Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Just Can't Quit You

A box arrived yesterday. When I opened it, one face was smiling up at me.

Not just one face - many faces but all the same face. Vanna. I just can't shake our love, baby. Just when I think it's finally over for good, you come on back to me.

It all feels so familiar somehow.

And yet, brand new.

Friday, July 29, 2011

True Confessions

True Confession #1: I didn't make any squares yesterday. At all.

True Confession #2: I love pink and white, frilly yarns. Somewhere a princess still lurks within.

True Confession #3: Once my drum carder was out, I sort of, kind of couldn't stop making batts. See TC#1.

True Confession #4: When I went to collect the kids from Shawn's house on Wednesday evening after camp, she was spinning up a batt that drew my eyes like flies to honey. Maybe it was all that pink acrylic, maybe the Phentex fumes went to my head, or maybe I just wanted to delight in the lovely, playful colours. Whatever it was, by the third skein of yarn yesterday, I decided to copy Shawn's yarn from memory.

True Confession #5: I do believe that imitation is a high form of flattery.

ETA: Here is the actual skein that Shawn was making....clearly I remembered much more yellow in there!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two Steps Forward...

In between the square production, I have a couple of other things I need to be making. The enormity of the square project has made me feel guilty whenever I even consider setting down my crochet hook and taking up anything else. But somehow these other things refused to be made without my attending to them. So this morning I brought up my drum carder and my box of fleece (she says as if she has only one box of fleece) and I set to work carding some batts so I can finally finish off my order for Molly Made in Woody Point. Tourist season is threatening to be over before I even get my yarn over there!

Molly, ever so kindly, asked for ten skeins. I had seven skeins sitting around my living room, so it really was only a task of making three more and Woody Point, here we come.

As a was preparing my materials, the phone rang and it was a woman at the Deer Lake visitor centre calling. Did I make yarn? Yeeesss...? There was someone there who wanted to come and visit. After explaining that my inventory was small at the moment and giving probably the worst directions ever (", in Gillams across the brook..." as if that means anything to anyone outside of Gillams..!), the cheerful voice on the other end replied she would see me soon.

I wasn't so sure. With those directions, they would be driving around the North Shore for days before they found me. I went back to my skein down, two to go.

I was so very fortunately wrong in my prediction, however! Michele and her husband, Thomas, have been driving around Newfoundland for two weeks, seeing sights and visiting yarn shops. Here and there they encountered my yarns and Michele decided she would try to find me. She runs her own yarn shop outside of Ottawa and she is very interested in local yarns. Thomas, to his great credit, seemed very content to spend time looking at yarn although he did confess that he didn't really like to knit himself.

Long story short: I began the day three skeins down and by midday, I was five skeins down. I am back to my original position but with a delightful new knitting acquaintance who even keeps a bilingual blog here. And here is the pattern for an Izzy doll - a project Michele and her yarn store are promoting. Read all about it and then go visit her next time you are in Ottawa!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Purple beans

Blue potatoes

Pink and red squares

Orange in process

Monday, July 25, 2011

Even Newfoundland Has A Summer Day Once in A While

Yesterday morning, we awoke to discover that it was about 10C/50F, windy and rainy. Once again this summer, we were lighting the woodstove and wondering if July had become March or October or we had been transported to the southern hemisphere or what. I know my New York friends, indeed, most people in North America, have been melting in record-breaking heat. Here in Newfoundland, we are having one of the coldest summers in 30 years. I am not complaining, mind you! Just acknowledging that there are extremes in both directions.

When the sun finally came out in the late afternoon, it was impossible to stay inside. It reminded me that despite the amount of work I need to accomplish, summertime is a time to step outside of routine, soak up some sun and fall in love with your place.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stitch 'n Pitch

There are few things I like better than events with a 'n in the title. Maybe events with L'il might be better but I'm not so sure.

In any case, the 2011 official Stitch 'n Pitch at Citifield - home to the New York Mets - will take place on September 13th. Last year, crocheters set a Guiness Book of World Records record for the most crocheters in one place crocheting for 15 minutes. Rumour has it that there are goody bags and other fun with needles kinds of things that go on there. I must admit that I have never attended a Stitch 'n Pitch despite living about 20 minutes from Citifield. Cough, cough Red Sox fan cough, cough.

As you may have guessed, I snagged this image from the Lion Brand Yarns Studio website.

