Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A better-late-than-never catch up.

This morning I read an email from a dear friend who lives in Vancouver.  She wrote to me last night, long after I was asleep, so I got to read it with my coffee this morning.

She always checks my blog to see what I have been up to before she emails. And it served to remind me that I haven't posted in quite some time. So here is a bit of a catch up, for me and for you, to show what I have been up to.

On the knitting front, I finished Elton, which turned out exactly as promised. The problem is that it far too hot to even think about putting on a sweater, but when I get the chance, it is the perfect summer evening cardigan.

It is the perfect companion for this new linen skirt. A skirt with a big story. I ordered it online, along with a top that I thought would complete my hot-weather-too-hot-for-jeans wardrobe. One small problem when it arrived - I had ordered the wrong size. I ordered the right size top, but a small in the skirt which may have fit me 20 years ago, but not now.

Returning it appeared to be ridiculously complicated and expensive - not like Lands End or LL Bean, so I decided to see if it could be altered. I have discovered a wonderful dress maker not far from me, who performed magic on a winter jacket that I hadn't worn for years. I knew she could help. There were a couple of pleats in the front by the pockets, which when taken out gave the right amount of waist circumference. And her cost to do the work was less than half the cost of returning the skirt and getting a replacement!! 

One sweater off the needles, another sweater on the needles. That is my routine, and has been for over 50 years. New one is SS&A, a summer sweater that I am knitting in a cotton/bamboo yarn. A friend was wearing it at the OHCG Annual in London and I fell in love. It has a very interesting side detail and a high-low hem, which keeps the knitting interesting. I am still debating short sleeves vs bracelet length.

This is not a picture of my sweater, but a good image of the under-arm detail. My yarn is a pale sage colour, so not much different from this. I figure it will go with everything. I am about 4" down the side detail.

On the hooking front, I finished the two "value portraits" for my workshop in October. In the last post, I shared my results of using the sublimation markers, but since I forgot to flip the image for one, the flesh tone one is a mirror image (and different crop) from the black and white one. These were fun to do and I think they will be great teaching tools. I also hooked a swatch for each one. 

And to round out all the needlework activities, I have been doing a little sewing. Haven't made anything in a while, and I really don't need anything, but do need to do something about my immense STASH. So I got a fun pattern from Matchy Matchy Sewing Club. It is the one called Collage and I used two linen pieces that I bought in Barbados long before the pandemic sent us home last time.  https://matchymatchysewingclub.com/collections/pdf-sewing-patterns

Light and airy, perfect for Barbados - which is why I originally bought the fabric - but also great for the upcoming scorcher of a summer they are predicting. Here's a little image that I filled in with colour to figure out placement. I will share an image of the real top later. 

So while the weather is too hot to do outdoor things, all my comfort fibre activities will continue - hopefully busting some of their respective stashes. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Another "New - Not Hard" Thing

If you don't know who Kay LaFevre is, you need to go and check her out right now. Here is a link to her FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/TheWoolGenie/  She is an absolutely brilliant rug hooker, whose work always takes my breath away.

A few years ago, when she was a guest speaker at Trent Rug Hooking School, she shared her passion for Sublimation Ink printing. That is how she prints her patterns. She brought her printer and her press with her for the demonstration, and also shared a simple way that we mere mortals could transfer patterns without all her equipment.

Someone in the Ottawa Olde Forge rug hooking Group has created a one-pager of how to do it. https://ottawarughooking.com/files/Resources/Transfer_pattern_to_backing.pdf

Not sure why it took me so long to try, but this week I did. I guess I am in my "brave girl era".

I went to Michaels craft store to see if they had sublimation markers and they did. They had two kinds. One is their brand, the other is Siser. 

I am using them to make two small patterns of my "geometric face" image. These will be teaching pieces for a fall workshop. I am doing one version in black and white/grey scale, and the other in a simple painterly sketch (using "cut out" effect from Photomania), which I will hook in skin tones. 

Here is the black and white effect, outlined with the Siser markers, ready to be ironed on. This sketch is also from the "cut out" effect, but I changed the colour to make the grey scale study. 

