Thursday, June 30, 2016

Beautiful Unsummery Day! Yay!

When I logged onto my email this morning I had a notification message from the library that an e-book I'd reserved was 'already available for download.' I'd placed myself in the queue a couple of weeks ago when I was clicking around on the page. 'Ah sure, 23 July,' I thought, 'That's plenty of time for me to read the e-books and regular books I already have and the ones that will be coming any day now.' I did read a couple of e-books. Some of the expected books showed up yesterday. I have one ready to return tomorrow, having started it last night and finished this afternoon. I renewed the large collection of Elizabeth Bowen short stories and one of the e-books. I read a couple of my own books. I will download this new one and into the 'pile' it will go. When it rains, it pours!

So it is with the glorious unsummery weather we are having today and, so they say, tomorrow. I am thrilled that it is grey, chilly, and sometimes raining--and even pouring. It is chilly enough that I think tonight I can work on my largest work-in-progress--the circular crocheted lace shawl. It is getting big now and has been too warm to have on my lap.

These are all of the projects I have going at the moment--the crocheted shawl is being done in a fingering weight wool from a cone I picked up at the charity shop in Killybegs over a year ago. The other crocheted project is the linen and metallic threads I mentioned yesterday--squares that will become some sort of top. I also have a pair of socks on the go and an ongoing tatting project. The thread project is mindless. The socks require some attention as I am doing a lace pattern on the foot. The tatting and the shawl are repetitive, but I have to pay some attention. I've worked on each project to varying degrees lately, except for the shawl so tonight I will make some progress on that while I listen to BBC Inside Science and In Our Time on BBC Radio 4. It'll be good to be able to work on that--I am not far from the end now and the rounds are long. Might as well make hay while the sun doesn't shine! So glad to have this little reprieve from summer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scraps, Cast Offs, and Time

I am working on a biggish project using thin navy blue linen thread and some brownish and gold thread--there is a metallic thread wrapped around the core. The linen came on a huge cone and there are thousands of yards. I am winding it into balls to make it more manageable. The metallic thread comes on small balls and I had a bit left on the cardboard cone when I was done with a square. Usually when I have a tiny bit of thread left I add to my scrappy abstract tatted piece, but this thread does not work well for needle tatting, so I grabbed a 1.5 mm crochet hook and made a circle. I still had some thread so I made another one. I thought they would work as earrings, so I got out some beads and earring wires and made a pair.

Good way to use wee bits!

Yesterday we called in at one of the charity shops down the lane from us. They always have a rack of clothes at the front of the store and everything hanging there is a euro. The first time we went in there I found an old sweater for me to knock around in, but usually I just look through the offerings to see if there is any interesting fabric. I picked these two yesterday.

It doesn't show in the photo, but the grey bits of the strapless mini dress on the left have a metallic sheen to them. The white shirt is nylon or something like that and an interesting texture. I was drawn to these two because together they make me think of winter and I could feel the beginnings of some ideas for a project using them together. Later mountains came into my mind. Eventually these ideas will gel into something coherent.

Even better, both of these garments are lined, so there is the outer fabric as well as the lining fabric to use. The shirt lining is white and the dress lining is bright pink and will work well with some other fabric I have. There is also a sort of waistband, which I am sure will be useful.

When we were in the book room (all books 5 for a euro) Bill spotted a nice German-English/English German dictionary, which also came home with us. This will be very helpful in my ongoing leisurely study of the language. I took German classes in high school, but then got married, became a mother, and, when I started college at the time our daughter started first grade and I was in my mid 20s, I started doing other languages--studying, substitute teaching and tutoring. I did Japanese for a few years, Spanish for a couple, and eventually Inupiaq Eskimo enough to earn enough credits for a degree. I did not bother to file the paperwork for this, since I did not feel I needed that particular piece of paper, but I could have had it if I'd wanted it. So German is not new to me, but it has been many years and this is the first time I am studying a language in a non-academic setting. All of the online resources make this easy for a language like German. Since some of my work with Inupiaq involved language preservation, it has been interesting to me to see how the various programs are set up.

