Monday, May 25, 2009

Playing Cowboys and Indians

Now that the glow from finishing the Bustaroony has started to dim, it's time to move on. Time to finish a pair of desperately needed socks. Yes, "needed". I've worn holes in two of my old pair, leaving me with only one pair of wearable socks. I do know there is such thing as darning, I just haven't found the time to learn how to do it.

This years Winter Roundup, our annual big Western Action shooting event was a success. It was (and I don't say this lightly) the best one yet, for me at least. Our posse (that is what our group of shooters are collectively called) was run by a husband and wife team, and things ran so much more smoothly than they have in the previous few years. We got thru the matches in record time, and even had a few minutes to sit and BREATHE between the matches on Saturday and the fancy dress get together on Saturday night.

Below, a picture of Chris in his civil war cap mom sent him from the states:

And me on the range Sunday, waiting to shoot. It was quite chilly, so the poncho stayed on until the last minute:

and shooting, minus the pancho because I'm dreadfully afraid a pistol will get stuck under it and I'll shoot my foot off:

That's "Coyote" behind me, husband in the couple who were our posse leaders/range officers for the shoot. Just wanted to give him and his lovely "Violet Rose" a two thumbs up for a job very very well done.

Now, most (if not all) of the shooters attending hadn't seen me since, at the very latest, last November. While Western action goes on all year round on a club level, most of the interclub shoots are done in the winter, so my weight loss was more than evident to them all. Twenty seven kilos gone is hard to hide, assuming I would even want to, which of course, I didn't. Consequently, I got lots of kind comments and congratulations on my weight loss, and that was fantastic.

Friday morning, I got two books that I had ordered in the mail from Colonial Lake Books. One was Victorian Knits Today, and the other was Colour in Spinning. Both were books I'd been pining over. Victorian Knits today is just pure sheer joyous eye candy, with the most exquisite pictures, equal to any coffee table book for sheer "flipthruability". As a bonus, it also contains stunning lace work patterns, and the only downside is that they are all so beautiful, how do you choose which one you want to knit? It has occured to me to start with the first one and work my way thru, which would take, ohhh, probably the rest of my life.

Color in Spinning is more of a text book on dyeing and using colour in fibre, and how to play with, blend or change up color during fibre preparation, using combs, hackles or carder. It's an older book, and it had been out of print and quite expensive if you could even find it, but has been put back into print as a paper back, and if you are a spinner, you should definately read this book. I had no idea I knew so very very little about color, and I'm only up to the third chapter.

I also took along just two projects. The first was my "Peace in the Hood" (CPH) hoodie, which I got next to nothing done on while there. The second was my Indian Corn socks. On the way there on Friday afternoon, I realized it was time to start increases for the gussets. They are being worked top down, with a Widdershins heel. Otherwise, they are plain ole stockingnet stitch and easy as pie. So, getting there at roughly 2 in the afternoon, I figured I'd have plenty of time to do the gussets and heel on both socks. HA! I did very little Friday night other than knit on those darn socks, and still was only just reaching the first heel by the time it was bedtime. I worked on them during my spare time over the weekend, which was minimal.

I wound up finishing the second heel on Sunday afternoon at the awards presentation. There were about 150 people in the room, sitting at long tables, and crowded all around me. The light was dim at best, and here I sat trying to pick up the short row raps and finish the second heel practically in the dark. This from a woman who, a mere 6 months ago, waited until I was alone, took the phones off the hood and found a quite corner to meticulously work the heel with no distractions.

Consequently, and it's no wonder, I did make a couple of boo boos on that heel that I had to paste up last night when I finished the socks. But all in all, I just wanted a pair of socks that were wearable until I could figure out how to darn the wholey ones, so they will do for their intended purpose.

In spinning, I've actually gotten quite a bit done. I spun up the merino and glitz batt from Wooleywombat, mentioned in the last post:

I plied, washed and set it yesterday, and it's now beautiful and dry:

I like to let my bobbins "relax" for a few days before I ply them, so after I got it all spun up, I went digging thru my fibre stash for something to put on the wheel next. I had in mind some alpaca, but when I went exploring, I found a second roving from Kathy's Fibres in the exact same colourway I had spun up before, the one I called "Navidad" when finished.

