Monday, July 30, 2012

The Saturday Wrap Up! Uxbridge Highland Games

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Hi everyone!

I know, it's Monday and I'm posting the Saturday wrap up. What can I say. I'm running behind and I'm working very hard to catch up. I'm getting there! ;) Only 2 days late!!

Well folks, on Friday, I left with my darling daughter to spend the night at her place getting prepared for the drive to Uxbridge from Mississauga. We were heading out to attend the Highlands of Durham Games! We left around 9 am Saturday morning, picked up a friend on the way and we were off. Such a beautiful drive in the country along the byways of the Canadian shield. Fibro made sure to remind me that it was coming along for the ride when it decided to make my stomach super queasy to the point where my poor daughter had to pull over as fast as she could or ... well you know what happens with a queasy stomach... About a km further down the road was a gas station and we stopped in hoping they carried some brand of anti nausea pills and/or diet ginger ale. The only ones they had were from Gravol, a new herbal version of anti nausea pills and boy do they work!!! I was amazed! Within a few minutes of chewing down 2 gummy-type tablets, my stomach settled completely, as if I'd never been nauseous. Suffice it to say that from now on, I'm keeping these ginger-based anti nausea pills on hand since even a short ride on the city bus can render me into a miserable lump of humanity.

We made good time and got to the games at 11. We were waiting in line to park and we could hear all the pipe bands practising for the Grand Opening with the massed bands. What a treat! Yes, I love love love bag pipe music! So there! :)

Four bands led by a grand master entertained the crowds throughout the day in various parts of the park. Everywhere you turned, there were bag pipers and drummers performing various songs. Sometimes they all played at the same time so you got bag pipe music from four different directions which could be somewhat confusing but still fun to hear.

There were tons of booths displaying all kinds of goods, from handmade soaps to jewelry, blankets, etc... There was also one booth that carries all sorts of armor, swords, claymores, daggers, katanas and sais, medieval helmets and shields, chainmail, and so much more! Equipment for both the serious player and for fun.

Dragonhead katana
The armourer, Blades4You, that supplies Karen and Adrian's medieval equipment was there as well. He is a pleasure to deal with, is brutally honest with you when asked about the quality and value of specific equipment. Will recommend pieces over others. He has a huge selection of equipment on hand and can pick up other pieces as specified. 

Elektra's katana
My husband wants this one!
We love dropping in on him anywhere he sets up. He always has something new on display and his booth is always always full!
Click on the photos for larger versions!

 Nick Prouse Pottery & Soaps is a great place to get really good handmade soaps. My husband has extremely sensitive skin and this is the first soap that has actually helped his hands heal up!
Nick Prouse Pottery & Soaps, Hamilton Ontario
We also watched dancing competitions. One gentleman who was dancing competitively told me he's been at it since he was 3. I believe it! His jumps were amazingly high and his steps were precise.

It was quite the show considering that they were dancing in very hot sunshine in velvet and wool costumes. Some of the dancers looked like they were ready to pass out and once they came off the stage, they would be opening their coat and downing bottles of water while the sweat poured down. You have to give them points for dedication.

There were not very many animals at the games. There were several dog breeders, one of which specialised in blue merle collies with whom Karen made instant friends.

And of course, where there are horses, you will find Karen petting one. She has had a love affair with horses since she was knee high to a grass hopper. Never showed any fear towards them and I've never seen a horse shy away from her. On the contrary, they become instant friends like this Clydesdale.

We came across this whimsical bench in the park where the games were being held. Looks can be deceiving because it was surprisingly comfortable to sit on! 
It is so cute! I love the hummingbird, dragonfly and the kitty hiding behind the leaves.

 Some of my friends made me promise to take photos of the burly men in kilts that can always be found at highland games. Well, here they are!
And to be honest, my daughter took these shots using my shoulder as a tripod as we were quite far away from the competition.

 And finally the sun began to set and the final entertainment was on for the day. 

Before the band Poor Angus came on stage, we were entertained by this young man who played the fiddle beautifully. No sheet music and several pieces later, he had the crowds clapping and cheering. So much so he had to come back on stage for an encore! Quite the ability for a 9 year old.

 And then Poor Angus came on stage. I'd never heard them play before but now that I have, wow! They are very very entertaining and I would recommend seeing them to anyone who loves this type of music.

They got the crowds dancing and laughing. My daughter and her friend went out there and had a good time as you can see.
They'll be in Trenton, Ontario next and after that they'll be coming to Hamilton for September! I hope I can go see the show then.

And finally, a few more photos of the massed bands while they performed Amazing Grace. It was breathtaking and beautiful to hear and feel. The bagpipes all beginning to play at the very same moment just goes right through your body and makes your heart skip a beat.
Amazing Grace
Setting up for Amazing Grace
Claymore kilt pin

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Bookworm's Picks

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The last book I reviewed was a crochet book, so I think this week, I'll go with a knitting... magazine! ... or two or three...

There are so many books out there about knitting. Many cover patterns, others cover techniques and stitch patterns and yet others are a combination of both. There is also a huge selection of magazines that can be purchased but which one to buy. Since most of us are on a budget, if we were to purchase every single knitting magazine out there, we'd need to be at least millionaires!

Personally, I rarely buy knitting or crochet magazines. Simple reason, unless I see at least 2 patterns that I know I will knit, it's not worth the almost 10$ plus price tag of most of them.

I have a few suggestions for how to figure out which magazine will work for you if you've never considered buying a knitting magazine. 

Think about what style of clothing or accessories you like to knit, consider your skill level as well. There is no sense purchasing a magazine that carries only advanced patterns if you're a beginner. The only thing that will happen is that you will become discouraged.And the opposite works as well, patterns that are too easy will bore an intermediate to advanced knitter.

One of the best places you can turn to get a taste of what a knitting magazine will carry is the internet. Just about every magazine has a website, a place where they showcase that month's patterns, articles, etc...

Another place you can ask for guidance on what magazines other knitters read is Ravelry's Forums. There are all kinds of groups there whom will be more than happy to answer your questions about specific magazines or even in general. It's free to join and you get access to all kinds of patterns, some free, some you purchase plus all the great support on the forums.

What I usually do is go online, check out that month's run down of patterns and articles. If I see things that I like, then I may look for a copy in a store, but since many stores only carry a few selections, I usually see if it's sold as a digital download. The advantage of this is you're saving a tree, and it's much easier to store magazines digitally than in paper format. If you decide to use a pattern, you can always print it out. It's a lot less paper than having 80 glossy pages sitting on your shelf of which you'll only actually use anywhere from 1 to 8 pages at best.

So out of all the knitting magazines out there, there are a few that I will look at seriously. Mostly because they cater to what I like to look at and my style of knitting as well as my skill level. Since I consider myself anywhere from intermediate to advanced, these are my favourites to look at. 

NB. I'm not receiving any kind of remuneration for naming these magazines, I just like them :)

Produced by Interweave Press in the US. Six years ago, I bought my first copy. At the time, I would have considered myself a beginner skill wise so to be honest; back then, this magazine was over my head but today it isn't. Today I consider many of the projects to be early intermediate to intermediate. The patterns are concise, and assume you know your stitches. They are well written with little long-winded explanations, the photos are usually well taken with clear views of each project. The articles are also of interest and further your skills. It can be purchased as a digital download.


Produced in the UK. it contains a variety of projects that are suitable for many levels of knitters. From the beginner to the expert, this magazine has a project to suit your skill level. For those who love Alan Dart patterns, this is the magazine to turn to since every month there is a featured pattern by this premier designer of the whimsical. Again, this is another magazine that can be purchased as a digital download.

This is the longest running free online magazine. Based in Canada, they feature patterns ranging from mellow to extraspicy. They will publish a new edition online two to three times a year and the selection is always interesting. They feature new designers from all over the world so be prepared for some interesting patterns. You can subscribe to their email update which let's you know when a new edition is coming out. You can print off whichever pattern you want to make and they keep all their patterns available through their extensive archives.

These are my go to favourites, but if you do a google search for knitting magazines, you will find page after page of magazines covering just about every taste a knitter has. So it's up to you to go out there and look at what is available!

What is/are YOUR favourite knitting magazine(s)?

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Being Thankful and Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

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The past week is one I do not want to see repeated, but considering the laundry list of health issues I have... it will happen again.

The fibro fog seems to have cleared up, but was followed by a kidney stone crisis on Friday which I'm still dealing with. It's now out of my kidney but making it's way out of my bladder which seems to be having issues. I guess it's a bigger one than usual...

Ok, so On Being Thankful
We all have days, weeks, months, years where it feels like the devil himself has decided to use us as his personal toilet paper and you all know what I mean by that. So on the days when he finally quits using me, I'm thankful for what I have because I know that others are in as much or worse straits than I am.

With having fibromyalgia, as I explained last week, it affects my brain on the bad days which affects my life since I can't put two thoughts together while it's ongoing. Also means that I come up empty for subjects to post about on my blog!

So a couple of days ago, I am subscribed to this lady's blog Taking Time to Smell the Roses; as I'm checking my emails, I see she has a new post up. The title was the answer to a question I'd been plagued with for a long time! The Mathematics of Long Tail Cast On! This is my favorite method to teach any new knitter in my group and sometimes old knitters as well when they express interest in the technique. But I'd never been able to answer the question of How long do I have to have the tail be to cast on XX stitches? But now I can confidently answer the question because of Jackie's blog post! This works really well. I just experimented with the method and it comes out perfect time after time as long as you use the same long tail cast on method that she uses. 

Following in the comments to her post is another lady's method of figuring out the amount of yarn needed and unless it's for a super stretchy cast on, that method works as well. Her method is to wind the yarn around the needle you're going to use as many times as the requested cast on. For example, if the pattern says cast on 24 stitches; leaving a 4 inch tail, wind the yarn around your needle 24 times and that should be the length you need to cast on 24 stitches.

Another method that was devised by my best friend who shared it with me today is to cast on 10 stitches, take them off the needle and use that length of yarn to measure off the rest of the yarn needed. So if you need to cast on 50 stitches, then you know you will need 5 lengths of the yarn to have enough for the cast on. 

And today, Jackie posted another zinger! This time, it's about measuring bead size for knitting and I would add crochet as well. This is so simple it's laughable but I'd never thought of using this method before. She uses a tool we all have in our knitting and crochet bag of tricks, a needle sizing ruler!!! Check out her post on the subject and tell me that didn't just blow your mind!!! Since I've been wanting to knit/crochet something with beads, this is a great way of figuring out what size beads you have on hand.

So even though my brain was blank, I was supplied with material that I could share with my readers. And also this goes right along with my firm belief in "You're never too old to learn something new", "Teach an Old Dog New Tricks" and "Learn something new every day!" Thank you Jackie E from KnitHeartstrings. She also has an FB page you can like, found here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Warning! Fibro fog ahead... and behind.. and.. where was I going?

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The last several days, I've had major fibro fog. I feel like Dory from Finding Nemo. You remember her; she had no short term memory.  Every few minutes she would reintroduce herself to Melvin....

Lyrics to her song
Hey Mr Grump Gills
You know what you gotta do when life gets you down?
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming swimming swimming

What do we do we swim, swim, swim

OH HO HO How I love to swim

When you WAAAAAANNTTT to swim you want to swim

I'm sorry everyone. I can't seem to wrap my head around composing posts.
I'm having a fibromyalgia flare up caused by the insane heat we've been getting.
This means I'm having trouble putting thoughts together more complicated than, ... I can't think of the word! :( My head hurts constantly and pain killers do nothing, nausea where there's no reason for it, bad sleep caused by the weather and made worse by the constant headache and nausea,

As soon as my brain unfogs, and it better be soon, I'll be back with new posts and updates, etc...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bookworm's Picks

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So many books to choose from, in fact an entire world of books that we can pick from, but what to review this week?!? 

Of all the crochet books I have, not counting stitch books of course, the one I cherish the most is Crochet Master Class co-authored by Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weiss.

Mandala pillow
First, I think a lot of people misunderstand the title, thinking that it's a book that will teach you the most complicated stitches, patterns, etc... but to me, the title simply means that I will be learning from people who belong in the Crochet Master's class. Just like there are master chefs, woodworkers, glass blowers, and so on.

Bruges lace shawl
The book has 18 beautiful projects detailing specific crochet techniques. The photography is exquisite, the bios of each particular master of it's class opens a window into that designer's world. The projects selected for the reader are well explained with line by line prompts.

Slip stitch dress
I wanted a book that would plainly show me the differences between each crochet technique, expand my knowledge, and help me learn to do more unique crochet forms, many of which are not well published. The book even provides you with these master's e-mails, websites, workshop information and more so that you can pursue the next steps if you feel you've mastered the basics provided.

Tartan blanket
Whoever thought that tartan could not be crocheted. One of the best designers shows you exactly how to do it. Or that Bruges lace only looks complicated but is a breeze to make. There is even a section covering Irish crochet, another beautiful technique that has very little coverage in today's printed books.

I would strongly recommend this book if you are a beginner crocheter trying to find which technique you like best, an intermediate crocheter who has been looking for a way to bridge the gap to become advanced and well-rounded, or an advanced crocheter who wants to test their skills and knowledge. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Angel's Crochet & Knit Time - Benefits of Crochet & Knitting

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Instead of talking about a stitch, or a technique, today I thought I'd talk about the benefits of crochet and knitting. Yes, I know, many have written about this in the past but I think I'll come at this from a slightly different view point... that of the person witnessing and living the changes on others and herself.

Last Friday was my knit/crochet group that meets at the local library. I started this group at the beginning of May of this year and each week I have new faces joining those who started back in May. One of those ladies who started back in May came to me with a printout of an article that her therapist gave her last time she visited her. The article comes from Stitchlinks, a website dedicated to collecting data of all types about the relationship between knitting and pain management. Her therapist told her that she has seen a marked change in her in the past two months and she thinks that it has a lot to do with her joining my group.

Many of the ladies who attend my group have health issues ranging from mild to severe. Many of these health issues involve pain which needs to be managed, either medically or through some other means if drugs are not their choice. I myself suffer from fibromyalgia and pain is something I live with daily. 

The lady who gave me the article that sparked this blog post suffers from major pain due to an accident. The pain is severe enough that it affects her mental state, her concentration, and the accident itself has affected the muscles of her hands and arms. When she first began attending the group, she was quiet, apologetic for her lack of dexterity, and confidence was completely absent. With gentle words and guiding hands, I taught her how to do a long-tail cast on, and how to knit. Her first project was a short scarf for herself for this winter. It took 6 weeks to complete, but she could claim it as her own and the pride in her voice and on her face when she showed it off to the group was wonderful to see. Two months have gone by since that first day in May and she is now moving forward, picking her own projects, assessing her own skill level and she's finally realized what a difference learning to knit has made in her life.

She has found confidence, determination, a reason to go home every day, a reason to get up every morning. She finds that the level of pain goes down dramatically while she is knitting as well as for several hours later. She also finds that she is not nervous like she used to be, that she can relax much more easily and when things get tough at work, just thinking about knitting when she gets home keeps her going through the rough spots. As she pointed out one of the quotes on the article she handed me "I feel valid, not in-valid. Able not dis-abled." she told me quite confidently that is how she feels now and then she thanked me. I told her the person to thank was herself for coming to the group, for taking that very first step. 

I've found over time that knitting and crocheting do the same things for me. The time I spend knitting/crocheting, my mind is free to sort through other things. As I concentrate on a stitch pattern, other parts of my brain are working on problems that I am trying to resolve. I find that I am calmer, happier, that the pain recedes far enough away to make it bearable most of the time. The pattern distracts my mind from the pain. Some days I have to work at it a bit harder, but most of the time, it works quite well and gets better with practice. These days I hardly touch my pain killers. I keep them for the days that nothing and I mean nothing else makes it recede. But those days are far and few apart thanks to knitting and crocheting.

As for the Stitchlinks site, I've gone through it and it is quite good. There is a lot of information about controlling pain through crafting, there is an active Forum that you can participate in and information on how to start your own therapeutic knitting group in your neighbourhood. Having a group of women and men who knit and crochet and talk together, sharing their lives, experiences, etc every week is an experience I never thought would be so beneficial to others but what surprised me even more, is how beneficial it has been for me as well. An experience well worth sharing with everyone out there!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Saturday WrapUp! McMaster University, knitting woes & more

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Hello everyone!

This week has been a busy one for me. I attended an orientation day at the University, getting ready to attend this fall. All very exciting! :) My first class will be Introduction to Anthropology, food, sex and death What a title! If nothing, it certainly will be interesting.

I'm only taking one class as I want to make sure I can handle it with my various health issues. I'd rather have energy left over than finding myself overwhelmed and having to drop a class. I have to go back again this week, once to meet with a counsellor for adaptive services and back next Saturday for a full day of training on 'effective note-taking', etc... I've been out of school way too long to remember how to do any of it, so might as well take advantage of the free classes being offered.

The photo shows one of the many halls and buildings that grace the campus. I especially love this one because of the archway, the gargoyles, the vines and the beautiful stonework. I love walking through the coach way now converted into a walkway. It's a cool, echoing walk into history every time I take that route.

Ogre Babies knit hat
This week I was pointed to a free pattern for a super cute Shrek hat called Ogre Babies found on Ravelry. I immediately downloaded the pattern with the intent of knitting this hat. While stash diving, I found some pretty green yarn, Loops & Threads Impeccable worsted in the grass colourway. It is a lovely soft yarn for baby things that wears well with use. 

Ogre Baby modelled by sleeping Gambit
The pattern calls for using US 3 - 3.25 mm and US 1 - 2.25 mm. I knit fairly tight so moved up to a US 4 - 3.50 mm for the body of the hat. Knitting the body of the hat was a breeze. Everything went very well until it came time to add the ear stalks. That is when the s*it hit the proverbial fan. I quickly realized that using a US 1 needle would not work. So I moved up to my US 3 bamboo sock needles with the carbonized tips and figured I'd be fine. Knitting the stalk section went well, but when it came to the bulbous part, where I had to increase in between each stitch, the knitting became much tighter and that's when my favourite needles snapped! One snapped mid stitch and the other snapped as I was transferring stitches to a set of plastic needles! I could have cried.

As for knitting the bulbous part at the end of the stalk, I moved up to a US 4, same size I used for the body. Do not attempt to M1 between each stitch but instead knit on a stitch between each stitch. It's fiddly, but can be done with patience. I really love the finished hat and look forward to giving it to a wee little lad that will open his eyes to a brand new world in October :)

Craftsy - freebie !!!

Carol Feller
This lovely site with tons of patterns, classes, tips and ideas is now offering a taste of a full length class with this free 45 minute class on short rows. Well worth it! I've signed up for it and I love the easy calm way the instructor, Carol Feller, goes through the various methods of making short rows and what their uses are. I would highly recommend this class to anyone who's thought that short row knitting and shaping is too difficult and leaves holes in your knitting. Her methods show you exactly how to hide your wraps and turns and best of all it's easy!

There is more I've done this week, but I've run out of time. I'll cover more next week! Hope you are staying out of the heat and enjoying your knitting and crocheting in air conditioned comfort. Until next time!