Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gardens, public and private


This is the story of a garden - a public garden tended, planted, designed, weeded entirely by volunteers in my community - the community of Silver Springs in northwest Calgary.  And this is the meditation Labryinth - designed after the famous Chartre Labryinth, planted and dedicated last summer with creeping Thyme.  It is putting on quite a show at the moment


You can read more about the history of the garden  here www.BotanicalGardensOfSilverSprings.ca
Right now, because spring has been so late arriving in Calgary, annual planting is in full swing all through the gardens.  It is a treat to walk the length from the Birthplace Forest and Labryinth up to the Shakespeare Garden which is where much of the work is concentrating this season, building new paths.   Public gardens, by their very nature are structured, unlike private gardens, where controlled chaos is welcome some of the time.


Every spring we take pictures of the lovely sour cherry tree in our front garden and every year it is spectacular.  We want to hold the look longer, but mother nature usually has other ideas - like wind and rain that play havoc with the blossoms turning them into pink snow on the lawn.  So we record the temporary beauty for posterity.  The blossoms signal the coming of fruit - non edible but fruit non the less.  Even the birds don't like these cherries - too sour I guess.  They're a pretty red colour when they come though, and hang on the tree all winter.

Today the marauding squirrel dug up and ate some of the tulip bulbs in the side garden by the front door,  leaving a mess all over the sidewalk.  It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't torn up tulip leaves too and then just left them laying there.  He is a vandal - a garden vandal.  I sincerely hope the tulip bulbs give him a tummy ache.



Thursday, 12 June 2014

Fun Socks!


I loved working on these - I used Lang Jawoll stripes which I think is one of my favourite sock yarns - one of the best things about this yarn is the lovely little surprise spool shoved in the middle of the ball in the same colour way to use to reinforce the toes and heels if you are so inclined.  I was inclined to use it during the heel construction just to make things a tad more sturdy.

It occurs to me that my strongest connection to the women in my family comes through the work of their hands and their love for working with their hands.  I'm fortunate  that love passed on to me.

My earliest memory of my grandmother Eva was  her basket of fine crochet thread and the teeny tiny hook for the lace table cloth under construction.   My grandmother Emma was a practical knitter and stitcher - at least until her hands became so arthritic she could no longer hold the pins.  My aunts on both side of my family were inveterate sewers, knitters, crocheters,  artisans always willing to try something new.  Aunt Lil took up china painting after she had crochet layettes for all the new babies coming along. Aunt Helen made doll clothes for all her granddaughter's prize dolls when she wasn't sewing dresses for the girls.   My mother used knitting, needlepoint and crochet as her chief artistic expression, when she wasn't painting walls and re-arranging the furniture.  I think she would have made a fine interior designer had she had the opportunity.
I was musing about all of this, and the history of the cloth that  passed along to me - stacks of doilies, table clothes, even tea towels all lovingly embroidered,  resting in my linen closet.  And then there are the pot holders, hot pads, napkin rings crochet in flower motifs, and coasters. 
 This is art - women's art -  the art of decoration, but practical too.  The Antimacassars crochet by my grandmother to decorate the arm chairs also kept the backs and arms of the chair clean and free of hair oils. 
The hot pads and coasters kept the wood furniture free of marks and glass rings.  The mittens and toques kept us all warm.
These things made the house into a warm home.
 So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for the love of handmade things and for teaching me the skills to make them.   The things we make may have changed with the times, but the craft - the art of creating -  remains and that is after all the main thing isn't it?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

It's Here - Finally





Spring has finally come to the garden.  The lilacs are just about open.  Whoo Hoo!  And today it rains.  Now this is water the plants love, so bring it on today I say.  Perhaps Mother Earth has decided she is over her hissy fit?

And you'll note, we have found a way around the glitch that was preventing me uploading images onto the blog but we had to be sneaky about it.  And...it took much fiddling by my son the computer geek to identify the problem and figure out how to make things happen once more.  Apparently it has something to do with Mozilla's latest updates.  These things are definitely sent to try me.

