Sunday, February 22, 2015

Miscellaneous delights

Coffee Caramel Crème Brûlée

Val Traversy's mulled wine recipe

The students in my two hour Zone 2 class. I asked them to list their most effective love songs and favourite anti-love or breakup tunes. I have compiled them into a fun playlist for tonight. I appreciate their willingness to go along with my silliness and to share a bit of themselves.

Clever pattern designers. I can say no more without revealing a secret.

Kendra Haste She creates lifelike sculptures from chicken wire.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Knitting, Finished #10 - Exploration Station, and mitochondrion progress

I have lots to show today.  First is a quick shawlette I made last week. It is Woven, made from a single skein of Chugiak (from Pagewood Farms) sock yarn. When the yarn arrived a few years ago I loved the colors but wondered about the very hard, tightly spun feeling of the yarn. I didn't know if it would feel good on the sole of the foot. It has made a nice drapey fabric when knit in linen stitch. The scarf/shawl is asymmetric and doesn't look great in the picture but  is easy to wear. The closeup shows the right and wrong sides of the fabric - both are interesting.

Next come something I am proud of even though I hate it. I started Stephen West's mystery knit-a-long, now called Exploration Station,  in November 2014. I participated in the knit-a-long in 2013 and loved the final product even though I had my doubts along the way. I ordered yarn from Quince - Tern for its drape and muted colours. This year the doubts crept in earlier and when we got to Clue 2 I put the whole project away. The pattern called for many rows of two colour brioche stitch. Not only do I hate doing that stitch but the photos of that section from other knit-a-long participants looked very messy. But in January I went back it, realizing that it had very nearly become a UFO. It came so close that I have designated it as #10 in my finishing series.

I came up with what I thought would be a good, but equally time consuming, alternative to the brioche stitch. I even persisted when I had to order and wait for more yarn. It is done now and is definitely not my style but it is well enough knitted that I will be happy to pass it along to someone who will appreciate it more than I do.

For Michelle - here are some photos of the mystery Stephen West project from 2013. Color Craving. It is an attenuated triangle with some other features I have never seen before, principally the large holes which run down the spine. Knit from Quince Finch.

On the needles now - Wake from great Canadian designer Veronik Avery in blue Finch. And a secret project that will be revealed later.

I made lots of progress on the mitochondrion yesterday. It is complete and ready for dyeing along with the background on which it will be placed. Then I turned my attention to making muscle tissue. I did lots of experimenting and am finally content but there were a lot of fabrics, spools of thread and watercolor pencils and crayons in the "won't work" pile before I was satisfied. Those decisions have influenced what colour I will dye the mitochondrion so I am happy to have that final problem worked out.

I sometimes envy the people who create their art by working more spontaneously than I do. Then I get to the end of a day like yesterday and realize how engrossed I was and how much fun I had. I know that my methodical 'scientific method' approach doesn't appeal to most people but it works for me and it ensures that I will have no doubts about the final product.

There's a great article in this week's New Yorker about commas. I just used it to decide where to put commas in the title of this post. I am known for deleting extraneous commas when I edit but there are times when an extra one improves meaning. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


I now own 25 kg of urea and the follow-up dyeing went well. I got the red I wanted. It is perhaps a hair lighter than I had intended but that will actually work better. The work I will do on huge surface will show better and that's the important player. The red is just a backdrop. No pictures, I'm afraid. I can't capture the color properly. I hope that won't be the case when I set up to take photos for my show entry.

I also mastered the lavender and figured out the grays I want. After I made that decision I had to change another aspect of Mitochondrion but that's for the better. Once again I am grateful for my collection of odd drapery and upholstery fabrics. I was able to change a concept from gray to brown and still find what I needed. I am resisting the urge to go see if there is something better in the stores but the weather and state of the roads makes that easy. So does the knowledge that the exact fabrics won't matter once I have manipulated them.

