Monday, April 28, 2008

A New Bambino

A big ole "welcome to the family" to Michael Ralph Hooten!

Here's a hospital picture of my son Finis and his newest bundle of joy!

And here's Mom and Dad with little Michael!

Isn't he the cutest baby ever??? Now I've got a new baby to do some knitting for. I'm thinking booties maybe. I've actually never made any booties, but with my current sock addiction (which I will admit, is winding down) it seems the natural choice. I have plenty of yarn for a jumper, blankie, or just about anything I could want, thanks to a lovely friend on Ravelry, lyndylew who sent me a boxful of baby yarn a few weeks ago.

As for my knitting projects of the moment, I'm still moving right along with the Sacrifice socks for Chris, although it stills seems as though I knit and knit and never make a bit of progress. It's hard to try them on to see if they fit because he jerks his feet around every time I try to try them on him. Ticklish man!

The short row scarf, Hirohitos Revenge, is moving along as well, but I'm at crunch time decision wise. I've almost finished the first ball of Noro Kureyon, and now I'm trying to decide if I start the "middle section" with the Noro Silk Garden in a different but complementary shade, or if I order more Kureyon (I found a place online that has the proper color) and just keep knitting with the second ball of Kureyon until it arrives. I'm thinking I will probably at least try the Silk Garden and see if it works.

I don't have any current pictures of either of these projects, but I'll be sure and include them next time!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Winding up the Holidays

After a really tough week at work, and with Chris on school holidays and home 24/7 to boot, I was seriously in need of a break. I loved our little getaway to Edithburg! And I so deserved it!

We left out Sunday morning, directly after I had worked a real killer night shift Saturday sixth night straight at that. I never sleep well in cars, but I do knit pretty well in them. The trip over was spent knitting on the "sacrifice" socks...those solid black monstrosities I'm making for my dearly beloved. After arriving, we unloaded everything into a little beachfront cabin at the Edithburg caravan park.

A very nice place it was, to, with open living/kitchen, 2 separate bedrooms and an ensuite. Here's a peak inside:

Notice, the knitting bag was the first thing to make it in, and the last thing to go :)

We walked a bit around the caravan park and along the beachfront that first day, and that night we stayed in, watched a bit of TV and both of us hopped into bed early, for different reasons, but I was glad we did. I woke early the next morning, took my coffee and my knitting onto the veranda and watched the sunrise over the gulf, which was quite beautiful.

I got a new MP-3 player and had downloaded an audio book on it; Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, which I sat listening to it as I knit. I had brougt along the fringe jumper, but it got very little of my attention. I was intent on starting something new, and I'd brought along (among other things) my Noro Silk Garden yarn. I had decided to give the "Short Row Rib" scarf a try. I found this pattern on Magknits months ago, and copied it off, but Magknits has since "closed down", so sorry, no link available. It's a really cool pattern though, and I've been wanting to try it out for months, but other things kept getting in the way. Now was my chance.

The Noro Silk Garden was not cooperating with my ambition for it. Honestly, parts of it were like badly spun homespun, and literally disintegrated in my hands a couple of times. Considering how badly I wanted to try Noro, this was a grave disappointment. But I perservered, hoping it was only a flawed area of the yarn and I would get to better things further into the ball.

I was really loving the pattern, and the effects of the colours, but the yarn itself I can't say much for. It soon became evident that I was not going to have enough to make a very long scarf with the two balls I had, so I put it aside to give it a think and picked up the socks again.

Later that day, we went into the town and looked around, went over to look at the huge wind farms, and drove down to Wool Bay and took a walk on the beach. We were in no hurry, and all in all, it was a very relaxing day. We had tea at the Troubridge Hotel that night, and then settled down for another quiet night in. By this time, I was approaching the heel of the socks, and driving my super-duper tickelish husband mad making him try them on again and again. Finally, I was satisfied and started the short row heel. I left Chris to the TV and was up until after midnight finishing both heels, but was glad I did, as that meant I was back to more or less mindless knitting on the trip home.

