Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hello again!

Well, it has been a while to say the least! Lots of things have been happening here the first being the rather successful South Canterbury Creative Fibre Festival way back in April. (Has it really been that long?)

Heather and I were responsible for the education, a fairly big part of any Festival. Early on, when word "got out" that there would be no formal classes this time, there was an initial outpouring of ill-feeling among a small number of CF members around the country. This caused us to pull our heads in for a while but it soon blew over as people thought a little more about things.

Now the Festival is over and folk have experienced how the education was set up this year with 45 minute lectures/demonstrations and plenty of time in between each one, we have had so many positive comments that all the negative ones way back at the beginning have been well and truly left in the past. Not that either of us would jump at the chance of doing it all again any time soon! I know I was so totally exhausted by the end of it all that it took me a good 5 or 6 days to start feeling normal again. It didn't help matters when I needed to go to the A & E department at the local hospital to get 6 stitches in my arm after cutting it on a metal door which caught on my sleeve. Ever the clutz!

The next important thing to happen was our son's marriage last month. Yes, they chose a winter wedding. On the plus side, the sun was shining by the afternoon so it was lovely for the photos outside even though it was really cold. It could have been worse. Much worse. Sorry, I don't have any photos to show you at this stage. I must have had the worst seat in the room for photos (up the front but to the side - all you got was side-on backs) and I don't have any other copies yet. Maybe one day. But it was quite a nice wedding at a local-to-us camp-site (the bride's family live down south and the bride and groom live further north) on the edge of native bush. (If it had been earlier in the year when the kowhai was blooming, the area would have been filled with the sound of the bellbirds) The hall is pretty average but a local lady drapes it with frost cloth making it really pretty inside. Instead of a bridesmaids/groomsmen they chose to have their two daughters (aged 5 and 3) and niece and nephew (aged 6 and around 2) as their wedding party. An interesting choice but the kids did look cute dressed in lavendar purple. Anyway, a good time was had by all. Other son tells us they are getting married in Feb 2010 - only 20 months away!

Knitting? Yes, there has been a little knitting going on, with the emphasis on a little. Finally, at last, the Wildflower Socks are finished, as you can see above, and off the needles. Just in time, too. Not too many days ago I started to pull on the socks I was going to wear that day and riiiipp! Aaaaahhh! A hole appeared in the very thin heel of the first pair of socks I knitted for myself 6 or 7 or even 8 years ago. Yes, I have worn them constantly all this time, throwing them in the washing machine and pegging them on the line to dry. A very sad day but I am really glad I have another pair to replace them as the weather has been rather cold and wet recently. I guess we can't expect much else in winter so I'm trying not to complain too much. I haven't noticed the cold as much this year, anyway, as the logfire has made the house so cosy warm.

My uncle and my father both turn/ed 84 this week (my uncle yesterday and my father on Wednesday). With a family dinner last night, I needed to think of a small present to give my uncle. As he rides a pushbike everywhere (has never driven a car) I thought a warm pair of fingerless mittens might be welcome so out came my needles and wool. I used Clara Parkes' Maine Morning Mitts pattern as it is simple to knit and quite smart for either men or women. I had some dark blue alpaca/merino yarn from the Milton millshop in my stash so was all set to go. I increased the stitch count by 6 stitches as the yarn was DK and I was knitting for a man (allbeit my uncle is a small man). I added 2 stitches in the thumb. My uncle tried the mitts on when he opened his parcel and didn't take them off all night. I think he liked them! I must say I rather liked them, too, as I needed to keep trying them on while they were in progress - nice and cosy!

My Braided Pullover is still making progress, slowly. The body has been completed up to the armhole and one sleeve is approximately 3/4 done. The other sleeve will be ripped out as I feel it will be too tight. The more I work on this jersey the less I think I like it. Maybe it will be different when I get it all together?
There has also been a little spinning going on. Earlier this year I gave a quick demonstration of plying a beaded yarn at our spinning group. I am intending on using this yarn, along with the rest of the unbeaded yarn, to make a slouchy beret-style hat. I will need to hurry with this as I would like it to be ready for display at our group's Open Day on September 17.
I also recently bought a kilo of Arapawa wool from a woman on Trade Me. It is always a tricky business to buy wool sight unseen and this was no exception. The wool has been carded and, I guess, is a good example of the breed. That being said, it is not really what I would call good wool. It has a short staple with a very high number of nepps, noils, call them what you will. Also a lot of VM. But then, all this is really to be expected from this breed. It is a largely feral breed and the wool reflects this. It does make for interesting spinning! It is very stretchy and fairly soft. The finished skein bloomed quite a bit in the washed but also shrunk in length a fair bit too. Not a good picture but the yarn is very tweedy, which is what I wanted. I'm not sure if I will make the rug/afghan I was going to use it for originally or whether it will become a comfy jersey yet. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Anyone care to join me in the frogpond?

