Things handmade. About making things.
Is music a thing?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Good Slipper!

I feel a little Dorothy with these slippers.
Note how the sunlight glints off the faceted beads...
(Okay, in the books, Dorothy's slippers were silver)

Both pairs are constructed the same way. I think from the ankle opening down in garter stitch with increases across the front of the foot. Then it looks like the sole is picked up along the center and turned up the back. A little crocheted edging is added. Turkish ladies do like to have those finishing touches. I love 'em. Beaded Slippers!
Both these pair were given to me by Selma Sagbas who is a wonderful singer of Turkish Classical Music (and who is Texas doing concerts as I write!). She got them in Kutahya.
I made the mistake of admiring them when I visited her in Istanbul last fall. A mistake because when you praise something you'll often find it being given to you. When you try to refuse, it then becomes a point of honour on the part of the donor to make sure you leave with something worthy. Then things can get complicated, because you have to accept something, and it can keep escalating. "What, you don't like these?? Well perhaps you'll like these! Oh, and how about this? Please you must take this also!" I have learned to try and express interest and appreciation without too much fanfare but every once in a while gasps or giggles escape and I have to accept something or risk either having to carry home a large piece of furniture or insulting my host.
LuLu shares my delight in these slippers and wishes Selma joy, happiness and success with every step she takes.

Bad slipper!

Here is my Achilles' Heel.
Right now this slipper looks like a slug that crawled over a psychotropic fungi.
I did not think as I did this. I just did. And since I've been doing a lot of knitting in garter, I somehow forgot that plain knitting has more rows than stitches. Garter is more or less the same number of rows as stitches.
See that silly curl?
I could pretend that I wanted the slipper to have the Aladdin look.
However, it is not what I want. So these will be ripped back and re-heeled.
And I will be taking more stitches from the sides, a ratio of 3:4, as I knit up the heel back.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Swift & Winder

If I could open a bar for knitters, spinners & weavers, it would be called The Swift & Winder.
And there would be a wooden table with a good swift and winder set up.
No billiards.
Good lighting.
A bar that serves drinks of quality, with and without alcohol, and a kitchen which serves suitable fare.
No cigarettes. Knitting needles and bits of kit as necessary. Perhaps skeins of handspun behind the bar. Like a movable gallery. Or a mutable one. Maybe from time to time a skein that was taken away will come back as a piece of art. And treasured as such.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Much Better Way

I think Linda and I are entitled to say that we really went on a
Stash Enhancement eXpedition eXtraordinaire.
At midnight last night the Toronto Transit Commission went on strike. We were planning to take the TTC up and across town to the site of the Knitters' Frolic today. We had enrolled in "educational" workshops, so we HAD to go. A cab was out of the question. Way too much money would be spent on taxi fare that could be spent on lovely yarn. So we biked.
The weather favoured us, never raining even one forecasted drop. We had a bit of head wind coming home and I suppose knowing that we had to carry all our spoils on bikes might have resulted in some restraint on our parts. Well, Linda did pretty well as far as not getting toooooo much, can't say as I did. But the ride was pretty nice, easily 26 kms there and back, which is not a huge distance at all but there were some hills and for both of us this was probably the longest ride since the fall.
We did a short cut/detour through the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, stopping to say hello to some of Linda's relatives and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
Taking advantage of the TTC strike, we rode on along the raised street car tracks on St.Clair. It was like a deluxe bike lane. With our lovely new yarns stuffed into bags and strapped to our bikes it was really the Much Better Way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mr. Edison's Ear

Got to see a couple of films at the Hot Docs festival today. All of them left an impression. I think documentaries tend to do that. One of the short films was particularly poignant for me. Mr. Edison's Ear was a collage of largely archival footage which somehow managed to convey Edison as a complex being and underscore the impact of emerging technologies at the same time. Technologies that have shaped our lives and world, that seek to capture such essential ephemera as sound and motion. And it did so poetically. The filmmaker, Francisca Duran, chose a really unsettling sequence to close the film, the execution by electrocution of Topsy a 'dangerous' elephant in 1903. In the Q&A after the screening she explained that Edison chose that event to document because he was trying to prove the superiority of DC current and elephants are big animals. It was dramatic. She chose it because she felt it carried a lot of layers of meaning and one of the main ones was "at what cost all this technology?".

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Four little slippers from the Aegean coast of Turkey.

I got them over a period of many years, starting in 1989!

They all use the same basic construction from toe up. The toe cast on is quite wide and creates a rounder toe than the Sivas socks and slippers. All the detail is at the toe and ball of foot. When divided for the foot opening, the knitters switch to garter stitch. A simple heel is turned. You can see that they are not very durable. The relatively loose gauge makes them soft. The white yarn is usually a homespun while the coloured yarns are anything, often commercially made and often acrylic. The gauge is around 6 stitches to the inch, depending on the slipper.
A nice way to use up bits of yarn?