And here is what printed onto the backing - I think I could have used stronger lines, and probably kept the iron on a bit longer, but I certainly got what I needed to do the hooking.  Excuse the scary eyes - I forgot to outline them, so I drew them in with marker afterward. 

This is definitely an easier way to transfer a pattern. A bit of a learning curve. The other thing I forgot was that the image would be flipped on the backing. (Kay warns about that, especially for lettering.) This is my second attempt after I flipped the image to allow for that. It doesn't really matter, but the original larger portrait is oriented this way, so I thought it should match. 

Stay tuned for progress. I have begun to hook the skin tone one. They are only 8" square, so should be quick to do. 

Thanks Kay for sharing this great information. Not sure I will graduate to a sublimation ink printer, but will definitely do this going forward. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024


I love this expression. So much so that I bought a t-shirt that says so. I bought this from a knitwear designer I started following a few years ago. Here is a link to her. She is one of the most positive people I have encountered, and every Monday she sends a message to my inbox to remind me how I am in control of everything. 

This t-shirt is now a sleeping shirt for my grandson when he comes to sleep over. And I remind him - and his sister - that this saying is a wonderful way to view things. And especially new experiences that seem daunting.

In the recent past, I have repeated this to myself many, many times. Because I was doing a bunch of new things - and they were hard. I kept telling myself they were only hard because I hadn't done them before - and that the next time they will be a lot easier. 

The Voyage Cardigan was an excellent example of how true this "ism" is. Things were only terrifying because I hadn't done them before. And I will be so much wiser the next time around - if there is one.

Here is a picture of the last step in finishing the fronts of the cardigan. I applied ribbon trim to cover the "ends" left behind by the steek. And I think it looks amazing. What a lovely finish, that I would not have discovered if I hadn't decided to try this pattern. 

Things this sweater taught me that I will be better at the next time:

  • reinforce the steek with your sewing machine - even when you are afraid your sewing machine will eat your knitted fabric - the crochet alternative is not a good one for me
  • be prepared to spend a ton of time finishing a steeked garment - it makes the colourwork go by and match perfectly - but there is more finishing that you can imagine
  • be proud of yourself for "going for it" and considering a vest version one day. 
Another project is on the needles - or at least the second sock - from the pattern Larch Peds by Laura Nelkin. Here's a link to the ravelry pattern. It is jam packed with "new" things that did seem extremely hard on the first go - because they were new, I know.
  • provisional cast on (which I forget often, since too much time passes before I use it again)
  • a lined and folded down cuff, made with using two sets of short rows to create a lined cuff that will never fall down in your walking shoes 
  • a method called Lola's Pick-up, this is a technique to replace picking up your stitches on the edges of the heel (Full Confession: I still have yet to try that - getting used to the lined and folded cuff seemed like more than enough for my first pair) Will give that a go on the next pair.
  • an alternate way to graft the toe stitches called the Finchley Graft - because the sock needed to be inside out to do it, I stuck with the Kitchener, but will definitely try this on this second sock
I have knit hundreds of pairs of socks in my lifetime (seriously, one Christmas when I was much younger, I knit 26 pairs). Yes way!!!! But I learned more from this pattern and Laura than ever before, including appreciation for her very droll sense of humour. She includes a bunch of videos for each of the new techniques. And as she said, once you have knit a few pairs of these, the pattern will just live in your head. Turns out that Larch Peds is not the only one of her patterns that I love. 

Now in the home stretch of the second sock of the first pair, and yes, that green is from the Voyage Cardigan. 

I have visions of many more to use on my daily walks. Because they won't be hard, because they won't be new. lol 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Sleeves, Socks and More Socks

The Voyage cardigan is coming along nicely. Sleeve #1 is done and sleeve #2 is just a couple of episodes of One Day away from done. 

But birthday socks and Thank You socks got in the way of progress. The birthday socks were an unexpected, but much appreciated, present. (I made them from the many colour choices presented in the Voyage Cardigan.)

The Thank You socks are for the son-in-law who put in the kitchen light fixtures and a dimmer, but refuses to take money. Luckily he loves socks. Here's the rub! He has size 13 1/2 feet!! And as I finished his first sock, after working on sleeve #2, I realized they are the same size as the sleeve in Voyage.

