Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Joyful Christmas

Well, it does take forever to get ready for and then whizzes by in a minute, but it is so worth it! Our kids came on the 24th and I drove them back to Toronto yesterday. So the house is very quiet this morning, which gives me time to post.

Santa was ridiculously generous again. This year, the big gift (though not a big surprise) was an ipad, which I must spend more time with to determine exactly how to fit it in my technology lineup. But it is set up and certainly much faster than my ancient little G4 when I am upstairs and need to check things. I'm sure it will become a wonderful traveling and teaching companion, for sure.

Jennifer Manuell and I managed to get together before Christmas to exchange gifts and have a nice lunch. As usual, she gave me presents that were extremely heartfelt and generous of time and spirit.

I was really hoping to be the recipient of some of her handiwork on her new Pfaff sewing machine and I was not disappointed. I got a beautiful little mat which combines many of her favourite batiks. The colours are gorgeous and this will definitely not be a Christmas-only decoration.

Did you see the fabulous hook in the lower right corner???? Talk about surprised! I guess I cooed over hers enough that when she returned to Vermont, she chose one for me. Here is another picture of it on its own - which even still doesn't capture how incredibly beautiful it is.

What you can see are a couple of resting spots for fingers and joints and when I test drove this beauty, it works in both the pencil position and the palming position, which makes it perfect. Isn't it the most elegant thing ever? Good thing I had my pearls re-strung so that I can dress appropriately while hooking.

The rest of the holiday was comprised of eating, drinking and being merry. And to counteract all of that, the first cross country ski of the season and the purchase of a new exercise bench and mini trampoline.

I have been vowing to get on to the strength training for some time, and this was the gentle shove I needed. I hope to slide into 60 with toned arms and legs and a stronger core. Between this and the skiing and curling, I should be well on my way.

And I also vow to spend less time on the needles and more time with a hook in my hand so that I have some interesting things to post here.

Enjoy your New Year's celebrations, big or small, and I will be back in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Counting Down

Well, last week at the Salmon Lake Workshop was a blur. But in the end, the output was good - two mini shawls, two cowls, two pairs of prairie boot slippers, a mini runner and a batch of ornaments.

I also spent most of this weekend in the car - to Oakville on Saturday - to Toronto - to Peterborough -  then back to Toronto -  then back to Parry Sound yesterday. It was Rick's mom's 86th birthday and since we aren't seeing her for Christmas, it gave us a chance to get together. The Toronto leg of the trip was to pick up both kids and then take them back again.

I managed to get 1.5 socks knit, so it was a good use of sitting time. Socks are the perfect car project.

Since I haven't pulled a loop in a few weeks, I decided to share my Christmas home with you.
I have an ulterior motive, since this will be my memory of what I did when I pull everything out again next year. I enjoy seeing pictures of what others have done, so hope this is not too self-serving to post these here.

This is the mantle over the fireplace, which has the garland from the old front hall. Rick found some battery-powered lights, but they are the LED ones, so they don't really "twinkle". But better than nothing.

My snowman collection ended up in the front hallway, as the seasonal welcoming committee They are a collection from various aspects of my life, including the little paper mache one that I made with Matt's class in grade 2 - he's 24 now. And there's one hooked fellow in there, who I just remembered needs new arms.

The tree ended up going upstairs in the loft, because the logical place next to the fireplace would have blocked access to the deck which we have to clear of snow. Benefit of being up there is that you can see it from below too and we will get to sit on the living room furniture from the old house to open our presents. A bit of the old and new combined.

The windows in the great room got a bit of green behind the old lamps.

The kitchen window sill got a primitive santa and trees - sorry for the weird angle, the light was too strong behind the glass.

The driftwood Santa collection ended up bookending the fireplace.

The sconce decorations from the old house ended up finding new homes - these ones on some hooks on the powder room door.

The other two went into the kitchen.

The creche my sister Nancy made for me is nestled among pics of the kids on the birch sideboard.

And some other little cut out wood figures are keeping a moose lamp company in the hall.

I will put some "live" greenery around some of these pieces on Christmas Eve. That way, we'll get the wonderful smells without too many needles ahead of time.

