March 27, 2010

OMG! So Much FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today, five friends and I ran away from home for an afternoon playing in the mud. Well, first we went to a charming tea room for lunch. Then we played in the mud! It was a pottery play date for adults! There were 3 stations and we split into groups of two and rotated. We had instruction in three different techniques, decoration, slab plates and throwing pots on a wheel.

The first lesson for Ceinwen and I was the decorating a bowl. We got to design and paint a pre-made, bisque fired bowl. Mine was fairly simple with a vine of leaves around the outside and this little blob inside. Ceinwen did the cutest kitties on hers! It was neat to see all the finished bowls because you could tell from the decoration, who did which bowl!
Throwing pots on the wheel concerned me a tad. The only other time I tried it, it was on a home-made wheel with excessive vibrations that I found arm-numbing. The potter's wheels we used were much nicer, with no vibration and it was so much easier and so much more enjoyable as well.

These pieces are Ceinwen's and mine. I have two more, a thrown plate and a tumbler. The lovely instructor, Lou said she'd apply a handle to the tumbler to turn it into a mug, which she doesn't normally do. One piece will be glazed and the rest we'll get as bisque fired pieces that we will have to find a way to get glazed and fired on our own.
This was a blast of brilliant fun! I want to do more!

If you ever need a fun afternoon out for 6-10 people, I highly recommend Lou and company at Lou Hanson Pottery in Dundas, On. The have a lovely studio kitty as well as a couple of placid Newfoundland dogs who ignored us all!

March 23, 2010

Socks and Gauge, project updates

A friend was knitting a pair of lovely lacy socks. I loved how the design took a self-patterning sock yarn and made it look varigated instead of faux fair isle. Very cool indeed! When she saw my rather utilitarian green socks, she commented that I my knitting gauge was tight.. gauge being the number of stitches per inch. Of course when I got home, I whipped out the tape measure to check.
Gauge is determined by the yarn, the size of the needles and how much tension you have on the yarn as you're knitting. Gauge is important to know if you're trying to make an item to size. If you have more stitches per inch than the is required, your item could be too small and if there are less stitches per inch, your item will be too large. You can do some size adjustments, just by changing the gauge or like with the black mittens, I knew I needed more stitches to make a larger item, which is a second way of increasing size, using the same gauge.. More's the pity, I didn't in that project.

In the case of socks, often a rather tight gauge is specified. Most sock yarn is rather thin, requiring more stitches per inch, just because it's skinny. As well, sometimes you'll hear people complain about being able to feel the bumbs on the sole of the foot and a tight gauge will get rid of that problem. Apparently, a sock woven at a tighter gauge will keep it's shape longer and wear out more slowly as well. If a pair of socks costs me $15 - $20 in materials and 20 hours in labour, I want it to last!

So back to the green socks. The yarn called for 7 stitches per inch. The sock pattern called for 8.5 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch. I know that a sock, with that weight of yarn, cast on with 60 stitches, and knit at 8 stitches per inch, will get a sock that fits me nicely and be dense enough to be long wearing and comfy. With a size 2.75 mm needle, I got the 8 stitches per inch, which is what it measured out to be. According to my yarn... too tight... according to my pattern, too loose.... according to me, just right! hmmmmm I see a little blonde curly haired lass or three bears helping me with that one.

By the way, the Kitchener stitch toe, was perfect first time round! Not only did it get done painlessly, but it looked lovely too. I am happy because I have another comfy and pretty pair of socks. The yarn I dyed knit up with lovely colour varigation and absolutely no colour pooling at all.. Now if I could only find a way to photograph the socks without having to curl my toes and stand oddly to balance! (I finished the green socks yesterday!)

Next is to find the perfect pattern for the copper sock yarn. I've been looking but nothing has screamed knit me yet.

I'm spinning up some Mioget Shetland rovings. Its a soft light brown colour.

The leek and onion seeds have been started. I probably should have done it last week, but got busy. Next week I can start the rest of the plants. I may need to get some large buckets of water in the greenhouse to help moderate the night time temps. My grandfather used manure, which gave off heat as it composted. I don't have that luxury right now, but buckets of water will heat up during the day and release heat at night, protecting my seedlings. Until then, I'll start them in the house.

The area in the barn is cleaned and we'll be starting to build the chook pen. Right now it will be for all the chicks and by next year, I'm hoping to have a separate brooder area for new chicks/meaties while the layer chooks will have their own pen and outside run.

March 22, 2010

Colours of March

March is normally, grey, snowy and windy here... but the seasons have been confused lately, with last summer sort of passing us by and this winter missing us completely. Regardless, the unseasonably warm March weather has been welcome and the sunshine a blessing. I welcome the warmer weather because I absolute love hanging my laundry outside. It's one of those weird housekeeping tasks I enjoy... not tossing it in a dryer, but hanging it on the line. I'm happy to have a clothes line again!

