Yarn & Paper – Splitstone, and Brideshead Revisited

Every Wednesday I share what I’m knitting (Yarn) and reading (Paper) this week. 

Another old WIP from 2015! I’m slowly making my through all my old knitting and sewing projects. There are only two knitting WIPs left from 2015, this Splitstone vest and a lace scarf. I wasn’t sure whether I was getting the right gauge on this vest, which is why I’ve avoided working on it for months. A few months ago I blocked it, measured gauge again, tried it on, and did all kinds of math. All that to discover that this gauge and size should work out just right. I’ve brought this project with me everywhere this week and I’ve already added more than 2 inches. I’ve even memorized the cable, which helps make it good social knitting, at least until it gets too big. With any luck I’ll have this done by next fall when it gets cold enough to wear it again.

I picked up Brideshead Revisited from the library on a whim after I saw a recommendation on the blog Modern Mrs Darcy. From the book jacket I gather that it was made into a movie about 10 years ago, though I’d never heard of the movie otherwise. The book is set in Britain in the inter-war period, which is one of my favourite periods to read about. I was introduced to that era mostly through cozy mysteries, both written at the time (e.g. Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter) and written recently (e.g. the Daisy Dalrymple series). I’m curious to see whether I get the same feeling from a narrative novel. So far there isn’t much plot, and some of the more archaic language is a bit hard to follow, but the style is still rather charming. I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction binge lately and this novel is a much-needed break.

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Yarn & Paper – Taproot Weave and Hexipuffs

Yarn & Paper is my replacement for the discontinued “Yarn Along” posts. I’ll still be sharing what I’m reading and knitting every Wednesday, just with a slightly different title. Enjoy!

This past Sunday found me once again at the Scone Witch on Elgin street, this time with a bigger pot of tea and a new issue of Taproot! I think Weave might be my favourite issue so far. I love the piece on Peruvian and Australian Aboriginal dyers and weavers, and I’m planning to try out the braided Challah bread recipe as soon as possible. This is pretty much the only magazine I read these days so I made a point of savouring it over cup after cup of hot tea. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I blocked my vanilla socks this week and immediately wore them to work the next day. The last of the leftover ball was knit up into hexipuffs just after the photo above was taken, which means another skein of yarn out of my stash and another old project finished. I seem to have finally hit on the trick to getting myself to finish old crafting projects. I have a regular sew date with a quilting friend and this time I brought all my hand-mending with me. I got through 4 or 5 different mending projects, and wove in a few ends on some knitting projects too. I didn’t bring anything else to work on, and the social aspect kept me distracted through the boring stuff. It worked so well I’m thinking of trying the same idea with a few other friends too, if only so I can get through my huge backlog of craft projects! Well, that plus the social time with friends, of course 😉

As a little bonus, here is a shot of the finished vanilla socks:

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The Last Yarn Along – Tutankhamen (again) and Hexipuffs (again)

My third-ever post on this blog was a Yarn Along post. Over the years since then I have joined in Ginny’s Yarn Along link-up (almost) ever week. This simple routine has kept me blogging when I didn’t have the time or brain space for anything more complicated. Today Ginny posted that, after more than six years of weekly posts, she is retiring the Yarn Along link-up. I’m sorry to see it go, not least because it has been such a powerful force in my own blogging schedule! But things change, and we change with them. I’m going to try to keep up this weekly routine of posting about what I’m currently knitting and reading. I really do like the routine. These posts won’t be called “Yarn Along” anymore, but I don’t think I want to change them in any fundamental way.

Both the knitting and the reading this week are repeats from previous Yarn Along posts. I’m still reading the huge Tutankhamun look-book in the morning over breakfast. The photos are stunning and the information on each piece from the tomb is interesting enough to keep me engaged, and short enough to keep things moving. I’m past the halfway point now and I’m still enjoying it. I’ve been thinking I need to pick up some new fiction to balance out all this heavy non-fiction, though.

I finally finished the toe of my second vanilla sock, so now I’m knitting hexipuffs to use up the leftovers. I have several goals for the year related to using up my yarn stash and I’m excited to be able to count yet another skein as “all used up”. These socks have been in-progress for over a year, so it was very satisfying to finally finish them up.

 

 

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FO Friday – First of Many

Since starting full-time work a year and a half ago I’ve been finding it difficult to settle into a good writing routine for this blog. I work as a software developer, so my entire day is spent in front of a computer. The last thing I want to do when I get home at the end of the day is to get back to the computer for another few hours. Still, programming is a different skill than writing, and the good writing habits I built up during my thesis are slipping away again. The blank page is starting to become an obstacle again. 

Of course, the longer time stretches since my last (non-Yarn-Along) post, the more I have to catch up on and the longer my catch-up post has to be. So, in an attempt to break free of that cycle of procrastination, I’m tossing caution to the wind and skipping the catch-up entirely! I have a long (very long) 2016 wrap-up post half-written that has been sitting, untouched, for a month. If I ever get it finished, I’ll post it. In the meantime, I’m going to write some short, easy posts to jump-start my writing habit and get me back into a good routine. I’m starting with a semi-regular “FO Friday” series so I can share my finished craft projects from the last year. (For those who don’t already know, FO means Finished Object). The Yarn Along posts have kept me sharing the in-progress projects, but I’ve missed that final “ta-da!” moment of sharing the finished object. I’m also hoping that the semi-regular nature of this series will be just enough structure to keep me going without becoming overwhelming.

