Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An embarrassment of riches

This past week has been devoted to preparing for our new project .................

Our new yarn arrived yesterday just as we had hoped. It is beautiful. We've been swatching like mad. Swatching is something that used to seem silly and unnecessary ... something that just stood in the way of  STARTING!! ... but is now actually part of the fun. We've swatched and ripped and swatched some more. We don't care how many stitches we're getting to the inch. We only care that the fabric we end up with feels good and has the right drape.

Decisions! We have the highly-anticipated new yarn and we have the yarn that we referred to in the last post as 'crappy' (even though it's really not crappy at all). We even went back to our stash and pulled out all the other suitable skeins and held an audition. Next!!

We've got manly colours that are dark and won't photograph well. We've got fingering weight that's light-coloured but not as soft as we'd like. We've got variegated yarns in beautiful shades....but will the stitch patterns show up?

We've started to make ourself quite crazy with all the possibilities and all the choices. And that's when we realized we're making this way too complicated. This is a scarf. One scarf. Not the most perfect scarf in all of knitting history. It's for fun. And for giving away. That's all. A simple scarf.

So from the embarrassingly large number of possible skeins, we are going with .... drum roll, please!... The Sock It To Me Dankai from Elann.com in the Haiku Poem (#64) colourway, for the princely sum of $8.80 Canadian. It's a sock yarn and it looks like we're going with size 4.5 mm bamboo needles and getting about 6 stitches to the inch. This yarn is soft and the colour changes are subtle.

Of course, no one should be surprised it we've changed our mind by next week. That's all part of the fun.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Up to her armpits

Literally. The Santa Suit is rolling along. Just the sleeves and upper body and the hood to complete. It's an easy knit and we've already found the perfect buttons.

We have some yarn that we thought we'd like to use for the Papa Bear Sampler Scarf but we're not sure we're completely sold on it yet. It's not as soft as we'd have liked. It's nice enough but doesn't really conform to our knitting philosophy which is ... Life is too short to knit with crappy yarn. We're going to embroider that on a pillow some day. We make so few items in a year, it really is OK to make sure we use the good stuff. The knitting is much more pleasant.

We ordered some promising replacement fibre from Elann and kept tracking our shipment. Nothing. It was showing that it was in the postal system as of last Monday and ...nothing. Shoot. This would be the time when our order would get lost. And then, last evening, it hit the radar. In Ottawa. Yesterday at 1:15 pm. Yay!! We're hoping it will be delivered tomorrow. No big rush, really. We have an entire week before we start. (And just to be clear....we've always had terrific service from Elann.com with fast shipping and, no, the crappy yarn did not come from them.)

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011
A little teaser from the Nosey Nelly News.......

Monika once asked us what we did with all our drawings. We've never really worried much about that. They're fun to do. They make us happy. However, we may just have found another use for them. Stay tuned. Grandma Coco may soon have something exciting to announce. Doesn't that sound mysterious?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finally! Illustration Friday: Disguise

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

We are happy....no, make that thrilled.... to announce that we "can see again. It's a miracle!" (Betcha don't know that film reference.) Only a few days beyond the 6 week prognosis from the doctor. (Boy, he's a smart guy!) We're able to focus on close-up things like knitting and reading and drawing!! Everything's clear and crisp the way it used to be. Far-away things are still dicey. We have the most trouble tracking moving objects. And that means when we turn our head or try to scan a room, for instance. So, still no driving for us. We are, however, absolutely optimistic that these things will improve in time, too.

So, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted at the end of June? So much to catch up on! We were finally able to try out the new drawing paper that Mr. Curry's Art Supplies sent us. We are happy to say it was totally worth the wait. The pencil point glides over it as if it were velvet and it erases well, too.

Yesterday, the Illustration Friday topic was announced.....Disguise. Well, we think we had already begun to think about disguises days before when our friend wrote that her kitty was discovered on a shelf in the basement, hiding among some packages of toilet paper. You know the brand with the kittens on it? Cats are great hiders. They love living on their own terms and being mysterious. We think they have terrific senses of humour, too. It's just a quiet humour.

