The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Worthwhile endeavours

One of my favourite fiber blogs is island sweet out of Newfoundland.  This Monday she wrote this post on her new fresh flowers.  I couldn’t agree more – fresh flowers keep me going this time of year, as island sweet notes this is when “nature sleeps.”  My kitchen orchids are the stars of the household in winter.  This year is the biggest display yet:

Pippi, over there on the left is working up her own spike.

I am torn between spinning this 3rd single for my merino yarn, and knitting the January Lady Sweater.  Singles 1 & 2:  “Are we there yet?”

That’s right, the January Lady Sweater is not gathering dust in a corner.  The gull lace’s row 1 kept tripping me up but I finally got the hang of it, and am going at a bit of a clip.  Just adding a single marker at mid-back is what helped me not knit way past what Finella calls, un petite boo boo.

If you follow the Yarn Harlot, you know that her anniversary post was poignant.  She worries that 6 years in her blog is less relevant in this age of Ravelry.  Followed by a mile-long comment roll from readers (yours truly included) who beg to differ.

Raising my hand to speak now.  Almost 4 years ago, I found the Harlot by hook or by crook.  How many times did I check the blog for respite from the daily big-city grind?  I was on a tight pivot between Knitty & Yarn Harlot.  Who knew there was a knitting scene… in Toronto?!  I was Clueless.  She gets that she grew into a Very Important Blog, and has the banners to prove it.

Now, I’m not raising my voice or anything when I type… It’s not a thing of the past, Ms. Pearl-McPhee!  Seriously.  Let’s fast-forward to September ’09.  There I was sucking-up Ravelry, and You Tube like you wouldn’t believe.  I was almost done cleaning Peter-Tosh-the-Fleece & was gearing-up for the Kundert spindle’s arrival.  Excited like crazy… but. Essentially. Clueless.

Clueless that is, until I caught sight of a post on a certain blog about a Field Trip dated September 2nd.  The one I speak of is  here.  What did I learn?  Why that the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is a very fiber-friendly place.  Now all good things in my life happen in chains & this is no different.  The Harlot-Induced Chain went like this:

  • Man, I have to get to this winter’s Royal!
  • And so I did (true story).  It wasn’t just about a day at a fair though.  I was bowled-over by the Guilds and the drop spindlers.  So much so that I dropped the shy act & actually spoke with any available person.  They told me amazing things (funny how that works, isn’t it?!).  Like how there’s actually an Oakville Handweavers & Spinners Guild.
  • Just last week I acted on that information & wrote to Guild President, Ixchel Suarez about attending a meeting.  Now I’ll be going on Friday.   They haven’t even met me yet but are already extending a welcoming, helping hand.

It all started because of a blog post.  Whatever she decides, I have the Harlot to thank for enriching my life like this.  She’s at the receiving end of brutal reactions but should also know about the good that comes of her blog.  Hey, she brought me out of my shell over and again.  That’s something!

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Rainy days

As much as I’d love summertime to show up, this weather is good for the knitting.   Here we are at the end of July & I am working on an alpaca & silk cardigan?!  Nuts, man.  The cardigan I speak of is Connie Chang Chinchio‘s spring IK design:  my purple cocoon cardi.

For the moment we are ignoring the problems I had with the front left piece, okay?  This is the start of a sleeve:

The former-earring-cum-marker is at Row 39.  I have another 20 or so rows of this cocoon pattern to go.

Hydrangeas also like rainy, cool Julys:

In & amongst the hydrangeas is a wildflower (weed?) that didn’t quite get thinned out this year.  Austerity Tip – to avoid spending $$$ on mulch just let the wildflowers be.   Oh and yes, DH has yet to cut the grass.

Other exciting but fully unrelated news:  (A) right foot is on the mend; (B) right foot was not broken!  Took me 3 weeks  & 2 follow-up visits to the Dr. to get this simple x-ray report… Universal health care.  As Uncle Pat always said, “Remember you are dealing with bureaucrats.  Be nice to them.  They are bureaucrats.”  That’s all I have to say about that.

Since the sprain is now low-grade, I have liberated my foot from the infernal boot.  It was giving me blisters even with cushioning & a sock & moisturizing.  I am to do physio, and all that good stuff.  In the meantime, I am getting the knack of walking sans right boot cast.

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Inquiry Marches On

Thanks for the shrug-friendly emails ladies – you know who you are!!  I promise to post pics of me all dolled-up with Tender is the Night.  The trip to Houston is no longer iffy… My passport is ready for pick-up!  Hubby was starting down the road of, “Technically, you don’t need your passport to travel.”  Ever tried explaining things to a border agent?

