Thursday, June 18, 2015

An Alternative to Water Balloons! Sponge Balls!

It's been a long time since the last post, but loads of things have happened.  Today, I'm showing you the BEST EVER alternative to water balloons.  What I love about them is that they are super cheap to make, they are reusable, and they are not harmful to birds (I hate scrounging for all the popped water balloon pieces on the lawn).

So my handsome little man turned 7 on June 15... (insert Mommy bawling here.  Where has the time gone?)  He wanted a "Guys Only" birthday party to get back at his big sister who had a girls only Tween sleep over party that he was not invited to.  In fact, he was shipped off to Gram's housed.  Never mind that he had a blast at Gram's, it was the principle of the matter.  So, in order for Tressa and his female cousins to attend, they had to be targets for the water balloon fights and where fake mustaches.  (HUH?)  Anyway, here was the invitation I sent out:

So, hyped up on TONS of sugary junk, hot dogs and hamburgers, the games began.  I had several organized games planned with small prizes, but honestly, as soon as the hose was turned on, pandemonium broke loose.  Water balloons went first and were done in less than 6 minutes with 12 glucose crazed kids firing them everywhere.  Good thing I had made the sponge balls the night before.  Everyone was soaked, including me, with ice cold water from our well.  I was a sopping mess when the parents arrived to pick up their little monsters.  Gram said my eyes were so bloodshot, I looked like I hadn't slept in weeks.  That's just a side effect of getting so many sponge splats right in the kisser.  Rotten little buggers, they have terrific aim.

Oh well, it was all great fun.  If you want to make these awesome summer OUTSIDE toys, go to the tutorial here and be ready for some excellent wet hot weather fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Look At What I Found... Vintage Viking 537 Sewing Machine With A Mystery Attached

Every walk into a junk shop, not really knowing why you are there and find something that seemed like it was fate was guiding you?  Well, that's what happened to me the other day.  I spotted a filthy carrying cabinet case that sorta looked like there was a sewing machine in it.  Hmmm.  I opened it and fell in love!

A Viking 537 made circa 1960's with a purring motor and a few accessories.  Of course, being my sister's sister, (Michelle has been known to bargain to the point were she gets the deal she wants with a promise that she will never darken the vendor's store again) I managed to get the machine for $18.00 CND.  Sweet!!!!  And I can still come back to the store!  :) LOL

Now, some might wonder (yes Gram, I'm referring to you) why I'd want such an old machine while I have a Phaff modernish sewing machine already.  Problem is, my Pfaff is more than ready for a tune up, and the only person that can do this lives almost 200KM away from me and he cost $75.00 just to look at it.  I will take it to him, but only when I'm heading in that direction for something else because the cost of gas here is so expensive.  Plus, this guy is so back logged, average wait for a simple tune up and repair is over 3 weeks.  3 WEEKS without sewing.  Blows my mind.  So, that is why I bought this very straight forward, FUNCTIONING machine.  And I love it!

Here is the strange part.  I wanted the servicing manual so I can tinker with it and fix issues as they pop up.  I cannot find a Viking 537 ANYWHERE on the internet.  But I did find the exact same machine listed as a New Home / Janome 537...

 AND I also found an image of a vintage Necchi machine (that I can't find now, of course) that looks IDENTICAL to my Viking.  Huh??? What is that all about?

As far as I can tell, it is a Japanese made machine, possibly by Toyota.   New Home was bought out by Janome (Janome, by the way is Japanese for "snake eyes," because the new metal bobbins have the little holes all around them that is reminiscent of snake eyes.) and they made several brands under their company for a while, including Necchi.  Could this Viking been born in Japan? 

Anyway, it sews a beautiful straight and ziz zag stitch.  And will be great for Tressa to learn on.  I also want to use it to manufacture some knitting project bags to sell in our Etsy shop.  I've got something big coming in late August that I need to make some extra cash for... Something mind blowingly cool.  Something totally fun and will be a BLAST to blog about.  And there will be super fun give aways! Yay!

Plus, there is Vogue Knitting Live NY 2015 that I want to go to.  I went to VKL NY 2014 and blogged about it over on my personal knitting design site NiNDesigns.  It was an incredible experience!

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Roses For Margaery" - Finished Object Fridays a.k.a. FO In Knit Lingo

Has it really been that long since I've had a finished object to share?  Oh my!
Does finishing the write up of a new pattern count?  Let's say that it does... 'cos man, this was hard work!

As we all know, I love the Song of Ice And Fire book, and HBO's original mini series bases on them call Game of Thrones.  These socks took a long time to come into fruition, with little hiccups along the way and loads of designing challenges.  Those hair pulling moments were worth it, because I'm very proud of the finished product.  My most prettiest socks so far, if I may so bold to say!