Between projects in progress, ideas for future projects, and the books that keep on finding their way into our home, I could fill many more hours each day. I am never bored! It does make me appreciate the fact that I have created a quiet, slow life in which I can engage in learning new things, exploring ideas, and being creative. I do not have as much time as I would wish sometimes, but I do have quite a bit more than I would have if I had not consciously set out to create this kind of simple lifestyle.

Hope your Wednesday is peaceful and creative.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Herbs, Teas, and Salads

A couple of months ago, Bill and I walked to the nearby garden centre to pick up some dirt (called 'compost' here) and some herb plants. When we got home I repotted the herbs and planted some mizuna seeds. Later I planted garlic for garlic chives, scallion ends and a fennel end--I had bought a fennel plant, but I already had the bulb and wanted to see whether the end would grow new shoots like scallions and celery. I am seeing a bit of growth.

There was no rosemary at the garden centre, which I was hoping to get. Happily, a few weeks later when we went to the fruit and veg man who comes to Market Square on Tuesdays, I spotted bunches of rosemary, so I bought one. I used some, dried some, and stuck a few sprigs in a jar with a little water on the bottom to see if they would root. Before long I saw one tiny root growing out of the bottom of one of them. I left them all there and the roots grew. Today I planted them.
I like rosemary 'tea' with or without lemon, but I also like the plant, so I am hoping this one lives.

I planted more scallion ends today too and separated my chocolate mint plant. I have had to move beyond the window in the landing, which is where I still have most of my little pots of herbs. The windowsills are filling up.

That is the window in the room I use as a study/studio sort of space. It is a small room, but I like it and I like having the plants in here.

I have been using the herbs quite a bit. I use the lemon balm, chocolate mint, and rosemary for 'teas,' both hot and iced. I get nice salad bases too, out of parsley, fennel, mizuna, scallions, and garlic chives. Bill does not like the fennel, but he has dill in his.

I have a celery end in water and the growth has begin on that. I will have to plant more mizuna seeds soon. We would like to get a few more houseplants for the window in the kitchen that does not get any direct sunlight, but we have not seen houseplants here. We do have a jade plant that a friend gave us, a bromeliad that another friend rooted from a cutting--both are growing like mad--and our trusty avocado plant that I grew from a pit.

Next year we should be able to either get some bigger pots or window boxes for outside the windows. I am thinking strawberries.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Christmas Gift: Better Late Than Never!

The other night I finished a Christmas gift! That is a gift for Christmas 2015--I am 6 months behind, not 6 months ahead.
It is a scarf to go along with a hat I made for Bill. I finished the hat on time and got the scarf started but not finished--until the other night. I used a J hook with black laceweight wool, holding two strands together, and most of a skein of Noro Silk garden, a blend of wool, silk, and mohair. The colour changes happen in the yarn. I made a chain that was the length I wanted the scarf to be with the black and cut it, leaving the tail hanging--I left all of the starting and ending tails as fringe. Then I did not turn the work, but went back to the beginning of the chain and did a row of hdc stitches with the Noro. Cut the yarn again, back to the beginning, and a row of hdc in ea hdc but working through the very back loop only. I alternated between the black and the Noro like this until I was out of Noro. Then I did one more row of black. Because I was not turning, there was a bias in the work which made a nice angled edge.
I could have corrected for this, but I liked it this way, so I carried on.

This has me thinking about using scraps (love my odd balls and scraps!!) and doing the same thing for a scarf, vest, or shawl for myself. It is a perfect mindless project for times when I need such a thing.

This is the matching hat, which could also be a nice scrap project.

 At least the set is now complete. Better late than never!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lightweight Hat Request and Pattern

We had a heatwave a few weeks back (it was approaching 70--we no longer do well with this kind of thing). This made me grumpy, of course, but it put Bill in mind of new hats. We were walking along the shore walk and he kept saying, 'I need a lighter summer hat!' as he wiped the sweat from his poor head. The man does know how to cheer me up! I reminded him that, a year and a half ago and back in Ballinrobe, he decided he liked a lightweight summer hat I had made for myself out of scraps and requested one. He asked me to find various suitable yarns online, which was the only place we could get yarn at that point, send him links and he would choose. Happily for me, he chose cones (of over 800 yards each!) in a nice green and a nice brown. Since the hat would require a small fraction of that, I knew I would have leftovers--you know how I love leftovers! The yarn came. I asked him whether he wanted a roll brim or a ribbed cuff. He could not decide. He went down with shingles. The cottage in Killybegs became available. We moved to Killybegs. The summer was chilly. He forgot about the hat. I kept on making other stuff.