Yes, here I am again after a short hiatus. Quite a lot has happened in the last three weeks or so since I have been here...

My sister's birthday - what there is of our reasonably local family celebrated by going out to dinner at an Indian restaurant. Not my favourite type of food (definitely not my daughter's!) but it was ok.

Granddaughter's first birthday! A big event in a little girl's life. We travelled up to Ashburton taking Dad with us. It wasn't quite her birthday but her "real" birthday fell on the Monday. D was already up there as he has been helping our son cut up trees that were felled in a strong wind last month so I had to drive. We had a lovely time there but I missed a little drama centred on my Dad when D drove me out to the farm to show me how the firewood was progressing. Dad was fine but didn't tell me what happened (he fell off his chair and narrowly missed going through a window giving everyone there a huge fright!). The drive back home was a bummer, though, with Dad being hypercritical about my driving - I was always doing something wrong in his opinion! (Just a note here, I believe my driving is very safe. I have often been complimented by friends when I taken them somewhere and have never had an accident - Dad has had several!) By the time we dropped him off I had had enough. If I didn't see Dad until next year it would have been too soon. No, I am not exaggerating but I have got over it. He did totally spoil what should have been a special day, though.

T's real birthday, 9 Feb, saw me in hospital for a scheduled eye operation. It wasn't a huge procedure (the excision of a pterygium and a conjunctival graft) but I have never been "under the knife" before. Apparently, patients having this operation usually have a general anaesthetic. My opthalmologist felt I was a good candidate for a local anaesthetic. Much better for a good recovery, but scary! I didn't even have a sedative. It was offered but, never even having had one of these before, I wasn't sure how it would affect me. Just call me brave!

Once I was settled in position on the operating table (how narrow are they!) my head was wrapped up and some sort of sticky stuff was put over my eye and a window peeled off. Anaesthetic drops were put in my eye and, once they had taken effect, an injection was inserted to numb the area around the eye. The surgeon then got to work taking off the growth and taking a graft from another part of my eye to cover the wound. I didn't bother to count how many minute stitches he made(after more drops were put in - I could feel the needle!) but it was quite a few. Dissolving ones, thank goodness. That was it! Not too bad after all and only took about 45 minutes. After half an hour or so (I was allowed something to eat then - yay! as I had not been allowed breakfast or even my cup of hot chocolate!) I was able to go home and recuperate.

All the material I had been given said that there was normally a fair bit of pain for which the doctor would prescribe painkillers. I took the paracetemol and ibuprofen as prescribed but, apart from a little prickling from the stitches and a sensitivity to light on the first day afterwards, I was fine. I saw the opthalmologist the day after the op and he, again, warned that I could expect to experience quite a bit of pain for some time as the eye healed. What can I say. I'm not normal! I did have a bit of a black eye for a while and the eye is a little red but otherwise I'm fine. I could even read without discomfort.

What DID hurt, though, was putting my back out the following day bending down to pick up something I had dropped on the floor! I think my back muscles had tensed up a lot on the operating table and bending down did them in. It has taken ages to come nearly right but it still hasn't settled down completely. I may need to seek treatment of some sort for my back as it often plays up if I do a lot of bending. I guess losing a bit of weight would help, too.

Coinciding with my eye operation came a radical change in the weather. I went in to the hospital that morning with the sun shining and the temperature, at 7.30 in the morning warm enough for me to be wearing a t-shirt. When I came out, just after lunchtime, a southerly had come through and the temperature had plummeted. Over three weeks later and it still hasn't been warm enough to do that outside since. Rain and cloudy skies have been the norm with the sun only making its appearance yesterday and today. It seems as if we have moved from a very warm Summer into Autumn overight, and February is supposed to be our hottest month. I feel cheated.

The plus side of the cooler weather is that I have once more got back into knitting. Well, after all the spinning I have been doing over the last few months, don't you agree that I needed to? Trouble is that I'm not working on using up the yarn I've been spinning. I am using yarn from my stash, though, so it isn't all bad!

