Tour de Fleece 2014, Days 5-6

July 11th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Plied another comatose 2-year-old single from Tour de Fleece 2012. I’ll tell you what. Plying stagnant singles is no fun, but I’m glad to get this out of my spinning basket, and I’m pleased with the end product. From Hello Yarn “Flora,” a Yarn School colorway. About 200 yards. No idea yet what it will be.

Today was equal parts TCB (taxes, mainly–still months before my extension expires!) and enjoying the season.

I really dig our “pool house,” screen tent we set up around the kiddie pool. I don’t know whether I’m happier hiding from the flies during the day or the mosquitoes at night, but already I’m spending hours more outdoors, conveniently shielded from the pitfalls of backyard life.

While Twyla wants to explore the rest of the yard, especially when Georgie’s there, I’d just as soon park my ass in the pool house all afternoon, cooling my feet in her inflatable pool.

Besides keeping the kiddie pool clean so much longer, it’s 100-odd square feet of breezy, shaded, nearly bug- and completely chicken-free bliss.

If you have backyard chickens that free range, you know that backyard chickens mean color and charm, but also lots of poop and even more flies. Throw in a neglected mulberry tree, and I’m making a market in flypaper. In addition to the pesky byproducts, the accidental rooster is increasingly becoming a big pain in my butthole, occasionally charging me and crowing enthusiastically at all hours, like one of those annoying high-strung dogs that barks constantly and for no reason. With the wind the right way, his muffled 3am cries frequently enter or interrupt my dreams as someone screaming bloody murder. (This is undoubtedly enhanced by my bedtime dose of True Blood.)

While I haven’t yet decided whether Francis the rooster gets to stick around, I am enjoying having a little flock again, especially now that one of the girls has started pumping out wee eggs. Once I have a dozen, I’m going to make a tray of miniature deviled eggs.

While the showy but useless rooster was an accident, when I picked out this batch of chickens, I threw my usual pragmatism out the window and deliberately chose one purely for beauty: Pee-wee, a Polish Crested, who was plucked bald in the brooder but now happily holds her own. She’s so fun to watch, the spunky runt of the flock, charging around with her fancy hat flopping about.

Wee Pee-wee:

My favorite phase, the Mohawk:

Tonight’s spin: plying the final two corpses from TdF 2012, both Laura’s Pygoras Shetland roving:

 

Tour de Fleece, Days 2 – 4

July 9th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Day 2 was plying the singles from the first day into a big, bouncy skein. The merino really fluffed up, so it was a little bulkier than I intended, but still worked out for my purposes, a transitional row between 2 commercial yarns in my mitered square baby blanket, which was getting overburdened with solids.

I’ve got an extra 2.5 ounces of yarn left, so maybe a hat or a baby sweater yoke?

Days 3-4 were almost scuttled by a storm that mostly missed us, but still left us without electricity for 24 hours. I managed to get in a bit of spinning before we went black Monday night and after we powered back up Tuesday night. No spinning during the day. We spent the daylight hours outdoors, enjoying the break from technology and television. We put up a screen tent around the kiddie pool, added some chairs for us and a wee picnic table for Twyla, and kicked back with our feet in the pool, enjoying the breeze and conversation in a mostly bug-free paradise. Sadly, by mid-morning, many of our neighbors had already fired up their generators, spoiling the quiet.

Days 3 & 4, I plied a fine single from 2012 Tour de Fleece, an ABC Ranch merino/silk single. I was cursing it when I plied it, and almost considered putting the rest of the fiber in the destash pile. Then I reminded myself that it was my own fault for waiting TWO YEARS to ply it, and that I should give it a chance to rebound in the bath.

I had to run part of the bobbin through twice because the first day’s work did not have half the twist it needed. But after evening it out and giving it a hot bath, it plumped up to a nice bouncy, soft, richy saturated skein. Definitely a keeper in the end, and I’m glad I have more of the fiber.

Tour de Fleece 2014, Day 1

July 7th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

I’m going to try to make a better go at Tour de Fleece this year. Last year was a bust– I only made it about a week before crapping out. This year, I’m going on vacation in the middle of it, and I definitely won’t bring anything bulkier than a spindle all the way to South America. But while I’m here, I’m going to strive to do something every day.

Yesterday was this:

4 ounces of hand-dyed merino roving from Laura’s Pygoras, which I bought at Yarn School.

I spun up this:

The plan is to ply it and get about a worsted to use as a transitional color in a my mitered square blanket. I’m kind of rusty, so fingers crossed.