Nearly everything found a new spot. A few wreaths got left out, but I'm sure I'll come up with some new ideas next year. Can't wait for the kids to see it all.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and All the Best for 2011 from me to you. Thanks for stopping by and reading. It's fun sharing the stories with the folks who enjoy them. I'll post again next Monday and report on the Santa escapades.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Braaflies and Christmas Ornaments

I received this picture last week, but already had my post done, so will share it today.

This is the first finished bra I have seen since our hook in last month. Isn't it a beauty!!! Wanda, the bra artiste, is into bugs in a big way lately, since that is the theme of our Annual in her home town of North Bay in 2012. So it seems only fitting that they be featured here as well.

I can't wait to see the rest of them. And I must confess that my concept didn't work out that well, so I will be starting over. However, the Christmas projects have to be completed first.

The workshop was busy this week, but more knitting than hooking I'm afraid. I did punch these ornaments and they will be sent out this week. (please excuse phone pictures)

I also did this mini runner for a friend who has just bought her first home with her new husband. So it's a new home gift and a Christmas gift all in one.

Still a few things to finish up this week. But the tree is trimmed. The decorations have all found a new home here in our new home. And our kids will be coming for 3 or 4 days over the holidays. So all is well.

One more picture to share. Here is my darling hubby working his new snowblower - which is a scary monster at best. I'm sure it will get easier with each consecutive snowfall. And we sure got a big amount yesterday, so his practice begins.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rear View Santa

So, I decided to make a bunch of Christmas ornaments - nothing new, since I seem to do that every year. The news is, I decided to punch needle them instead of regular hooking.

I started with a little design I did for my newest student. A "Ho Ho Ho" sign. It went very quickly. And then I turned it over to take a look. Yikes. Here is what I saw!

Yep, Santa in the rearview mirror is actually saying "oH oH oH", which made me howl. It is equally as appropriate somehow. So I will proudly display it somewhere (it will not be a gift).

I already sent an email to Sandra, my punch needle teacher, telling her what happens when you forget to reverse the lettering - one of the first things she said to us. I guess this is another mistake I will (hopefully) only make once.

After the laughter subsided, I also discovered that if I turn it upside down, you can still see "Ho Ho Ho".

That Santa is a pretty smart fellow, don't you think?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Worth the drive to St. Joseph.

Ok, yes the distance was a bit ridiculous (5+hours). And yes, it was only from Friday afternoon to Sunday after brunch, but this weekend's hooking retreat was sooooo worth it. Many thanks to Marjorie and Patti for organizing it and for including us.

After having missed this year's OHCG Annual (because of the move) and this year's Teachers' Weekend (because of a wonderful wedding celebration in Toronto) and no teaching gigs away, I was more than ready for a treat.

And it was that in spades.

First of all, my wonderful navigator Jennifer, came and stayed the night before, so it made the weekend feel like a whole day (or at least night) longer.  Having a friend along for the ride makes the highway fly by unnoticed. She had brought along another friend on CD - Deanne Fitzpatrick - who was with us in spirit on her audio book (when we could stop talking long enough to listen).

It was a bit of a scary start, with the year's first white stuff falling as we departed, but in less than an hour, the sky was clearing and we were well on our way. We chose the route that took us all around Georgian Bay and even if the highway had been a bit faster, there was much more to see on the scenic path.

We stopped for coffee, stopped for late lunch and stopped for a little shop in Southampton at a store called Sisters, which I had heard was full of "Wendie clothes". It was!!! And given the fact that I had forgotten all my "upper" clothes on their hangers in my closet at home, I actually had an excuse to shop.

Our destination was not much further and we arrived to find most of the other 20 women already working away on their knitting and hooking projects. Before long, we were at it as well, and the chatter and laughter rang throughout the place.

Don't we all appreciate a table full of hooking paraphernalia and a warm fireplace in the same venue? This place was right on Lake Huron and the weather and wind had big surf rolling in for most of the weekend. It was awesome.

Two mini workshops, great meals, a Saturday visit to Shari Robinson's studio and then a visit to the wonderful stores in Bayfield, and the day was nearly over. But still time to knit and hook
before and after dinner.

Sunday morning, more project work and chatter before our delicious brunch and then back on the road to come home. Somehow the trip back was an hour + faster than the trip there. I guess the shopping did add into the tally on the way.

I will finish unpacking all my stuff later today and see how much work I actually got done. But a retreat, unlike a school, doesn't have that pressure to buckle down and work - you do have the freedom to do whatever you choose. Which is exactly what we did.

