Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads

There is this amazing painting and set of sculptures that decorate a stone hill along the roadway leading to Old Town and Latham Island in Yellowknife. If you know the 'knife, it's just before Johnson's Building Supplies; if you don't - you can't miss it. It's fabulous.

From a plaque on the site: "This site is a testament to the close collaboration among Metis, Dene, Inuvialuit, English Canadian, French Canadian and Quebec cultures and is dedicated to all peoples of the north. Work on this project began in the summer of 1999, when artists Sonny MacDonald, a Metis from Fort Smith, John Sabourin, a Dene from Fort Simpson, and Eli Nasogaluak, an Inuvialuit from Tuktoyaktuk fashioned this sculpture from a block of marble formed on the shore of Great Slave Lake 2.5 - 4 billion years ago."

"The rock face was carved by Armand Vaillancourt of Montreal, assisted by Chris Ishoj of Mansonville, Quebec, and the symbols were painted by John Sabourin. "
It's a great combination of carving, statues and paintings. And the colours used stand right out against the grey of the rock. In addition to the bison pictured above, I also saw a mouse, turtle, frog, cat, lizard and many other creatures, surrounded by hands, heands and more hands.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The View from Up Here (Yellowknife, NWT)

Mike and I climbed up to Pilot's Monument to get a view of the city from a great vantage point. The picture right gives you a view of downtown YK from "old town". From this point, you also get a great view of YK Bay (Great Slave Lake) and the Back Bay. Float planes, boats, barges and houseboats are sprinkled all over the bays; some anchored, some moving. You can see how difficult it is to build here... it's all rock underneath. Canadian shield. Solid. Difficult to penetrate for those who want their houses to stay put.

And yet there is new development, perched on an incline looking over Back Bay there is a new row of housing going up. I don't see any housing coming down, so I conclude that YK is growing. Nice, though, that it's still the kind of place you can move around in without a car. You can drive, take the transit system (all of maybe three buses?), ride a bike (snowmobile in the winter) and of course, you can walk. Really. It's a good hike from one end of town to the other, but certainly do-able.

If you live in a houseboat, you have to canoe to shore first. And you need to acquire your own source of potable water and deal with any sewage waste on your own. Oh yeah, and provide your own heat and electricity. That's the trade-off for not having to pay property taxes... you need to supply all your own utilities.

But doesn't it look like a serene way to live? No neighbours right beside you, no late night noises from firetrucks, ambulance or the kids down the street having a backyard party. Nice. Just the lapping waves and the odd motorboat. And floatplanes using the bay for take off and landing. Watch out!

That's what the beacon on top of Pilot's Monument is for. It's there to warn boaters in a visible (flashing) kind of way that a float plane is coming in. Keep an eye on the sky... especially if you're in a canoe or kayak.
No sunrise or sunset pictures this trip. According to time and date dot com, the sun rose at 4:37 AM this morning and will set at 10:50 PM tonight. I may be up to see the sun go down but I'm certainly not up early enough to catch it coming over the eastern horizon!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Folk on the Rocks, Yellowknife, NWT

I've come back to Yellowknife after having been away for twelve years. I did come back and visit briefly about ten years ago, but it's been a long time. Things really haven't changed a lot here. I don't remember where everything is, but it's coming back fast.

The first day here, Mike and I went to Yellowknife's folk music festival: Folk on the Rocks. It was a beautiful, clear and hot, sunny day. The festival takes place on the shore of Long Lake and there is a very sandy incline down to the lake that participants can sit on to see the show. The crowd is small and made up of mostly locals. You can tell because many of them are "catching up" right in the middle of the concert while kids play, dance and run around (supervised by all).

Along the edges, they stand in small knots and chat even though the people behind them (like me) are trying to watch the show. So, it's great because it's not crowded and it helps that the speakers are loud (I could always hear even if I couldn't always see!)

One of the best acts that we saw on Saturday was Jill Barber. She has the nicest voice! You can hear her music courtesy of CBC Radio 3. There were other great acts, but I thought she was the best.
We had a great adventure getting to the festival via Yellowknife's transit system, but that's a story for another day. Today, the weather is fine and I'm heading off for lunch. More tales and pics later!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mittens for Sarah

I'm almost finished the Selbuvotter mittens for Sarah. See? I'm working on the second thumb. I hope to finish it, and weave in the ends today. Then I will celebrate. These mittens were really nice to knit. The chart is clear and mittens don't take nearly so long as socks!

