Friday, February 23, 2007


Remember this?

It's my handspun from my friend Elizabeth M's beautiful merino. On the way back from Nova Scotia, it became this:
The Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark.

I blocked it after we had the first Frog Pond Fiber Frolic, but didn't get around to taking pictures until today.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nova Scotia, Part 3 - Nirvana at Baddeck

On our last full day in Canada, I still had in mind that I wanted some Fleece Artist fiber to bring back with me. The Fleece Artist is based in Halifax, and would be a perfect souvenir. Goodness knows I already had wool from NS (see post below), but I had my heart set.

The odds were slim, though. After having visited Moraff's, there was only one other not-so-LYS to visit. Baadeck Yarns was more than an hour away over icy mountain roads. DH wrapped up business in the early afternoon, so we bravely piled in the car. We both wanted to see the countryside whether the shop turned out to be a disappointment or not (or closed).

WELL! Let me tell you! I was overwhelmed and I can't help gushing. I believe that Baadeck Yarns is about the best yarn shop I've ever seen. Even my long-suffering shop-worn DH remarked that it was the best yarn shop he had been in. He took these pictures while I was in that fiber trance.

Owner Patricia Fields showed me her ROOM full of Fleece Artist yarns and roving. The Fleece Artist dyes fiber especially for Baadeck Yarns with colors that reflect the local surrounding sea and landscapes. Howzat for a perfect souvenir?

I brought home BFL roving in wonderful Cape Breton colors for myself and for friends, skeins of sock yarn, Scotia Silk, Merino and Peter Rabbit from Fleece Artist. DH picked out some soft gray Regia silk for socks. I couldn't resist some Louisa Harding "Impression" for fingerless gloves. And yes, I managed to get ALL of it in my suitcase. When I get it all knit, I'm calling Patricia for reinforcement.

Like an exquisite meal, Baddeck Yarns shop is not about quantity, but rather quality (not necessarily expensive, either), and sublime taste. If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one yarn shop, Dear Knitterati, Baadeck Yarns would be it.

It was heaven.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Nova Scotia, Part II

Isn't this a spectacular view from our hotel room window in Sydney?

The scene was beautiful from a cozy chair in our room. But after breakfast the next morning, I came to realize that I had to venture out into that frigid atmosphere, rent a car, and forage for some yarn. I had some handspun with me, but one needs souvenirs, doesn't one?

Moraff's is in an older building located right in Sydney. It is stacked from the floorboards to Victorian high ceiling with a formidable number of plastic-sheathed clusters of yarn. There was a ton of Patons, Bernat and similar "workhorse" yarns. Not much luxurious, frivolous stuff here!

No books that I could see either, but there was an enormous rack of pamphlets. There were also dozens of binders along the long ledge behind the counter, all stuffed with patterns dating back decades. What a gold mine for vintage pattern seekers!

The owner was a charming, diminutive lady with white hair and inquisitive eyes. I decided this might be just the place to get some superwash wool and a pattern for my twin nephews' new Aran sweaters. Declan wanted green, and Riley wanted red.

When I described what I was looking for, I was promptly handed a Patons booklet and 13 skeins of Bouquet Marina superwash wool in red. No poking around in those stacks for me!

Green was harder. The first color she showed me was not what I had in mind. Dear Owner then pulled out some skeins of Briggs & Little "Heritage". (It might as well have been named "Brillo and Little"!) It is clearly not superwash, but she briskly sold me this extremely scratchy "good local wool". IMHO, it is completely unsuitable for a child's machine-washable sweater, but the "good local wool" is a good local souvenir. It will become a Lucy bag if it felts the way I think it will.

Back at the hotel, I read the fine print on the Bouquet Marina superwash. it said, "Machine wash for 2 minutes. Machine dry for 5 minutes." Uh-oh... it seems I have the Paleolithic version of superwash. A Google search for it later turned up nothing except a few lonely skeins on eBay and an indication that Bouquet was sold to Spinrite years ago - likely before there was an internet.

Batting a big zero now for the boys' Aran sweater yarn.
Ah well.
Next: The most fabulous knit shop I've ever seen!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Trip to Sydney, Nova Scotia, Part 1

Before it is too distant a memory, let me tell you about my trip to Sydney, Nova Scotia at the end of January. I went with DH, who needed to go for business. My mother's ancestors made the trip to Nova Scotia from Spinningdale, Scotland in the late 1700s. My great-great grandmother Mary Jane Ross is from Cape Breton (Sydney Mines), and I wanted to have a look around.