This drawing also references the abundance of late August flowers and the image we keep uncovering in our brain of our mother working in her garden. An image which comes unbidden..... but always welcome. It's good to remember her in happier times. We think the cat has to be Homer, one of Cassie's predecessors. An all-white fellow of exceptional temperament and an extraordinary hunter. We miss him, too.

We Talk Back
To Susan Being Snippy.... We'd forgotten about the timing of the show. Yes, we remember running home, too, now that you mention it.

To Elle... Squeezing more time out of a 24-hour day is an art. We see from your blog that you're getting just about as much done as you could without cutting into your sleeptime. The only thing we can suggest is this.....Sometimes, we have noticed that when we spend a lot of time on one project, our productivity slows down. We sincerely believe that when we switch from project to project, we get a lot more accomplished. This scarf will wind up being about 36 rows of knitting each week.... and it's only 8 or 9 inches wide to start with. That means, for all you math geeks, only 6 rows per day (or about one little inch) with a day off each week for good behaviour....or a nap.

To Kate: Thanks for being our muse this week.

And don't forget ....

You're invited!
Click HERE for details.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A knit along

The longest scarf starts with a single stitch!
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

We know that January 1st is generally recognized as the start to a new year but we’ve always felt September was more appropriate. After a summer of rest and relaxation, it seems fitting to start anew in the fall. Maybe it’s a legacy of those delicious first days of school.

We thought we’d do something fun to celebrate the start of the fall season and we’d be delighted if you’d like to come along for the ride.

We’ve always liked samplers and we’ve seen some cool ones for embroidery stitches and for shawls knitted in fancy lace patterns. However, we’ve been knitting men’s socks lately and we’ve noticed there are an awful lot of really beautiful (we mean handsome!) stitch patterns that men will like. Not a yarn over or a lacy hole in sight. (We’ve been told that men don’t generally appreciate The Lace….or fancy colours, for that matter. Men can be boring that way ….. to knit for, that is.)

We thought we’d like to make a nice, warm scarf to give to some nice guy this Christmas.  How ‘bout a sampler scarf?  The Papa Bear Sampler Scarf, to be precise. We’ve scoured our stitch dictionaries and we’ve come up with a really nifty assortment of pattern stitches ….. stitches that only require knitting and purling, so they’re not difficult at all but stitch patterns that result in interesting texture. This will give us a chance to try them out on a small scale and add them to our repertoire.

We may even do cables.  That way we can get used to cabling without a cable needle.  New stitches AND a new technique. Cool!

So, here’s the deal. We’ll begin our Papa Bear Sampler Scarf  on the day after Labour Day…..Tuesday, September 6, 2011.  That gives us 2 weeks to get ready. We’ll cast on that day and there will be a different patterned section each week for 12 weeks. That means, we’ll cast off on Tuesday, November 29, 2011. It won’t be much knitting each week but by December 1st, we’ll have finished a scarf for one lucky man on our gift list.

Each pattern stitch will be written out in words and, if we can manage it, we’ll try to provide a chart as well.

If you’d like to join in, you’ll need about 400 to 500 metres/yards of fingering weight wool (sock yarn would work just fine). You will need to have made a swatch of stockinette for the sole purpose of finding the right size needle for you. Grandma Coco’s found that a 5 mm (8 US) needle is giving her the loosey-goosey drape she was going for. We want the scarf to be squooshy and soft and warm. It will be generous in size…about 9 inches wide by 72 inches long….more or less….you know how Grandma Coco rolls.

This is the kind of project we like…. Lots of interesting small steps that lead painlessly but inevitably to success.  Feel free to join us! And if you have any questions, just ask away in the comments or email us directly at grandmacocosdesigns@gmail.com 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Words to live by

 "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."  

-  Jack Layton, 1950-2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What the mind dredges up

August Ladies
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Sometimes when we draw, we are as surprised as anyone else by what comes up. Sometimes, we start with an idea of what we want to show but often we just start doodling. This time, we started with an oval which got eyes and that became a head which went on to get a body. Often, it's a case of asking....now what would this one be wearing? and what's she up to? It's a meditational thing.... a stream of conscious process that is very engrossing, relaxing and entertaining. We thought this one was interesting and it pleases us but after we thought about it for a while, we realized that it also speaks to some things that have been percolating in our brain.

