Things handmade. About making things.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ex$pen$ive $lipper$

A few years ago I wandered into the Wool Mill in Toronto.
It was early in the spring & I was in the mulligrumps - hated school, had all sorts of exams and deadlines, flat broke, lots of bad news on the horizon sort of day. Not really the best of all days to go into a yarn store but I think I was probably intending to get some sock needles. Something innocent. Harmless (unless provoked). Not Expensive.

But because I was blue, I was weak.

The Wool Mill has a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
The "that" was Fleece Artisit "Country Mohair".

It was glowing in the afternoon sunlight,
sheening skeins and the slight halo that suggested softness
seducing you to touch its slinky silkiness,
looking like coiled serpents. They slithered to the touch,
slipping across my fingers, freshly dyed
and with a cool dampness and the slightly acid smell of vinegar.
It could have held out an apple.

My senses must have departed me because I bought not one
but two skeins. At thrity dollars each. Plus applicable sales tax.

At home, I draped the rainbows over my bookshelf.
So that I could admire the riot of colours.
One day, when the exams were done, the days were warmer but the nights still cool,
I took courage and wound up a skein into a ball.
I played with it, to see if it would "talk" to me,
because I didn't have a specific pattern in mind.
A shawl or a wrap?
I didn't like the way the colours fell, I couldn't get the rhythm of them.
Different stitches only succeeded in looking chaotic.
I put it away.

It left wisps of mohair everywhere.

Months passed.
I took it out again. Maybe it needed a friend?
I pulled out some other yarns.
I played with different solids, different textures to complement the shades.
It seemed to overpower everything
& it left wisps of mohair everywhere.
I put it away.

Months passed.
It would haunt me every time I brushed past it.
Taunting me, it would say, "You don't know what to do with me, do you?"
I began to suspect I had made an error in judgment.
Could I use it to make mittens?
If only the fibres didn't come off so easily.
Funny I should be bothered by that,
because I frequently am adorned with a dusting of cat hair.
I should just give it away - someone else can figure it out.
But it is so silky soft, so rich in hue,
and I paid sixty dollars for it.
It humiliated me.

Years past.
I checked the Fleece Artist website,
maybe there was a pattern for it.
The yarn was discontinued.
Somehow, that did not surprise me.
And then I read this:
Mohair Minisweater Monstrosity

I am not the only person on the planet who thinks this yarn is a pain in the bum!!
Cyn at Half-Asssed Knit Blog has inspired me to give this yarn what it deserves.
It must be walked upon, trodden, dominated, subdued.
It is soft. It is colourful.
It is heavy and it sheds like a bitch.
I don't think it is a particularly versatile yarn, EXCEPT it will keep feet warm. It can do that. And polish the floors at the same time. Part of me SCREAMs that something so expensive & fine as mohair should be treated this way, but this is no ordinary mohair. Oh yeah, verily, redemption is at hand. Or Foot.

Ex$pen$ive $lipperr$!!!

The colourway reminds me of something...hmm... tie-dyed t-shirts and outdoor music festivals. Like, Cosmic, whoa. The photos don't do it's primary psychedelic wow-ness justice. I have to make another one to match. And I will still have more than a skein left. The colours almost tricked me into making a hat. But I know it will generously scatter fibre on the neck and shoulders of the hapless person who dares to wear it. No, more slippers, ex$pen$ive $lipper$....

And just maybe I'll full them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Evil Moth Bastards - Part 2

Evil Moth Bastards
Part 2 - The Uneasy Truce

(Sorry these Evil Moth Bastard posts are so long. I have a lot to say about them it seems.)

After much clean up.
After much sorting through and getting ridding of some seriously useless and outdated, umm, junk.
After finding not just one but several evil moth bastard lairs.
You can breath a little easier, but only just a little. Because they will come back.
You can’t possible get them all. Their nasty eggs are lurking, just beyond the suction power of your vacuum, or in that wool hat that came out of the car trunk (finally) in June.

Moth eggs, I was very sad to learn, can remain dormant for quite some time and will hatch several weeks to months later, when the insidious critter senses that its conditions for life can be met. Not unlike cockroaches. Blech, or as I like to say, Blattes. But you can keep on top of them. You can make it very hard for them to re-establish themselves in your home.

Here are some things that I have found helpful.

Moth traps.
These are kind of ugly looking paper boxes with a gluey coating inside and some sort of little disk or pad soaked with Scent of Female Moth. Moth traps don’t eliminate the evil bastards, but they help you get on top & keep on top of them without resorting to harsh chemicals. All they do is attract the males who once inside the trap get stuck and fail to knock up any females. No more eggs, no more larvae, no more evil moth bastards. The lures last for a few weeks to a few months. Some types of traps sell extra lures, because the adhesive remains sticky for longer than the lure works. There are two kinds of commercially available moth traps for indoors. The difference in them is the kind of pheromone lure inside, which is prepared for either “food” moths (Indian Meal Moth - Plodia interpunctella) or “clothes” moths (Tineola bisselliella & Tinea pellionella). Get both kinds. Seriously.