Explaining things = smooth segue —> Day 1 of Mr. Mulroney’s cross-examination.  I was glued to the tv.  In my own defence, I am not a Court tv person.  Neither am I a public inquiry geek (ordinarily).  This inquiry has me fully engaged.  Richard Wolson who is counsel for the Inquiry, began by buttering the witness up.  It was a masterful buttering.  Mr. Wolson avers he is “no bull-dog”; asks for the witness’ understanding.  At first I thought this was the classic Put Witness at Ease before you go for the Jugular tactic.    It was more than that.  The questioning is intense.  The tension is palpable even through CBC filming.  However, Mr. Wolson simply said at one point, “You are the first Prime Minister I have ever met.”  The all-too human struggle for this fearless advocate is evident.  It is this humanity that has me rivetted.

This morning I heard a journalist from the Fifth Estate, Linden MacIntire, analyze Mr. Mulroney’s performance.  He says (paraphrasing here)  that the same flaws that dogged Mr. Mulroney as Prime Minister now dog him in the Inquiry.   To wit – he says too much; is overly sentimental; and never fully admits a mistake.

I have no clear idea of Mr. Mulroney’s trajectory through office.  I see his real weakness on the stand as sounding like a broken record.  He does wax poetic but so does every former head of government.  He is walking a narrow script that has not changed a jot.  It lines up too well – his chief mirrors the discovery answers he gave in what 1996?  Mr. Wolson, astute as a fox, highlights the pattern.  He repeats the same discovery answers, asks questions and elicits the exact same answers again & again.  He crosses to the substance but the big strokes are of an unnatural, hollow story.  And when a witness is on a sticky wicket, you need them to sound natural.

To drive that pattern home, Mr. Wolson asks the witness about his comment going into the discovery.  Which was Mr. Mulroney saying that the problem the government lawyers would face that day is that they expected him to answer their questions.  Very humerous?  No.  It conjures up the image of a spin-master delivering his message, no matter the questions bowled.  The same message echoes in the same language today.

Mr. Wolson’s cross on the discovery also eats into Mr. Mulroney’s credibility further.  He makes the case that (to use lawyerese) Mr. Mulroney was guilty of material non-disclosure of his ‘legitimate commercial relationship’ with Karlheinz Schreiber.  Mr. Mulroney demurs.  He insists (a) the precise question was not asked; (b) the Karlheinz Schriber ‘acquaintanceship’ was not part of that case & by extension, the discovery.  It does beg the question how forthright Mr. Mulroney is before the Inquiry today – are the right questions asked?  Mr. Wolson presses the point through the long day to show how very thin the excuse is.  Another image – Mr. Mulroney outsmarts 9 government lawyers by deliberately minimizing his meetings with Karlheinz Schriber as getting together for coffee.  It’s huberis & it sticks.  As does the other image – 75 $1,000 bills pocketed.

This must be the 3rd degree of hell for Mr. Mulroney.  He sees the lines of questioning.  He is a lawyer.  I can’t say what this all means in the long run.  I feel lucky to be watching this cross-examination.  Yes, I am a geek & it’s not just knitting!

I have knitting things to post about but this is super long already.

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Knitting in Interesting Times

Shrug accomplit!  For all the worries, I think this is perfectly wearable for my cousin’s wedding.  First of all it slides on easily.  No worming to get into it.  I’m many things but decidedly not a victim to fashion.  This shrug is also a perfect twin for the dress.  The yarn’s silky sheen is my favourite but the dye striping also matches the material’s subtle stripes.  Hubby’s Oohs & Aahs?  Priceless!  I’ll post pictures from the wedding but here’s a pre-coffee FO pic in the meantime:

Tender is the Night back view

Tender is the Night back view

Not showing you my smug grin…

I decided against going for an edging.  Overly girly accessorizing ain’t my thang.  Since it grew in the blocking, there’s some sag at the armhole joins.  It may be a little distracting but I am thinking it’s comfortable to move around in.

Now this is completed, I’ve also returned to the Straight-Up Socks (remember?  blue denim superwashies).  No 2nd sock syndrome here.  I am also leaning towards finishing the pink baby cardi – come what may of it.  My other girlfriend will get a yummy lime creation for her bambino/a.