One lady sits in a deck chair .... on a beach maybe?....and she looks overwhelmed by something....some problem. The other lady has turned her whole body toward her....giving her her full attention....and great concern. She's touching her with both hands. She's a large figure....soft and comforting and substantial. It occurs to us that there have been several mothering souls (not all of them female) who have come to sit with us and hold our hand (metaphorically) during this trying time. We are very grateful to them.

Tomorrow we mark the 6th week since we got our prism and since the neuro-opthalmologist said the 6th nerve palsy ought to resolve in 4 to 6 weeks. We think we should have got that in writing. :)  However, we are beginnng to see some improvement. In the mornings when we awake to find Cassie staring us down from atop our chest, we think we can see ONE (blurry) furball. The doctor said our vision would return gradually, just as it left, so we are hopeful.

Santa suit progress ...

..... from toes to baby crotch. Done. :)

... and something delicious!

Tofu Cheesecake

Grandma Coco can't eat dairy....no cow's milk, no cheese, cream, ice cream. Nothin'! However, we've become quite adept at substituting and this tofu cheesecake is really delicious, simple to make and CHEAP!!!

Into a blender, chuck the following:
1 530 gram block of silken tofu (Mandarin Soy Foods - purple package)
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup of sugar (more or less, as desired)
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
Whizz this up until smooth. Pour into a prepared (uncooked) crust....graham cracker works well or we do this:

Into the food processor, chuck the following:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp shortening, lard or margerine
1/4 cup coconut
2 Tbsp COLD water
Whizz this up and pat it into a pie plate. This will be crumbly and won't want to stick together. Just pat it into submission.

Bake the pie (cheesecake) at 350F for about 30 - 35 minutes or until it's starting to puff up around the edge and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. It's best chilled for several hours (or even overnight) and then served with fresh fruit.  Mr. Coco's got a bumper crop of raspberries this year. Imagine GC doing her best JC impersonation ....

 "Bon appĂ©tit!" 

Don't forget to check back on Tuesday
for details of the special project we're planning!
It's gonna be FUN!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What can this be?

When we were little we used to watch Razzle Dazzle on TV. Bonus points to anyone who remembers who the host was. Hint: He's Canadian and he was married (maybe still is, for all we know) to Suzanne Somers. Every so often they'd show a hugely magnified picture of an everyday object and we'd be asked to identify it. Today, we're going to play a variation on that game......what can this red and white object be?

Give up?  It's one leg of a Santa sleeper, of course.

We found the pattern here. Isn't it just the cutest thing? And we know just the cutie to wear it this Christmas. The only problem is getting the size right since we need to start knitting now and she's got this annoying habit of GROWING!! :)  It's like trying to hit a moving target.

To make the project just a little bit more interesting, we want to use some yarn we have in our stash and it's not the same gauge AT ALL as the alpaca yarn the pattern calls for. Hmmmmm. This is going to call for some fancy footwork! For every school kid ....especially artsy kids.....who wonder what on earth the point is of mathematics when all they want to do is draw or paint or be creative.... we say this: Not a day goes by that we don't thank our lucky stars for math. We use geometry in quiltmaking when we design new blocks and we use basic arithmetic in knitting. Every day. We could not manage without them. Without a good background in math, a creative person would be doomed to forever follow someone else's pattern/design. And a creative person would soon go mad doing that.

So, here we are....we want to make this Santa sleeper and we want to make it from Knitpicks Crayon which we have in our stash. 100% cotton and soft, soft, soft. The colour we have is called RED. Not sure if it's available now because the only red on the site is now called Fiesta. RED is a real Christmas red so it's just what the doctor ordered. For the white fur trim, we found a furry novelty yarn at WalMart that's called Pipsqueak by Bernat.

The pattern comes with a schematic and that's what we used as a guide. After reading through and seeing how it's put together we just recalculated all our measurements using the results of our gauge swatch. Easy peasy. The novelty yarn is wildly different and required a couple of attempts to get the drape we liked. We're knitting it very loosely on larger needles (6mm) with only 28 stitches to start (instead of the 40 that you'd need with 2 strands of the alpaca the pattern calls for), increasing to 48 when we change to the red Crayon and 4mm needles. (We're aiming for the 12/18 month size.)