We came home the next day, and made a planned stop over in Gawler. There's a shop there that sells yarn called "Crosbys of Gawler", so I found it, had a snoop around, but came out empty handed. Nice stuff, and a great selection of "Naturally" yarns from New Zealand, but nothing I just had to have, and I was too broke for "luxuries". Still, nice to have a look around and know what they keep on hand.

We came home through Adelaide, and stopped over at Chris' mom and dad's. I had been thinking about my "Noro Short Row" problems, and had decided to check and see if The Yarn Barn had gotten any more in, or had any more of that color, so I could make the scarf a more pleasing length. This was the perfect opportunity, as The Yarn Barn is very close to the inlaws, and I had somewhere to "dump" Chris while I yarn shopped. Anyway, they didn't have any Silk Garden that would suit the purpose, but they did have some Kureyon. While it's a slightly different color scheme, it's a colour that will go along nicely, and it was on sale, so I bought two balls.

Kureyon is 100% wool, while Silk Garden is wool and silk...and much softer, so my plans for the scarf were altered. Frog the Silk Garden done so far. Work both ends of the scarf with the scratchier Koreyon and the middle part that will be more in contact with my neck with the softer Silk Garden. So, after I got home, I tried to frog the scarf, but the yarn just kept falling apart, so I stopped trying and figured I'd try again if I really, really needed that bit of yarn I'd already used.

So I started over with the Kureyon. The colors are more muted at present than the Silk Garden, and probably will make for darker ends and a brighter middle, but I think it will work nicely, and if it doesn't, well, no big deal. As the Yarn Harlot says: "There aren't any knitting police!"

During those busy days from hell before leaving on my holidays, I ordered, and recieved a Wool Winder Kit. Now Chris is always good about helping me wind balls, and indeed, he hasn't lost his job entirely, as the skeins I dye generally are a bit too tangly after the process to be done on a winder without risking breaking it, but for commercially bought and untampered with skeins, he's been rendered redundant.

Anyway, I had been looking at ball winders on Ebay, and somewhere down the track learned that to be able to wind balls on it alone, I would need a skein holder as well. I found some good deals, or what I thought were good deals, on ebay, but then decided it would be prudent to check and see what they were going for at regular retail price. I googled and found The Knitting Box who sold a wool winder kit for 59.00, which was certainly cheaper than anything I had found anywhere else for both. Even cheaper than Ebay. So I ordered one.

About 3 days before we left for Edithsburg, the package arrived, but the wool winder had a bit broken off in transit. All wool winders thes days are plasticy little things, and easy enough to break. I took a picture and wrote to the store, and immediately got a response that they would send me another. (Now THAT'S customer service!) My replacement part arrived today, we got everything out, rigged up a place to set it up, as both the winder and the skein holder have to be clamped to a table.

After only one stuff up, I wound my first ball of yarn.

It's the Peace Fleece Chick Masala, and I'm very proud of myself, and very very happy with my new toy.

Meanwhile, Chris went and checked the mail after a few days, and my latest Koolaid shipment has arrived from mom! This one, finally, was held up by customs. I say finally because I really expected it to happen way before now. What must they think about hundreds of packets of powder getting shipped to me on almost a monthly basis I'll never know ;)

That's all I have for now. I'm off agian tonight, and Chris is going fishing with a buddy tomorrow, so I plan on having an entire day tomorrow all to myself! I plan on playing on Ravelry till my eyes cross and my fingers hurt!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So very long...

I've been neglecting the blog again. When I was thinking of what to write about today, I realized how much (and in some ways, how little) had gone on since the last entry. Now, being blessed with more thoughts to express than time to express them, I will, by necessity, have to make this as brief an update as possible.

Shopping wise, I've hit some high notes. Chris returned from the Flinders on a Friday. His father had picked up a satellite phone for him to take along (on the schools tab, of course) for emergencies, and it needed to be returned to his dad so he could return it properly, so after work that Saturday morning, I went and had a cuppa with his mom and dad and handed over the phone. Not wanting to waste the opportunity of a little city shopping, but being too tired to make an occasion of it, I decided to drop by the Highgate Needlenook. I'm trying to fill out my collection of Addi Turbo circular knitting needles in any event, but also decided to pick up some white Heirloom easy care, mainly to see how well it would take Koolaid dyeing. It will, most likely, wind up as some color or another socks.