Daisy Cloche KAL and culling the Yarn School stable

July 1st, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Twyla was born a couple months before Literary Knits hit the shelf. Right around publication, Wiley (the publisher) did a bunch of reorganizing, so most of my pre-publication contacts disappeared. Between the kiddo and losing my editorial anchor, my paper baby was kind of left to fend for itself as the struggle to adapt to my human baby occupied most of my mind and time. Months whizzed by, and suddenly my new book is not so new.

This is all to say that with the amazing but confounding time vacuum that is motherhood, along with all the usual demands of running The Harveyville Project, and what felt like a crippling parade of animal crises over the last year, I’ve rather neglected Literary Knits, a book that I relished writing and that I’m terribly proud of.

When I decided to plunge into almost 2 years of untouched ravelry emails, I discovered the lion’s share of pattern questions were about the Daisy Cloche. It’s a fairly advanced pattern to begin: it has an allover pattern stitch worked with short rows, a lot of switching between needle sizes, and repeated binding off and picking up. On top of that, it has errata (the PU numbers of the concentric circles were off a stitch–luckily, brought to my attention early).

Many questions were basic knitting definitions/techniques (e.g., working in pattern or binding off in pattern), but there were a few problems I just couldn’t visualize without reviewing the pattern pretty closely. It’s way too late to help out the few angry knitters who I inadvertently neglected in ’13, but I can help out future knitters who might want to make one of my favorite patterns, and hopefully redeem poor Daisy’s reputation in the process.

Since it’s been almost 3 years since the last time I knit Daisy (it was the first pattern I wrote for the book), I decided to knit it again myself to figure out where the pattern is vexing.  And so that I make good use of what I learn while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’m going to host a Daisy Cloche knitalong this August (I’m going on vacation in July, and you know how swamped you always are in the weeks before vacation, especially when you’re self-employed). I just created a ravelry group for Literary Knits. If you’re interested in the Daisy Cloche Knitalong, or if you’ve made any patterns from the book, please join and share your Literary Knits FO with the group!

(BTW, it’s embarrassing how my mind handles criticism. My first impression was of a sea of angry emails about the hat. I even hid from my ravelry mail for a couple more weeks. But when I actually began to review them all to compile a precise list of problems, I discovered it was actually just a handful of criticisms–and just one that was marginally nasty–and another handful of fairly straightforward questions. Funny how your mind will give one snide critical comment so much more weight than a lot of glowing comments and a few friendly questions…. Which is, I suppose, why people always say not to read comments.)

In other news, I have a 7 used spinning wheels & a used carder on etsy right now. I’ve decided I should be a real grownup businessperson and only keep current models I actually sell in my Fiber School lineup, so I’m dispatching everything else. Poof! If you’re local, you can pick it up and save the shipping (email me to make arrangements so I can cancel the listing; I’ll also knock off an extra 5% if you pay cash).

wernekenk2

Vintage Werekink w/ skeinwinder frame (needs dowels) & 3 2-speed bobbins, $275.

louet3

Red Louet S17 with skeinwinder and 3 bobbins, $325

kiwi1

Unfinished Ashford Kiwi with jumbo flyer and 3 jumbo bobbins and kate (plus original flyer but not bobbins), $275.

Fricke Signature Carder

Fricke Signature drum carder, $400

Fricke Folding Double Treadle

Fricke folding double treadle with 4 bobbins and kate, $375.

Fricke e-spinner

Fricke e-spinner with foot pedal, 4 bobbins, and kate, $365

Clemes Modern Wheel

Clemes Modern Wheel with 3 bobbins, $335

Gringo Hats: Done and Done!

June 27th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Happily, the Gringo yarn was much more pleasant to knit than the hated Gringo fiber was to spin. John Horigan’s Exeter, with its allover ribbing and simple but handsome crown was a good, masculine match for the fuzzy dog yarn. I had almost enough leftover to make Twyla a matching hat, so I ended up frogging the crown of my dad’s hat and pulling back an inch to finish hers, since I figured he’d get a kick out of having matching hats to show off to his friends over our vacation (we’re going to Chile!–my parents have a place there). I used US4 needles and cast on 80 sts for Dad’s and 64 sts for Birdy’s.

The best laid plans

June 15th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

routinebanner

I had big plans for a massive surge of productivity in this, the last week before Ron gets home from tour. I was going to start on my shiny new work routine. I even made a spiffy banner to reinforce it (no, that wasn’t pure procrastination; okay, yes, it was). I was going to finish all my half-finished projects so I could look like a TCB badass. But the water had other plans for me.