Get one food trap for your kitchen and if you have a rec room or other spot that has soft furnishings AND where members of your family habitually snack, get one for there, too. If you have dogs or cats and store their food in a location different from yours, get one for that spot too. Why? Peace of mind. They are non-toxic and will help you identify an evil moth bastard (clothes moth) from an icky food moth quickly. If you have food moth lures in an area where you still see moths flying around AND you aren’t finding any food moths in the trap then either your lure has pooped out or you have evil moth bastards flying around looking for a nice place to lay their eggs. (That wool tea cozy in the back of the drawer perhaps?).

For the clothes moths get several. I have two in the bedroom (one inside the closet and one out), one in the living room, one near my yarn collection, and another in a corner of the house that had a lot of moths flying around when I first moved in. They have all trapped moths. At one point I though the lures must have been duds because I wasn’t trapping any EMBs, but then suddenly - whammo - there must have been a hatching cycle because there were nearly a dozen. I did a yarn & fabric investigation, found a few dead moths (females?) but my collection was all okay. Thank you, moth traps.

You can get moth traps at Home Hardware, Grassroots (a Toronto natural products store), garden centres, pest control places, museum supply places etc. Check the web and see what is near you. Many places sell the food moth traps, sometimes you have to look a bit farther for the clothes moth traps. The prices vary widely. I am due to get some more soon and I may try a couple of different brands.

Dust, Dark and Damp are friends of evil moth bastards.
I am hardly the world’s most ardent housekeeper. My mother gives me vacuums because she vacuums everyday. I kid you not. I vacuum when I see puffs of cat hair, or feel the grit or whatever. You get the picture. But evil moth bastards and other varmints that will eat your lovely fibres and textiles can live and breed in Dust and Lint. So you just have to clean from time to time. Especially if you have pets. Pets hair is super larvae food. Pet sleeping areas, especially.

You have to let the sunshine in when you can. Make your home less hospitable to them.
Take out things like blankets and large sweaters and turn them inside out so they get a good airing when the weather is good. Open the piano lid. There might be felt in there.

Did I mention that you have to watch your vacuum cleaner? If you are sucking up dust and lint and pet hair and human hair and other sources of moth nourishment and it sits there, quietly, in the dark, what do you suppose happens?? Do you know that they don’t seem particularly perturbed by the vacuum running??? If you have just done a major de-mothing, don’t keep that vacuum bag around too long. Toss it outside and seal it in something before you do. I have seen the vile moth larvae writhing in the vacuum cleaner bag. Don’t despair. Know you are winning. It is actually not that easy to suck up moth eggs as the females glue them down when they lay them. Evil moth bastards.

And this is why they can keep reappearing. Evolution has given them the “gift” of being very tough. So you could have eggs in your floorboards underneath the carpet, larvae munching on Fido fur-rich lint for months (or even years apparently) until they become moths and try to mate. They may skip all your lovely clothes and fibers for a while. Until you get cavalier and suddenly you have holes in your textiles and breaks in your yarn. Be vigilant.

And Dampness. Make sure your fibres are clean and thoroughly dry before you store them. If you do live in a damp environment, be extra vigilant for moths & larvae as they can multiply faster.

Storing your Things

I have a lot of yarn, not as much as some people but still it takes up a lot of space. I have nice textiles that I have gathered and interesting bits of this and that with silk and horse hair. I consider it all my collection. Some of it is collection to be further acted upon, like yarn and fabric, and some of it is collection to be enjoyed for its workmanship and/or inspirational value. I actually rather dislike that most of my yarn is not in view. So a few months ago, after inheriting a really gorgeous pine sideboard, I decided that it would be for yarn collection display.
My yarns can come out, and I can admire them and be inspired and awed and maybe even intimidated by them (ooooo silk). I thought that as one clutch of yarn got used, another could be released from the prison of zip lock bags and storage bins that we have all adopted to keep our goodies clean and safe. It’s getting there. I have a few other storage issues to contend with but it is getting there and I have to say, it is really helpful to really see what you have. I forget sometimes. And there is one of our, umm, problems. A surfeit of goodness. The yarn “stash”.

I know that non fibre people look on accumulations as a weakness, they don’t understand. But if you, like me, have ever forgotten about a yarn until you spy it again, well, do you really need to keep keeping it? Less to keep means less to care for. Fewer ugly plastic tubs. Fewer things to keep the moths away from. Sort of harsh I know and it is very very hard for me to practice what I preach but it has to be done. I hope to dig through my bins and bags every couple of months until I’m down to a more manageable level. I love my yarn, it inspires me, but I’m not a designer - I have to ask myself, “How much of this do I really need?”