I started the final version of the Mitochondrion piece today. It feels good to know that I have worked out all the problems. Within a day or two my evening knitting will have to give way to hand stitching. I can see the end of the road for the two pieces for the SAQA show and that's good because my brain is overflowing with ideas. The Jane Dunnewold course hasn't contained a lot of new-to-me information but this has been the perfect time for me to sit down and do some self-assessment. It is helping me clarify my goals for the next three to five years and, better yet, understand how I will achieve them.

Time = 2 hr, 34 min

Monday, February 16, 2015

Colour matters

I have done as much dyeing as my supplies permitted. I stupidly ran out of urea. I could go on without it but then it would be more difficult to reproduce my results. And that's a challenge already. I wanted to re-create some red fabric I dyed two summers ago. But I can't find my notes and so far I am not happy with my experiments. The good news is that I have something shocking in mind for the not-quite-right fabric. I am going to manipulate it and overdye it. It certainly won't go in any of the Structures projects but it could find its way into another idea I have had.

They experiments with grays worked better and I know what direction I am going to take with them. This afternoon I decided that I also need two metres of a grayed lavender. Now to figure out how to make what I have in mind. Serendipity is good but not when you have a very clear mental picture of what you need.

It is times like these that make me think that I need to follow up and figure out a way to bring Carol Soderlund to the Maritimes. The product of her entry level five day dyeing class is a workbook with samples and recipes for hundreds of colours.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Letting go

It has been a productive but sad week. I have let go of some activities that mattered to me in order to ensure that I will have the best chance to focus on my goals for this year. The most important loss was saying goodbye to my friends in FAB. When the group began two and a half years ago I only knew a couple of members. Everyone else was new to me. Now I am pleased to call all of them my friends and  have looked forward to seeing them monthly. 

We have inevitably shared more than just our fibre art. Families have grown larger (grandchildren!), and members and those close to them have coped with illness. Yet everyone stayed with the group and brought evidence of their productivity to each meeting. 

I appreciate the fact that the other members of FAB embraced what I brought to the table. It was a joy to speak freely without editing my thoughts. In fact, it was discussions at FAB that led me to insights which will persist in the work I do over the next few years. It is also because of FAB that I now own a heat gun and my very own glue gun. The techniques that require those tools will also find their way into my artwork.

I am consoled by the fact that when (not if!) we move to Wolfville I will be able to call three FAB members my neighbours. In the meantime, I will make a point of reaching out to them so that we don't lose touch.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Food and fabric

Today's dinner included butternut squash soup (onions, carrots, squash, apples and sage) and red cabbage (cabbage, apples, golden plum jelly). All of the ingredients came from our CSA TapRoot Farms. We also had leftover macaroni and cheese (made with delicious jalapeño mustard from Eastport, ME). There are leftovers and we will have them tomorrow with Taproot pork. If you haven't had non-factory farmed pork, do yourself a favour and find some. It is incredibly tender and flavourful. Since joining the CSA I have even been converted to ribs (which we can buy as an add-on to our order). It goes without saying that the home-grown bacon is spectacular.

The latest finished UFO is still blocking and I am scheming about a new project while I finish a scarf. I mixed up everything I need to dye fabric for my two pieces for the Structures show. I like to let the mixed dye sit for a day when I am using red. It seems to help eliminate little spots of undissolved dye.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New sweater

I finished a new-to-me sweater weekend before last. It is Lila and I knit it from Fibre Company Canopy worsted. I started a different design but ripped it out after an hour of knitting. Nothing about the process was making me happy. I went back to my favourites on Ravelry and chose Lila. I am so glad I did. I plan to remake the design several more times.

The yarn I wanted to use was knit at a larger gauge than the pattern called for so I did a gauge swatch and altered the pattern. In the process I lost a little of the ease I wanted. I also added an inch and a half to the length. The sweater is great but I will make it again with two inches more ease and another inch of length.