You can imagine how delighted we were to find that when we completed the first leg and slipped all the stitches onto waste yarn to wait for its mate, all the measurements corresponded to the schematic exactly!! We're on our way.

As well, we offer photographic proof that the sock is growing. We've finished the heel flap in the Eye of Partridge stitch and are now about to pick up stitches along each edge. We are weighing our skein of yarn obsessively hoping we'll have enough yarn for both socks. It would be a shame to have to rip back to shorten the leg. (And yes, we know that's why people like toe-up. We just happen to like the tubular cast-on.)

News Flash!! We are very excited to announce we're planning something special in the next few days..... a knit along! Stay tuned for the details.....especially if you've got a MAN on your Christmas list.  Er, we mean, if you're knitting for a man this Christmas, that is .... not asking Santa for one. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Socky progress

Every sock progress photo looks better with Cassie in it, don't you think?

No, not "sucky" progress .... a little progress on the socks. Such a pretty gradation of greens and so soft! We highly recommend the wool ...............

.............. and a totally unoriginal idea.  We saw these great needle organizers for sale somewhere and thought they were such a good idea that we grabbed our wire and our jewelry making tools and tried one out. It works! These are 3.5 mm double points. We had to experiment to find the right sized mandrel because it turns out you can't just wind the wire around the double points. It doesn't end up round. :(  We've been stymied in our jewelry making by our inability to actually be able to see the holes in the beads so this wire wrapping project is a minor victory. When we get our vision back we've got great plans for beaded micro macramĂ© jewelry. Feel free to google that but be prepared to be amazed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer games Part 1

Waiting for the phone to ring
Yesterday, Mr. Coco answered the telephone and, after a couple of minutes of silence, we heard him politely say he didn't think he was interested. He hung up. We, who have been waiting impatiently for an unsuspecting telephone solicitor, were horrified when he reported that the fellow had said he was calling from Microsoft. Huh??? Just the call we were waiting for. Too bad. Mr. Coco is now afraid to answer the phone.

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long. The phone rang this morning and a woman who identified herself as "Jennifer" (yeah, right!) started her spiel about how she wanted to notify us about the corrupted files that were getting onto our computer.

Well, yes sir. Pull up a chair, we thought. We have lift off!!!

First of all, we asked to have the company name confirmed since this woman was not calling from Microsoft and we really did need to have her repeat the name twice. So, OK, the other 2 repetitions were just for the annoyance value, but hey, that's part  of the game, right?

She mentioned the corrupted files. "That sounds serious!" we gasped in our best imitation of a concerned citizen. She concurred.

Then before she could tell us what she recommended, we asked where she was calling from. "The office," was her reply. Ah, a worthy opponent, we thought. Yes, of course, but where is that? What city? Dead air. And then, finally a busy signal.

Shoot. Less than 2 minutes. AND we didn't even get to say "Butterscotch!" :)


From our plentiful stash of sock yarn we have chosen this little beauty...

Lang Jawoll Magic superwash. 75% wool/25% nylon. A lovely blend of mossy green, yellowy green and dark (almost black) green.  400 metres. Very soft.
From Wool-tyme in Kingston ON. This skein is destined to become a pair of manly socks.

And finally...
Don't forget to head on over to Underneath the Juniper Tree to have a look at the August issue of the magazine. They have a new format which works much better than the old one. You'll find our poem Beware Sleeping Kittens on page 44.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Perfectly ordinary socks

We are inordinately proud of these socks. They're totally tame, plain-Jane socks. Completely unremarkable socks, really. Their only saving grace is that we managed to knit them. They are socks for our dear Mr. Coco to play tennis in so they are knit to his specifications.

Scheepjes Invicta Extra, colour 1401 (variegated beige/grey). 75% Virgin wool/25% polyamide/nylon. 2 balls. Brittany birch 3 mm needles.  64 stitches, tubular cast-on, 2 inches of  k2, p2 ribbing and then 3 inches Seed Stitch Rib pattern which is simply two alternating rounds.....1) knit and 2) knit 3, purl 1.  He likes the short 5 inch leg for tennis socks. Regular turned heel because the after-thought heel didn't seem to fit him very well). More Seed Stitch Rib pattern until the foot measures 8 inches from the heel and then decrease for the toe. Bob's yer uncle!

Now, who else needs socks?