February 26, 2013

Shawl done!

I wish I'd taken a photo of the shawl before it was blocked!  It was this small, wrinkled, lumpy bit of knitted fabric.  I tossed it in a sink full of warm water and let it sit for about 20 minutes, swishing it gently once or twice.  Then I squeezed out the excess water and rolled the shawl in a large towel.  If you wring out the water, there is a huge risk of damage or distorting the knitted fabric.  However, if you lay it on a dry towel, roll it up tightly and squeeze/roll it, you can get most of the water out of the fabric, without doing any damage.  

The soaking relaxes the stitches and they miraculously even out.   Then I assembled the blocking mats and set them on my fibre drying rack, which was close to the woodstove and had a fan running over it to move the air about.   The pattern said to block "aggressively", so I used lots of T pins to pin out that shawl out so that the lace pattern would show. Even in our cool house, it only too a few hours to dry.

     Kevin and I had an argument over whether he should be allowed to play with the T pins and drying shawl.  He lost that one, though it took a bit of persuasion on my part.  He sulked afterwards and I found him hiding under a piece of loom packing paper he'd dragged off.  It was full of little Kevin claw and teeth marks when he was finally done and happier.

I  I dug through a bin looking for fabric and found a lovely piece of dark, natural brown wool twill which had enough yardage for a skirt, which was exactly what I was looking for and had forgotten about.  I also found these 5 skeins of plied yarn from who knows how long ago.  Of course I didn't label it, so I've no idea for certain, what kind of fleece it is.  I'm guessing Shetland as it's easily available from multiple sources locally and the spun yarn is medium soft like Shetland.  However, with 422 grams, 16 wpi and 844 yards, I think it would be good yarn for a shawl.   I haven't decided whether I'll use commercial yarn or handspun to pair with it.  I have that grey from the started knitted plain shawl that I could frog.  There is 450 grams of it and only slightly thicker grist.  I also have some rather nice commercial wool/silk blends and a plain wool in about the same weight as well.  The fun part of starting a project is figuring out all the details!

February 23, 2013

Friday Night Sew In

Once a month, Heidi hosts a Friday Night Sew-In.  It's a personal challenge to set aside some time on a particular Friday night, in which to dedicate to project finishing.  I find this useful, especially when a project is getting fussy or frustrating and it would be easier to set it aside than to dig in and work through the issue.   Last night, I did just that.  I signed up for the Sew In.   Only, I was going to knit instead of sew.  The sewing room is a tad cool at this time of year and most of the sewing projects I've got going were started on a different machine.  There is definitely a difference in stitch and seams between machines and the projects might actually show  the difference.

After supper, I made myself a huge mug of herbal tea and sat down with the lace shawl I'd started.  It's the first time I've done a huge lace project like this and only the second lace attempt at all.  My first was a rather easy pair of socks with an intuitive and easily memorized pattern.   With only 4 repeats, and no increases to deal with, it was easy peasy.  However this shawl thing was getting me down. 

I'd tried with a single strand of the indigo yarn and I couldn't discern the pattern at all, which made it difficult to follow along.   As well, did you know you must be able to both count and follow a pattern at the same time in order to knit lace?  You also have to marker the bejebbers out of it and lifelines can be very useful.    So I had frogged the single strand of yarn.  I doubled it up and started again, this time with the two strands being about the weight which was actually called for in the pattern.   Note to self - you likely won't see the pattern emerging until you've done a whole repeat of the first chart!  If I'd done that with the first try, it might have been better.
First lace project, other than one pair of socks.

I'd gotten halfway through the first chart and found out why lifelines were recommended.  It was so easy to frog back to a known correct row and go from there.  In the end, by buckling down last night and knitting, I got 1 1/2 pattern repeats down.  I got comfortable with this particular technique and with the idea of counting rows and repeats with obsessiveness and using markers that I didn't even know I had hiding in my knitting bin.

What is amusing me right now, is that the idea that this little bit of a knitted thing, will actually block out to be a shawl!

Marker shows the "right" side, for keeping track of increases.
I emptied a basket which had been collective "stuff" since late last summer. I found this hidden in it.  Okay, it was hidden in plain sight as I didn't even bother to put it in a project bag, but it was underneath a couple of fibery things, so it sort of blended in.   It's another shawl, plain garter stitch, made from handspun, generic grey top from RH Linday.   The fibre was nice to work with and I remember spinning this as it spun up quickly and easily, more so than I'd anticipated.   Obviously with garter stitch, this is a mindless knitting project, a break from the plain socks I normally drag out to meetings and such.   However, there is enough of this yarn that I'm considering frogging the whole things and tossing another shawl project on the loom instead of knitting it.

I started another spinning project on the Mazurka.  It's just plain white yarn again, but this time at about 10 wpi or so.  I've nothing special planned for it, but it's a good project to practice consistency and variety in grist.  Besides, the fatter yarn fills up the bobbin more quickly, which gives me that instant gratification feeling.  That's kind of nice sometimes.

February 20, 2013

Eggs and yarn and stuff..

Trying again...  stupid connectivity problems with the router and email has been hit or more miss for ages and now it just ate my blog update.. pffft.. to that!

Soooooo.......  According to the Egg Farmers of Canada website, commercial eggs weigh about 43 grams (a small egg)- 70 grams (jumbo egg).  I know that most of our eggs are on the larger side since if you put them in a carton, there are always a few which don't fit in and the lid won't close.  However one gal laid this wee thing the other day.  It is heavy, weighing in at 116 grams.  It's not a record breaker for sure, but still, it's a big one.   If I had to guess, it would be from the Barred Plymouth Rock who went into moult during the coldest part of the winter.  She is fully feathered now and has always laid odd, large eggs.

