Friday, December 31, 2010

It's all a blur

Whoa.  Christmas was like...

So much fun! But so fast, and then it was time to rest.  The week between Christmas and New Years was for quiet, time for my husband and boys, and yes, time for knitting for me.

The yarn bowl was made by my mom and it's very handy when the ball of yarn gets too light to handle a pull for more yarn.  The pink yarn is Kroy that I dyed up using food coloring.  I was after red, but this was a happy accident and I'm enjoying using it for this project.  I didn't use heat, just let the yarn sit in the dye over night and found the color exhausted the next morning.  It has subtle shading in it that I love.

But I must run, there is more fun to be had.  Our boys are having a New Year's Eve party again this year.  I shall see you all again in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It ends well...

So busy! Work is slammin' me with ends to tie and projects to wrap up.  Still knitting up odd bits of the stash for Christmas though.  Here's the output (details on my Ravelry project page):

Oh yes, that's a hand spun neck warmer!  Yippee!  It's going to my mommy cause I think it will match the mittens I made her a few years back. 

And look what I made:

So very happy with this!!  I had it sitting on my desk as I worked today so I could admire and pet it.  The fiber is BFL from Viola! that I bought at the Woodstock Fiber Festival in October. It spun up more evenly than the merino did, but I had a bit of a break down when it came to plying.  Seriously, there were tears.

I had read in Respect the Spindle that it helps with yarn management to wind your singles off into a ball before plying.  So I did, and pushed it off the ball winder onto a TP roll.  Then that went into a coffee cup and I was off.  Everything was going swimmingly, I was watching Elf and having a jolly ole time when one of my plies broke.  And when I looked at the yarn coming off the ball, it looked as though the plies were coming off unevenly.  Don't ask me how, I just thought it looked like a bunch of knots, pig tails and a rotten mess.  The thought of several weeks worth of work wrecked brought me to tears. 

If I had a mentor, she or he could have talked me down, but as it was, on my own, I had to get a grip and investigate the horror more closely myself.  And of course, everything was fine.  It was just the plies coming back on themselves.  Put under tension they started to behave again.  What a moment though!  Now I know, and I don't think I will ever forget that lesson.

There's plenty more fiber to go.  I'm enjoying spinning this up so much and I'm flabbergasted at how beautiful the colors are: 

I'm so proud of me!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Music

Last week, I attended Alex's Christmas concert. Worth a listen, and entirely appropriate to the season, here's the Banting Chamber Choir, performing Pakkanen, which moved me to tears. They're not my kids, but I'm still so pleased and proud of them:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Second Wave

We survived the first wave of Snowmaggedon.  It was very strange to hear people telling me "Oh, I heard about London in the news."  Now a second wave of winter weather is heading our way, with up to 25 cm of snow expected every 12 hours.  Yikes!

A lot of people asked me if I got more knitting done, since I was snowed in.  Well, no... because I'm a telecommuter now I don`t really get snow days. However, I have found some time to knit.  I've been as busy as an elf, finishing up a whole slew of Christmas gifts.  After I finished the obligatory socks, I decided to stash dive for odd balls and knit them up.  It's been fun! I see them as bonus gifts.  I knit what I like and if it happens to end up in a pretty gift for someone then good.  I can't stand the pressure and guilt of traditional Christmas knitting.  That sounds odd, but you know what I mean, right?

So, in no particular order, here is the second wave of holiday knits.  I guess you could say I've been knitting up a storm.  (Oh groan!  Bad pun, I should be ashamed.) And all links are to Ravelry for details like yarn and needles.

Dad's Christmas Socks

I love that detail on the bottom of the foot.

Brother-in-law Stand up Comic socks

Tudora Ruff (niece)

 Estonian Lace Scarf

This is just a little scarffette, based on a shawl pattern from Nancy Bush's Knitting Estonian lace.  I had just one skien of an bamboo, merino and alpaca blend (from an alpaca named Cheri, so you know it's for someone special).  I can hardly wait till it finishes blocking to see the softness and drape of it.

