March 23rd, 2011
I want to marry my new sweater.
The free pattern will go live on Craftzine late this week or early next, so you only get a little peek right now.
In other knitting, I just unraveled the first sleeve of Kid’s Superman sweater and learned that the happy fun knitting adventure I’d planned won’t be materializing. I had assumed I’d be able to spit-splice the broken yarn from the ragged sleeves and just knit them straight down. Then I’d just darn the main body. But it turns out the wool won’t split splice. I don’t know if it was superwash, or if it’s been damaged by dry cleaning (it kind of has that crunchy dry cleaned feel), but in hindsight I should have realized the stitch definition was too clear and the pits were too pill-free for regular wool.
But as usual, I dived in without actually thinking it through.
I should still be able to pull it off, but there will be much heinous end-weaving. Gross.
Around Cupcake Ranch, one unlucky lady has a particularly unfortunate hairdo right now.
Poor Faith already has kind of a wild, hawkish look to her that makes her the stringy misfit of the flock. And her new molt-driven mullet is not helping matters. She’s rocking sort of a bearded lady look. No wonder she’s so mean.
March 15th, 2011
Okay, I forgot my stupid memory card, so I couldn’t take any pictures, but the Missouri Fiber Retreat was super fun! Marta, Jen & I all took different classes, which was awesome, because I got a sense of what I might like to take next year. Definitely basket making, which didn’t appeal to me at all before I saw Jen’s basket.
Anyway, here’s my wrap-up:
Friday afternoon, I took the indigo dyeing class with Bex Olinger. She had 3 different kettles going for the class: one indigo thiox/lye vat, one woad thiox/lye vat, and one saxon (indigo/sulfuric acid) bath. We learned how to dip/oxidize fiber in the thiox/lye vats, how to mix stock solutions, how to balance the vats, and lots of wonderful historical & cultural information about indigo. It was most excellent!
The really cool thing about the thiox/lye vats, which are pretty much the more modern version of the traditional indigo vats (but made with checmicals instead of pee), is that you have to soak the fiber and then expose it to air to activate the blue color. The bath itself is green, and you have to be careful not to aerate it. When you first pull the fiber out, it’s green as well, but as soon as the oxygen starts to hit it, it turns blue before your eyes! It’s really fun to watch, and it happens each time. The whole process is not for the impatient though, as dark colors can take dozens of dips to achieve, and you have to balance your vat (both in pH and chemicals), or you can actually end up removing the color from your fiber! We had this happen toward the end with the woad vat.
The first vat was woad, which comes from the cabbage family and can be grown locally (though you need a special exemption and have to take precautions because it’s considered a noxious weed).
The samples show 3, 4 and 5 dips (from right to left). The top skein is from the dyed corriedale combed top, which has been spun & plied (so gradations are gone); followed by wool yarn, cotton muslin, and raw silk.
The next vat was indigo:
Again, 3, 4 and 5 dips of the same samples.
The last pot was a saxon blue vat, which uses indigo and sulfuric acid. Unlike the other vats, this one doesn’t require oxidation and makes brilliant blues. The wool turned a gorgeous peacock blue.
The top samples were wool, the first one was combed top that was spun so the colors blend. The other three samples show saxon blue dyed over samples dyed rich yellow with Osage orange, while the right samples were dyed on natural ecru colored fabric. Wool yarn, cotton muslin, and raw silk on the bottom.
My personal project for the class was Shetland wool lace in a pale heather gray. First I soaked it all in woad, removed to oxidize, dipped about a third in indigo, oxidized. Then I rewet the whole skein to get a soft, watery transition and dipped it to about the 2/3 point in saxon, then immediately pulled it out about halfway, then pulled out another 3 inches ever 10 minutes. I’m really happy with the result!
Saturday evening, Bonnie Ahrens gave an excellent keynote speech on felting and her inspirations and travels.
Saturday morning, I took an entrelac class with Tamara Lasely. Entrelac in the round isn’t overly difficult, but it is complicated and physically challenging, since you have to knit backwards and, even harder, pick up backwards. I don’t know that it’s a technique I’ll use much, but I’m glad to know how to do it, both because it’s one more thing to check off on my knitting master list, and because I think it would have been very difficult to learn on my own, and Tamara was a great teacher. I never thought I’d like any entrelac clothing, but Tamara had on this amazing single color lace entrelac skirt that was fantastic.