So when summer showed up this year and he requested a hat, I told him we had the yarn and all he had to do was decide on roll brim or ribbing. When we got home I took out my hat. He said he wanted it like that. I had him try it on for fit. He liked it as it was. Since I had written down the pattern as I made my hat, it was right there in my small notebook. Got out the yarn, the appropriate needles, and got to work. When that was done I made him a backup using part of a skein of sock yarn in a cotton/wool/nylon blend--when one needs to be washed, he will have the other.

It is a simple knit and although I used sock yarn, it could easily be done in a thicker yarn with bigger needles--you would just adjust your cast on accordingly.

Easy Two Colour Roll Brim Hat

sock/fingering weight yarn--I used less than 200 yds--I have made this hat in cotton, a cotton/acrylic blend, and a cotton/wool/nylon blend and all have come out well and are comfortable to wear

 3.5 mm circular and double pointed needles

I carried the unused colour up the back so I would not have as many ends to weave in. You could cut the yarn at each colour change if you'd rather. You could also carry the main colour and make every ridge a different colour. Also works well with solid or colour changing yarn. To make a tighter brim, you could do some ribbing to start and then begin with the pattern.

Cast on 110 stitches and join, being careful not to twist stitches

With colour A, knit a round and place stitch marker, if you want. Knit 6 more rounds with A. Do not cut yarn.

With colour B, purl for two rounds. Drop B, but do not cut.

With A, knit 3 rounds.

With B, purl 2 rounds

Repeat until hat is as tall as you want it from brim to crown, ending with 2 purl rounds. I ended after 13 purl ridges.

For crown decreases (switch to dpns when necessary to work comfortably around):

Rnd 1: (k9, k2tog) around

Rnd 2: (k8, k2tog) around

Rnd 3: (k7, k2tog) around

Rnds 7 and 8 and all purl rounds: work even in purl

Rnd 9: (k6, k2tog) around

Rnd 10: (k5, k2tog) around

Rnd 11: (k4, k2tog) around

Purl 2 rnds

Rnd 14: (k3, k2tog) around

Rnd 15: (k2, k2tog) around

Rnd 16: (k1, k2tog) around

Purl 2 rnds.

Last two rnds: k2tog around then knit around.

Cut yarn, leaving long tail. Using a tapestry needle, weave tail through remaining stitches and pull closed. Weave in end. Cut B and weave in end. Weave in beginning tails. Enjoy your hat :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I'm Slipping!

When we got to Sligo the other day we spent half an hour or so in the bus station, using the bathrooms and the seats to comfortably eat our lunch of cheese and crackers. Then we ventured forth in search of the hospital where Bill had an appointment with the eye doctor. We had taken an early bus so we would get there in plenty of time and we were not rushed. Still, one never knows how these things will go. We had a general idea about which direction we should go, so we set out with Google directions in hand. Lack of signage made these pretty useless, so Bill ducked into a shop on the main road and asked where the hospital is--he was told to just keep walking up the street we were on and we would come to it. Simple. We proceeded towards the goal.

When we are in a new place and wandering around I always pay attention to certain parts of my surroundings and not others. I watch the sidewalk for cracks, uneven bits that could lead to tripping, and dog poop. I keep an eye out for things that strike me as unusual in some way--landmarks that will seem familiar if I need to find my way back from somewhere. The other day I learned how, in these circumstances, I do not pay attention to stuff like shop windows. My mistake, because in such places, landmarks may be found!