I knit one edging, put it on a holder, then knit the other edging and continued into the middle lace until I ran out of yarn.  It worked beautifully and I think with a pin to keep it closed, this will be a cuddly accessory for my mother-in-law.  I hope she doesn't mind that I didn't make her socks this year.  I was feeling all socked out. 

How's your Christmas knitting coming? Right now, I feel a hat coming on...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

And so it continues...

Another snow day for Jim and the kids.  Here's what accumlated on the picnic table today:

 That's about twice as much as there was yesterday.  I took Dexter out for a brief walk at lunch, but the snow was blowing in my face, so we turned for home.  The accumulation on our house was amazing.  I went to the front door to ask Jim to hand me my camera so I could take a picture for you all.  But as I was speaking to him in the doorway, there was a sound, a slither and a slump! as all the snow on the roof slid down on top of me and the dog. 

I took a picture anyway, and it looks like kids were using our roof as a toboggan run:

We're supposed to get another 10-15cm of snow tomorrow, and the school board has already declared the schools closed. The mayor of London very nearly decided to declare a state of emergency, but didn't. Instead, he's asked that everyone stay home so that road crews can work unhindered.

For more amazing snow pictures, check out the gallery at the Weather Network. You can run a search on London Ontario.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Blog Worthy Weather

Remember that winter storm I mentioned yesterday? Well, it's still here and looks like it will be staying around until tomorrow.  It is snowing hard.  All the schools were closed, so the boys were home.  It was too snowy for Jim to be working outside, so he was home.  And me, I was home: working!  Every one else got a snow day, but not me. One of the perks of working at home I guess. 

You want to see how much snow we got?  The guys had to go out shoveling twice yesterday and twice today.
Oh yeah.  And it's still snowing.  I had to take Dexter out for a walk, regardless of the conditions.  Fortunately I have all the gear I could need: snow pants, good boots, lots of woolies for feet, hands and head. Even Dexter has a super great winter coat, from Chilly Dogs

Not that he cares. He loves the snow!

And tonight, we made Rum Balls.  I published this recipe before, but it bears repeating:

Chocolate Rum Balls

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
pinch of salt
1 3/4 cups graham wafer crumbs
2 tbsp dark rum

Combine butter, icing sugar and chocolate chips in a double boiler. Add beaten eggs and salt. Stir until chocolate melts and mixture thickens and is smooth. Remove from heat and add rum and crumbs. Combine well. Refrigerate at least three hours. Shape into balls; roll in chocolate shavings, coconut or nuts.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Discovery

We had a snow storm in the merry old town of London, Ontario!  So what better thing to do, besides knit, than to decorate the house?

So gaudy, and yet so effective at chasing back the gloom and chill of winter snow and wind.

I was working on a pair of stranded socks for my dad, when I accidentally switched which hand held which color.  You've heard of Yarn Dominance?  For some knitters, it can make a dramatic difference which hand the yarn is held in when working a stranded pattern.  I always thought it didn't affect me, but look at this:

You can clearly see how several rows are more predominately black.  I flipped when I saw that!  Then I took a look at the public side of the work:

Oh.  Yes.  Well I guess it doesn't affect me all that much after all.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Cute, just as is

Some people are so ambitious!  Nadine has beautiful plans for her winter holidays. Nannette has pages of links lined up for gifty knitting. Me, I'm trying to simplify my holidays, but I'm constantly having to fight my own impulses. There's so many fun things to do!

I thought I'd have some wonderful socks to show you this weekend, but I got distracted.  So, there's this instead:

A hand spun, hand knit hat, knit up in one evening.  It's fun knitting with my handspun!  It's got it's lumps and bumps, but don't we all?  Especially in the early stages.  Like this fourteen-year-old, needs a shave and pimple cream at the same time, 6 foot tall, man-boy:

But ain't he cute?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stand up Comic?

I like to knit my socks at a firm gauge, for maximum durability, but perhaps this is going too far?

Then again, as socks they sure stand out.  They're for my brother-in-law as a Christmas present and he's a stand-up sort of guy.

