Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Uplifting Power of the Cosmos

This year the garden and I have played a waiting game.


I have waited for plants to make an appearance so that I could see what is planted where (front and back gardens). While the garden has waited for me to give up hope and leave it to its own devices so that it can continue its quiet return to the wilderness.


Bind weed, dendelions, brambles and the rain forest are all battling me very earnestly for custody of our outdoor space. The wilderness wants the garden back. It feels to me that for every weed I have beaten back, pulled, chopped, plucked or dug out, another five have grown in their place. We even have our very own, very nicely established (thank-you-very-much) cedar nurse log, right up against the house.


I guess that it did not help that I vanished off to the UK for about 6 weeks. When I got back I found that all of the beds I had diligently cleared, dug over and removed root systems from in May and June (I meant to put down weed suppressor membrane but I ran out of time) were green again. All choked with bindweed, brambles and something that the Fella tells me is 4 Leaf but has puny flowers that look oddly like Cows Parsley to me.


The only truly uplifting evidence that my efforts were not entirely in vain were two things that I planted from seed this year: grass and three packets of cosmos seeds that I bought when I went to explore a Garden Centre with Dotty.


They both grew - I feel very proud. (Can you tell?!)

So in the middle of all the chaos created by a legion of very hardy and very determined weeds, is a small oasis of colour created by the Cosmos and a patch of green that doesn't have our neighbours frothing at their lips in despair and hacking at our property borders to keep the ruin of weeds contained on our plot.

I am not complacent though, I realise that I have a long struggle ahead.


However, I am hoping that my efforts this year have given some of the garden's longer term, but struggling to survive, inhabitants a little bit of hope.


I have a very long garden To-Do list over the Autumn and Winter. So just hold on, my lovelies, hold on - next year I promise you that you will have more room to breathe and a little less competition for sunlight!

(Although I doubt that our garden will ever be in the running for Vancouver Garden of the Year, nor will our grass ever have the astro turf appearance of our neighbours' lawns!)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Aw (please feel free to insert your own rude word here)

Do you ever get the feeling that some projects are just a little bit jinxed? I am beginning to wonder if I should re-title the 'Argyle Lace Hat' referred to in this post to the 'Ill Fated Hat'?

Although I realise that I should not write in this way about this gift because I believe that the recipient is very sensitive about this type of thing and takes it very seriously. If she ever caught wind of the fact that I feel this way about her long overdue present? It is very unlikely to grace her head when it is finished.

Mind you, when you consider that her head is about two inches smaller in diameter than mine and right now, it looks like this on me:


I cannot ever see her wearing it anyway.

Bother, bother, botheration.

Right now, I should be 3 rows away from the cast off. This blooming thing should almost be ready for me to jab a fork triumphantly into its well-cooked rump. I was feeling quite good about finishing it as I have not enjoyed working this hat very much (not the pattern's fault).

So, as far as I was concerned, the end was in sight, the project was almost over and my promise to make a hat was almost fulfilled. I even pulled some different yarn from a shelf earlier thinking through something that I want to make for someone quite special - except, I cannot do that yet now. I feel thwarted.

For, as you can see for yourselves in the picture above, I have clearly made a mistake.

It is one of those big-fat-obvious-clanging-right-there-in-front-of-your-face mistakes that I managed not to see. For an entire 18 rounds (despite reading and following the same flipping sentence 9 times). Yep.

It seems that an '*' just in front of a SSK instruction on the crown was in my blind spot. As a result, I have about 78 stitches on my needles when I should have about 28. Plus the overall size of the hat is closer to a potato sack than a hat.

Nope, there is no excuse for my error. Yes, I did wonder why I was running high on stitches and dangerously low on yarn when I sat down today to make a concerted effort to finish this fluffy pink marshmallow and get it off my conscience. Grump - talk about more haste, less speed.