A few days later, I decided to peek in my LYS here in Murray Bridge. She had gotten in some of Heirloom's "Jigsaw" yarn, which is a self patterning sock yarn. I bought the pattern to go along with it, as it will work fine with any Jigsaw colorway. Seemed the thing to do, and I like to support my LYS. But with Ravelry, it seems silly buying patterns of any kind. That doesn't stop me though, now does it?

Yesterday was the last of my yarnie shopping excursions. They are building a street full of courtyard homes almost directly across the road from my house, and were going to shut my electricity off for a good part of the day, I suppose so they could run power lines over there. So, knowing I would have nothing to TV, no computer...I stopped off in Mount Barker, had a bit of breakfast at McD's and then waited for Spotlight to open.

For the record, my previous trips to the Mount Barker Spotlight have not been that satisfying, at least not for yarn. It's a new Spotlight. It only opened it's doors last spring, and there was a bare bones "summer" supply of yarn to begin with. Half of the regular yarn space was being used for Christmas space. Then a couple months ago, when the fall yarns finally started to trickle in, they would sit in the boxes in the aisles, for days or in one case a week (that I know of). It was as though they had staff for every part of the store but the yarns and crafts. I was NOT impressed.

I had heard they had some decent, cheap sock yarn this year. Also, I wanted to get this years "Knitting Essentials" book, which has the patterns for their "house" yarn, Moda Vera. This trip, finally, the yarn section looked all put together and was in order, more or less. I found the sock yarn, but there was no price on the shelf. A salesgirl checked and told me it was $4.99. I thought, perhaps, she was mistaken, and half expected it to be higher when I reached checkout, but I got two balls of Moda Vera "Socks". To add to my blessings, they had the book I was looking for as well, although some of the patterns are simply repeats of last years, and all in all I'm not as impressed. Maybe it will grow on me.

As for my knitting accomplishments, I finally finished the "Magic Fruit Loops Socks", and I'm reasonably happy with them. The spiral rib pattern on the leg part did give me some fits and starts, and at one point I had to rip out about 30 rows...which was seriously frustrating, particularly when I was trying to get the two socks back on the one needle properly.

I started a pair of socks for Chris with the black Patonyle. I'm doing them in a similar fashion to the last ones...toe up, two at a time, magic loop. I'm basically improvising a pattern. Chris hates tight socks, so I'm doing a 2x2 rib on the top of the foot and will do the same for the leg. They are getting along. I'm about half way down the foot I imagine, perhaps a bit more.

I recieved the pattern from my Ravelry friend, and it looks fantastic, and I can get gauge with the Peace Fleece. The only problem that I can see is the size, which wouldn't fit me...and I haven't been awake and alert enough to read the pattern thoroughly and see if there is anywhere I could easily increase the size. Also an option...bigger gauge, but I'll have to play with that a bit. I don't want it looking gappy, so I'll see how far I can push the Peace Fleece and take it from there.

Speaking of Ravelry, I also recieved a lovely package from a fellow expat in the Random Acts of Kindness groups. American candy (Peeps, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and M&M's, a lovely card, and a book by Diana Gabaldon called "Crossstitch" which from all accounts is devine reading. I'm reading Debbie Macombers "Return to Blossom Street" right now, but as soon as I'm finished, I can't wait to dive into the Gabaldon!

Last but not least, I've done a bit of spinning, and promised mom a pic of me at the wheel when I did, so here's one for mommy!

So much for being brief!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Times up!

My house, well, it's looking a little better now! As you've seen the before picture of my living room, I thought it only fair to do an "after" shot. After a day of (on and off) hard labor, I've put away, dusted, carpet freshed, aired out, vacuumed and mopped. All that is left is this tiny spot around the computer, but it's where I am right now, and I'm saving that for last. I'm looking for him to walk through the door in about an hour.