These socks sort of look like they're ready to take a walk off on their own. Too bad they don't knit themselves...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home Improvement Reveal

It took quite a few weekends, but the exterior of our home is finally finished. Here's the before, in all its minty green glory:

And here is the new, neighbour approved, maximum curb appeal, improvement:

Hooray!  We decided against putting the shutters back up and eliminated the screen door.  I think it fits in better with the design of the house and looks more modern.  Some how the house looks bigger now. 

And thanks to Jody for the spinning tip, I've decided to keep practicing my thicker spinning.  If I make an effort to learn both at the same time, perhaps I can avoid being stuck in only one kind.  It can't hurt and it might help.  So, here's some black welsh in progress spinning:

I love the yarn this made.  It's thick and cushy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Laughing my Face Off

When I began to learn to spin I stated to many and all that my goal was to learn to spin fingering weight.  It's my favourite weight of yarn to work with.  But I was met with a lot of skepticism from well-meaning friends.  They all told me that once I learned to spin fine, I would find in extremely difficult, impossible was implied, to spin thicker again.

Well, I'd say, you just draft more fiber, use a heavier spindle and off you go.

Oh no! said my friends with a laugh.  It's not that simple, everyone has this problem.

Mary Jane said "Laurie, when you come crying to me that you can't spin thicker yarn, I will laugh in your face."

Well, look who's laughing now.

I just decided to give it a try and got these results on my first attempt. I imagine I could get better with practice. Here's a comparison with commercial Shetland fingering weight on the right:


Friday, November 19, 2010

Wipe the Slate Clean

Nosevember is finally here in all its gray glory.  The first time I walked out of the office at 5:30 after the Daylight Savings Time weekend I had a horrible shock, as it was pitch dark!  Their seems to be a heavy expectancy in the air; the trees and fields anticipating snow, the people anticipating the Christmas rush.  It's time to be still and marshal one's strength.

Just because I haven't been blogging the knits doesn't mean the knits stopped happening.  They've backlogged into such a jumbled pile that I don't even know where to start in recording them all.  I've neglected updating Ravelry too.  Actually, my husband noticed that my Ravelry project page is prettier further down that it is at the top.  I don't know quite what's happened to my knitting lately, but I don't think my most recent batch of projects will help pretty up the page much.  It's all utilitarian, chill blocking stuff.

So, I'm just going to come clean with all my projects and we'll start fresh.  Works in progress abound and the next big thing is will hit me soon enough.

Let's start the parade:

Details on my Ravelry project page.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Too tired to blog

I had good intentions to write a blog post this weekend.  I was going to talk about the serious case of startitis I've got, driven by the November wind and a desire for warm woolies.  I want a chullo, maybe a Thorpe, for keeping my ears warm when I walk the dog, and a new pair of slippers, snugger than the felted clogs.  But what's on the needles are oodles of socks and some Christmas gifties.

I was going to take photos to show you the socks, and talk about the my latest crush, Stephenie van der Linden.  Her book Around the World in 26 Socks has fed my fever and I've cast on multiple socks from her book.  Two have stuck, one having the neatest and easiest short row heel I have ever worked.  Ever.  The other one the first stranded sock pattern I have worked that actually fits my foot.  I'm so thrilled and it's so beautiful, I can't wait to show it off! But I don't have any pictures.

Why?  Well, because our home renovation project ate my blog post.  This is the biggest UFO of them all and as much as a new hat will keep me warm, a finished house will be even better.

That toothpaste green at the top is the color of the old siding.  It's the original 30-plus year old stuff that's become full of holes.  The grey at the bottom is the new stuff.  The blue in between is the styrofoam insulation Jim is adding to keep us warm and toasty.  This house reminds me of Pinochio. It's becoming real!

And just for the record, I'm not the one doing the work, it's this goof-ball:

I just have to take on his share of the weekend chores in addition to my own and that's what's left me so pooped.

Monday, November 01, 2010

My Regrets

I regret that I haven't written this sooner.  I have completely finished my Noro blanket and I am underwhelmed.

Perhaps there are too many beautiful versions on the net.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps in skimping on the cost of wool by buying my skeins on sale, I short changed myself.  

