Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yes Mum. This is MY blog

from the book by Judy Olausen
Almost a year ago, I put a bookmark/favorite shortcut on my parents computer to my blog. I figured it was a good way for them to see what is going on and keep in touch with me. I thought this would be of interest because 1) I am their daughter and 2) my mother also dusted off her spinning wheel and loom after letting them languish for 20 years and fibre is once again addictive. I must admit she didn't seem as enthralled as I thought she might be, mothers always being enthusiastic about the creative attempts of their offspring. But I passed it off to a boring blog post that day. That or an honest response to 'oh no, not another self-promoting or let-it-all-hang-out-there diary/blog'.
My mother phoned yesterday to say, with surprise in her voice, that's YOUR blog. Yes, Mum, this is MY blog. Bored while waiting for a web page to load, she decided to try the bookmark thinking it might be more interesting than a s.l.o.w.l.y l.o.a.d.i.n.g. page. Of course this was before she actually realized it was a link to MY blog. I guess my readership hit numbers will now double.
P.S. I always like to include a photo, so I thought of a wonderful book that came out in 2000, Mother by Judy Olausen, in which her photographs depict her mother as the quintessential mother of the pre-women's liberation era. The cover photo here is titled 'Mother as Coffee Table'.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Afghanistan, rugs and Christmas

I received an email from my brother recently who is now in Afghanistan and there, in all that chaos, he had the time to read my blog ---he's probably reading it right now. Imagine that. Hello Bro'!--and inspired by fibre, he sent along a link to an article about the rugs of Afghanistan which had a lovely quote which he quoted and I in turn quote him quoting the article. "Read this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seema-jilani/the-carpets-of-afghanista_b_718812.html  - I especially like her description of what to do with an Afghan carpet: 
The rug is not just for you to place in your living room, or to be trampled upon by high heels at a cocktail party while people swirl martinis. Women have sewn their lives into it. They have whispered about their husbands, gossiped about in-laws, and exchanged riveting hopes and dreams while their fingers diligently worked the loom. Take your shoes off and don't tread heavily. Respect their stories." 
Spinning on the ferry as we came through Active Pass
to Victoria
 Doesn't that make you think twice when stepping on a carpet?! And imagine thinking about rugs and weaving while serving in Afghanistan.

Christmas travel spinning 
Here, we visited a our families over Christmas, we took the ferry to Vancouver to have Christmas Eve with the in-laws' then the ferry to Victoria to have Christmas dinner with my family. With so many ferry rides and the time spent in the car gave me productive homework time.
We missed my brother (and his family, who are in England), at Christmas and we watched the Canadian troops celebrating Christmas in Afghanistan on the news. We didn't see him but then, maybe he was busy reading this blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homework - am I there yet? NO

Homework, as far as the eye can see...
I have been busy lately...and stuck in the colour wheel assignment ...but I have lost track of where I am and how far I have to go. Let me sum it up...a looooong way! As panic is starting to set in, I thought I better get on top of where I was so I stacked everything up on table, organized the assignments into three categories: Finished (i use that term loosely), halfway there and still to do. Then I counted: 9 items done, 9 half way done and 22 still to go!
And this is just the actual spinning, then there are the written assignments, the 10 book reviews and the spinning major 25hour project.
Then I figured out how many days to go -- 109 days. Well, that's not so bad. It's still possible. Maybe I will have time for Christmas baking.
On the left: done; Centre: half done; Right: kits waiting for action.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lost in a colour wheel

You might be wondering where I am with my Master Spinners homework. Well, I am stuck in a viscous circle - the twelve colour wheel circle. It is not hard, nor boring, nor tedious, it is just taking time. The assignment: Create a colour wheel. It requires weighing each colour, then blending colours equally by weight, then spinning them and finally create a colour wheel. Here's how it works: take three primary colour merino roving - yellow, blue and red. Blend each of the primary colours with another primary to get three more colors, eg. red + blue = violet. Keep in mind that the new blend has to be homogeneous - blended very carefully, striped colours will be rejected. So I card very careful using the drum carder, running the new blend through the drum 3 - 4 times. Then take the new colour (or, figure out the correct portions of the primary colours that produced the new colour and add to it to et the new colour - you can see where this is getting confusing) and blend with the primary on each side eg. violet + blue = violet/blue, violet+red= ...hey wait a minute, what does that make and where is it? Excuse me while I card more wool....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fur, hair and wool - what's it all about?

