Archive for June, 2008

Spinning, Sofa-ing, Splashing

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I remain mostly too busy having fun around here to bother documenting the fun. But I’m taking a brief break during naptime to stop by and say hello.

First, let’s look at the spinning progress. I finished up the third cop (spindle-full) of singles. And I had a question from a muggle non-spinning friend (Hi, Doug!) about what exacty I’m spinning with, so I think I need to do some basic ’splaining. Here’s a picture of my three spindles full of yarn.

The spindles are made of wood, with brass rings around the circle at the top to help balance the weight in the best way so that it will spin longer. The idea is, the spindle acts as a top. You hang the newly-made yarn off it, then start it spinning so you can spin some more of it. Yes, Doug – super low-tech. So low-tech that methods like this have been used for tens of thousands of years.

Now, the spindles are standing in a gadget called a Lazy Kate. It’s a tool that you use for plying. Most yarn is made up of several plies, or layers of single-spun yarn. It makes it stronger. The lazy kate holds the spindles for me, I run the three strings through the tension ring like so…

And then I use a fourth spindle to twist the three together, winding up the finished yarn onto the stick as I go.

Once the yarn is all spun, I unwind it off the spindle and onto this:

That’s a niddy-noddy. I use it so I can make a big loop with the yarn – sort of like winding an extension cord around your arm. Only faster and neater. Once the yarn is skeined, you tie bits of yarn around it in several places to secure it so that it can be washed. Washing it does something called “setting the twist” which means that it kind of finishes the yarn, kind of like how washing and drying your hair when it’s on curlers sets the curl.

And to clarify, spindles are different than spinning wheels – two paths to the same end. And yes, spinning wheels are still mostly made out of wood – there are some versions made out of PVC pipes, some made from old bike wheels, and various other materials, but the most popular styles are still made mostly from wood, with metal fittings and often ball bearings these days. Very old-school

As an aside to my other readers, Doug is a very cool guy. He lives in Hawaii, spends a lot of time sailing, has been to the north pole (wearing one of my handknit hats!), and a while back offered to make me some titanium dpns. Where’s my knitting-needle love, Doug?

And a close-up of the finished yarn. I’m happy with how this batch turned out. I still have more than half of the fiber left to spin before I can knit up some socks with it.

In other news, we got the new living room furniture we’d been planning to buy, and now our living room looks completely different.

The couch, chairs and ottoman are from IKEA. The rug is a really nice one that we’d had rolled up in the basement since we moved here. I thought I’d never find a place to use it again, and kind of forgot that we even had it. But when I saw the furniture all set up, I thought it was worth bringing it out and taking a look-see. The colors match perfectly, and although the size is much smaller than I’d wanted, I think it just may work. In any case, I’m going to live with it for a while before I go spend another big chunk of change on a new rug.

I feel like such a grown-up with real matching furniture! All this just in time for a house guest who’s arriving tomorrow. One of Joe’s lovely cousins will be spending the night here tomorrow night, and I’ve also been running around scrubbing here and there trying to bring the house back up to a liveable standard. We don’t want her running away screaming when she tries to use our bathrooms, and the dust bunnies have been getting a little too assertive lately. Having guests is such a great reason to to ahead and do the necessary cleaning!

Finally, we took our first trip of the year to the splash pad today.

It was a bit chilly, but we had a good time. I was going to fill up the girls’ wading pool, but it was cloudy this morning and I didn’t think there was enough sun to warm the water up in time for them to play this afternoon. Maybe Saturday will be warmer.

Next time, a knitting update. I have a finished object to report and some small progress in other areas as well.

Quick!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Sophie is napping (but maybe not for too much longer) and Julie is busy putting on a fashion show with her Polly Pockets – I have no idea where she got that idea, but I’m letting her roll with it. So quick, let’s see if I can type out a post to catch up on the goodies going on around here.

The anniversary dinner on Monday night was an overwhelming success. I’d suggested to Joe the whole cheese-and-chocolate-only idea, but it turns out he really wanted to have the meat course. So we compromised with a single serving of the broth-pot fondue along with an artichoke-spread first course and a dark chocolate-Bailey’s Irish Creme dessert. It was awesome, but Joe of course complained about his overstuffed tummy for the rest of the evening.

