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Feeling a little lost. I'm turning 40 in about a month, and my entire body is conspiring against me. I'm out of work (again), and I don't particularly have any yearning to go back to work in a support role that doesn't get me anywhere. But where do I want to go? That's the big question. I don't know what I want to do when I I grow up. I used to want to sing, but I can't do that here the way I used to back in Toronto. The opportunities just aren't here.

And I'm missing my old Toronto life and friends and neighbourhoods.


Aug. 26th, 2010

My adventures in spinning continue - I can't wait to get my hands on some alpaca fibre!!! Short story short, Jeff's business partner James' mom has two alpacas on her property at Shawnigan Lake and he's going to ask if I can take the fleeces off her hands. He doesn't know what she currently does with the fleeces - it could be that they're already spoken for, which would suck, but if they're not, they're totally mine!!! Yummy, squishy soft alpaca!!!

And in another note on alpacas, my mom wants to get in the game too - she's going to talk to a local Sooke person who has alpacas to see what's being done with those fleeces. We could have a little cottage industry set up in no time! Which would give my mom something to do, and that would be a Very Good Thing. Being retired and bored sounds like it sucks...

The new wheels have yet to be named, but I'm leaning towards Moira for the Ashford Traditional (from the Greek, "Moirae"; the collective name for the Fates, one of whom, Clotho, spins the thread of life).

The other wheel might get named Senta, or Holda, or Harriet or Nancy...I can't decide. I'd like to find a link to spinning in Native mythology, but the internets have not yet provided it...see, the style of this wheel is what's known as an Indian Head spinner, or Salish spinner, and specializes in soft-spun yarn - the kind that would make a Cowichan sweater. Mine is hand made, I think - this is basically what it looks like. And yes, that's a mighty huge bobbin - this baby can hold up to 1 kg of yarn!!

Here's another cool article on spinning in mythology.


I'm mildly interested in making things out of yarn, but it comes and goes. I've become quite good at making long, skinny rectangles. Recently, though, I was craving something new - following an actual pattern, doing something more complex than a scarf. I searched through some webpages for inspiration and found a cabled scarf pattern that looked simple but elegant - I had my Fall chorus project! (Some of the COC chorus gals are avid knitters - lace, socks, baby clothes, funky shawls, you name it! It's a way to while away the time between chorus scenes in the quiet and the sometimes-not-so-quiet dressing rooms.) Yes, it was still a scarf, but it was a step up from ribbing or stockinette. I got some beautiful medium grey wool & a cable needle and started knitting. To my surprise, it was easy! I had always been scared of cables, but this was just a simple twist. Before long, I was finished. I wove in the ends and tucked it away to present to Jeff in December. I gave it to him just before we went up to Whistler for the Film Festival - he barely took it off the whole week!

Fresh from my cable scarf success, I was a knitting machine! I decided that Mom and Mom-in law were both getting scarves for Christmas. Mom's was a gorgeous combination of greens and browns with a few touches of blue in a wonderful chunky thick-thin wool. Diane's was a creamy white, in a bulky weight. They both got the same stitch pattern, but the scarves looked very different once finished. The end result is a woven effect -

Once I figured out how to do cables and fancy stitch patterns, I decided hats were next! First, some back story...a long time ago, I tried making a hat to go with a big fluffy purple scarf I made. I made it on a circular needle, but I didn't knit in the round (go figure). It turned out to be a big floppy mess. My mom came for a visit and I showed it to her, seeking advice - maybe all it needed was some elastic through the band? She tried it on, and it fit over her enormous hair (if you've seen my mom, you know what I'm talking about) - no further adjustments were necessary. Anyways, I've never tried making a hat since then - the first one was such a bomb, and I couldn't find any patterns that a) were knit on straight needles, and b) weren't stocking caps. I sat down with my thinking cap on and read through a couple of patterns to see if I could understand the concept of knitting in the round. I knit a band in the same stitch pattern as the scarf, and picked up the right number of stitches, put them on two circular needles and started knitting. A little time passed and I had a hat to match Diane's scarf. As it turns out, hats are easy.

