Archive for May, 2008

Aw, Hail!

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Today was, for the most part, a lovely spring day. Late this afternoon, Joe and the girls were hanging out in the driveway blowing bubbles while I started dinner. And then the tornado sirens went off. Even though the big clouds were way off on the horizon, I waved them into the house, then went on out and helped clean up the toys and junk before we all got inside. Twenty minutes later, the storm hit and it was a doozy!

We hung out in front of the big picture window for a while, and then we took the girls downstairs just to be careful when it really picked up.

That’s a quarter.

We took the crank-powered flashlights downstairs with us, just to keep the girls distracted if nothing else.

And then Joe brought down a couple of hail stones…

Sophie said “Ice! Ice!”

The yards were all covered with hail stones, plus bits of twigs and leaves. But at least none of our stuff blew away, and there was no major damage in our neighborhood that I could see.

Bunny!

The storm passed, and the girls and I spent some time checking it all out.

The temperature cooled off pretty quickly, and fog lifted up off the ground.

Of course, there’s video.


And here’s the fiber-y scoop that I was going to give you before all hail broke loose…

Friday morning I finished plying that last bit of orange wool, then washed it in the sink to set the twist.

And then I ordered a Blue Moon Fiber Arts Fire on the Mountain Sheep to Shoe kit. The one I was drooling over last week. But later that night, I was in my office, and the poor naked spindle was sitting there staring at me.

And I remembered that I already have a bunch of high-quality roving laying around. It’s in the felting kit I bought last fall during the shop hop, stuck in my closet and left ignored ever since.

Felting? Spinning? Spinning? Felting? Decisions Decisions….

(Barely) Controlled Chaos

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Oh, how just a few weeks ago I was feeling so satisfied with myself, having focused directly on the Sunrise Circle Jacket from start to finish all in just a couple weeks. I was resolved to the idea of sticking to one main project and getting more FO satisfaction. Amazing how in such a short time that whole scheme can go to the crapper.

Let’s take a few looks at the state of things.

First there’s the whole spinning obsession. Oh, yes, it’s still out of control. Witness -

The niddy-noddy in action

The latest plied skein pre-wash – I’m getting some fairly nice, thin yarn.

I’m still trying to get the whole twist-balance thing straight. This one ended up a bit puckery post-wash.

You can see all that I’ve spun here, and what’s left of that original ball of fiber that once filled up the basket there. I’ll have it finished up in the next day or two, I imagine. I’ve been flipping through spinning books like crazy as well – both ones that I’ve bought and from the library. Not pictured are a couple more floating around the house now, as well as a couple that I returned today. I have to say, there were a couple that made me laugh out loud with the crazy-yarn pictures

Oh, look what came in the mail*! I spent a few minutes poring through the lots, and it looks like the ones I’m interested in are pretty much the same as last year.

Then there’s the new hat project. I should be casting on for it right now, but it’s not going to happen tonight. I wanted to knit along with the class I’m teaching at the moment, but class is tomorrow night and I haven’t even completely decided which stitch pattern I want to use. At least I’ve done the swatch and washed it. Yurg!

Just look at the crazy pile of socks in progress. Dare I even admit that there are more than even this laying around that I am not even going to show you?

Starting with the pink-and-red ones – my Sock Wars Detonators in progress. My current target just bowed out of the game, and I’m waiting to hear back from the Supreme Commander about my new target before I knit any further. Moving clockwise, the plain old Meilenweit cotton toe-ups for me that I’m pretty much ignoring till I need some super-mindless stockinette, and below those are the Opal ones which are screaming “finish us off, already!” but which remain my backup emergency knitting. And finally, those new black ones.

Dream in Color Smooshy. My tiniest needles for super-tight, lovely fabric. Perfectly centered 2X2 ribbing along the insteps. These will be lovely socks, and there is a deadline. This is what I’m knitting on when I’m not spinning right now.

Yeah, sorry diamond jacket.

Sorry Lace-Cuff sock pattern.

Yeah. The knitting part of my life is sheer chaos.

Look what Julie and I have been reading together this week*:

It’s so good to start revisiting books I loved as a child. I’m not sure she’s understanding the story fully – lots of new-to-her words in there. Luckily the chapters are short, and I make sure to talk through each part of the story before we move on. So far, she seems to like it and keeps asking for more.

Sophie is happy enough about her new bed.

She’s sleeping in it no worse than she did in her crib. The first night, Joe put her to bed and thought she was going to stay there. Ten minutes later I looked up from my computer and saw her peeking around the corner into my office with a naughty smirk, having opened the door, scampered down the hall and climbed down the stairs all by herself. She’s so tiny in this new big-girl bed. It’s so incredibly sweet.