A human hair
Photo done by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
© 2010 University of Minnesota Duluth
What's the difference between fur, wool and hair? This is a question that has been bugging me for a long time, so I tried to find out the answer. Let me tell you right up front that I didn't find a simple answer. The following is what I have gleamed but please post a comment if you can add any clarity to this question.
Some of this confusion seems to be a matter of word usage, as they are all the same protein (keratin), so technically they are all hair. However, some features that help distinguish the usage of terms: The thickness for example. Hair has lower density with 500 follicles/sq inch although not all are active at the same time, so let's say @100-200 follicles per sq inch should define hair. Sheep wool on the other hand, have up to 60,000 follicles/sq inch (Merino) and if the density is high, like a sea otter which has one of the highest densities at 800,000 per sq inch, the hair is referred to as fur. 
Another characteristic that some use to distinguish between terms is the growth pattern. Fur grows to a certain length then stops, while wool and hair keeps on growing. Although, this all depends on species and genetics, but generally this seems a good separator. Fur tends to have a major shedding time annually. Only the primitive sheep (eg. Soay, Orkney, Hebridean) and the so called 'hair' sheep breeds (eg.Saint Croix, West African, Wiltshire Horn) shed annually. 
Churro sheep wool. SEM
Photo by Dave Lewis and the Ohio 
 Agriculture Research and Development Center in Wooster
Wool tends to be the term for sheep fleece. Some sheep have kemp (thick hairs) in amongst the wool usually in is found in certain breeds of sheep and certain locations (eg. rear end), other sheep and Llamas have double coats with longer guard-type hairs designed to shed water and shorter insulating down fur (eg. Icelandic, Navajo Churro) for warmth.
Photo by Dave Lewis and the Ohio 
 Agriculture Research and Development Center in Wooster
And then there is the more technical characteristics, like the cellular structure. The hair shaft is made of cuticle cells (keritine) that form scales, overlapping each other and pointing towards the tip. The cells form a protective coating around the cortex (inner area). In the fine merino wool, the cells are one layer thick while human hair can be 10 layers thick. This cellular structure is different for each type of hair (eg. eyelashes, whiskers, hair) from different animals. The scanning electron microscope photos here show some of the different structures. Look at the difference between human hair, churro sheep and angora rabbit in the pictures here. But, it doesn't help much in distinguishing hair from fur from wool.
Alpaca  Light microscope photo
showing the medulation (dark areas).
Photo by Dave Lewis and the Ohio 
 Agriculture Research and Development Center in Wooster
Inside the hair shaft is the cortex. This is the middle of the hair/wool/fur. If the centre of the cortex is hollow we call the core 'medulla' or a medulated hair. The inner core can be a consistently hollow core, or contain sections which are hollow. This medulation can provide insulation, hence hairs with no medulation hold heat less well than medulated hairs. Alpacas and Llamas have medulated hairs while sheep do not, hence Alpaca wool is a better insulator than wool.
Angora. Note the very interesting V-shape cell structure
SEM Photo by Dave Lewis and the Ohio
 Agriculture Research and Development Center in Wooster
So why is this interesting? For a few reasons. The structure of a fibre creates its characteristics for: heat retention; strength, elasticity, felting tendency, light reflection, etc. And also because I want to be able to analyze a fibre and have a way to figure out if it is Mountain Goat or sheep wool or from the Coast Salish wool dog.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Minus 36 degrees

View from down town Saskatoon to the Bessborough Hotel
We interrupt this blog with a quick visit to Saskatoon where the temperature was -36 degrees. So cold I didn't even feel it. And into this cold I went on a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the moonlight. It was wonderful. Quick but worth every second. Highlights:

  • the sleigh ride
  • meeting a whip cracking champion (see upcoming post)
  • watching two friends volunteer to hold a paper ribbon between their teeth while the whip cracker split the ribbon in half, time and time again until the ribbon was a mere 3 inches between them.
  • a successful food quest in search of a real Ukrainian dinner. We found it at ' A Touch of Ukraine' where we had three types of perogies (okay, two types and what we think was a deep fried third), cabbage rolls and borscht.
  • and, another first in public spinning, this time in Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver airports....Rats. I should have taken a picture.
  • oh and a pitch fork BBQ - 4 steaks to each tine and the pitchfork was dunked into a vat of boiling oil. Steaks done in two minutes. Pictures to come.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Transcending the Material

Photo by Ben Cuevas from his
installation 'Transcending the material'.
Every once in a while I get deeply inspired by some unique knitting project. Inspired enough to make me want to pick up some knitting needles and knit madly, furiously, intensely. Knit until I feel I really and truly understand knitting, that I know it so well that I can create my own patterns. So well, that I can eclipse and exceed the pattern, not needing any pattern, not even my own. I would rise above and go beyond being just a good knitter. I would triumph over tricky stitches. I will see something in my mind's eye and using my own stitches, my own designs, make knitting do anything I want. I could control it and knit anything I want. I would transcend the material.
Photo by Ben Cuevas of a
closer view of his skeleton.
Photo by Ben Cuevas showing the knitted
detail of the hand.
Recently, I came across someone who had reached that pinnacle of knitting, Ben Cuevas, philosopher, artist, knitter.
Check out his installation available on his blog. And, here is an interview with him.
Ben Cuevas interview, 2010 Wassaic Artist Resident from The Wassaic Project on Vimeo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November Light

Dawn at work
View from my office
I interrupt the homework blitz to show you a few pictures of things that caught my attention in the exquisite light that has been making things glow around here lately. I suppose it is due to the lateness of the year, the low angle of the sun, the lack of cloud cover, rain, drizzle, fog, low lying cloud and general greyness that is usually common here in November.
Colour on campus
Light at the end of the day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One left foot

One twisted ankle
Did I mention I signed up for a 'Learn to Run' class? Yup, they teach this. And there is a lot to learn (where to land on your foot for example) and a lot of homework (practise)! It's a great way to become a runner. I know this because I have taken the course before and had worked up to running 13 minutes, then a 2 minute walk and repeat the sequence. It got me through a 5k run in a respectable time. But that was a few years ago a a few pounds lighter.
Well, this time I failed. Flunked out. We got to the midterm and I had worked up to be running a full three continuous minutes, then a two minute walk and was feeling pretty good about this progress when I found a pothole, at the 30 minute mark, in the side walk and down I went. I limped back to work (this being a lunch time activity) where the first aid people bandaged me up, gave me a cold pack and strict instructions to keep it elevated as much as possible for the first 48hours. Apparently early care means an early heal (no pun intended).
I do not mind being housebound or couch bound, but here is the problem. My right foot is the sprained one and my spinning wheel is a single right-foot treadle. What's the good of being house and couch-bound with 36 more spinning homework kits awaiting and with only one left foot?
Alpaca and black walnut dyed wool, drum carded
 (on the left), combed (in the middle) and being
 dizzed into fine tops which were rolled until
ready to spin (on the right)
I returned to the guest bedroom aka the wool stash and without awaking Priscila the spirit, the-fleece-less-sheep-that-rules-the-guest-bedroom-wool-stash, dug into the homework bag that held the kits still to be blended, combed, carded and dizzed and spent today seated in the sunroom aka the production studio and carded, belnded, combed and dizzed a few more kits, so at least I felt I was making some progress. Back on the couch, I resorted back to the spindle and am now working on a blend of silk and mohair. Very deluxe. But I am getting ahead of the next post.
Count down: 150 days to go (using revised deadline date of March 31)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adams River Sockeye Boondoggle and Kit #19