Must dash.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Flippin' hems

I hope three times is the charm, because I am making two Debbie Bliss Classic Baby Cardigans for my wee nieces JoJo & Clara in Potsdam and I hope that what I learn from the first one will make the second one go faster. It's the hem. I didn't really like the way it looked in garter stitch which is what the pattern calls for. So I ripped it up and did a turned hem.
I am not happy with this. It flips.
I used smaller needles.
I did a nice purl row to define the hem.
I thought I carefully counted the rows before knitting the hem to the body.
I did something wrong.
And you know how suddenly you notice something and -boom- it's everywhere. So it is with this hem. Knitting Daily did a posting on the turned hem. If only it had come out before I cast on. I am going to CUT just above the hem and knit a new one down. I just want to finish the rest of the sweater so I don't run out of the green in an unfortunate spot.

Oh well.

This is what I have learned.
1) Do a swatch. Dr. Knit (Denise Powell from DKC) gently pointed out that this would have saved me a great deal of time. She also suggested casting on 5% fewer stitches to allow for the thickness of the fabric. Thank you, Denise for not laughing at me.
2)Use a provisional cast on. I can pick up stitches from a cast on edge with little or no hassle so it did not occur to me to do otherwise. It might have helped.
3) Think!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Manufacturing Landscapes

The Hot Docs film festival in underway. I think if the weather were rainier I'd be more inclined to see movies in the middle of the day. Today would be the perfect afternoon to while away in a theatre, overcast as it is.

Last Sunday I took the Boyfriend to see Manufactured Landscapes, a film about the work of photographer Ed Burtynsky as he travels to China to capture what he sees. The scale of human endeavour is staggering, as are the implications to human spirit and the environment. There is a sequence in the film where the camera focuses on a woman as she assembles switching boxes by hand. All the parts are pre-made, plastic, metal and what not. Her hands just fly, she says she assembles about 400 a day. Assembled by hand. Is it hand-made? What is the difference between what she does and what we do, with stitches and knots over and over again? Intention, largely. But it left me feeling both extremely fortunate that I can more or less decide what I make and when, and sad that so much of the world, so many humans are locked into a series of repetitious and unrewarding tasks. I wonder if the lady who assembles switches (or the one who wraps wire around a joint, or tests nozzles endlessly) allows her mind to wander. Do songs find her and sing themselves in her head?

How many hands made all the parts and pieces that make up my computer, and the electrical & telecommunications systems that supplies it. Staggering.

Almost as an antidote (and consumerism is a dangerous drug), I bought some Cestari yarn. "Manufacured Exclusively by the sheep and shepherds of Chester Farms". It smells like lanolin.

Foiled Photos!

One beautiful day after another. Lots of knitting in hand and on because it's cooling off at night.
Last week I went to visit my new nephew's Mama (today's complicated parental relationships produce equally complex nomenclature for all involved). A beautiful day, like today, and we were going to sit out in Christa's yard and I was going to get her started on knitting. I filled a bag up with various bits of this and that, some acrylic, some wool, some merino & silk, and a selection of old needles so that if Christa's two-year old goes on a rampage of destruction, at least she will just bend up some metal as opposed to snapping wood. I put in my newly finished sweater for my wee nephew Austin, the ends finally darned in. I didn't take a picture of it because I tossed my camera into the bag, too, thinking that with the lovely sunshine AND with my little nephew as model, I'd have a delightful photo op.

When I got there, my wee nephew and his older sister were sporting sweaters that I had made for my older nephew Lokesh. His Mama Anne (today's complicated parental relationships continue to produce equally complex nomenclature for all involved) had generously passed them on to Christa for her little ones. You don't how happy it makes a knitter feel to see a child's sweater passed along. A lot of work goes into them, and you just KNOW that the child is going to grow out of it sooner rather than later so to see the garments move through family and friends is a special kind of joy. Rather like planting a tree. (Happy Earth Day, by the way).

We got settled in the yard and I pulled out my camera.
The batteries were dead.

Well, there will be other sunny days and the weather is such that the kids will be in sweaters.

Later that evening, at the DKC meeting
(Veronik Avery graced us with her presence - what a fine, fine knitter, designer & artist!)
when sitting with Linda & Reet and chatting about what was on our needles,
I had my lovely baby cardigans started for the wee nieces in Germany,
when Suzanne turned, looked baffled, and wordlessly communicated,
"Knitting for babies? but they just grow out of it!"
I was able to effuse about the wonders of seeing the little sweaters all over again,
scooting around in the grass,
dozing in the sun,
playing in the park.
With the little people in them of course!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

When all else fails - felt?

Far from perfect. No where near art. Craft barely applies. Yet they are functional.ExpenSive Felted $lipper$ !!
Shrunk about 30 % in the washer. No dryer - that would have resulted in slippers for the Boyfriend's niece and the colours are no longer bright enough for that. A good lesson in humility. Second pair of slippers, ala turka, from the much maligned Fleece Artist Country Mohair just need finishing touches. Hereby launch this week as knitting finishing touches week.

Bit too much Viognier at dinner (but nice work if you can get it!)
(erm I mean wine) (and I don't usually get too enthusiastic about white).