I've finished plying the indigo dyed fibre.   In all, there is close to 500 yards of it.  It's a soft yarn, suitable for knitting or weft.  I'm seriously considering breaking down and actually knitting a shawl with it.   We shall see what comes with that idea.

The white Falkland is spun and plied.  This is about 450 yards of fibre spun at 14 wpi, 4 tpi, worsted, weighing 167 grams in total.   I sort of got carried away and spun about double the yardage that I'll need for dyeing.    Because I manage to get enough yardage for something useful and it's nice, nice yarn, I may spin up some more to use for dyeing and set this aside for a real project.

February 14, 2013

Play Time!

The mandatory coursework for the Master Spinner course I took last spring is in the mail.  I can now only trust that I did enough work to at least pass.  Hopefully, I did better than just a pass though.   After taking a few days off, I felt like I was missing something.  So.....  I picked up some sock yarn and proceeded to try to knit a pair of socks.  It took 4 tries and finally I changed my pattern and grabbed some slightly thicker sock yarn than I normally use, just to get something on the needles.  I prefer lighterweight sock yarn as it is more enjoyable to knit with and makes a nicer sock.  These ones feel a bit like boot socks, however they flew off the needles, which I needed right about then.  They are comfortable enough but not so much so that they'd ever be my favourites.   The pattern is a simple 2/2 rib, with a cable running down both sides of the foot, simple enough to just wing without a written pattern.

Then I took apart my travel wheel.  It's a Kromski Mazurka and a very pretty little thing.  It weighs only about 9 lbs so it's really light and easy to haul around.  I got it unfinished.  I stained it and finished it with a Scandinavian Tung Oil.  I used several coats the first time and it was nice and shiney.  However, a couple of years of hauling it around, general use and of course winter with a woodstove had left it looking a bit dull and dusty.     Most of it just pegs together, but I didn't bother to glue the legs in so that I could disassemble it almost completely should I need to.  So I took the poor old gal apart.  I rubbed down all the pieces with fine steel wool.  Then I wiped them down with damp linen to remove the dust and Kevin hair as most of the time I was working on it, he was unsuccessfully hiding under the wheel.  Then I put a fresh coat of Scandinavian Tung Oil on it and after a difficult 24 hour wait, I put her back together.  With a nice bit of oil on the axles and leathers, she runs as smooth and as quiet as ever.   She is a sweet little wheel.

I might mention too, that I'd left the tin of oil in the garage from the cupboard project.  With the really cold weather, I'd worried that it might have frozen.  I called the company's tech line - Behr and had quick, friendly advice telling me basically, it can stand being frozen a few times but try it on a scrap to make sure.   I hadn't want to waste the time experimenting if getting cold would ruin it.  It is obviously a flexible product because it worked perfectly. 

While I was waiting for things to dry, I started spinning some white Falkland fibre on the Minstrel.
I'm anticipating needing over 200 yards of white for a dye project later in the spring.  Better to spin it now, before I forget about it and have to rush it, two days before the event.  This is the first bobbin - short forward draw , which I'll ply to get about 4 tpi.  There is no rush on it though, so I'm taking my time and enjoying the process.

Then of course I needed to try out the Mazurka, because I'd not have known it was running as smooth and quiet as ever, if I'd not tried it out. 

This is the roving I dyed as extras for the shawl.  The roving was a little bit compacted so it took several tries to figure out how best to use it.  I tried just loosening the fibres, but it was still difficult to draft.  Then I pulled it apart and hand carded it into rolags.  This worked okay, but the staple length is approaching 5 inches long and that made it a bit difficult to card.  Finally I walked by the diningroom table, which I noticed that I'd left the drum carder set up.  It's not like I don't go right by it 10 times a day, but I guess somethings become invisible after a while.   The drum carded batts drafted best of all.  It's also less work than rolags.   I'm half through the second bobbin and will ply them together.   It's still a lovely shade of blue.

Shortly after the socks were done, I started to knit my daughter a pair of fingerless mitts.  However the Shetland yarn I had spun some time ago, albeit nice yarn, was too thick for the intended pattern.  Instead, I made myself a pair since during the cold spell, our house was rather chilly and my hands were periodically a bit cold.  These are thicker than I'd normally make, but flexible and I spun in them last night, despite my hands not actually being cold.  They'll be useful, should the temperatures drop outside again. 

February 09, 2013

After the storm..

What a difference a day makes!  Yesterday I woke up to falling snow and it just kept coming down, all day.   We got over a foot of snow, which isn't really a lot of snow, but in our area, it tends to come a bit here and a bit there and builds up slowly, giving one a chance to acclimatize to winter.

 The snowblower wasn't working so the boys had to shovel the drive the old fashioned way so sweetie could get the truck in the driveway to pick up my son for work.   Then today, with the glorious sunshine beating down, I went outside to play for a bit.  All of a sudden I heard a noise, and look what I saw coming around the corner of the house.  Apparently it was an easy fix!  He did a 3 pass run to the coop and made it easy for me to get out to feed the girls and collect the eggs.  

One of the girls was brave enough to venture out on the newly made path.  Last year they were all out and about in the snow, but we had so little, it really wasn't a hindrance to them.  This year though, we've had much more, as well it's been much colder only the bravest, biggest girl has made the rounds when there has been snow on the ground.  


On the few sunny days we've had, I've found this grey girl sunning herself in front of the door. 

Despite the early morning temperature of -20, the rare blue sky was something to behold.  I thought that as it warmed up, the sky would turn an insipid pale whitish, watery blue as it often does, but thankfully, it stayed a nice, deep blue.   It was just lovely outside.

This is one of my favourite things this time of year.  The colour and definition of the buds against the sky.  Like the snow banks turning grey, the slush and the strong, warm sun, these buds are signs that Mother Nature has not forgotten us and that spring is really, just around the corner.