This year, however, may be different. The organizer of Stitch 'n Pitch is the TNNA (The National Needlearts Association). They are kind of like lobbyists for knitters and crocheters, I guess. A representative from there got in touch with me about creating a piece as part of the event (the hand of Lion Brand Yarns was behind this you can be sure). It isn't a huge piece but I have been told that it might end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame, possibly. How could I say no? As Finn pointed out, more people go there than to probably every art museum. Well, maybe not, but still it would be fun to have those kind of bragging rights.

A box of yarn is on its way to Newfoundland so that I might get started. It will be a nice break from the squares, you know. At the moment, I am mostly grateful that pink is NOT one of the Mets colours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There is a famous Zen koan that has at its heart the phrase, "Everyday is a good day."

Yesterday, not so much.

As I struggled to find some ground to stand on, I felt the need for a stronger balm than what crocheting pink acrylic yarn could offer me. I know, crazy talk, right?

But you see, I was sorely tempted away from the pink acrylic by this:

Handspun yarn from Widdershin Woolworks. I should say, handspun yarn from Widdershins that was on sale. Sale yarn!

Oh, and also this.

It makes a girl want to throw the pink acrylic in the bay and never look back. But that wouldn't be very fair to the fish.

I fondled the yarn, dreamed up projects, considered which fleece I would spin first, how I might spin it, and which wheel I would use. Then I took it outside and photographed it and admired how it looked in the afternoon sun.

Alas, I realized that if I started on a healing project of beautiful wool, I would not want to put it down. Even from the depths of hurt and anger, I knew that my little holiday of self-pity could only be allowed to last 24 hours. Also that the rabbit hole that is Widdershins is most definitely not a 24-hour affair.

More sensible minds prevailed. That is to say, I gave my darlings a little squeeze and gently put them back in the basket.

Maybe today I will finish with the pink. Because, you know, everyday is a good day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cheongju Avenue of Trees

Thank you to everyone who has offered to contribute to this project! We're gonna make it after all (cue the Mary Tyler Moore music)! Ok, it might be a little too early to be tossing my hat in the air but I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response I have received.

Several people have asked for more specifics about what to do, so I thought I would use this space as the HQ for instructions. A note about my instructions - they are guidelines more than actual instructions. I have only two things that I really feel strongly about: that the square be 50 cm/20 inches and that it be of a single colour. The rest is really up to you.

To knit a square:

Using worsted weight wool and size 10US/6mm needles, cast on 62 sts. Work in garter stitch (knit every row) until piece measures 50 cm/20". Please check your gauge! You may need to change needle size or # of stitches to get the correct measurement.

To crochet a square:

Using worsted weight yarn and a G/4.5mm hook, chain 68, turn. Using single, double, triple, or any variations of those, proceed to crochet until piece measures 50 cm/20". Please check the gauge! I tend to crochet very loosely, so you may need to chain more stitches at the start.

If you want to make a surface pattern on the square, by all means do so! These patterns are for the most basic square - you can improvise as you desire. Only, please use a single colour, although variations within that colour are ok i.e. a darker and lighter version together.

Deadline: September 3rd.

If you need to mail to me, please email me and I will send you my address.

A million, zillion thanks!

To get you feeling inspired, here is a photograph of the Avenue of Trees in Cheongju:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

1498 to go

After my last post, I received a comment from Patti, " you need knitters/crocheters for this project yet? Let me know if I can lend my aid!"

I loved that little "yet" that she tacked on the end of the sentence. She knows me all too well, does Patti. For she is Patti of the 1250 granny squares made for one project. Patti of the I-will-run-towards-your-craziness -and-walk-side-by-side-with-you-in-it. Patti of the pure fact that I couldn't have done many of my projects without you. Thank you Patti! Thank you for all your past efforts and especially thank you for offering, once again, to engage in the mania. I don't know if I can truly express how much all of that means to me.

And since you asked...

1500 is such a lovely round number. It just rolls off the tongue - fifteen hundred. The physical reality of that 1500 is another thing altogether. Indeed, I felt the need to very specifically discuss what 1500 pieces of needlework would look like to my Korean sponsors - how much yarn it will take, how large such a number is when translated into 50cm squares. It's freaking huge.

But la la la, I am working my way through the pinks at the moment. I have been promised a lot of help on the Cheongju end of things but I don't know how that will really play out. These things are always like diving off a platform into darkness. Will a cool lake be waiting to catch me in a delicious, revitalizing splash? Or will it be a cement floor?

Anyway, I am loving those pinks with their vintage labels. Acrylic be damned! Gratitude can overcome fibre snobbery.

But, should you (like Patti) wish to contribute to this project, here is some information about the project and how you can be a part of it.