So here comes the big question. What is the best way to store yarn.? I don’t know.
Re-sealable clear plastic bags work for me. And those big storage bins, preferably clear. I only used mothballs once. When I was going away for what ended up being five years. Mothballs sort of work, they can kill moths if used in enough concentration but they are also not good for people. My grandmothers and mother all used mothballs, the smell lingers forever. You have to air the items really well before using them. I think mothballs go under the drastic heading. And I have heard reports of naphthalene resistant larvae. I shudder to think.

Make sure the yarn is clean and dry - especially important if you dyed it.

Aromatics help keep evil moth bastards away. They don’t kill them at any stage.
Aromatics include oils of cedar, eucalyptus, lavender, sandalwood, rose, mint, cloves and the whole woods and herbs that produces these oils. Cedar oil is supposed to kill larvae on contact (yeah!!!!) but it must be strong and they need to get it on them, not just smell it. I use soap and incense. If someone gives me a nice gift bar of scented soap, I toss it in a yarn storage container or put it in with my sweaters, winter wear, blankets etc. When the item gets cycled around in season, I check the soap and put it in the bathroom if its scent is diminished and find something fresh to put in. I especially like sandalwood for this. I also grow aromatic geraniums which I dry and put in with nice fabrics and fibres.

Plastic is alright if you are using and moving your stuff around. Seasonal items at least get moved and checked once a year. If you really care about something, an heirloom shawl, quilt, sweater etc. that may spend a lot of time in storage, consider special boxes like they use in museums and archives. I love the Carr McLean catalog for this. If you have a few friends who are also trying to preserve some things maybe you can get together and put in an order. Notice they have special tissue for wrapping and acid free boxes. But that is really for serious stuff, with a serious price-tag. Talk to a textile conservator for the real skinny on heirloom pieces. Remember, if it's worth keeping , it's worth keeping well. I have never had anything adverse happen to my things in plastic. Just make sure no bag has printing on it that can rub off.

And don’t assume that because something is sealed in plastic it truly protects it. I had a mouse pillage some yarn for a nest, and she made a nice big whole in the bag for anything else to get in. People say that nasty larvae can chew through plastic bags. I have not seen that but I think it is possible. And if the seal is just a little weak, I’m sure they could figure that out. Still, I think plastic helps keep the buggers out.

I do isolate new things, especially if they are coming from somewhere that doesn’t have good storage practices. I buy stuff from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and there are always moths flying around in there and so I don’t trust anything to be moth free. I seal items in zip locks and observe them carefully for a few weeks. A seemingly innocent, very clean looking, brand new, felted Christmas ornament from an women’s co-op in Uzbekistan proved to be the source of a nearly disastrous outbreak. The eggs must have been INSIDE the stuffed item, and the larvae were worming their way out - ugh. But because I had popped the item into a bag, I noticed the little bastards before they spread to anything else. And it was just one ornament out of several. It only takes one clutch of eggs to get them started.

I’m not sure how well freezing really works. I have done it. I will do it again. I once spoke to a buyer for the Textile Museum and he said they freeze anything coming in to the museum as a precaution. I think he said they put them in the deep freeze for three weeks. That was about 8 years ago and I’m not sure if they still do that, I'll have to ask next time I'm over there. I left some Turkish socks in my freezer for months because I feared insidious moth eggs. Some people say it doesn’t work. And moths are tough. I’m sure it kills adults and larvae. It is certainly worth trying it for yarns. Obviously filling your freezer with sweaters is not going to go over well with people who think its for ice cubes and ice cream. So I have to wonder how practical it really is for most of us. If you live a climate where you get long really cold spells you could try leaving it in a shed or something but the temperature has to be really cold for a while. Most winters in Toronto aren't predictably cold like that.

Getting Drastic

Dry Ice
Never tried it. I wish that I had known about it because I think my Boyfriend would have enjoyed the process. I mean, dry ice, whoa. Research this well before you try it. You have to protect your hands, skin and make sure the cold bags don’t harm any surfaces they are placed on. You must use very heavy bags. You have to use the right amount of dry ice with the right amount of clothing/yarn. This worked for a friend of mine who didn’t want to dry clean. Since dry cleaning skeins of yarn is not usually done, this may be good option if you are trying to salvage a collection in peril. But use proper handling techniques!

Dry Cleaning
Often recommended for cleaning moth infested clothing. I consider it a last resort. By all reports it gets the eggs and kills ‘em dead. I would be very hesitant to subject fragile, rare or otherwise delicate things to most dry cleaners though. Ask around if you have something really precious that needs dry cleaning - there may be a place that specializes in the handling of super fine garments that costumiers and conservators could recommend. It will likely be more expensive than usual. I have never heard of anyone dry cleaning skeins.

