Fireplace hearth reveal and another project started....

Fireplace hearth is gone and replaced with some fun tiles. Our toes have never been happier and I’m really happy with the result.

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Picking the tiles was a bit of a challenge as we had a defined space and wanted to avoid too much cutting. Our first thought was penny tiles as they give some flexibility and are retro-nifty.  I also wanted something that would make an impact but for a small price. Enter the $1.28 porcelain tiles from Home Depot. Avoided the likelihood of cutting a million little pennies, but still ended up with only 6 tiles not cut....lessons we carried to the next phase.

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We filled the hole left from our earlier excavation with dry pack and got it mostly level (nothing in this house is level so close enough is good enough). We laid out our tiles and used our cardboard jig to assess. Lots of cuts... A few hours later we rented a wet saw and got to work cutting. We had hoped to get two tiles from fireplace out, but it didn’t work without grout lines that were far too wide. Once we (well mostly I) acknowledged that the best course was to have full tiles in the middle and cut tiles all around, it went pretty quickly.

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We started with a metal transition edge, then laid the tiles right on the dry pack. The tiles closest to the bricks were tricky because that line was not straight - each tile is a different width, but the busy pattern helps obscure that and again, old houses are not about straight lines.

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The next day we did the grout. It was a bit more challenging than previous projects because the of the tiny spaces between the tiles - 1/16th”. There’s also something disconcerting about spreading charcoal grout over white tiles.  

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The end result is lovely. There's still work to do around the fireplace and we're considering a mantel; work to keep us occupied during the current Ontario state of emergency and beyond. Some of this work is definitely not January-friendly. I also need to put something in the fireplace - I'm thinking a large basket would be nice or maybe a pretty screen. Better than an old towel plugging the old pipe.

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Emboldened by our success, the tiling didn't end there. I decided that the ridiculous tiled entry way had to go. It felt even better than busting up the hearth. 

There's so much wrong here: The "mat" is too small, the pattern around the edge runs out before it goes around the larger tiles and it's just ugly. It's the same pattern as the kitchen we renovated a while ago. 

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Once I busted out the old tiles, things got silly.

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We removed the wood that framed the tiles to enlarge the footprint. Then we thought - how do we do this so we don't have to cut so many tiles? Or any tiles? 

Then we got out the saws.

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That little one would take forever, so Craig used the circular saw and we made a hole to fit the 20cm by 20cm tiles with the grout lines. The only two tiles we had to cut framed the heating vent.

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Easy Peasy...not so fast there...

This might be our most challenging DIY home improvement project yet and it shouldn’t have been. Amazing how 1/4 inch can really mess things up. More on that and the finished project soon...


Instead of Complaining on Twitter...

Today, like many people on Twitter, I had opinions about the latest announcement from the Ontario government about the pandemic. Instead of bitching on Twitter I wrote a letter to the Premier and cc'd my MPP. I suggest you do the same. Premier@ontario.ca 

Mr. Ford,

A short note from an Ontario citizen to say that the measures announced today aren't good enough. You're not listening to your health experts and are being too timid with your response to the pandemic. The messages are inconsistent, difficult for the public to understand, and make front-line workers vulnerable and unprotected.
 
What's needed and has been recommended by many already:
 
1. Paid sick days for workers. The federal supports only take effect when someone tests positive for COVID. Ontario workers without paid sicks days cannot take time to get tested without losing pay. They will come to work sick and infect others. This is so important for long-term care facilities where people continue to get sick and die. 
 
2. No evictions. Full stop. People need homes.
 
3. A narrower definition of essential businesses - I can still have a crew come to my house to renovate my kitchen just because I want a change. I can still go to Walmart or Costco and buy no food. There are too many loopholes that mean COVID spreads.
 
4. Close non-essential workplaces where people can't work from home. Workers are risking their health so I can get new slippers sent to my home or take out food. Nothing sold by Amazon or Gap online is essential. We need to close more things down and pay those workers to stay home for a short time rather than continue with minor changes to the rules which lead to more illness and death for a long time.
 
Experts at your table are recommending these and other important measures. Listen to them.
 
I could have said far more. Maybe I'll do that in a few days. If citizens don't start directly engaging with our leaders things will never change. 
 
 

Fireplace progress - call the Mason

The fireplace took some extra time to progress as we decided to hire a Mason to fix the broken bricks. This was something we researched (we over-research most of our DIY reno projects) and quickly determined that messing with a 100+ year old fireplace was best left to professionals. Because everything is slower due to the pandemic and because we chose to use a company that specialized in restoring old bricks, they didn't come until November. It was worth the wait. 

