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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Something Else to Spin

Since I've got to age the fresh Polworth singles for a few more days before I can ply them, I grabbed something else out of my fiber stash and kept spinning. I wanted to keep the spinning momentum going! This is BFL from Fleece Artist in the Ruby Red colorway (purchased at Colorsong Yarns). What you see above is two, 50 g batches of roving - one is still in the braid form and the other has been split and is ready to spin.

BFL is definitely one of my favorite types of wool to spin. It's a longwool so it's less likely to pill, the longer staple length makes it easy to spin, it has really great drape in the finished yarn and it's soft enough for next to skin wear for most people. I always feel like it practically spins itself. I'm planning on making this a two ply yarn and I'll use it for lace of some kind. As you can see, I'm using my Kromski Symphony (Giselle) to spin this up. If you care about the technical details, I've got the ratio set at 10:1 and I'm doing a 2 inch worsted draw for each full rotation of the drive wheel. I'm spinning the singles to 40 wraps per inch, which according to one of the calculators on my iSpin Toolkit app, will give me a plied yarn wpi of 28.28. I'm trying to get back in the habit of keeping notes when I spin and really paying attention to details. I slacked off on that when we moved, but now that we're settled in, I need to start doing that again. When I found the iSpin Toolkit app, I got it immediately because it's filled with little calculators so I can figure out how to match a handspun yarn to a commercial yarn and all kinds of other tools to figure out what kind of yarn I'm spinning. Here's a link to a review of the app and it has a purchase link if you have an iPhone or an iTouch. I'm not affiliated with either the reviewer or the app developer, I just think it's a great tool for spinners!

I don't think I'll have a chance to blog tomorrow morning because Finn is going to have his yearly exam tomorrow. Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Babette

I guess I've been giving weekly updates on squares for The Babette lately, so here we go again! 8 shiny, new small (not tiny) squares finished. Most of these are two color squares but I experimented with three colors on two of the squares and I like that too. If I'm counting correctly, I think I have 28 squares done so far. I've got to add these to my counting list (yes, I have a counting list, but there are so many squares of various sizes to do that I'll never keep track of them without a list, so in this case it's less my obsessive compulsive issues and more just self preservation), and then I'll know for sure how many I have.

Ramius appreciates all the support in the comments and he wants you to know that he has slept off the memories of the no good, horrible, very bad Monday and he thinks Finn should have a fabulous time when he goes to the vet for his yearly on Friday. Bwah ha ha!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do We Spin Around Here?

I found two spinning wheels in my sewing room upstairs and they were whimpering softly to each other about how neglected they were. One of them (the Rose) had some Polwarth singles on it being spun, so I finished up that bobbin this weekend and then I found enough Polworth for a third bobbin, so I spun that up. I've clearly got to let these last two bobbins rest for a bit because I don't even remember how long ago I finished the first bobbin. I know these were spun from 4 ounces of carded Polwarth in a warm gray color. You can see that there were some neps (the little bumps) in the fiber prep. I spun the singles worsted style.

Yesterday Ramius went to the vet to get his fluids checked (we have to have his blood and other fluids checked every 6 months now to stay on top of where we're at with his kidney disease). Everything is unchanged from 6 months ago so his special kidney diet seems to be doing it's job. When I got out his crate yesterday morning to take him (he has to be dropped off in the morning and stays at the vet's until he uses the litter box), he went right in and sat there all morning until I was ready to take Caleb to school. As soon as I put him in the car with Caleb, but not Finn, he started meowing. When Finn didn't come, he knew we weren't going on a road trip (Ramius loves a good road trip) - he knew he was going to the vet. He meowed all the way to school. He meowed all the way through the drop off line. He meowed all the way to the vet's office, where he continued to meow and tell his troubles to a fluffy dog who was getting checked in for a tooth cleaning (the dog didn't really care). They checked him in, but apparently he wasn't done. When I came to pick him up they explained that he had talked to a Siamese named Tsunami all day - they had a conversation, back and forth all day. The dogs who were hanging out at the vet's yesterday were also rather vocal from what I understand. There was an issue with the vet's un-absorbent litter and while they tried to clean him up with some dry shampoo, Ramius was "uncooperative." Yes, they said he was uncooperative. So when I got him home, I had to give him a bath. Fortunately, Ramius likes water so I got him shampooed and bathed up pretty quickly (which Finn found amusing to no end) and he was all fresh. Poor cat had a pretty rough day yesterday. Really the only thing we could have done worse would have been to have 4 or 5 puppies at home when he came home from the vet. Needless to say, he rebathed himself in the sunshine and snuggled in for a long nap yesterday afternoon. He isn't holding a grudge, but I'm glad we don't have to do that again for 6 months.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Ramius Friday

I realized it had been a while since little Ramius was on the blog, so I decided to turn it over to him today. He was very cooperative with photos this morning, but it was still dark enough to need flash which makes his eyes look like some sort of demon cat. His main concern at the moment is waiting for birds. We got a bird feeder a little over a week ago, but so far the birds haven't come to eat. I know it always takes them about a week to come to a new feeder, but we're really hoping they show up soon. It drives us nuts that they haven't come yet, but when I go outside, I can hear them in the neighborhood. On the other hand, the bunnies are still coming. Finn had a great chase this morning first thing before the sun was even up.