Professional Pest Control
In my mind, a last resort. Your situation may require it. You may not have house pets who get into everything. There are a wide range of chemicals used to kill pests. Find out what the exterminator plans to use and research it. You will probably still have to do a major clean and inspection beforehand. So I figure, try and do it yourself without the chemicals and if you find that you are fighting a losing battle, then call in the big guns...but I think you can do it.

Not just moths.
Other things eat fibre. Mice and rodents. Odd Beetles. Carpet Beetles, If you are finding damage but no signs of moth you might have a different problem. Some of the measures you have to take are the same.

But there is hope.
I moved into a house with a serious moth problem, and less than a year later, there are far, far fewer of the evil things. My yarn is (knock wood) un-savaged, my rugs appear sound and my sweaters and knit items are whole. I can’t say the same for my Boyfriend’s things, he’s still finding holes. But maybe that’s because he hasn’t worn the things for three years? The above blah blah blah is all either from my experience or from that of my fibre and fabric loving friends. It is not really scientific. There is a lot of information out there on the internet about evil moth bastards and how to get rid of them. Do a little research. Get out the vacuum cleaner and banish them from your house.

This has been a very long public service announcement. Thank you. Have a nice, moth-free day.

Oscar for Best Knitter ;-)

La Vie en Rose tells the life story of the great French Singer, Edith Piaf.
If you haven't seen it yet, you should.
Not only are the cinematography and art direction wonderful, Marion Cotillard is quite brilliant and deserved the Oscar.
Edith Piaf was a knitter!
There's a great scene in the movie where she appears on stage with a sweater with one sleeve missing - she couldn't finish it in time. And several times in the movie she appears knitting. My favourite sweater is the one she wears on the beach during her "rehab". I wonder if there is a pattern out there for that one.....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ravelry is dangerous

Worse than Solitaire 'til dawn no wait, WAY better than Solitaire 'til Dawn.
Just looking at all the projects, the skills, the creativity. It's inspiring.
The downside is I haven't been getting a lot of knitting done, or grant writing, or about 100 other 'shoulda' s I should be working on.

Here is a lovely example of Turkish Oya, in this case Igne Oyasi - or needle embroidery. Adds a little colour to these wintry days. All our snow has got that nasty grey, icy, dirty crust on it. Blech. These always remind me that spring is not far away.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Evil Moth Bastards - Part 1 Recognition & Eradication.

Know your Enemy & Attack!

“Look,” said my Boyfriend, “Moths got this sweater, too. Can you fix it?”
It’s an awfully fine Italian knit.
“Do you have the little bit of yarn that came with the tag?”
*Blank look* “Umm...”
“Okay, I guess not. I don’t think I can do as well as I did last time. The repair will show. And it’s right in the middle of the front...”
“Maybe I should take it to a tailor??”
“Yeah, you might want to try that. I’m willing to give it a go, but it won’t be invisible”
“Do you think a tailor is going to do a better job than you?”
“Probably - they might have more thread to match with and more experience with fine knits.”
“But you saved my favourite sweater. If you do this one, you’ll at least care about it, nobody cares about their job anymore. Someone in a tailor shop is not going to care about my sweater. Maybe you should do it.”
“Well, yeah, sure, but I can’t promise that it will be perfect.”

This scene has been enacted a few times around our house. While our moth problem is currently under control, I still find holes appearing where they shouldn’t, usually in items that were exposed to the critters in the pre-eradication era. In my dear Boyfriend’s eyes, I have performed some nearly miraculous sweater repair. Really, not that miraculous - If the knit is straightforward, when you can find a bit of the original yarn and depending on the position and extent of the damage, you can do some pretty tidy repair jobs. Complicated stitches and patterns can ‘hide’ the patch, if there is a lot going on, the eye isn’t drawn right away to the damaged area so exact stitch-matching isn’t key.

But this blog entry wasn’t going to be about fixing holes, but about the nasty winged creatures that cause so many of them and are a threat to all your woolen garments, blankets, furnishings and yarn collection. (And let’s honour our hoard with the title “collection” - more on that in another ramble.)

The culprit is the larvae of several species of moths; Tineola bisselliella & Tinea pellionella being the most likely suspects. The larvae are able to convert the proteins found in natural animal fibres like wool, cashmere, silk & alpaca into food. They also enjoy feathers and fur, have been found to munch on wool/synthetic blends and some say even cotton! I don’t know about that, but I have seen the work they can do on a 50/50 blend and it is not pretty. They also like items that are soiled, stained & sweaty. I always thought that was because it was more food for them, and maybe it is, but it appears they also need the moisture that goes along with the stains. Some species of moths will go for human food in addition to clothing. They are not all exclusive fibre diners. They can do quite well in the lint, dust and pet hair that builds up in corners, cracks & crevices around the house. The evil clothing moths and their nasty little larvae generally keep in the dark. They are not attracted to lightbulbs like some of their other cousins. In fact, it is good to keep in mind that light is the moths’ enemy and therefore your friend.