We made a 2-color sampler bowl. Since I’m an over-achiever, I worked in a couple extra rows of entrelac to make more of a vase shape, and after I felted it, I cut a slit for the handle of my little Bee House teapot, which wanted a cozy.
Saturday afternoon I took the soap making class with Gary Olds. It was fantastically informative and interesting, and I’m really glad I got to see exactly what the different phases looked like. The best part of the class was the math, if you can believe it. He explained the why and how of formulations and showed us how to figure out the correct formulas with the fats we have, and how different fats contribute different properties. If I had seen the same information in a book, I would have given up before starting, but now it’s crystal clear and seems perfectly easy.
I stuck to my resolution not to start any new hobbies this year by NOT buying the nice wooden molds he had on offer. But I do think I’m going to make a single batch at home with what I have on hand. Since I already have all of necessary tools and all the ingredients but lye, and since I really want to make a batch to cement the process in my mind, and since the point of the resolution was to stop me from buying up a ton of gear and falling into the money and time suck new hobbies generate, I think I’m spiritually safe from breaking the resolution if I stick to a single batch using only what I have on hand. (Wow, that was one hell of a sentence.) I’ll use either juice cartons or a clementine box lined with foam core for my mold, and I’ll render this giant bag of beef fat I have in the freezer for my fat.
Sunday morning was felt boots with Joi Chupp. I went a little bananas and made them really gaudy, for which I’m feeling a fair amount of remorse, but the good news is that it’s exactly what I wanted: thick, hard felt boots, much like my valenki. We started with a flat linoleum resist that we made ourselves to felt the basic shape, and when it’s well felted, you cut it off the resist and continue to felt it on and off your foot until it’s the desired shape and fit. I’ll definitely buy some linoleum scraps and demo the resist technique (which also works for mittens, bags, hats, etc.) at the next Felt School.
I made them a good deal thicker than most of the class (since I was the only one to use up my full half pound of wool, plus some extra I bought during class), and I also made my template extra large to begin, because I knew I wanted thick boots. I might try again when it warms up and I can work on them outside in the sunshine. But they came out nice and thick, not quite as heavy as my valenki, but the same method would totally work to make them–I’d just need to start with a somewhat bigger resist and several more layers of wool.
In class, we used white merino blend batts–I pulled mine into large, thin layers like a silk hankie–then I made the final layer from bits of pink batting I bought from Bonnie Ahrens’ booth. Next time, I’ll use colored wool throughout, in different colors so I can keep track of the layers and have a nice color sandwich when I cut them off the resist. Maybe woodsy greens?
March 10th, 2011
Whew! Sick of my own whining and ready to quit wringing my hands and get back to work!
I have a busy day today (hence the procrastination blogging) because tomorrow morning, we’re heading of the the Missouri Fiber Retreat, yippee! I am incredibly excited about all my classes! I’m taking:
Indigo Dyeing–We’re dyeing samples of various fibers, but we also get to dye another 4 ounces of whatever we bring. I don’t know what to dye! Maybe I’ll bring a few different options and wait to see how the samples come out.
Entralac Knitting–I’m hoping this will be a nice stash eater for blankets. I don’t really approve of it in clothing (too fussy/bulky), but I love it in blankets. As a knitter, you really have to guard against letting fun techniques impair your judgment. If you let yourself knit whatever is the most fun, if you wander into clothing, you can come out looking like the wacky spinster aunt all the time (this is not my actual aunt, but the imaginary wacky spinster aunt you always see on TV and in movies–eccentric clothing, lots of feathers, an “artistic” nature, lecherous comments about younger men, sort of a horny Madwoman of Chaillot type). It’s a constant struggle. Of course, there’s always mittens. Mittens are a safe haven for fussy techniques. Yay, mittens!
Soap Making–Although my vow against new hobbies this year means I won’t continue the soapmaking at home, I’m really eager to see how it’s done for future reference. It sounds like a science experiment, and it will be nice to learn it without investing in supplies and worrying about another mess to clean up.