A trip to Sydney from Middle America is a four-flight proposition. This pales in comparison with the voyage across the Atlantic in a boat, but it certainly was harrowing enough! We slogged through security in our small local airport, dutifully taking off our coats, sweaters and shoes. Security at our bitty regional airport is tighter than any international airport I've ever experienced. My knitting bag (with the Cameron shawl in progress, scroll below) was waved through. I had been a bit concerned about my Swiss Army clipper in my notions bag. It's a small Swiss Army knife without the blade, but has a little nail file, a wee screwdriver, an ingenious pair of nail clippers, and a tiny pair of scissors. My sister had given it to me for Christmas, and the package said it was TSA approved. To my relief, it passed muster. I was soon knitting away.

We flew to Detroit, and then to Dulles/Washington DC, where we had to change airlines. Dulles is a nightmare, BTW - stay the heck away from there, if you can. United Airlines employees were surly, disorganized, harried and astoundingly rude to absolutely everyone. Other passengers, unsolicited, assured us that such treatment is the norm at Dulles. It took us over two HOURS simply to get our boarding passes.

From Dulles, we flew to Halifax. Welcome to Canada!! Canadian airport officials were just as efficient as their American counterpoints, only friendlier. However, as my bag went through the security checkpoint for the third time that day, my knitting bag was stopped.

"What's this?" asked an agent, digging out a small object.
"Oh, that's the new Swiss clipper. It doesn't have a knife. Our TSA approved it for air travel." I politely replied.
"Well!", he huffed. "America is NOT in charge in Canada. We have our own rules here!"
"Oh", says I. "Of course Canada has its own rules! I had just assumed they wouldn't be as silly as the US ones."
"I'll have to take this away from you. No scissors allowed here in Canada."

I looked in disbelief at the scissors. The entire exterior length of the gadget is 2-1/2 inches long. Allowing for an inside mount, pivot point, and a center rivet holding the scissors together, the scissor blades could not have measured more than an inch. I don't imagine I could have even snipped through bulky yarn without a couple of passes. (Post note: I have since replaced the Swiss Army clipper, and the scissor blade measures 5/8".)

Even if I could have theoretically posed a real threat with that diminutive thing, I have three questions:

  1. After flying all the way to Detroit, and then to Washington DC, the Capital of America; and then to Halifax, the Capital of Nova Scotia, did they really imagine that anyone might choose to threaten the puddle jumper to Cape Breton?!
  2. Who knew that the terr*r*sts the Canadians are expecting are different from terr*r*sts potentially threatening the USA? (Why else would there be different rules?)
  3. Did they ever get a good look at a 29" circ - sharp and shiny and connected with a long, strong wire?

Best not to point to too much absurdity here. I suspect that most of us knitters are more dangerous without our knitting needles. I know it's safer for everyone if I have them with me on those long flights!

Phew! Finally to our final destination. We were the last two out of the Sydney airport save the sentry, sipping coffee at his lonely post.

And the hotel was very nice (white building in the foreground above, pictured without the actual snow and ice).

Six Weird Things

Sarah tagged me! Yikes! She said:

Your'e it! THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

Only six? That shouldn't be too darn hard for me! Here goes:

  1. My family didn't have a television when we were growing up. The prerequisite was that all five children had to have all A's on our report cards. We did make it from time to time, but my parents didn't seem to get around to the TV store before somebody would get a B in something during the next grading period. (Naturally, I grew up to be a broadcast engineer for CBS.)

  2. I learned to knit by downloading instructions from the internet. I was in a boring six-week negotiation marathon out of town; my sister was in her eighth month of pregnancy with twins; I needed something productive to do. Knitting seemed reasonable. Anyhow, this negotiation put me in the mood for pointy sticks. I bought a Knitters magazine (Fall 1999) at a local bookstore and ordered some yarn and needles from the Patternworks website to the hotel. I left with a signed contract and two baby jackets (Baby Surprises!).
  3. I really hate to hear people chew (crunch, slurp) food. Arrrrggggghhhhhh! It's like nails on a blackboard to me. It makes me squirm. I don't like Mexican restaurants because people crunch tortilla chips in a decibel meter-pegging way. I eat popcorn in theaters in self-defense. I got off a city bus once and paid to take the next one because somebody was popping gum behind me.

  4. I went to college at the same time as high school. They called it an "accelerated student program". I called it a LOT of homework.

  5. 5.Caffeine in the morning wakes me up like everybody else, but caffeine at night makes me sleepy.

6. I like spiders and snakes and mice and such critters that make some others nervous. (I don't think that makes me weird. I think it makes everybody else weird.)

Who gets tagged now?
E!, Michelle, Vicki, Opal, Del, JennyRaye , You're it!