Sockeye salmon heading up the Adams River
Dead fish lining the shores of
Shuswap Lake
The river ran red. Really. This is the BIG BIG BIG year for the Adams River Sockeye salmon run. For some reason, every four years, there is a bumper year for sockeye returning fish--after their first year, spent in fresh water, the little tykes head down river and spend the next three years in the ocean before returning to their birth place. So a big year is every 4th year and this was a 4th year. Despite predictions from some quarters of a crash, this year was the biggest year since 1913, 34.5 MILLION FISH!. Compare that to last years 1 million fish. This was BIG BIG. Once in a lifetime. So we had to go see it.  Click here to see my slide show.
Spinning Kit# in the van
We've been to the last 4th year run and 8 years before, and they were impressive, so I didn't know how this could be even more impressive. It wasn't that we saw more fish swimming up river- maybe we did but I never counted--but what we saw was more dead fish. After they spawn they die. It's their destiny. So while the line of fish kept going up river, those that spawned and died, floated back down the river and lined the shores of Shuswap Lake. The mouth of the river was thick with dead fish. Now think about this. 34.5 million fish all spawning then dying and littering the shore. That adds up to a lot of dead fish with decaying, rotting flesh. The smell was, well, it smelt. Bearable but the smell did linger with us for hours. .....hmmm, I better have someone with a sensitive nose, check the aroma of kit # 19 - fine grade fleece wool spun and prepared worsted-style, spun in the van on the way there and carried in my pack while viewing and sidestepping dead fish.
Count: 4 down 36 to go

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 3 and 4, Kit #38

Spinning in the car - not while I drove.
Okay, Kit #38 is supposed to be at the finish line, or at in sight of it but I panicked. I was worried about all the travelling I had coming up in the next week and thinking I would be a week behind with only 1, maybe 2 kits completed.
I was off to Victoria to meet with a curator at the BC Museum to look at historical photos of Coast Salish spinning (but that's another story) and then to go to the Victoria Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting, which meant that I wouldn't have time to spin. Eureka, I would take my spindle and the Kit (#38) that required a 10 yard sample of a 2 ply yarn done with a drop spindle. I could spindle at the Guild meeting, and while the other half drove, I could spindle in the car. And this gives me a good idea. For all those trips, I will select some other kits that would be suitable to use the spindle. One big headache solved.
Which brings me back to Kit #38, a blend of beige llama blended with a Frieson x Suffolk cross both of which had a similar length staple and I had dyed the wool with Black Walnuts to get that ho-hum beige. The mix is a very nice, soft camel coloured yarn.
Time: 1.5 hours driving, 1 hour in a meeting, 1 hour plying in the car, in the dark using a flashlight! = 3.5 hours (including coffee stops)
Count: 3 down, 37 to go.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homework - Kit #1 True Woollen

Kit #1, Merino, prepared and spun woollen
Arrrghhh. I didn't enjoy Kit #1 (which I did second) until I got into the groove which was about at the 90% done mark but before then I was fighting it. The assignment: spin 10 yards of a fine fleece (I used Merino) using a true woollen preparation and true woolllen spinning technique. Simple. HA!  
After spending 4 months trying to get integrity into my yarn by spinning a true worsted, I had forgotten how to loosen up and spin an easy-as-pie woollen. Adding to my frustration was the idea lurking in the back of my mind that I would run out of Merino so I had to make this work. What rubbish. Think about it. There are an estimated 100 million sheep just in Australia and the majority of them are Merino. There is lots of Merino fleece to be had if I needed more, so why let that fear worry me. I finally put that thought out of my mind. Once I got into the hang of easy-as-pie woollen long draw, it worked, there was evenness in the yarn. When I plied it back on itself to test what it would look like...by gawd, it looked good. So I kept going and then plied the two bobbins into one yarn and got 20 meters with fleece to spare. Not much but some, at least enough for the assignment but I have to admit, I didn't think that my plying was even. But right now I am feeling...good enough. Move on to something nicer, something more pleasing and relaxing to spin.
Time to prepare, spin, curse, ply, wash: 2 hours
Count: 2 down 38 to go.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homework - Kit #2 - Adding Memory