And I look forward to doing it all again next year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Brilliant Bra Workshop

Saturday was a special day for me. It was my first "hook in" in the new studio space. Six wonderful women of the north made the trek here to work on the Bra Project. And we had a blast.

Here are the wonderful women

Don't you just love a busy table full of hookers?

And here are the "bras in progress".

Mary is hooking the lower part of a bustier and then will needle felt the bra cups to match - very ambitious!

Jenn is hooking right into the lace of this beautiful undergarment. And adding bling as she goes.

Barb is making strawberry sundaes - with actual cherry steams in the cherries - remember that the darts need to be worked into the design, which is why they do look like pac men.

Wanda is doing luminous butterflies which she calls "Lovely Ladies" and they definitely are.

Karen is making "brioche" with a wonderful warm colour swatch. She also had an amazing article on the first bra and how it was constructed - very interesting!!

And other Barb is doing plaid kitties - I forget what the title is for her bra, but when they are done, I will post again with the correct titles, which are part of the fun.

And last but not least is my penny-rug-style bra, which I think I will call "Show me the Monet", since the background behind the pennies reminds me of Monet.

The day went by far too quickly, partly because we kept stopping to eat the incredible food that everyone brought. Baked goods for coffee, amazing chilli for lunch and then delicious, fattening desserts for dessert. We didn't even get to the apples and cheese that were brought as well.

I hope that I can have many more groups come and hook for the day. It is a bit of a trek for some, but so worth the drive. And up north, everything is "an hour away" anyway.

Thanks gals for making it such a great day - for such a great cause.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Zipper is Ready to Go

Well, here it is, all finished.

I think the colours are very rich and delicious, which is what happens when so many textures come into play in the colour areas. Kudos again to Jennifer for such a great concept.

I'm sure Daniela will be thrilled with this gift and hopefully she will soon be in her home and able to start rebuilding the wonderful eclectic feel she had before. I can't imagine how awful it would be to lose a lifetime of art and memories, but watching her go through this process gives me a greater appreciation than I had before. The insurance company and her contractor should be shot. They are examples of how awful the post trauma can be.

There may have to be a companion pillow at some point, but pre-Christmas is not a good time.
Maybe I can convince her to learn to hook and start making her own.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Striking While the Urn is Hot

I have never dressed my Christmas urns in balmy temps like I did today. Usually, it's cold enough that you need gloves and a repeated run inside to thaw the fingers.

But this is our first Christmas here in Parry Sound, so we decided to get a jump on things while the weather was so wonderful. We put lights across the entire lake side of the house, on top of the railing. What a nice view that will be from the living room once the snow flies - and now that it's dark by 5.

On the driveway side, I would like to put up some lights too, but first things first. The urns. They did have artificial fall leaves in them, which looked incredibly bright once the real colour was off the trees. I thought they would attract the hunters who are out and about in those bright orange jackets and hats.

It's so nice to not have to pay for the things that go into the urns, like you do in the city. All free donations from Mother Nature found on our property or on our walks. I  can always add some "sparkle" later if I decide that I need it.

Here's a closer peek at one.

And a close up of my little metal moosies too.

As much as I'm not anxious for the snow to arrive, all these seasonal things are more beautiful once it does.

And since yesterday's big errand was for the putting on of snow tires, I am ready! (well, as ready as you ever are for that inevitable first dump).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Knitting Bag Letdown

There is nothing worse than knitting a project - especially a hooded long cardigan project - and being disappointed at the end. Unlike hooking, you can't just change it up as you go along. You finish the project and then see whether or not you are going to love it.

Here's how the story goes....

For my birthday, my darling husband gave me the most glorious yarn I have ever purchased. Four skeins of Madeline Tosh Pashmina!!! For those of you who don't know, it's close to the equivalent of spun gold. It's like knitting with honey - so fluid on the needles - almost slippery. But it feels like heaven.

Here's a picture of the yarn, colour "Honeysuckle" and the hood that was knit that I have just taken off the original sweater, which I am frogging (or ravelling or unravelling depending on your point of origin).

Yummy - isn't it??

And here was the original, intended pattern. Also yummy - called Slouchy Cardigan - and finished and worn constantly by many happy knitters on Ravelry, including this one - a favourite blog I follow "A friend to knit with".

