Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I thought for a while that my hair was going crazy, but it appears that I actually just have a tree growing out of my head.
It's been six months since I made this dress (it is the one I wore as a bridesmaid in my best friends' wedding), and I finally got some decent photos of it.  I've been a bit at a loss as to how to get good pictures of things I make for myself -- I haven't any family members handy to recruit.  Sunday afternoon though I went for a walk with the camera and found a useful fence post.

The pattern is Butterick 6582, which I have used previously (but apparently never blogged about).  It's very comfortable and fits well.  The pattern has a slim pencil skirt option as well; I made that version last time I used the pattern.

The weather was utterly gorgeous -- crisp but warm enough that I was comfortable in a light sweater as long as I kept moving.  There was a glorious sun and quite a brisk wind.

The dress is made of black dupioni silk, which I bought at Hancocks Fabric last summer.  The bodice neckline and arm openings are self-faced, and the dress is unlined.

 It weighs absolutely nothing and moves like a dream.

I want several of these in lightweight floral prints for summer!  So easy to wear and the skirt has such lovely movement.

(Dress: made by me.  Sweater: Old Navy.  Earrings: thrift shop. Shoes: Payless.  Hair holder: craft fair years ago gift from my aunt and uncle. Thanks to Katie for setting me straight on that!)

Monday, 30 January 2012

In which Conrad goes adventuring and finds a lot of dust

Sunday afternoon I was standing in the kitchen holding the cat when he showed a decided desire to climb on top of the fridge.  All right, I thought, and let him up.  From thence he found his way onto the kitchen cabinets, which end about a foot below the ceiling.

He had a grand time for a while, wandering up and down and exploring.

Also, collecting a great deal of dust.

Then he decided he wanted to come down and realised he didn't know how.  At this point he got a little worried, and looked at me anxiously.  But when I climbed on a chair to help him down he swatted at me and wouldn't let me touch him.

He had to be coaxed with a treat.

He was absolutely covered in dust.

And as soon as I got him down, he was sitting on the dog food box, staring longingly upwards.  Apparently he has acquired a taste for heights.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Not my best effort

This weekend I attempted to make cookies.  I'd found a recipe for peanut-butter-and-jelly cookies, which sounded and looked delightful, so I gave them a try.

The dough was supposed to be "stiff and crumbly".  After adding an extra half-cup of flour, and after thirty minutes in the fridge, they were finally firm enough to shape into balls... almost...

The texture, when baked, is most peculiar.  They're a bit like trying to eat sand cookies - they have that same fine, crumbly quality.  I used the remains of a jar of homemade strawberry jam which was floating around the fridge.  It's good, but it "bled" into the cookie.  They look sort of like the Death of Marat.

The only thing which can be said for them is that they're edible.  I'm still confused why they didn't turn out - I followed the recipe! - but we ate them all, so I guess they're not a total loss.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

This Just In

I've been waiting for this package for weeks.  I put in the order before Christmas, but I paid in two installments and it takes a month for things to come from New Zealand (unless you pay ridiculous amounts of extra postage.  I would rather wait.)

Did I say New Zealand?  Yes, I did.  I mentioned this on Facebook last night and solicited ideas... the suggestions included sheep, hobbits, tea, a "handsome New Zealand guy", and Kiri Te Kanewa.  (Any of those would have been fine with me, although I'm not sure what Conrad would make of a sheep.  Or a hobbit.)  Less happy suggestions included a tazmanian devil, a kiwi, and my personal favourite:  "Umm, if it's a ring... GET RID OF IT!"

Out-of-focus = artsy, right?
Instead, it was this.

Yes.  I am now the very excited owner of a spinning wheel!  An Ashford Traditional, to be precise.  People who guessed wool and sheep, you were on the right track.  (And actually partly right, since included in the deal was a bag of wool.)

This is a slightly older model.  She's clearly been used, but she's in really excellent condition.  I believe her to be the 1975 model; looking at the timeline on Ashford's page, mine has the single-bump wheel spokes, and the tension ball is on the outside back corner of the maiden bar, rather than on the inside front corner as it is on newer models.  (This caused me quite a lot of confusion as I assembled the wheel, since the directions I have show the tension ball in its newer location.  I had a moment when I was convinced my wheel was defective!   I'm still not sure I have the brake band set up correctly, but it seems to work, so until someone tells me better, there it shall stay.)