Black llama blended
with white wool and integrity!
Memory...wouldn't it be great to be able to add memory. I gave my father a memory stick on his 80th, what every ageing person needs -- more memory. Who would have thought that some fibres have no memory. They forget what they are supposed to be, how to hold their shape, how to return to their original state. Wool however, does have memory. Wear a wool sweater, and it holds it shape. If it does stretch, say at the elbows, wash it, lay it out to dry and it bounces back to it's original shape. Llama on the other hand doesn't have memory. Llama is beautiful, soft, warm, strong but draping clothes will stretch. Sleeves will get longer.  
For garments made with inelesatic fibres that will hang, you need to blend in some wool to give it a bit of bounce and bounce-back memory.
Which brings me to my homework where I decided to start with Kit #2, an exercise to mix two fibres, one without memory and one with. I chose some black silky llama and added 38% white wool to get a dark gray with some bounce. It was wonderful to spin. It glided out of my hand in a continuous smooth flow of fibres. I didn't have to do much work at all. And damn it, if it didn't have integrity!
60 minutes to blend it = 60
40 minutes for each bobbin = 80 minutes plus 60 = 140 plus
20 minutes to ply it = 160 minutes plus
20 minutes to write up my notes = 180 minutes = 3 hours!
And then I have to figure out a way to mount a 10 yard sample skein, plus a lock of each original fibre and a sample of the blend before spinning. Say another 15 minutes.
That means I have to speed up or double up on the amount I do. This is going to be a tight, tight schedule! I either have to spin smaller amounts, and keep to the 10 yard requirements or make the most of some samples and make enough that the extra can be incorporated into my major project at the end. Inspired by this kit, I have an idea already for the project - a woven scarf made a various shades of gray.
1 down, 39 kits and 179 days to go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Getting my homework organized to begin.
Priscilla-the-fleece-less-sheep-that-rule-the-guest-bedroom-wool-stash, has stamped her hooves and has threatened me, "Get this #@$% stuff out of here. For Gawds sake do something with it. Or else" and 3 bags of fibre samples meant for homework were thrown into the hallway.
Heavy hoofed but she was right, it was time to start my homework after all, it has been 4.5 months since my Master Spinners Level 2 course and that meant I only have 5.5 months left to finish it. Yikes!
I have been procrastinating but for a very good reason. Integrity. After being told in class that my yarn lacked integirty (see the earlier post) , I have been spinning up a storm trying to achieve integrity and I think I am there and now ready to tackle the bags of fibre homework.
So I spent this afternoon laying out all the fibre and putting together homework 'kits'. Each kit is in a ziplock bag and holds the instructions and fibres. So kit #33 for example contains some black Llama and some Frieson x Suffolk sheep fleece and instructions: spin a 10 yard skein of a blend suitable for a knitted vest. It may be 2 or more plies (I'll do a 3ply). Give an explanation of why it is suitable and knit a 3" x3" swatch to demonstrate its suitability.
I reckon each kit will take an average of 3 hours to complete. There are 40 kits and then there is the written work (say 10 hours...maybe, maybe more), plus I have to do a final project that takes at least 25 hours: I have to design, wash, prepare, dye, blend, spin and knit or weave something like a scarf. It is almost enough to cause me to give up before I really begin.  Homework is due April 15th (I'm not sure but let's assume it is around there), and that is 6 months away. That sound like a lot, but in terms of days it is 180 days.
So here is the maths: 40kits x 3hrs = 180hrs + 25hrs major project time = 205 hrs + 10 hours written homework = 215 hrs.
Assuming that in that 6 months I will be in a workshop for 4 days, away on holidays for 9, and out of commission for one reason or another for, say, oh 5 days, that means that I would only have 180-18 = 162 days available, which is about 1.25 hours a day will get me to the finish line. Put another way that means finish one kit every two days. Sounds possible except I work full time and sleep at least 8 hrs/day. I usually have 2 hours a day available. This doesn't leave a lot of room. I better get crackin'.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Black Walnuts

