Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

J.W. Waterhouse at the Musée des Beaux Arts

Merry Brumalia eve to everyone! I had awesome plans to upload the pictures off my camera, and post some in an incredible blog entry, but then I forgot my camera cable in Toronto. Hahaha! Funny joke!

Anyway, as you might have surmised, I'm in the Townships right now. On the way over, I spent a couple of days in Montreal. Among other things (such as hugging the beer fridge in a dépanneur), my friend Stevie and I went to the Waterhouse exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts. Besides some sub-par lighting, the exhibit was fantastic.

The most famous painting of Waterhouse's is the Lady of Shallot, which is absolutely gorgeous, as you can see above. There's a good video on this site (and lots of other nice stuff), so I won't say much more about the symbolism and whatnot. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of artists studied this during their MFA degree program. One thing I did notice though is that all of the models in Waterhouse's paintings (who are all beautiful with soft features and perky boobs) have very strong chins. I'm not sure why I noticed that... but it's an interesting ideal of womanly perfection for the chin to be very long...

It looks like I'm going to do some shopping with the mom man, so I'll have to leave it at that. Pictures of Christmas knitting will have to wait until after I get back to the city.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spinning away

Again, I'm sorry for the intermittent posting. It turns out that the end of term is kind of busy. Fortunately, my scholastic responsibilities are now finished for the year (you know, except research, but that never ends) since the AST101 final exam was on Monday. That means I get to go home! I'll be heading to Montreal for a few days tomorrow and then I'm off to the Townships! WoooOoooOOoo!!

In the meantime, here's an update on what I've been doing with my drop spindle. I finished spinning all the samples I got in the kit from my spinning class. First was the tussah silk. It was pretty hard to spin because it's so slippery and so the yarn ended up being kind of uneven, but the end result is pretty shiny.

Then I spun up some superwash wool in lots of colours. It was actually really fun to spin. It sticks to itself quite well so it was easy to get an even strand going.

There was also an alpaca silk blend, but I forgot to get pictures of that. All I have left to spin up now are those little balls of fluff I got from the Creativ Festival. After that, I suppose I'll have to buy more roving. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with the yarn I spun. I thought it would be cool to make a garter stitch scarf with a stripe for each of the samples, but that might be a bit boring to knit. It would be kind of cool though. Some of the yarn, like the very first skeins I spun, aren't really good enough to knit up, so I'll probably just keep them as they are.

In other news, I've just about finished my Christmas knitting. It pays to start early! That means I'll be able to start knitting something for myself soon! Oh boy oh boy! I think it's about time for a new sweater...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Magical shawl goodness!

I believe I can say with certainty that I LOVE knitting lace. I mean, I haven't done all that much of it... there was that lacy hat, then my first knitted sweater, and of course the Cloud bolero, but I had never done any of that crazy intricate lace with thin yarns. Well, I guess that changed recently! I just finished my first lace shawl, using the Gail (aka Nightsong) pattern (unfortunately, only on Ravelry).

It's a fantastic design... it looks super intricate and complicated, but the pattern is fairly easy to memorize because it's very logical. I worked on it sporadically since the middle of October, and I'm really happy with the result. I used this lovely sock yarn that I picked up at Romni wools back in March. I suppose the progress of the project is best expressed in pictures:

It started as a nice ball of yarn.

Then it looked vaguely like crumpled (though very pretty) cheesecloth on my needles:

Off the needles it didn't look so hot... I even ran out of yarn four rows from the end, so I used some black sock yarn I had left over from another project.

However... with a little blocking


Blocking really is magical, and I didn't even have to leave it overnight for it to dry properly. If I had known it would work so well, in fact, I would have been more careful about the placement of the points. Yay! I'm officially addicted to lace knitting...

Speaking of which, I think I'll have to find an amazing pattern to knit up with this:

Mmmm... laceweight...

Monday, November 30, 2009


Argyle seems to be really in these days. I prefer to call it arrrrrrgyle because it makes me think of pirates. Anyway, a few weeks ago, as a break from my Xmas knitting, I made a quick coffee cozy with an argyle pattern. I was inspired by the felted argyle cup cozy from the "Cheery Cup Cozies" kit on Knitpicks. I didn't want a felted one (I'm not sure I like it), and colour work always leaves those unsightly strands everywhere, so I thought I'd double-knit it. I used the chart from the Uncle Argyle Scarf in Son of Stitch 'n Bitch with one more repeat, and made it so I could knit it in the round (because I hate seaming too). Resounding success! The cozy is indeed very cozy, and it's reversible, so if I get bored of one colour combination, I can flip it around and have the reverse colours. It's nice and thick too, so I get a good grip on it. Here's a picture of it next to a delicious pastry at Second Cup:

And here's the reverse colour pattern:

This is a great pattern for someone who wants to try double-knitting in the round, but who doesn't want to try anything big.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An addendum to yesterday's post

I've gotten some positive response to yesterday's post about the 150th anniversary edition of Darwin's Origin of Species with the "special" introduction. I got a couple more comments than usual (I generally average around 1), and I even got an email from Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for the National Center for Science Education. Mr. Luhn suggested that I direct my readers to the website for the Don't Diss Darwin Institute, which is a direct response to Ray Comfort's publication of the book. The analysis of the introduction is quite detailed, and there are a bunch of really good links as well.