She treadles and spins like a dream.  And she's going to star in Riders to the Sea later in the semester.  She needs a proper photo shoot on a day when there's actually some light (it's raining and gloomy today) but I couldn't wait to show her off :D

Conrad has claimed her for his own and I have a feeling he will be sorely in the way.  He keeps trying to sleep on the treadle.  The real trick will be keeping him from killing my wool batts, since he seems to feel that they are an infestation of small furry animals from which he must protect me.

I feel that I ought to learn Gretchen am Spinnrade now, and watch Sleeping Beauty, and read Spindle's End.  I also have an overwhelming urge to go buy an entire fleece.

I will try to restrain myself.

If at any point in the near future you can't find me, do not be alarmed.  I'll just be upstairs, spinning.


Today, this.

Soon -- full-blown blossoms.  But the almost is as beautiful as the already here.

God must have such a beautiful mind.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Very Little Brain

I'm not feeling so great today (I went to the doctor for something completely different and found out I have "acute sinusitis", so I'm on three kinds of medicine and I kind of wish someone would just tear my throat out so it would stop hurting already) so you're not going to get much of a post from me tonight.  I thought maybe I'd share some links, for something a little different.

An interesting, honest look at what men really want (and should want?) from women (from a man's perspective).

Slightly related:  "Ten ways to get the right guy to like you".  It's not what you think - go watch it!  This guy has a knack for saying really true things in really amusing ways.

I'm slightly addicted to this show now.

Why "Tangled" is better than "Twilight".

I love these bunk beds!

And finally, a song from one of my favourite youtube personalities, Nataly (of the duo Pomplamoose).  I love her voice and her style (and her hair...)

I'm going to go curl up with my cat and a pot of tea and All Clear and try to nurse my sinuses back to health.  Goodnight, lovely people!

Friday, 20 January 2012

I am not nocturnal

I am sorry that all my posts lately seem to be about the cat.  But when I don't have any new projects to show you, that's about all I have to write about!  (Endless hours in the practise room are not particularly interesting to any but the person practising, I find...)

So anyway.  I meant to get up at 6 AM this morning.  I have a 9 o'clock class, which means catching the 8:15 bus, and I actually wanted to take the 7:45 bus so as to get to school a little early and warm up my voice.  But Conrad had other plans.

First of all, he tends to get extremely hyperactive around 11 PM, just when I'm winding down and making my way to bed.  Last night, that took the form of doing laps around the room - up the stairs to my loft room, down the right side - POUNCE onto the bed where I was reading - down the left side - down the stairs - and back again.  This went on for a good twenty minutes.  I have no idea why jumping on the bed was a necessary part of this cycle, but there it is.

Finally he wore himself out and curled up on my feet, and I read myself asleep.  I'd been dead to the world for almost an hour - just getting to that really deep, almost drugged-feeling sleep - when a loud crash awoke me.  And I mean awoke.  It was one of those situations when you go from completely unconscious to sitting straight up in bed, entirely clear-headed.

Conrad had knocked one of my amarylis pots out of the windowsill.  (I know it was Conrad, because he was all the way on the other side of the room pretending to be innocent and confused.)  He's never touched them before, so why 1:30 in the morning seemed like a good time to him I will never know.  But it was on the floor - bulb unpotted and soil everywhere.  I spent ten minutes cleaning it up and trying to soothe the poor thing's nerves, and then another forty minutes reading myself back to a drowse again.  It was well after 2 by the time I finally fell asleep.

I remember, vaguely, turning off the 6 AM alarm and telling myself I was getting up.  I do not remember doing the same for the 6:30 alarm.  Next I knew it was 7:30 and I was turning off yet a third alarm, and the cat was yelling for breakfast.  (I'm not sure he deserved it.)  I did catch the bus, but I did not have the leisurely morning I had planned on!

Tonight, all the pots are going on the floor.  That way if Conrad knocks one over, at least it won't wake me up!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lazy Morning

I like Thursdays.  Until I get my grad assistant schedule sorted out, I don't have to go anywhere until mid-afternoon.  (Probably this was my last week of that, but oh well!  I'll enjoy it while I can!)

Today I slept until about 9:30 (not counting answering a call from my doctor to move my appointment again).  Then I woke up just enough to pull out my book of music and spend an hour still in bed, curled up with the cat, memorizing the words to Desdemona's "Willow Song" aria from the end of Othello, which I'm singing tomorrow for the Concerto and Aria Competition at school.

Not the music I was learning, but it's a picture of music and I took it.  So.  :-)
I don't know why I can't seem to memorize things until the last minute.  Granted, I didn't even know the competition was tomorrow until a week ago, but still.  I've looked at that aria every say since last Thursday and made hardly any progress.  Today, the words fitted into my brain as if there was a Verdi-shaped slot just for them.