Okay, I need to take back about this much:

DSC_0014 001

It's taken me 16th August - date to do this crown. Slow, I know. It is at times like this that I wish that I put in a few lifelines. Such a simple thing to do. However, I did not and I am not confident that I could thread one accurately now.

I dare not rip without one, so I guess that I will have to tink - it is going to be a slow process. I hate undoing work as it feels like I am also undoing all those little bits of life that I set aside to work on my knitting in the first place.

Oh Bah Humbug. Okay, hat vent off my chest - I am off to unknit painfully on circular needles.

PS: in other news: apple tree fruit either dispersed or processed and kitchen reno is ongoing (pictures of both to follow when I can catch a proper breather).

On Sunday we switch off the water supply to the kitchen and tackle 'the other side'. The water will be switched back on (assuming no hiccups and that we work to plan) when the plumber comes back to finish off on Tuesday 6th October.

Yes, that is 10 days without running water, sink or much work top in the kitchen.
Yes, Tuesday 6th October is the Tuesday before Canadian Thanksgiving.

So yes, if the project slips we will be without a kitchen over the Thanksgiving weekend. Hmm, do you think that the Fella's family will mind prepackaged picnic finger food on disposable plates?!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Summer Knitting – Quick Cowl/Gaiter/Neck Warmer

It probably will not have escaped you that my interest in knitting seems to have faltered a bit during my sojourn in Canada. I have noticed it too. Pondering this, I was curious to find out whether my inclination to knit might reappear upon my return to the UK. So, I packed two travel knitting projects to take with me to the UK and, strangely enough, my interest in knitting did return while I was there.

Actually, it started on the plane somewhere over the Atlantic. In the last hours of my flight, I found myself reaching for my knitting and my i-Pod. I started to work on the back of a small toddler vest, which I will share when the project is finished and dispatched to its gift recipient in the UK.

However, it really started when I was back in London and over my jetlag. I found myself waiting to catch a train. I boarded, sat down and before I had realised what I was doing, my project bag was out, neatly clipped to the seat in front of me and I was thumbing over an error that I had made on a halted sport-weight hat project in Vancouver. I continued to work on it whenever I was travelling and during my return flight to Vancouver. Again, I will share this project when it is finished as I still have the crown to complete.

Then, during a visit to my mother in Hereford, I helped out at her gallery during a 3 day yarn sale. As it happened, there were some lonely looking balls in a box that looked like they were being overlooked. As two balls had lost their labels, I asked my mother if I could use them to whip up a little something to give people a project idea for the yarn. This was the result:

Quick Cowl

A little cowl, gaiter or neck warmer (as you prefer) that was inspired by the Knit.1 Gaiters that I made a year or so ago.

Project Statistics

Yarn: 2 Balls of Adriafil Charme
Duration to Knit: 3 hours or so (by a medium-slow knitter)
Worked: The Small Gallery, Hereford
Pattern: My own but inspired by a 2007 Knit.1 Cabled Cowl (Gaiter)

A very efficient knit as this was all the yarn that I had left over at the end:

Quick Cowl Leftovers

It is quite a funky little number. Although the yarn does not stand out when you walk into my mother's gallery (it is tricky for it to compete with all the lovely hand-dyes that she stocks), it was perfect for this project. It gave the cable good definition plus it was soft and extremely cosy. In fact, I could wear it against my skin – a small miracle!

I was almost sad to leave it on display in my mother's gallery window. Although I did write up the pattern for my mother so I guess that I could make another one! Except...

...I am home again now and my interest seems to be leaching quietly away again. I am a bit worried about it as I enjoyed my knitting over the summer. I have even been avoiding my local knit night over the last few weeks. I am trying to hold onto my interest long enough to finish the hat and the toddler vest but at this rate? I think that it is going to be a stretch.

My observation is that public transport and progress on my projects seem to be very strongly linked. You know how there are results knitters (knit to obtain the finished object) and process knitters (knit for the love of doing it)? Well, I think that I might be a 'situational knitter'.