We live in interesting times.  This 2nd sock came along a ways as Canada’s fromer Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney took the stand, yesterday.  I was a teenager in Jamaica when Mr. Mulroney was in office.  The Inquiry is back live on CBC television, and I am watching.  He seems to have aged rapidly between the Ethics committee hearings in November 2007 and now.  The public scandal is obviously taking its toll.  He held himself proudly but the bags under his eyes made him look alarmingly like his nemesis, Karlheinz Schreiber.

At its heart the scandal is whether Mr. Mulroney took that first wad of 75 $1,000 bills, and the rest of it as a kick-back.  Led by his lawyer, Guy J. Pratte, Mr. Mulroney spoke to and around the allegations of suspicion in his own lawyerese.  As he testified, the veil fell from the processes by which major policy decisions were made in his executive government.  I was fascinated to hear how he controled the personel of the central government, and the chanels of communication.  To be on my couch hearing the authority that kept Bearhead alive, how and why.  This is the stuff of L1 Constitutional Law.

The negative space of his testimony was even more telling.  As one example – Why was he Memoed on Bearhead at all?  He was a national leader, “tenacious of office” to use the language of Stanley de Smith & Rodney Brazier in my old “Constitutional & Administrative Law” text.  He tells the Inquiry that his public reputation would have been boosted by creating jobs in a province with up to 50% unemployment.  Bearhead’s light armoured vehicles were undoubtedly his pet project.  He exercised muscle, and the decision was in his hands outside the Cabinet.  He spoke of reassuring his Cabinet on the principles that were guiding the decision.  It is not every day that the inner workings of a Parlimentary democracy are laid bare.

There is much ‘material’ for Mr. Mulroney’s cross-examination.  His chief was depressingly thread-bare in all of the important places.  Was I dreaming when I heard of a single meeting that moved from Schriber’s threat of a law suit to a fat envelope passing hands?  There were other days when the money passed and was accepted.  As what?  From what source?  Never asked; was never told.  Mr. Schriber dances there too.  Then we hear of photos with “UN insignia” that Mr. Mulroney insists speak for themselves.  Lastly there’s the paltry excuse to keep it all hidden.  As the saying goes – we are as sick as our secrets.

As if that were not enough, we also have the spectacle of Ruby Dhalla in Nanny-Gate.  Her white suit was blinding.  Her statements were wooden, and delivered in such an imperious tone.  It came together to enhance the caregivers’ allegations that she and her family were overbearing, autocratic employers.  I cringed to hear her intone over & again, “I, Ruby Dhalla…”  Misguided in the extreme.

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Caveat Emptor – Local Streets

Which interpreted means – Buyer Beware of Local Streets’ TopFlorist .  My order of a flower arrangement for delivery to MIL in Jamaica was confirmed at 10:06 a.m. this Wednesday.  It was the cost of the arrangement plus a US$20 delivery charge.  Some 15 hours later at 1:52 a.m. on Thursday, they sent me this message:

Dear customer: sorry to inform you that we need extra USD$20 for this order because the florist on the island increased the price the mother’s day flower. Please advise us if you agree to pay this extra money or we can cancel this order for you. Please reply to us ASAP. Thank you very much. Eric

Local Florist refused to honour the purchase price.  They rudely insisted they had every right to bait & switch for a further $20.  So much for the website’s statement they only choose florists with good reputations in terms of customer service.  Is it not customer service to stand by the advertised price?  Well, my friends it is established basic contract law.  Here’s how Local Florist’s customer service defended the upsell:

…we can’t list all the change for every florist anywhere anytime. The email you received is computer auto generated email. It just confirmed we received your order and processed your order. If there is any problem occurred later on, we can cancel the order without your permission.

Really?  Local Florist does not stand by its posted prices.  They are fluid.  So much for their “customer benefits.”  They refused to deal with the local florist, and gave zero service.  By the way – there were no terms of service on the website to set up these conditions such as unilateral termination of the contract.  I’m not sure what legal world they operate in.  No reputable business comes with an afterthought “we need another $20.”  It’s ludicrous.

They insisted that I pay or cancel.  Well who needs to do business with such sharks?  Not me.  I’ll go back to Flora2ooo who live up to their website in my experience – same day too.

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Quickie post

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  My cousin & an old friend were both born May 5th, so it’s always been an auspicious day.  Hope they have a good one.

I’m still on my yarn shop exploring kick.  Tried 2 yesterday but they were both closed.  That’s cool – gives them back a 2 day weekend from the looks of their business hours.  Lettuce Knit is the only yarn store I go to in the GTA that is open Sundays.  When I have worked, Sunday was really the only day I was semi-relaxed enough to shop.  I was commuting east, and never could dream of making it back to our town before shops closed.  Harried existence that.  I’m slowly trying to come out of that head space & look around.