The project will be installed along what is called The Avenue of Trees - a 5 km long avenue lined with London Plane trees (oddly enough, the very same tree that dominates our neighborhood in Queens). I will be installing squares of colour on each of the approx. 1500 trees that line the roadway to create a kind of rhythmic effect of slowly transitioning colour - think colour for music. Since the roadway really only accommodates cars, the piece needs to work at driving speed.

To that end, I am making single colour 50 cm (20 inch) squares that will be wrapped and tied to the trees for the duration of the Biennale. The coloured squares will be organized on site to create the patterns and transitions. Any colour can be used but the square needs to be one colour or stay in close range of tones in one colour. You can use crochet or knitting in any stitch and you can use any yarn you want: wool, acrylic, whatever. The only real guidelines are that it must be 50 cm/ 20" square and it must be one colour. I don't have a pattern yet - I have just been making very large granny squares, but I will soon for those that need it. Let me know if you need one.

I also don't have a specific deadline yet, but I will definitely need all the squares by the second week of September. To be in touch with me with questions, patterns and/or my mailing address, email me at thehousemuseum(at)

Dig out your old scraps of leftover yarn and make a square for Cheongju!

And, thanks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three Bags Full of Love

As best I can tell, the word seems to be that the project to create a site-specific piece for the Cheongju Biennale is on. It is an ambitious project involving 1500 trees along 5 km of roadway leading from a main highway to the city center where the Biennale will be held.

The organizers first proposed a kind of yarnbomb project. I was not so interested in this idea but I was very interested in the idea of going to Korea. So we have been working on a compromise project - something with enough visual punch to make the organizers happy and one that moves beyond yarnbombing to have a little more specific meaning to make me happy. I think we found our compromise and so it comes to be that I collected three large bags of yarn from a friend yesterday. Her neighbor, a knitter, died this spring and her children were clearing out the house, including her large stash of yarn.

A cautionary tale for those of you who have achieved SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy)? Perhaps.

Would the knitter be happy to know her dear collection of yarn will find its way into an art project in Korea? There is no way to know. As I sorted the yarn (it is almost entirely acrylic, some of quite a mature vintage), I felt like I was reliving the creation of many baby sweaters, Christmas projects and lots and lots of mitts and socks. All this yarn that passed through her busy hands. May I put as much love and care into this project.

I am very grateful to have inherited this collection of yarn because, well, I'm gonna need it!

Yesterday evening, colours of a less petroleum-based nature were in evidence.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

As the Tail Spins

My etsy shop is filling up. Always out of season, but there you go. Perfect for those New Zealand winters!

Villtur II, sort of tailspun icelandic wool, plied with a thin single of Shetland. 25 yds.

Iceland, more of the same Icelandic fleece, this time carded a little. 106 yds.

And, at last, some work on the kimono. The math is done, let the cutting begin!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time Swiftly Passes By

After the big hike last weekend, we went back to our friends' cabin and had supper with them and a whole passel of children, from the not-yet born (one woman was pregnant) to a 10 week-old all the way up to my own 14 year-old. Naturally, I reflected on when I was pregnant and then had newborn babies, then active toddlers who meant that I spent social gatherings running around like one other mother was this weekend, never a moment to actually socialize. Now, I have the luxury of a finished conversation and sitting down for a meal.

I am not sure I fully appreciated all those stages. I do miss my little babies. The active toddlers, well, sometimes impermanence has its benefits.

Today, Lucy was out the door at 7:55 am to go to her first real job. She is babysitting our neighbor's daughter for the next two weeks.

Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Even if it is an opportunity to paste cut outs from Vogue Magazine on your face.

This is for Martie in New Mexico - a photo from yesterday's rainstorm. I always knew there was some kind of synchronicity between New Mexico and Newfoundland!

Monday, July 11, 2011

First You Go Up, Then You Go Down

This weekend, we took a hike to the top of Blomidon Head. It is four km up the mountain and then four km back down.

Here is a Pitcher Plant. So obviously a meat eater compared to the delicate vegan Lady Slipper in McIvers. Blood red, thick petals, leaves tucked down into the earth as steady and sturdy as a lumberjack. No glass slippers and carriages and going to the ball where a prince will kiss your hand. Not for this one. Insects beware!

It isn't a landscape for slippers. It is a landscape for reliable boots and shoes that can transport you to this neverland of glacial action writ large.

Amazingly, that is Wee Ball on the left. It looks so tiny yet it is just 12 km off shore here. Somehow it looks larger from the beach in Gillams where it is easily three times further away. How is that possible?

A mature alder tree at the top, growing horizontally because of the wind. They stretched their branches out across the top of the mountain like lace.

Blomidon Head
by John Steffler

In the evening, in every season and weather, Mount
Blomidon's bronze head floats over the valley
and Arm, wearing a smile that is not one
we can understand - more a pleased stasis that looks
to us like a smile because in spite of cold or heat
or helicopters or prospector's stakes or
funeral processions along Route 406 it never
changes. It looms serene black-purple, black-green
in the dark, and the houses ring its base like flickering
candles. But once when I was in its presence alone
it played a tiny piano and looked sideways at me
uncertainly to see if I enjoyed the tune. And
another time it said in a small girl's voice, "The wind
kept me awake all night. Hold my feet, please, squeeze
them hard and my ankles." And a vole I had glimpsed
scuttling under the blueberry leaves then startled me
with a laugh that was like a snowplow's blade
shaking the road. "I have eaten cities in Azerbaijan
and Peru but you will never find their foundations,
I have crossed glaciers and slept through fires
that left nothing but black nutshells and bones."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random Images for a Rainy Sunday

After a week of glorious summer weather, it is cold and rainy again. I welcome this little break. It is an opportunity to catch up and catch our breath. Summer is wonderful, beautiful with its long, long days full of activity but I appreciate a day of rest too.

Today seems like a good day to share some pictures that have been lingering on my desktop...

A shot of our dyeing workshop, nearing the end of the day when the racks were filled with colour. Whoever believes that natural dyes only produce pale, muted colours can suck on this! Or, if that seems a bit harsh, they can look at this photo and observe how we were able to achieve vibrant, bright hues using only natural materials. (Photo by Anne Pinsent)

Mr. Toad agrees. Colette found him on the road and was moving him to a safer spot when we realized he was the exact colour of our onion and alder dyed wools. We had quite the photo shoot - prompting someone to say that even a toad can have his 15 minutes of fame. So it is in the modern it is. (Photo by Anne Pinsent)

Here I am doing a drum carder demo amidst piles of our freshly dyed (and dried) wool. (Photo by Anne Pinsent)

Our rock pile, I mean, garden. Everything is planted and our greens, peas and beans have already begun to break through. It is a miracle every, single time.

The slanting sunlight of a late summer's evening. Wonderful, beautiful summer.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Those Who Wander

Chief among my strategies to get Finn off the couch, away from the screen and into the world, is to cajole him into taking hikes with me. Yesterday, we went to a trail that we have only hiked once before in McIvers. The first time, it was part of an art performance so we were with a lot of other people and the weather was moist, to say the least. Yesterday, it was still a bit grey but we were mostly dry.

We came across a little patch of these plants. I misidentified them as Pitcher Plants (our provincial plant) but later I was corrected by a friend with better botanical knowledge. They are Lady Slipper plants. For some reason, Lady Slipper loom large in my childhood. Year after year in school, I was told about how they were almost extinct and that no one should ever, under any circumstance, pick one. I was almost frightened of them, as if their allure would overwhelm me, should I ever actually lay eyes on one, and I would be unable to resist the urge to pluck it from the forest floor. So maybe it was a good thing I thought it was a Pitcher Plant (also endangered, by the way - don't pick those either!). I took only pictures and left only footprints or memories or whatever that saying is.

We made it to the high point of the trail and this time we could see what everyone comes to see: a magnificent view of the Bay of Islands, including the enigmatic Wee Ball looming behind Woods Island.

This sign was posted in case you had any doubts about what you were supposed to be doing.

The sign is actually posted in an odd place so that you can't see it as you approach, so I made a special trip to read what it said. When I told Finn, he asked me if it had an exclamation point. could have more dangerous connotations.

We shared the trail with someone else or perhaps even two someone elses. At one point there is a wooden staircase conveniently built for us humans to get up a steep slope. The staircase is fairly well enclosed by brush on both sides so Finn and I wondered if the moose used it as well. Finn suggested a webcam to keep track and we both agreed that we would pay money to see a moose go up and down a staircase.

ETA: I totally forgot to post the photograph of the yarn that got me started on this post. Here is my latest yarn, Lady Slipper. I think it is just about the gosh darnedest prettiest skein of yarn that I have made in a good long while.

78 yds, merino, silk, mohair locks, snippets of commercial yarns and angelina. Check it out in my esty shop named after the enigmatic Wee Ball (the link is over there on the right).