Monthly Archives: April 2010

What I Read In April 2010

I kept awful, awful records this past month. This isn’t complete; it’s mostly what I read during my week-long stay with my parents.

Hands On Rigid Heddle Weaving, Betty Davenport
The Grand Tour, Caroline Stevermer & Patricia Wrede (reread)
Sorcery & Cecelia, Caroline Stevermer & Patricia Wrede (reread)
Corambis, Sarah Monette
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest
Safe-Keeper’s Secret, Sharon Shinn
The Red Door, Charles Todd
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Alan Bradley
Chill, Elizabeth Bear
Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman
Blackout, Connie Willis


As I mentioned, the camera died.

I put it down Thursday night. When I picked it up Friday morning, it took photos with dozens of thin white lines across the image, and/or overexposed the whole thing. Quick research pulled up the likelihood of a faulty CCD image sensor.

I called Canon this morning. It was out of warranty, they said, so they couldn’t do anything except direct me to open a repair request online for an estimate. I filled in all the info required, and was told that to repair this camera, it would cost us at least $99, plus tax, and shipping.

Really. For another $50, I could buy a new camera under warranty.

So this morning I dove back into the world of researching digital cameras. And I am considering running weeping from the room, because I am remembering with horror the last time I did this, and how confusing it all was, how unreliable reviews were, and how hard it is translate words into the actual use of a physical object. Two hours, and I’m ready to hide under some pillows.

All I’m looking for is a point and shoot, with the most important things being low shutter lag and decent shot-to-shot time (both with and without flash). I want something with a manual mode as well as presets, which takes good indoor and outdoor photos. We loved our Olympus Stylus before it dove off a shelf and killed itself; our Canon Powershot was a bit slow and clunky, which made things frustrating with a kid around. If anyone has suggestions, I’m open to hearing your opinions about your cameras, both the good and the bad.

Weekend Roundup

This was a glorious weekend. The weather was spectacular: it was brilliantly sunny and the temperature hovered between sixteen and twenty degrees.

Friday night I attended the rehearsal for the handfasting I was priestessing on Saturday. I didn’t know these women before I was referred to them, but I’ve really enjoyed working with them. They’re funny, loving, and the just right kind of people, you know? Their friends are equally fun, and we spent a lot of the two walk-throughs giggling. It relaxed everybody.

Saturday morning I had some errands to run, and I took the boy with me. “Mama,” he whispered as I buckled him into the car. “You know what we could do? We could go to Tim Horton’s.” He was so funny that I had to laugh, and decided that sure, we could have a treat. Well, the treat turned into a crisis, because as I pulled up to the drive-through speaker I said, “What doughnut do you want, the chocolate-covered one?” and he said yes. So I ordered him a chocolate-glazed doughnut and myself a maple-glazed one. I handed him his bag as we pulled around front and he pulled the doughnut out, then his face crumpled up. “Mama,” he said, “you made a mistake, you got the wrong doughnut!” And then I remembered that he and HRH had been sharing the occasional Boston Cream doughnut, and that I had, indeed, misunderstood and erred in my order. I apologised, we parked the car, and went inside to order the right kind for him. They were out of chocolate-glazed Boston Creams, but they did have maple-glazed; the boy decided that he was game to try one, and loved it. So a tragedy was turned into an exciting new discovery. (And I got an extra doughnut out of it.)

We stopped by Ceri and Scott’s house for fifteen minutes so we could trade books and I could drop off things to be taken to the monthly Random Colour craft session that I was going to miss. Then we went to Pointe-Claire Village to select chocolates for birthday and handfasting gifts, and a lovely little pair of heart-shaped Peruvian hammered silver earrings for my goddaughter’s eight birthday. Then it was back home for lunch and a rest for the boy, and I got ready for the ceremonies I was priestessing.