I'm still scared of socks. Maybe one day, I'll figure out DPNs. (that's double pointed needles, for the non-knitter) I may have conquered the 2 circular needles method of making hats, but the Magic Loop still eludes me. Maybe if I see it in action - I tend to learn better once I've seen the process. We'll see...

Current projects on the needles: a pair of arm cosies (fingerless mitts), a scarf to match my tic-tac-toe hat, a wrap/scarf thingy that I started ages ago (like, 4 years at least - another chorus project), and a multidirectional diagonal scarf that I'm not happy with and may decide to rip out. I'm still pondering that one... Perhaps that wool will be the perfect candidate for my first foray into felting...

In the meantime, however, I've discovered the joys of spinning. I absolutely love it. Feeling the wool fibres slip through your fingers and get grabbed by the twist created by the wheel - this is magic! Three weeks ago or so I spent a few hours transfixed, watching YouTube videos of spinners spinning on wheels and on drop spindles. It seemed so soothing - almost meditative. I decided that day that I wanted to try learning how to spin, so I looked up local yarn stores that sold spinning equipment and fibre. As it turned out, there's a carding operation and storefront quite close by - they had the equipment I needed to get started. I bought a drop spindle, and some dyed merino fibre. Jeff called the colour Muppet Guts - it looks like what you'd see if you had a Muppet on the operating table.



I made lots of mistakes with this - it's overspun in places, too thick, not properly drafted, etc, but it's my first yarn, and I was rather proud of myself. I knit it up, intending to make a neckwarmer. The resulting fabric was way too stiff for anything - I think it's going to be either a cushion cover or a trivet...

I went back to Birkeland Bros. in search of more fibre and got some lovely (to touch), dyed Perendale in a beautiful rose-pink shade. Spinning this stuff was strange - it felt almost like velcro when I was drafting it. The yarn is probably best suited to something that's not going to sit next to skin - it's a little too coarse. But, my drop spindle technique was improving - I was getting thinner yarn most of the time, still overspun in places, but with fewer slubs and corkscrews.

I was, however, getting frustrated with the inconsistent and slooooow results I was getting with the drop spindle. This was not the way I wanted to spin! I kept seeing gorgeous handspun skeins on Etsy, and knowing that I couldn't even come close to that kind of yarn with my little drop spindle.

I started looking online at spinning wheels. Hoooo boy, there are some expensive wheels out there! Starting at around $500 and going upwards to the $1200 range....way too much for my budget and beginner ability. I went instead to the used websites - Craigslist and UsedVancouver - and found a few lovely wheels. Most of them were probably used as decoration, including the one I eventually bought. The lady I bought my wheel from was going to try her hand at spinning but never got up the nerve, so her wheel languished unused from the time she bought it 10 years ago. It is a working wheel, though, and with a little steel wool and sandpaper to smooth down some rough patches, is working like a charm. I swung by the wool store (or crack dealer, as Jeff likes to call it) on my way home from Aldergrove to ask some questions (I was scared I'd bought a dud and wasted $200), and to get more spinning fibre. The gal in the shop was super helpful, got a drive band attached, and a leader yarn on the bobbin and started spinning. Yay! Random used wheel purchase for the win!

Here's Gretchen:


I should say, she's working like a charm now, but the first few days were frustrating!! She didn't come with any instructions.

The first day I couldn't get anything to spin without breaking. A little research, and I figured out how to adjust tension on a double drive wheel.

The second day I couldn't get my treadling and drafting to work together. I got a lot of practice at pulling yarn back through the orifice and joining new wool on to the spun single.

The third day I was having take-up issues - the spun yarn wasn't winding around the bobbin. I was getting better at drafting and treadling, though... Baby steps, right?