So it was a lazy morning, but it was still productive.  The best kind!

(I'm taking a wee break from knitting - I think a four-day weekend spent almost entirely on knitting, following a three-week vacation in which I knit quite a lot, was a little hard on my hands.  They're much better today after a complete rest yesterday, but I think I'll give them another day of recovery just to be safe.)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Knitter's Compulsion

Most people, on finding that they are cold, go and put on another pair of socks, a hat, or perhaps a sweater. This seems reasonable to them.  But knitters, faced with the same problem, are much more apt to go rummage through a drawer, pull out a pile of yarn, and cast on a pair of socks, a hat, or perhaps a sweater.  If the knitter is particularly cold, she may find herself with all three on the needles.  And this also seems perfectly reasonable.

It is probably not quite so reasonable as we knitters fondly believe.

It has been cold, and I had a long weekend.

A lot of knitting has happened.

This adorable hat is Cloche Divine, designed by Meghan Jones.  It was started because my head was cold when I walked from the bus stop on Thursday morning, and knitting a new hat seemed the logical solution to that problem.  It took me the duration of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and the first half-hour of Goblet of Fire to knit.  (It is hard to take good pictures of one's own head.  Sorry about that.)

 Then I knit a duo of tea cosies.  Because a long weekend spent knitting and watching movies must necessarily have tea to go with it, and that reminded me that the tea pot was probably chilly, too.  (These are up in the shop!)

The secret project is warm and wooly too and it got quite a bit of knitting love as well, but you still can't see it.  Sorry.

I have almost finished off the latest in a series of Hogwarts-inspired scarves - a Gryffindor one.  Also destined for the shop.  Massive and warm.  Pictures soon.

I'm also really wanting to knit myself a sweater.  I found a sweater's worth of pale grey yarn in a box yesterday and it immediately started jumping up and down crying "Knit me!  Knit me!" ... so perhaps that will be the next major project.

(Now, apparently just to be perverse, the temperatures are back in the 40s and 50s, and it poured rain all day.  But I'm holding out hope that the cold weather will come back so as not to render my woolies superfluous!)

Monday, 16 January 2012

No Shampoo?

So, last week I ran out of shampoo, and thought that circumstance would be a good time to try something I've been curious about for a while... a method of cleaning one's hair without relying on commercial shampoos, commonly referred to as the "No 'Poo Method."

Basically, you use a baking-soda paste to scrub the scalp, then use an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition and add shine.  Other people have talked about the chemistry behind this... I don't understand it, but I thought I'd try it.  I do know you're not supposed to wash as often, which means your hair doesn't over-produce oils, which means you don't have to wash as often... There are also all kinds of fancy but "natural" things you can do, like adding honey to the rinse or giving your hair a "mask" involving eggs, but I thought I'd stop at vinegar.  I like my food on my plate, not my hair!

Anyway, I did the first such wash last Wednesday evening.  I was really impressed with the results: my hair felt clean, and didn't smell weird -- in fact, it smelled clean.  Also, no added scents, which is nice since I tend to get scent-related headaches a lot.  It stayed clean for several days, also.  Saturday it started feeling a little grungy and by Sunday evening it was definitely oily and getting itchy.

This is about par for the course for my hair.  I haven't washed it every day since my freshman year of college - it's usually every other or every third day, but I've been known to go longer.  Wednesday night to Monday morning is on the long end, though, for sure!  I washed again today - same method - with slightly less pleasing results.  My hair is clean, I think, but it feels heavier and smells a little "hairier", if that makes sense.  Not unpleasant, but there.  It does seem to have a little more body than usual, though, which is another alleged side effect of this method.

(One seems to have to describe one's hair in order to blog about this properly.  So - mine is about midway down my back, naturally very straight, not keen to hold a curl, fairly thick but with very fine individual strands.  Inclined to be fly-away and slightly frizzy, especially in humidity. I probably should have taken "before" pictures, which most of the people who have blogged about this have done, but I didn't.  But you've all seen my hair before.)

I'll probably keep doing this for a while, partly because it certainly doesn't seem to be hurting my hair, and partly because I'm too cheap to buy shampoo ;-P  I'll report back later, whether I end up liking it or not!

Friday, 13 January 2012


I sometimes have the uncomfortable suspicion that Conrad is a bully.

But you would never know to look at him.
Take this morning for example.  We woke up and stumbled downstairs, me to the bathroom, the cat to see whether the master bedroom (and therefore the food which he enjoys stealing) were open and available.  They were not, and this seems to have put him in a bad temper.

I was in the kitchen making tea when my landlords' cat knocked to come inside.  (Well, squeaked, really.  He rubs his paws on the glass door, and if it's been wet outside he gets a sort of squeegee effect.)  I went to let him in, but as I was pulling the door open, Conrad appeared out of nowhere and tried to pounce.

I shut the door again.  I don't want Conrad getting outside, or either of them fighting.  These two have never gotten along very well, and I didn't want to push it.  So I distracted my cat and tried again to let Kitty in.  Again Conrad tried to attack.  He hissed this time, too.

Three more attempts having the same result, I finally shut the door, leaving KB outside.  Conrad flounced off, triumphant, and I returned to my tea.

A moment later the squeegee noise started again.  KB had taken himself around the house and was now knocking at the back door.  I opened to him and he trotted in, looking extremely please with himself, and sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor to clean his paws.  Just then Conrad came round the corner, and stopped dead, apparently astonished to find his rival back in the house.  There was a little bit of surly grumbling from both of them, but they appear to have made peace for now.

Why can't they all get along?

Pretty cat!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Music for a New Semester

The spring semester starts today!  It's grey and soggy, but not nearly as cold as a day in January ought to be.  I want some snow to brighten things up!

I thought I'd share with you a musical group which I just discovered.  They're called The Staves and they are three sisters from England.  I'm not really sure how to classify their music -- definitely influenced by folk music, but that's not all they sing.  Their voices are lovely and their harmonies are incredible.

I'm going to try to make this semester as sweet and smooth as their harmonies!

So far the day has not been auspicious.  I woke up late, tripped and fell sprawling trying to cross my own bedroom, and just now Conrad presented me with a hairball, which I suppose I need to clean up out of the carpet.  Here's hoping the rest of the day - and the year - are better than this!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Random on a Wednesday

1.  I had to go to traffic court this morning.  (For speeding.  I was guilty, in case you wonder.)

2.  I took knitting, as I figured I might be there a while.

3.  I was there a while.

4.  They wouldn't let me knit.

5.  This made my morning considerably less productive and less tolerable than it could otherwise have been.

6.  So when the judge (I think he was a judge, everyone called him "Your Honour") completely mispronounced my first name, I was perhaps a little less tolerant than I could have been.

7.  At least I only got sent to traffic school.

8.  I bought "All Wound Up" by Steph Pearl-McPhee (otherwise known as The Yarn Harlot) to cheer myself up.

9.  It worked.

10.  I also bought a little calendar-book in which to record all the books I read (and possibly movies I watch) this year.  I used to keep lists when I was younger and it's so interesting to look back and see what phase of reading I was in.  I've finished four books already since the 1st.

11.  My collection of 70% off rescue amaryllises has grown to three.  Two Red Lions and a Minerva.  I'll put pictures up when they start blooming!

12.  I really wish I could show you my current knitting project because I'm a little in love with it.  But it's secret test-knitting so I can't.  Sorry.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Vests for Kate

One of the things I did while I was home last week was finish up two vests for my sister.  They were last year's Christmas gift, so they're woefully overdue her.  I've had the main construction done since January -- all they needed were buttons and buttonholes (and Mum's machine does automatic buttonholes, which is why I waited and brought them home.  Mine ceased working zig-zag stitches a long time ago, so it just sits there quietly chewing up your fabric.)

Buttons from the home stash.
Well, and they needed a little alteration, too.  She changed shape since last year!  Fortunately this summer I'd had her try them on, so I knew the maroon one needed taking in at the sides and the green needed extra room in the bustline.  We did another fitting last week, just to tweak things.

Don't ask me why they needed such different alterations - they were supposedly the same size with the same finished measurements.  But whatever.

I think if you look really, really closely you can see the triangular piece I inserted in the side seam under the armhole...

Anyway, I finished them up about 1 o'clock the morning I had to leave, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out!  I got pictures from home yesterday so now I can blog about them.  Kate says the green one is her favourite and I think I agree :-)  There is also a skirt which matches the green vest, but I could not for the life of me find the zip for it so I left it unfinished.  My sister is capable of inserting her own zippers ;-P

She's also getting awfully grown up!