My fall planting is now paying off:

Hyacinth survives the rabbits

Hyacinth survives the rabbits

Am off to change (shirt annoyingly short) and run to an early appointment.  Hope 090505 is a good one for ya!

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Great First – Downtown Knit Collective Meeting

I went out to the DKC meeting last night to hear  Laura Chau of cosmicpluto/ Lettuce Knit fame speak.   Laura’s website is here:  I really wanted to hear Laura’s talk because she’s a young, successful designer/ blogger.  She was so articulate, and honest about her craft & experiences.  Really great job Laura!  She even delivered a slide show!  DKC did a good thing in inviting her to speak.  Probably the most exciting thing was hearing her story of moving from hobby knitting to publishing her own designs.  I mean, there were parallels there!!

I also loved speaking with Laura after her presentation.  She was very generous in answering my question because it was pretty personal.  Wishing her all that’s good:)

Not knowing a soul is no longer mortifying.  I had sock yarn, and needles & that helped with the shyness.  Of course, tripping over a step garnered some attention – so much for the stealth approach to life…  There is, however, an up-side.  I tripped right under the nose of Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka Yarn Harlot (or yes, her look-alike).  What’s better than making the Yarn Harlot laugh?!?

Also having some news on the job front.  One does need to eat – and rip out oooold carpeting – but returning to work… seriously?

The lead-up to the DKC experience was great too.  A favourite cousin treated me to lunch – at the AGO no less!  We had talked about getting together for such a long time, and it was such a blast.    I also got to take in the museum – my 1st trip post-renovation.  I have to say it’s beautiful.  Beautiful even from the street (yes, I’m comparing to the ROM…)  So, it’s the middle of March Break now.  I expected Moms and young kids but was surprised to see whole groups of teenagers walking the floors!  Gotta love Torontonians:)

Back to the new sock:  I planned to move to sock version 2.0.  The rush to have a portable project is making this one plain jane.  It’s navy blue superwash yarn, which isn’t helping.  I have a plan to use my leftover Araucania but it’s a vague plan at best right now.  Will work on jazzing the sockie up.

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Independent Yarn Shops

On a recent web crawl – yes, time is my friend of late – I found this post on Twisted Knitter:  Janet raises a great point – why do some knitters and crocheters refuse to cross the threshold of a LYS.  The comments are also very interesting.  The topic is alive and well on Knit Purl Gurl:

I came by knitting honestly and through a big box.  Like Janet, I’m a cross-over customer.  I browse Michaels, Zellers, and to a lesser extent the local Walmart.  It’s actually a lazy hunt for Patons SWS.  I knitted my SWS stash to the last nub.  For some reason it’s disappeared entirely from the community.  Next step will be the internet, but I’m still on the look-out locally.  This usually means I walk out empty-handed but I am on a cotton kick at the moment, so that works too.  I saw on a recent visit that Michaels is revamping the yarn department for this Spring.  There’s certainly room for improvement… it’s shoved against a wall.

Now if the good knitting/ big label yarns were stocked at a LYS, I probably would save the big box trips for emergencies.  I like me some variety, and would pay a shade more to the LYS.  I am seeing far too many small businesses of all stripes close in our community now.

After some hemming & hawing I made the big step of going into a LYS.  I’ve had only good experiences & I’m the type who wants to be left alone for the most part.  The first shop was Margaret’s Yarn Boutique.  She in no way made me feel odd about having been to Walmart first.  She helped, and I was happy to follow her advice.  It’s generally been hard for me to get to LYSes because of work/ life issues with their business hours.  I’m also no stranger to anxiety – I typically took an inordinate amount of time to try out new shops.  My worry was really that the cluelessness was bound to show.

It’s all good now, and if someone is on the verge of going local, I’d say try it.  I learned my lesson when a local Jamaican restaurant went out of business.  Managing finances seemed to be a problem for them but we could have gone more often.  As things stand, no more hard-dough bread hot out of the ovens!  My experience – for what it’s worth – is that these ladies (never encountered male sales help in LYSdom) don’t psych anyone out.  It’s okay to browse quietly, and they won’t make you feel like a dummy.  Then again, Canadians are said to be polite…

The good karma can’t hurt either.  I for one would love a bricks & mortar with a willing customer-base!