. There's been a steady stream of nurses into the room, women she's worked with coming to say their goodbye to a much loved colleague.

Two things of the many I've learned from my mother have been foremost in my mind in the past few days. One is that age 40 is just the beginning of life, that there is no such thing as "too old" to learn a new skill or take on a new challenge. Second, I've come to realize how very proud I am to be Eileen MacKay's daughter. I may be losing my mother in the physical and temporal sense but the best part of her is blazoned on my soul and my character and that I have forever.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Poncho details Posted by Hello


Poncho details Posted by Hello

Poncho confessions

You knew this poncho thing got another boost when Martha Stewart, that happy homemaker queen, got released from the slammer wearing one so lovingly created by one of her fellow inmates. Lovely woman I'm sure but, honey, could you have not knit her socks or something? It's a omen of the worst kind when the reversed engineered pattern for the "Martha poncho" showed up on the Bernat website within 24 hrs .

I'm thinking it's a sure sign of a bad fashion summer coming, rather like last year, when thousands, perhaps millions of women who otherwise should have known better thought they could hide their curves under a circus awning. I'm sure it's a particularly attractive article of clothing when you are 9'19" tall and weigh 87 lbs, with your shoes on. Or you happen to be 9.

Even the Oddball here managed to momentarily fall for the poncho thing; however, I had the good sense to make it for my 9 yr old daughter. She thinks it is very cool. Somewhere around here I actually do have the picture of the full item but for now, all I can find is the detailed photos. It is a very colourful poncho... a thing of many colours.

It was supposed to be a stash buster. You know, one of those projects where you use up all the odds and sods and bits and bites of stuff that's accumulated at the bottom of every yarn basket in the house. I was using Briggs & Little light worsted in natural for the carrier yarn and the theory was that I would knit the occasional patch of novelty yarn into it. I had a bit of boa and a bit of salsa left from various projects. This plan, of using up the left overs, lasted right up until pay day.

Then I happened up one ball of something or other that would just fit in right there and I bought it. Then I bought another. And another....and yes, this is soooo very pretty....

You get the picture. The stash busting project increased the size of the stash by 23%, give or take a dozen metres.

But the important point is that the 9 yr old loves it. It looks damn cute on her (because she's 9) and if she ever tries to wear it as an adult, I'll write her out of the will.

Just an aside, it might be a few days before I update the blog. My mom is very very ill and has been admitted to pallative care. Most of my knitting for the next few days will be in a hospital room.

Talk to you all laters and thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


The linen stitch scarves Posted by Hello

Well, what do you know???

There you go...living proof that I'm not technologically retarded after all. The Linen Stitch scarves doth grace the 'Blog. And the OddBall saw it and She said "All Hail to the Wonders of Technology".

And all the residents of Blogville, at last seeing colour renditions of textile-y looking things upon their computer monitors, declared the day a national holiday and kept their children home from school so All could munch on chocolates in celebration of the Blessed Event.

Sometime between here and the Second Coming, I have full intentions of figuring out how to put up 2 pictures at the same time, but for now, I'm working with the general guidelines outlined in the Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Press Thy Luck.

The scary part is that I'm going to have to teach this to Liz. That should be a treat. I need to work on my act a bit so she thinks I know what I'm doing, as opposed to pushing buttons randomly and crossing my fingers.

But again, I digress....back to the scarves. The more astute/less hungover readers will have already guessed there are two scarves in the photo. Both the scarves are of the Long and Skinny description. The pink one is 290 cm x 6.5 cms (115" x 2.5"). The green/blue one is 20 stitches shorter and comes in at 245 cm x 8 cm (96" x 3"). Neither of the scarves has been washed, blocked or fringed yet and I expect those dimensions will change somewhat with that process.

However, all in all, I'm happy with them both. I will be cutting the length on them a bit when I do the "good version" in the Butterfly cotton.

How'd She Do That?

Pink scarf: 6 mm (Sz 10 US) circular needles, cast on 400 stitches. Linen stitch for 20 rows. I used 3 balls of the varigated Bernat Crafter's cotton for these scarves.

Green/blue scarf: again, 6 mm needles, 380 stitches this time. Linen stitch 22 rows. Again, the three balls of varigated Crafter's cotton.

Linen stitch, you ask? ...