It then dawned on me that I had bought two rovings, and seeing more potential in having 200 grams of yarn rather than 100, I decided to spin that up in the same way as I'd spun the first one. I got one bobbin finished before I plied Wooleywombat's batt, and have the second bobbin now started on the wheel.

Yesterday morning, I recieved one of two books I ordered recently from fishpond. I really needed "Son of Stitch and Bitch" for a vest pattern in there that Chris actually likes. It's called Anchors Aweigh, by Kim Hamlin, and not surprisingly, has little anchors all over it. It's been a long time since I did stranded colourwork. By long time I mean I tried it once 20 years ago. To be frank, at the time, I didn't like it and moved on. But I'm all keen to try it again, and it's a project that Chris actually LIKES (oh, I mentioned that already, didn't I??)!!

The only way to get the pattern is to buy the book. I checked the local bookstores and, no luck. I checked the destash pages on Ravelry. Still no luck. So I went to the online book sellers. Now here in Oz, the online sellers list like bazillions of books, but in reality, they only keep the most popular in stock. Most of the books you order, they then order from overseas and ship them on to you. Consequently, delivery time can be tragically long. Thus my search in "other places" for something more expedient.

Fishpond offers free delivery for orders over $50, and their prices are reasonable, so I went with them. The Son of Stitch and Bitch Book was around $28, and I figured if I looked thru their knitting books, I'd find something else I wanted. Well, I found lots, really, but settled on Elizibeth Zimmerman's "Knitting Without Tears", which is a classic that I just didn't own. Fishpond must have had it in stock here in Oz, cause it arrived yesterday.

I haven't really had time to look thru it yet, but I've heard wonderful things about it. There's probably a lot I already know, but alot I don't, as with most knitting books I buy.

Sadly, the book that I actually need for the Anchor's Aweigh pattern is on that apparently fishpond didn't have on hand here in Oz, and it's likely to be another week before I get the book and the pattern. I've already been sourcing yarn though, and Gabrielle from American Yarns can get the Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport the pattern calls for. I've thought about trying to source yarn here, and still might, but Bendigo Woolen Mills is the only place I can think of that has multiple colours of 5 ply wool. Hummm, well, we shall see. I'll likely go with the original yarn in the original colours, as it just looks so darned spiffy in the picture.

Ah, there's something I meant to write about in the last post, but forgot, so I'll include that now. On Mother's Day, we went to my inlaws house for lunch. My mother in law went digging around and pulled out a lovely cardigan she had bought over a decade ago when visiting Scotland. It's an Aran cardi, and I believe the wool is Shetland but I'm not positive. I'm really thrilled to death with it.

The trouble is, it has a few holes in it now, and I need to figure out how to repair them. I will need some similar yarn, but I think it will be worth the effort.

I also started a new project. Saturday, I realized that I was nearing completion of the Indian Corn Socks, so I went to Ravelry and looked thru my queue for my next project. I decided that I would cast on the "Unmentionables" pattern from Knitty spring 07. I decided to use the yarn called for by the pattern, because drape and stretch seemed important in this pattern, which was Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. I ordered the yarn from American Yarns up in QLD a few weeks ago, so I was all ready to go.

The cast on was a bit tricky, for me at least, since I'd never done one like it. It was a crochet provisional type cast on, where you made a crochet chain with waste yarn and then picked up and knit the stitches thru the back loop of the crochet chain. I've started on the stockingnet part of the leg, and then will come back later, pull out the waste yarn and have live stitches to use for the ruffle at the end of the leg.

I was really in a bit of a hurry to get it started though, because we had a boat trip planned on Sunday, and I was afraid I would finish the socks on the trip and not have anything simple and reasonably small to knit on while out on the boat. Turns out, I didn't finish the socks until Monday, but I did get a dozen or so rounds done on the Unmentionables (mine are called "Blooming Bloomers" on Rav) while out on the boat.