I have heard many times that knitting a pair of socks (regardless of size) has as many stitches as a regular cardigan. It's just that the stitches are much smaller - but I think the number is something like 35,000 stitches in a pair of socks. These ones must be closer to 5,000.

Socks have not only been on my needles these past few weeks, but also front and centre in my social media feed. I ordered a new book by Summer Lee https://www.amazon.ca/Sock-Project-Colorful-Cool-Socks/dp/1419768115  I thought it would be ok to have on my Kindle, since it was out of stock. I have since realized that knitting patterns and Kindle are not a match made in heaven, but I will figure that out later.

I also came across a sock pattern called Larch Peds https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/larch-peds by designer Laura Nelkin. Why do I need another sock pattern, since I already have two memorized? Well, these ones are special. They appear to be the perfect socks for walking, which I do most days. They have a short-row, folded cuff that prevents socks from sliding into your walking shoes. And they don't have "leg" yardage, so are very quick to knit. (I have knit a few pairs without the folded edge and they don't stay put inside my shoes, so this will be incredible if it works.)

This pattern for the Larch Peds has a link to an incredible video tutorial, where Laura shows you all the "tricky bits". She has a very dry sense of humour, which I love, and has in-progress socks on needles to show you everything - including a new replacement for the Kitchener Stitch. Also a graft method, but one that doesn't require a key-fob in my knitting bag to remind me every time I do it.

I can't believe I am this excited to make these socks! Poor Voyage cardigan. I will do my best to finish you first. 

So, before I go, here are two more sock tips I picked up this week.

How to reinforce heels and other places that can wear out quickly. Roxanne Richardson is the queen of tutorials and this one is great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9nNkqLxdhE   I ended up using her purl bump method on the heel of the giant socks.

I also learned that if you don't have wool that has nylon in it, you can just use a polyester sewing thread with the wool yarn. Just hold it with the yarn while you knit the heel and toe, and you have a reinforced fabric. (I will report back on that theory in a few weeks/wears.) 

Here's the video from Very Pink where I learned this wonderful trick.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJPZVswnVxQ

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Mystique - and Mistakes - of Steeking.

I have discovered that I am a knitter who loves colourwork more than lace or cables. I guess it's just the way my brain works. I can keep track - and stay motivated - by colours changing, more than I can in a complex cable or lace pattern.

So, I was immediately smitten with the Voyage Cardigan and saw it as a great way to use up a lot of my buckets of sock yarn. Plus plain sleeves, which would go quickly.

Just one (or three) little catches in this pattern. It involves "steeking".  

For those of you who don't know what steeking is, it is a way of being able to "knit colourwork in the round" and avoid having to purl. A number of stitches are added to the create the "steek", which is reinforced area that connects what will become the two fronts of a cardigan. The steek is the connecting element that lets you cut into your knit material. That's correct "CUT".  

This pattern also had "steeks" in the sleeves, so you knit in the round (again incorporating steek stitches) and then cut open the sleeve steek to pick up the sleeve stitches. 

I cannot believe that I have been knitting for 60 years and never experienced a "steek" before. They are the norm in many European countries and people swear by them. I think the whole idea of cutting a sweater was too scary for me, so I just avoided any mention of them. But this pattern was so fabulous that I decided to go for it. And there are a TON of videos and guides to help you gain courage. 

The colour work, as expected, was hypnotic. I used the pattern image as a guide for picking colours that I had in my stash that were close. And it went sooooo quickly. I just couldn't put it down - I needed to see what the next pattern would look like. Every area only involved two colours, and, a bonus of the "steeking" is that the new ends get cut off, so no ends to darn in.

Above is a picture of the fully knit body - with the shoulder seams joined - and you can see some running stitches up the front that show where the "steek" stitches are. I watched many, many videos on reinforcing before cutting. And was ready to jump in. The sleeves are also not yet cut, so more of a cocoon than a sweater. 

There are two tried-and-true favourite methods to reinforce a steek. One is to use your sewing machine. The other is to crochet a reinforcing chain stitch right next to where you need to cut. I have no idea why I was leary of trying the sewing machine method, but I was, so opted for the crochet chain method. Here are a couple of pics

This shot shows the crochet reinforcement on either side of the steek stitches.

This shot shows the front steek actually cut. You can see the running stitch guide for the edge of the steek.

This shows the sleeve steek cut - you can see the reinforcement crochet line.

Unfortunately, when I went to pick up the sleeve stitches, the crochet did NOT hold the stitches and I started to lose the edge. Yikes. I quickly ran to the sewing machine and did what I should have done from the start. It was fast, easy, and most important of all STURDY!!

Here is what the sleeve looked like once I picked up the stitches. I will be putting ribbon over the bulk in here, as well as on the fronts. 

And here is the sleeve in progress. I may have to do some duplicate stitch over the first row.  I may also try blocking again and see if that helps, after darning in the ends at the beginning. 

So, one and a half sleeves to go - the remaining sleeve is the "messier one". And the button band to pick up and knit.  Still a lot of work left.  And the fun really was the colour work, which I still love.

What were the mistakes? Not using the sewing machine at first to reinforce. It would have worked much better and would have saved me considerable time. And, there is also a boo boo in the colour work, which somehow I didn't notice until it was all done. Now I am leaving it in as a "creative" touch - like I did it on purpose. lol. I don't think anyone will notice except me. 

Hoping I can finish in the next week, but I do have a pair of socks that have a deadline, so you never know. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Paint by Number Revisited

Last weekend, our granddaughter was coming to spend most of Saturday with us while her brother and parents left to host his birthday party. As Everleigh is a keen young artist-in-the-making, we always have fun painting or doing a craft together.

Getting us each a paint by number set sounded like the perfect plan. When there wasn't an appropriate one for a 6 year old, I settled on a "mermaid kit" - image on stretched canvas and necessary paints for her, and a paint by number for me. The image is a cute, paint-splattered Dalmation pup, with lots of pink, purple and other bright colours, so I figured she would enjoy seeing it come to life. 

Here is a picture of the boxed kit. A 16 x 20 piece of canvas, all the required paints, 4 brushes and a hanging system, for $20. Seemed like a good idea. (Artist's Loft from Michael's BTW)

When I removed everything from the box, I was in for a bit of a shock. Although on the box, the paint areas look like they are a good size, here is what you see when you open the "legend". Zoom in a bit and you will see what I was in for. Luckily, I have a fancy magnifying glass, a gift from a friend, which came in very handy.

While Evvie and I painted together, which was a couple of hours, she was nearly done her painting and I had made a very small dent in mine. By the end of Sunday, after probably 8 hours, here is what I accomplished.

The good news is that it was just as relaxing as I remembered. And it turned out to be a very good "value exercise", which I always like to see. Got me thinking that perhaps I should have my "portrait" students colour or paint in the values on their patterns before they start hooking.

Evvie decided that this dog should come and live on her bedroom wall, which is what I had been secretly hoping would happen. But even better, her mom was about to buy another animal print for her wall and totally fell in love with this pup - who wouldn't? She was even going to invest in a frame so she could do a grouping with the other critters on one wall.

So the challenge was on. I really, really wanted to finish this in a week, so that they could take it home.

A few hours spent every day got me to the end of all the "splats", and just the background remained to be done.  Evvie and mom both wanted the background to be white, versus the light blue you see on the box. And it saved me another chunk of hours to leave it white. I was in!!

Here is another picture that I shared when the painting was done - just background left. I wanted them to be sure before I did anything that they didn't want blue. It was a unanimous "team white" decision, so I just had to cover all the little number 1s that were on the canvas - pale, but still there.

Today, this pup, who we named Splat, went into a frame to be part of a feature wall. I am so happy that he has gone to a good home.

My net takeaway from this experience is that, like most other things, paint by number has come a long way in the last 60 years lol. There are a ton of places online that sell them, a number who will create a paint by number from your photo (and not too expensive, I might add). There are sites that encourage you to do it as a social event - girlfriends and a bottle of wine. And some of the designs are very contemporary and would look great in any room.

I definitely give this exercise a hearty two thumbs up. It did keep me away from hooking for a whole week, so keep that addictive factor in mind. Totally worth the money and the time. 

PS  A little story about paint by number in my childhood. My oldest brother Bill loved these - the old kind of bucolic scenes, or trains, or whatever. And in the day, I think the paints were oil versus acrylic. He would paint the entire thing on Christmas day, rather than doing one colour at a time and letter it dry.

