Monday, 25 February 2013

Pemberly Spencer

A dear friend recently gifted me a bag of wool roving, of no mean size. Included were three rolls - light grey-brown, dark grey-brown, and the third, not so attractive, distantly familiar shade. I couldn't quite find the memory. I had been saving this roving until my spinning skills improved, as it is far too lovely to waste on amateur work. I was eager to do some spinning today, so I opted for spinning the not-so-attractive colour.

Then it struck me. Elizabeth at Pemberly.

For years, I was tormented by the scene in the 1995 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzy tours Pemberly, under the assumption that Darcy is away. When they discover one another - him all wet, and her all humiliated - an intense romantic tension builds. A tension only amplified by the anxiety inflicted by Lizzy's ugly spencer jacket and bonnet. There I have said it! I thought they were ugly - such an awful colour scheme! I hate to speak ill of my dearest Elizabeth, but there it is.

I speak in the past tense regarding my dislike, not because my grammar is poor, but because I quite like the outfit now. Evidently my tastes have refined over the years. And I have developed an appreciation for bonnets. I am determined to spin this odd coloured, lovely roving into yarn that honours the outfit I have cursed for over a decade. I make no promises, but perhaps it is destined for a spencer jacket. 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Gift of a Promise

Like marriage and motherhood, knitting a pair of socks is an enormous commitment. You feel the short-lived satisfaction of completing one perfect sock, followed by the reality of having to start all over again - except in the case of a Christmas stocking.

For Valentines Day I gave my Valentines one sock each and the gift of a promise. A promise of a second sock for Easter.

I used the Briggs & Little Heavy Sock Pattern for Nate's, and the pattern I made up for Angus's was so haphazard that it isn't worth sharing.

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Observing Lent - Spending time not spending

I don't identify as a Christian, but I do enjoy novel experiments of will power from time-to-time. Lent provides a perfect opportunity for self-sacrifice, with the added bonus of an excuse to eat pancakes on a Tuesday (if one ever needed an excuse to eat pancakes).

I recently watched Mansfield Park, and was affected by the scene where Fanny's mother discovers her surrounded by crumpled up letter drafts and scolds her for wasting the paper. Paper wasn't cheap 200 years ago! It is amazing what we take for granted. I want to take a step away from consumerism, get creative with what I have, make due. I rarely take time to check my spending.

For lent this year, I am giving up spending money, aside from bills and payments. No restaurants,  no coffees out, no mindless shopping. I want to make good use of my new non-spending time. In addition to reflecting on my frivolous spending, I intend to busy myself around the house - playing with Angus, planning the garden, de-cluttering, cooking, processing wool, spinning, knitting, reading, writing, etc...

The caveat is that I have a husband who will not stand to see me suffer, and will be paying for necessary groceries, including my chocolate bars. And admittedly, I may have already cheated. In preparation for the restricted spending, I planned 40 days worth of projects and have made three trips to Michael's for supplies - 11 skeins of yarn, cable stitch holders, double pointed needles, a circular needle, and a multi-needle felting tool. I do not promise to use all the yarn, but I hope to have a few pairs of socks, a sweater for Angus and a cowl to show for it.

Observing Lent
I will track an approximate savings over the month- from skipped lunch dates and things I would have otherwise purchased. I have yet to decide what to do with this data. Likely more yarn and a donation.

Please share your own stories of will power and sacrifice.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wet Felting at the Soup Kitchen

The Saturday Adventures of Anne and Ashleigh continued yesterday, when we went to the Soup Kitchen Community Centre for their weekly felting workshop! Calna, the Executive Director, and amazing fibre artist, facilitates. Upon establishing that she is my ex-aunt from before I was born (me being her "first ex-husband's sister's daughter") we got started!

My felting experience has thus far been limited to shrinking things that I have knit. Wet felting allows for felting all sorts of mediums like roving, unprocessed fleece, cut up sweaters, and even silk, into beautiful sheets of whatever you want to use it for. I don't know the full scope of what can be felted (please comment with other ideas), but we were all working flat pieces that can later be sewn into whatever we like. Anne is working on a case for her iPod, and I am making a mat that I can roll my double pointed needles in - like this one from Pinterest.

A blurry picture of materials. Appropriate, because felting is a blurry art. 
We started by laying out a "base material" - larger pieces of roving that we layered our design on top of - onto a sheet of bubble wrap that is at least the size of what we were trying to make. We then layer on our design. I layered on more roving, locks of fleece and tufts of silk roving. The silk doesn't actually felt, but it adheres to the wool fibres quite well and creates a lovely glow. Calna says that when you see glow, you know it is silk. I also used a "silk hanky" - a very fine and delicate sheet of silk - to create what proved to be a very impressionistic tiger lilly.

Silk hankies and roving!
When my design was layered, I placed a sheet of fine mesh or netting over top (I think I was using some kind of tulle) and then spayed it with soapy water from a spray bottle, until it sufficiently soaked through.