Here’s what Joe looked like the first time I tried to take his picture over the main course. He always does this to me when I try to take his picture, and honey, you get what you ask for – the whole Internets gets to see your blech face. Like it’s frozen that way for eternity.

Here’s his nice, normal happy-to-be-eating-yummy-meat face.

And then the waiter saw us taking pictures and offered to take one of both of us.

Let me just say how nice it was to have an entire meal where I got to sit quietly and enjoy my food without having to deal with my lovely children. It happens so rarely, and I miss it. But anyway, we actually had an adult conversation, we took our time eating, and ended up leaving by 7:30 because we’d gotten there so darn early in the first place. No way were the kids going to be asleep yet at that point, so we decided to go do a little shopping in the hopes that maybe just maybe his parents would get them to sleep and give us a true night off.

So we stopped by Crate and Barrel and shopped for a new rug for the living room to go with the new furniture that’s headed our way. I think we found something we can live with, and then we even had time to stop at the book store before heading home. Of course Sophie was still wide awake, and it took me almost an hour to get her down. But no worries. A nice anniversary for another year together. He’s a keeper.

A quickie note on the spinning progress. Still no decision on wheel-buying. I think I do need to make an appointment to go out to Detta’s, especially after all the comments pushing me to head out there from the last post. Yes, of course I will go out there by myself and take my time. As cute as I think the Schacht Ladybug wheel is, I just read a review on Samurai Knitter’s blog that gives me second thoughts. I think I need to make sure I go out there with an open mind and try more than one wheel to get a good feel before I make a decision.

Meanwhile, my blog-reading neighbor came over while I was spinning in the back yard yesterday evening and commented on how the colors of my current project looked a lot different than she’d expected. So I made a point to take a natural-lit picture right then and there in an attempt to give the world a better idea.

Someone asked what colorway I bought – it’s Fire on the Mountain. I’m working on my second spindle-worth now, and may actually finish it tonight or so. That will leave me with one more spindle to go before I can ply my first batch. Then I will have to do three more spindles-full and ply those too. And then I’ll have to repeat two more times because I wasn’t able to fit the full length of my 1/6 split roving onto my small spindles. I know, clear as mud. Sorry.

We were out at the park with some friends this morning – a park with a quite steep hill which Julie wanted to climb. Sure, I said.

And then the little girls wanted to follow. You can just see Julie as a tiny speck at the top of the hill in this one.

I ended up climbing with the little ones up and holding their hands, so here’s the view from the top.

Luckily nobody went tumbling down. It’s finally warm enough here today that I think I will let the girls get the hose out and play in the water later this afternoon when Sophie wakes up and they’ve eaten a snack. They’ve been begging me to do that for weeks, and it’s just been a bit too chilly so far. Now look at that – I’ve posted my pictures and still have a few minutes left to spin. See ya later!

Lots of Cool Stuff

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Wow – it has been so long since I posted and so much fun stuff has been going on that I am in desperate danger of losing track and never catching up. So I am yet again dumping large quantities of information and pictures at your feet. Brace yourselves.

Garage Sale -

When I last wrote in, I was insanely busy preparing for a garage sale. Yikes. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. I mean, it was okay, but it was a lot of work and I ended up clearing about $50 for the day. At least it was a nice day outside, and my in-laws took the girls so they wouldn’t be stressed out watching their stuff get picked through and taken away. I did end up getting rid of a lot of stuff, but a lot of the big stuff is still hanging around – I need to either list it on Craig’s List or Freecycle but haven’t had time yet.

In the future, I think I will strive to find new homes for things as they are discovered to be unneeded in ours either by giving them to a local charity, a friend, or listing it on the internet for sale or give-away. Much easier and less stress. But now I’ve got the experience under my belt.

Spinning News -

I’ve got one more picture of the red-orange merino to show you.