Felt Boots!–This is the one that thrills me the most! I’m hoping this means valenki, but even if they’re just floppy slipper things, I’ll be pleased.
Marta & grasshopper Jen are coming too, though they’re taking totally different classes. Whirled Jen was supposed to be coming, but her husband’s down with the flu. She’s so much fun, so I’m disappointed/hopeful he’ll have a speedy recovery & she’ll be able to join us later. But either way, it will be a blast! We’re all in the same cabin, too!
Now I just have to figure out what WIP to bring.
I don’t have the yarn for the rest of my upcoming craftzine pattern, so that’s out (sadly, because it’s both fun and easy to knit).
My stash cardigan is kind of a pain in the ass for traveling, what with the 5 different balls at once in play, so that’s out.
I also have a year-old WIP I could bring, my Drops cardigan. But first I need to track down my annotated version of the pattern, because I changed the gauge/math. Eek. I hope that’s not lost to the ages. I guess I could always start counting stitches.
Oh! What about my crochet potholders for the swap?! That’s what I was working on last year at the retreat, too.
Now that I’m feeling a bit less mopey, I’m evaluating my crafty Überlist goals from last month. (But before I do, can I just mention that my Überlist list year is CLEARLY too ambitious and runs completely contrary to the spirit of the Überlist; that is, to chose super-easy goals that make you feel like a genius instead of super-hard resolutions that make you feel like a loser. I’m already firmly in the second category.)
The funny thing is, yesterday, I thought I’d done a terrible job for February. But when I actually tallied it up, it’s quite impressive! The only think I failed on was the building scarf, my little woolly albatross.
8. *FIX: Mend or eliminate an item of clothing every week. Fixed a dress and some vintage PJs, sewed a button back on Ron’s coat, and hemmed 2 pairs of his jeans.
50. *MAKE: Photograph and document each foot of building scarf and make a giant scrolling panorama page for it. I got this photographed and spliced into a giant image file, but have yet to make a page.
56. *MAKE: Sock a month. (Mitten = sock.) Spinsters Club mittens.
57. *MAKE: Sweater a month. I was counting this in the fail column, then I remembered my Critter Sweaters!
58. *MAKE: Spin a pound a month. Check.
63. *ORDER: Destash NET 100 balls and 10 pounds of fiber I’m down another 20-odd balls between destash and knitting.
60. *MAKE: Write, photo, make a pdf and publish a new free pattern every other month. (Free!) Two free hat patterns.
104. *TCB: Write, photograph, make a nice pdf and publish one pattern for sale each month. I did write and photograph a couple new patterns, but I didn’t seal the deal with a new pdf in my ravelry store, so no countsies there, either. Refined & PDFed Thrifty Critter pattern, along with a bunch of new clothes for him.
And on this I fell behind again:
47. *MAKE: Knit 2 feet a week on the building scarf I think I got about 5 or 6 feet done.
Man. I should have reviewed that yesterday, when I was feeling shitty! I got a lot done in February!
And here are my crafty Überlist plans for March:
1. Finish Craftzine sweater (#57)
2. Spin 8oz Funky Carolina BFL, Christmas 2007 present from my mom, and 8oz Hello Yarn BFL, Mitten School 2010 (#58).
3. Spiral Bedsocks from Melinda‘s awesome Harveyville handspun. (#56)
March 10th, 2011
My current WIP, soon to be a nostalgic sweater pattern on Craftzine.
We’ve been re-watching (well, me re-watching; Ron watching for the first time) old episodes of Buffy. Right now we’re on Season 3 and I’m getting to see a lot of old eps I haven’t watched since they aired, which is great fun because I only remember the broad strokes. Ooh, that Xander makes me so mad in Season 3! And Wesley! Rgh! I like that the men of Buffy are most often the petty ones. (Or maybe it’s actually just equal and only feels lopsided because on TV it’s so often the other way round?)
So naturally, I had a Buffy dream last night. I’m kind of surprised it’s taken this long for them to kick in because I usually get television dreams a couple days into a marathon. Last night I had a dream about kissing Spike that made my heart pound so dramatically that it woke me up. We weren’t making out or anything, just kissing so softly we barely touching, but in my dream it was exhilarating and I woke up with a mad adrenaline surge and my heart racing so much I was practically gasping, which was a little embarrassing (even though at the moment, I was the only one who knew).