The first Finished Object in this series is from last June (I told you I had some catching up to do). Some context: when I was a kid, I collected stamps. Most I collected the stamps from the monthly Canada Post subscription for kid stamp collectors. Family and friends would also contribute to the collection, and a fair number of them came to me through my Dad’s office. Since we lived in Europe for a few years, I ended up with quite a collection of world stamps, mostly postmarked. A couple of years ago, as part of my endless decluttering, I went through the old collection and divided it into three parts. Thanks to that Canada Post subscription I had a huge number of pristine, still valid Canada Post stamps. I’ve been slowly using these up any time I need to send a letter or card in the mail, although it takes two or three of these lower-value stamps to send a letter at the modern rates. Another huge part of the collection were postmarked stamps or foreign stamps, which I tucked away in a big envelope. I have a vague plan to use them to cover the top of a desk or coffee table, or the inside of a drawer, someday.

The third part of the collection is much smaller: about a dozen of reasonably old stamps from Canada, the US, Switzerland and France. They may have been given to me by my grandmother, I found them inside an envelope with her handwriting on it. There are also three “photo frame” stamps that Canada Post issued while I was in my collection phase. At the time, you could get your own photos printed on tiny stickers, and then buy the “frame” stickers from Canada Post. That way you could send your annual Christmas letter with a stamp that had your family photo in it. I don’t know if they still do it, but it was all the rage at one point in the early 2000s.

I absolutely love this little group of stamps, and I didn’t want to lose them among the larger collection of random world stamps. I decided to frame them so I could enjoy a piece of my old collection without having to keep the whole thing. As it turned out, it was a fairly easy project. I bought a frame and some off-white cardstock from Michaels, then cut the cardstock to fit into the frame. The hardest part was deciding how to arrange the stamps so that the layout was balanced and the similar stamps were grouped together. After much debate, I settled on this layout:

Side Note: There were a few stamps in the larger, postmarked group of stamps from old collection that were still stuck to bits of envelope. The bowl and books in the back of this photo show the process of getting them “unstuck”: first you soak the stamps in water for a while, until they start to separate from the envelope. Then, you pull them off the envelope very gently, and place them between sheets of paper towel and heavy books until they are fully dry. This method works much better on the stamps you have to lick than on the sticker ones.

I chose not to glue the stamps to the card because I wanted to be able to remove them or re-arrange them in the future without damaging them. Instead, I used those clear plastic corners that are used to mount photographs in scrapbooks. My Mom used to do a lot of scrapbooking, so I “borrowed” one of her boxes. I only needed about 50 of them so buying my own box of thousands seemed wasteful. They worked perfectly, although the smallest stamps could only fit two corners comfortably. The rest of the stamps took four corners. To get the stamps in just the right position, I added one corner at a time to each stamp. In this photo you can see the two stamps on the top left with their corners in place:

 

Once all the corners were placed, I popped the card into the frame and hung it on the wall.

 

I actually only hung it on the wall long enough to take this photo. My apartment walls are all concrete, so adding screws for new frames takes more than a little effort. It is much easier to swap out existing art for new pieces. I decided to wait on reorganizing all my frames until I finish the Decorations subcategory of my big KonMari declutter, which I should finally get to in a few months. Once that is done, this frame is definitely going up on the wall permanently. It was a fun, easy project, and one that I procrastinated on for far too long before finally completing.

Even though I haven’t collected them in years, I still love stamps. Each one is a tiny piece of artwork. I love their variety and their beauty. These particular stamps are connected to my family, the years we spent in Switzerland, and my love of travel. I’m looking forward to having them on my wall so they can serve as reminders of those things every day. And I’m so glad that I finally found the time to share it with all of you!

***

In case you were curious, here is the description of each stamp in my framed collection:

 

The six stamps in the top left corner are all older Canadian stamps. The first row has two 3 cent carmine stamps of George VI, one from 1937 and one from 1943, and an orange 4 cent of George VI from 1951. The second row in this group are all Elizabeth II stamps, a violet brown 1 cent and bright blue 5 cent from 1954, and a blue 5 cent from 1967-72 (Regional Views & Art Design, Fishing Port). The large stamp in the top right is a commemoration of 150 years of Canadian Post from 2001. The two smaller stamps in the top right are American, a purple 4 cent of Lincoln from 1958 and a green 1 cent of Washington from 1956.

The third row are all European stamps: three Swiss stamps, two from 1939 (red 20 centimes and purple 10 centimes) and a brown 10 centimes from 1941. The right-most stamp in that row is a 50F French stamp of Saint Remy-Les-Antiques from 1957.

The bottom row are all Canadian stamps. The leftmost is a blue 4 cent of Alexander Graham Bell from 1947. The other three are the photo-frame stamps, the left two from about 2000 and the one on the right slightly more recent, although I’m not sure of the exact year. The photos are of my best friend with her brother and their dog, then another of my maternal grandmother’s dog, and the third is my parent’s cat Archie. He’s a grumpy old-man cat now, but as adorable as ever 🙂

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Yarn Along – Tea, Taproot and the Toe of a Sock

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.

Amazingly I had most of a day last weekend with no scheduled plans. It was a sunny, if cold day, so I took myself down to the Scone Witch on Elgin St and indulged in a scone sandwich (the best!) and more than one pot of their delicious house blend tea. I brought along last issue of Taproot to finish. The next issue is on it’s way and I’m determined to finish each issue before the next one arrives. Sitting in the winter sunshine, sipping tea and indulging in this wonderful ad-free magazine was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I’m getting so close to the end of my second vanilla sock in this lovely, shiny yarn. I got to the toe decreases on the weekend and now there are just a few more rows until the end. A short stretch of grafting, just four ends to weave in, and a quick soak in some wool wash is all that stands between me and a new pair of wool socks. We’ve had a return of very snowy, wintery weather in Ottawa this week so I could really use some more wool. Plus, finishing this project will mean I can finally start thinking about casting on something new!

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Yarn Along – Same Book, Same Socks

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.

I spent several hours on the train this weekend going to Burlington and back for a quick visit with my family. Despite it’s size, I lugged Quilts and Other Bed Coverings in the Canadian Tradition, by Ruth McKendry, along with me. As I mentioned on a previous post, I’m doing research for a display on the history of quilting in Canada for the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild Festival of Quilts in May, and the deadline is looming! I’m about halfway through the book now, and there is another book at the downtown branch of the Ottawa Library that is reference-only (i.e. can’t be loaned out) that I’d like to get through before I start writing. I’m still not sure how the display is going to look, and how to balance the writing with photos (I still need to find photos). I’m starting to get nervous about finishing it all in time. Luckily that nervous feeling is keeping me focused and helping me fight my instincts towards procrastinate. I’m working very hard to stay focus so that I won’t have to rush through it all at the last minute.

These vanilla socks have been in progress since March 2016, so I suppose it’s not surprising that it has featured in Yarn Along posts before. I take them with me everywhere but rarely actually knit on them. They are my “emergency” knitting, in case I get stuck somewhere with nothing to do. That happens less and less often lately, probably because I always have the whole internet to read on my phone at any given moment. Still, knowing I have these as a “productive” time-filler has helped to get me out the door earlier and plan to arrive early more often. Of course, this usually results in arriving on time, rather than early. The yarn is lovely and the socks are turning out beautiful, if oddly mismatched, but I’m starting to get a bit bored with them. It’s time to finish them off, so I’m making them my main knitting project for awhile. Once they are done, I’ll be able to cast on something new!

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Yarn Along – Cures for the Punctually Challenged, with some Hexipuffs

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.

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After finishing off the cup cozies from last week, I once again found myself without a main knitting project (except those vanilla socks I’ve been neglecting). I picked up the leftovers from the last skein of my Travel Memories pillow cover to knit into hexipuffs, which will tide me over for a few days. Once those are done I’ll have to decide between finishing another old WIP or casting on something new and exciting. My current candidate for “new and exciting” is Amanda Schwabe’s Two shawl. I love the travelling stitches, and it is all slip-stitch colourwork so it should be a fairly simple knit. I only have four remaining knitting WIPs, though, so it is equally tempting to finish off one of those first. Decisions, decisions.

I have been mildly punctually challenged for most of my life. It is a mild affliction because I’m not usually very late, and I can be on time when it is important. I’ve never missed a flight or an interview, but I’ve come close a few times. I have a bad tendency of keeping my friends and family waiting. I’m also not a morning person, and I have trouble moving quickly in the mornings, so I’ve always had a hard time being on time to work. I’m always trying to do one more thing before I leave the house, and I tend to be overly optimistic in my estimates of travel times. My inclination is to try to be efficient, and not “waste” time; this is usually at the expense of those around me, and my own stress levels.

I can’t remember how I discovered the book Never Be Late Again by Diana DeLonzor, but I thought it might be helpful so I put it on my wishlist. My sister immediately bought it for me as a gift, and possibly also as a not-so-subtle hint. Reading this slim volume made me realize that a lot of my efforts at simplifying my life in the past couple of years has also made me more punctual. By reducing the amount of rushing in my days I’ve actually made it more likely that I arrive on time for events. By working on getting to sleep earlier so I’m more rested, I’ve made it so much easier to get up in the morning. And by setting up a slow, reasonable morning routine I give myself plenty of time to get to work at the time I want to. Well, closer to the time I want to, anyway. It is still a work in progress, after all. I’ve been very conscious lately of resisting the urge to do one more thing before leaving, and I’m trying to be more realistic with my travel time estimates. So, by the time I read this book, I was already doing most of the exercises the author recommends for my type of lateness. Which was a pleasant surprise! I did appreciate the reassurance that I’m on the right track. For anyone just starting to try to improve their punctuality, this is a very helpful, quick read that just could put you on the right path.

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