The mittens were supposed to be done for Sarah's birthday. I had one done, the left hand, which I gave to her on the big day. Being a southpaw, I thought she'd appreciate that I worked on the left hand first. I promised the right hand would soon follow. But then I went to Olds for Fibre Week and was busy being a merchant and a student and didn't get much time for being a knitter. Now I'm making up for lost time. The second mitten knits up much faster than the first.

I do love these mittens...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

06 July 2008: Escape to the Countryside!

I spent the last week in Olds, Alberta, taking part in Olds Fibre Week 2008. I was a part-time vendor at the "merchant mall" bringing in all sorts of yummy fibre and fibre-related goodies from River City Yarns to the fibre-fanatics who were attending this event. I was also a student... taking the Level 3 course for the Master Spinner Certificate program run through Olds Community College. And best of all, I was able to visit with my buddy Lisa, who has moved out to the country with her husband and her kids.

Olds is a small community about 2 hours south of Edmonton and you can see the Rocky Mountains bordering the western horizon. It's a quiet, dusty place that's "quaint" in all the senses of the word. Lisa lives outside of Olds, on a little acreage bordered with trees on the east side. It's a beautiful spot surrounded by fields and up on a little hill from which you can see everything. It's well worth the drive just to get away from the highway, from the town, from everything except the hot sun, the fresh air and the sounds of birds and bugs. Lisa and her family were kind enough to share their home with me when I couldn't find accomodation in Olds for Fibre Week. It was a great visit and it made me realize how homesick I am for life in the country. No neighbours! What a treat.

This year, in my course, we worked on spinning bast fibres. I like to call them "veggies" (as opposed to protein fibre). We also worked with silk, which is a filament fibre. We spun cotton directly from the boll, from roving and blended with other fibres. We also spun coloured cotton (called Fox Fibre after the woman who brought coloured cotton back into existence). We used our spinning wheels but also worked the cotton with supported spindles and charkas. I spent four full days spinning and one day in the dye room. I learned a lot and now that I'm back home in the city, I have to figure out a way to keep the spinning momentum going. It's tough... other "life responsibilities" tend to get in the way of work and I realize that one of the benefits of taking the class is belonging to community of spinners. That's really important in building skills and just keeping up with practice. I'm going to have to find and join a community here or get one going. Lots to do...

Monday, April 28, 2008

27 April 2008: Back in the Spin of Things

I finally completed spinning a half pound bag of Fleece Artist handpainted superwash merino roving. The skeins are soft and colourful. It took me a week to spin the singles and another week to ply them.

Now that the skeins are set and ready to work, I don't want to do anything with them except put them in a nice bowl to admire them. I don't have a fruit bowl; I have a yarn bowl!

I'm even more appreciative of the lovely quality of this merino... since I spent today working on cleaning a Jacob lamb fleece that I bought last summer. The fleece is nice and soft and very fine but it needs cleaning and has a fair bit of vegetation left in it. Once I get it cleaned, carded and spun, I'll dye it too!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

19 April 2008: More Snow... More Mitts!

Just when we thought spring was here to stay... it snowed. Sigh. The tulips and irises have popped up and are now shivering under a blanket of snow. It's a great day to put the colours of the flowers into a practical spring garment: mittens! A week or so ago, we got in a shipment of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn and I fell in love (again) with the fabulous colours. But instead of another pair of socks, I decided this ball of yarn was destined to become a pair of mittens. Today is a good day for mittens. And, since it's supposed to continue snowing tomorrow, I may just have to knit up a matching hat, scarf, sweater, leggings and socks!

Just in case you want to knit up a pair of these mittens yourself, here's the recipe:

Cynthia’s Simple Kureyon Colour Way Mittens

“socks for your hands”

Finished Size: women’s medium mitten, approx 20cm (8”) across palm. Smaller or wider mittens can be made by decreasing or increasing the number of stitches cast on by multiples of four. Each multiple of four stitches is approximately equal to 1.25cm (0.5”).
Materials: one 100g ball of Kureyon Sock Yarn (70% wool, 30% nylon)
Needles: 3.0mm dpns or 2 circulars
Gauge: 32 sts over 10cm on 3.0mm needles, measured over stranded colour work section

Begin by splitting one ball of Kureyon Sock yarn into two balls. You want to begin with two contrasting colours, so just make sure that you are starting at two different places in the colourway on each ball. Designate one ball as your main colour (MC) and the other ball as your contrast colour (CC).