The biggest problem with the sweater is the yarn. I love the yarn in the abstract. It is the same type I used (in a fingering version) for the Lace Canopy Cardi Wrap. It is lovely to knit with and wears well. But this batch had serious dye problems. It is shown as all from the same dye lot but if that's the case, the quality control in the vat was very bad. I bought it on sale at WEBS so maybe that's why it was inexpensive.

You may be able to see in the picture that the first skein at the bottom was variegated and that subsequent skeins were solid colors but very different from one another. I realized this early on but decided to keep knitting because this is meant to be a slob-around-the-house sweater and I wouldn't care. If it turns out that I do, I'll just overdye it. (BTW, the front is meant to be shorter than the back. It is very attractive when worn.)

I wore the sweater for the first time today and it wonderful - very warm and the sleeves come down over the backs of my hands. I will definitely be knitting another very soon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Busy days

I'm not ill or off on a sunny vacation. Nope - just very busy. I have accomplished an enormous amount in the last week. I submitted the first draft a patient handbook regarding my surgery. I also developed several new indoor cycling classes and wrote one up for publication on ICA. There has been a lot of SAQA work to do as well, including getting our spring retreat organized. I am happy to report that I am keeping up with the homework in Jane Dunnewold's class. The workload gets a little heavier each week so I don't know how long it will be before I miss a deadline. A couple of weeks ago I started taking an online course with Fenzi Academy. It is very well done but we get new assignments every few days, not once a week. It has been fun to have a reason to work with Tock. He is a very smart dog and I haven't challenged his brain enough.

I have been collecting items that I wanted to share on the blog. This week Jane Dunnewold's essay was about large and/or obsessive work. The next day I stumbled on John Grade's work (open the gallery on the linked page). Wow! It definitely appeals to my interest in repeated elements but he uses them in a different way.

This morning I learned about Teresita Fernandez. I have looked through galleries of her work and don't see anything I don't like. See for yourself. This image is of an installation at the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art which can be seen through March 2015.

Watch this video.

I came across it on the collection Jane Dunnewold curates (Creative Civilization) on As she said in her notes, you will be reminded to:

1. Do what you love.

2. Keep doing it even if only your dad thinks it's good. And if you dad doesn't think it's good, keep doing it anyway.
3. See possibility.
4. When community embraces you, embrace it back.
5. Use plenty of tape.

There has been a lot more activity around here. My Spoonflower fabric order arrived so I can now start work on the final version of the Ivory Tower piece. I have a sweater to show which has been finished for over a week, as well as a completed UFO and a new knitting project. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everyone needs one

When it appeared that I would spend a lot of time in bed after my surgery we finally got around to a long delayed chore. For years we have intended to upgrade the wall lights in our bedroom. They were too small, put out too little light and the light was aimed up rather than down toward the area where we needed it. I knew just what I wanted and ordered two lights in August. They arrived at the store in September and a friend (thanks Deb!) picked them up and delivered them to us after I got out of the hospital.

In the meantime, George made a trip to Home Depot and bought a new light switch. I had confirmed that the fixture was dimmable so he bought a dimming switch with a remote control. I think he had visions of me laying incapacitated in bed and using the remote to control the lights.

I never spent a day in bed after I got home but that hasn't kept me from enjoying the remote. It lives in the drawer of my bedside table (where Tock can't find it). Every night when we are both done reading, I crack open the drawer push the button and the room slowly goes dark. There's no need for either of us to crawl out of the warm covers into the cold room air. On dark mornings when I have to teach a 6:15 class I can turn on the lights as soon as the alarm goes off. That reduces the chances that I will stay in bed 'just a few more minutes'. I always pay for that comfort by having to rush to finish my breakfast and dress for class.

I didn't know just how much I loved the remote until this weekend. It somehow lost its programming and it took me two days to find the instruction manual. During that time I groaned and whined a lot about not having the lights at my fingertips, so to speak.

I doubt that the switch cost more than $25. That's very little money  for the delight it has brought. Put one on your shopping list for this weekend. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Snow day, slow day

George shoveled. I blamed chillblains for my non-participation. In truth, I think my responsibility for menu planning and cooking absolves me from responsibility for snow clearing.