I'm also going to take this opportunity to brag on Kate a little bit -- look what she just finished knitting!  I think it turned out gorgeous!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Socks for Me

Over Christmas break I finally got a chance to knit something for myself!  I've been so busy with things for the shop that I haven't made myself anything in quite a while.  So I decided my first Christmas project would be socks for myself :-)

I've had this yarn kicking around for about a year.  It's KnitPicks undyed sock yarn, which I dyed with RIT dye.  I think it was just "purple" and nothing else but I can't remember.  It's been a year!

Mittens in background by my mum.  Also, this is what happens when you let your sister who is a dancer take pictures of socks - she badgers you into ballet positions.  I think this is "fifth relevĂ©" but you would have to ask Kate!

For a change I used someone else's pattern, too.  It's Zokni by "mintyfresh" on Ravelry.  This is the first time I've done a short-rows heel and I can't quite decide if I like it.  It fits well and looks good, but it seems a little... flimsy?  I don't know.

The lace pattern drove me crazy.  I usually memorise charts after just a few repeats but it took me a sock and a half to get this one completely memorised!  Weird.  But it's really pretty and I like the way it looks, so I guess it's worth it.

They only took me four days, start to finish.  I began the first one on the airplane, Christmas Sunday morning, and worked in the last end on Wednesday afternoon.  Of course this was a holiday week so I had lots of time to sit around knitting while I talked with family (or sat in the car while we drove somewhere!)

I've finished one other project but it's a gift and I don't want to blog it until it's gone to its recipient!  So maybe I'll talk about something other than knitting for the next few days ;-)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Knitting on a Jet Plane

It does happen.

It's even, well, allowed.  On this morning's flight to Charlotte, I was seated next to an overly-perfumed and made-up woman and her teenage daughter (ditto).  They slept most of the flight.  I sewed buttons onto a baby sweater and knitted.  As we were making ready to land, I got out my bag and began stowing the knitting away.  This involved shifting everything in my bag.  As I was rearranging the sack of clementines and shoving in the knitting, the woman gestured to my bag and said "I can't believe they let you carry those on board!" in shocked tones.  

I thought she was referring to the fruit, so I told her, no, food was allowed as long as it wasn't packed in water.

"Oh, no," she said, "I meant those!" and pointed to my knitting needles.  (They were aluminum straights, but they're size fives.  Not miniscule by any means.)

No, I said, they're perfectly legal.

"But it would be so easy to..." She made a motion as if to stab someone.

Well, I said, you'd probably actually do more damage with a sharpened pencil.  Or a toothpick.  Security is fine with it, I said.  (Besides, I thought, anyone who takes the trouble to knit lace is not going to risk ruining it by doing something ridiculous like stabbing another passenger!)

She turned away with a sigh and a shake of her head, and said nothing more to me.  I shook my head, too.  I sew buttons on baby sweaters and I knit lace.  Clearly I'm a hardened criminal who oughtn't to be allowed to have even semi-sharp objects.

Look.  Lace and non-dangerous needles!
Hopefully my seat-mates on the next flight will be more enlightened.  But even if they're not, I'm going to knit anyway.  And then I'm going to drive home and hug my cat!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Dress

(I had a strong urge to title this post "Did you see my party dress?" but then I thought better of it...)

I didn't end up wearing this dress for Christmas Eve (though it was nearly finished in time) as I thought it was a little too dressy for church services.  But it did make its appearance at the New Year's Eve party we attended at our friends' house.  It was a little too dressy for that as well, but oh well!
Pattern: McCall's 6027, view B but without the skirt godets.  Fabric: white poly "lining" fabric, lined with a white-on-white figured calico.  Black lace trim.
The size I cut out was enormous on me.  So I took in a lot of the seams, but didn't measure exactly and didn't try on again.  As a result it's a tiny bit snug on me.  But since I'm supposed to be trying to slim a bit that should get better quickly, and in the meantime it works fine.  I wore it with a scarf last night, partly to hide the tugging and partly for a splash of colour.
I love the tiny sleeves!
I did have wine but the liquid in the glass here is actually Coke ;-)
The skirt is full and twirly.  It hit me just at the knees, so the dress feels a bit retro and definitely still modest, but it's short enough to not look out of place with modern clothes, either.  The lace is whipstitched to the hem of the underskirt.
Last night I wore this with my red pashmina scarf, the belt from this summer's silk bridesmaid dress, a 5-strand necklace, and black lace tights.  I think it would be fun with a red belt or sash, as well!

I'm really pleased with how this dress came out -- it's almost exactly as I'd imagined it.  I can see this being a go-to party dress for many seasons to come.