These socks are based on the character Margaery Tyrell, a very pretty
and very determined young woman who wants to be the queen of all of Westeros.  Without giving spoilers, I can tell you Margaery is a woman that seems to do what she is supposed to do, confined to the wishes and rules of family and state.  But is she really?  Margaery intrigued me.  I thought it interesting that her House sigil is a golden rose on a field of green.  "Growing Strong" is their words, and interestingly enough, so is Margaery.  Roses are beautiful, but can overtake a garden if left unchecked.  The undulating strong lines confining the rose bunches represent her set role, but notice how these lines don't meet.  They are really guidelines.  I also took the roses down into a very common heel flap.  Margaery is all about making the commoners love her.  I think she knows this is the real source of a rulers' power.

So here it is!

Roses For Margaery by Nin Leavitt
an original sock pattern inspired by R. R. Martin's
Song Of Ice And Fire
Part of the “Game of Thrones” Sock Series By NinDesigns 

Doing the photo shoot was a lot of fun and I learned so much about my Olympus E500. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Finished Object Fridays a.k.a. FO In Knit Lingo

I normally do not knit from patterns written by other people.   Not that I don't like design by others, oh no.  I just seem to have one of my own designs on the brain or on the go that will not let me have the joy of just following a knitting pattern.  Well, I took a well deserved time-out from designing (had a designer "how could I have made such a stupid mistake" moment, but I'll tell you about that latter when it is not so raw) and decided to participate in the Ravelry group Rocking Kitchen Knit-a-Long.  The theme is Halloween.  You had to knit one of Joeli or Ruth's special patterns for the KAL in a Fall/Halloween kind of color.  So, here is my contribution!

This is Joeli's Candy Corn Mitts pattern.  Very easy to follow top to cuff mitt and they knit up super fast.  Of course, me being me, I did not completely follow the instructions; I chose to cast-on a cuff and Kitchener stitch it to my mitt.  All 50 stitches per mitt.  That's a lot of Kitchener stitching!  Why did I do this?  I love Yslolda's version of the long-tail cast-on.  It makes a very professional, very stretchy edge.  I just had to have it for the cuff!  Plus, I did not have access to the internet at the time I was about to do the cuff on the first mitt to find a bind off that mimics the attributes that I love so much with this type of cast on.  Ah, the perfectionist in me! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Twist Fibre Festival 2013 Workshops with Natural Dyer Jackie Ottino Day 2

Day one was such a blast, I couldn't wait until the next day for the Indigo dyeing class.  I kept my still damp ring of coloured skeins in the mini van.  As friendly as the hotel staff were, I didn't want to chance dripping dye on their floors.  I had a really hard time getting to sleep, I was so keyed up about the day.  At the end of the class, many of us were debating what we were going to do with our pretty mini skeins.  Each is only 25 yards, so not a whole lot to make anything large.  I thought about making some stripey fingerless gloves.  I'm still thinking about it, but I do love the look of the ring on my studio space wall.  To knit or not to knit, that is the big question!  LOL

Day two I was up early and heading out the door.  Had a little mishap with my iPhone gps; she wasn't talking to me.  Which meant I had to go by memory from Montebello to St-André-Avellin.  Good thing I had an early start, because by the time I got there, there was a huge line up waiting to get into the festival.  Nothing like showing up late for a class to start the day off wrong.  But, thankfully the festival people were super quick getting people through the doors and I made it right on time.  :D
Here was one of the sights they had set up outside to entertain.  A sheep merry-go-round!  I'm not sure how merry the sheep were to be inside that pen, slowing spinning with a guy playing an accordion in the center on a stool, but it was quite the sight.
A shot of my desk spot.  By the end of the class, these sheets were covered in splotches of blue!  We all had a small canning jar so we could make a bit of an indigo dye vat to take home.  Haven't cracked into mine yet, but let me tell you, it is very pretty.
This was Jackie's work space at the front of the class.  She told us she had spent at least three months learning all she could about indigo for her job at Swan's Island Company.  Testing and retesting to get the perfect percentage formula for the indigo extract that they buy.  (What a fabulous job!)  She shared with us the percentage that works best, and made a "master vat" in the large plastic container for us to use in the workshop.
Here is more of the beautiful merino wool that Swan's Island donated to us for the Indigo workshop.  We had to soak it first in water, even though Jackie had soaked them earlier.  It was so warm, they were getting dry spots on them.  The stainless steel rings the hanks are on are called "funny eyes."  They are what lobster fishermen use when weaving their lobster traps.  Excellent dyeing tools, these funny eyes!
We were encouraged to bring in some wool or fabric that we wanted to dye with indigo.  This is my extra large pickle jar, holding about 2000 yards of my sock wool I soaked.  As you can see, most of it was pre-dyed.  I had attempted to dye with black beans in February 2013, but my results were very icky in colour.  I was hoping that the indigo would salvage these skeins. 
Again, our trusty propane burner!  Indigo dye vats are tempermental ph and heat wise.  Since there was so many of us in the class, and so many of us brought a lot of our own stuff to dye, we had to have two vats going at once.  Sadly, only one burner.  We made do by shuffling pots from the burner and constantly checking the temperature.  