Before I moved in with my Boyfriend last April, it was clear he had a “moth problem”.
This is not something to be treated by mothaholics anonymous, but requires patience, hard work & vigilance. And also the ability to ruthless dispense with items infested beyond reclamation. The nasties flew boldly around the the house, the erratic flutter more irritating than a mosquito in the tent at night. I had to question my sanity. I am going to move in with moths!? I must be out of my mind.... but the moths must go!!!
“I know I have a problem,” he’d say, “The only solution is to spray.”
“No! Don’t spray. We can get rid of them without spraying!”
“It sounds like a lot of work.”
“It is but we have to do it anyway. No point keeping stuff it you don’t keep it well, I always say.”

What follows here are the steps we took to make the house less moth-friendly without resorting to fumigation - which is what my Boyfriend wanted to do. Frankly, I don’t see that as anything but a short term solution. According to the pest control people, the fumigation wouldn’t be effective without a serious clean up which included getting rid of cardboard boxes. Well, ANY successful clean up or pest eradication programs requires that. There are so many chemicals bouncing around in our environment, why add more if you don’t really need to. Getting on top of the moth problem, getting ridding of the evil bastards AND keeping them out, often requires changes in habit and maybe even lifestyle. If you have lovely woolens and fabrics from your family & your travels and a treasured yarn collection - not to mention all the items you and your friends have lovingly created with it - a few changes are worth it.

Get Outta my House, Moth! (with apologies to the Shuffle Demons)

I may be a Magpie, but my Boyfriend is a Pack Rat. He has socks from when he was in high school which was about 30 years ago. They don’t fit, he doesn’t wear them. He has a hard time letting it go. Add to this, his propensity for acquire more stuff ( a habit we both have but his stuff is generally larger) and which he has no place to put. So it pools around in heaps and caches all over the place. Even though he had a cleaning lady come every other week to give the place a good dusting and once over with the vacuum cleaner, there is a limit to what a cleaning lady can do. Shifting piles of scrap metal, orphaned electronics and power tools heaped in the middle of the living room are not usually in the job description of most housekeepers. And the piles stay there, for weeks, for months, dare I even say it, for years? Can you see the picture here? Lots of clutter, hard to clean, piles of lint and dust growing in the clutter. Add to this the floorboards, which are gorgeous wood, but alas were installed too wet and some rather dramatic gaps have emerged. These are especially well suited to trapping more dust, lint (and pet hair) and resist the suction of the vacuum unless you are being really, um, fastidious ( I was going to use the ‘a’-word) about this and get out the special attachment and follow each and every groove in the floorboard to clean them.

Okay, so we have DUST. Dust is Bad. Dust-mites, fleas and evil moth bastards all like dust. Dust must go.

For various reasons, he keeps the blinds shut during the day - mostly because he’s a busy professional & gets up early, leaves the house soon thereafter and gets home late. Light doesn’t penetrate much of the area.

Okay, now we have DARK places. Too many dark places. Nasty moths like the dark, so we must let the sunshine in whenever we can.

Both my Boyfriend and I like to keep the humidity at a place we find comfortable. Unfortunately, this can make the moths happy. Yup DAMP is bad. If you live in a really dry house, you actually have something going for you in terms of moth control. That’s not to say you won’t get moths or that they can’t survive, but they need to work harder to get the moisture they need and will develop more slowly. Added to DARK and DUSTY, though, DAMP makes your home very attractive to moth colonies. (and I moved into this place!! I must like this guy :-)

Next, the stuff. Here is the tricky part. It is also the part that you have to do no matter what. You have to go through your stuff. All of it. Especially if it contains any parts edible to rapacious moth larvae. This can be more than clothes and yarn. Oh yes. Cat toys languishing behind a piece of furniture, an unused accordion or clarinet at the back of a cupboard, the inside of an old instrument case, a jewelry box, stuffed animals, shoulder bags, felt shoe inserts - all these things and many more can contain enough fibre for a colony of evil moths to get established. Daunting, isn’t it? But you have to take things one by one. Closet by closet. Item by item.

This was the thing my Boyfriend, being the pack rat that he is, had the hardest time with. It was hard. Really hard. We picked a nice sunny spring day and started with the clothes cupboards at the top of the house. We have a very convenient sun-deck which became a staging area. I pulled everything out of the main clothes cupboard. Everything. And put it on the deck. Then I vacuumed the heck out of the cupboard. Each item of clothing was inspected. Some progress was made in terms of passing things on. Any item with evidence of moth attack, holes or more especially, the various casings, was left out on the porch so that sun & wind could do their part.

Does sun help? Yes. If your the dyes on your fibres can take a little direct sun, it is a good thing. Sun also dries things out. Sun won't cure a bad infestation, but exposing your fibres to a gentle sunbath is good, if and only if the fibre & dye can handle it. A good airing out of direct sun is also not a bad thing.