Cast on 56 stitches loosely using a two-colour cast on. Transfer cast on stitches evenly over needles (a multiple of four stitches per needle works well). Join, being careful not to twist stitches.

Two-Colour Cast On: leaving a 15cm (6in) tail with both yarns, make a slip knot with both yarns held together and place on one needle. Continue to cast on using a long tail cast on method, with one strand coming from each ball of yarn. One colour will form the bottom edge of the cast on stitches and the other colour will be on the needle. Remember that your slip knot is doubled… knit both strands of the slip knot together when you begin your first row.

Begin the semi corrugated rib cuff as follows:
Rnd 1: *K1(MC), K1(CC)*. Rep from * to * for rem of rnd.
Rnd 2: *K1(MC), P1(CC)*. Rep from * to * for rem of rnd.
Rnd 3: *K1(CC), K1(MC)*. Rep from * to * for rem of rnd.
Rnd 4: *K1(CC), P1(MC)*. Rep from * to * for rem of rnd.
Repeat Rnds 1-4, four more times or until cuff measures 6.5cm (2.5”).

Now work palm and increase for thumb as follows:
Rnd 1: K1(MC), place marker (PM) onto RHN, *K1(CC), *K1(MC)*. Repeat from * to * until only one stitch remains, PM, K1(CC). The markers will help you to remember where the thumb gusset begins and ends and all increases for thumb will occur before and after these markers. All stitches inside the markers will be knit in MC, with CC stranded in back.
Rnd 2: K1(MC), M1(MC) (M1=increase one stitch by lifting bar between stitches onto LHN and knitting it), slip marker (SM), *K1(MC), K1(CC)*. Rep from * to * to next marker. SM, M1(MC), K1(MC). You now have four thumb stitches between the markers.
Rnd 3: K2(MC), SM, *K1(CC), K1(MC)*. Rep from * to * to next marker. SM, K2(MC).
Rnd 4: K2(MC), M1(MC), SM, *K1(MC), K1(CC)*. Rep from * to * to next marker. SM, M1(MC), K2(MC). You now have six thumb stitches between the markers.
Rnd 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17: Knit up to marker (thumb) in MC, SM, alternate between MC and CC in a sequence opposite to previous row, SM, knit rem thumb sts in MC. Remember to carry CC along in back of thumb stitches.
Rnd 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18: Knit in MC up to marker, M1(MC), SM, alternate between MC and CC in a sequence opposite to previous row, SM, M1(MC), knit rem thumb sts in MC. Continue increasing between markers until you have 20 thumb sts.

Continue knitting in the round without further increases until thumb (measured from Rnd 1 above) is 8cm (3in) high.

Put thumb on hold and work palm as follows:
Rnd 1: K10(MC), SM, *K1(CC), K1(MC)*, Rep from * to * to next marker. Remove marker. Place 20 thumb sts on holder and remove first marker also. Go back to RHN (where your yarn is) and cast on 4 sts: CC, MC, place marker, MC, CC. The marker indicates the beginning and end of each rnd.
Rnd 2: *K1(MC), K1(CC)*. Rep from * to * to marker.
Rnd 3: *K1(CC), K1(MC)*. Rep from * to * to marker.
Rep rnds 2-3 until mitten covers your shortest finger.

Decrease for top of mitten as follows:
Rnd 1: SM, knit in pattern for 30 sts, place marker, knit in pattern to first marker. You now have two markers indicating the sides of your mitten. The first marker is above your thumb; the second marker is on the “pinkie” side of the thumb.
Rnd 2: SM, SSK(MC) (SSK=slip, slip, knit: decrease by slipping the next two stitches, one at a time, as if to knit, then insert the LHN tip into the slipped sts through the front of the stitches and knit the two slipped sts together), continue to knit in pattern until two sts rem before marker. K2tog(MC), SM, SSK(MC), knit in patt until 2 sts rem before last marker, K2tog(MC).
Rnd 3: SM, K1(MC), knit in patt to 1 st before next marker, K1(MC), SM, K1(MC), knit in patt to 1 st before last marker, K1(MC).
Rnd 4: SM, SSK(MC), knit in patt to 2 sts before next marker, K2tog(MC), SM, SSK(MC), knit in patt to 2 sts before last marker, K2tog(MC).
Rep rnds 3 and 4 twice (you will have 22 sts between each marker or 44 sts in total). Continue decreasing (rep Round 4) every round until 12 sts rem between each marker (24 sts in total) OR until mitten top covers fingernail of tallest finger.