The three skeins of this yarn turned out really nicely, and within a certain tolerance thickness wise. I’d say the last skein is definitely fingering and the first skein is more like sport/DK give or take, but I can get away with using them in the same project. The only catch is that the last skein I spun (the one in the middle in the picture) turned out self-striping – pretty much on accident. You can see it just by looking at the skein. I had been planning as I spun the yarn to make it into a lace scarf or small shawl, but now I think it will have to be socks. I can use the thickest skein for the heels and toes, switch to the stripey one for the feet and up part of the ankle, then back to non-stripey for the ribbing or whenever the stripes run out. Unless any of y’all have a brighter idea. Unfortunately, this stuff isn’t superwash.

More Spinning -

I just couldn’t resist digging in to my next project – the Sheep to Shoe kit from Blue Moon. No surprise there, right? You start with this giant pile of roving.

Oops – I should have warned you to don some sunglasses. It’s pretty bright. Then you split the roving in half lengthwise to make two seperate balls. Which you then split in thirds lengthwise as evenly as possible to make a total of six balls.

I left one of the big balls (big balls! get your mind out of the gutter!) intact and will split it later.

Eventually I hope to have two nice skeins of self-striping three-ply barberpole yarn. In the mean time what I have is this:

Oh, my this yarn is fun to spin. It is so much fun to watch the colors change. I have been dropping my spindle a little more than I like because the merino is slippery. But that brings me to another angle of the whole spinning-obsession topic. The day I bought my first spindle and fiber at the sheep and wool festival, I ran into a friend from Knitting Camp who lives in Eau Claire. She warned me that spindles have a way of multiplying and to watch out. Well, she was right.

A couple weeks ago, I decided that the Ashford spindle I had started with was really nice but too heavy for the lightweight yarns I prefer to knit with and want to spin. So I looked around the ‘net and chose a couple of Greensleeves spindles from the Woolery. I bought two of the Ethan Jakob models because I wanted to try plying directly off the spindles onto my Ashford. They arrived and I liked them okay – they didn’t spin as smoothly or as long as the Ashford, but I figured that was to be expected because they are so much lighter.

The only catch was that by the time I had finished spinning a full cop on each of them, they both had big chunks missing from the top edges. I wasn’t handling them especially carelessly, but I couldn’t help dropping them sometimes, and we have hardwood floors. I was disappointed, to say the least. These spindles weren’t exactly cheap – although cheaper than many I’d looked at.

Well. I looked around the internet some more – mostly out of curiosity – and decided that I needed to try some Golding spindles. I know, if I had been a more responsible consumer I would have ordered one and decided whether it was worth buying more. But I got caught up in the enthusiasm, and there is the combined shipping issue, and suddenly I was ordering not one, not two, but three identical ring spindles (so I can make three-ply yarn!) plus – um – this thing…

That’s a lazy kate for spindles – for you lay people, it’s a contraption that assists in plying, or twisting together multiple strands of yarn that have been prepared on seperate spindles.

I have no regrets so far. The new spindles are really well balanced, and so far seem to spin at least as long and as smooth as the heavier Ashford. Plus the ring around the top edge probably protects it a bit when it falls on the floor. I can’t wait to try out plying with the Lazy Kate. If you’re at all interested in spinning, you should go check out the Golding website. This guy is an amazing woodworker and produces beautiful fiber tools including spinning wheels and looms as well as gorgeous spindles. I bought about the most boring kind he makes – partly because I like simple lines and partly because I was looking for durability and function. I tell you what, though – if I had $5,000 to spend on a spinning wheel I would so totally buy one of his!

And speaking of buying wheels – Joe made me an offer today. I got him a somewhat lavish Father’s Day gift (a flat-screen monitor for his computer) and he had kind of fumbled on my Mother’s Day gift (a cheap inexpensive piece of software for my computer that I didn’t want and that doesn’t work with Windows Vista anyway). I don’t mean for him to feel guilty. I wanted him to have the monitor, and I had told him I didn’t want a Mother’s Day gift anyway because I’d just had a free day at the Sheep and Wool festival where I’d bought myself the spindle as a gift.

