Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sea Glass and Fuschia

I wanted to write a quick post even though not a great deal has been happening. As I write this, my husband and son are downstairs watching the World Cup final game. I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one will be happy when it's all over and all my social media feeds return to normal.

I've got a bit of new spinning to show you. This is merino, dyed in a local shop. They called it 'Envy' but I think it's more a sea-glass turquoise than a real green.



I love the colour, but I'm not crazy about this batt. 


I had a lot of trouble with 'folded' fibres in the batt and I'm not convinced it was blended as well as it could have been. The top side has all the colour and the bottom, the part that is folded in was still very white. That said, the end result is a fantastic colour though I think it is actually a little underspun (that part is totally me and has nothing to do with the preparation). I haven't quite decided how I'm going to finish it; I'll need to run it through the wheel again to add more twist but I don't know whether I'm going to then wind half of it off onto another bobbin for a two ply finish, or Navajo ply for a three ply finish.  

So while I'm thinking about how I'm going to finish this, I'm still working on my sweater.


This is a sleeve. It's actually the second sleeve but the first piece that I think is actually going to be the right size. I had some sort of mental collapse when I started knitting this. The pattern provides both measurements as well as row counts. I fixated on the row counts without bothering to actually measure. So while the front, back and first sleeve are all wide enough, none of them are actually long enough. As I said, I'm not sure what I was thinking - I guess not thinking is closer to the truth. The front and back aren't obviously too short, but that one sleeve that I did is perhaps 3/4 length - fine if that is what you're going for but not my goal.

In other news, totally unrelated to this I've been tagged in a blog hop and I'm looking for a few people who would be interested in participating.  The questions (4) are about design and the creative process - not knitting specific.  I'll be posting that entry next week.  If you want to participate, leave me a note and I'll have a link to your blog next time.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Gift of Alpaca - Phase 1

Some of you have heard the story of how I came to have 10 oz (approx 300g) of Alpaca fibre in my stash. For the rest of you, this is what happened.

Several years ago, I took a half day spinning class at a local shop. At that time, I bought a new-to-me wheel and seriously thought I was the king of the hill. Look at me everyone - I can spin. I actually kept what I spun that day that I was so proud of.



It's a good reminder, both in humility but also to see just how far I've come.

I went to work the following Monday and told my then-boss about what I had done, and how pleased I was with what I had learned. She was thoughtful for a moment then said, "There is an Alpaca farm near my timeshare in Vermont. If I bought fibre, would you spin it for me?" Being so pleased with myself (and not having a clue what I was committing myself to), I said "Sure!"

So, true to her word, the next time she went to Vermont, she picked up three large bags of alpaca fibre and gave it to me at work. Two bags were for her, one for me as a thank you for doing the spinning.

That is about when the enormity of what I had committed myself to really sank in. I was looking at (what appeared to be) pounds and pounds of alpaca fibre and I knew that I didn't really have the skill to spin it. Not properly.

Thus started the my spinning education. I have the good fortune of living very close to the Wool Grower's Co-op Warehouse in Eastern Canada and was able to pick up small bags of roving for very little money.


I spun, and spun and spun some more. I learned to ply - no small feat when you only have one bobbin!

I ordered fibre online and spun that. This is where I learned that you have to be really careful with dyed fibre. Some is great, some, well - not so much.


I bought a new spinning wheel and kept trying.


I kept spinning and every once in a while, I would take a small amount of the alpaca out of the bag and test spin it - just to see if I could. Most of these experiments were abject failures and just when I thought I was going to have to admit that I really couldn't do it, I did it.  It wasn't great, but I did it.  I bought a bag of Alpaca fibre, and spun that. And it was lovely - if you ignore the catastrophic error I made while doing it.

So a few weeks ago, I took one of those lovely bags of fibre out from the bottom of the bin and started spinning. And spun, and spun and spun some more.  And then spent a day plying.

And this is the result.



That my friends, is 600 yards of 2-ply laceweight Alpaca.  And it's divine. But mostly, I'm so happy to be able to make good on my promise.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

An Honourary Liebster Award

Kaiya of Winterlime Knits has very graciously nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Thank you so much!