The fourth day I was getting some smoother results - the tension was better, the treadling was slower and steadier (I had been speeding up out of frustration), and I managed to spin two bobbins of what looked like respectable singles yarn. Now, on to plying! Since my singles were nowhere near balanced, I needed to ply two strands together. Balance is when the yarn hangs fairly straight without doubling up on itself. My first plying attempt was a bit of a mess - the singles would tangle up, both on themselves as well as on each other, then the wheel would start spinning clockwise when it needed to go counter-clockwise, causing the yarn to jump off the hooks and get tangled up on the bobbin... Not fun!

The fifth day, I rested. My mind needed a break to soak it all in.

The sixth day I started again. Things went smoother. The tension and take-up seemed good. The twist was better. The drafting was better and more consistent. My fibre preparation was different and seemed to work better. I spun up two more bobbins, plyed them with fewer tangling issues, set the twist in some hot water and hung the skein up to dry. Now we're talking! This looked a little more like YARN!



A little uneven and overtwisted in places, but miles better than those Muppet Guts from a few weeks ago...

I finished up my Corriedale fibre with a skein I'm pretty proud of... In total I have about 200 yards of usable yarn and I have no idea what to make with it. Perhaps inspiration will strike if I try dyeing it first?

This adventure will definitely continue. You should see the gorgeous batts I bought yesterday...


I'm still reeling a little from the death of my father. I was really looking forward to spending more time with him. Even though his Alzheimers' made it increasingly impossible to have any kind of meaningful conversations, I was going to try to be more connected to my family, and take on some of the caregiving burden. That all changed when he passed away on December 23.

Jeff and I were almost en route to the Island for Christmas with my family when Mom called in tears. We were able to get to the ferry and to the hospital very quickly. His nurses laid him out in his bed, so I was able to see him one last time. He looked waxen and unreal - not like the Dad I knew. His face had changed so much in the time he had spent in hospital since he broke his hip in October. Mom and Clay waited until I got there and we viewed him together. We said our goodbyes and we played him some Dixieland to send him on his way - just like they'd do in New Orleans in the funeral processions.

We interred his ashes in New Westminster, at Fraserview Cemetery, on January 7th. When Dad's mom was buried a few years ago, he stated then that he wanted to be there too, when it was his time. This was the last he said on the subject. When it came time to look into arrangements for his burial, Mom remembered what he had said, and called the cemetery. There was unfortunately no room for him to be buried there - no provision had been made by the family when his father was buried in 1941. Dad's mom was buried in the same cemetery, but quite a ways apart from her former husband's grave. Dad had been estranged from his mother for a long time - since the start of Dad's relationship with my Mom, actually. We had to come to a decision to either bury him somewhere else, possibly on the Island, or inter his ashes by his father's grave. There was space at the gravesite for 5 members of the same family, so Mom ordered a beautiful stone slab with engraving to match his dad's headstone. We held a small family service for him, with remembrances by three of the five children and by my Mom. We laid white roses on the spot where his ashes will rest forever. There is a beautiful view of the Fraser River, and the Port Mann Bridge is in the distance. After the service, we gathered at Julie's place in PoCo for some food and drink and more memories of Dad. I made a slideshow of photos with a couple of Dixieland tracks as background music, which everyone enjoyed. Jeff, Clay and I also put together a memorial CD of Dad's music and everyone attending got a copy.

I'm in much closer contact with Mom now, and we talk a little about Dad from time to time. I know it will get easier, and that it will take a long time before it does. There are some days when I feel the loss very keenly, and others when I can carry on as if nothing had happened. I haven't been back to his grave since January 7, and I will, but I just can't yet. When I do, I'll bring him a white rose and sit with him for a while, listen to some music and look at the view.

I love you, Dad. I miss you so much.

Where are you now,

Where did you go, 

When the body is left behind 
and the spirit is released to fly?

Perhaps you are the morning bird 
singing joyfully at sunrise,

or the butterfly that dances 
so carelessly on the breeze 

or the rainbow of colors 
that brightens a stormy sky 

or the fingers of afternoon mist 
delicately reaching over the mountains 

or the final few rays of the setting sun 
lighting up the skies 
edging the clouds with a magical glow.