So...Would you like to meet Picasso?
Isn't he cute?  He is Midnight's gentleman friend and they are doing extremely well together, after some initial getting to know each other.  He's still pretty shy, but very clever and certainly knows when the frig door opens the carrots are coming out.

This morning Libby and I put on rain gear and ventured over to the dog park for some serious play time


There is a lovely patch of bright yellow buffalo beans in bloom right in the middle of the field.  Right after I took these shots one of the dogs came over and laid down right in the middle of It.  Buffalo beans are tough though and don't seem to mind a bit of trampling.  A good time was had by all.
A bit of knitting to end off.  This leaf blanket is actually a baby blanket, - knit in Spud and Cloe Outer (thick cotton/wool blend yarn) in the shape of a big leaf in which to enfold baby.  We are having a new baby in our family. 
And that was my week.  I am living a small life these days - creative - but small.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

This, That and the other thing

Well, I was going to show you all this in photographs - but words will have to suffice as the image link on the blogs seem to be broken at the moment.

So...here goes as short wordy post - We have a new Rabbit -   He moved in about 5 days ago to keep Midnight company because - well,, it's spring and she was pining for a face that looked like hers. 
Midnight is our wee black lop - gorgeous creature, neat, fastidious and has a mind of her own.  She's been known to rush at my ankle growling as I move to put pellets in her food dish - I think she does this just for the fun of it but it is a bit startling. 
She and Libby the border collie get on extremely well for the most part.  Libby loves to watch and Midnight seems to like being watched.  Every so often, Midnight takes off like a small black bomb, racing around the couch.  She does this to liven things up - because Libby is on her like a magnet, racing behind her. 

But, she was lonely for her own kind, and pining, so we started looking through the bunny profiles at the animal shelter to see if we could find her a companion.    Our criteria was - male, neutered (no baby bunnies on the way here please), maybe a lop but that part wasn't so important.
Enter Picasso-  our new little guy is a gorgeous mink colour, light sand shading down to brown with ears that sit straight up on his head like TV antenna's.   At first Midnight was sort of horrified that this stranger was in her space and she set out immediately to put him in his place and show him just who is the boss around here. 

That accomplished, they played a lively game of chase me, under the watchful eye of the border collie who was quite fascinated by the whole exercise.  As the days and nights have gone on in their little rabbit world, they have become quite close - sitting cuddled together on the rug and looking for all the world like butter wouldn't even melt in either of their mouths.   And Picasso even dared to steal Midnight's treat right out of her mouth - that took courage.

And that brings me to the garden - the other pictures I wanted to post today.
The salad garden has been planted in the raised beds - lettuce, green onions, lots of carrots and mesclun for spice.  Tulips are up and ready to bloom finally.  
Rabbit droppings make wonderful fertilizer - this was in evidence last year when the tomato plants took off and grew into a three foot tangle of green leaves and fruit.

Spring is finally here - late but welcome.  Pictures next post, hopefully


Monday, 12 May 2014

New Lace

I bought the lovely hand dyed merino  and silk blend from the Malabrigo company to make a pair of socks actually, and then discovered the colours were not coming up in stripes or even blending, but rather looking like camouflage in two shades of blue - I'm sure I detected the map of Italy as I was working my way down the leg from the cuff.  It was not good!
So...out the stitches came, the yarn was rolled  up  and tossed unceremoniously back into the basket.

And then I was roaming around the incredible Ravelry site one day and happened upon a lovely crochet shawl  - The Elise Shawl it was called. If you're interested you can find it as a free pattern on Ravelry.    Hmmm I thought to myself - what about using that lovely yarn for this lovely crochet shawl.


Here it is,  finished and waiting to have ends tailed in...no sign of any maps of Italy...no sign of Camouflage, but my oh my does it need blocking.  No surprise there.  Lace, whether it is knit or crochet, usually needs to be blocked to show off its beauty.

First step - into the sink.
I added a small squirt of Ivory dish soap to the tepid water in the sink, but Eucolan wool wash works beautifully too - I just didn't happen to have any, and I was impatient to get started.
I gently laid the shawl on top of the water and let it absorb and sink down.  No swishing or swooshing is necessary - maybe just a gentle squeeze to make sure the piece is wet through.
Once that happened I got out my handy dandy colander from the kitchen cupboard and scooped the shawl into it.
I drained the water out of the sink, left the colander in the sink, and gently pressed water out.
Then, I transferred the whole thing to a waiting towel on the floor - you make due when you don't have a  lot of space
It doesn't look like much of anything here does it - a soaking wet blob - which I rolled in the towel, pressing out moisture as I rolled the towel up.

Next came the fun part- the actually pinning and blocking.  I have to do this kind of thing on the floor..I placed a couple of towels down first, and then covered them with a clean sheet to work on  and got out the pins.

It is really important not to hurry the process here.  I laid out the shawl, gently straightening it and patting it with my hands until the top was more or less straight.  Then I started pinning out the picots one at a time, sticking the long pins down through the padding so they would stay - one side and up the other
.Once I had it more or less the way I wanted it to look it was a case of making tiny adjustments to the top and picots ...and then...standing up, closing up the pin box and walking away.
It is important to let lace ...or any piece of  handwork you make -  dry thoroughly before unpinning it.  Step away, make some tea, go for a walk - ignore it.  It won't be ready to unpin for a few hours.  In this case, I actually left it over the weekend.
It was worth the wait.

 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Saturday morning walk in May



Snow started falling during the night - I estimate we have about 10-15 centimeters and it is still coming down.   But it isn't cold - the temperature is hovering around zero, and the snow is sticky, fluffy and wet..  Libby and I had a wonderful walk through the neighbourhood. 

The man on the end of the shovel wished us a Merry Christmas as he continued working on his driveway.  Libby was kept very busy sniffing for stuff - where the wild rabbits had been in the night, if another dog had been this way - if, even, god forbid, a cat had dared to walk there.  We wound our way down the streets and up the alleys and then across the school yard.  There is no wind so the snow is falling straight down, decorating the branches and weighing down the evergreens.


If I was in the business of producing gorgeous Christmas card photos, today would have been the day.  Even the garden hose winder looks like a piece of art.
Libby as we all know, loves this kind of weather - it suits her much better than warm days and green grass when all she wants to do is get to water and cool her belly.    So once we got back to the house, a session with the snow shovel was in order.  Now, it's impossible to throw shovel fulls of snow and take pictures...so here is one from earlier this year...but you get the idea.


looks like fun doesn't it? 

Monday, 28 April 2014

A tad optimistic

Calgarians are so tired of this protracted winter like behavior that every time we get a warmish day with sunshine, coats are shed, long pants exchanged for bermuda shorts and boots cast off in favour of flipflops.  But the next day, back comes the snow shower and makes the poor baby tulip leaves shiver.  At this rate the tulips will emerge from their cocoons in July!
The snow puts a spring in Libby's step though and that brings a smile to everyone's face.  This is a girl for whom snow was created I think.  She can hardly wait to get out there and make donuts, lopsided snow angels and just generally tear around like a mad thing.  This being spring snow it actually compacts together to make snowballs which I fire from the safety of the stop sending her flying toward the back fence trying to catch them.  She comes up with a mouthful of snow, grinning like an idiot.  I love it.
I'm also loving this sock.  I'm using Lang Jawoll Colour in colour number 132 and it is great fun watching the changes as I move along here.  I like Lang sock wool.  Inside each ball is a hidden surprise - a small ball of nylon thread in the same colour way as the sock yarn -  inserted  especially for knitting into the heels and toes of the sock  Very smart idea!  I'm trying out a new set of needles from Knitter's Pride - Karbonz in size 2.75 mm and they are lovely to work with - smooth carbon fibre shafts and steel tips.  According to the blurb on the package back, carbon fibre is one of the most versatile materials and is also used in the manufacture of aircrafts and space ships and racing cars.  Who knew?   I'm using my plain go-to sock pattern, casting on 64 stitches, knitting a  3 inch k1p1 rib and then down the leg to my favourite heel.  If you check out my sock tutorial post you can get the instructions.  With a wool this colourful, you really don't need a pattern - the yarn does all the work. 
I'm teaching a brand new class at Stash tonight - that we are calling Homemade to Handmade - I hope it goes well.