Here’s a disgusting little side story. I was helping an old boyfriend clean out his place and when I tried to vacuum under the bed, I met with great resistance. I looked and there were dust creatures under there the size of gophers. And a big heap of stuff. I pulled out the stuff which was some pictures wrapped up for storage in a small wool rug crawling, I kid you not, crawling with moth larvae. Suppressing the gag reflex I put the whole pile straight outside on the path way. I separated the pictures from the rug. It was a nice sunny day. Ha-ha! I thought, the powerful sun will fry the horrible moth larvae. Kill, kill, kill. (This is not like me. I leave spiders where they are and mostly ask things to leave but moths, fleas and cockroaches are given harsher treatment). I went back into the house and became a vacuum freak worthy of my mother. Every corner. Opened up the clothes cupboard and found the musty sweaters & old suits from high school with moth damage etc. etc. Sorted the damaged from the good and organized into bags. Then went out to see if the rug was still in the sun. Wouldn’t want a tree to cast a shadow and reduce the potency of the sun’s death rays, would we? Nature is truly beautiful and wonderful and thinks of everything. There was an anthill near the rug. The ants were carrying away the larvae. It was a bit gruesome really, but they were terribly efficient about it. They were getting the larvae that were on top AND underneath. They came back for the eggs. By sundown, the rug was rid of moths. It had also been moth ridden and had big holes in it. When then boyfriend came home, I showed it to him. He sighed but we decided that the rug could live outside for his dog to flop on and that the pictures could be protected with something less interesting to moths. Moral of the side story: Nature is your friend. Ants are good.

Back to my house. Next we tackled the cardboard boxes, many of which had not been opened since he’d moved into the place 3 years earlier.
“But they’re fine! They are all taped shut!”
“That is not going to stop a moth”
More moth eaten things discovered. I won’t go into it but, as I mentioned, it’s not just clothing but many other items with protein rich materials that evil moth bastard larvae feast upon. And then we found IT. The mother lode, the tinaeoid piece de resistance, a beautiful Afghani saddle bag, you guessed it, crawling with larvae, laced with their webby casings and gritty with their excrement. Out, out, out.
“You can’t keep that.”
“But it’s so nice!”
“Was so nice. It’s been destroyed, they’ve weakened the whole structure. It is infested. It must stay outside.”
“Maybe it’s valuable”
“Not anymore. It has to stay outside until every trace of moth is gone.”
“Won’t more moths eat it.”
“No - clothes moths don’t like it outside in the sun.”
“What about at night?”
“Too cold for them yet. The saddle bag stays out.”

A few days later, the saddle bag was inside.
I took it and threw it over the side of the deck so it landed firmly in the back garden. If there were any ants waking up from their winter hibernation, I encouraged them to come out and and peruse the larvae bar.
“That has to stay outside - look, there are probably eggs all over it.”
“But it was going to get rained on and ruined.”
“I don’t think so. It is already ruined. Look at the holes.”
“I still think it’s too nice to throw away.”
“Well if you think so, take it and have it dry cleaned but it stays outside until then.”

A few days later I found it in the basement. Apparently a friend of my Boyfriend’s was over helping him do some work in the yard & thought it shouldn’t be left outside. It appears he was not briefed on the moth situation. I took the poor saddlebag out and left it under the stairs.
“If you think that saddlebag is nice enough to keep, then either have it dry cleaned or take to a carpet place and get their opinion on it. It was nice, but I don’t think it is especially old or valuable. It’s a liability now and it’s falling apart.”
“Yes,” he said with resignation.
It has gone. I don’t know where, but I don’t think he could hide it on me in the house, even with all those piles of gear and file boxes.

Hmm. Time flies.
There is more. Like how to keep on top of evil moth bastards and some dramatic ways to eliminate them.
But this post is loooooooong enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

At a loss, or the needle in the toy box

We all have them: little bags, pouches & boxes with our favourite & most necessary tools in them. And you don't know how much you rely on them till you misplace them.

I joined some friends up the street for a knitting afternoon & potluck. A few kids, lots of chit chat, good advice, catching up with old friends and some knitting. A scarf, a shawl, a baby jacket and a felted bag were the projects the knitters were working on. I had my little tool box out. I always keep it close at hand. And somehow, with the moving and shifting and making way for more folks, it vanished. I went to cut a thread and it wasn't there. I was in a kind of shock. I never lose it. It could have fallen behind a cushion on the couch, perhaps got kicked under another piece of furniture. Pull out the cushions, crouch down on the floor, go through the tote bag three times. Couldn't find it. Well, maybe I shouldn't be so attached. It'll turn up. The hostess promises to keep an eye out for it when she cleans up tomorrow. I hate to bother her. I feel like I'm making a bit too much of a fuss. She's got two young kids, a third on the way, her husbands away for two weeks and she has a big show coming up. She has more pressing things to worry about than my little box of knitting knick knacks.