It's supposed to be the sweater you toss on over everything - wear everywhere. And I was so drawn to it that I forked over the $25+ and ordered the book Greetings from The Knit Cafe from amazon.

When I finished knitting - and there was a lot of stockinette in this puppy - I could tell almost immediately that it was "off". The drape was all wrong - I think the absolute fluidity of the yarn went against it. It didn't have enough body to hold the shape. And when I wore it - and I did that only once - it kept slipping off my shoulders and I was constantly tugging at it. I knew the "frog" was waiting for this one, for sure.

So, I started hunting for suitable replacement patterns. You don't spend that much on yarn and a book and not make it in to something else!! At least not at my house. (And the spending is not finished yet, dear reader.)

I found several contenders. In fact, I think I downloaded four different patterns, which I paid for each time. All possibilities, but nothing that really said "This is it!", until I found Olive. What a name for a sweater - who names these anyway.

Here she is

Everything about this pattern holds promise for the yummy yarn. The fluidity will be a bonus, since it will drape nicely. I like the 3/4 sleeves and that type of neckline is flattering on me. Plus I can't see any tugging possibilities here.

Since it needed a contrast yarn for the yoke, I went to the Purple Sock yarn store in Coldwater on my way home from a meeting on Thursday and found a wonderful baby alpaca that I think works well with it. It's a sock weight with lots of interesting colours in it, including the honeysuckle. So I think it will work well.

I started the yoke to test the combination. Here's a peek

I know it's a bit early to be showing it, but I felt so optimistic, I decided to share. And that's a good thing because I was SO crushed by the previous iteration.

I am the last person who needs another work in progress, but somehow, just getting it started and feeling like it will work puts me over a hurdle of sorts. I must focus on the gift knitting before I get going to far into this. But it's the promise on the needles that I needed to share. And that fact that when I finish my "most expensive sweater ever", it will hopefully be the love of my life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Zippering Along

I'm definitely making progress on the new Matrix pillow, despite the workload and curling forays. It is from Jennifer's "Zipper" schematic in her Amazing Matrix booklet.

Barring any unforeseen disasters, it will definitely be finished in time for deadline, which is good, since there are a number of other projects right  behind it.

Here is an in-progress shot.

and here is the shot of the rug again, which I think it will compliment very nicely

When I showed my husband my progress yesterday, he asked if I was only making one - I guess cuz I made four for us. Obviously another one who doesn't truly understand the time involved  - even though he's under the same roof as me. LOL

Only three more colour blocks to go and I will order the pillow form today (with a couple of extras, just in case) - I think I already shared that information, but in case I didn't, the company is Pillow Decor and I ordered from their website

Hopefully, I will be done easily this week and can do assembly next week. That's the plan.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Doors and Trim Stained at Last

Well, in light of the bleak forecast and the mild temps, I decided yesterday was the perfect day to finally stain the trim in the studio - not all of it, but the two window frames and doors and frames.

Amazing how when we plan these projects, we don't allow for the prep time (it's like the finishing in a sweater project or rug). And it does take a while to do properly. But I did tape everything and then I put on a coat of "stinky" stain. Luckily I was able to open the windows a crack, but the smell really permeated the entire place.

Also, I found out after the fact that taping horizontal tongue-and-groove doesn't really stop much spreading - the stain just follows the grooves. Oh well, such is life.

Here is the before and after so you can see how much richer it all looks.

Staining really is rewarding as you do it, cuz you can't wait to see what the next board will look like.

One small problem with my staining. I was really hoping it would convince me that I am right to leave the walls unstained. But I think it did the opposite!!!   And that will be an enormous job!.

But it's also a job that will require wide-open windows and doors, so it will have to wait until late next spring.

And I guess that gives me lots of time to ponder.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A non-hooking post.

It's been another busy week, filled with too much work and not enough hooking. But now there is something else that is competing for spare time. Curling.

Yep, that's right. Since it seems to be a pre-requisite for living in Northern Ontario, it seemed inevitable that Rick and I would give it a whirl. And it also seems to be the only way to meet people around here, so that was another added bonus.

Last week was practice days without any organized games. That's when I learned that there are muscles dedicated ONLY to curling. Ones that are never used for any other activity!!! Who knew. (Well, I guess I should have suspected since there aren't too many other occasions where you contort your body like this.)  And who knew that those muscles could ache for 4 full days!!