Rules:
  1. Post 11 random facts about myself
  2. Answer 11 questions the awarding blogger has asked
  3. [Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers, add their links to this post, and let them know that they have been nominated]
  4. [Create 11 questions the nominated blogs have to answer]
These are the rules, but I'm going to change them somewhat.  The thing is, while I'm deeply pleased and gratified that I was nominated for such an award, the current structure feels a little too much like a chain letter.  So, in keeping with the spirit of the award - of introducing you to blogs which I like and which may be new to you - I am going to suggest a few that you might want to look at, but I'm not going to come up with questions for the owners to answer.  As such, this is an honourary Liebster Award, and not the full blown thing.

Eleven Random Facts about Me
  1. I'm a military child so as a result of moving every four to six years I have no "childhood home".
  2. I'm a military spouse which means I also did a lot of moving as an adult.  In six months, I will have lived in this house for four years and two months, longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life. To put that in perspective, I'm almost 44.
  3. In real life, I'm a software localization engineer for a company that makes auditing and financial analysis software.
  4. My mother taught me to knit when I was about seven years old.  One of my aunts was pregnant with her first child so mom had me make a baby bonnet in garter stitch.  It was yellow with a ribbon tie that she sewed on when I was finished.
  5. I met my husband when I was learning to scuba dive.  He was the instructor.
  6. I first learned to spin on a drop spindle when I took a class with a friend.
  7. I have a scattered educational background.  I have a degree in Historical Musicology with a minor in history, a post-graduate diploma in Applied Information Technology, two years of formal language training from the Canadian Military Foreign Language Institute (Mandarin Chinese), and a college diploma in Drinking Water and Waste Water Treatment (my provincial certification has expired as I didn't get a job in this field fast enough)
  8. I spent three years living in Beijing, China as a diplomat.  At the time, I could speak quite good Mandarin and read enough that I could get the gist of a story in a newspaper.
  9. The artistic / crafting gene runs very strongly in my family on my mother's side.  There are musicians, artists, quilters, authors and actors.
  10. My favourite flower is the cabbage rose (followed closely by peonies). They will be incorporated when the south side of the house is landscaped.
  11. I have a kayak, for those rare daylight moments when I'm not knitting, spinning or dealing with the vegetable garden.

Kaiya's Questions
  1. When did you really start getting hooked on crafting? Was there a particular project or technique that sparked the hunger?
    I got hooked in 2000 when I was pregnant.  I was home alone with nothing to do and had this idea in my head that pregnant ladies knit.  But I hadn't done much knitting since I was a kid.  So I went to Zeller's and bought a ball of dishcloth cotton, some needles and a booklet called How To Knit.  I cast on a handful of stitches, and knit a square, then ripped it out again and did that over and over until I had some confidence in my stitches. The first thing I made was a little hat for my son to wear.  Incidentally, I still have the booklet.
  2. What's the most challenging project you've faced down so far? Did you conquer it or did it vanquish you?
    There are two things that come to mind here.  One is a sweater I made for my SIL for Christmas several years ago.  This was pre-ravelry so I don't have pictures.  It was a hooded cabled pullover with two separate cable patterns worked at the same time.  That was tough, but I learned how to manage multiple patterns at once. The second was a stole designed by Anne Hansen (Autumn Arbor Stole).  This was challenging simply because of it's size and the fact that the yarn was like thread, it was so fine.
  3. Do you like to have something going on in the background while you craft, or do you need stillness and concentration?
    Depends what I'm making.  If its a complicated pattern, or I'm trying to do something new or involves counting to more than four I prefer quiet.  For something like plain vanilla socks, I'm happy to have noise.
  4. What is(/are) the dream tool(s) you would get if you had the money and opportunity?
    Hmm.  This is a changeable list; depending on what I'm doing.  For the most part, I'm happy with the tools I've got and fall into the camp of "the skill of the craftsman trumps good tools".  That being said, I like having quality tools.  Viking wool combs are certainly on my "I want it" list
  5. What's one skill or hobby you've always wanted to pick up?
    Sewing.  I learned the basics of pattern reading and how to sew a simple item when I was in elementary school (when all girls did Home Economics) but I didn't continue with it and rather regret it now.  I have a machine, it's now a case of getting on with it.
  6. What are your favorite colors? Least favorite?
    I don't really have favourite colours, per se.  I do have preferred palettes for different projects.  I know that if I'm making something for me, then darker jewel tones work well.  But that isn't so good for baby clothes where I prefer lighter colours.  For socks, I tend to make them in fairly neutral colours so I can pair them with anything.
  7. What are your favorite foods?
    Hmm.  Another tough question.  This changes with the season I think.  Right now, it's high summer and stinking hot outside so cold meats, hard cooked eggs, pasta salad, fresh tomatoes with a sprinkle of chopped basil - that sort of thing sounds divine.  In the winter, nothing beats a good stew that's been in the slow cooker all day.
  8. How has technology impacted your crafting?
    This is a great question.  Technology has had a huge impact on my crafting in that it has made the global community smaller.  I find myself talking to people from all over the world about knitting, and spinning.  I also use video tutorials to learn new techniques - something that wasn't really available when I was learning. Curiously though, it has really solidified my desire to purchase locally.
  9. Is there anyone for whom you will Never Make Anything Again?
    Umm.  Yes, yes there is.
  10. What literary character would you most want to be like?
    I'm going to sidestep this question.  I think we spend so much time trying to imitate other people that we lose sight of who we are.  I'm in the process of trying to re-define and rel-learn who I am so honestly, I'd rather be me.
  11. Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future of your blog?
    This is another great question and I honestly hadn't given the future of my blog much thought until I was asked.  I think the next phase is going to be about getting my blog out there and increasing the number of people who are actually reading it.  I also want to improve my photography skills to make it that much nicer to look at.
The Blogs I'd like to Introduce You To
Here, in no particular order, are the blogs I'd like to share with you.  There are lots of really well known blogs, many of which I follow but since the whole point of this is to find new things to read, these are some of the smaller blogs, or blogs outside the sphere of knitting/spinning which I follow.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Place To Call My Own