I regret getting so caught up in the process that I neglected details like gauge.  Even the gauge on my edging is wrong, resulting in an untameable curl.

You know what, I don't care.  I'm willing to live with my regrets.  Because at the end of the day I have a warm, colorful blanket that my family has already been enjoying.  Bring on the winter!  We has a blanket.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gone Shoppin!

As you may have noticed, I've been bit hard by the spinning bug and this weekend was the Woodstock Fiber Festival. The WFF is a cute little fair that included an exhibit of our lovely fur-bearing friends. Sheep, and rabbits, and lamas, oh my!

Lots of people would have been willing to bring this cutie home.  Those big brown eyes are as soft has his fleece.

Inside the building was a good variety of vendors that included basket weaving, rug hooking, wheels, fleece and wool.  I had a definite shopping list in mind that included spindles, all Forresters of course.  I'm lucky to have such a resource in my area.  The festival had no other spindles of this caliber and in such a variety of weights, in my humble opinion.

The are two for spinning fingering weight singles that I can then ply off from onto my larger first spindle.  And the wee holey spindle is for laceweight. 

Of course I also bought fiber, like this pretty.

And romantic fiber like this black welsh,

And some more fiber till I accumulated this stash.

And finally niddy-noddy was crossed off my shopping list, to help me manage all the beautiful yarn I'm going to make.  Hopefully this will be enough to keep be busy through the year.  I'm not as good a spinner as I'd like to be and I only know one way of getting better.  Practice.  And that requires fiber!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's all about the Yarn

Knitting is happening, but these days I seem to be all about the yarn.  Spinning does that to you. 

I was working on my Koigu Braid when something just clicked.  It occurred to me that when I let the twist enter the fiber to pinch just ahead of the part I'd drafted.  In other words, to leave some of the drafted fiber out of the twist.  This made it easier to draft the next bit of fiber.  And from there I flew!  I don't even know if I'm still doing that any more, but it was the magic moment.  I am now beyond park and really drop spindling.  I feel like the training wheels came off my bike.  

Oh, I still have so much to learn though!  Consistency for one thing.

I still think I can make something out of this yarn.  Especially if I stretch it with some commercial yarn.

I got some beautiful batts from Paula at All Strung Out that I'm not ready to spin yet. One is a merino/silk blend and the other is a merino/cashmere blend.  I think the merino/silk should be socks and the merino/cashmere should be a shawl.  But I can't spin them yet.  I want to finish my Koigu braid first, but I also need a lighter spindle.  No worries, because next weekend is the Woodstock Fleece Festival!!  I'll be there with bells on.

And in other yarn news, I'm very pleased to show off these naturally dyed beauties:

These were originally natural-colored wool I bought at the Waterloo Farmer's Market.  Mary Jane cooked them up with some natural dyes and now I've got these coordinated skeins to play with .  I love them. 

I'd better get back to knitting though.  The stash is experiencing a growth spurt.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catching by Breath

I'm barely on top of it all these days.  Work, family, home improvement, knitting, spinning and oh don't forget to walk the dog... whew!

Last weekend I drove my mom in the rain to Toronto to get her pottery supplies at Tuckers.  We had fun in spite of the weather but I caught a cold and that's why there was no blog post. 

I'm still spinning and something just clicked this week.  I'm getting a fingering weight now on my 50g spindle which is awesome, plus I'm past the park and draft.  I'm not trying to make yarn for a project with the Targhee Koigu braid. Instead I'm trying to learn to make good yarn.  Easier said than done, but I'm getting there.

I knit my first handspun into a hat, which has already been adopted by a teenaged girl.  It's my fault because I asked her to try it on and she squealed.  Who can resist a squeal for hand knits? 

Top down on a 6mm needle, I started with 5 stitches and increased 5 stitches every other round until it seemed big enough around.  Then I knit till I ran out of yarn and used a sewn bind off to finish it.  It's a cute little hat, but no good on me what with all the curly hair.

I've also finished another pair of socks.  I'm getting a supply in before the really cold weather hits so that my family has warm feet.  This pair will be going to Luke, who very much appreciates his handknit socks.