Then we were to gently rub and massage the piece. Jen, a fellow felter, referred to this as "Zen time". Just relax and gently rub it until it feels flat and lifts easily away from the mesh.

We then hemmed our pieces, by tucking under the edges all around, and then replacing the mesh and massaging the edges again.

Massaging my felt.
I removed the netting and placed another sheet of bubble wrap, bubble side down, on top of the felt and wrapped it around a rolling pin. I noticed after the fact, that others had the wherewithal to secure their projects with rubber bands around the pin. I missed this instruction, which complicated my rolling immensely. Calna insisted that it be rolled at least 100 times forward and backward. Anne didn't count - she focused on relaxing her shoulders. I counted every roll.

Rolling the felt and relaxing her shoulders.

Once rolled, we removed our felting from the bubble wrap, and rinsed it under the hottest water our hands could tolerate for a few minutes. All frustrations are then released by throwing the felt at the table as hard as possible 20 times. This step has a name, but I have forgotten it. Perhaps Anne remembers. Honestly, I think some of these steps are arbitrary, but exist for Calna's personal enjoyment. It was fun none-the-less.

Anne smashing her felt on the table 20 times. What is the word for this? 
After smashing, I was left with a beautiful mat, riddled with holes. I had to repeat some of the above steps to patch the larger ones. It looked quite pretty with the holes, but would not perform its function of holding needles very well.

Once the felt dries, it can be embroidered and sewn, or decorated in any imaginable way. There are needle felting machines and sewing machines available for use as well - which is a whole other Saturday adventure. I am going to embroider mine later on, in hopes that I can make the tiger lilly slightly less impressionistic.

Note the impressionistic tiger lilly. 
If you are looking for something to do on a Saturday, check out the Soup Kitchen at noon. You can make a $10 donation, or make a bracelet for them to sell. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Café Natura, Ellen Degeneres & a Wind Quintet

One of my favourite breakfast and lunch destinations in Sault Ste. Marie, is Café Natura on Elgin Street. It's bright and comfortable, and the coffee is fantastic, Fair Trade, and Organic. Owned and operated by health care professionals, Kelly and Todd are always eager to make your meal exactly to your specifications, be it gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, etc. They don't believe in white flour, they do believe in healthy salt, and you can even pick up a wide range of homeopathic and herbal supplements, and holistic nutritional literature. Despite all the healthy parameters, the food is varied, flavourful, and delicious. I highly recommend the falafel wrap - if you're in to that sort of thing. 

You always get more than what you pay for at Café Natura. If Todd isn't wandering around trying to convince you to taste-test a new recipe, Kelly is handing out free tickets to the Berlin Phil Wind Quintet performing this Thursday - which is actually to say she gave me the two tickets that someone had given her. And who likes a wind quintet better than I? Had I ever learned to play, I would have been a great proficient (truthfully, that is a Lady Catherine De Bourgh quote). However, when I looked at the tickets this morning, I saw that it begins at 7:30pm. Unfortunately, I am house bound after 6:00pm with Angus's hourly feeding requirements. So in true Ellen Degeneres fashion (were you wondering where she fit in?), I am hosting my second give-away in a row!

If any of my readers would like the two free tickets, regularly priced at $45 each, please comment below with your feelings on wind quintets, and a promise to visit Café Natura.

(some of my readers have had issues commenting when using their mobile - in such a case as this, you can email me at

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Knitting in the Round - Do Not Knit Your Tail

Every time I discover a pattern that requires "knitting in the round", the instruction immediately following "join for working in the round" is without-a-doubt "be careful not to twist your stitches". It must be close to 15 projects that have required me to join for working in the round, and I have never once twisted my stitches. What I have done 100% of the time, and sometimes multiple times per project, is knit my gall-darn tail! Why don't they bombard you with this warning?! It is quite as irksome upon discovery as any other defect - requiring unknitting all of those hard earned stitches. Though, I'm positive it wouldn't make a difference if they did warn you - like when my mom warns us not to get in car accidents. So there you have it - for what it is worth - do not knit your tail. Clearly, I have no words of advice for how one avoids this - just keep your eye on that sneaky scoundrel.

I spun a variegated yarn last week, just to practice my colour blending. I was not trying to be organized or patterned (very unlike me), what fun.

It was just a tiny skien, and I was eager to test it, so I wanted a small project. Why not knit a decorative felted bowl?

Truthfully, I preferred the skien to the bowl. I can appreciate that I made bowl out of yarn that I spun from once-filthy fleece, but anyone who knows me, knows that I am far too gothic for this colourful nonsense. I am happy to get rid of it to the first person expressing interest in the comments. As long as that person isn't secretively thinking it would make a lovely hat (a bowl is but an up-side-down hat after all), but I assure you it would not, and with any luck on behalf of your fashion sense, it will be too small for your head. I couldn't bare the humiliation of having someone scampering about with my bowl on their head, telling anyone who will listen that Ashleigh Sauve made it. Telling people that I had the novel idea to knit a bowl is quite another thing.