Here's the humorous promotional video posted on the site:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh those tricksy creationists...

I apologize for not writing more about the crafty stuff these days, but most of what I'm working on is X-mas present related, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. After the special day, I'll post lots of pictures of what I've been working on for the last couple of months. In the meantime, I'm going to rant a little bit. I want it to be let known that I don't intend to offend anyone's beliefs, because it's quite possible that I will in the following post, and if I do, I'm sorry in advance. And if you don't want to risk being offended, I suggest you skip this one.

Last week, I was walking down St. George Street on UofT campus, and in front of Sidney Smith Hall, the main Arts & Science building, was a group of people handing out copies of Darwin's "Origin of Species". I was super happy! I didn't have a copy of Darwin's incredible work, and to get one for free from some random people on the street was just awesome. I should have noticed something was up when I mentioned that I was really excited because I'm currently listening to Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", and they didn't really want to talk to me anymore after that. The only information I got was that they were giving out copies because it was the 150th anniversary of the publication of the "Origin of Species", which, incidentally, is today! Happy birthday, Theory of Evolution!

Skipping happily towards the astronomy department (where I spend all my waking hours), I was anxious to show off my new treasure to all my astronomy buddies. The first person I saw was my friend whom I shall call E, and she asked me if I had read the introduction. Huh? No, I hadn't really looked at it closely, I was just all like, "Sweet! Free book!" She informed me that this was in fact a modified version of the book, edited to include a 50-page introduction by a fellow named Ray Comfort, which attempts to completely discredit Darwin and his theory. It's also missing a couple of important chapters (I assume they're important if it wasn't seen fit to include them). The idea, apparently, was to give out this version of the book at several universities so that students would be presented with an "alternative" to evolution so that they could decide for themselves whether or not to believe in the theory. It's a project called "The Origin into Schools" and is headed by a group called Living Waters.

A YouTube video outlining the main goals of the project can be seen here. If you don't want to watch the whole thing (and I don't blame you... it made me slightly nauseous), the main points are that North Americans are being stripped of their religious rights (not praying in public, etc.) and so in order to stop the spread of atheist teachers brainwashing students into believing evolution, the Living Waters people want to present students with an alternative in the form of this new edition of Darwin's work (which is now public domain). Points brought up include the apparent lack of evidence for evolutionary theory (totally untrue) and Darwin's own immoral beliefs (probably also mostly made up, though it's rather irrelevant).

To tell you the truth, this book makes me sick. I feel betrayed by those nice people on the street who I thought were genuinely spreading the joy of learning and science instead of sneakily trying to discredit Darwin's work. I happen to believe in Science, in our ability as logical beings to take evidence from our surroundings and form falsifiable theories about nature which are subject to revision when new evidence presents itself. I think it's a good way to try to explain the wonderful universe we live in. That these creationists will take one of the masterpieces of modern science and befoul it in such a way is simply insulting. In my view, it's equivalent to republishing the Bible with a 50-page introduction explaining how everything in it is totally wrong, and then giving it to devout Christians with the expectation that they'll change their mind about their faith.

Actually, I think it's worse because very little of Ray Comfort's introduction is based on fact (besides the historical stuff at the beginning). A pretty good review of the introduction is given in this YouTube video (and I'm sure you can find lots of rants on the subject), and so I won't argue all the points in great detail. The point is, the "arguments" in favour of creationism are based on a misunderstanding of the theory of evolution and the evidence in favour of it. They're based on rhetoric and word play, and on things that don't have anything to do with the validity of the theory such as Darwin's moral values and that Hitler used social Darwinism to start the holocaust. Even if Darwin was a jerk, what effect would that have on the validity of his work? Newton wasn't always a very nice person either (for example, his dealings with Leibniz), and no one's doubting that the theory of gravity is right.

Finally, I just want to say that although religion has been the cause of many many problems in the world (subjugation of women, mass genocides, racism, etc.), I don't have any problem with people having personal faith in a God. What I do have trouble with are the attempts to force these beliefs on others. I also have a problem with people saying that their religion is the only truth and that other faiths aren't valid. That lack of open-mindedness in today's "enlightened" world really gets my goat. Personally, I'm more or less atheist, or a teacup agnostic at the very least. I don't have a need for religion in my life, and though I wouldn't be able to prove to you one way or another whether or not God exists, I live my life as though He (or She or It) didn't. I can find comfort in my fellow human beings and I base my morals on treating others as I'd like to be treated (I don't have to believe in Jesus to believe in that). For the big questions, "Where did we come from? Why are we here?" I find science can provide pretty good explanations, and for what it can't explain, I'm happy not knowing until we get more data.