I was trying to use every last bit of yarn in the skein so I worked these toe up with an afterthought heel.  I was too aggressive though and ended up short by just three little rows at the end of the heel.  So I subbed in some Trekking and you can barely tell.  At least I think so.  Can you see which sock I had to fudge?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things I learned at my Spinning Lesson

A mnemonic for twist direction.  S-twist goes to the left so it's sinister and therefore counterclockwise.

Draft to the fiber you want to spin.  It's not enough to just open up the fibers, the amount of fiber present will determine the size of the single.  Want a smaller single? Then draft less fiber (split it, or take more time during spinning to put less fiber in the single).

The spindle will spin less long on a thicker single because more fiber absorbs more twist.  The fiber acts like a shock absorber.  It absorbs the energy of the twist faster.  To spin that heavier single, use a heavier spindle or be prepared to spin the spindle more often.

You can spin a terribly fine single on a rock. Tabi did this.  I watched her.  She used a nice smooth beach rock, about the size of an apricot.  A couple of fine sticks were wound into the yarn around the rock to anchor the thread being spun.

There is no single right distance between the hands when spinning.  The length of the staple determines how far apart your hands should be.  Your hands should be slightly further apart than the staple length of the fiber.

If you want to spin a thick and thin yarn, then draft thick and thin.  Though in spinning thick and thin, one must be careful to put enough twist in the thick part and not too much twist in the thin.  The physics of the thing will want naturally go to the opposite extreme.

A badly weighted whorl spins funky because it's got two axis.  Which is sort of like astronomy when a planet wobbles in its orbit.

When the roving gets sucked into the spinning cry "the vortex!"  It won't help anything, but it's fun.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's all in how you look at it

Having confessed my disappointing yarn to all the world, my brain kept spinning with the topic. (Oh yes, that pun was intended.)  I finally caved and dived in to my bag of Black Lamb pencil roving Saturday afternoon.  I had no idea how to draft such fine fiber so I didn't bother.  Instead I just spun the stuff, straight up.  And you know, it was a pretty straight forward process.  I got some nice singles that way.

Then things got a little crazy.  Instead of stopping half-way through, I spun up the other half of the fiber Saturday evening.  And in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, I woke up and was unable to sleep.  You know what happens next.  I plyed.  Both sets of singles. 

What's your view? 

Is it stubborn mulishness and an unwillingness to be less than my best?

The kinder among you will say it was persistence in the face of difficulties.

Either way, I made a rather nice chunky yarn.

But you know, I'm still disappointed!  It should have been a lovely fingering weight.  I'm telling myself... next time I'll make fingering weight yarn.  Cause you know there will be a next time!

Now to knit it.  I'm imagining a nice hat.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fric Frac Farg!

Fiddlesticks.  What a frustrating week.  Spinning is a disaster.  It's not even acceptable art yarn.  See:

Over spun, under spun, horribly plied.  The book said plying was a snap compared to spinning.  They lied.  Each little balls of singles went into a coffee cup and was tensioned around the handle.  Things were going okay until I found myself plying three strands together.  What the fric? The outside of the ball got caught on the wool coming from the inside of the ball.  That's when I discovered that spinning is not like knitting and you can't rip back your work.  Unplying is not a word for a reason.

But I'm not giving up.  Oh no.  I'm angry-frustrated.  Frac it! I'm going to learn to do this.  I have a deep want for my own handspun yarn.  I'm disappointed that it's not going to be the effortless process it seems to be for some.  Pat, I'm looking at you.  Though I did go back to your blog and note that you had lessons from others.  I think that's what I'm missing. So I've signed up for some spindling lessons and the Forest City Knit Club will be doing some spinning for their first meeting.

In other news, Noro Blankie is a backstabber.  I spent an entire evening with her, sewing up one of her seams.  There's only one more to go.  When I started to put that one more to the rest of the blanket, it was too long.  This is the panel I ADDED length too.  Farg!!  So now I've got to take out what I added, and then take out what's too long. 

This week has caused me to wonder at my own abilities and decide I'm not much more than a fumble-handed hack.

At least I can still knit socks.