One year, he put his painting on the desk in our dad's study to dry. My sister Nancy had a phone call and decided to sit on the desk, in her brand new stretchy stirrup pants. When she stood up at the end of the call, she had an imprint of the paint by number on her backside. I laugh every time I think of that.  

Friday, January 12, 2024

Some Special Sparklers.

On New Year's Eve, our three grandkids were together, which is always a wondrous thing.  After dinner, to burn off a bit of steam, the kids were ushered outside, where there was a fire in the fire pit, and sparklers for twirling (with appropriate adult supervision).

Theo, our daughter-in-law took an amazing shot with the slow exposure on her camera and this was the result. 

I knew immediately that I would have to "hook" this moment. And today, I had a little time to see where this would take me. First of all, I wanted to get closer to the action, so I cropped it.

Much better to get in on those expressions. Jackson (10) already has swagger in his sparkler. Everleigh (6) seems very focused on watching what she is doing. And Charlie (2) is enjoying the wonder.

Next, I ran the image through my favourite Photo Editor - Photomania. And I decided the effect I liked best was "Brush Strokes".  Simpler sketch, stronger values, a much better hooking road map. Not much different from the original shot. 

And to create my sketch, I ran the Brush Strokes effect through "Coal Sketch", another effect on Photomania.

The initial result was just way too many lines in black and white, so I used the slider to reduce the effect, and let more of the photo show through, while still keeping a good strong line I can use for my pattern. I will trace the key lines onto a piece of tracing paper, and use that to transfer the pattern to backing.

This whole photo editing process is one of the technology tools I cover in my workshop, Creating Fibre Art in the Age of Technology.

My Workshop Week 2024 class filled in a couple of days after registration opened. My wait list turned into a second workshop in early March. And now I have another wait list for a third. It makes me so happy that folks are keen to learn about all of these tools waiting out there on the internet.

Friday, January 5, 2024

A New Online Adventure



Hope your holidays were filled with love and joy (remember, I'm a big seeker of joy and mine certainly was). 

I started my year off with a big learning curve.

As mentioned before, I am one of the instructors teaching a Zoom workshop in Workshop Week 2024. My workshop is Creating Fibre Art in the Age of Technology, one of my passions.

Here is a link to their Instagram page, where you can see all the information about the lectures and classes during the week.  https://www.instagram.com/inthestudioonline/

My workshop filled incredibly quickly and a second one was created for March 2. It too is filled. I am so thrilled that so many people are interested in learning about the free, online tools that can be used in mat making - or any fibre art, for that matter. 

As part of our instructor responsibilities, a group of us were asked to take over the Workshop Instagram page - for a day - and tell the followers a bit about ourselves. My day was January 3rd. I had not taken over a page before, so that was a lesson unto itself. And then I had to figure out what I was going to say. 

I eventually settled on six posts, which I spaced throughout the day. You can see them (should you want to) if you go to that page.

I feel like I can put another notch in my "online adventures) belt. 

And it is always fun to learn something new!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Finding Joy in Small Things

 Another interruption from "Hooking for Joy" was more Joy.

I made a few little ornaments - they are punched - and gave them as hostess gifts and decorations for people who are far away. Here they are posing for their close up on our mini tree.

Making home made ornaments has always brought me Joy. My kids received an ornament every year for the tree, so when they moved out, they already had a full tree worth of ornaments. 

I am now continuing that tradition with their kids. This year the Tree Stars for Jackson and Everleigh, and the Spiderman ornament for Charlie. (see earlier post)

Looking at all of these ornaments reminds me of when I made them, and why they were important that particular year. They are not trees, they are time capsules. 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Darn Good Lesson.

In my never-ending quest to save my husband's socks, before they get turned into creatures or Christmas tree ornaments, I have tried just about everything. I have patched, duplicate stitched, tried working with extra reinforcing fibre in the heel and toe. And to date, although they have prolonged life somewhat, they have not been the perfect solution. Perhaps there isn't one.

But there has been a lot of chatter lately about the re-emergence of the Speedweve Darning Loom, which apparently was a big fixture a few decades ago. After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I decided to order one and give it a try. The cost was not prohibitive, and I can always use a new approach.