Instead of whining about losing the whole week to the relentless flow of water into my basement and the battle against moisture, mildew and despair, I’m gonna focus on the bright side:

  • I finally cleaned and sorted a bunch of boxes of junk from the boiler room! Now I have buckets of plumbing supplies and buckets of electrical supplies, and the mouldering boxes and all the useless crap collecting dust and spiders is mostly gone!
  • Ditto the galley storage area. I’ve ditched a good 6 trash bags altogether, plus  a couple bags for Goodwill  and a fair amount of recycling. Take that, water! Try to disrupt my 40 Bags progress, will you? Ha!
  • I finally made a short leader hose for the submersible pump.
  • While I was at it, I hooked up a hose extender with a splitter with big, easy-to-turn levers for each tap. One goes to the courtyard and one goes out to the barn.
  • The weather, when it’s not storming, has been delightful! 70s and sunshine and puffy clouds, in June! No AC yet, barely any fans. I don’t usually turn on the AC this early, but I usually want to.
  • And when it is storming, it’s dramatic! Hours of breathtaking lightning last night, two trees knocked out over the weekend (neither of which I’m crying over–well, except the cleaning them up part).
  • The cooler weather has kept the inevitable flies at bay
  • I don’t have to fret about the sheep or chickens being too hot. (Although the barnyard is a fucking bog & I feel awful for the poor sheep.  At least I mucked out the barn before all the rain. The barn has Stable-Grid, so it can get muddy from traffic, but it drains, so it doesn’t get spongy and gross. I should just buy a hundred bucks’ worth every year and put it in a little patch at at time. The way time flies, the barn yard would be draining beautifully before I know it. Hm. Seriously, I should do that.)
  • I hired someone to cut down the trees felled by the storms and drag them to a burn pile–and learned that one of the trees (a plum) was highly toxic to sheep and cordoned it off with a scrap of fencing off before my two remaining sheep could eat it all up and die a horrible death from cyanosis. Whew! (No, that’s not what did in Mr. Shivers. The plum was out front, far from his little nibbly mouth. And I think cyanosis leaves clearer evidence.)

If you’re curious about the 40 Bags in 40 Days thing, go here. It was for Lent, so the official challenge is probably over, but I’m working on my own timetable.

40bags

And if you want to be a big nerd like me and make yourself a sticker chart, I’ve set up a template to print stickers on those ubiquitous return address labels, using the garbage bag graphic and the idea from White House Black Shutters. If you prefer a plain chart, she has one you can download; I like ticking off the numbers.

This pdf includes a numbered sticker chart and a sheet of labels, and a link to the WHBS post about it: 40 bags stickers and charts.

Another windbag going on and on about nothing.

June 10th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

I almost never write anymore, about anything. If it doesn’t fit into 140 characters, I just seem to cram it back down.

I miss blathering.

It’s not just the baby (who isn’t exactly a baby anymore) and it’s not just the time. I’ve gotten into this habit of self-censorship, originally born from the relative lack of privacy–or maybe just my perception of it–of in living in a tiny town, then fueled, I think, by the suffocating ubiquity of opinion on the internet. Almost none of the time am I interested in anything from the gazillion people shouting their opinions or bragging about their beautifully photographed, perfect lives and exquisite taste and marvelous dinners or repeating again and again in barely altered format the boring thing they’re doing or eating or watching.

And so I figure I don’t want to add to the din.

Except.

Maybe abandoning Disgruntled Housewife and starting Thrifty Knitter was a subconscious rationalization that if I was going make people suffer my prattle, then a least I should share something useful. Except that, once the instinct to shut up creeps in, you start to realize that everyone else does everything better, faster, prettier, with more and bigger photographs showing every gorram detail. So being useful isn’t maybe as useful, especially if you’re being useful mostly as an excuse.

Also, I drink a lot less now. Drinking weakens my impulse to shut the fuck up, to worry that I’m ignorant or boring or foolish. Muting that worry was soothing. Because, ultimately, who cares?

(I must clarify: I drink less now 1) out of mild concern for the size of my ass; 2) a desire to GTD;  3) the lack of ready geographic access to my favorite varieties of delicious, delicious alcohol; and 4) because I am an old bag and less able to withstand the physiological downside of booze. I’m not in any way anti-booze or anti-drinking. You know, unless you’re all Lost Weekend and it’s ruining your life.)