I miss your being 
but I feel your presence, 

In whatever form you choose to take, 

however you now choose to be. 

Your spirit has become for me 
a guardian angel on high 
guiding, advising, and watching over me. 

I remember you. 

You are with me 
and I am not afraid.

Sing-Along Messiah!!

Come one, come all (and bring your score, if you have one) to:

Eglinton St George's United Church

on Sunday, December 14

at 3:00 pm

for a rousing, raucous sing along version of Messiah, where you can sing along with the solos too, if you so choose! Who doesn't want to take a stab at "Rejoice Greatly"? Or "The Trumpet Shall Sound"?

You know YOU do...

Tickets are $20, available by phone (416.481.1141. ext 250) or at the door. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

Hope you can come! starfishchick came last year and had a good time (and brought her mom!)

Sing-Along Messiah!!

Come on, you know you wanna sing Handel on December 2 at 3pm! If you own a score, bring it. If you have any friends, bring them. Seating is by section, and scores (if you don't have your own) are available for your use.

Eglinton St. George's United Church is located at:
35 Lytton Boulevard, at Duplex Ave. (about 6 blocks south of Lawrence)

Tickets are $20 (adults) and $15 (students), and can be purchased at the door. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

If you have any questions, ask me! Hope y'all can make it!

The Great Conductor Switch!

Tonight was a very exciting performance of Faust. At intermission, as some of us were hanging out in the performer's lounge, Sandy Gavinchuk came to annnounce that Yannick Nezet-Seguin was going to leave the performance to go conduct the TSO... Valery Gergiev's plane was delayed so much that even with the TSO having held the start of their concert at least 20 minutes, there was no way he was going to get there to conduct. They even switched the order of the program - the Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Winds and the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (also Stravinsky) were conducted by Gary Kulesha, but they needed someone to pinch-hit for the scheduled Debussy pieces - La Mer and Prelude a l'apres-midi d'une faune. So off he went, and I'm sure, did a beautiful job.

But what happened to the Faust performance, you might ask? Well, we had the fantastic Steven Philcox step in at intermission. He did brilliantly - he even shaved 8 minutes off the performance time!

Super quickie drive-by posting

It's operamang's birthday!!!! Hope you're having a great day, dude. We'll go for a drink at Betty's soon!

Trick or Treat!!

My LiveJournal Trick-or-Treat Haul
shoefiend goes trick-or-treating, dressed up as Little Bo-Peep.
gmajor gives you 14 purple passionfruit-flavoured jawbreakers.
lamagnifique tricks you! You get a piece of paper.
listersgirl gives you 9 milky white coffee-flavoured nuggets.
mystery_diva tricks you! You lose 14 pieces of candy!
operamang gives you 18 light green spearmint-flavoured gumdrops.
sanity_clause tricks you! You lose 25 pieces of candy!
sarcasma gives you 8 light blue chocolate-flavoured wafers.
starfishchick tricks you! You lose 1 pieces of candy!
vestra tricks you! You get a rock.
wbote gives you 10 mottled green coconut-flavoured gummy worms.
shoefiend ends up with 19 pieces of candy, a piece of paper, and a rock.
Go trick-or-treating! Username:
Another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern.

What's with all you people stealing my candy? Don't you have any of your own??? And thanks for the rock,, really, thanks... Now I'll definitely win at Rock Paper Scissors!

Strange LJ Happenings?

I don't think my posts are showing up on my f-list's friends pages...maybe it's only when I friends-lock my posts. Or maybe y'all think I'm a loser and you don't want to comment on my ramblings...

Whatever the case may be, I'm doing a little experiment...if you can see this post, could you please drop me a comment - I'd like to get this figured out... (I'm going to post something similar and friends-lock it, so if you can read that one too, let me know!!)

Thanks all!



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