I don't know if you recognise this but it is the beginning of Alina Khasanova's Braided Pullover from IK's Fall 08. The yarn I'm using is a merino/alpaca blend from the Milton millshop (Quality Yarns). A soft heathery brown (not grey - the camera lies) it is wonderfully soft and warm. But I have a problem. The pattern calls for a gauge of 20 sts to 4 ins, my gauge is 19 sts to 4 ins. So, not wanting to swim in my jersey, I went down a size. However, I have had a feeling something was wrong for a while. This morning I finally felt I had knit enough to carry out a measurement check. I put over half the stitches on another needle, spread my work out and applied the tape measure. What? Six inches too small? Try again. Same thing. I even tried it against a jersey that fits me comfortably. I was not mistaken. Unless I want the jersey to be stretched to its uttermost limits while it is on my body, I will have to start again.

I have no idea why this is so. Divide the measurement of the finished jersey by 4, multiple by the stitch gauge and I came to 209. Therefore I cast on 216, the closest number to 209. Before you ask, yes, I have checked and rechecked the number of stitches I cast on. It is correct. I really like this pattern so I will try again and see what happens. Sigh.

On a brighter note...did you notice the stitch markers in the photo above. No? Look here then -

Aren't they cute? I bought them on Trade Me for the princely sum of $1.50 plus $1 postage! I couldn't make them for that (considering I have never made any...yet!). Unfortunately the top ring is a little small for the 4mm needles I'm using so I use the larger ring instead. Still works for me, though.

Anyway, I guess I will have to face up to it and restart my jersey. If anyone wonders where I am I'm the one in the frogpond!

Monday, February 02, 2009

The rest of the story

Surprise, surprise! I am back again to try and finish updating you on what I have been up to during the last four months. Yesterday I finished up with the skeins I had spun from some fleece I had dyed in the crockpot. Today I will begin with 2 ply skein I spun from leftovers of some multicoloured roving I spun, and blogged about here, a little over a year ago. The photo of this yarn is below:

The leftovers were only of the lighter roving which this time I spun and plied on itself to make:

Some people don't like yarns to barberpole but I don't actually mind it. Saying that, though, I have still not yet found a pattern for the main lot of spinning in this fibre. Not that I have looked too hard but it has been in the back of my mind as I trawl through the internet, look at books and magazines etc. One day I will find something which will call out to me.

For the little skein above, I intend to weave a scarf (yes, I do weave on occasion. You didn't know? Well, now my secret is out!) and include a soft little skein of dark blue wool I bought for this purpose. I think I will weave it in twill and may have narrow stripes of colour and dark blue alternating in the warp and use the dark blue exclusively for the weft. However, I may weave it in a log cabin pattern. I took a weekend course, years ago, in colour in weaving and this was one of the patterns we used. I was quite taken by it then but I'm not sure just how much drape it has. Being a scarf, I would like it to be quite drapey so that it sits around the neck nicely. Does anyone out there know how much drape a log cabin weave will have? Inquiring minds would like to know!

Next on the list of yarns I have been spinning lately is the leftovers of a bag of wool/mohair carded by Rotocard. I purchased this some years ago, spinning and knitting a small Faroese shawl for my late Mum to wear when she was more or less bed-bound. The leftovers now look like this:
The photo is a little washed out but the skeins are mainly a very dark blue with bright highlights of pink/mauve, purple, turquoise and teal. Squishingly soft, I really love this yarn! I spun this up in a bulky 2ply at approximately 7 wpi. There are four skeins here so maybe there would be enough for a vest, I'm not sure. (Have you noticed, yet, that most of my spinning does not actually have an end purpose? Sometimes as I spin I can visualise what I would like to do with the yarn but I usually wait until it has been spun before I really know.)

Some time ago, as in years and years ago, I was given a whole lot of carded "bumps" (more like roving which has been wound on a giant ball winder - possibly done by Belex carding) of wool when I bought a loom from an elderly Dunedin couple. The loom has long since been sold but still this carded wool lingers in my stash. I told you I had trouble throwing stuff out, didn't I? I used some of this to make a jersey for my Dad about three years ago but that hardly made a dent. Looking at what I had, I found this smaller bump of a grotty beige-looking wool. Should it go out? I pulled a little off and threw it at some water (all this wool has been carded greasy making it difficult to really tell if it will be nice or not). After its bath it felt quite nice and surprisingly soft. It had passed its first test. Next, I spun up a couple of bobbins and plied them together. The spinning went surprisingly smoothly considering just how long ago this wool must have been carded. It was also quite fine and definitely wanted to be spun fine too (unlike most of the other spinning I have been doing in my stash-busting excercise - spin it fast and thick and get it out of the way. Fun!).

The photo doesn't really do justice to this skein as it doesn't pick up its little nuances of colour. It is basically an oatmeal shade with some variations, darker and lighter, throughout. Quite pretty. Second test passed! It spun up into approximately a 4 ply at 13 wpi. Quite acceptable. I have since spun up two more bobbins and am halfway through plying those. I may get another two bobbins from what is left. Definitely enough to do Something with.