But then our anniversary is coming up tomorrow, and he knows I’m kind of lusting after a spinning wheel. So he told me that if I want one, I should go ahead and pick one out and buy it. Yowza! Well. We do have a semi-local store that sells wheels and has a great selection available to try out before buying – I’ve heard great things about it through word-of-mouth. I am tempted to make an appointment to go out there and do some shopping. But I hesitate because I’ve just gotten into the spindles and I’m having fun with them. I think maybe I should wait a bit – maybe do a couple more projects on my spindles before I jump into an even bigger investment. Maybe do a little more reading and pondering. I don’t think I want this badly enough yet, and maybe I need to evaluate the craft supplies I already own before I go about hoarding more. We’ll see.

switching topics to….

Dance Recital! -

The girls had their spring dance recital yesterday, and it went oh-so-much better than expected. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I just have to admit that we’ve struggled with the whole dance thing pretty much all year. Julie has a love/hate relationship with it, and Sophie has a mostly love/love relationship with it even though she wasn’t supposed to be a student in the first place. But Sophie butted right in and by the time they started rehearsing for the spring performance, we all accepted that she was going to have to be on stage too.

So we got her a little costume and she hung out backstage with the big girls waiting her turn.

I watched from the wings, so that I could chaperon them back off to the dressing room when they were done. My girls were in a smaller class because Julie was a little overwhelmed by the bigger class at the beginning of the year, so it wasn’t a problem for Sophie to be involved too. The teachers were out there with them, and they danced to one of Julie’s favorite songs – the theme from Sleeping Beauty “Once Upon a Dream”

After the performance Joe gave them each a bouquet of roses and we took some pictures.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my girls. Of how hard Julie has worked this year to participate in something that she loves but does not come easily for her, and of my little Sophie who may some day be one of those big girls dancing solos and will be able to tell her friends that she started dancing when she was one year old because she saw her big sister doing it and didn’t want to be left out.

The flowers are beautiful and sweeten up the air in our kitchen.

And then of course today was

Father’s Day -

Julie had made a picture frame at school and was so excited to give it to Joe she woke up talking about it. We also had a card and I made a giant pile of blueberry pancakes for breakfast. The girls ate more than I could believe would fit in their little tummies, and we all had purple mouths afterwards.

And Sophie had a purple face.

Later in the day I took the girls outside to play so that Joe could set up his new monitor and re-arrange his desk.

Julie found a little green caterpillar in the sandbox, and I was surprised at how willing she was to let it crawl up her arm.

And then we went out for pho for dinner at our favorite hole-in-the-wall, so it was an almost perfect day.

Tomorrow -

Tomorrow is our seventh wedding anniversary. Joe’s parents are coming over to watch the girls so we can go out for dinner. That should be interesting for them, putting the girls to bed. We are going to the Melting Pot, and I am really looking forward to it. Not only a meal without having to stop and take a child to the bathroom or cut up their food or wipe up a giant spill or fetch the tenth thing from the kitchen. But a meal consisting of fondue! I told Joe I’d be happy with the cheese and dessert courses only – maybe we could share a salad too. The hot oil course always scares me a bit.

Joe already knows what he is getting – he’s tried them on for me…

I don’t think they’ll be entirely finished. They’re both nearly done, but I spent a little more time spinning than I should have the last couple of weeks, and I’ve had the household chores keeping me busy in spades as well. Plus, I have to admit to having fallen asleep over them a couple of times as they are just. so. boring. to knit. But they are turning out beautifully, and they will be nice on his feet come next winter.

And that’s about it! See you next time.

Random Bits

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Have I mentioned that we’re getting ready for a garage sale? Well, we are, and I am in the midst of gathering and tagging the accumulated crappe from around the house – mostly baby-related crappe, but some of my own as well. And a ton of crappe furniture from the historical days of our single lives. I just know that the moment the sale is over, I will find at least as much crappe again around the house that should have gone in the sale.

I have no idea why garage sales are on Thursdays here in the Twin Cities. I thought it was strange when I moved here more than a decade ago and noticed this bit of cultural trivia. But Thursdays are the main day for garage sales, so that is when we are having ours. Luckily, I’m joining together with one of my awesome neighbors for this crazy thing – using our giant garage and her collection of folding tables. We’ll be sharing a couple beers as well, I’m sure.