They chiseled out some bricks (with a demolition hammer and all the ensuring dust) and replaced them with the correct size Ontario bricks. They also added a steel plate along the top of the opening to support the bricks. 

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(The towel is blocking the air from coming down the chimney pipe - another thing we need to deal with)

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The whole thing took half a day and they were good enough to bring their own water for the mortar clean up because the water main up the street broke and we were at hour 48 (of 60) of having no water (a problem at any time but again more difficult with COVID as you can't just go to people's houses and borrow 10 litres of water a couple of times a day). 

The bricks will eventually go lighter and look more similar to the original ones. We could add a thin layer of watered-down mortar to them but we've decided we like them as they are. It looks great. I'm not sure what I'll put in the space - I'm just happy it's not that old gas fireplace.

The next step is to deal with the hole where the hearth used to be. The plan is to figure out how to fill it most of the way and then add tiles to match the level of the wood floor. We tried to find a similar hardwood but couldn't and it would always look like a patch job. Better to make this part of the floor an interesting feature. 

We actually finished the work this weekend but I want to clean up a bit more and take some nicer photos. There are still a bunch of stages left - building a mantel and figuring out some sort of built-in shelving around the bricks - but filling the hole was top priority (Ralph our Roomba can't seem to avoid getting trapped in there. His cliff sensor doesn't always keep him away). 

 


DIY Fireplace refresh - Pandemic Edition

There's nothing like being home 99.9% of the time to encourage thoughts about the stuff in your house you don't like. 

First it was the back yard. It was about 80% of the way we wanted it and since we knew we'd be spending a lot of time there over the summer, we got the remaining 20% done and had stone installed, finally covered some eye sores and made a nice spot to be outside but away from others.

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Now that Fall is here, I've turned my attention to the fireplace. You may remember back when we moved in that it could have been featured in Architectural Abomination Monthly - we pretty much removed the ghastly mantle and curved things immediately, but never really got past the removal to make it what we wanted. 

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always hated the black granite on the brick and hated the black granite hearth - it juts out into the room, hurting unsuspecting toes and doing nothing but collecting dust. So a few weekends back, I took it off. It took like 10 minutes. 

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But left behind a lot of mess - black caulk (I swear the previous owner of this house had a hard-on for caulk), glue, mortar and gave me a weekend of stuff to remove that ended up being an excellent diversion from work, the world and everything.


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Then things got silly.

The original plan was to build a new mantel, retile the hearth and think about some bookcases or something to finish the space.

I found the specs for the fireplace and did some reading on hearth requirements and b-valve fireplaces and NO GOOD COMES FROM RESEARCH. This fireplace wasn't the most efficient thing - burns natural gas to heat air in our living room and then blows the bad air out the chimney - including the air from in the house that it just heated. They rate at about 50% efficiency. The fan is noisy and well we never use it much because our house isn't cold and we all have lots of woolies (reason 123 to live with a knitter). Craig never had any use for the fireplace and after looking at pretty designs on Pinterest and sleeping on it, we decided to get rid of the fireplace. 

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Which also meant we could get rid of the hearth and level the floor. Except getting rid of the hearth was a lot less easy than removing the granite or the caulk. Craig tried to remove the bricks in the hearth by hand but they were CONCRETED INTO THE FLOOR (who does that?). 

So not ideal...

But we got to rent a demolition hammer! 

It's as awesome as you imagine. We tented off that part of the room (which only sorta helped) and Craig got down to destroying stuff. 

It chewed through the brick and then we got down to the concrete. 

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Of course, I got to have a turn. Pulverizing concrete with a power tool is just what a stressed-out woman needs. (This is my new profile photo at work).

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It was messy, we spent a lot of money to dispose of the waste (no concrete allowed in the landfill) and the brick needs some restoration work (we're looking for a professional) but now we have no ugly hearth, no energy-wasting fireplace and well no more of the cabinetry that came with the house.

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I mean if you're going to pay to remove the reno waste, might as well do it all...


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It's time to rebuild...

 


Targets

Last weekend I went axe throwing for the first time. It turns out throwing axes at a target while drinking delicious Woodhouse Stout is pretty fun. It’s not so much about strength, but rather technique and intention.