Rw 1: K1, move yarn forward, S1, move yarn to back, K1, continue.
Rw 2: P1, move yarn to back, S1, move yarn to front, P1, continue.

Since you've cast on an even number of stitches, you will be knitting or purling the stitches that were slipped the previous row and the float yarn will always be to one side of the pattern.

Karin from London managed to sneak in a comment while I was editting this entry, so here's the source of the inspiration.

http://www.diynetwork.com

I know there's some fancy dance way to hide that long address in something a little prettier but that's a lesson for another day.

The biggest difference between their rendition and mine is they chose to use 3 solid colours and knit in a 3 rows colour A; 2 rows colour B; 3 row colour C; 2 rows colour A pattern.

My 2 cents worth on the exercise: Confession time: For the most part, I hate varigated yarns. I think they turn out either blotchy or stripy and it totally annoys me no end. This stitch, however, is a really good use for varigated yarns. There is enough subtle texturing to blend the colour waves because every second stitch is being pulled up into the new row. It's also a very economical in yarn useage in that you are knitting only every second stitch.

I am going to cut the stitch count again when I do it in the Butterfly. I'll swatch it first but I'm thinking around 350 stitches?

An aside to Ellen in Conn reference yesterday's comments: Go all slap happy with the scanner, woman! You would not believe the amount of stuff Liz and I managed to work through on Friday. We were all day at it but we did a laundry basket and then some. I know we wouldn't have made it through 1/3 of it had we been relying on straight photography. Textiles, as we all know, are very hard to photograph and the scanner just made mincemeat of the task. The scarves above are scanned in and with a minor amount of tweaking on the settings, we had really good results.

Linen stitch scarves in cotton...not so fast.


The above blog zit is supposed to be a picture of my linen stitch scarves. Well, bloody hell. Apparently the test run was a failure...it's back to the drawing board for the pictures. In the meanwhile, I 've got my newest scarf off the needles and I just need to put the finishing touches on it.

Liz was planning to dye my Butterfly yarn last night. I'll talk to her later and find out if it was finished. No real rush. As yesterday's activities was clear, I have enough "needs to be finished" to keep me going for a while. And I have another bucket full of needs to be ripped and recycled.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. There was a giggle or six. We accomplished a lot but by the time we were finished, I think we both had a headache. The flourescent lights in Liz's office flicker a bit and there are a lot of white walls which just magnifies the problem.

Today's project is to see if I can't finish the second sock for Silas and maybe (fingers crossed) start the second "Kool-aid" sock. The yarn is my first dying attempt and if I do say so myself, not so bad.

Talk at you's all laters; thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what the Hell?


It's not so much that the photo is bleary as the photographer (that would be Liz) is a little giddy. Here's to the old broads and to much more interesting textile shots that will up soon as we can get the bloody instructions figured out. In the meanwhile, cheers and Happy Easter, one and all.

I'm beat. It was a long day. We got a lot of really interesting shots and just a word to the wise...anyone wanting detailed pictures of textiles, I'm here to tell you that a scanner is a truly wonderful thing.

Posted by Hello

Short post....

I'm off to do the photography with Liz. Amazing but I've got a laundry basket FULL of stuff and a small recycle box 3/4 full and I know I haven't managed to dig out everything. Perhaps I'm not as slack-assed as I thought I was.

Talk at you later tonight. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What was I thinking??

Email from Newfoundland yesterday: Hi, Kate, here's the Canada Post tracking number on the 45 skeins of mohair you bought from me on eBay...lotsa luck getting rid of it, you freak.

Okay, so the last part wasn't actually in the email but it does bring to bear the question: exactly what does one do with 11,700 m of mohair/acrylic blend. That's right...11 THOUSAND 7 HUNDRED meters. 11.7 kilometers of mohair. I've literally got enough mohair here to string it from here to City Hall, which is a mere 7 kilometers away, and have enough to knit a sweater when I get there. It boggles the imagination. Actually, that mohair string could come in handy for those foggy spring mornings when I'm biking to work at 5:30 am but I digress. In the meanwhile, I'm starting to have a panic attack just thinking about all of it, arriving.