I have figured out a way to add text to the Ivory Tower piece. It's funny. The idea of that piece was generated by something we did at FAB in November. It triggered some thoughts that resulted in the overall concept and that concept was conducive to the addition of quotes. But the farther along I got in the development of the ideas the more control I wanted over the appearance and placement of the text. I realized that I couldn't rely on the method I saw because I ran the risk of blobs of paint or obscured sections. Also, I wanted the text to look like it was typewritten, not handwritten.

Today I figured out that I can print the text on silk organza and then adhere it to the surface of the piece with matte acrylic medium. The letters pop and the organza becomes effectively transparent. It will be mounted on gallery stretchers so the surface won't be subjected to folding or rolling. That will enhance the chances that the organza will stay put. But if it loosens it will just need a touch-up with medium.

Our homework this week in the Jane Dunnewold class has many parts but one of them is to create a piece from what we have. She mentioned using UFOs as the source of the 'parts'. That resonated with me. The top shelf in my closet is neatly stacked with samples and rejected (by me) work. The last piece went up there in early January. I was happy to choose something and then to pull fabrics from a couple of storage bags. My goal is to use only those things (along with paint and thread) to create a pleasing composition. It is all colourful stuff so that meets another of my goals and needs.

Time = 1 hr, 42 min

Monday, February 2, 2015

A website is born

Throughout January I have been helping a friend, Susan Tilsley Manley, develop and implement her own website. Susan and I have been friends for a couple of years in spite of (or because?) the fact that we are very very different. The trait we both share is enthusiasm and that certainly stood us in good stead over the last few weeks.

Susan's brain isn't naturally wired to think about problems in the same way as programmers and engineers. What seems logical to her isn't the way they put things together. That makes it even more impressive that she persisted through the process of selecting a new web host, moving her domain, learning WordPress and, finally, learning an ecommerce application. On top of that she had to keep her goals for the website at the forefront and also had to do a horrific amount of photography and image manipulation. We spoke on the telephone for an extended period each day, each of us at our computer so we could problem solve together. Every day I expected to find her discouraged or frustrated but she largely stayed optimistic and upbeat. 

She learned to describe her problems to tech support staff verbally and in writing. She learned to stay with the problem at hand and let the others alone for another day. She applied the scientific method (gasp!) to the problem of how to size and crop her photos and to determine the function of other aspects of the software. I am very proud of what she has accomplished and how much she learned in a very short time. And she did it all in the time frame she had allotted!

Go check out her website Let her know what you think by commenting on the blog or using the contact form.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Random things

I was discharged from the Urology clinic on Friday, exactly 21 weeks following my surgery. I am delighted for so many reasons. It is nice to be approximately 19 months ahead on the healing curve. Even better is not having the regular appointments on my calendar. I don't have to worry about the weather or dog care. But the best part is that the appointments made me feel like a patient = a sick person when I felt healthy and normal.

I learned a new word today: venery. It was from this blog post.

I finished knitting a brand new sweater yesterday - pictures when it dries. I swatched for another new project but found myself picking up a UFO today. Clearly finishing is becoming a habit.

The last snowstorm meant that I didn't have to teach a Super Bowl themed indoor cycling class yesterday. That's a very good thing. Tonight is the fourth of the two hour low intensity classes. Four down, eight to go.

I have just hours to go on the document I am writing for the hospital. It will be incorporated into a patient handbook and more extensive education program. 

The website I have been helping with will go live tomorrow. I'll post a link when that happens.

I am keeping up with my homework for the Jane Dunnewold class. 

I still have to do registration forms for the retreat for SAQA-Atlantic Canada. I am excited about the event. I think the program we have designed will have something for everyone.

By Tuesday I can go back to my own work. There's another snowstorm on the way so it's likely my morning classes will be cancelled. Just more time to work on my entries for the regional show.

The Greenland photographs by Murray Fredericks remind me of Tina Mammoser's Coast series, minus the colour.