I started on the legs of my two socks on one circ, the "magic fruit loop socks", in a spiral pattern from my Getting Started Knitting Socks book. It was a bit tricky to add a pattern NOT written for this method, but I just call one side of both socks A and one side B and wrote my own little pattern variation and waaalaaaa, I'm on my way. I dont know how tall/long I'm going to make them, I was thinking until I got low on yarn, which they say is a very good reason for doing toe up socks, and I can see that advantage. Trouble is, I'm barely halfway thru the two balls now, so I don't think that's going to be an issue. I suppose I'll just knit until I'm damn sick of this pattern :)

With all the cleanup, I've gotten absolutely nothing else done. I did lay in bed a bit last night and look thru pattern books for Aran jumpers/cardi's, not to mention searching for hours on ravelry. The trouble is, I reckon, there's just too many young, skinny, fashionable knitters out there, because all of the patterns seem to be made for them. Grrrrr.

A kind lady on ravelry has said she would mail me a pattern. I saw a cardi she made that I absolutely adore. It's got lovely cables and pretty textured stitchwork and it's shaped like a cardigan should be shaped. I messaged her about it. So sweet she is, she offered right away to send it to me, but hers is made with 12ply, and if I can't get a decent gauge, I'll have to keep looking. I doubt seriously I'd want to try and modify all those cables and gadgets, but I might if it has large uninterrupted panels or something. But if it doesn't work, I'm back to square one.

Despite my cleanup, I still have all of my peace fleece strown out all over the guest room (ie mom's) bed, so I can take a peek and cop a feel whenever I pass by. My excuse is, I'm leaving it out to show Chris. It is, after all, what I got from his mom for Christmas...or at least with the money she gave me, plus 30 bucks when it was all said and done. I do love it so though! Utterly fantastic stuff! I'm now trolling internet sites for other interesting wool to suggest to the coop. See how fickle I am?

Well, my week is over, and Chris just called. He's back at the school and waiting for his last kid to get picked up by their parents. My blogging is about to slow up considerably. I can just feel it...heee heee.

Yummy mummy

Mom just sent me pictures of her wearing the bow and scarf I sent her for her birthday. Isn't she a yummy mummy :)

Chris is due back home tonight, so I must get this mess back in order somehow, and get to the shops as well. I miss him but....I really do enjoy the solitude.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Who says life aint fair?

Yesterday I was determined to get some spinning done, but I must admit, I didn't get to that until late. What I really wanted to do was dye some of my fleece I have around here, particularly the white alpaca, but when I saw how much work preparing the fleece was, I shelved that for another day.

Instead, I picked up my socks and go the heel turned. How fun was that? Ok, not much, but it's done now. I sat at the computer and did it, with the tutorial on the screen in frount of me, and an audio book playing on WMP. Using the Magic Loop 2 socks at once technique, you do have to do the heels one at a time, which I did. I think I did a much better job of picking up the wraps neatly following this tutorial. The results certainly look neater than my last heel turning effort.

The socks on the tutorial are anklets, so I'm on my own for the leg part, and I still haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do with them. Some type of rib I suppose, or maybe a cable. I'll figure that out today.

But speaking of audio books, I had promised myself that during my extra free time this week I would figure out how to get audio books online onto a CD I could play in my car, or, well, anywhere. I love listening to audio books on my drive to work, or when I knit, but they are so expensive. You can get some audio book downloads online for free, and granted they are mostly classics and such, but until I can find some people that want to trade around with me, it will be perfectly fine. I like classics really, and I found a good site that has some of the best in classic romance..jane austen, the brontes, etc. I already knew how to download off the site, of course, but librivox had really clear instructions about which download served what purpose and a GREAT guide to get them burnt to CD properly using iTunes. So I downloaded Itunes and to my amazement, all my other saved libraries showed up on there, which I though was an awesome timesaver. I took a book from there that I had already downloaded, and whaaa-la, getting it burnt to disc was easy peasy. Mission accomplished!

My dye job from the day before I dryed, and the colors have came out exactly as I wanted them. I was afraid, once dry, they would become too light, which is always a chore, trying to guess the color once it dries, but these batches came out exactly as planned. Yippeeee!