The handfasting was absolutely beautiful. The couple has been legally married for seven years but chose to have a spiritual service to celebrate their seventh anniversary, and to have their infant daughter named on the same day. No matter how many times you walk through something, when the actual day comes and it’s the real thing, everything is special and meaningful and so much more moving. I was complimented by guests several times for beautiful services, and every time I pointed out that the couple had written them and they should get the credit. The couple finally pointed out to me in return that anyone could have read it in a monotone: I may have had good material with which to work, but I made it special for them. There is a certain return in blessings; when you bless someone else in a ritual or rituals like this, you’re blessed in turn by their joy and love for one another. This was the first time I’ve ever performed such a deeply meaningful ritual for someone I didn’t already know, and I’m deeply thankful that it was such a joyful experience.

When I got home there was an e-mail waiting for me from Miranda, asking if we still had our baby swing. We checked, and we did, so we bundled everyone into the car and brought it over to her. We finally got to meet baby Tristan, who is just one month old. We had to cancel our earlier visit two weeks ago, so we were very happy to have an excuse to stop by and see him. A couple of days earlier Miranda had asked me if I would perform his naming ceremony, which I agreed to do immediately, and I was glad to be able to meet him before the day of the actual ritual! The excellent day continued with a brief visit with the Preston-LeBlancs, where we dropped off their birthday gifts and chatted for a quarter of an hour before finally heading home.

Sunday morning was the monthly Pagan playgroup meeting, where we talked about a potential camping trip for the families late this summer, made tissue paper flowers for Beltane, and worked on a new circle-casting song. And there were healthier snacks! The group has grown yet again.

We went home for lunch and the boy only had a brief lie-down before he got up again; it looks like we’re down to one nap per weekend. At two-thirty the boy and I packed up and headed out for the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra‘s free concert called “1910 – A Celebration in Music,” programmed to celebrate the city of Beaconsfield’s centenary. The last time I heard the WIYSO was, erm, sixteen years ago, when I was looking for a cello teacher. Not only was this a chance for me to actually attend a concert (imagine! live orchestral music that I wasn’t playing!), it was an opportunity to share a concert-going experience with my son. And finally, I’d also have the chance to see my new conductor in action with a different group. I explained to the boy that this orchestra was made up of kids, and he immediately asked if he could join. I told him that these were older kids, but in four three years (holy cats) he would be eligible to join the junior orchestra, if he liked.

I let him choose where we sat in the auditorium (on the cello side, halfway between the wall and the aisle; we had the whole row to ourselves), and he explored the fold-down seats and asked all sorts of questions about the theatre (he thought we were going to a movie theatre, for some reason). When the lights went down for the orchestra to tune, he caught sight of the conductor just offstage, and he turned to me. “It’s Stewart!” he said with great excitement, and I had to laugh; he made it sound like he and the conductor were old buddies.

Overall, he was very good. They played the music “all in a row,” as he told HRH back home; in other words, there was no intermission, and the concert lasted just over an hour. He was a bit squirmy, climbing from his seat to my seat to the seat on my other side, or lying down across my lap with his sweater over him as a blanket, but he wasn’t disruptive or distracting, and we never needed to resort to pulling out his books or colouring books. His first favourite bit was the Maple Leaf Rag (who can resist ragtime?), and he pretended to play a trombone through it, humming into his straw bottle of apple juice and moving his free hand forward and back in front of him. The guy sitting behind us thought it was hilarious. The Joplin was blown out of the water by Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, however. It may have been partially due to the fact that in the music he could hear the story that Stewart had briefly outlined for the audience before the piece began. “Mama,” he whispered during the first movement, “do firebirds have fur?” “No,” I said, “they have beautiful, long feathers made of flames.” “Not the babies,” he said authoritatively. “They have fuzz.” “Oh,” I said, “so they get their fire-feathers when they grow up?” “Yes,” he said, quite firmly.

He crawled onto my lap at one point to snuggle, and had his head on my shoulder when the first crashing chord of the Danse Infernale began. He must have jumped six inches into the air before sitting straight up and staring at the orchestra. I had to try very hard not to giggle, and I could hear the guy behind us muffling a snicker, too. The boy sat up very straight and applauded loudly when it was over, the first piece for which he’d done so with such enthusiasm. He talked about it had been the best part of the concert and about firebirds and baby firebirds all the way out and through the parking lot, to the amusement of other patrons. It seems that my son is a budding Stravinsky fan.

He’d been so good that we picked up a bonus doughnut on the way home (chocolate-glazed Boston Cream, this time).

Throughout the weekend, HRH finished moving us out of the basement room we’d been using as an office with the upstairs neighbours. We can’t afford the extra money each month, not when our half of the rent for that room is equivalent to the cost of the gas we use monthly. So HRH has moved us and our laundry equipment back into the garage, which is even cosier than it was in its first incarnation of his office, and has the added bonus of now having room for the table we sit around to game once a month or so. We purged a lot of stuff, as well. It’s currently a bit tight, but people will be coming to remove some of the equipment we’ve been holding for them over the next couple of weeks, so we’ll be able to actually get the bikes in and out again.

In Which She Natters About The New Rigid Heddle Loom

So what was using the new rigid heddle loom like, when I was at my parents’ house?

When I told Ceri that the warping had gone really quickly on the new loom but the actual weaving was slower, she mused that it was a case of “be careful what you wish for.” Not so much “be careful what you wish for,” I told her, as “wait to see the reed before you choose a really fluffy yarn that might not fit, moron.” (She laughed, bless her.) Seriously, it was a classic case of not using the right material for the equipment you have. Or would have later that day. (Of course I can knit bulky yarn on size 3 dpns! It will just be… challenging.)

The yarn I chose before I saw the reed was a soft acrylic called Homespun, and it’s essentially a low-twist single wrapped with a very thin binder thread. It’s such a pretty yarn that I was cranky about how the reed was yanking it around; it got caught against itself or on the slightly rough edges of the reed a lot so I had to manually poke the shed into place thread by thread with my fingers each time I changed the heddle position. Not even that got me down, though. It got faster as I went, because I got used to how roughly I could handle both the yarn and the reed while poking the shed into place. With a lower dpi reed, it would slide beautifully. Kromski reeds are over $50 each, but the Ashford ones fit beautifully (as many Kromski weavers have attested to online, thank goodness) and the Ashfords are $25 plus shipping. We don’t have a shop that reps Ashford in Montreal, but there is a woman in Pointe-Claire who is a private rep. I’ve already talked to her about buying 5 and 7.5 dpi reeds to supplement the 10 dpi reed that came with the loom, as I want to use heavier yarns for my upcoming projects, and the fluffy Homespun I used for the sample, too. I was on the fence about one or the other when she pointed out that shipping was going to be the same whether I ordered one or two, so both it is. She says she uses the 7.5 dpi reed most often, switching to the 5 dpi for thicker handspun. It’s good to know I’m on the right track. Also, hurrah, I have ordered a real heddle hook and a reed-sleying hook! No more trying to fit the round crochet hook through a narrow slot!

I sat cross-legged on the floor with it flat in front of me for the first bit, but wove most of it with the loom propped almost vertical against a wingback chair, like a tapestry loom. If I’d known how much I would enjoy weaving with my frame upright, I might have seriously looked at the tapestry looms that occasionally pop up in the marketplace forums on Ravelry.


Back home, I went out and bought new yarn (the definition of irony is searching high and low in Oakville/Burlington for two specific yarns in specific colourways and not finding them, then locating them by accident in the local Zellers at home), thinking to make a blanket as a gift for the Wiccaning I’m performing this weekend. I made sure it was a lighter-weight yarn so I wouldn’t have the sticking-in-the-reed issues I had with the Homespun. I ended up with Bernat Softee Baby, which is a sport DK weight, and lovely, light and soft to touch in the ball, but tangled terribly while I was windign it into a centre-pull ball and several times when I was warping, necessitating an emergency trip back to Zellers to days later to buy a second ball. And it doesn’t stick in the reed. Instead, because it’s slightly fuzzy and is made of thin, thin plies, it shreds as the heddle moves up and down. I’ve had two warp threads break already. On top of that I’m having tension issues, and I suspect the finished product will be something I do not want to give to anyone. Besides, it’s not going to be ready for today, because I had revisions on a freelance project that ate up half a day and lost time; and on top of that I had to rearrange the layout of the back warp rod, which meant I had to take the back warp off and sort out all my loops, redistribute them among the apron rod ties, then slide it back on. This did not help my tension issues. I think it’s about a third done.