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Obviously, it’s more fun when you hit the target and the axe sticks. And it’s seriously fun with the big axe that you use to break a tie. I was kinda good at the big axe, but there’s no video proof. 

This whole thing had me thinking about targets. I’m a project manager by nature. I like concrete goals. I love a good work plan. That’s great for my professional life because I have to work on several things at once and manage a team working on their projects. 

For my fibre crafts it’s tempting to plot and plan completion of projects. Sometimes it’s because there’s a deadline for a gift and I need to prioritize what I’m working on, and be realistic about what I can complete by a deadline. 

But I find the target setting creeping in to other projects. On the positive side it keeps me from casting on everything I see and never finishing anything (I like the process of knitting/spinning/weaving, but I REALLY like finishing stuff). On the negative side, I start thinking about how long a project will take and get a bit stressed? miffed? unsettled...about it.

I encountered this last weekend when I dug my The Shieling blanket out of the credenza and got back to it after a long hiatus. Nine squares done and blocked, some of them assembled. Not bad, only 21 more squares to go. At a week a square, plus two weeks to assemble...

You get the idea. Then I started thinking about whether I could do two squares a week and then it started to sound like work rather than enjoyment. 

That's when I reminded myself that the target is to knit/spin/weave stuff I enjoy. Some days colour work isn't going to be enjoyable or possible (because I'm tired, or watching TV with subtitles, or at a dimly lit bar) and I need other fulfilling fibre pursuits instead. The blanket will get done. I like knitting it. That's the target I need to aim for.

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I'm definitely going axe throwing again.


Lazy day with all the fibre crafts

Today was a lazy day. I drank lots of coffee. Ate homemade muffins (with bacon and cheese on the side, because protein is important and delicious). Went for a very short run AND did my abdominal strengthening exercises. And I played with yarn in all my crafty ways. 

Weaving continues on the scarf and I'm dreaming up the next one. I might do a pooled warp, as I'm finally over the debacle of the last time where I used gorgeous yarn, took my time to get the warp right, wove it up and it was meh. Actually it was beautiful, a subtle scarf with lovely subtle colour variations. The thing was you couldn't see the pooled warp because the weft colour was too similar and all that work disappeared. I gave to the kids' piano teacher as a gift and she adores it. I chalk it up as a learning experience - the weft needs to allow the warp to pop. 

I spun a bit on the EE Nano. Craig made me some new yarn guides that seem to make for a better experience. The ones that came with the spinner would snag the yarn - very frustrating. 

And, I knit (well of course I did). I finished Viajante!!!! It's beautiful and I see it getting lots of wear. I love shawls, but struggle a bit with the pins and sticks. This one goes over my head and looks like a shawl, but I can move around. It's blocking now. 

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I also started a hat for Craig. I'm in the mood for some small things after Viajante and the blanket. The yarn is Harrisville Nightshades in Cinder and the pattern is Proof. My gauge is a bit loose, but it should fit Craig without being snug. 

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We also binge watched a new Netflix show: Giri/Haji. It's a British/Japanese crime thriller/family drama. So good - we watched all eight episodes. 


Sunday stuff

I have 10 rounds left on my never-ending Viajante shawl and instead of taking today to just get it done, I decided to warp the loom instead. 

Each round is a billion stitches, or at least a million so I suppose I can cut myself some slack, I probably wouldn’t finish it today. Warping the loom is definitely a weekend thing, so it makes sense to start a scarf rather than not finish a project.

I’m using sock yarn leftovers, mostly from Josephine’s blanket for another Mad for Plaid scarf. My idea is to have a few scarves in storage for gifts - I do not need another neck accessory. Bust some stash, give someone a lovely handmade gift, everyone wins. 

Here it is on the loom. I rather like the sparkle grey yarn in a weaving project.


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Now to get back to Viajante while I wait for the beef stew to cook. I already made a bread. Perfect winter supper. 

 


Jumping in to 2020

Lots happening in And She Knits Too land since the new year:

My niece, Josephine was born January 3rd! She’s beautiful and healthy and big brother Mitchell seems quite enamoured with her. I got to meet her last week and she’s so tiny and wee. Luckily I finished her blanket (but didn’t have it washed) in time for her birth. It dried quickly and I hope she likes it the same way Mitchell does. He uses it so much it needs Auntie Steph to make repairs.

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Emma and I took a quick visit to Peterborough to visit my mom and mémère. We took a quick four-generations selfie to update the one on Mémère’s fridge. Emma will be 21 this week, mémère 94 February 2nd. Time flies. 