We were marching in the direction of the hospital when Bill nudged me and pointed to my left. 'Uh-oh,' he said. I stopped on a dime and gazed at the yarn in the window. My eyes moved upward and rested upon a rack of embroidery floss. On top of that was size 10 cotton thread. Variegated. 'They have variegated crochet cotton!' I exclaimed as I rushed through the shop door. I have never seen this kind of thread for sale in any shop I have visited in Ireland. I have found shops with a few skeins of yarn.  A place in Belfast had lots of yarn and a few balls of solid colour thread. I have gotten some from an online shop and another sells a few colours of variegated, but I do not remember seeing the grey/green colourway (pictured on the right) and I was drawn to it.
I looked at the yarn but it was the thread I walked out with. He only had a few balls and only one of each colourway. A couple of those I did not like as much, but I got the grey/green, blues, and of course I was not going to leave the purple on the rack!

I am still shaking my head in disbelief that I almost walked right by a shop window filled with yarn and thread without even noticing!! Such a thing would have been unthinkable before this! Really glad I have an enabling husband who caught this error before it became a big problem. He saved the day. In future I shall have to pay better attention and leave a bit of extra room in the backpack. And now I know one shop that must be visited whenever we go back to Sligo. It is a landmark.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Wee Bit of Sligo

How I ended yesterday:

looking at this,
drinking this,
working on this,
and listening to this on the TV in our hotel room.
It was a peaceful and relaxing way to end a long and somewhat tiring day.

We had to take a trip to Sligo so Bill could have an appointment with a consultant as part of the process leading to cataract surgery and we stayed there overnight.

His appointment was not until 2:45, but since we did not know where we were going, we took an earlier bus so we would have plenty of time. This night owl was up at 5:30, which is not my thing at all. It was good though, since I had a lot of time to read on the ride down and we got there in plenty of time to find the hospital. It was just a matter of crossing the street outside the bus station and walking up the street for a while until we came to it. We went in, found out where Bill had to go, and then decided to find the hotel, since we had a lot of time to spare. We found it and then went back to the hospital to wait, only discovering later that we could have saved a lot of walking down one side of the river, crossing a footbridge, and then walking back in the same direction from where we'd come, but on the other side of the riverif we had known about the OTHER footbridge that was quite near the hospital at one end and the hotel on the other! ! We passed the entrance to the path that leads to that bridge several times without knowing that the path was even there. Oh well. The walking was good for us, though it was hilly and the backpack was heavy. It was nice to check in at the hotel after Bill was done with his appointment.

We sat for a while and then decided to walk into the main part of town to find a place where we could get some supper. The hotel is on John F Kennedy Parade, which turns into Rockwood Parade as you get close to the main road. These run along the river and there are many benches and seating areas along the way. We found a nice little sandwich/coffee shop where I had a yummy chicken club sandwich, cup of potato leek soup, and a large mocha before meandering back the way we came, snapping a few photos along the way.

Sligo seems like a pretty multi-cultural community. This little shop was next to the hotel.
We walked a bit on the footbridge that we could have used and looked at the ducks.

This is the hotel from the footbridge--we were on the second floor, which would be the third floor in the US. We are not used to this yet. Here it goes ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc.
This is the Riverside Hotel and it was great. Breakfast was included with the price of the room, so we only had to go downstairs this morning to have a wonderful feast. There was an extensive buffet with breads, fruit, yogurt, pastries, breads, cereals (even homemade granola) and there was a nice menu as well, with various options from Irish porridge to a full Irish breakfast. We decided on scrambled eggs and smoked salmon to go with the fruit, soda bread, and yogurt with a bit of granola from the buffet. That hearty breakfast meant we were not hungry until well past lunchtime, when we had a snack between the buses that brought us home.

After breakfast we decided to check out and wander around for a little while before catching the bus to Letterkenny. The clouds were hanging low.
I think overall Bill liked Sligo better than I did. I liked the parade areas where we walked last night because they were pretty quiet and in some parts, only for pedestrians. The atmosphere was pleasant and it was peaceful. I was not crazy about the main parts of town though and Bill was finding things a bit annoying this morning as we meandered in the direction of the bus station. There was too much traffic and too many rushing people, some of whom were not even aware of other people around them, but had their eyeballs glued to their phones. The atmosphere in those areas was agitating. I was surprised to find out that the population is just shy of 20,000. The town sprawls out all over the place, it seems. Every time we would turn into a new street there were more rushing people, more stores, more traffic, and at least for me, more desire to be on my way home!