But I miss the freedom to be ignorant and boring and foolish with impunity. So I think I might just start doing it again. Drinking, I mean. And also, the other.

So! Here’s the Cliff’s Notes of the last 5 months. Maybe once I get going, my fondness for yammering on endlessly in spite of an utter lack of interest from anyone will continue.

Ohmygodthisissoboring! Hooray!

January & February: Switch from iPad check lists to a paper bullet journal, resulting in increased pleasure and productivity. Use it as an excuse to Join Ink Drop and put the Safari to good use. Ron goes on tour. Cold winter! Much snow! New Überlist! Experiment with bread machine, especially 1-hour whole wheat recipes. All manner of pancakes! Abandon the hated crib and make a little room for Birdy inside our room. Finally get caught up on old taxes. Knitting again! Lots of culling and cleaning. Much baby-proofing. I start using a fancy face cream and a  fancy hand cream and discover that my smugness about not using fancy creams was wildly unfounded, and am delighted at new supple skin that is nothing like that crumpled greasy cheap paper hamburger wrapper skin I’d been living in all winter.

March: We buy a minivan. Okay, I know. But it’s mostly for the Yarn School shuttle and touring (Yarn School had to rent twice a year, and Kid Congo and the Pink Monkeybirds were renting a van at least twice a year as well). But yes, it makes me roll my eyes at myself. Baby. Minivan. What next? (Seriously? What’s next? I need to stay on my toes.) Japanese snacks! Baby chicks! Start and make excellent progress (before Cheese and Yarn School knocked me off course) on 40 Bags in 40 Days, a lenten simplification challenge Grasshopper turned me on to.  My 40 Bags isn’t for lent, but for a vague sense that I need to take action before I ended up on Hoarders. (Is that still a show? I had to quit watching.) My 365 Projects peter off on cue as I get busy with workshop prep. Ron’s band records.

April: Another lovely Cheese School, and an renewed excitement for cheesemaking! Next year, a blue or a mold-ripened cheese will be on my Überlist. Jayne Cobb dies, which involves a couple weeks of nursing, with weeping and recriminations, part of it during Cheese School, and a sharp improvement abruptly followed by a dramatic downturn and the decision to have him put down. And ultimately, relief, as I realize how much his debility (he’s had knee problems since he was a yearling, and was especially miserable in the heat) has been weighing me down with worry and attention, which in turn makes me realize that I really had been looking out for him and wasn’t an oblivious turd. Have the vet check out the remaining sheep (healthy and hearty) and review my routine for any deficits and get the thumbs up. Ron records a band, and I feed them. They are young. Yarn School, splendid! Yarn School has been going on long enough and has enough word of mouth that it now self-selects, and now only delightful people come. People who would not have fun here or who are too fancy for our rustic setting, can tell that they will not have fun, and don’t come. This means I don’t have to feel nervous or insecure, and I love everyone and have a marvelous time.

May: Mr. Shivers gets sudden weird neurological symptoms, rapidly gets worse, and has to be euthanized a few days later. Both our local vet and the vets at K-State are flummoxed, and his necropsy is unhelpful, except to confirm that he did NOT have rabies–which was a genuine and terrifying concern for a few days. I learn that the rabies vaccine for humans is no longer 10 shots in the stomach, but 2 or 3 in the arm; and that as long as you’re asymptomatic, you don’t have to be terrified that you won’t get them in time. TV makes you think you have like 15 minutes before you have to get those 10 shots in the stomach, or you’re fucked. But, as I learned from–what? This American Life, maybe? Radio Lab?–there is no cure for rabies. Once you have symptoms, it will kill you. So, with Mr. Shivers’ sudden death rounding up a year to the week from the terrible dog attacks (which still haunt my almost-asleep brain like The Ring) last spring, Cupcake Ranch as dwindled by 70% to just 2 fat sheep. I’m sure they spend all their time gossiping about what a shitty shepherd I am.  Their new thing is snacking on the courtyard. I trim around the clover and let them come in and munch at dusk. Also, something ate Peggy, the only avian survivor of last spring’s dog attack, the same day Mr. Shivers was put down. Which was also Mother’s Day. Through a bit of cheesy experimentation, discover that I can use my cheese fridge (aka, dorm fridge turned down low) to ripen whole storebought brie and make cheap brie taste like fancy brie. Another band records. Spring and rain. Ron goes on tour.