In the mean time, I haven’t gotten so very much knitting done in the last few days – just the heel of one of those black socks and ready to do the heel on the second. The spinning continues, and I need to write an entire post about the spinning, but need to take some pictures. I finished some more yummy yarn.

Oh, hey! Sock Wars! I finally got my second pair of killer socks sent off on Monday. I came up with some good stuff to include in there, and I hope she likes her package. Unfortunately, I received a package in the mail on Monday afternoon with my own socks-of-death. Worse, they’re not exactly wearable. One of them is much bigger than the other, and both of them are really too big for my feet. I can’t decide whether I want to send them back to have the bigger one re-knit, or whether I should just be glad I’m done with the game. I think it’s going to be the latter. I have other knitting I want to do. I don’t think I’ll be playing this game again next go-round. :-(

Oh, a funny kid story. Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:40 a.m. to Sophie standing beside my bed. “I nee go pah-ey” she said. I need to go potty. I groaned, but she is pretty much potty training herself, and I have to encourage it even if it is only three and a half hours into my night’s sleep. I started to roll out of bed and pick her up, and I realized that she had already taken off her pajama bottoms and wet diaper before coming to find me. That little laugh made it almost worth hanging out with my two-year-old in the bathroom before taking her back to bed and trying to sleep for a couple more hours before morning.

Whew! I’m tired. Off to bed. I’ll try to have more interesting things to say tomorrow, time permitting. Let’s hope that the expected thunderstorms come through tonight and tomorrow so that Thursday can be semi-clear and my garage sale will get some traffic. I’ve got to unload this junk!

Knitting Ketchup

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

I’ve been having a horrible time getting around to blogging these last few days. It’s not in any way for lack of blog fodder – it’s more on the opposite of the spectrum in the way that I’ve been so busy playing with yarn and fiber that I can’t seem to pull myself away to tell you about it. I’ll warn you right now – it’s all about the knitting and fiber this time. If you don’t knit, move along now there’s nothing to see here.

Let’s start with the spinning. There was really no question the other day when I realized I had that felting kit. The fiber in it was luscious merino perfectly-prepared roving, and I needed a fix for my new addiction.

Oh, yeah. Oh, yum. The colors in that first picture are totally off. Here’s a more accurate one.

That first skein accounts for a third of the fiber I had, and I got 145 yards out of the 50 grams of roving. I think it’s somewhere around sport weight. Of course, this photo is a couple days old, and the second skein is done now and I’ve just started the third. I’m so spinning out of control. This yarn I’ve been making – so soft! So shiny! It’s gonna make a nice scarf or something.

Moving on, I finished my second pair of Sock Wars socks. I finished them several days ago, and they are still sitting around my office because I’ve been too busy spinning to get them packed up and sent off to my target.

Also? My target doesn’t want chocolate in her package. I don’t think I know how to send out a knitting swap package without chocolate in it. I’m trying to come up with something else to stick in there. Something light, because it’s going to the UK. Something not too expensive since this is not really a swap any more – I’m on to my second kill and I do have that new spinning addiction to feed after all.

I’m also cranking away on those Smooshy black socks. You can see in this picture that it’s not a true, true black, but has some shades of dark blue mixed in there. I love the way socks look and feel with ribbing all the way down the cuff and instep, but it sure slows down the knitting and makes it a little less fun that plain ole stockinette or something more interesting like lace. But these are an act of love, so it’s worth it.

Someone asked for details on the pattern. I’m using my standard short-row toe-up pattern – it’s available for sale on Ravelry or through a few local yarn stores. Once I finished the toe shaping, I started K2P2 ribbing on the top half of the sock, only in order to center it, I started with P1 and ended with P1. So it goes P1, K2, P2 … K2, P2, K2, P1.

And finally, we’ll look at someone else’s knitting – my hat class just ended, and my students were doing great. I especially love the skulls and crossbones.

Excuse me now, I need to go play with some wool.

Horsie Ride!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008