This was the first time I have ever seen anything of Sligo beyond the bus and train stations. The last time we were there was to pick up a friend from the train station--Friday it will have been a year since that day. We will be back, since Bill has another appointment like the one yesterday in two months time and then he will have the surgery in 4 to 6 months. It will be interesting to see whether my impressions are any different when we go back. For now, I am just really glad to be home. The hotel was really comfortable, but there's no place like home!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Laced and Found

Today's needle tatting experiment is finished and I am pleased with the results! I see potential here for using found objects in somewhat larger, collage-style pieces.
Years ago when I first needle felted I did so almost exclusively to make abstract designs in various shapes to use as frames for Bill's photos that we printed on cloth. I loved how I could layer the colours and play around with them to get the effects that I wanted. The felt could be easily cut, so I would cut out a piece from the centre and sew in the photo. These were hung in various ways. Some were hung from tree branch sections that were interesting shapes. My favourite was a felted background created in deep purples and magenta (as I recall) with a close-up of a purple flower in the centre. This was attached to a large wooden hoop that I had gotten at a yard sale. It hung in my kitchen, but did not make the move east when we left Oregon. I am bummed that I cannot find a photo of this piece. I am sure we must've had one, but at the moment the file remains hidden somewhere!

Here I am years later playing around and stabbing fibres into felt once again and I find that I still like making these kind of abstract pieces of cloth best of all. Hard to see in the experiment above, but this time I used white and grey for the background. I knew that it would be mostly covered by the piece of lace and wanted it to be a contrast. I deliberately left some spots in the felt thinner so a little bit of light would come through. Once I had a firm enough piece of felt-in-progress, I attached the lace motif, which is crocheted out of a fingering weight wool yarn (found at a charity shop), by continuing to stab away--it felted onto the background.

I started with a rectangular piece with uneven edges, then felted it into more of a circle, but it wasn't working for me, so I felted in the indentations between the pointy parts of the motif. Then I liked it so I went on stabbing until it was done to the degree of firmness I wanted.

I poked around in our collection of found objects from the beaches around here and tried out a few of them, settling on the shell. Then I dumped out my container of found bits of hardware and took this nut to sew on the back as a hanger.
Just after I began this morning I broke my first needle. Fortunately, it was one of three starter needles that came in the kit, so I have two more. There is no reason I could not start with any of the other needles--they will all make felt--but the barbs are situated differently on the different needles and I switch as I go along and the piece progresses. Glad I still have a bunch more needles since I will be curious to see how a thicker and firmer piece of felt would work with some of the larger and heavier found objects that we've collected. Might be a good idea to get some spare needles though, just to have around!  Love my wool in all it's forms :-) Thank you, sheep of the world!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Not People Doodles?

Decided to play around with the felting needles and roving today. I stabbed away, experimenting with a few ideas. Most of them ended up in a wee baggie--one of the great things about needle felting is that even these bits can be saved for future use. As I was stabbing the wool I had some more ideas, but after a couple of hours, when I stabbed my finger for the third time I decided it was probably time to put those needles away for today.

I did end up with two small finished people doodles. One will be made into a birthday card.

The other one is mine. I am definitely someone who questions pretty much everything. I recently heard an Irish feminist activist on a podcast talking about her 'why gene' and I loved that because I have one too. If I use the ideas of Thich Nhat Hanh about looking deeply, I can see that along with why comes why not. These are pretty much my foundational life questions. I never look at the surface of an issue and stop there. I want to know why things are done in a certain way and why shouldn't we attempt a better way, if there is one. Why and why not. And sometimes, WTF?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Travelators and Toilets

We hopped on the bus yesterday and took a ride to Letterkenny.