There’s another little Sophie story that I’ve been meaning to share. Sophie watches Julie open the door on her side of the van and wants to do her side “by self” too. Only Sophie can barely reach the handle, and certainly doesn’t have the leverage to pull it hard enough to open it. So I’ve been pulling a little trick on her. I count with her and have her try it one more time, then I secretly push the button on the remote control. The door opens and I get to see that glowing so-proud-of-herself smile.

Now it’s 11:43. I have a big meeting to go to in less than 12 hours. One about a family matter, one which will probably leave me with more questions than answers, more worries than reassurance. I think I’d better go get some sleep.

*I really thought Photoshop was going to rotate these for me. Sorry – no time to go back and do it by hand tonight.

Holiday Weekend, A Good Start….

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

A few cute family pictures to share…

We were sorting out clothes, making the switch from winter to summer wardrobes (finally!) yesterday. As part of that process, I was digging through giant bags of hand-me-downs we’d gotten from some neighbors. Julie found this blue hat, loved it, and has been wearing it constantly since.

Last night we had friends over for a barbecue. The girls sat together at the little table for all of five minutes before they decided they wanted to sit in our laps at the big table.

Dessert was watermelon.

Julie ate about six pieces.

This morning we’re having a video conference with Uncle Dave and Aunt Jinnie in NYC.

In a little while we’re going to head over to IKEA and buy a mattress for Sophie’s big-girl bed. We’d bought a bunk-bed set when we got Julie’s bed, and we’ll set up the second one separately for now.

I stayed up late last night knitting on my second pair of Sock Wars socks and spinning another cop of singles. (See how I’m all into using my spinning jargon?) This time I’m going for something much thinner and tightly spun. More knitting content next time, promise!

Jackpot!

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Just a quickie post tonight – I was at the store earlier starting a new session of my two-color knitting class, and now I have a bunch of laundry-folding and other exciting chores to do before bed.

But I had to share my excitement at the windfall jackpot that came my way tonight. One of my coworkers passed along some old issues of Knitters’ Magazine that one of our mutual friends from a now-mostly-defunct knitting group thought I would like.

Yeah, baby! These are from the ’90s and well before I even knew how to knit, let alone started collecting knitting magazines. I’ve flipped through a few of them, and I may have to share some pictures of some of the more interesting projects in there. Still, there is some good information and a few patterns that might even be knittable or at least inspiring. Yay!

Also, I decided to knit a hat along with the class I’m teaching. I’ve had it on my to-do list to knit a new hat to go with my brown coat that I bought last winter, and I’ve had it in my head to use some purple (to go with my scarf that I knit a couple months ago) and some green. I’d thought I was going to use some of the Creative Focus from Nashua that the store started carrying not too long ago. But when I stood there staring at the wall of worsted-weight yarns, I liked the colors in the Berrocco Ultra Alpaca better, plus it’s slightly less expensive and hey! half alpaca and quite soft.

The colors in this photo are not very true, but it was the cutest take of the batch. The one on the middle at the bottom is actually purple. I’ll have to dig through my stitch pattern books for some inspiration and get at least a small start on the thing before next week. So much for sticking to my diamond sweater project – I’m still very excited about it, but this needed to be done as well. And the Sock Wars socks, and another project that I’m not going to tell you about till it’s done, and my elbow’s feeling much better so I’ll squeeze in some more spinning. In all my free time, you know.

Oh, Yes I DO Have a Problem!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I have no idea how this happened.

Well, maybe an inkling. I mean, I was curious about how to ply my new singles yarn into something a little more well-balanced and less twisty-wormy. So I consulted one of the many books on spinning that I checked out from the library last week and ooh it looked so simple. Before I knew it, I woke up from a daze with an overloaded spindle full of newly plied yarn. Did you know that there is a name for the bunch of newly-made yarn wound around the spindle? It’s cop. I had a big cop on my hands. I don’t even want to think of who might arrive here having googled the words in that last sentence.

So yeah, new yarn. I washed it to set the twist and now it’s hanging on the line in the back yard to dry. It’s probably mostly dry right now. Because all of this happened before 9 a.m. this morning. Right before some little friends came over to play – their mom needed a sanity break, and Sophie needed some company while Julie was at school. A totally symbiotic relationship – especially since their mom brought me a giant Cafe Mocha from Starbucks when she came to pick them up.

But back to the yarn for a minute. While I was in that wool-induced haze of plying, something occurred to me. I tell my students in my beginning knitting classes something all the time. I tell them that although they are working on a pair of mittens, the real product they should get out of the class is the ability to knit. And they roll their eyes at me and keep swearing under their breath at their mistakes. But I find the thought to be comforting. I’m making some crappy yarn, yes. But I’m learning how to spin, and I’m having a great time doing it.

For those of you out there who are real spinners, can I ask a question? The resulting yarn seems relatively balanced – it doesn’t twist up on itself when relaxed. But I wonder – could I have put a little more twist in the singles in the first place, and then a little more twist in while plying it? I was hesitant to put too much twist in the singles because they wanted to worm like crazy as I rolled them onto the spindle. I guess I’ll be doing some experiments to figure it out for myself on the next batch – as soon as my elbow stops hurting.

And, in my defense – although my right arm is still sore from rolling the spindle down my leg to start it spinning, it’s okay that I did a little plying this morning because you use your other side to ply the yarn – the twist has to go in the opposite direction.

A New Obsession

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I think I may have a little problem. A problem that anyone not involve in the knitting and fiber-related scene will probably not understand. I’m liking this spinning thing maybe a little too much.

The last we saw my new spindle and ball of wool roving it looked like this:

I have to admit that I struggled with the first few tries. I got some crazy-lumpy stuff that really qualifies as yarn under only the loosest of definitions. Then I went back and read my book again and figured out that I needed to fluff up the roving and maybe even pre-draft it before I tried to spin it. And I had an ah-ha! moment. But let me just explain a bit more for those who, like me till just a couple days ago, read the word “pre-draft” on blogs that talk about spinning and either kind of glossed over it or tried to figure out what the heck it meant by context.

The roving is already prepared fiber – clean, combed, ready to spin. But it’s been wrapped up in that ball for a while and the fibers have gotten all cozy with each other. They’re tight, they’re buddies, those little individual pieces of sheep hair. So it really helps if you simply grab a length of the roving and give it a (fairly gentle) whip-like shake or two. It loosens it up and makes it easier to pull apart just enough to get the right thickness of yarn. And on top of that, you can split the roving length-wise to get it even closer to the right amount. I started splitting my roving in half and then in half again and OMG suddenly it was working out much easier!

I spent a little free time while the girls were playing yesterday spinning it up. I kept saying “just one more strand of fluff” to myself. And then one more and one more. And I noticed that my arm was hurting a little bit and yet I still couldn’t stop myself. I am not getting glorious, lovely yarn just yet, but I am getting better and most importantly I am having fun. Here’s what it looked like when I took a picture a few minutes ago…

And then, even though my arm is sore today, I picked that spindle up and said “Just one string of fluff” And I spun it, and I wanted to do more even though I have a million other things I need to try to do during nap time today. But I found a scrap of self-control and banished the whole mess up to the top shelf out of sight till my arm is recovered a bit.

I think I have a project in mind for the finished yarn – it is something frivolous and small, something that will be fine knit in crazy thick-and-thin yarn. Something that I will tell you about when the time comes. You’ll never guess, so don’t even try.

In the mean time, I’m still working away on those purple diamond sleeves. I was sitting in my usual place on the couch watching a DVD and right in the middle of the row the other night when Joe emerged from his office. He’s been playing the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, which I find quite horrifying. But we all pick our poisons and he does put up with my fiber obsession and other craziness, so I suppose I can look the other way when he chooses to play murderously violent games that spew language that makes even my potty-mouth face blush. He only plays it when the girls are asleep in their beds.

But he came out and looked over my shoulder to see what I was up to, and when I held it up for him to see, he stepped back in shock and uttered some choice expletives. I guess my choice of hobby is just as wild and crazy as his sometimes is.

It is a little scary looking.

But it’s beautiful on the right side, and that mess of tails will eventually go away. I’m so glad I’m knitting these both at once, because knitting one knowing that I would have to go through the whole business a second time would be too daunting.

I’m still on hold for the moment with the Sock Wars business, but I have identified my next target – Emily in Wyoming. I’m waiting for her assasin to be killed off and send me her socks in progress to work on. It might be a few days. Maybe I can squeeze in a bit more spinning in the mean time – and I have to decide whether I want to try plying these wild singles or not.

Oh! and one other tidbit. I was thinking about my wedding anniversary that’s coming up next month. It’ll be seven years. Joe and I usually try to follow the traditional gift themes at least on some metaphorical level each year. I went and checked out the 7-year gifts, and it’s copper or – you’re not going to believe this – WOOL! Buwhahahaha.

A Good Day…

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

For dandelions and slides at the park by our house.

Socky Socky Sock Socks

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

The never-ending parade of socks on and off the needles continues around here. I have no news on the Sock Wars front – my target hasn’t received hers yet, and I’m still working my way down the list of targets beyond her to send me some unfinished socks. The last person I talked to is stationed at the US embassy in Beirut, and was going to mail her socks off today. She’s not sure when she’ll actually be killed since she can’t get her incoming mail what with the Hezbollah roadblocks keeping traffic from the airport. Yikes. That is one of the cool things about these exchanges. I never would have gotten to exchange e-mails with this very nice lady in such an interesting situation otherwise.

As for my assassin, I haven’t heard from her in several days either, but she’s still listed as alive in the database. Tick, tick, tick…will just have to wait and see for now.

In the mean time, I continue my dependency on plain stockinette socks for on-the-go knitting. I took them all out for a little field trip yesterday when we were at the park for our playdate…

Starting at the bottom, the Regia Silk stripe socks that I just finished, then the Opal ones that have been hanging around as backup because I’m not so in love with the colors, and then on top the skein of Meilenweit cotton-wool-nylon yarn that I was getting ready to cast on with next. I had a horribly hard time picking which skein of cotton-blend to knit next because they were pretty much all sitting there begging. I finally did the eenie-meenie-minie-moe trick to select this one.

I knit well up the cuff of one of the Opal socks while I was teaching a class today, and managed to split the new ball into halves and cast on for one late last night.

Here’s the glamor shot of the blue stripe socks.

I loved this project. I love knitting with this Regia Silky yarn – it is so smooth and soft. I love the stripes. I love the way they feel on my feet. I used two 50-gram skeins with just a little bit left over from each, but I have size-11 feet and like my cuffs longish. I do tend to knit loosely, and I used this pair of socks to try out my Addis in US size 0000. I loved those too – will definitely be using them for more socks in the future when the yarn is on the thin side of fingering.

Moving on to a quick dose of the cute kids – Julie had her pre-school end-of-year concert on Thursday. Unlike her holiday concert, when she absolutely refused to even step on the platform with the other kids, she participated fully this time and seemed to have a lot of fun.

I let her put on a pretty-pretty dress, and of course Sophie wanted to dress up too then. So we took some pictures…

The songs the kids did were hilarious. I got several of them on video, but for tonight I’ll share just one. The video and sound quality are poor, but you’ll get the idea.

The Next Big Thing

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

For at least a week, I’ve been meaning to post about the next main-feature knitting project on the horizon now that the Sunrise Circle cardigan is complete. I’m kind of excited about this project – finishing Sunrise as quickly and successfully as I did has given me hope that I can whip out the next one if I just focus on it as well. But then there was the whole Sock Wars thing…

I’m in a lull with the Sock Wars business at the moment – I shipped of my killer socks yesterday morning, and I’m pretty sure my target has shipped off her socks to her target. I’m waiting to find out if my target’s target still has socks in progress and whether she will send them to me to finish before my assassin finishes her socks and gets them to me. The whole set of scenarios starts to get more complicated even than that depending on who “kills” whom when, so we’ll just focus on the project at hand till definitive information arrives.

Here’s the pair that I sent off.

They’re not too bad, really. I don’t think the stitch patterning shows up very well, and to be honest the Tofutsies yarn wasn’t as horrible as I’d expected. I still don’t like the way it’s spun, but I think it will be soft enough when washed. I didn’t bother blocking these because I needed to get them off quickly. And, because I know my target is reading, I’ll just mention that I was careful to follow the pattern as closely as possible because that’s what I thought the rules required. If I had realized that there was some leeway in the contest rules, I would have added a repeat or two to the cuff and done some more decreases on the toe.

So to get down to business with the “new” project. It’s actually a quite-old UFO project which I am determined to get off my back. I started this sweater in February 2005, and put it away for several reasons including a)it was too complicated to be working on with a cranky toddler who never slept in the picture b) we were getting ready to put our house on the market, and I didn’t have time to knit and c) I had reached a point in the design process where I felt stuck – in part because I wasn’t sure I’d have enough yarn for what I wanted to do.

Well, life is a little bit simpler now. I at least have a couple of hours to myself most evenings these days, and am not quite so utterly exhausted all the time. I pulled that sucker out and did some serious thinking about what I wanted to do with it – either finish it or throw the whole mess away. This is not a good project for frogging and re-knit, as you will soon see.

I decided to see if I could get some more of the main color yarn, which would solve the main part of the problem. Schoolhouse Press to the rescue! I bought this yarn when I was at Meg’s knitting camp in July of 2003, and I wasn’t sure they even carried it any more. Luckily, the nice lady who answered the phone helped me determine which yarn it was, figure out which colors I needed – I decided to go ahead and order a bit more of all of them just to be really safe. I knew I’d be getting different dye lots, but since this is an intarsia project I think I can live with that.

And the very next day, this box showed up at my door – I’d called in the morning, and Schoolhouse Press is just a few hours away in Wisconsin. Still, that’s awesome service!

Here’s what was inside. Look familiar to anyone? Probably not. It’s Bartlett Yarns wool, which is so very nice and heathery, a little bit squishy and not too itchy. Quite thick, and knits up a little heavier than worsted weight to make a great jacket-type sweater.

And this is what I had at home already. The main body of a sweater, the fronts and the back all as one piece, knit up to the armholes. The nice thing about pulling out a very old UFO is that it’s sort of a head-start kind of project. I have only to knit the sleeves, join them up EZ-style to the body, and knit up to the neckline. I’m even knitting in the front edging in moss stitch with the body, so there will be no added button bands and very little finishing at the end.

Here’s a picture of how the new dye lot of the main color goes with the old sweater. Quite well, I think. I’ve got enough of the old yarn for sure to finish the main body part of the sweater. I think I will use the new for the sleeves at least up to the join, and that should take care of things. After the join, perhaps I’ll alternate rows or something. But they really are quite close, and with the various-colored diamonds to break things up, I’m confident that I can be satisfied with at least that aspect of the results.

Here’s the back side of the main body so far just in case you’re interested. I was a good girl way back when I was working on it before and wove in my ends as I went. But that is typical for me. I can’t stand any more mess than absolutely necessary.

And just for fun, here is what that main body looks like when it’s folded as you’d see it in use.

I had started the sleeves during the previous incarnation of the project, and had to rip them back when I realized (if I recall correctly) that they were a little too narrow and that I had put a color in the wrong place on one of them. That was the true breaking point that made me put the mess away.

So I’m casting out for sleeve island, and I decided to go ahead and knit them both at the same time on the same needle.

It is a big messy mess, but I know that it will be easier for me to slog through them both at the same time rather than doing one whole piece and then doing the same whole thing over again. In my brain, it is somehow easier to do it simultaneously and then when I am done with that part, I’m really done. I kind of like intarsia – love the results, in fact, and don’t mind too much the wild yarn-wrangling that’s involved. It kind of makes me laugh to look at the giant mess and know that somehow I am going to magically transform it into a thing of beauty.

In the mean time, this is what’s piled (in one small spot) on my office floor. We won’t even talk about what the rest of the office looks like because it is too scary.

I’ll leave you with a cute family moment. Joe’s parents were over to watch Sophie for a while this morning, and when I came home they hung out for a while longer so that they could see Julie when she got off the bus from pre-school. Joe’s mom was singing songs (in Korean) with Sophie, and Sophie was loving it.

Coveting

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I am busy. Oh so busy. Busy preparing for my class tonight, and also busy – really really busy – trying to finish these damned socks. Quickly, I will just share with you that I had one sock completely done and just waiting to be kitchenered at the toe when I realized that I had royally f*’d up the heel. There are pictures, but I am too busy to load pictures today. Naptime only lasts so long, people. So I ripped that sucker back, and now it is done and I am well past the heel of sock number two. I would reallyreallyreally like to get those sock in the mail tomorrow morning. Why? Because I think I actually have a chance of getting a second pair of socks in my hot little hands before I get killed off, and I think that would be fun. I can’t explain why. It is inexplicable. But I do at least have the stitch pattern totally memorized now.

Enough. In the mean time, I haven’t really touched my new spindle since I took that picture the other day. But a crack has opened in the dam of “I’m not a spinner” so now I am coveting all kinds of spinny things.

Things like sheep to sock kits…thanks to Cashmere Dreams, who posted on her blog about receiving one. Thanks, beeeatch. (Just kidding, love you dearly but it’s still all your fault even though you don’t even know me.)

Also? I think I might really want one of these. Because they’re incredibly cute, and although I really love the look of those giant old-school spinning wheels, from all the stuff I see on the blogs and around the internet and even in person at the Sheep and Wool festival, people don’t have them around all the time and they’re really big and not portable. And because Aisha just got one. Again, thanks, beeeatch. And again, you know I’m just kidding. I love you dearly even though we do know each other and I’m at risk of you thinking I’m gonna get all stalky on you, which I promise I won’t! Okay, this is getting a little freaky, I think it’s because I’ve been working too hard on those socks.

Finally (not finally, but all I have time for today) And I don’t even have time to find a proper link – but I really need a class. Maybe from here. And some time to take it and practice and stuff.

But for right now I’ve got to go knit some killer socks.