There are toys everywhere. A little one could have picked my kit up when my back was turned, thinking it was an interesting, pretty little box. After all, it was green with a friendly looking bear making a pot of tea on it. It's just a freebie tin from a box of Celestial Seasonings tea....

And then I really started to worry. It's full of needles both sharp and blunt, folding scissors and pins and small things like stitch markers & a row counter that a toddler might try to munch on. So I mentioned to the hostess that it might be serious. We don't want to find a toddler fiddling with the box. Oh dear. Earlier one of the mums found she was short a needle. A 7mm needle. Hmmm. Is one of the kids starting a collection so he or she can knit with us? I'll show them how!

Walking home I was wrestling with the feeling of losing something that has almost been a charm to me, and the more unsettling feeling of what if some harm came to a child. My scissors were not just folding scissors. I keep a Leatherman micra as my main tool. I love my Leatherman, it comes in handy at picnics and while traveling. It opens letters and boxes as well as cutting yarn. It has tweezers and a ruler, screwdrivers, a bottle opener and a very sharp little knife. YIKES. Please let that box turn up somewhere harmless. And next time I go knit in a place with lots of kids running around, I will just bring the most innocuous scissors and bluntest needle I can find.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Justification for bringing your knitting bag to the restaurant.

As I was leaving the house this evening I grabbed my knitting bag and tossed it on the back seat. Just in case we got stuck in a snow bank, or just in case the people we were meeting uptown for dinner got caught in a snow bank on the way to the restaurant.
My boyfriend picked up couple of bottles of nice wine to give our dinner guests (part of the thank-you package which included the meal). Of course, there was no bag to but them in. Boyfriend was so worried about being late that he hadn't thought ahead about this little point. I had brought a very restrained (small) bag as my purse. Boyfriend wasn't toting anything.

And then there was the knitting bag.

A big canvas tote with from 'dujoo' filled with lots of soft, cushy balls of yarn to protect the wine. GREAT! No worries about whether or not this was the sort of restaurant where a knitting bag might be tres gauche. It's a moot point. The bag is carrying a gift, the knitting just happens to be extra. The bag behaved nicely the whole meal. No balls of yarn were ejected at inopportune moments. Of course I wasn't going to relinquish the bag, so at the end of our very nice dinner M & E had to carry those naked bottles of wine out into the cold. Makes me think I ought to tuck a cloth bottle bag into my knitting kit for just such emergencies.

N.B. Photos are re-enactments and have been altered to protect the identity of the wine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wee things & more wee things.

First, my sister Heather had twins in November....
and now.....
...the little "Wilde Childe" (first name to be determined) arrived 6 days ago. It's my brother Lex's second boy. And because I was so caught up in making two of everything for my sister's girls, I hadn't thought of what I was going to make this little human yet. And now he's here!

I think a Baby Surprise is in order and I've been eyeing my little hoarde of Dream in Colour... but...No, I think I'll use up some odds & ends of Lion Microspun. Yeah, it's not wool but I know it withstands baby barf and frequent washings. And at this age he's going to grow out of anything almost as fast I can make it. I'll save the Dream in Colour for a 1-2 year old sized thing.

Here are some photos from my sister of the wee girls at about 1 month.

I have no idea whether this is Josephine or Clara in the green, I think Clara, but she is almost fitting into a jacket of Microspun based on a pattern from one of my grandmother's old Patons books. I love using my Nanny's pattern books. I know if she were still alive she'd be cranking out the booties and sweaters so I feel like I'm doing it for her sometimes. Nanny would NEVER have used these outrageous colours, but she would have liked the yarn. For a synthetic it feels quite nice, it is very soft and forgiving. After a couple of washes the stitches really even out. I did one sweater on bamboo needles and the other with Addis. The Addis were much better, I thought. The plys can split apart as you knit the yarn, making it a bit annoying at times and because the yarn is quite slippery, the ends are evil and peak out again. Perhaps one day I will resort to clear nail polish or whatever it is that people use to 'glue' ends in. But I have rationalized that the odd end poking out there now and again subtly advertises the garment's hand-made quality. Ahem.

Jo-Jo, ( I think) in the lavender edition .

If you look at the label of the Lion Brand Microspun, it reads that it's made in Turkey. As I am fortunate enough to travel to Turkey every so often, I knew that if I had the time to poke around a little, I could probably find the Turkish equivalent on the market there. And a couple of years ago, I did. It goes by the name of Nako "Saten". Let's see, a 100gr ball in Turkey cost 1/2 of what a 50 gr ball cost in Canada. Deal. But I didn't go overboard. I did pick up a couple of balls of colours that Lion does not have in it's line, the deep burgundy & soft green that you see in these sweaters and a good supply of black. All the other shades are in the Lion Brand line.