Black walnut.
From the left: handspun Suffolk x Corriedale
dyed with alum mordant and just above it,
cotswold with no mordant, a dye note showing
the colours achieved by using various mordants,
nuts, husks and walnut leaves, 
It's fall and the fall storms haven't yet rolled in. They have threatened but have not quite come ashore here. I swore last year that before they did and trees are blown bare, I would find some black walnut hulls and leaves to so some natural dye experiments. And while I was at it, I would gather some chestnut leaves while they were still somewhat green and hanging onto the tree. I suspect the colour is richer before they start to dry and fall off the tree and last year I got a nice silver grey from some dried out leaves. So just before a big storm that, in the end, petered out, I visited a friend's walnut trees, then a chestnut tree, and laden down with bits of tree, went home to experiment.
The first Black Walnut hulls experiment turned out to be, well, successful and interesting but a bit of a blah brown. If you like browns, it is just okay, not a rich deep brown, not a subtle tan although the Cotswold with no mordant has a nice sophisticated camel that grows on you, but then again, Cotswolds large cellular scale structure reflects light so well that any dye becomes lustrous, no matter how blah.
The dye room with black walnut hulls soaking,
black walnut ,leaves soaking and some drying,
elixir of black walnut in jars,
fibre being dyed in a crock pot with black walnut
elixer and a bucket of chestnut leaves soaking.
I went back to the books, and to Google and read up on how to get a darker colour. After all, it is called Black Walnut and I'd like a black or at least a deep deep chocolate brown. Turns out my blah brown is loved by many according to Google and satisfied with it, that is what they aim for. However, others have discovered that a heavy influx of iron: rusty nails, or using an old iron dye pot, failing that, spoonfuls of ferrous oxide added to the brew will get you to that more satisfying deep dark brown to almost a black. That is tomorrows attempt.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boats and ropes

I recently went to the Victoria Classic Wooden Boat Festival and snapped a few pictures of ropes, lines and cordage and how they are used on boats. It made me wonder what rope was, and what cordage was. Were they the same or was there a distinction? If you just look at twisted (spun) rope and forget plaited or braided rope (we need to keep sane here), is there any difference in spinning technique other than having a humongous spinning wheel? And what is the history of rope?

So here is my understanding... Oh, and by the way, rope isn't made with humongus spinning wheels, it is laid out in a long length and twisted from one end... First you have fibre. You spin fibre and you get yarn. If you spin the fibre to the right or clockwise, it has what is called a Z-twist or, in rope language if you look down a length of rope and the twist is to the right (Z), it is known as having a right hand lay; if the twist is to the left (S) it is a left hand lay. If you twist two (or more) Z-spun or right hand laid yarns together in the opposite direction, and spin/twist them S then you have a strand which is left hand laid. Take strands and twist them together (opposite twist than the strand) and you have rope. Got that? One more time:

  • Fibre spun Z = yarn
  • Yarns spun S = strands
  • Strands spun Z = rope
Now here is where we get all salty and nautical. A 3 strand rope is known as a hawser-laid rope.  A four-strand laid rope is called shroud-laid. And now if you take 3 or more ropes and twist them you get a cable.  A 3 strand rope is very flexible, easy to handle and good for making knots.  A 4 strand rope is firmer, rounder and hence good when you need more surface to grip, say going through a pulley.
Cordage is the term used for less than 3/8"diameter and rope for more than 3/8" diameter.  I suppose you can argue about the thickness but the idea is this: fibre, string, cord, rope, cable.
I came across an interesting video showing some recent history of rope making but for something about older technology check out the Native American Cordage web page.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's in the freezer?

Trudy's freezer
I have a long term book project, which has a working title "What's in the freezer?' It would be a work of non-fiction stories based on what's in the freezers of a few friends. Each chapter would have a picture of the freezers prize possession, along with a story behind the frozen object. 