Graft sts together using Kitchener Stitch in MC.

Building the thumb:
Transfer the 20 thumb sts from holder back onto needles. Pick up 6-8 sts along cast on edge at base of thumb (you can pick up the sts in one colour only or alternate between colours), placing a stitch marker in the middle of these new sts. If you picked up more than 6 sts, decrease the extra sts in the first round (i.e. if you picked up 7, dec 1 st; if you picked up 8, dec 2 sts).

Continue to work in the round in the established pattern of K1(MC), K1(CC) until the thumb covers the thumb nail (all of it!).

Decrease for top of thumb as follows:
Rnd 1: *K2tog* Repeat from * to * for remainder of round (13 sts remain).
Rnd 2: Knit all stitches

Cut both yarns, leaving 15cm (6in) tails. Thread both tails through a wool needle and slip the rem sts from your knitting needles onto the wool needle. Pull needle to tighten.

Finishing: turn mitten inside out and weave in any remaining ends.

Copyright 2008 by Cynthia Hyslop

Pattern posted for personal use only; please do not reprint without written permission by copyright holder.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

5 March 2008: Snow Day

Wisp and I are bored. An incredible amount of snow has come down here overnight and it's just recently stopped snowing, but it's still very wet and "goopy" outside. Wisp is watching water drip from the eaves and alternates this activity with brief naps. I'm updating my webs and alternating my activity with snacks.

It's a snow day. I could go outside and play. Or...

I could stay indoors and spin. I need to spin. I have a lot of fibre to work on and I should be working on my Level 2 (Spinning) homework. I even have a very colourful bag of Fleece Artist hand dyed superwash merino top to spin. See? I've got one bobbin full already. I just need to pull up a chair, find a dvd and encourage the cat to come away from the window (she likes to play with the roving as I draft it up and into the wheel.)
Yeah, I'm going to do that. I have no excuses... the kids are out, the sidewalk's shovelled and I've done my piddly housework for the day (I made my bed and tidied up the kitchen - isn't that enough?)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

2 April 2008: A Moose, A Muse and a lotta Marketing

Last week, my business partners and I went to Chicago for a retailer's conference. We had a day to wander around downtown and we spent it on the windy, cold and sunny streets - alternating the blasts of bright cold air with visits inside cute boutique stores. On the way to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, we passed by the Chicago Tribune building and saw this metal moose. I don't know it's significance or if it has a special meaning... but it was very cool to walk down the street and stumble upon this "Canadian" symbol. The statue was big and shiny and I couldn't resist taking a picture.
I also took my new acquisition, a book called "Selbuvotter" by Terri Shaw along with me and read it on the plane. It's a great history of mitten making in Scandanavia (I know, I know... pretty obscure interest of mine). I am inspired now to make patterned mittens and everything I knit has at least two strands of colour going through it.
The conference was very good. Quick sessions with pertinent topics. Good speakers and a small audience. We came back with new ideas and confirmation of our business strategy - all in all, worth the trip and the time.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

2 March 2008: Projects and Concerts

I celebrated Leap Day by finishing some projects and restarting others. It was a good way to finish off the day that makes up for all the 1/4 days in the previous three years. Here is the "cuff" of a mitten that I restarted. It's a Gotland Island Mitten pattern and I've been wanted to knit it for a long time. It took me a while to find the right yarn and small enough needles.