I haven't only been spinning during the last four months, nearly but not quite. I did start the jersey for D but haven't done very much of it.

I searched and searched for the Perfect Pattern for this jersey as I wanted it to be Special (so it should be Special as it was for a Special Birthday!) as well as wanting to showcase the lovely Gotland I spun for it. Originally I had thought of knitting it in a Fisherman's Rib pattern but then decided that it would look too much like the cheap, work jerseys you can buy in the stores. No, that wouldn't do. Maybe something with cables? I finally landed on John's Sweater by Nora Gaughan. I really love the pattern (plus the guy in the photo (John?) looks a lot like D although his beard is a little shorter (there is a story behind the long beard but not now!)) BUT it is a LOT of work! Cabling on every right-side row. I have to keep looking at the chart, too, as the pattern isn't untuitive for me yet. I have speeded things up a little for me by not using a cable needle but it is still slow. Our recent really hot weather (high 30's every day for a couple of weeks) really knocked knitting on the head but I still can't get back into the "groove" even though the temps have dropped somewhat. Should I carry on with this pattern? Or should I keep looking for a quicker knit? I don't know. I'll let you know when I know.

So, there you have it. The story of my crafting life, some of it anyway, over the last four months. I have really been enjoying the last couple of summer months. Maybe not the hot weather, so much, but certainly the lack of demand from responsiblities that other times of year have. So I have had time to actually work on MY projects for once. It has really been nice. Long may it last!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Did you miss me?

Wow! I can't believe that this morning I turned over the page in my calendar to February. It has been four, long months since my last posting! What can I say? So I won't say anything apart from...I have been busy. I do spun up lots of skeins of yarn for you to see - nothing terribly pretty but I am in a spinitupandgetitoutofthestash mode. Mind you, once the fibre has been spun into yarn it may no longer be technically in the "fibre stash" but I guess it has moved over to the "yarn stash". Never mind, I'll think about that another day. Maybe at Tara. Moving on...

Sometime or other I promised someone (ok, Stella!) photos of my "award-winning" Serendipity (MS4) Stole. Yes, to catch up on my blog, I actually did finish knitting the MS4 stole, entered in our local A & P Show and won first place as well as the "best article" in the handcraft section! I suppose it is unnecessary to say that I was stoked. Yes, it is a small show but it was my first entry in the knitting section!

Here is the shawl blocking on towels in a spare bedroom This shawl represented a number of first for me - my first Mystery Stole knitalong, my first lace knitting (with laceweight yarn), my first bead knitting, my first time blocking, my first time kitchenering a large number fo stitches, my first entry (and win) in the knitting section, my first lace stole/shawl. I quite enjoyed the process as well as the outcome. I know that it isn't perfect, especially the grafting, but overall I am pleased with it. Will I wear it? I hope so. I knitted it with the intention to wear it to our son's wedding in June but that will depend largely on what I choose to wear on the day. So, in good motherly style, we'll see!

What else has been taking my time lately? In a word, spinning. I decided that I was tired of having so many fibres taking up space in my craft room. Being of good Scot's descent, I could not bring myself to simply throw perfectly good fibres away so I have been spinning up a storm.

The above is about 900gm of camouflage-coloured wool my husband brought home for me from a local auction. It isn't very pretty, but I guess would be a practical colour for every-day wear for a boy. I spun it up really quickly. Such a relief after the months I spent spinning the merino/soy blend (that's to come). It has spun up into a soft, bulky yarn which I may knit into a couple of little boys' jerseys to sell at the local market. Or maybe into a jersey for my husband. Who knows!

This lousy photo is of the 100g skein of laceweight (28 wpi) merino/soy blend I bought from Rotocard a few years back. I have no idea how many metres it is but it must be a fair few. It took hours to ply and then to wind off! I am quite pleased with the results and I may make a shawl from it. I haven't totally decided yet.

This large skein is, in reality, two skeins of yarn I spun from some fleece I dyed as an experiment in the crock pot. It came out quite dark and so sat around for some time before I decided to do something about it.

Above you can see the progress from dyed fleece (most of it was a lot darker than what is shown here), carded batts (I tried not to mix the colours too much so that the lighter, brighter colours would pop out of the darker background), and small sample skein. I liked what I saw in the sample so carried on to finish the rest the same. What will I do with it? Probably a hat but the pattern is, as yet, undecided. The finished yarn is soft and bulky at 8 wpi. Length unknown.
Time has flown and I need to give attention to other things right now. I will be back to finish the saga of what I have been spinning over the last few months (yes, there's more!!) another time.