Friday, February 09, 2007

WooLee Winder!!

I'm so excited about this new spinning contraption! I saved up and got it for myself for my birthday.

It's a WooLee Winder, which finally arrived last Saturday right after our Frog Pond Frolic. This wonderful tool guides the yarn coming onto the bobbin to be distributed evenly without moving the yarn up and down the hooks. I expected some improvement in spinning, but this is fab-u-lous! No more stopping every few minutes to adjust the bobbin take-up spot. You just spin, and spin, and spin....

The yarn on the bobbin was spin from Elizabeth Matthew's beautiful dyed fiber - this being superwash merino I got on Saturday.
Don't do what I did, though - tried to copy Svenja's technique of winding singles directly onto a ball winder - the object was to ply from the inside and outside back onto a bobbin. Well, the inside pull tangled badly, ruining the core of the ball. After spending about four hours trying to untangle the snarl, I wound up throwing about an ounce of it away. Live and learn!

Monday, February 05, 2007


Well, here's the finished Cameron. A bit wonky photo, I apologize; but the makeshift clothesline was all I could muster at the time.

Finally, finally, it is done!

Cameron has been modified from the original pattern a little. I added a different edging. The substitute is a bit wider than the original, and I needed to add some repeats to ease it around the corners. It took an extra 450 yards.

This shawl seemed to take forever. I started it around the first of November, and got about halfway through the border by Thanksgiving. December almost didn't count for knitting - too much Other Than Knitting stuff to do.

January finally saw some needle action. The border was finished, and the endless edging marathon began. The finale came with four, count 'em four, flights during the last week of January to get DH and me to Sydney, Nova Scotia. I finished the last row of the edging as we were taxi-ing to the gate in Sydney. Jumping the gun, without proper tools, I tried to graft edging at the hotel. I made a a mess. Back home last Monday, I ripped back and did a much better job.

I took my heart in my mouth and began to wash and block. Because the Cameron is knit of single-ply cobweb, I was very timid about blocking it firmly. I had a nightmare about the single-ply popping apart and spilling stitches all over the floor.

Another thing: my shawl-blocking has always been done in the basement because I have a nice, wide-open, carpeted place to spread out my gingham sheet which serves as a blocking guide. You can barely see it in the photo, but I wanted to show the blocking wires, which can be made out. Anyhow, I can shut the door to the basement, giving no cats will have a chance to bed down or pee on my work. I cannot tell you how surprised I was to discover that one of my cats, Myrtle, had learned to open the basement door (yep, I watched her do it!), letting in the shawl-snuggling horde. No damage, luckily, but I can assure you that the shawl was off the floor post-haste.

For my daughter's amusement, I pulled it through my husband's wedding ring before folding it safely away...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Frog Pond Fiber Frolic

Whoooo-eeee! What a riot! I hope everybody who came over had as good a time as I did. Eleven people braved sub-zero temperatures, blowing snow, and black ice to come to my house yesterday for the first Frog Pond Fiber Frolic - this first of many, I bet!

We ate, we drank hot mulled cider, tea, and a delicious hazelnut coffee that Katy brought. Food - well! Vicki whipped up a great vegetairan chili. Carol brought a salad that had us begging for the recipe. Liz L made a fruit salad, and E! brought a wonderful stollen her mother made. We had great hummus, cheese and crackers, tiny quiches, too.

There was fiber from Elizabeth M and Peggy and Vicki. There were door prizes. Aubrey was a pro at spinning some silk hankies, and Elizabeth M got the hang of spinning silk in an instant, too. Peggy, Suzanne and Svenja came from what seemed the edge of the earth in yesterday's weather - the Laporte area. Needles were flying, wheels were spinning, and I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just Chillin'??

Nope! Clickety-Clack Ewe has been absent from the blog for several months, but certainly not idle. I do wish I had written sooner, but there hasn't been time!
There were the winter holidays, of course, which was a whirlwind of preparations and travel.

We also have been busy beginning a new group here in Michiana for fiber artists of many stripes, named "Frog Pond Fiber Arts". Mainly, our group is knitters and spinners. We also welcome crocheters, hand-felters, weavers, dyers, and fiber growers. We are warm and informal, and we're having a lot of fun at our monthly meetings.

This weekend, we're having a Frog Pond Fiber Frolic at my house. We'll have food drink and merriment, and door prizes, too, plus knitting and spinning videos to watch. I'm a little nervous about it - I've never hosted a gathering other than family at my house before. Then again, the knitters and spinners of this group are family....
And guess who needs to clean the house for this event?!? I'm off to dig out the feather duster...