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I finished my advent calendar shawl. Despite a bobble at day 10, totally my mess up with math, it was really fun to knit. Yarn by Indigodragonfly, pattern Match and Move. I could knit this one again in two colours. I love me some garter stitch knitting. Hopefully it’ll be sunny out at a time when I’m not looking a mess (or in pjs like right now so I can do proper photos).

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I’m having fun with my Electric Eel Nano spinner. It was a silly impulse purchase this year at Rhinebeck, and while it is taking some time to get used to, it’s a fun little addition to the spinning farm. I will do a full review soon. 

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Last one: Me today would like to thank December me for booking a one hour massage appointment yesterday. The perfect way to finish my first week back at work. I booked again next month. Monthly massages seem like an excellent habit to cultivate.

 


Happy New Year - 2020

Last month a colleague remarked that 2019 was a crappy year for me. I was a bit taken aback, probably because I’m naturally optimistic, but also conceded it wasn’t my best year.

I keep thinking about that conversation and contend that 2019 wasn’t any better or worse for me than other years. There were some definite challenges: sciatica was really messing with my body and my outlook, I had to parent through some tough times for one of my kids, I had two bike accidents and I worked a lot more than I planned.  

But there were lots of great things too: I knit lots, got to play ball hockey despite the back stuff, got a great promotion and raise, went to PARIS with my sweetie to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and really, things were pretty great. Life is good.

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This year will probably be the same. I’ll do stuff I expect and get hit with some things that are unexpected.

I am making a few resolutions:

  1. to keep at my core exercises at least 3 times a week to keep that sciatic nerve under control,
  2. to get more sleep and,
  3. to spend less time on my iPad killing time (those last two are probably related).

Writing here is also a possibility. Especially if I finally pull the plug on Facebook (I haven’t logged in for months) and cut back on Twitter. Let’s see what happens.

 

 

 

 


Knitters: Who do you love?

It’s Valentines Day and while it's not something I celebrate beyond eating some chocolate and cinnamon hearts, it got me thinking about all the knitterly things I love.

I love the generosity of knitters. Knitters donate to important causes and teach others their craft in schools, prisons, community centres and well anywhere someone asks for their help. Yarn dyers like Kim and Ron and the Minions of Indigodragonfly give back to their community and knitters in a number of ways. My friend Stephanie, the Yarn Harlot, reminds us that our small contributions lead to big things. I love that generosity.

I was the recipient of that very recently when a knitter I interact with on social media, Maureen, sent me her too-warm-for-her fiddlehead mittens because she knew I was so sad about wearing out mine. I offered many things in return and all she asked was that I pay it forward. I love that act of kindness and love my warm hands in mittens that fit me so well. (Maureen has some lovely designs--go look!)

Knitters also love the people they knit for. That’s clear. It’s also why we decline when coworkers or acquaintances ask us to knit for them. And when they press us we offer to teach them to knit or quote them a market rate for our work. Knitting for others is a true act of love.

Then there's Ravelry. What an amazing place it is! I love all of the usual things about it, how it keeps me organized and offers a bunch of communities and patterns and space for fibre enthusiasts. It's a fantastic online resource.

But I also love how Casey and Jess and their team have created a purposely inclusive space and how they consciously and openly promoted these principles. And, when they realize they can do better, they open things up to their community and figure out ways to do better. I have so much LOVE for knitters who do the work of promoting equity, diversity, inclusion and understanding. 

And I love this year's Ravelry Valentines. I've been sending them to knitting friends today. Showing some love.

All of this love also makes me think about who might be left out of this love and who might feels unloved in the knitting community. Those who might be doing great work but be relegated to the margins. Those who don't see themselves represented in the knitting community, modelling the designs, or teaching the classes.

There has been an emerging dialogue about white privilege and knitting appearing in the online spaces that I inhabit and I'm glad to see it. These debates about racism, equity, inclusion and privilege are not new to me and were part of my scholarship and now my administrative work. I already recognized that knitting can be an economically privileged space but didn't really consider how white it is.

I need to do more to topple that structure. I need to boost BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Colour) knitters and their work. To request BIPOC knitters as teachers for classes, speakers at events, and vendors at shows. To buy patterns from these designers and to ask designers who hire models to ensure they're not always featuring white people in their work. 

I also need to continue to call-out racism and white privilege when I see it and consider other ways to be a better ally. 

Time for me (and you) to show some more love. 

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