The boat trip was as nice as it could be, given the condition of the river. I had never met the couple that came along. She was a coworker of Chris' and her husband worked for the Hills council. Amanda and Bob turned out to be very pleasant guests and shock of all shocks, it seems Amanda spins wool she gets from her parents farm, so we had things to talk about. Here's a pic of Amanda and Bob at the helm:

I also made another major purchase this past week. AustralianS are switching to all these "energy saving" globes. They're all you can find in the shops anymore, and I really, really have trouble seeing things clearly using them, particularly seeing to read or do my crafty work. Some rooms are so dim, the light bulb sort of glows rather than shines. So I bought a Daylight Lamp from Spotlight. I had been looking at them for awhile, and remembered that the distributor was at Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show last year, so I had considered waiting until then and getting one there. But push came to shove, and I got really tired of straining to see, so I broke down, stopped at Spotlight on my way home from work Saturday and bought one.

I absolutely love it! It spoils me though, as I can really notice the difference when I'm knitting at work and don't have it. It gives natural light, just like your working outside in full daylight, and it has a neat magnifying glass attached that you can pull over if you really need a close up look at what you are doing. It's a marvelous piece of equipment.

I also stopped by the LYS last week and bought myself a few balls of yarn. I bought two balls of Sirdar Naturals and one ball of Sublime. The sublime is much like the Cashmerino I've bought in the past, and I'm hoping it works well for a pair of "Fetching" fingerless mitts I plan making someone for Christmas. I haven't got plans for the Naturals yet, I just want to try out the yarn, but it looks as if it would dye well if nothing else.

Well, that's more than I had time for today, but that seems to be a pattern for me when it comes to blogging. I need to renew my vow to start blogging more often, but life just seems to get in the way.

Hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week. As for me, I'm working the next 6 days straight, so it's going to be a busy one. Still, when it's all over, I'll have 3 glorious days off in a row. I reckon that's worth waiting for.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

THE Bustaroony Post

I hope everyone had a very happy Mother's Day. The picture above is my beautiful Mother's Day flowers from my hubby.

This is going to become quite a long story, and for that I apoligize to those who don't favour reading so much, but the importance to me of the Bustaroony being finished couldn't be explained well without telling the whole story, and so I have.

One day in mid October of 08, for some reason that really never was clear to me, I decided to I was way too heavy, and needed to lose weight. I was grossly obese, weighing in at 92 kilos (202lbs), which stacked up pretty heftily on my 5ft tall (152.5cm) frame. I had been a bit overweight, and a bit underweight, at various times in my life, but never like this.

Funny thing is, though, I wasn’t particularly unhappy with my weight. I didn’t look in the mirror and “hate” myself. I’ve never been a particularly active person at any size, so it wasn’t as though I was missing out on any activities I loved due to the weight and general un-fitness. My husband seemed content with my appearance, or if he wasn’t, he certainly never mentioned not being happy with it (could have been fear, lol).

Thinking back, the only thing I can recall that really irritated me about being so large was that it was hard to find knitting patterns in my size (20 to 22 at the time) that would both fit and look flattering. Knitted garments are, as a rule, thick, heavy warm pieces of clothing, and it seems no amount of design ingenuity could make a knitted top not add 10 pounds (5 kilos) to an already bulging figure.

Then there were all those gorgeous fitted patterns, or at least, there seemed to be a lot of them at the time, although as I get smaller, there seem to be less of them (funny how that happens). At the time, it seemed to me that all the “interesting” patterns were fitted, and therefore taboo to someone with my frame.

Now I do remember consciously thinking all this stuff through. What I don’t recall is actually linking these thoughts with “losing weight”. What actually put the thought in my head when I did finally decide to do something about my weight is a bit of a mystery to me. But I did make that decision, and with or without a conscious “reason”, I did take my decision very seriously.