Did I mention I’m 40?
When I went back to sleep, my thrilling Buffy dreams didn’t resume. Instead I was balancing my checking account online and I had all these charges from my new ATM card that I’d forgotten to record, and as a result, had bounced several checks and was having to call around and explain. That dream was much more realistic, and also made me wake up a little mortified.
If you had asked me at 16 to describe the 40-year-old me’s dream life, I wouldn’t have expected this. Nor that the second dream just as apt to be, you know, my reality.
We’re barely into the new year (that is, we’re well into the new year, but it feels like it just started) and my grasp of time is as tenuous as ever. I’d been so glad for my open February, but it flew by before I knew what happened, and now we’re a third into March and it’s all a blur.
My February crafting was only marginally successful. I did manage to knock out my pound of handspun again, which was comprised of my Spinsters Club batt plus a bunch of Roving from Triple R Farm (Rhinebeck booty).
There was about twice as much of the first as the second, so alternated an ounce of red with half an ounce of mutli, then plied them from opposite ends of the progression, so the finished yarn should have roughly even stripes of red plied to itself and red plied to the stripey stuff. It’s a nice sturdy DK and will probably become a lightweight sweater.
I’m right now battling a breath-sucking tide of general anxiety. That’s the worst, the vague kind that’s difficult to diffuse because it’s so diffuse itself.
Freddy was really sick last week and had to go to the kitty hospital for the better part of the week. He seems to be doing well now, and now he’s on a very extravagant Rx food that makes Sugarfoot’s fancy prescription food look like a $4 generic from Target. But cats don’t eat much, so it’s not a terrific burden. (It’s funny how when your pet’s sick, money is no object, but as soon as they’re out of the woods, you start grousing about dollars. It’s like that Seinfeld joke about the check coming at the beginning of the meal.)
Anyway, for the next month, in addition to the special food, he’s supposed to get subcutaneous fluids twice a week to make sure his kidneys keep nice and clean.
The vet said to nuke the bag for a minute to get it to room temperature, but she’d already taken the plug out when she showed me the process, so when I nuked it, it flopped out of the bowl I’d propped it up in and two thirds of it spilled all over the microwave while I was facing the other way fiddling with the tubing. Yay! $20 all over my counter. Then trying to get it in was a comedy of errors, only comedy isn’t exactly the right word. More of Ron struggling with Freddy in a towel and me sticking the poor cat half a dozen times like a pincushion only to accidentally pull it right back out and squirt water all over the room. Again and again, and punctuated with me & Ron growling (him) and/or screeching (me) at each other. Finally, I had to give up and take a break, and I’m not psyched about replaying that little farce again later tonight.
Maybe because the strain of Pollyannaing had gotten to me, maybe because I’m disgusted with myself for my laziness and incompetence in general, maybe because I’m irritated I can’t afford to go to Berlin for a few days at the beginning of Ron’s next tour as I’d hoped, even with my mom’s cheapie tickets, because we closed our credit cards and can no longer pretend the imaginary money is real. Maybe I’m just cranky from the belly full of cheap grocery store Chinese food that’s turned me into a remorseless farting machine. But whatever the root cause, the fluids debacle dropped me in a pool of looming panic. It’s kind of suffocating me. I think I’ll go hula hoop a bit and see if my mood improves.
If I still feel shitty in a little while, I’m make two lists, one called Poor Me and one called Quit Being Such a Titty Baby. Poor Me will enumerate my woes and Titty Baby will count my blessings. Hopefully the second list will be much longer.
February 22nd, 2011
I have a lot to do. Under no circumstances should I deviate from this–SQUIRREL!
Last weekend’s To-Do list did not get to-done. Instead, I moved everything from my room out into the hall and scrubbed it all down and rearraged it so now I have two big roomish areas instead of one giant room. It turns out my hulking armoire and dresser make for pretty handy room dividers, and subdividing the room makes the proportions of the furniture (and giant as it is, no match for a former classroom) more pleasing and my space much more workable and pleasant!