There came a point in our wandering when a visit to a toilet became necessary. No euphemisms here--they are not called restrooms, washrooms, lavatories, powder rooms, or anything else. They are toilets, with the Irish word, leithras, usually printed underneath in italics. I admit that I am not yet used to this--it sounds impolite to my ear, even though I know that it is nothing of the kind here. I find my own discomfort interesting. Noticing the differences between the culture of communication here and in the various places within the US in which I have spent time is endlessly fascinating to me. In this case, the words used are not the only differences. In the US the words seem to add a sort of a veneer over the actual purpose of a person's visit to that particular space. I mean, I have never once gone into a 'restroom' to actually rest, so 'toilet' is quite appropriate! What is nice about public toilets here is that they actually are like wee rooms. The doors and 'walls' between stalls actually reach just about down to the floor. There is far more privacy.

Anyway, we decided that a likely bet for a toilet would be the Courtyard Shopping Centre, right on Main Street, so in we went. We are by now so unaccustomed to shopping centres and malls that it is always a bit disorienting, but that just means we notice more stuff. This time it was the travelator. These seemed to be the only way to get from one level to another, which we had to do if we were to achieve our goal. I did not see the instructions for use and the warnings until I was already down on the lower level.

At the top of this travelator was a nice mosaic. I was unable to find any information about it so I do not know who these guys are.

There were flags all over the place--not just Irish, though mostly that. Everyone is all jacked up about Euro 2016, taking place now in France. This is a football (soccer) tournament. Both Northern Ireland and the republic are competing. Hopefully everyone shopping at this store will keep their receipts--you never know!

It was a pleasant day, even if it was too warm and too humid in Letterkenny. I was, as always, very happy when I got home--this time there was the added bonus of much fresher and cooler air. Hurray for the sea breeze! As I type it is bucketing down with rain. Makes a very welcome change from all the heat and sun that has been around for weeks.

Hope your weekend is lovely wherever you are!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Old Art, New Art, Nature's Art in Carndonagh

Bill needed new hiking boots. We had planned to go to Letterkenny today to acquire them, although neither of us was particularly looking forward to this task. When we got up this morning we REALLY did not feel like going to Letterkenny at all, so Bill decided he would wait. Then for some reason I wondered whether the town 15km or so from here, Carndonagh, has a shop where he might be able to find good hiking boots. We put a lot of miles on our shoes, so it is important that we have footwear that is comfortable and durable. Once again this morning, google was my friend as it took me a few minutes to discover that there was a shoe and sports store right on The Diamond, in the town centre a few steps from where the bus stops. We had been planning to go to Carn, as it is called here, and wander around someday instead of just riding through on the bus. I suggested to Bill that we do that today and we could call in at the shoe shop first thing. He liked the idea so off we went, keeping our fingers crossed that he could find a pair of boots that were comfortable, fit well, and made well. We were in luck! He got a nice pair with a minimum of fuss. He left the box with the nice woman at the store, I stuck the boots in my backpack, and off we wandered.

I saw these for sale in a couple of places in town. What a great use for old tires!

We walked down to the old Carndonagh Cross site. Hard to see the carvings now, but the cross has a carving of St Patrick and the pillar stones on either side have David the Warrior on one and David the Harpist on the other. There is more info here and some night photos in which the carvings show up better.

Pretty flowers there too.
 I do not know what these are, but I love them with the purple on the outside and white inside!

We came across a path alongside the river--there were steps leading down to it from the road. Sadly, it is a spot that is not kept up well and clearly used as a party spot. There was litter all around and the path was hard to walk on with steps, crumbling pavement and stuff. It really made me appreciate our shore path here! In spite of the state of disrepair and disrespect shown to the spot, the river itself seemed like a work of art with the sun shining down the way it was.

We wandered down a street and came across some new art--or at least significantly newer than the carvings on the cross and stones!
Across the street, the Church of the Sacred Heart sits up on a hill.

 This is the view from partway up the hill.
As we were heading back to the bus stop, we passed this rather bright housing duo and Bill quipped, "French's mustard vs Pepto-Bismol."
They certainly do stand out!

We enjoyed our afternoon in Carn and will go back one day to wander around some more. If we take the noon bus it takes half an hour to get there because we take a more scenic route through a couple of small towns. On the way home we go straight from Carn to Moville and it takes 15 or 20 minutes. Whether we are going or coming, it is nice to sit and watch as we ride through the beautiful scenery.

Hope you have some beautiful scenery in your neck of the woods today!