June so far: I finally get around to making PDFs of all my Naughty Needles patterns, and an ebook with all the bonus patterns. The rights reverted back to me ages ago, but I never made the time.  I downloaded a free trial of Quarkxpress and set out to finish converting everything before it expired. Couldn’t knock out the Kindle version, sadly, and I’m afraid I’m about out of time. I’m suffering terribly from grass allergies and the relentless rain has so saturated the ground that it’s seeping in through the basement floor all over the place and I’ve had to roll up the rug and pick up everything not waterproof or too heavy to move. The boiler room’s completely flooded, and water’s coming in fast enough that the wet vac can’t keep up. But they’re scheduling sunshine Wednesday, so hopefully that will suck up some moisture and it won’t be like May 2006.

Overall: My finances go up and down (mostly down). I struggle with YNAB, which is super fun and motivational when I’m flush and depressing when I’m broke. I make lists of things I wish I could have. We initiate Sunday is Fun Day, which involves taking a break and blowing off responsibility for the day. Or, alternately, punishing the person ruining Fun Day with repeated laments of “But Sunday is FUN day!”

Birdy is becoming an actual person and astonishing and delighting me all the time. She’s just starting to talk in earnest, in 2-word sentences in a tiny muppet voice usually only Ron & I can decipher. There’s also an incessant stream of jabbering and much dancing, which is so fucking cute, but probably just to us. That’s the thing about your baby: she’s only fascinating to you. And she scribbles on everything, which, surprisingly, doesn’t bother me at all.

 

The hated Gringo yarn: Done! + New TV Project

February 26th, 2014

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Thanks to Spinsters Club last Sunday, I’m finally rid of the burden of spinning the world’s most unfun fiber: the dread Gringo fur. Gringo is a lovely beast, but his fur was soul-crushing to spin. Short, matted, clumpy, jumpy, and a warm charcoal color that, while actually quite a nice color as yarn, was fucking BOR-RING to spin. I still have to knit a hat out of the stuff, which I predict will  be numbing as well, but a Gatsby garden party compared to spinning the shit. So: huzzah!

And apologies to my fellow spinsters who had to suffer through two meetings of grumbling and scowling and cursing.

I still haven’t gotten around to writing up my elf bonnet pattern, and any minute now, it will be spring. Well, I keep thinking that, then the temperature crashes and we get more snow, so…. I thought I was in the final phases, until I realized too late that the gauge on my last sample was all goofy and I’d need to reknit it. I’m not in love with the color and it’s almost-but-not-quite TV knitting, so I just put it aside for something more mindless, now that Ron’s home from tour and we’re having marathon TV catchup. We do love our television.

This, on the other hand, is perfect television knitting.

I realized I never made Twyla a baby blanket! And I needed a TV project, so this is perfect. It’s a mitered square blanket. The only thing special (special to me; I doubt it’s a unique idea, but I thought it up myself after finding lots of single-square tutorials, which to me meant too many ends) about it is that all the squares are worked in a row, so there aren’t a million individual ends to weave in.

For each square, I CO 21 st and worked a central double decrease (skp) every RS/even row & knit all the WS/odd rows. You just work a square, then either PU/BO or slip stitch crochet (same results, but for most, crochet is faster) down one side to the corner, then CO again, work another square, repeat until there’s a little row like paper dolls. Just keep going until the string of squares is the width you’d like your blanket.
SONY DSC

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For the second row, you just start at the right again (the first square is going the wrong way because I didn’t do the slip stitch cheat, just started in on the second square), PU 21 sts across the tops of the first two adjoining squares.

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After working the square…

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…work down to to the top of the next square below by traveling down the side with a slip stitch again.

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The PU another 21 sts over the next two adjoining sides, working exactly the same way as the first row, except that you PU sts instead of CO.

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The second row looks like this.  Note that it will have one less square than the first row. As you work across, pay attention to the top of the first squares so they’re all facing the same way, if that matters to you. They tend to spin around as they’re dangling there.

SONY DSC

For the 3rd row (and all future odd rows), you’ll need to CO 10 or 11 (you decide what feels like the best place to place that center st), then work up the outermost edge of the first row of the second square. Otherwise, you’d make a pyramid instead of a serrated rectangle. Those floppy sts are CO, not picked up along the edge of the first row. The picture’s a little unclear.

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At the end of the row, for the last square, you’ll PU 10 or 11 sts along the side of the list second row square, then CO your last 10-10 sts, so ultimately your third row will have the same number of squares as your first row.

Then just alternate between the rows until your blanket is the desired length.

 

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