The accent yarn I’m using, Bernat Satin, is fine, though. Two inch-wide stripes warped along the length, two to be woven in across the width. It’s a tiny bit thicker, not as fuzzy, and it’s holding up much better than the Softee Baby stuff.

Here it is, warped and beamed and ready to go:

I would have taken more pictures of the project in its third-complete state for you, but our digital camera has suddenly developed thin lines across the image, like horizontal blinds. Not only does it have lines across the entire image, it can’t seem to calculate the proper light balance any more. It was fine Thursday night, but when I picked it up to take a photo Friday morning, poof. No accident, no misuse, nothing; just mysteriously no longer functioning properly. I looked it up, and apparently this is due to a faulty sensor used in production around 2004; there was a big thing about this a couple of years ago when they all started failing. Our camera is three years old, but I’m going to call Canon on Monday morning anyway, and ask them what they can do about it. If they can’t or won’t do anything, then a new one is only about $130, and we’ll replace it when our tax refund comes in.

Anyway, there’s about a foot woven. I’m using it horizontally instead of vertically like I did at my parents’ house: I’ve clamped it to the coffee table, and I sit on the chesterfield to weave here. I might have gotten more done yesterday, but a new project landed and I got half of that done instead, because I’ll finish it Monday morning in time to invoice for it. I can always mail the blanket to the family, if it’s suitable for gifting when I get it off the loom next week.

A Vague Cello Update

I missed a week of orchestra and a cello lesson while I was away, and my lesson this weekend has also been cancelled because my teacher is out of town for her birthday. I have no problem with that; I will just work on my Bach gavotte on my own. I will turn it into a celloy operatic aria, and surprise my teacher when we finally do get together again at the beginning of May. (May! Good grief.)

We had a group lesson on Sunday, where only half the older students could make it (the younger ones have their own group lesson just before we do). It was pretty focused, though, and things are starting to come together. My teacher ended up deciding to transpose the accompaniment for one of the quartet pieces, so I’m transposing it on my own, something I do because I think it will be good for me, but I’m always worried I will make tonnes of mistakes.

This past rehearsal at orchestra we went in early. There is a Beaver colony that meets in the church basement right before we use it, and they arranged for us to do a presentation for them. It was a lot of fun. They had a basic intro before we got there, and a chance to explore the timpani, then they coloured some handouts while we all set up. Our conductor introduced the instruments one by one, having the principal of each section play the first phrase of “Twinkle” so the boys could hear how they sounded different. Then we played the first half of the first movement of the Haydn Symphony 83 that we’d done for the last concert so they could listen for the chicken theme, and after that we played one of our new pieces, Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance march no. 4. It was very enjoyable; they were bright and responsive. When things were breaking up at the end their leader told us that they were the biggest group in the West Island; other colonies had between five and ten kids, but they had thirty! “I like to think it’s our great programming,” he said.

Then we spent the entire night on the first movement of the Mendelssohn, with a play-through of the second movement at the end. Lots of really hard work. Our conductor assures us that the first movement is the hardest thing in the concert. If pressed to name a favourite symphony of all time, I would have to say it is this one, Mendelssohn’s Reformation symphony, so I am loving every single moment of this. Playing a piece of music in orchestra means I get to break music down and visit it from the inside out, something that adds infinite richness to my enjoyment of the music both on the stand and via a CD player, and I’m so incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to do that with this piece.

My back was murderously painful, though. Stacking wooden chairs that slant backwards are not optimal for a cello payer to begin with, but my lower back was moderately screwed up thanks to two train rides and a week of sleeping in a bed not my own. I stretched it out as best I could at the break, and ended up on the floor to try to give it some relief. It had gotten steadily worse after I got home; I finally asked HRH to massage it and get rid of the walnut-sized knot on the left side, and that plus some tiger balm seems to have helped a lot. I really, really need to get one of those firm orthopaedic wedge cushions that a couple of the other cellists in the section use.