I have one chapter (and pictures) on wolf droppings in the freezer (fuelled by propane) in a Park Wardens floating cabin in the Broken Group Islands on the west coast. That chapter tells about the arrival of wolves on the islands, and their DNA, the poop on DNA or the DNA of the poop, so to speak. Another chapter is on bullfrogs -- freezers are part of the killed-with-kindness process which starts with a tub full of ice and ends in the frezer but you'll have to wait for the book. Then there was the rare bat in my freezer. Of course, I didn't know at the time there was a rare and endangered dead bat (if it is dead, does that means it is no longer endangered?) in the freezer until after I cleaned up the bat blood off the floor and exposed myself to potential rabies. The Health Agency couriered the bat for testing halfway across the country within hours of my innocent inquiry and you'll be happy to hear that the tests were negative. But, that isn't today's story either.  Nor is the frozen cougar head, which is a good story too, with a surprise explosion in a microwave (do not try to thaw a frozen cougar head by nuking it), but no, today's story is so much simpler.

Swainson's Thrush next to Camus seeds
Tonight I took a couple of pictures of Trudy's freezer. There was no reason to. It was like a surprise bed check but in this case a surprise freezer check as I just happened to be there and remembered my freezer quest. Besides, you never know what you'll find in Trudy's freezer.

There were three items of interest (aside from the Vanilla Ice Cream): a Swainson's Thrush (the Thrush is usually in the bag but for the photo, I exposed him somewhat) , Camus seeds (associated with the rare and endangered Gary Oak ecosystem of BC) and a 35 year old handspun Cowichan-style sweater along with a few, not rare, not endangered, but hopefully dead, moths, which was the whole purpose of the sweater-in-the-freezer.

The yarn in the sweater was spun (with integrity I might add - see the Integrity post) by Trudy and one of her friends and knit by a another friend. There is a wolf pattern on the front and a frog on the back. Last night the then moth-eaten holey sweater arrived at my door with Trudy looking for some handspun in natural colours to match the sweater colours. After returning home with some new yarns, Trudy had darned the sweater and, for good measure, stuck it into her freezer. By coincidence, I happened to ask what was in her freezer and lo and behold, the sweater, being prepared for another 35 years of wear.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knitting Music Video

Here's an interesting music video. Done entirely using knit animation. Over 700 unique knitted pieces were created for the video by designer Lysanne Latulippe of the fashion label Majolie..

PS  For locals, don't forget the knit and spin-in at VIU on Thursday.  See the blog below.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Doily bombed

It has happened again. Only this time, the campus has not been yarn bombed, it has been doily bombed! I am not sure if this is more serious than yarn bombing or if one reads a lighter sense of play into this format.  
As you can see, the lampposts along the walkway have all been 'doilied'. Note the yellow 'comment' card that has been attached to each doily bomb, along with a pencil to capture your thoughts.
I Googled doily bombing and was surprised to find other locations where this deed has taken place. This picture of a doilied tree shows a beautiful collection of vintage doilies gracing the tree like a lace glove.
Further Googling brought up a BBC new segment which may provide a hint of how yarn bombing came to Canada. At around the 1minute 40 mark, two seemingly innocent looking women from Vancouver are interviewed and state that they will take this new knitting trend back to the west coast of Canada. Have we found the guilty importers referred to in my earlier post?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knitting geeks, a hobby for hackers.

Cover of Nature Genetics,
January 2002, Vol 30 Issue 1.
Knitted by Emily Poe based
on a double helix pattern
by  June Oshiro
Apparently knitting and spinning have become a geeky craft, or should I say a craft for geeks. This probably bodes well for a spin-in and kit-in to be held on campus. Listen-up locals ... 
Spin and Knit in to be held at 
Vancouver Island University
Thursday, Sept 30th.
Location: sunshine = the quad (in front of the library) rain = the Welcome Centre. Bring what's on your needles or spindles and your fibre friends.

There was a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, String Theory: Reflections on Knitting as a Hobby for Hacker Types which talks about why people at universities should knot, but a lot of what she says applies to everyone. In addition to convincing you to knit she has a lot of interesting links embedded in the article. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Canadian Tenors

Tonight, I treated myself to a live show of the Canadian Tenors who were in town for one night only. I don't really know much about them and have only seen and heard them from one youtube video embedded below for your pleasure. By the time I heard they were in town, most tickets had been sold. I got online to buy tickets and set the number of tickets to two and clicked the button Find me the best available seats. The only seats left were in the very back row. So I re-set the number of tickets to one and clicked the button Find me the best available seats and this time there was one in the sixth row! I asked my husband if he wanted to got o the show. "No" he said in a firm voice. "Yes" I said with jubilation and ran back to the computer and pressed the buy button. And am I ever glad I did. Watch the video and you'll agree. The video was shot in February when they were performing Leonard Cohen's Hallalujah on the Oprah Show. The guest singer was a complete surprise to them as you will see....