I stumbled upon the most interesting thing on Pinterest the other day. I was scrolling through the "Popular" feed and saw something that was captioned "Woman Cave".

I think the axis of my universe just shifted.

A woman cave. I've never given it much thought, but yes, come to think of it, I would like a place I can retreat to. Chuck has the now requisite "Man Cave" in the basement full of his military paraphernalia. He's even got a sign on the lintel going down the stairs.


My son has the entire top floor of the stone part of the house. It's just a fluke of past renovations that all the separators were taken out so he's got a large airy space for a bedroom which is also quite separate from the rest of the living space and he's happy there.

And me? Well, um, I have a sacrosanct spot on the couch. My spot and only I sit there. Or at least I did until the dog decided he liked it too.  Chuck's first comment when I suggested I'd like a space of my own was that I had the rest of the house and how much more did I really need?

Joking aside, typically women retreat to the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. My bedroom is for sleeping - end of story. I'm not one to lounge in the tub so while the bathroom is very nice, I don't consider it a retreat. The kitchen is out because it's a work space and more to the point, it's a public part of the house. I want a place where I can leave my knitting out, a book open to a page and decorate without consultation with the others who live here. If we lived in a more forgiving climate, I would have tried to take over the shed (a freestanding building with power) but since it is neither insulated nor heated it isn't really usable as living space from October to May. I don't have a perfect space, but we do have an unused area on the main floor of the house. The living room/lounge is an odd C shape. The only entrance to the room is from the top of the C and that area at the top is what we use. The bottom of the C is unused.

So for now, this will be my space. It's a work in progress but there is a closet to store books, lots of light, the stereo and space for the spinning wheels (you can only see one).



The only thing I'd really like to add is a divider - something like a Chinese screen that I can easily remove to really separate my space from the living room.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Time Flies

I'm not sure what happened here - seems it's been six weeks (give or take) since I've written anything (and honestly, I haven't read much either so I'll be going back and reading blogs that you've written too) but in my mind I've had piles of things to share with you. I know I think of posting something a few times a week and for one reason or another it just never gets done. A big part of that is because the battery in my camera always seems to be dead.

So here I am, forcing myself to sit down and show you what's going on.

There's been some travel - I went to Chicago on very short notice (like 24 hours notice) at the beginning of the month.  I really liked the city and would quite happily go back.


I stayed down on the river and was able to find time for the architectural river tour.  If you ever find yourself in Chicago with a few hours to spare, this is something worth doing.