Two weeks ago, I was able to hang my laundry out. It was a glorious day and while it was still below freezing when I hung it out, it was warm enough to do so. My rule of thumb is that I won't hang it out if my fingers stiffen up and get too cold from the temps. On the farm though, the neighbour was always a tad disdainful that I stopped in late October and didn't start back until the spring, as she hung hers out all winter!

Just a few days ago, it was already gloriously warm in the morning when I hung it out! And no snow! I was at the farm yesterday and they still had just a bit of snow, but then it's neither here nor there since they had snow fall on Saturday and we had it as freezing rain Sunday morning.

The only things in bloom yet are the Maple trees. Somehow I think it is too early for them to flower, but they are already! I loved the colour of the sky at this moment.

Because nothing is blooming yet.. the daffodils have only just awoken from their winter slumber and have stretched only about an inch towards the sky, I had to go with some artificial colour this year. Pots of forced Hyacinth bulbs have been on sale this year. They are one of my favourite bulbs for both their colour and aroma. This one was sitting right beside my loom. mmmm

March 15, 2010

Toe Grafting

Or Stupid Kitchener Stitch...

It was nice that a certain Lord Kitchener, commander of some sort in the British Army figured out a way to seam sock toes so that it wouldn't irritate the tootsies... It's the part of sock making that I dislike the most. It should be the exciting bit at the end, because once it's done, you can wear the sock... but I find it frustrating and fussy.
I finished one of the green socks on the weekend. It's the sock yarn I dyed myself with acid dyes. I was pleased with the skein right out of the pot, happy when it was re-skeined into a normal sized skein and am thrilled with how it knit up - no colour pooling at all! However, I had to unstitch that stupid toe grafting 3 or 4 times before I got it to a level of acceptability. I should have expected it, since I had to tink a couple of rows at one point and go back with a crochet hook at another to catch a rather annoying slipped stitch that was irking me to no end. I'm still not totally happy with the toe grafting, but I know when I have to live with the results so I won't be doing it again.

I've always avoided trying the toe up sock method. I like the order in which a cuff down sock is made and I like doing heels that way as well, but I think the next pair will be just that! Toe up.. Sorry Lord Kitchener, I'm just not using your stitch on the next pair!

March 10, 2010

Weaving through distractions

It's been a week of distractions..

First, I had offered to make up a display board for the local Weaver's and Spinner's guild recent demo. It took longer than I had expected. Among other things, I changed my vision halfway through, which is not a good idea. I dragged my wheel and the inkle loom to the demo as well. When I dug out the little loom, I realized it had a half finished band on it and the warp had stretched. It took a bit, but I wove it off and re-warped it just in time for the demo. Now just to get this band off and ready for the next inkle project which will be a strap for a felted bag.

The bag is the loom waste of the shawl project. I had a bit of the weft thread leftover, so I just did plain weave all the way to the end of the warp. Off the loom, the tabby was a firm fabric which really had little drape to it. After sewing it up, I tossed it in the washer and watched it carefully so that it would full up enough but not too much. I almost got distracted and let it go on a bit too far, but it's still good. Hopefully this week, I'll be able to pop a lining in it and once the strap is woven, it will be a nice, albeit somewhat small bag.

The shawl is off the loom. I'm really happy with it. It turned out as nice as I'd hoped for, even nicer perhaps. It's soft and drapey and the colour combinations worked as I'd envisioned them as well. Going with the twill, used more yarn and thus a bit of a narrower shawl, but it was the right decision. It is a much nicer piece than if I'd used a tabby weave. Of course I could be biased, since I am rather fond of twills anyway...

Then of course, were several beautiful days when I dragged my pup out to snuffle in the sun's glorious rays, while I squelched through the melting snow and mud with intentions of picking up sticks and other bits. He did make things a bit more difficult at times when he noticed I had some of the larger sticks in my grasp. He would jump up and bite the sticks and nudge my hand. Apparently larger sticks are to be thrown and retrieved rather than put in the ever growing pile of sticks.

My girlfriend, who lives halfway around the world, sent a Christmas pressie, which due to a timing delay, got here on Monday.. Isn't it pretty! It's soft, squishy, beautiful, yummy sock yarn in a very pretty colourway. I found a set of sock needles for sale from someone's stash at a spin-in today, so I nabbed them so I could have two pair of socks on the go at once. My rule is finish the pair on the needles before I start a new pair, so that the single sock doesn't languish forever in some sort of sock void. However, I had no rules about 2 pair of socks being knit at the same time. That's not cheating too much is it?

We unfortunately missed Winter War. This time we realized we'd not had a day out just to ourselves in a while, so we took the day to do some running around to various places to do some planning, research and window shopping. We went to various stores looking for various kitchen design ideas. We were supposed to go out for lunch, but the restaurant we chose closes between lunch and dinner. We'd missed the window of opportunity so headed home. On the way, DH decided to pop into a local car dealership to do some of the research. We've been planning a second vehicle for a while and one on our list was in the lot that day. We went for a bit of a test drive - always fun.... and picked up this today :) Not quite the little run about I'd anticipated....