Around 8pm I FINALLY pulled the spinning wheel and fiber out, and started up a new bobbin. I realize that this is heaps easier with the proper roving, done up in the proper way. I haven't paid much attention to the fleece preparation part of things..I just wanted to hop right in and get to spinning. I'm seeing now that it might have been worthwhile to investigate. I'm thinking though, I might start buying a few tops and such rather than fleeces, at least until I get the hang of the spinning thing.

I spun on and off for a couple hours last night, using some rovings a workmate gave me. There's a lovely grey, and a brown. I'm thinking I will spin a bobbin of each and then ply them together, although frankly, I'm not at all sure how much yarn I can get out of each roving, so those plans may change. As it is, I started with the grey, and did get some results.

The trouble I'm finding with spinning is keeping the singles a consistent thickness, but I hear that's common with new spinners, so I'm not too fussed. The big trouble though is that spinning hurts my back after a little while, and I find I have to get up, take a break, stretch, and do other things and then come back to it. I'm going to try shifting where I sit today, types of chairs, that sort of thing to see if it helps.

This morning the long anticipated knock on the door came! I could have kissed the AusPost van driver, but I was afraid she would run screaming and not drop the package first. Couldn't risk that, so I just grabbed my package and gave her a grinning ear to ear thank you and closed the door in her face, parcel hugged to my chest like a precious newborn. My Peace Fleece was here. I ripped it out of the bag, I held it, I looked at it carefully, noticing all the little nuances of color, the lovely pastel flecks in the Zarya Fog

the bright cheerfullness of the Chick Masala,

and the subtle but powerful hue of the Sheplova Mushroom.

I fingered its texture, feeling the yarn slide between my fingers, the sleekness of the wool and the prickly feel of the mohair. I put it to my nose and smelt that distinctive clean wool smell. I breathed in deep, then sighed. I'm in love. Again.

So I took my yarn up lovingly, color by color, and posed it for the inevitable photo shoot. For this, I opened the curtains of the bay window to give my new babies the proper lighting. Still, it's hard to capture the true glory of the colors on camera. Particularly the Sheplova Mushroom, whose closeups, even after several tries, failed to satisfy me.

I have enough Zarya Fog for a jumper or cardi, enough Chickie Masla for a shawl or a bolero perhaps, and enough Sheplova Mushroom for a hat, scarf, and mittens. Rough ideas of course. I have no concrete plans. Of course, it will have to be something big for the Zarya Fog. Having that many of the same dye lot begs not to be broken up, but really, the small possiblities are endless with the other two.

I'm on cloud nine! My house is a mess. There is wool flung everywhere. My open plan living/dining room has knitting and books on the couch, wool piled in chairs and on the floor, dry dyed wool hanging from the backs of the kitchen chairs ready to be wound, rovings and spinning wheel in the middle of it all. It truly looks like a mad crafty person lives in it now.

Chris would have a heart attack, but then, he's not due back until late tomorrow. It's just such a timesaver for a crafter if you can leave everything put, ready to pick up again when the whim takes you there. Or at least, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Now, I go to fix up a few things on Rav, figure out what pattern I want to do the leg of my socks in, and spin till my fingers fall off. Aint life grand???

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mourning Dyeing

TUESDAY: I've had a very productive morning on day 2 of MY week. Today was officially designated "dyeing" day, and that is precisely what I did.

I did a bit of knitting early this morning. I threw the curtains open on the bay window because I was expecting a package I DID NOT want to miss. The girl who runs the wool coop I belong to said she was mailing off everyone's Peace Fleece order Monday, and if she did that, being she is in SA too, it should have been here today. Larger packages (and this one should be pretty darn large) usually come by postal courier, usually before 10AM. No such luck. If it's not here tomorrow, I will email her and see if there was a holdup. At any rate, massive dissapointment on my part. This is what I spent the money Chris' mom gave me for Christmas on, and I'm STILL waiting on it.

On the positive side, when the mail did run, at around noonish, I had the book I ordered from Colonial Lake books in the post. THAT was a nice surprise! Socks Soar on Circular Needles by Cat Bordhi is a book I've been wanting for quite some time, and had almost given up finding it in Australia, but her site has lots of cool knitting and crafty sorts of books that are hard to get elsewhere in Oz.