By Tuesday of this week, the apple-sized bruises on my knees were that lovely purple/mustard combination and I could actually walk downstairs without hurting. So, I thought I had it all under control. My first "ice kiss" (as I call my face plants) was more than enough to have me opt for a wonderful invention called the curling stick.

What a difference!!! Doesn't this look so much easier than the position the little plastic woman is in up above??? Not only does this puppy help you aim the rock (since you are no longer distracted by falling down as you release the rock), but it means no more squatting and sliding around the ice - and no more "ice kissing". Who would opt for torture in stead of this???? Not me.

We played a full game on Tuesday and another today. And we are not the only rookies out there. Turns out it really IS the way to meet people - and we have met quite a few friendlies already. The skips are tirelessly patient and we will eventually get the hang of this.

The sliding and sweeping still provide a pretty good workout, so a few of those new muscles will still torment me for the weeks and months to come. I'm not completely off the hook.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silk Purse, Sow's Ear Continues

What a crazy week last week! So fragmented, it seemed like I didn't get anything done. I think I actually got lots done, but it was little bits of different things - no big dedicated time on anything - which sometimes feels like wheel spinning.

One of the little things I did was a colour plan for an Amazing Matrix pillow that I will be making for a friend, and yesterday I found some time to get some dyeing done. This friend's family suffered a Christmas tree fire last year and however many months later, the construction is limping along - far behind schedule. They had hoped to be back in this Christmas, but it doesn't look as if that will happen. So the pillow will be a birthday-early-housewarming gift.

Here are a few pics of the dyeing I did - you'll see the "before" in both pictures. They were both "off the bolt" wools that I found in my favourite fabric store in Toronto. Although they were both classic "uglies", they were swans in the making. In the first one - that lime green herringbone wool was the last on a bolt for $9.99 a yard. And the oatmeal texture was a bit more - I think $14.99. But I could tell they would both dye beautifully, and I think they did.

Although the camera (and probably monitor too) colours are a bit off, the rusts are lovely and the teals too. 

Here are the other colours from my stash that I will be using in the pillow.

And here is the new gorgeous Oriental rug from which the colours were picked.

What an inspiration point!!! I think this pillow will be a joy to do and should be wonderful with the rug, don't you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Happy Canadian Thanksgiving Veggie Rug Story

Well, it may be holiday Monday here, but with two turkey dinners behind me (thanks to both chefs, since I didn't prepare either one) and vainly attempting to exorcise some of the pumpkin pie calories, I have been working like a fiend. And not in the hooking capacity - but in the cleaning, switching over wardrobes and sorting capacities.

However, in midst of the kitchen cleaning frenzy (including removing the knobs from the stove to get to the yucky stuff behind there), my veggie rug was in the line of fire and destined to also get a good clean.

Here is a picture of the final result - and one of the "weapons of choice" - a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Back up a little ... when I designed this rug, I knew it was for in front of the kitchen sink, so I decided to hook it in yarn on rug warp, so that I could save it from spills - even soak it in case of a worst case "spaghetti-sauce-type" mishap. That was the thinking. And it was good.

Now, whenever I clean the kitchen, part of the routine is giving the rug a gentle vacuum and using one of those body scrubbie things from the dollar store to finish. Today's cleaning went a step further. With this soft-bristled toothbrush, slightly moistened, I brushed a few spots that looked like droplets of something or other (black background, not the brightest choice). And it worked like a charm. Not only did it coax out the food droplets, it fluffed up the loops and made everyone stand up clean and proud.

It did something else. The outer grey border is actually a thick yarn that has a little boucle in it and, just like in a boucle sweater, the longer hairs start to wear and grow. So, once the gentle toothbrush had done its duty, the sweater defuzzer followed. It felt suspiciously like what it must be to groom a dog, though I've never done that, nor owned a dog that required grooming.

The end result is that the rug looks fantastic (which I'm sure is the feeling of the above dog owner after the grooming). And the toothbrush trick worked so well, I decided it was the perfect tip to share today.

Now that the cleaning and organizing are done, I am free to sit and hook or knit for a while.

Something to be truly thankful for.

Big Bird is Coming Along Nicely

First of all, welcome to another "theme" for my blog. The last one was just too hard to navigate - as an author or a visitor. This...