Now I have a sort of bedroom area and a sort of craft/dining area. It’s marvelous! And inspiring! And clean!
But now the hallway outside of my room is laden with 5 big boxes and hampers of miscellaneous crap I pushed off of surfaces and piles. So I’m going to go on the record and vow to sort and put away/toss/donate everything therein by the end of the–SQUIRREL!
And I also finished my Spinsters Mittens, just in time for the return of winter. The first 2 pictures are very washed out in the fading winter light. They’re extra homely because they’re freshly-knit, not blocked or anything.
The detail shows of the component colors a bit better, though of course they’re more muddled as a whole. The pattern is Hello Yarn’s Tip-Down Mittens, an excellent free pattern that provides a very easy-to-use mitten recipe. I didn’t bother with the gauge calculation, so if math is a deal-breaker, skip it. I just started as directed with needles several sizes smaller than I normally would for this heavy aran yarn, and worked the increases until the width seemed right, then continued on as directed. I like a slim-fitting mitten with a long cuff–which keeps my hands warm and doesn’t hinder most of my barn chores–and this pattern was perfecto! The tip-down aspect allows for however much yarn you have on hand, and I knit them both at once with the magic loop.
Mitten School converted me to magic loop. I’m completely on board now (Adrian wasn’t proselytizing or anything; that was just my only non-DPN option in the size I needed, and it won me over.)
The fiber was chain-plyed handspun made from this year’s Spinsters Club batt. I did recard the batt for a more even fiber blend (which I kind of regret and kind of don’t–I think the more contrasty colors might have been prettier for mittens, but I wanted to blend in the silky kid mohair locks Laura brought for extra strength).
The batt was from January Spinsters. It’s wool and silk and tencel and bamboo and mohair! Each year when Spinsters meets here, we all bring 4oz of fiber, divvy it up evenly, and card up pot luck batts. Everyone’s yarn is so different depending on how we card and spin it.
I have no idea what I did with last year’s batt. Probably spun in and promptly forgot what it was and gave it away. The year before, I spun this:
out of this:
But I still haven’t made it into anything. There’s not all that much there–I think we each brought just 2 oz that first time. But there’s definitely enough for something smallish, so I really need to use it!
Ron’s back home (yay!), complete with a cold (boo!).
February 18th, 2011
Yesterday, I got so beguiled by the beauty of a 70° day in February that I decided to take the afternoon off. I didn’t even open my calendar, just grabbed a book and headed out into the sunshine. I read The Golden Compass and ate an apple and shared the core with the chickens, and watched the sheep graze the mostly-dead winter pasture and periodically bolt and flock together.
When it got dark, I went inside and made Fudgy a new jacket, pink with a little fancy red stitching around the neck just for fun.
Then, all hopped up on a sewing high, I went through this huge bin that contains years of to-be-mended clothing, looking for this week’s mending project. I was utterly astonished at how tiny everything was, and how short! I just re-joined Weight Watchers after years of packing on the pounds, and I’m finally feeling confident that I can edge back to my goal weight, so maybe I’ll actually be able to wear some of the less-tiny stuff again, though I think the really short dresses are definitely a thing of the past (hope springs eternal, though, apparently: I didn’t toss them out yet). I finally settled on some vintage pajamas to mend, and I think I’ll give them to Ron.
Later on, I caught up with some blogs I like and did a little knitting and read some more. What I didn’t do was open that calendar.
If I had opened my calendar, I would have realized I had a business-y dinner last night, and I completely spaced it! This is why I will never be a captain of industry. The siren song of freak gorgeous weather completely overrides any sense of responsibility.
My afternoon off was lovely, and we’ve got beautiful weather scheduled all weekend. I’m going to make sure I spend a couple hours a day outside, but I’ve also got a mountain of TCB.
Here are my plans for the weekend. Hm. I went back and slapped a time guess on each one and I clearly can’t do all this this weekend, unless, you know, I don’t sleep or even pause at all.
- Hang up lighter curtains and decide which I prefer (1 hour)
- Fold up losing curtains and get them ready to return (30 minutes)
- Put up bubble wrap (hour/room?–10 hours?)
- Flyer (2 hours)
- Finish and pack up Color Source Book orders (4-6 hours?)
- Swatch my sweater options and make a yarn decision (3-4 hours)
- Catch up on the building scarf (Hm. 10 hours?)
- Spin my Spinsters Club batt (2 hours)
- Spend a couple hours cleaning (3 hours)
- Do some laundry (1 hour)
- Pick a template! (2 hours)
- Replace rotten or broken planks on the palettes in the hay shack; toss out all the leftovers (2 hours)
- Hang some tarp on the east side of the hay shack (1 hour)
- Make a rack for all the tools I like to keep in there (2 hours)
- Examine Agnes’ front hoof that looked like it might be cracked (30 minutes)
- Repair Fudgy’s old coat and put on Hokey Pokey (1 hour)
- Make a new coat for Mr. Shivers. (1 hour)
- Catch up on my stuff elimination (1 hour)
- Try 2 new recipes! (2 hours)
- Finish destash cardigan (4-6 hours)
- Remove, pack and return defective screen (1 hour)
I have 3 candidates to swatch for the sweater I’m working on for the March Craftzine. Just in the ball, the Sheffield is my favorite. It’s 70% merino, with 15% silk and 15% angora. It’s fluffy and super soft, with a gentle halo. Plus, I love the icy pale blue.
My monstrous rolls of bubble wrap arrived today. I’m planning to put it up this weekend, while it’s still warm. Hopefully we’ll get a little greenhouse action going with the afternoon sunshine. Hm. I just checked the forecast again and now they’re predicting thunderstorms Saturday and clouds Sunday. Boo. Well, at least I’ll get the bubble wrap up before winter kicks back in on Monday.
February 16th, 2011
I’m super-awesome because I just resisted a very tempting elann.com update. Naturally Natural Wool 200g hanks under $5 in both aran and DK. And you know how much I love the natural browns.
And earlier this week, I resisted this very cute tablecloth on clearance at Target even though I was dying to buy it for a circle skirt. But I’m prohibited from buying any clothing this year, and that includes tablecloths! But I could hear the cogs creaking in my brain trying to rationalize that one. Instead, I’ll see if I have a cute vintage tablecloth in my stash I can use for a circle skirt.
(ETA: Extra credit because I still denied it when I found it again last night for 75% off. It was very hard to convince myself that the same arguments applied when it was $3.76. But cheating is cheating and a busy print still makes my ass look bigger, even when it costs less than a case of Diet Coke.)
As if I have any business draping a busy print over these hips! (It was actually that thought, and not my slavish devotion to my Überlist, that made me put down the tablecloth. That and lately my poor checkbook sobs a little every time it opens. I’ll be glad when we can shut down the boiler for the season. Did I mention how grateful I am for this warm spell?)
Today one of the Kansas Day organizers sent me this great pic of me tandem spinning (me drafting; someone else treadling) with some cute random kid. I’ll bet I did this with 50 different kids that day, including a couple who were so little they had to hold onto their parents’ knees and run in place on the treadles.
Yes, that is my ghetto tin can cupholder. I totally covet one of these (with the slotted option for my coffee cup, natch), but my birthday is not til September, so it’s all travel mugs and Diet Coke cans for me right now.
February 15th, 2011
A while back, I decided to go through all my old patterns and clean them up and make nice, tidy pdfs to sell. The free patterns will stay right where they are, but if you want to shell out a few bucks can get a nice, printer-friendly pdf that can live in your ravelry library.
I wanted to make Ron a new Critter for Valentine’s day, so I decided to take the opportunity to revamp the pattern and design some new clothes for the little guy! The paid version of the pattern includes my new critter designs as a free bonus. In addition to the 2 scarves and wizard hat already available free online, the pdf includes a new toque and cowl, a sweater vest or cardigan and a Hemmingway sweater (cabled aran turtleneck)! I have to admit I sort of want my own Hemmingway sweater now.
After lots of winter, we suddenly got a fake spring a couple days ago. It’s been in the 50s, and it’s supposed to be 70 on Thursday. Of course, this comes right after I buy thermal curtains and order a shitload of bubble wrap to try out this trick. It’s not like we’re going to quit having winters–or even that this current winter has run its course–but it’s vexing to spend money at just the wrong time.