Home Again

I’m back from my week with my parents, being company and an extra pair of hands for my mum, who had a hip replacement. She’s doing impressively well, and thank you, everyone who asked!

Two things:

First, while I was there I read pretty much a book a day. Here’s what I inhaled:

Boneshaker, Cherie Priest
Safe-Keeper’s Secret, Sharon Shinn
The Red Door, Charles Todd
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Alan Bradley
Chill, Elizabeth Bear
Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman
Blackout, Connie Willis

And I’m two-thirds of the way through Sarah Monette’s Corambis, too.

Second, and perhaps what most of you are waiting impatiently for, is the loom.

This is what it looks like, all folded up (with a Useful Cat for scale):

And when unfolded (Helpful Cat is Helpful):

There are no pictures of what it looks like when warped, but I’m sure if we wait long enough, that will occur, yes?

This is what the 16×16″ sample square I wove when I got it, though:

That’s Lion Brand Homespun; the cream colour is Deco, and the variegated colourway is Tudor. It’s incredibly soft. It is also not appropriate for a 10 dpi reed, because it’s about 6.5 wpi and bumpy like a boucle, so it kept catching on the slightly rough edges of the plastic reed. My fault; I hadn’t seen the reed before I chose the yarn for my experiment, and the grist of the yarn really calls for a reed with more space between the dents (a lower dpi). The yarn is also very fluffy, which I think contributed to the catching issue. Still, it made a spectacular fabric that’s warm and drapes beautifully, and I’m going to use it again when I get a new reed with a lower dpi. (Which will be very soon; my local Ashford dealer is checking stock for me right now. Yes, Ashford; their much-less-expensive-than-Kromski-reeds fit the Harps, hurrah.)

There you are. What am I using the sample square for? Well, the boy has already used it to cover two very feverish stuffed bunnies to help them get better, every cat as curled up on it at least once, and Nixie was tucked in with it last night. It is nothing if not versatile.

Tidying Up

I’ve been gathering my things from where they are all over the house in a slow-motion preparation for decamping tomorrow morning. Tonight Dad and I will kitbash a box for the loom out of wine boxes and pack it up so I can check it on the train home.

I finished the sample weave yesterday around lunch and cut it off. It’s exactly what I expected from the yarn, soft and drapey and gorgeous colours. Except I don’t think it will work for the project I had in mind, so I shall file it away for when I want to weave a soft, fluffy throw for myself or my mother instead. The only problem is the reed is too small, so I’ll order one with larger dents and it will be lovely. And so of course I bought a completely different yarn for another project, sweetly-coloured yarn of a weight that will slip easily through the reed I’ve got while I wait for the new reed to arrive. (Of course, neither of the craft stores I went to had either of the yarns I was actually looking for in the colourways I had chosen from online colour cards. Which is how I ended up with the soft, fluffy yarn that didn’t fit my reed in the first place. And the new yarn, too.) I also whipped up a carry case for the loom, but it’s a bit floppy because the folded loom is narrower at the top than it is at the bottom; it will need stabilising. For now it will be good padding inside the shipping box.

I picked up a couple of books for the boy today, and treated myself to Connie Willis’ Blackout for the trip home. I bought Elizabeth Bear’s Chill and Sarah Monette’s Corambis earlier this week, but I finished Chill this morning (yes, another riveting read; I love how Bear uses language) and I don’t seem to be in the right headspace for Corambis yet.

And I just had lunch out with Cats and Jenn, whom I met via LJ, and they are thoroughly delightful people with the right kind of sense-of-humour, and we have already planned to meet up again next time I’m down. It occurs to me that we should have gotten photographic proof of so much awesome in one place for Bodhifox. I had the most wonderful jasmine-lemongrass tea, served in a little silver teapot and a tiny yellow tea glass.

One more sleep till I’m back with my boys. It has been a lovely trip.

ETA: We have just kitbashed the shipping box. It looks godawful, but damn, it’s strong. And Dad did a final wrap with light spinnaker cord for a handle. It’s extremely solid, and very impressive. If the train people reject it on looks alone, I shall take off a shoe and beat them.