Got a comment yesterday from a non-family member, Karin in Ontario. Thank you Karin...you've provided me all the ammo I needed to compose the following:

Dear Long Suffering and Much Put-Upon Husband:

Every year, for the past 20 years or so, you have asked me what I want for my birthday. And every year, I have answered "Nothing", which has always been true but I recognize has been most frustrating for you.

This year, in sympathy for your ever-rising stress levels, I thought I would cut you some slack and instead of my usual NOTHING answer to the question, I'm going to give you a definitive answer. I want a digital camera. I don't need a zillion dollar bells & whistles one. I need one that I can take pictures of my stuff and post it on the Blog. What is a knitting blog without pictures? It's nothing. And while I can run across the river and show my stuff to Liz and Trish and everyone else, I can't run up to London Ont every second day and show Karin.

Who is Karin? So glad you asked dear, we can discuss all at dinner tonight.

Love,

Wifey


In the meanwhile, Liz the best friend, has reminded again that she does have a digital camera and if I would simply get off my arse and go over there, we'd have all the pictures needed, wanted or required. Mission this weekend: get some freaking photos up on this blog.

In any event folks, the new scarf is bellowing from the knitting basket. I must get to it. Talk at you's later; thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The new scarf.

I'm glad no one but family is reading this blog because I really need to get some pictures up and running. The long wanted digital camera is rapidly becoming a "need".

This scarf is done in blocks of blue boucles with the blocks separated by a band of navy Butterfly cotton with a simple lace insert in it. I slept most of yesterday so today is a knitting day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More of the same...

I cast on Silas' second sock; hopefully, I'll get this done before the end of the month. Next on the hit list is finishing the baby sweater for Nancy. She's due April 2 (my birthday) and I've got the back, both fronts and one sleeve completed. I just have to do the second sleeve and the hood and stick a zipper in it.

I think I'll feel a little more relaxed about everything once I get some of the partial projects cleaned up and put away. At the same time, I really need to get OFF my own case about what I haven't done. Liz has pointed out to me that my biggest problem is that I don't keep things for myself. What stays in the house is the undone and the disasterous. If it worked and is finished, it's usually gracing someone else's wardrobe. Why is that? I have no idea.

Seriously, if I took inventory, I haven't exactly been Miss Slack Arse. In the past 6 months, I've knit 5 shawls, countless scarves, a child's poncho, 4 pairs of socks and I'm sure a couple of things I've forgotten. It's just that the only thing I see is the pile of undone.

Blogging all this might do me some good in that I'll start seeing some of the positives and not just the "screw up" bits. Tonight I knit about 8 inches on a new scarf I've got in my head and I knit about 6 inches of Silas' sock.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Screw crocheting anyway...

By 5:30 am, the recycled, reclaimed crocheted shawl was nano-seconds from being pitched from the 3rd floor balcony of the police station where it could be run over by a passing bus. And then I could safely set it on fire.

Biggest problem isn't so much the crochet bit. It's my yarn choice. I'm using Grignasco Safari which is a very loosely plied cotton blend with a thread that gets all twisted up around it. It's a total pain in the arse to work with and I'm not doing it anymore. I'll either find another use for it or find someone I really dislike and give it to them.

Yes, I really am a petty, mean-spirited bitch. Learn to live with it -- I have.

The long skinny cotton scarf

I've made progress on my version of the long, skinny scarf done in cotton. I did one version that I think is too long, so I took out 20 stitches in the second crack at it. It's still too long but not so bad. I'm going to cut it to 350 stitches in the next version. I can't wait to do it in the Butterfly cotton. I think the subtle sheen will just punch everything to where I want it to go.

I finished one of the heavy wool socks I'm making for Silas. I bought a painting from Silas last month and I hope to have these done before I make the next installment payment on it. These socks are very heavy, the Briggs & Little troop sock, made from 100% worsted B&L. It's a hard, tough wool that I love. I love the feel of it. I love the ruggedness of it. These ones are made from the midnight blue with narrow, decorative stripes at the top of them in Fundy Fog, one of my very favourite B&L shades.

Now I've got to see if I can't master crocheting. The shawl I started I've decided I don't like. The guage is too big; it's too sloppy, so another rip and reclaim project for Kate. I'm going to knock down the needle size a couple of notches and see what it looks like then.

Happy Naw Ruz...Happy New Year's....Happy vernal equinox to everyone!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Today's assignment is....

I have two overwhelming ambitions for this month. One is I would like to finish the bloody bucketful of projects I've got started. Right now, an inventory of what's where would be an improvement. Actually, having all the shite piled up in one place would make an excellent starting place.

Second, speaking of inventory and other fun projects, I've got two huge containers of yarn stuffed to the brim. I've got enough Briggs & Little to start my own factory outlet. This statement is usually prefaced with me going and buying about another 10 skeins but I'm serious about getting out from under it all.

Leanne from work told me the other day that at the Oncology Ward at the Moncton hospital, they are always looking for yarn donations. Women there awaiting treatment for breast cancer have taken up the needles and hooks while they're undergoing the process of chemo and/or radiation treatment. I guess I'm not the only one who really needs to do something with my hands when the world is coming to an end. They make pieced afghans, everyone contributing a little different bit to it and then they auction them off with the money going to charity. I think this would be a good home for some of my "what the hell was I going to do with this?"

Honest, I found this crate of yarn last fall...all right, Brian found this crate of yarn ... and the receipts in it were from 1983. I have NO idea what I was planning with this stuff. It must have been sweaters because they are bag lots of the stuff. It is rather interesting to look at this stuff and see how my tastes and sensibilities have changed over the past 20 years. There is this pile of very fuzzy, very teal, Paton's Diana that I remember thinking was the most gorgeous stuff in the entire universe when I was a much younger woman. Now, it doesn't seem to be quite as lovely as it once was.

So that's what needs to be done this month, sometime before April 1st...start by finishing or at least locating all the partial projects and either chuck them, finish them, or reclaim the yarn. The second would be to inventory the mounds of yarn already here and start getting down to brass tacks about whittling into that pile. What I don't love, give it away.

As for yesterday's ambition, I'm about 3 rows short of finishing one of the long skinny cotton scarves. I should have that one kicked today. It's been really interesting seeing how the colours on the varigation blend together. I'm looking forward to trying it out "for real" with the hand dyed Butterfly cotton. I'm thinking pansy colours....lots of purples and a bit of yellow.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

And the point to all this??

There probably isn't one; however, I've decided I want to work towards juried status with the New Brunswick Crafts Council. Mostly, at this point in time, it's an ego gratification thing. I want to stack my stuff up against other professional craftspersons and know I'm "in the game".

The long term game plan is to have a small business set up and well established before I retire from the City. I'll have 30 years service with the City by my 56th birthday...too young to retire and no point of continuing working for the City. I'll have maxed out my pension contributions. Besides, I think that after 30 years of having listened to everyone else's really really bad day, I'll have had enough of that racket and be ready to sit around and make pretty things.

When I was little, I used to play with Play-doh and Crayolas. Now I've graduated to Fimo and yarns. Everything comes full circle.

Today's goal is to finish the draft version of my long, skinny scarf in varigated cotton yarn. I'm just doing this version in Bernat's handcraft cotton because it's relatively inexpensive. I've got a skein of Butterfly mercerized cotton DK in white that I sent over to Liz for dying. I really like this pattern for varigated yarns because the linen stitch breaks up the blocky choppy aspect of varigated yarns that I think looks so crappy.

I'm hoping to be able to post some pictures of my stuff very soon. Jocelyn, a woman I work with who is an amateur photographer, has been taking pictures of some of the things I've made over the winter. I'm going to ask for a digital camera for myself for either my birthday or Mother's Day. They've got to be quite cheap compared to what they were even two years ago and I think photos make much more sense for a "knitting blog".

Friday, March 18, 2005

Can we get a 12-step program going here??

Hi...my name is Kate and I'm a fibre junkie...

** cue the background chorus of "Hi Kate..." **

I am about to be buried alive under a ton of yarn. I have yarn, yarn, yarn and more yarn. I could knit non-stop for the next 3 years and not run out of yarn. So what did I do last week? Oh, you got it. I bought some more...wait for it...yarn.

I am now the proud owner of 45 freaking 50-g skeins of mohair acrylic blend. It's enroute as we speak from Newfoundland where I bought it on eBay. What can I tell you? It was a hell of a deal, shipping etc in, it was under $3 a skein.

What in hell will I do with that much mohair? I have no idea. I've got silver-grey, burgundy and apple green coming and one ball of I can't remember. I have lost my mind and every time I turn around, I'm stumbling over more yarn.

I just found another 3 skeins of Briggs & Little Regal, all washed and ready to dye, along with a skein of their new Midnight Navy and a skein of Fundy Fog. I would do a complete inventory but the truth is, I'm afraid of how much yarn is in that house and secondly, I'm not sure I could find it all.

Doing an inventory of the 'unfinished projects' would be enough to scare a woman witless. I've got a sweater 95% finished that was going to be Brian's Christmas, anniversary, Valentines, St Patrick's Day present. I'm thinking maybe Father's Day? I have such commitment issues with sweaters. They're so big. And really, who in their right mind wants to knit the "second" sleeve? Usually I try to trick myself by knitting both sleeves at the same time but this was an argyle sweater and I thought I'd not push my luck. I think this will be my last sweater until I get a knitting machine. I get boredtoo easily.

What else do I have on the needles? Oh, a triangular shawl that needs about 5 inches ripped out because I decided I hated the pattern I'd stuck in there. I've got a crochet shawl that's being ripped out because I hate how it's going together. I have a couple of odd socks made with full intentions of doing the mate "soon". A couple of scarves, a baby sweater and a baby blanket. I have to get myself organized. And oh yes...yet another shawl that I have about 3.5 feet done on but I've now decided I hate. It's getting ripped and recycled. It's what I do best....ripping crap out.

The Cast of Characters

The greatest blessing in my life has to be the people who populate it. Some of the folks who get frequent mention in anything I do are here:

Brian, aka Hubby, Dearest Hubby, Darling, Himself or that Individual to Whom I find Myself Wed -- all depending on my mood and circumstance. He's a computer programmer/software developer and system administrator. He's also the most patient man in the entire charted universe, having put up with me for some 16 yrs and having every horizontal surface of the house covered in yarn of some description and/or dust. He may possibly be knighted or nominated for sainthood before we're done with him. He's also an avid recreational cyclist.

Oneida, aka Darling Daughter -- She's 9 going on 35, loves cycling and Highland dance.

Liz, aka The Best Friend -- Liz is possibly the most multi-talented individual I know. There's nothing that woman can't do. She weaves. She dyes. She spins. She knits. She's a potter. She's the President of the New Brunswick Craft Council. She's the executive director of the York Sunbury Museum, full time mom and one of the nicest people going. She also makes me laugh a lot. She is, however, utterly useless when it comes to talking me OUT of buying more yarn.

Jon, aka The Bike Mechanic -- For a family as committed, bordering on fanatical, as we are about cycle commuting and finding viable alternatives to the internal combustion engine, the bike mechanic is not a service provider. He's a family member. Jon's our hippie with a work ethic, a down hill racer, and we adore him.

Trish, aka The Crack Dealer -- nice woman if it wasn't for the fact that she keeps stocking the shelves of her yarn shop with 100% totally groovy yarns that I can't possibly live without. "She who dies with the most fibre wins"...right? Trish has made her mission to ensuring that I remain a contender in that contest.

Singer, aka The Pump House on Lower York St -- This is Trish's business. She sells Singer sewing machines but the biggest draw is her yarns. She carries a lot of the really groovy ones and she's a fibre junkie first class herself. It is NOT unusual to walk in there and find Trish knitting something with some of the other wool junkies. Her shop used to be up in one of the local malls and it was pretty...uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...dull. Now that she's moved downtown, the woman is going all funky on us. The yarn keeps getting cooler and more of pay cheque keeps getting deposited there.

Hello, welcome, it's me.

Hi, my name is Kate MacKay and bear with me, this is my first crack to 'blogging'.

Okay, about me, I'm a 42 yr old police dispatcher in Fredericton, NB, Canada. Okay, that was the old title about a million org chart changes ago. I'm currently, and until further notice, a telecommunications operator for the City of Fredericton (Corporate Services Division). I can't keep track anymore. All I know is I'm the one who answers the 9-1-1 phone when it rings and try to sort things out from there.

But that's just the day job -- it's how the bills are paid on a reasonably frequent basis. My passion is knitting and all manner of fibre arts and making things that are pretty and preferably decorative but useless in the long run. I think functionality is so over-rated.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


knitting blog button