Without a commute, my knitting rarely makes it out of its project bag. My head doesn't seem to be able to conscience sitting and knitting as a standalone activity in its own right. Not at home and not at the studio either (interestingly enough). While I can just about spin, I have never been able to knit and watch TV successfully. I cannot do it in just the same way that I cannot iron clothes and watch TV at the same time either.

As a result, unless I can find a way to overcome this problem (open to ideas that do not involve me setting up camp on the new Canada Line train carriage for two hours each day), it might be the case that knitting may only make an occasional appearance on this blog until I have obtained residency status and I am allowed to work in Canada.

Assuming no problems, I am hoping that this will only take another 3-5 months and that I will be able to find a job here. Clearly, from a knitting perspective, I have my fingers crossed that I will be able to find a role in a location that gives me a logical Public Transport commute!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Moving on from the Quilting Quandary

Thank you for your comments on my previous post - they are good reinforcement on why it is good to seek out other opinions and points of view. Actually, I am looking forwards to getting this piece of work finished now. I would like to start something else that I feel a bit fresher about. With this in mind, this post is to outline what I have been working on to move my quilt along.

The basic premise for my design/headspace idea is this:

20090529_0143 Layout Theory

Air & Flying Birds Portion of Quilt

Headspace: I have thought long and hard about it. On the proviso that I work in some kind of positive counter-balance, I think that it is okay for my birds to be swooping off and up into the air towards the UK. After all, that is where my family and many of my friends are.

Design: I would like to try to keep the obvious, visual movement going from left to right as well as up and away in my quilt. From a techniques perspective, I would still like to include appliqué in my project. To achieve this, I have been toying with extending my triangular flying birds out into the border as appliqué shapes. A bit like they are an extension of the flock formations within the centre, like so:


I played with a number of different layouts. This positioning won the day as it leaves the bottom left corner empty. In effect, I can place my land anchor and design counter-balance here. Either an appliqué shape or a stitched-in quilt motif.

In terms of quilting the rest of the top and right hand 'Air' borders, I am not certain what pattern would best link the appliqué triangles together. My thoughts so far are that I either:
  • echo the flying bird theme along the top and right borders so that the appliqué triangles are linked by a set of quilted triangles, or

  • try to see if I can find a softer quilt pattern motif, perhaps something more random and airy to link them together?
What do you think? I have looked but not found anything on the web - is there some kind of symbol or hieroglyph for air that I could develop into a stitch pattern? Does anyone have any suggestions on where to look?

Land Portion of Quilt

Design: I think that the quilt needs some kind of anchor in the bottom left hand corner to counter-balance the top right movement of the flying birds. For a while, I toyed with the idea of placing something figurative in the bottom left corner, for example:


However, adding something this figurative into the mix didn't work for me. Also, I worried that my little bird might appear a little wistful, watching the migratory birds flying away. He has been consigned to my studio wall to wait for a different opportunity to come into his own. So I went back to my overall concept and thought about the headspace aspect of my quilt.

Headspace: right now, what feels like it is missing from my quilt is my positive reason for being in Canada. Without any question, this is 100% the Fella and the Kid. Awww! Okay, it is a bit obvious but I have done some research, thumbed through some quilt pattern books and this motif caught my eye:


It is a True Lover's Knot quilt motif and it is sometimes found in traditional wedding quilts. As my relationship is my anchor to Canada, I think this might be a good motif to use in my quilt, perhaps positioned something like this:


My challenge is deciding what to place with it along the left and bottom borders. I am looking for something that that relates to land or sea that I can transition over to the top and right 'Air' borders. Maybe if there is some kind of hieroglyph for air, maybe there is one for earth or sea that I could use too?

Nothing like a challenge*, eh?!


*Especially a challenge where you are concurrently performing a small kitchen reno and have half a 1950s vintage (not in a good way) kitchen sitting in the back yard waiting to go to the dump and a bunch of unfinished Ikea kitchen cabinets half screwed into your kitchen.