Ahhh, one more while I'm on the topic of Microspun. Here's the Meg Swanson Baby Surprise Variation that I think was in Spring '07 Vogue Knitting.
I think the model might be Josephine. The colour combination reminds of a delicate little petit four.

Okay, must start more baby garments!!!

Meanwhile mitre-itis continues unabated, to which has been added chronic log cabin fever.
Noro, Noro, Noro!!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Scarf & Hat (& *sweater)

Febrrrrruary is living up to it's reputation with one heck of a wind chill whipping around out there. I met my friend Omer Kardes Yukseker for brunch yesterday at the glacially slow Lakeview Lunch and he caught me de-layering as only a person who lives in a cold and windy climate can.

I am not trying to hang myself.
I like the cold & I like layers.
I mean, I don't mind the cold when I have layers.

I made the scarf 12 years ago when I was living in Istanbul. Yarn selection was limited to stuff with acrylic and I didn't have a lot of money anyway, so I started playing with leftover yarn & knit squares to make a sampler. I have yet to make a sampler because every time I start a square I get "ideas" and sort of run with them. (i.e. Hmm, what could I make out of this stitch, what would it look like in different yarns, what happens if a make a triangle etc.). I think one day I counted over 60 yarn changes in this scarf. That's 60 sets of ends to sew in. And dang, I must have been really on my finishing game the day I did that because the plague of re-emerging ends has yet to manifest itself after 12 years. Proof that it can be done. I have since made variations on this scarf, oh I don't know, a dozen times? That makes about a scarf a year. I'll try to round some up (most have gone as gifts), because no two are exactly alike. I get a lot of comments on it and lots of people have asked how it's done (ans: easy). So coming (probably not that soon) to a blog near you, The Lite-brite Scarf!

The hat is my favourite mindless hat. It is a short-row hat. All garter stitch. This one elicits a lot of positive feedback too - I think it is the colour. It's made from one ball of Lang "Tosca Degrade" yarn that I picked up in Germany when I was visiting my sister last fall. It's 55 wool/45 acrylic- not my usual preference but the colour (663.0203) was irresistable & it's holding up well. I find acrylics often have a special way of pilling & this hat has become somewhat fuzzy and I think will lean toward matting over time. It's not a mohair/cashmere/alpaca/wool bloom - it is fuzzy. I made my first of these hats about 6 or maybe 7 years ago for a friend who was undergoing cancer treatment. I wanted to make him something modern and mediaeval and soft all the same time. Since then I've probably made 20 of them in different yarns. I think they are easy and if you are comfortable with grafting techniques and picking up stitches, there is really not much to 'em. It's a lot of words to write out 'though & one day I will do it because people keep asking me. But don't hold your breath.

The delicate pink scarf is a Turkish Oyali Yazma. It is fine cotton, block printed with a floral pattern and then edged with delicate little flowers. In this case the flowers are made with a straight needle and fine cotton thread. It's an older piece easily 40 years old and probably a bit older than that. I love yazma. I have a somewhat obscene collection of them. Maybe one day I will learn how to do it. Before my eyesight fails. It would take spending a good deal of time with ladies who know the art & craft of it. It is a true folk art, if you ask me. (Okay you didn't.)

And finally, (*the sweater).
Ummm, I didn't make it.
Isn't it amazing that those of us who knit often find ourselves muttering under our breath, "*I didn't knit it", or "*I bought it," when anyone compliments us on something that we didn't make ourselves? And frankly, if I knew the soul (or souls) who created this, I'd proudly state that my friend, mother, sister, neighbour or whoever had a hand in it. It's DKNY. I bought it at Winner's for a good deal less than the yarn would have cost. It is pure wool & soft and warm and lovely. It's a cardi knit in one piece for the body with the sleeves and collar knit separately. I would describe the stitch as a knit/purl chevron. It has nice shaping and little plackets at the back reminiscent of jacket details. Oh, I wish I'd come up with this!!! The only drawback is that the three buttons tug at the button holes - they need a little finishing. I have worn it 5 out of 7 days this season so far. It forced me to abandon a black sweater for myself because as long as I have this lovely sweater (which also to it's credit fits easily under all my coats), why should I suffer through making two identical sleeves???

I suppose bakers and chefs might mutter that they picked the hor d'oeuvres from the freezer at Loblaws but who else besides knitters fesses up in such a.....sheepish way?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Laurel's Birthday

February 4th was our friend Laurel MacDonald's birthday.
Her significant other, Phil Strong, organized a wee surprise get together that was in fact a wee surprise. I have to say that Laurel is so photogenic! Wow even the evils of close range flash don't diminish her loveliness. In this candid shot she is wearing the marvelous ribbons that wrapped a DVD from Mark & Kate. And if you look very closely on her right arm, you can see two bracelets that I made for her using a beaded crochet technique I learned from Martha Forsyth. I didn't think to photograph them up close when I finished them but I'm glad they fit Laurel!