Today I tried to use it. First of all, I am pretty sure I ordered the small and got a large version. Not sure what you would darn with this, but I decided to "give it a go" anyway. (Because there is nothing there for scale, the wooden holder is 5" in diameter, and it has 28 hooks versus the 14 that I saw in both videos. Even getting that disk into the sock was a bit of a workout.

And I haven't felt so "left handed" since I first learned the Kitchener Stitch decades ago. (I can now do that procedure left or right handed, but still avoid it whenever possible.) Just trying to set the thing up required more than two hands - my husband got involved. Remember, there are his socks at stake. 

No matter which way I tried to set up my "loom" stitches for weaving, it felt awkward and backward. But I pushed on. And after much swearing and do-overs, I got it done. The loom stitches were in and on the right hooks, and I was on to the "weaving" step.  It wasn't perfect (as the woman in the video stated), but it fell off twice. 

Here is a picture of my first results. Not horrid, but not great!! But the hole was covered. 

After a break and a walk outside, I came back to try to apply some of the learning from the loom towards my old technique, which involved putting a papier mache grapefruit into the sock, instead of a darning mushroom.

What the loom taught me was that the elastic tension around the hole made a big difference. So, once I got the grapefruit in, I put an elastic above and below the darning area. And I made the long stitches freehand, without any hooks. Easy, peasy. And so was the weaving. I think without the hooks in my way, I could just move around much for easily.

Here is the result "without" the loom. (And before the clean up and darning in of ends.)

Again, not perfect, but more symmetrical and not pulling on the sock. 

So, although the Darning Loom may have been a waste of whatever I spent. The lesson about tension on the darning grapefruit was worth every penny. 

I am pretty sure my technique still needs lots of work. Like a tighter weave, perhaps. But at the end of an afternoon, I have two socks with darned patches that may last a little longer.

My husband has been warned that as long as he refuses to wear slippers over his socks, and wears friction holes on the bottom of his heels from the hardwood, these will be his last home made socks. He can just go and buy much cheaper socks, which i would not waste my time on saving. Stalemate!!

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Some Merry Interruptions

 While progress continues on Hooking for Joy, there were a few little Christmas goodies that needed to interrupt. In fact, there were three Christmas stars, some sock monsters, a little knitted monster and a sock tree (a prototype for many to come).

The Christmas stars were a request from my daughter, since they decided this year to get two small trees instead of a large one (so they wouldn't have to rearrange all their living space), and she needed two hooked stars - one for each tree - so there would e no arguments about who gets the star!

Simple hit and miss stars turned out to be quite the "hit".

Here they are on the backing.

And here they are on their respective trees.

You may have noticed a third star drawn on the backing. Good eye! This was for the third grandchild who does NOT have a personal tree. And his became a Spiderman ornament, his big favourite superhero of the moment. 

Next, without a real deadline, is me doing a few things to save socks that have been darned, patched and now are just "dead socks". A while ago, I started with a sock cat, which I finally got stuffed and done. Then I created a couple more. I think they are pretty sweet. I have no idea what will become of them, but they will give a second life to those socks. In lots of crazy, adorable ways. 

Some monster leftovers were calling to become a tree ornament, which was fast, easy and cute. I see lots more of both of these ideas in the future.

A while ago, I knit a sweet monster blanket and matching monster for a new little human. Here's a link to a post I shared in May. https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/9152499513632375208/6888797437981590244

She is now a few months old, getting ready for her first Christmas. We get to meet her tomorrow, so a whipped up a little "grinch-like" monster that can hide in the blanket. And her mom and dad will get the first sock tree ornament.

I love making and giving home made things at Christmas. I have since I was about 12 years old. For me that is the joy of the season. There's that Joy word again. It seems to be popping up a lot lately, which is great.

The Joy mat continues to evolve. I have been spending a lot of my time working on the hit-or-miss section, being mindful that everything needs to get lighter as we travel to the top. It's such a great project to sit at whenever I have a little bit of time. I continue to enjoy this process.

I promise to share some progress shots one day soon.  

A better-late-than-never catch up.

This morning I read an email from a dear friend who lives in Vancouver.  She wrote to me last night, long after I was asleep, so I got to re...