Next step: we have to tackle the kitchen sink. Now drainpipes are usually (always?) on the outside of houses in the UK. I am told that this is not the case in Canadian houses. This may explain my horrified shock (and the Fella's corresponding lack of shock) at finding a dirty great 4" iron drainpipe running down the wall in the corner of our kitchen.

Nice. Just what one needs in a very small kitchen, eh?!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Quilting Quandary – Part 2

Design Problem

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my appliqué design is comprised of a ¼" vine that snakes around the border of my quilt. The vine is decorated with 85 curvy flower and leaf shapes. It's a very lovely border design, by the way - I just do not think that it is working in the specific case of my quilt.

The best way for me to explain why I do not think that the border works in the case of my quilt is to show you the pictures that I took while I was working on pinning the vine:



Yup, I pinned that fabric vine very carefully and very badly to my quilt top at least 5 times. I did not take a photograph of my first effort; it was just too embarassing bad. It took me hours and hours, over the course of about three days to do all that pinning. Each time, I would spend ages staring dubiously at the result before sighing and taking the vine off again.

After my 5th attempt or so (just in case I was suffering from a temporary bout of snaking vine sickness) I left the vine pinned to the quilt top for two days without the blue masking tape guides, while I worked on something else. Y'know, just to see if that improved how I felt about it:


In the end though, I just had to fall on my sword and admit that the vine was not working for me. I took it off and tried not to wince about all of those hours of fruitless pinning. Why wasn't it working for me? Well, I just felt that:

  • the border was fighting for attention with the centre of the quilt - my eye was not sure whether to look at the centre of the quilt or at the border; and

  • the curves of the snaking vine were at odds with the strong geometry of the quilt centre. For me, they were interrupting the very strong left to right and bottom to top movement of my flying birds. I quite like that movement.

Now, these problems are not apparent at all in the original design of the quilt. In fact, I am willing to bet that when I get to class on the 18th September, I will see other people's snaking vines on their quilt tops, they will be utterly gorgeous and I will feel as sick as a parrot for not perservering with my own!

I am wondering if they are troubling me on my quilt because I have strong colour contrasts in my blocks and quite strong colours in my appliqué shapes?

Perhaps if I had chosen a more subtle colour combination, I would not have tripped over this problem?

Perhaps the geometric centre would have faded a little more into the background and allowed the curvaceous border skip happily around the edges?

Headspace Problem

When I started work on this quilt I was feeling very homesick. I know that I have worked this into my quilt.

Pretty much from the outset, I knew that I wanted to hang this quilt on the North facing wall of my studio, between my two studio windows. So I added three blocks to the bottom of my quilt to extend it from being a 9 block quilt to a 12 block quilt. This means that the centre of my quilt has the same number of blocks as the panes of glass in my studio windows.

When I put my blocks together, I oriented them so that my flying birds would point North East. This happens to be the aeroplane flight path from Western Canada back to the UK.

When I was working on my quilt before I went home for the summer, I did not see this as being negative. I was really looking forwards to seeing all of my friends and family. I really wanted to get on a plane and follow my bird blocks North East. However, now that I am back, I keep looking at my quilt and I see the homesickness that I stitched into the centre of it.

This is bothering me a bit. Rather than frame and prettify my statement of homesickness with a lovely, curvy, flowery, hand stitched vine, I would like to work on my quilt so that it makes a more positive and balanced statement.

Do you know? I think that without the headspace problem, I might have battled on with the original border design. However, the fact that I am struggling with it from this perspective as well has lent a bit of weight to abandoning it and attempting something else.

With this in mind, I have been playing with some ideas that I'd like to share. I think that the opportunity to address the above lies in adjusting my border design and selecting appropriate patterns to stitch together the layers of my quilt.

Also, in view of the fact that it is now the 1st September, I am hoping that my alternative appliqué border idea will be a little less daunting and a bit more possible for a ham fisted hand sewer to achieve - at least I hope so!