And I have to include a video of the master himself, Leonard Cohen whom I saw last year in Ottawa.

PS I didn't take my spinning either time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Noodle Knitting

I had to share this video. It inspires one to try it but perhaps a bigger project, say a lunch bib? Or something Italia-style? I suppose crocheting would work just as well, although it is hard to find chopsticks with a built-in hook.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kent Monkman - The Triumph of Mischief

Detail of Artist and Model
I am writing this away from the prying eyes of Priscilla-the-fleeceless-sheep-that-rules-the-guestroom-and-Lords-over-my-wool-stash. I am not sure she would appreciate the explicit language and pictures of this particular post. She is a bit of a prude. So I will be quick to get it up before she has an inkling of the sexually explicit (and I won't even show you all the details, but use a magnifying glass on the picture to the left) work of this artist and his alter ego.

Monkman's Cher-inspired seance outfit.
I went to a thought-provoking art exhibit by Cree artist Kent Monkman at the Victoria Art Gallery. Monkman has, a wicked sense of humour and of injustice, a subversive wit and his work playing on role reversals, forces us to re-think, re-image, some of our underlying assumptions, stereotypes and visions of reality about the imaginary indian, painted by the noble whiteman.  

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. In Monkman's paintings a picture is worth 10,0000 words, layers of meanings on top of layers. He is also a performance artist, check out his seance held at the ROM calling on the spirits of explorer-artists Paul Kane, George Caitlin and French romantic painter Delacroix, while dressed in a, reportedly, Cher-inspired drag queen attire, also in the exhibit. Click here to listen to the dance music of MissChief. The seance was in response to one of his paintings being censored from the First People's Gallery at the ROM. As Monday Magazine explains it:
“They gave us the opportunity to go into the museum, look at the collections and then create work as a response. I went straight to the First People’s Gallery and there you have all these paintings by Paul Kane, this voice of authority. It’s like, ‘What are his paintings doing in the First People’s Gallery?’ Yes, the first people were his subjects, but . . . I thought, ‘I’ll do a painting in response to one of his paintings,’” says Monkman. “I wanted to draw attention to that and hang my painting in there with his painting. So the curator of the First People’s Gallery said, ‘No, we can not allow Kent to show in the First People’s Gallery. We can not allow him to challenge the work of Paul Kane.’”
The Academy
which brought on the seance performance and brought about the ROMs re-thinking of just what should be allowed in the First Nation's Gallery.
In this exhibit, the star of this show is Monkman's alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testicle -- say this fast enough and you have Mischief Egotistical Did I say that Monkman is a master of punning? In the painting titled "The Artist and Model" above, Monkman has painted his alter ego right into the painting. Miss Chief Eagle Testicle (aka Mischief), wearing six-inch heels, a scanty breech, a Chiefs head dress and little else, is the artist painting the naked (penis erect) cowboy. However, Mischief's easel holds a pictograph of her idea of what the white man looks like. See what I mean about layers upon layers of words and meanings.
The picture "The Academy" reminded me of Paul Kane's picture "Clallum Woman Weaving a Blanket". I am not sure that Monkman's Academy was meant to be a reVisionist view of Kane's painting, but there are some similarities, the wool dog in the foreground (see my earlier blog on this painting), the scene in the long house, the viewing of artists creating their works.
In any event, Monkman's imagery will remain with me for a long time.
This post seems to be very popular, so I have edited to add a book if you like Kent Monkman's sense of humour as well as his art, then you would probably enjoy this book. It is written by one of my favorite authors, Thomas King who also has a wicked sense of humour and of injustice. Okay, you need to know it is written for children, but hey, read it for your inner child.

"A Woman Weaving a Blanket," Songhees/Saanich (Central Coast Salish)