And today, I went to see Traditions and Beyond - featuring the Edmonton & District Pipe Band, Strathcona School of Dance, Sean Somers, and Celtic Fusion Illusion. I went primarily to see my cousin play (CFI) but I was blown away by the concert and the blend of rock, bag pipes, drums and dance. It was a great event and well worth the ticket price. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought so; the Winspear Centre was full.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

28 February 2008: Leap Year Day Eve

It's the night before the day that defines this year as a Leap Year. Tomorrow is the day that only comes around once every four years. I think I need to do something special. But what? Not that I need another holiday... but you'd think that a day that only comes around once every four years would be a special day, no?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

20 February 2008: Bony Fingers!

I have just returned from the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival in Tacoma, WA. It was four days of intensive learning (it's good to be a participant/learner rather than organizer/teacher). I took classes from Nancy Bush and Judith McKenzie McCuin, Pat Brunner and Sue Ewens (shameless name dropper) and learned how to spin bison down, make gloves (with/without fingers) with a thumb gusset (very clever fitting technique); I took a class on the (for me) dreaded short rows and learned three ways to turn my work in the middle of a row... one method I really, really like; and finally, I took a class on knitting intarsia in the round. Those of you who are knitters will appreciate the puzzle of knitting intarsia in the round and how to get the colours joined and working in the right direction without any noticeable seam on the right side of the work. Ahhh... I feel so smart now!

Of course, I've been doing nothing but knitting and spinning for the last five days and my right hand is complaining. My index finger and my thumb are actually stiff. I will have to slow down now because I'm back to work and even though I'm a "yarn retailer" I don't get to knit all day long (common misconception). I must now get back to the business of stocking the shelves, teaching classes, working on schedules and the website, pricing, sweeping the floor, etc. It's not so bad... I've been eyeing up some new product that just arrived. Life is still good!

Friday, February 1, 2008

1 February 2008

I had a day off today. I had to go into a local hospital for a test and while it was a relatively simple process (no fasting, no prep) I still left feeling exposed and "undignified". I guess part of my discomfort was in having to undress and expose parts of my body for the test. It was cold in the procedure room and the instruments used were, of course, cold. Why is it that medical instruments always feel like they're 10 degrees below room temperature?

I'm so glad I'm not a doctor. I like to help people, but I'm really glad I don't have to make them undress!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

15 January 2008

What is "Quality of Life"?
... sleeping in past your alarm (no matter what time that alarm normally goes off)
... having time to "catch up" with family members and friends
... not falling asleep in the middle of something you like to do
... eating wholesome meals (as opposed to picking up two burgers and a milkshake on the way home from work)
... having time to do a little housework every day (so that you don't have to spend your entire day off doing it instead)
... living in a safe area
... living with people who care about you

What do you need for quality of life?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

12 January 2008

Today I resolved to work on my spinning projects. Sigh. I didn't get very far. I pulled out my Level 2 workbook and looked at all the research items I haven't finished yet. I looked at all the skeins I have to spin up and all the exotic fibres I get to use. I typed up the requirements for the (mis-named) 25 hour project (we all know the project will actually take 10 times the number of hours allocated for it). I even went to my spinning "library" and pulled out a book with the intention of reading up on the topics I need to write about.

But then, family members entered the room. They started talking to me about important things and I put my book down. My sister called me and needed to talk to me. I went out to get my hair cut and then out again to take care of some errands. Before you knew it, the day was gone. The finale? I picked up a knitting pattern that I've been wanting to try out and the yarn and needles just happened to be hanging out with the pattern. And so, once again, I was lured away from my "homework".

Tomorrow's another day?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

5 January 2008

Despite the fact that it's been "holiday season" and I've had a few days off, I'm feeling very tired. Likely it's the holiday season (work has been very busy) and the short days. Do you find that you feel more energetic when the days are longer? I'm finding (these days) that I'm more tired when the days are shorter.

I'm happy that I was able to find a new laptop computer (I've been wanting one for a while now) that has Windows XP on it (rather than the dreaded new Vista platform). I don't mean to badmouth Microsoft... I just don't understand why they have to change their platform every couple of years. The new system doesn't "play well with others" when it comes to my software. I wonder why it is, too, that retailers don't want to sell or downgrade to the older system. They have all kinds of excuses and make it really tough for consumers to get what they want. Ah well. I've got what I want so I shouldn't complain...

So the new laptop has been my friend and companion for the last couple of days. It's enabled me to work on the couch, at the dining room table, around town. This is good. It takes me out of my cold, isolated office and puts me back in with the living and breathing. All good. Of course, it does prohibit me sometimes from interacting with the living and breathing, but one step at a time, eh?