I’m a firm believer that mindset is the most important part of any life changing decision. Firstly, no one else can talk me into doing something “good for me”. I have to decide to do that myself. Secondly, if I face it positively, and with a “can’t fail” attitude, then I won’t fail. It really is as simple as that. I have to firmly believe I will do it. I also didn’t hesitate to tell people that I would succeed. Lots of people want to keep their weight loss efforts a secret, but I think that’s a bad sign. Frankly, if you’re thinking of keeping it a secret, then you’re probably not mentally ready to do what you need to do to succeed. It’s simply a way of giving yourself an “out” in case you don’t succeed. You think that if you don’t tell anyone, or if you only tell a very few, then you won’t feel so embarrassed if you fail. See the problem here? You’re going into this thing with a negative “I might fail” attitude right from the start. Not a good sign. By telling others around you (and I don’t mean making it the only topic of conversation or wearing “I’m on a diet” on your T-shirt) you are holding yourself accountable to others. Scary as that may be, it is a motivator.

So I started out positive, I’ve managed to remain positive, and I will stay positive until I succeed in reaching my goal weight of 55K (about 120lbs). I’m going to maintain my weight once I get to goal, and even tweak it if I think I will look better a bit thinner or a bit heavier. Never have I said “If I reach my goal weight”. It’s always “when”.

So what about the practical aspects of losing weight? What have I done, precisely? Well, that can be a long story, or a short one. First, I’ll tell you what I haven’t done.

I haven’t used “products”. No pills, powders or potions. Pills are just ridiculous if you ask me. They artificially suppress appetite, and teach you nothing about how to live with food in the long run. Or they claim to burn or bond to fat or some other ridiculous claim. They are a scam, and I stay away from them. I stay away from anything that promises me an “instant” cure. If it say’s “Lose 30lbs in 30 days”, it’s a scam.

Then there are meal replacements. You know, those shakes, soups and bars that seem to be all the rage these days, at least in Australia. Here, they are sold in every chemist ( aka pharmacy) shop, and there are little booths there where you can go in, weigh in, and visit every couple of weeks or so and then buy more of their product to see you thru the next couple of weeks. There are shakes available in the grocery stores and some variety stores as well. Really, you can’t go anywhere without seeing them. They are endorsed on TV by celebrities and generally given the thumbs up from nutritionists and the health science community (remember, however, that popular products generally are given the thumbs up, or at least a general overall approval, as their profits often goes toward funding that pays for most of the scientific research).

I have problems with shakes on several levels, and much as I would like to, I won’t go into the details for lack of room and fear of rambling off the subject here. I’ll sum up my disapproval as well as I can. Shakes don’t teach you to develop long term eating habits that are crucial to maintaining your weight loss. They aren’t really any quicker than pouring a bowl of cereal for brekky or throwing together a sandwich for lunch. They are, to me, a bit of a crutch, and while better for you than diet pills, I think people use them for much the same reason as they do pills. They are looking for the easier softer way, and with a shake in their hand, they psychologically “feel” like they are actively doing something about their weight. In truth, they are holding on to a lifeline to keep them from dealing with their issues with actual food. But my biggest issue with the shakes is that they are simply not necessary. They are simply yet another way of siphoning money out of the gullible consumer’s pockets.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t get any help along the way. After I made the decision to lose weight, I went in search of tools to help me along on the internet. Without being too specific, as I’m not writing this to promote a website or product, I was looking for something to help me monitor my food intake, and an online food diary was the thing for me. You need to find one that is specific for brands sold in the country where you live. Having done that, I recorded those things that I ate during the day into the diary, and the diary did the math on calories and nutritional content of the food. I don’t know if I could have done what I’ve done without this tool. There is also software you can buy with a food diary (which you update online) and of course calorie count books that are handy when you are out and about and don’t have computer access. All in all though, being able to keep up so specifically with your intake is invaluable. The site that I use is a paid membership site, but there is at least one site available in Australia for free that has a food diary. A Google search should tell you what’s available in your neck of the woods.

Of course, if the diary is going to work, I would have to measure out my food. Things are not always what they appear. A cup and a half of pasta noodles can look deceptively like ¾ cup, but of course, contain twice the calories. When I started out, I immediately bought some food scales. I leave them on my counter, along with my liquid measuring cup, my solid measuring cup, and my measuring spoons. They are right there, easy to find and use, so there are no excuses.

Now for the things I can and cannot eat. Essentially, I can eat anything I want, within reason. There are no rules like “no carbs” or “protein only” or any of that rubbish. I just eat a balanced diet. I eat three modest sized meals a day and two (sometimes 3) snacks. I did “low fat” or “fat free” everything in my refrigerator and pantry, because low fat tends to mean less calories, but watching that fat is important too. I also switched my oil to olive oil, and stopped cooking like a “Southerner”. That is, I stopped deep frying things. Now I cook with a modest amount of oil (1 or 2tbsp) or olive oil spray. I shop for only the leanest meats and watch my portion sizes carefully. I have desserts, but only of the low fat, low calorie variety (some of these are surprisingly good). My grocery bill is still much the same as it was though. Even though I’m buying more expensive meats and more expensive brands, I find that when you cut out the mud cakes, Carmello bars and tub upon tub of ice cream, you tend to break pretty close to even.

Now, comes the part I’m not so fond of, exercise. I have not been able to find any exercise I can do yet while knitting, and although I’m tempted to add on the treadling while sitting at the spinning wheel, I haven’t yet. The main focus of my exercising has been walking. My hubby has gladly joined in this part of my routine, and we started out walking (together or separately, depending on our work schedules) around the neighborhood. When summer began to heat up to the unbearable point, we bought a treadmill, which has been a fantastic investment. Rain or shine, it’s there, and there are no excuses for not getting a bit of exercise in. The treadmill is actually better than walking along the street for burning calories, as it sort of forces you to maintain a speed. I certainly wears you out quicker. Plus, I’ve got my treddy set up in a place where I can watch TV while walking…such a bonus!! I also bought a set of light dumbbells for toning, yoga mat, and a couple of exercise DVD’s (which are easily available at most libraries if you don’t have the money to spend). Mostly, though, I walk.

As for the results, well, there are photo's below that tell the story pretty well, but for people who like numbers, I started out at 92 kilos (202 lbs) and now weigh in at 66.2 kilos (146 lbs). I've lost 25.8 kilos (56lbs)altogether. I've lost 92cm
(36in)from various areas of my body, and have gone down from size 20/22 to size 12/14!! But I'm not finished. My goal weight is 55 kilos (121 lbs), so I still have 11.2 kilos (24 lbs) to go. I plan on being at or around my goal weight in October or November. I've never been in a terrific hurry about all this, and I know that the last 10 kilos are the hardest to shed, so I'm prepared to keep doing the right things and wait for my body to adjust accordingly.

Now, to get back to the knitting related part of this story. About 3 years ago, I walked into The Yarn Barn (link) and told the shop attendant I was looking for a really special cardigan pattern. She immediately went straight for the pattern book racks and pulled out Cleckheaton #950. She showed me a cardigan pattern in that book that took my breath away. But, as I pointed out to the girl then, it fastened at the top and draped open in front, sort of like an upside down V, and of course looked fantastic on the stick thin model, but with my “beer belly” poking out through the V, probably wouldn’t look nearly as hot. She suggested I could put buttons all the way down the front instead of leaving the gap. With this in mind, I went ahead and bought the book, although I did still have my reservations. The book sat on my bookcase for a long time, but I always kept the pattern in mind.

The next year for Christmas, my hubby got me a $100 gift certificate from my LYS as one of my presents. I decided that I would go ahead and buy the yarn for that lovely cardigan, although I still had my reservations about how it would look on my body. I bought the yarn, 30 50g balls of Cleckheaton Naturals in the same beige/brown shade the cardi was knit with in the book, but it wound up tucked away in my stash, as I still couldn’t bring myself to cast on in the enormous size (the biggest size in the book) I would require.

As mentioned, I started losing weight in October of 08. Sometime in December, I had a cool idea. I would start knitting that cardigan in the size I wanted to be by winter, as a motivation and a reward for staying the course. I decided to wait until after the Christmas/New year holidays to start, so I cast on the cardigan on January 8 while we were away on vacation to the Eyre Peninsula. Meanwhile, on the weight loss website where my diary was, there are forums as well. I met a very lovely, encouraging girl in there who went by the forum nickname of “Bustaroony”. Because she was (and still is) such a wonderful support for me, I decided to name the cardigan after her. Thus, the Bustaroony cardigan was born.

Now I know I’ve told you some of this in previous posts, but I thought I would draw it all out in one place for clarity. I finally finished the Bustaroony cardigan last week, and it fits very nicely. It took forever to block/dry, but it’s finally at the wearable stage. You might notice it has no buttons, because I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about that. The button’s have been replaced, at least temporarily, with a shawl pin I bought from Spinningwoodie, a wood craftsman from here in South Australia, although those hadn't arrived yet when I took the pictures, so I simply have it pinned.

So, without further ado, here's a couple of pictures of me wearing the Bustaroony cardigan:

As a sort of before and after photo, here's me in the Alpaca Worthy Jacket I knitted for the winter of '08:

And embarrassed as I am to show it, here's the "before" picture I took the day after I made the decision to lose weight:

For those of you interested in stitch detail, more shots of Bustaroony, this time on the sewing dummy:

Obviously, I'm very proud of my weight loss so far, and very proud of the beautiful cardigan I made to celebrate my accomplishment! I'm so happy with the results.

Now, quickly, to my other projects over the past couple of weeks. I have finished the lovely Saloongirl stockings (Bettie's Lace Stockings from Spring 08 Interweave magazine) for western action. I soaked them in a strong tea solution to dye them, and they look a very nice tannish brown now:

I also finished the Trigger Happy Gloves in time to have them for the big Winter Roundup western action shoot this weekend. They were a fairly easy pattern, and I followed it more or less precisely, although I did just use my knitpicks cables rather than using waste yarn to hold the stitches on the fingers, which did give me a bit of a octopus effect:

But I finished them up last night, stuck them in wool wash to soak, and they are laying out to dry now. I tried them on wet for the photo, so the fit looks a bit funny, but trust me, they fit fine when dry:

Last Thursday I noticed I was getting precariously close to having only one project on the needles, so I dug through my sock yarn stash and pulled out some inexpensive Spotlight Moda Vera "Socks" yarn. It's the self patterning kind, "fake isle" if you will, and should make for a very easy knit, as I'm doing the whole thing in stockingnet stitch and letting the yarn do the work. Due to the colour of the wool reminding me an awful lot of the Indian corn back in the states, I have named them "Indian Corn Socks" (although I think with a little effort I could have come up with something better). It will be a good knit to take to the shoot this weekend. I've got the toe shaping finished, and I'm going to do a Widdershin's heel when I get that far:

I haven't done a thing on the "Peace in the Hood" hoodie. Aside from having the stockings and gloves that I needed to finish in time for the shoot this weekend, it is just so bulky that's it's at the stage where it is hard to carry around. Besides, between finishing the Bustaroony and getting the other two "deadline" knits done, I haven't had much time to devote to my fibre preparation and spinning.

I've finally been able to get back to carding the corridale fleece. I'm surprised that it's such slow going, even with the drum carder. The plan right now (and we know that's subject to change) is to card up enough to make a vest for Chris, then dye it, perhaps blend some colours after the dye by carding some more, and then spin it up. At the rate I'm going, the odds of him getting a vest before the end of this winter are getting pretty slim.

In the meantime, I've been spinning some fleece that Woolywombat from Rav sent me. (The prize I won from OTF group for Kaitlyn's jumper). It's a lovely spin, and she did a wonderful job of carding and blending the fibres and colours:

As for my plans, well, I'm only taking the two projects to Winter Roundup this weekend, that is, the Peace in the Hood hoodie and the Indian Corn socks. I'll have the socks to take to the range with me and knit on during breaks and such, and the Hoodie to leave at the cabin for "night knitting". I'll decide which to do on the drive to and from when the time comes. I did think of starting something else, but I knew if I did I would be discouraged from working on the hoodie, and I really want to get that one done, so I'll stick to just the two for now, and consider starting a new project when I get back.

I do apologize for the extra long post, but that's the breaks. I hadn't explained the "whole" story of my weight loss before on this blog, as it is a knitting/spinning blog and not about weight loss, but I thought that with the Bustaroony getting finished, this was as good a time as any to tie the whole thing together (neatly, I hope).

Next post should be some pictures of our western action shoot and the knitting I manage to get done there. Until then...