I had brought my enamel pot and my little electric burner I got from a second hand store, but the burner would only heat a pot to a max temperature of 155 degrees F.  Grrrrr!  180 degrees F is the magic number for most natural dyes.  Good thing I did bring my pot.  That's it on the burner in the photo.  It turned into the second production vat for this class!  Ah, the temptation of turning something blue.  We workshop students went a little overboard.  LOL! 

After a while, and a ton of items going through the vat, Jackie would "revive" the vat with a top up from the master vat solution she made in the classroom.  Ph was taken again, colour of water was checked, and onto the burner it went to get it up to temperature to activate it.  Jackie could tell by the green shade of the vat if there was enough of a "glug" from the master solution to produce the optimal shade of indigo blue.  They don't call this woman a master dyer for nothing!  It was like watching magic.  In fact, the whole process of dyeing with indigo is like magic.  Watching the skeins go from a green to a rich blue when you pull them out of the vat was... incredible!  If you ever get a chance to do an indigo workshop with Jackie, do it!  

Funny thing, as we ladies were all laughing and talking excitedly around our fire and pots, stirring and pulling fiber out of them and exclaiming as they were turning blue in front of our eye, we had a lot of people walking past us laughing and asking if it was Halloween.  I think this is something Jackie gets quite often, LOL.  Didn't phase her a bit, she waved and laughed with them.  One french fellow came up to watch and decided that our "brew" needed more onions.  :D

It really was a shame that the festival could only give Jackie four hours for indigo, but I did learn so much and am very thankful for that.  We had to reserve a chunk of time for rinsing the fiber because indigo is takes a lot of time to get it to a point where the color will not rub or bleed off (it's called crocking) onto your hands.  I took all my yarn home and washed it at least five times.  Guess what?  The run off water is still as dark as the day in the workshop.  I'm letting it "cure" for a few weeks before I attempt to rinse it again.  That's another little tip Jackie taught us.  And, you must be super careful not to agitate or your beautiful indigo yarn will felt. Remember:
"From cold to hot, worry not, but from hot to cold, cannot be sold!"

 It is a balancing act, but when done right, indigo vat dyeing is so worth it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Twist Fibre Festival 2013 Workshops with Natural Dyer Jackie Ottino

 I attended my first fiber festival ever!  Yay!  
Gram didn't want to go, hubby and kids did not want to go, so I drove 8 hours and 45 minutes all by my lonesome to
St-André-Avellin, QC, Canada.  And man, was it totally worth it!

Did I get bored driving it all in one day?  Nope!  My tweenie music obsessed and iphone obsessed little girl has 2 playlists she created on my phone.  I learned how to attach my phone to the "aux" outlet on my van stereo and cranked the tunes!  I even had Google gps thingy working so the voice would come through the stereo.  So cool and VERY helpful.  Had to laugh at some of the pronunciation of the female voice.  

Driving from my Provence, New Brunswick to our neighbour Provence, Quebec was a very, um, different experience.  I don't know if it was election year in their Provence, but I've NEVER seen so much road construction in my life.   It was literally everywhere!   Someone obviously didn't tell Google gps about all the traffic re-routes, 'cos my electronic guide was getting very frustrated with me.  At one point in Montreal, she commanded me to do an immediate U-Turn on a diverted 4 lane highway.  In rush hour traffic, no less.  Command ignored.  And I got lost, but only temperately.  I'm sure gps-s can gloat.  Hmph.

Quebec drivers were a pleasure to share the road with.  No tail gating, no blocking the passing lanes, and very understanding about a mini van missing it's turn off, immediately swerving to the side of the road, backing up and driving over the pretty grass and flowers to make the turn.  (Yeah, that happened a couple of times.)  Thanks Quebec!