I have part of the vegetable garden planted. Most things are growing well including the weeds. Curiously, squash isn't growing well at all. I made a decision earlier in the spring that I wasn't going to plant the entire space that I have available. It's too much and I can't keep it weeded and I end up losing produce and patience.  Last year, when I was dealing with depression I tried to get it all done and more than once I was in tears while planting something because I was just so frustrated with the space and how quickly the grass and weeds would take over if I so much as turned my back.  Couple that with the grasshoppers who moved in with the grass and I was ready to just plow the entire thing under. This year, I decided to be a little kinder to myself and reduced the size of the planting space. I have less, but the space is easier for me to maintain. So far, I'm enjoying it a lot more as well. The other thing I learned is that if you're going to plant purple fingerling potatoes, that you need to take them ALL out of the ground in the fall - even the little tiny blips of tubers the size of your finger tip, the half eaten ones the mice dined on and the ones you cut in half with the shovel while digging up the others. You know why?  Because these damn things can survive a winter - even a really hard, cold one like what we just had (remember this is a Canadian saying it was a long, cold winter) and they'll grow the next year. Currently I have "wild" potatoes growing among the onions and the lettuces....

I also spent some time working on the ornamental bed at the front of the house.  It's not all done, but I've gone from this:


to this.  It still needs some work and the edging needs to be cleaned up, but at least I can see what I'm working with now.


I've been knitting as well, although at a much slower pace due to the gardens.  I've finished a(nother) pair of socks.  These were knit using Lorna's Laces yarn.  The colour is Lucky Stripe.  I think I'm in love.


I've also started a new sweater.  I've decided I really like working sweaters in a rather fine gauge so I've cast on another one.  The sweater will have a folded hem and be very plain but is a shocking fuchsia - a colour I can wear quite well.


There are a few other things that have been happening too, but I need to save something for next time!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

No focus

It's one of those days.


I'm working from home today - which is a little off my normal schedule but I've shifted WFH days to accommodate some meetings happening on Thursday and Friday. Sadly, I can't focus. This is really unusual, normally I can make myself get the work done regardless of the distractions but I've been struggling for six hours now and I'm not getting anywhere. In the time I've spent writing this much I've stopped twice to look at Facebook and my mail (just to see if anything new had arrived). There was nothing new. I even checked my work email. Nothing new there either.


My husband calls it a bad case of Wrong-Side-Of-Window. He made this observation after hearing that a meeting today was cancelled so he decided to blow off the rest of his afternoon and go hunting (the perks of being self-employed eh?!). Lanark county is currently being overrun by wild turkeys; hunting is a public service really. And in case you're wondering, his bunking off for the rest of the day didn't do anything to help me focus. He might be right though, it's a beautiful day outside and would be good to spend some time in the garden, or even just sitting on the deck in the sun.


Honestly, I don't know if I should try and push through it (1h 20min to go), or give in and go outside and plant onions, go downstairs and spin, sit on the deck and knit or go have a nap because I have a sore throat starting and don't have time to be sick. I've been hearing lots lately about taking time for self-care but how do you balance that against work expectations? Especially on days when the body is clearly demanding something, because how else can I interpret behaviour so far from what is my 'normal'. I can always log back in later and will probably get more done if I did that, but I also know that on days like this it's too easy to just not log in again.


Would it be the end of the world if I slipped away?  No, nobody will die and the economy won't collapse if I quietly leave an hour early but there is a trust which is extended to me by my employer that I can work without supervision and I don't want to break that trust.

Do you work from home?  How do you deal with days like this?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Half and Half

It's finished; maybe.  This is the shell I've been working on for a few weeks.  The design is called Fifty Fifty by Laura Cunitz and you can find it on Knitty.com.  I'm calling mine Half and Half.


If you've been following this, you'll know that I've made a few adjustments to the number of stitches to eliminate a four stitch gap in the pattern which appears where the round joins on one side.  I'm happy to report that the finished item does indeed fit, with no awkward gaps around the arms - something that is always a risk with a tank top - and that the pattern now lines up and repeats as it should.

There are some details on this that I really like, such as a really interesting stitch pattern along the arms and the neck

as well as a pretty panel at the back of the neck


I had hoped to photograph this while wearing it, but everyone else is out for the day, and I'm not good at taking self portraits.

As for the maybe at the beginning, I'm undecided if I'm going to leave this white, or if I should dye it.  I don't often wear white because I usually manage to stain it but I still have my two original swatches so I can play with colours.

So what do you think?  Dye it or leave it as it?