Well, that was kind of depressing. I promise my next post will be all light-hearted and fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Halloween Wedding

Ok, so it's been almost three weeks, but I thought I should talk about my friend, A's wedding... He and his wife, J, got married on Halloween, and so I made the long trip (seriously long... I think I spent more time traveling than visiting people) to the Townships to attend the ceremony. The theme for the evening was "masquerade", and so, crafty person that I am, made my very own mask.

I also found this perfect silk red dress for $20.

It matched my red satin shoes perfectly.

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful. My friend Stevie performed the marriage, and he did a great job. It wasn't too long, and even though Stevie explained A & J's faiths (he's Jewish and she's Muslim) in his speech, it wasn't preachy at all. I cried when A & J kissed... though I have been known to get emotional at people's weddings (even those of people I don't know).

The party afterwards was also a lot of fun, though not as many people showed up as they had planned for, so I think they might still have leftovers even after three weeks. There were pumpkins and candy, and a few people showed up in costumes other than masquerade masks. Stevie and I even got some of the stronger groomsmen to lift A onto a chair and sing the Hava Nagila. Super fun. My favourite part, though, was when A had to remove J's garter without his hands... heehee!

And, as you might have noticed, the bride's dress was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn't believe how beautiful she looked.

As a wedding present, I decided to stick with what works, and make some double-knit potholders. I went with the Hamsa hand because it's a symbol in both Judaism and Islam, plus it's protection against the evil eye, or in this case, hot pots. I started with this chart, but modified it to fit on a 30 stitch by 38 row grid. I finished them off with a pretty scalloped edging. I'm quite happy with the results, and I hope A & J are too!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Britten's War Requiem

Last Wednesday, Nov. 11, it was Remembrance Day, and to commemorate the occasion, the TSO put on a performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requium (Op. 66). It's a piece for full orchestra, chorus, children's choir, and vocal soloists (soprano, tenor and baritone). To give you an idea of the epicness of the performance, here's a picture I snuck of the stage:

The orchestra is, of course, on the stage, the adult choir is on the first balcony, and the children's choir is on the second balcony in the red robes. It's difficult to see, but there were two percussion sections, and the pipe organ was also used.

The piece itself was quite moving. Inspired by the requiem mass, it has seven movements: Requiem aeternam, Dies irae, Offertorium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Libera me. (To tell you the truth, I was thinking about Liva, a Latin metal band, the whole time.) The lyrics are a mixture of texts from the Latin Mass for the Dead and poetry by Wilfred Owen, a poet who died in WWI at the age of 25. The soprano and choir performed the mass texts, while the tenor and baritone, representing an English and a German soldier respecitvely, sang Owen's poems. The children's choir and the organ were supposed to be "offering disembodied commentary on the proceedings" (according to Don Anderson).

I found the performance to be rather visceral. Frequently, I had a shiver go up my spine. At times it was verging on almost too chaotic, but this did well to convey the terribleness that is war. I quite enjoyed myself (even though I had to take a bathroom break and missed the third movement), and I left with an unsettled feeling in my stomach. It was good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Count your blessings...

It's late, and I'm tired, so this won't be a very long post, but I wanted to write this down before sleep dulls my memory. Tonight, as I was waiting for the bus to arrive and take me home, I noticed a woman sobbing loudly in the station. I sat at a nearby bench and watched to see if anyone else in the station would go talk to her. No one looked like they were going to make a move (though one lady walked by and seemed as though she would say something, but then lost her nerve and moved on), so I bundled up my courage, and asked the lady if she was ok. I have to note that my heart was pounding like crazy. I'm a kind of shy person, and I don't usually talk to strangers if I can help it.

Anyway, I sat next to her, asked her if she wanted to talk about it, and after a little coaxing she started telling me, between sobs, about what seemed to be a really bad day. It was hard to understand what she was saying, but something about her boyfriend being an ass, and her not wanting to burden her parents, and it being her birthday... Her best friend had taken her clubbing to make her feel better, it seems, and so she was quite drunk as well. I gave her a hug, and held her hand for a bit, and when the bus arrived, I sat near her and made sure she didn't pass out. Her stop was a couple before mine, and she stumbled off the bus and walked off into the night...

On the surface, I feel incredibly bad for her, even somewhat responsible for her fate, since I bothered to get to know her. I kind of feel that I should have gotten off at the same stop as her and made sure she got home ok. It wouldn't have been too far to walk to my place from there. And I really hope that she made it. However, deeper down, I feel incredibly grateful that I'm not in her shoes. I have a wonderful boyfriend and a fantastic family, I have my health, and I'm studying something I really love. I really can't ask for more.