For my first fiber festival, I had decided to go all out and spend 3 nights in a motel.  Originally, I had considered sleeping in the minivan, ('cos I'm so cheap, as my Tressa says) to save money to buy glorious memento fibre, but man, was I EVER glad I splurged for the motel.  8 hours and 45 minutes of soreness was very glad to have a proper bed to sprawl on.   I chose the "Bel-Eau Inn" in Montebello, a 15 minute drive away from St-André-Avellin because it was super cute and, well, cheap price-wise, in comparison to other hotels/motels in the area.  I'm happy to say my room was cute, very clean and the staff were super friendly.  I would and will stay there again.  It is on the main road and has tons of sweet little bistros, cafes, and restaurants within walking distance.  Which I ignored.  Ah, maybe next year!

Day One:  8am wake up, clean up and a distress call up to the main desk due to being LOCKED UP in my room.  Yup, me, the overly safe girl, had thrown the deadbolt the night before and it was stuck.  Talk about panicking!  I needed to get to class and hadn't made the drive yet so I wanted to be nice and early to find parking and get my bearings.  So, that's when I discovered metal fingernail files are excellent impromptu tools for sticky deadbolts.  Off to the festival!
 Again, it was another no make-up day.  Hot, glorious weather over steaming pots?  I wanted to get down and dirty with dyes, not be wiping dripping mascara.   So yes, I was "hobo stylin'" as my sister likes to call it.  Faded, ripped clothes and all!  LOL
Here is a dark shot of us ladies waiting to get in.  I'm loving the yarn bombing on the posts!  Some was even crochet and weavings.  Very cool touch.  Parking was easy and off to registration I went.
 The lady in the grey and white sweater with the peach scarf was the one who organized the event.  Sorry, I can't remember her name right now, but she was so sweet!  She even let me sneak into an overfull class with the fabulous V.  The lovely basket on the table was full of little Euculan gifts, which I LOVED.  So nice!  And once registered, off to the class I went.

Here is a shot of Jackie Ottino (she's the one with the black shirt) and her table of mysterious dyestuff and tools.  Jackie is one of the two master dyers at Swan's Island Company in Maine, USA.  She, by her own words, is a "detailed" dyer.  Formulas and precise notes are her constant companions.  Don't get me wrong, she is very into experimenting, but she likes to capture the details so it can be done again.  That, I think, is fabulous.  I'd go nuts if I found the perfect shade and had no clue how I did it. 

Here is a sample ring of the colours Jackie created for Swan's Island.  Gorgeous, huh?
And look at that fleece!  Delicious.
 And my favourite table... the sales table!!!!  I really made a dent into my wallet here.  In fact, this is where I blew my festival budget!  Did I regret it?  Heck no!  I wish I had budgeted more to buy more dye extracts.  :)
 Here we used orange osage to dye some of the beautiful merino wool that Swan's Island donated to us for the class. 
 Look at that colour brewing!
One of the students wanted to experiment with a premixed indigo solution as an over dye on the orange osage yellow wool.  Cool!
Due to the lack of burner space, Jackie fired up the propane burners outside the classroom in the parking lot.  We got a lot of strange looks, but for the most part, people were really curious and impressed by our work.
 Look at the amazing coloured skeins we created!  Jackie is checking out the wool.  One problem with excellent merino wool is its tendancy to felt.  Coming out of the hot pots and hanging in the cool air was causing a little pinch of felting.  Jackie gave us a really cool saying to help us when we are dyeing: 
"Cold to hot, worry not.
Hot to cold, cannot be sold."
Now that will come in handy!
And so we finished the day with a ring of coloured skeins for each of us.  If you ever get a chance to take a natural dyeing class with Jackie, DO IT!!!  The woman is a wonderful teacher.

Up next, day 2 at the Twist Fibre Festival!  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My "Roses for Margaery" Sock Sadness... Running Out of Yarn While Knitting

Has this ever happened to you?  It's a first for me.  Normally, my overly compulsive urge to hoard gorgeous yarn kicks in when I'm at the counter of my local yarn shop and I buy an extra ball or skein.  Guess what I didn't do this time.  Grrrrr. 
I suppose the good thing about this is the fact that I'm knitting.  I got a little carried away for a while with the natural dyeing.  That's on hold until I recover from a massive sunburn.  Ugh.  The dangers of foraging. 

And spinning!  I'm hooked!  Ever tried drop spindling?  Very fun.  You can take it on the go.  Love drop spinning.  But right now I'm using my LeClerc wheel. 
Loving the colours!  I bought this 4oz bag of roving from a Canadian Etsy shop owner Zenitude.  She vacuum seals the roving so it really cuts down on shipping costs.  When you open the bag, the fiber puffs right up!  This is the above spinning, called "Summer Days."  Groovy!
So what are you spinning or knitting?