Anyway, between all the online ordering I've been doing, and the lovely RAOK's people have sent, I'm disappointed if a day goes by and I don't get something knitty in the post. Hopefully, tomorrow will be covered by the Peace Fleece.

So now, down to business. I had thrown my TeAwa wool in to soak yesterday afternoon, so I reckon by this morning it was good and wet.

I had also started winding my white Patonyle into skeins (although I don't think my skeining method is much good) around the dining room chair backs as well, and left the last ball about half wound over night (now THAT sight would have garnered a few smirks from the DH). I finished winding it this morning, tied it off, and when my head had been cleared with enough coffee, I set to work. It was going to be a circus act, balancing two dye job at once, and I needed all my wits about me.

I pulled out the TeAwa Natural wool, which was good and soaked, arranged my pots and jars and bottles and dyes and went to work.

(Wouldn't Chris LOVE seeing ME playing with DYE in HIS kitchen. I think NOT!)

I was NOT going to make a rainbow effect this time. My idea was to go for something more subtle with shading. My original vision was to do it in shades of blue, dark at one end of the skein and gradually getting lighter towards the other end, but I wasn't sure I had enough blue koolaid to pull this off (the skein being 200g). After I pulled out all the packets of Koolaid, for some reason, the yellow caught my eye, and a second vision was inspired. How about I start with dark blue, gradually add yellow to make turquoise, then green, then yellow-green and then yellow at the opposite end of the skein. I got started with this concept and started mixing colors. I wound up with 6 shades of blue to green and scratched the yellow idea. I just didn't want that "loud" of a color contrast, and I THINK I made the right decision for what I wanted to do today, although I think the yellow idea would be a good one down the track.

I dyed away, which went off with only one hitch. One of my gloves split, and I've wound up with one very blue/green right hand. I then stuck the lot into the microwave and "cooked" my yarn. While it was cooking, I took the opportunity to throw my Patonyle into the sink and start it to soaking. Then I took a break for awhile, letting the TeAwa cool and the Patonyle soak.

When I came back to my work, I first set up a pot to boil, put a frying pan screen over it and sat a steaming basket on top of the screen. Then I carefully wrapped the TeAwa up into the garbage bag it was lying on and laid it on the washer while I got the Patonlye out of the soak water, gently sqeezing out the excess water. Then I threw some soap into the soak water, worked up some suds and threw in the TeAwa.

I took the Patonyle to the table. My vision on this one was clear. I was going to "spot dye" this batch, using only one color, Koolaids Black Cherry, a deep red. Off I went, splashing dye here and there. What fun! And I love the way it looked afterwards. Can't wait to see how it looks to knit up. I particularly wanted some socks to go with my boating outfit, which is a red and white crew style shirt with white capri pants. I had thought of solid red, but knew it would be hard to exactly match the shirt. I had thought of red and white stripes, but I really am not a fan of stripes. The spotty dyeing seems the perfect answer. I suppose I'll know for sure once it dries.

When I finished the spot dyeing, I threw the skeins (one at a time due to lack of room) into the improvised steamer, and set the timer for 8 minutes. I kept the pot of water underneath at just a simmer to keep things from getting too hot, and flipped the skein halfway thru.

Meanwhile, while the Patonyle was steaming, I took the TeAwa out of the wash water, drained it, and ran the rinse water. Then I put it in, rinsed it well, and hung it in the bathroom over the bathtub faucet.

By then, I was letting the Patonyle cool down to room temperature, changing out the wash water and then washing, rinsing and hanging the Patonyle.

Everything looks pretty darn great, if I do say so myself. More or less just as I'd invisioned. If I have one complaint, I wish I had used a bit less red on the Patonyle. But then again, we'll have to wait and see how that goes when I start knitting it up.

Now, what to do this afternoon? Well, I'm for sure going to knit more on my sock project. I might even pick up the jumper and do a few more exhausting rows. But absolutely, no excuses, I'm going to practice my spinning. I want to spin up the rovings a workmate gave me a couple weeks ago, but I want to get the feel of the wheel again before I give the good stuff a go. It's been almost a month since I've touched it. I really should do more spinning. I'm sure I will love it to peices if I can only get used to the process.