Ok. Bed time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Colours

Oh poor blog, I have neglected you! I've been so busy over the last couple of weeks, that I haven't had an instant where I wouldn't have felt guilty writing in my blog instead of doing work. That doesn't mean I haven't been procrastinating in other ways, but somehow writing a post which requires me to invest something of myself into it seems much worse than playing silly online games.

Anyway, to make up for it, I'll show off some pretty pictures of the fall colours I took around campus. It seems like whenever I had my camera, the weather was cloudy, and so the lighting isn't fantastic, but it's still good 'n colourful.

Gosh... those seem rather bleak and depressing. Here are a few I took at an earlier date before the leaves had completely changed, but it was a sunnier day at least.

And a couple of other neat things...

Nothing like a bunch of pictures to assuage my guilt!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mighty Turducken

This Thankgiving (yes, I'm two weeks late... shaddup), the boyfriend and a friend of ours decided to cook a turducken, that is, a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all of which have been de-boned and stuffed. Apparently, it took an experienced butcher two hours to prepare, so we weren't about to make our own from scratch. The cooking and eating were supposed to happen at the friend's house, but he came down with strep throat, so it ended up being at our place. We picked up the bird combo from his place at midnight after an evening of drunken debauchery, and started cooking the sucker as soon as we got home.

Weighing in at a mighty 25.8 lbs (recall: no bones, therefore, all meat!), this was one big bird. After rubbing it with some creole spices, the boyfriend shoved and squeezed it into the oven where it would begin its 13-hour baking adventure. I went to bed (around 2:30 am) with the smell of turducken wafting through the air, and I woke up to the same smell. Kind of awesome.

By late afternoon the next day, the beast was ready to be eaten and eaten it was. The drumsticks came off the body like butter, and the whole thing was tender and juicy and delicious. One of the stuffings was bacon-herb, so we were in fact eating four animals at once!

Here is the ruined beast... even after feeding a dozen people and giving pieces of it to our guests, we still had a quarter of the birds leftover.

It just barely fit in our largest mixing bowl, and lasted us many meals. This is something that we won't do for a while (turns out turduckens are expensive), but it was definitely worth the experience!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Creativ Festival!

Yesterday, I went to the Creativ Festival. (Yes, a timely post. Who'd a thunk it?) It was really fabulous and totally worth the trip downtown. I would have taken pictures of the whole thing, but it was strictly prohibited to bring cameras onto the convention floor. That didn't stop some people though, and I was slightly annoyed by that. Anyway, here's proof I was there:

I think my favourite thing at the festival, even before the yarns, was the quilting. The centerpiece of the whole festival was the Quilt of Belonging. It is a 120 foot-long quilt with 263 hexagonal blocks from different nations around the world, including a lot of native american tribes. It was quite impressive, to say the least. Some of the blocks are incredibly ornate, and the one I was most impressed with was the one from France, which was created using petit-point, a diagonal embroidery stitch, at 1600 stitches per inch. It took a year to make.

There were also some really nice Mennonite quilts hosted by Len's Mill Stores, some of which went way beyond being crafts, to full out art. There was a really nice one that used different blocks of patterned fabric to create shading in the background of a floral still life, which was really amazing. I really wish I could have taken pictures of those. Another favourite was the quilts by Designs by Shiromie (unfortunately, I could only find her Etsy page, which only has one quilt). She used sari silk and beautiful stitching to create these amazingly complex and luxurious quilts, and it's too bad she only had a little tiny booth. The quilts by Lenore Crawford were pretty fabulous as well. We also got to play with some quilting machines (looks something like this), and that was super fun. We could sew designs into a quilt with this lazer-guided machine, and it was super smooth and awesome.

I definitely got my fill of beautiful yarns as well. Some of my favourite yarn stores had booths, including the Purple Purl and Romni Wools, and there were tons of yarn stores I'd never heard of before. I actually showed amazing restraint and only bought one skein of yarn and a little bit of fluff for spinning. Here they are:

The fluff is a little bit of pure wool I got from British Yarn, hosts of the UK knit camp. They gave me a nice Ravelry pin as well. The skein of yarn is some Mirasol Sulka, which is a 60% merino, 20% alpaca and 20% silk blend, and it's a single-ply bulky yarn. It's quite possibly the softest thing I've ever touched, save maybe a kitten. It's actually a little browner than in the picture. I got it at the Spinning Wheel Alpacas booth, where they had an alpaca named Ozzy on display. He was super cute and friendly.

Because I couldn't take pictures inside the Creativ Festival, I took a few inside the Convention Centre. Here's a giant woodpecker:

And a classy-looking moose:

And some fancy floor mosaics: