Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Shop your stash

Shopping your stash seems to be a big thing in knitting (and spinning - more on that later) this year, and I think it’s fabulous!

Shopping your stash is the crafter’s equivalent of the general societal move towards minimalism and reducing commercialism. This concept encourages you to use what is otherwise sitting around rather than purchasing new project-specific yarn. 

Many of us have the tendency to purchase one skein of hand-dyed yarn at a time as we discover new dyers and colourways. Often this isn’t enough to make anything more than a hat or cowl. We also (or at least I do) tend to gravitate towards the same same colour families, so we then have numerous single skeins of not-quite-but-almost the same colourways. And do we really need four not-quite-but-almost the same hats/cowls/shawlettes?

Luckily, there has been a trend in knitting design to boldly blend these single skeins in previously unconsidered combinations into larger projects such as sweaters and full size shawls. Andrea Mowry’s “Fade” designs come to mind. 

So, if you suffer from Single Skein Syndrome as I do, head over to Ravelry and take a look at the bold new ideas there (some good search terms are “fade” and “colour melting”).

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Spinning 'Til I'm Dizzy

That's what the manhunk says whenever I tell him I'm going to sit down and spin a bit. I just started spinning this year, and one of the problems I saw with my equipment was that it wasn't....pretty enough! Especially the orifice hook that came with my wheel. It was just a bent piece of metal. No fun. So The manhunk took a piece of metal something or other from the garage, fashioned one end into a hook, I blinged up the other end, and voila! A pretty hook. It has silver roses and pink purls (Roses & Purls, get it?) and I love it. So we collaborated on a couple more prototypes, and I've listed them in the shop:

I have beads to try out a couple more designs, once this pesky university thing gets out of my way!

I've also been enjoying spinning some beautiful batts that I purchased on Etsy, which has me itching to try making some of my own. I love the ones that come in little "nuggets;" they're easy to divide and also they help me moderate how much spinning I do in one sitting (several car-accident related upper body injuries + 1 wrestling injury + getting *ahem* older = unhappy shoulders and neck when spinning!).

So I've ordered some lovely bits and bobbles of fibre and will head to the LYS this week to pick up some fibre to dye. Now if I can just convince the manhunk to build me a hackle.....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Oh Deer

Well, things are still crazy around here; I've been writing 2000+ word essays every weekend in an attempt to finish my qualifications upgrading, which hasn't left me much time for anything else. However, last weekend I had a stroke of inspiration and started designing some new stitch markers in my beautiful idea journal.

I went through several versions of the design and lists of parts needed, but didn't have time to put them into action. Then yesterday on the way to work I was unfortunate enough to hit a deer on one of our back country roads. All three of us (me, the deer, and the car) suffered damages, and though it was certainly not how I wanted to start my Friday it did give me some more time to work on my plans. By the end of the night I had prototypes made up, and was finally able to post them in the shop today.

I've loved Tolkien's work since I was a small child; The Hobbit was the first book my Dad and I read together. My favourite characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and thoughts of them were what started the idea for these stitch markers. I wanted to capture the rich emerald green of Goldberry's dress and the golden curls of her hair, as well as the earthiness but otherwordliness of Tom. From there I thought of Galadriel and Arwen, ethereal, beautiful, and delicate and they seemed naturals to represent through beadwork. Lastly I made a set to symbolize Legolas, one of my favourite characters in the film adaptation.

It feels good to have some fresh ideas up in the shop, I have some larger sewing designs I've been working on but progress has been stalled due to the course work which has been frustrating. What I love about the stitch markers is that they are small and quick to make, and I can spend time with the hubby while working on them (he paints fishing lures at the dining table while I'm making my markers). In fact, I also designed a cheeky set of stitch markers with that in mind.

Also this week I finally found the perfect craft fair to start vending live at. The Hazelwood Centre Fall Harvest Craft Fair takes place Sunday, September 9th and is a manageable 4 hour, 1 day event in a beautiful setting. It draws a good amount of traffic, but won't be overly busy, which is perfect. I've been drafting lists of what I'll bring (I need the right balance between the ability to produce the items in bulk in a reasonable amount of time with good value added, and to choose things that will be easily portable). I'll be bringing stitch markers, sari scarves, and a new item which is silk flower pins.

Hopefully in another month, I will be able to finish up my new designs, and blog the progress. Happy knitting!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

All Quiet on the Homefront

Well, it's been awhile since I last wrote; I've been busy with my history courses, and hubby was in the hospital for a week. All seems to be going well now, so hopefully I'll get caught up on some of the work I've missed.

I've been doing some more spinning; I abandoned my cheap-o spindle which didn't spin very long, was not heavy enough, lacked a notch, and had too short a shaft. I ordered a Golding Tsunami and I love it. I don't have any of the issues I had with the junk spindle. Right now I'm spinning through some Masham for an Expand Your Horizons spin-along. I spun up about 100g and am in the midst of plying; the fibre is very hairy so I don't think I'd work with it again but it drafted beautifully. I'm working on putting some more overspin in my singles to avoid the un-spinning that was happening before. I also had to go back to park and draft to deal with the slippery fibre, but it wasn't so bad.
To help me along I purchased some e-books and downloaded the Kobo e-reader; I bought the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, the Knitter's Book of Wool, and Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. I like the e-reader so far (especially the search option) but some some things tricky - like finding specific pages by page number as they're numbered in sections, not by the whole book. I also purchased Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning in a paper copy and have been working my way through it. Next on the spindle after I ply off the Masham will be some Polwarth as I have not tried that fibre yet.

I've also purchased a ridiculous amount of fibre of varying types; I appear to have a new addiction.  I ordered more BFL blends and Falkland as well as some more exotic breeds like Black Welsh Mountain, Black Jacob, Grey Jacob, and some batts (I got a sample with my Golding and loved it).
Here are the etsy shops I've been frequenting:

Unwind Yarn Company
Inglenook Fibers
Edgewood Garden Studio
Hilltop Cloud

On the homefront the hubby and I are on a new food regime to help alleviate the health issues that put him in the hospital, and I've been feeling much better myself and have lost some weight. We've been looking for a new (larger) home, but the real estate market here is tight. We watched Off the Grid
together last night (available at and I just picked up  Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. It's really making me want to find a place where we can live simply and inexpensively, and pursue the things we truly enjoy, rather than working just to pay for a house. I bought the book at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN  where we went for a daytrip yesterday. I grabbed a catalogue of their course offerings and look forward to trying something new this summer. While we were there I also found a great little guide to making custom home-made mukluks adn will be trying that out this summer.

Knitting-wise I'm still slogging through the Lady Kina sweater and the Milk Run Shawl, but I'm getting closer to the end. I'll be casting on a new sweater soon for the spring term of the HPKCHC. I'd also like to find some time to sew; I bought some new fabric for knitting project bags and some welding hats for the hubby, and have some items I'd like to add to the Etsy shop.

And lastly, I have to gush about the new product I tried this month; I purchased Skin's Shangri-La from my local Lush store and can't say enough about it. My skin has not been liking this change in seasons and the cream is doing wonders for my face. I also found out that I can order my favourite sunscreen from the British Lush and have it shipped (I was so sad when it was discontinued here!) Apparently was used to be called Ultralight here is called British Nanny there, so I will be having some sent my way! (I had ordered some Ladival from Germany which I haven't tried yet, trying to find something to replace my Ultralight with).

I'll update soon with pics of the roving, spindle, and WIP's. Back to the homework for now.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New Year's Resolutions

My crafting goals for 2012 are laid out below; I'll follow up on December 31 with the personal projects I've accomplished, and post my business-related accomplishments as they happen.

Personal  goals:

4 knit hats
1 knit infinity scarf
1 copycat of the Duchess of Cambridge’s green shopping shawl
5 Sweaters
1 pair Felted boots
At least one pair of socks
Several aprons and welding beanies for gifts

WIPs to finish: 2 Falling Snow Christmas stockings, and the sweater my grandmother began over 20 years ago, to go to my nephew.

 Business goals: I’d like to have my products in 2 local retailers by the end of the year, and I will do one Christmas craft fair.

Here's to a successful 2012!

Saturday, 26 November 2011


I set out this morning, in the midst of our first snowstorm of the year, to meet a friend for some shopping and lunch. I was the first one to brave my sideroad; there was untouched snow until I came to the first concession that meets our dead end. Here a set of tracks came out, and I followed them. I passed a driveway and another car pulled out, following my tracks. As I drove home, I passed a neighbour who was plowing the road with his own truck, as the municipal plow had not made it this far yet. Another neighbour was doing the same with his snowblower. It reminded me how important community is, and how much it benefits the whole when we all do our bit. As I shopped the small, independent merchants and handcrafters this morning, I felt the same sentiment. It is so important, in this age of box stores and mass commercialism, to support our local shops. Particularly for those in the handcraft business, it is important for us to support each other. Whether it’s shopping at the local cooperative, spreading the news about a local crafter, or joining a local Circle on etsy, we are supporting our own industry when we shop local and buy hand-made. Now as I sit in front of a cozy fire, the kettle is on the woodstove and I’m boiling water to make 40 Below Tea from the Boreal Forest Teas here in Thunder Bay ( I have a million new ideas in my mind (which I’m sketching in my gorgeous new leather notebook from The Fairy Garden, and just need the time (and a good cleanout of the sewing room) to put into place.

I’ve ordered more vintage silk saris for my infinity scarves, and need to get sewing. That is the plan for tomorrow when it is daylight.  I’m looking at images of Victorian Caroling Capelets and thinking this would make a wonderful winter accessory here in the north, an extra layer of warmth that doesn’t have a gap between hood and scarf for the cold, snow and wind to slither into.  For these and the matching armwarmers I’d like to make I’m looking at traditional Scandinavian and particularly Sami designs, I’m thinking the images of the hardy northerners in Lappi are a good inspiration for those of us here in Canada.

On another note, my Jordana Paige L.J. Kaelms bag came in, which will help me stay organized and make my knitting more portable!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Off topic: recipe share

Murillo Hotpot

This is based on a combination of a variety of recipes for Lancashire hotpot. According to my students’ favourite information source, Wikipedia, Lancashire hotpot is “a dish made traditionally from lamb or mutton and onion, topped with sliced potatoes, left to bake in the oven all day in a heavy pot and on a low heat. Originating in the days of heavy industrialisation in Lancashire in the North West of England, it requires a minimum of effort to prepare. It is sometimes served at parties in England, because it is easy to prepare for a large number of people and is relatively inexpensive.”

Well, I’d like to argue on two points . One, it took a fair bit of effort to prepare, seeing as how we Canadians don’t have a variety of fresh, let alone frozen, lamb or mutton to choose from, and so it was quite the task to prepare the meat. I had a 1.5 kg frozen shoulder roast, which I thawed, trimmed the excess fat from, then cubed. If I can’t find lamb or mutton stew meat next time, I may have to get creative -  either make meatballs from ground lamb or use chops and perhaps just pop them in whole, then eat them off the bone when it’s finished cooking. The second point, which is related, is regarding the cost. In the UK (at least where we stayed in Wales a few summers ago), lamb costs about half the price that we pay here, even with the exchange rate. I paid just under $30 for my roast at the local grocery store. However I love lamb, and don’t eat it very often, so it was worth it in my opinion. You could probably also use beef or even deer or moose (hmmm. And add mushrooms....) Also, despite the poor quality of the meat (I tasted it after the panfry stage and was sure the whole casserole would be a write-off), the slow cooking process made it melt-in-the-mouth tender, rather than the chewy mess it was at first.


-about 1kg of lamb or mutton (after it has been trimmed of excess fat) cut into small cubes

-1 large carrot, 1 large rib celery, 1 large parsnip, ½ large Swede (or 1 small turnip), prepped and diced

-3 onions diced or sliced (I only had ½ onion, so I also added 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only)

-about 2 tbsp flour

-2 dried bay leaves

-2 springs fresh thyme or about ¼ tsp dried

-3 large potatoes, sliced about 1cm thick

-EVOO and butter

-salt and pepper to taste

To save time, and because I have no prep space near the woodstove, I started the recipe on the electric stovetop. I added some extra virgin olive oil to each of my 2 largest frying pans. You could also add some butter for flavour. In one I browned the lamb on medium heat, and in the other I sautéed the veggie mix, again on medium heat. As drippings accumulated in the meat pan, I added them to the veggies. When the veggies were medium-soft, I stirred in the flour to thicken, making sure it was all incorporated.

I added the contents of both pans to my oval KitchenAid enamel-coated cast iron roasting dish, and mixed them together. I returned the pans to the heat and browned one side of the potato slices on medium heat (using both pans allowed me to cook all of the potatoes at once). I didn’t need to add any extra fat to the pans.

Next I added 1 pint (570mL) of hot water mixed with ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce** and stirred it in and seasoned with thyme, sea salt and Watkins black pepper. I threw in the bay leaves in and then layered the potato slices like shingles, browned side up. I added salt and pepper the potatoes and dotted them with butter.

I put the lid on the cooker and popped it on the middle of the stove top for an hour, then took the lid off and moved the cooker over to the corner of the stove where it’s cooler for another hour and a half. I’d had the stove going at a moderate temperature (2 logs, damper 1/3 open) all day and kept it at that temp to cook on. I was able to go outside and shovel the deck and driveway (the clean crisp air and the beautiful night stars made me feel less guilty about procrastinating all day until it was dark), and peek in the window once it awhile to check on the cooker.

I could have easily doubled this recipe and still had it fit in my roasting pan. This is my second time cooking with it, and I love it. I paid $39.99 at Canadian Tire (it’s one of those items that is perpetually on sale) and it is fantastic.

**The liquid took a long time to cook down, I think next time I’ll reduce the water or eliminate it altogether, and then I can reduce the amount of time it cooks without a lid as well. I’d also add a touch more Worcestershire sauce.