Had a wonderful thought walk in the woods up on the Niagara Escarpment. Much melting snow causing chilly swamps but life bursting all over. Waterfalls to set the soul to singing. Little bits of brave green soaking up the warm April sun. Gorgeous ruddy fungi. And closer to home the willows around Grenadier Pond are that harbinger yellow. Spring!

Didn't bring my camera so must rely on Boyfriend getting around to downloading his snaps. I will not hold my breath. Neither should you. Breath deep. The frozen earth is releasing the seeds of promise.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Slippers - Sivas style

The gallery of Turkish slippers continues with two pair today.

These blue & white slippers were given to me by a friend in Istanbul who said she got them at the outdoor market in Kasimpasa. If you are looking for handicrafts in Turkey and can find out when the neighborhood "pazar" is, you can often find handknit items, oya/crochet edged scarves and that sort of thing. Depending on the demographic of the neighborhood, you can find regional crafts. I am not sure that these slippers are from the Sivas region of Turkey but they are very much like Sivas slippers.
They are probably acrylic or maybe a wool acrylic blend, about 20% wool, 80% acrylic is fairly common. The gauge is 7 & 1/4 stitches to the inch.

The pink and blue pair are from Sivas or nearby. I bought them in wool shop in the Besiktas neighbourhood of Istanbul a few years ago. The shopkeeper told me that her brother was getting the village women to make them. They were expensive by Turkish standards, I don't remember exactly but they were probably double what the market slippers usually cost. They are very beautifully made and are in fact at least two times as nice as any market slipper I've come across so certainly worth the extra cost. The gauge is 9 stitches to the inch. Again, it's hard to say what the exact content of the yarn is, probably acrylic with some wool.

At the time, I bought two pairs of slippers and some little bags. The other pair of slippers was scooped up by Megan at Lettuce Knit. I went back to the Besiktas woolshop a few months ago and the lady who was minding it told me that any of the remaining socks and bags in the shop were not for sale. I'll try again on my next trip because I don't think she was the lady I spoke with before. I'd really like to encourage the enterprise. Also I'll photograph the bags. I think they are really well made.

I wish I had some older slippers left. Socks often survive longer because many socks were made for special purposes or as part of a dowry etc. Also I've noticed that a lot of the very traditional socks don't fit feet all that well. Slippers are made to be worn and consequently get worn out and replaced.

I used these two pair as a models for the nearly finished slippers - just have to tidy up the ends - but I am mystified. The heels here are turned so neatly and mine are close to disaster. Almost the the point where I might rip them out and try again. If I could figure out what I did wrong. I KNOW that stocking stitch is longer than it is wide, so the fact that my heels are too long makes sense. Hmmm. Think I need to really look at these and count rows & stitches. Enought for today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

ankara corabi - the ankara sock

If I could figure out how to put music on this page as it loaded, I'd program Erkin Koray's Ankara Sokaklari....

This is one of two pairs of socks that I have that are more or less identical. Both were given to me about 15 years ago. They are truly lovely.
They are called Ankara socks in Turkey because they are made in and around Ankara using the fiber that got it's name from goats that are raised there: angora or mohair. In Turkish they call the fiber tiftik. Both pairs appear to be made from handspun yarn and are the same pattern, a variant on feather and fan or shell stitch. They are made from the toe up. The plain knitting on the toe and on the soul uses a twisted stitch. Actually this twisted stitch seems to be used throughout, even in the patterned areas. Averages about 9 & half stitches to the inch on the stocking stitch areas.

I've worn them a lot and they all have holes now, so they are languishing in the darning pile at the moment.
I thought when I was first given them that they would be scratchy but they are not. And they are very warm for their weight.

I got some Turkish sock yarn in Istanbul a couple of trips ago, from the RAM company I'm pretty sure. It is an acrylic/tiftik blend. Primarily so that I could repair these with something close to their original (I think the only place you could get handspun was from the village woman who spin it...) I also thought it might make a nice shawl and yes maybe one day I will try the Ankara sock itself.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

slipper o' the day

I got these slippers from my friend Suze Stentz who, with her partner Richie, travels to Bulgaria every year to seek out folk art and music. Back in the US, they set up a traveling peddler's caravan and they go to all sorts of folk and craft events - look for them if you are into that sort of thing. OPET.

Suze and I often commiserate on what Americanski will and will not buy. Various bags and pouches seem a hard sell - although they are often of exquisite workmanship and potentially practical. And slippers. Maybe because Richie & Suze are based in North Carolina that they find the slipper buying public scarce but I find the same farther north. Well, them's that like 'em do.
One problem actually is that they are often made for smaller feet than your typical North American. ANYWAY.

I love this pair.
They are very simple but well crafted from a lovely loose handspun. I think the foot bed is made first & joined along the sole. The toe section is picked up and knit in the round with decreases every ridge. They suffered some moth damage a few years ago (not at my house!!!).
I have some scrap Lopi set aside to try and replicate them. One of these days.

Blast it is blustery today - but I'm still going to bike to the divine Yarn Harlot's book launch! Must be "the" knitters of Toronto event of the year.