I don't know if I'll be able to blog Monday because after I take Caleb to school I'm taking Ramius to the vet to get his fluids checked and see how we're doing. Have a great weekend!

Listening to something outside. I love the way his coat looks in this one!

Looking at my hand, so he would look at the camera and get demon cat eyes.

Old style Hollywood soft focus. We all have days where we could use a little soft focus don't we?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming Soon!

Some of you who have been reading here for a while know that in the past few years I've done a couple of patterns for the Yarn4Socks sock club. A couple of months after the sock club gets the pattern I offer it to the public through my blog. The first pattern I did for them was the Scarborough Fair and Caledonian Mist socks, then in 2008 I did the Visions of Sugarplums and New Fallen Snow socks. Well last November they contacted me again and asked if I could do the pattern for their February sock club. I accepted the pattern commission but there's a funny story to the whole thing.

When they contacted me, I had the flu. I never really felt that bad with it, but it sucked all of my energy out of my body. There was one other side effect of it and that was a huge burst of creative energy. I actually designed and charted an entire stole one day (which I'm knitting now to release as a pattern ASAP)! It was during this burst of creativity that they contacted me and told me that the theme for February was the element of Ether. Well the phrase "element of Ether" should have been a clue, but my fevered, flu crazed mind grabbed the word "Ether" and ran with it. I knew that I'd need to design the club socks around Ether, but I started thinking about how to do the second sock design (since I always do my sock designs in two's). I concluded quite quickly that designing a single sock and calling it "Amputation" was not going to be appropriate, but what about "A Bottle of Whiskey and a Leather Strap to Bite?" Now that would be a sock! Or I could base the second sock on more modern medical science and call it "Lidocaine!" I could call the little pattern collection "Anaesthesia through the Ages!" My brain was going a mile a minute and I was mentally stash diving to see if I had some whiskey colored sock yarn upstairs and wondering what color modern anaesthetics were. At some point, I had to stop the brainstorming and cook dinner and it was while I was standing over the pot of macaroni and cheese (hey, I had the flu) that I realized that maybe Yarn4Socks wasn't doing a series of sock clubs based on historical pharmacology.

I double checked their email where they told me the theme and there it was: "the element of Ether." OK, so I wouldn't need whiskey colored yarn (for this pattern at least), and quite happily, the Ether they were going for is Aether or Quintessence - the fifth of the classical elements. You know, the classical elements which I had already based sock designs on the first four? I had been playing with coming back and doing Aether but hadn't gotten around to it so this worked out perfectly! And just to keep it straight in my mind, I decided to use the spelling Aether not Ether.

If you're interested in the sock pattern, it will be available to Yarn4Socks sock club members next month (there are still spaces for sign ups for that month) along with some seriously lovely yarn dyed by Delia of The Fiber Denn. I will be offering the pattern only through this blog at the first of April (probably April 2), so if you miss out on the sock club you can complete your Elements Sock Collection set of patterns then. And just to tease you a bit, they've said I can show you the designs for the pattern- I present Celestial Socks and The Void Socks of Aether: Elements Sock Collection V:


Oh, and as for A Bottle of Whiskey and Leather Strap to Bite? I might just have to design a pair of socks around that idea at some point...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Poor Cassidy is probably feeling pretty neglected lately. It's not that I've been ignoring her, it's just that I've been trying to work on pattern knitting during the day (between laundry and cleaning and errands and dishes and all the other fabulously glamourous things I fill my day with) and only doing personal, bloggable knitting in the evenings and some evenings I don't really sit down and concentrate well. Cassidy isn't hard, but when I pull her out, I have to figure out where I am and what comes next. There are copious notes from knitting the back that I can refer to (and I do), but again, I have to find where I'm at.

Last night I was able to get more than 20 rows done on the fronts (once I do figure out where I am, it's pretty fast moving), and I've now finished the decreases. I'll be starting the increases soon, but right now, right this very minute, what you see in the picture above, I'm more than halfway to the armhole shaping. I've got to get Cassidy finished before the Olympics start or I'll never get her done!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Babette

I've gotten 20 blocks for The Babette done now and I thought I'd lay them out (in no particular order) to see how I was doing color wise. I wanted to make sure I didn't have too much of one color or need more of another and overall, I'm pretty happy with what I have so far.

The pattern calls for 128 blocks total and since I'm wanting a bigger size than the pattern comes out, I know I'll need more, but it makes sense to me to start with the blocks called for in the pattern. I realize that 20 blocks is less than 1/6 of the total, but I've already done the four biggest blocks and have some of the medium sizes done. The majority of the blocks are tiny and small. I guess I could call them tiny, small, small medium, medium, large, and extra large. So it might make more sense to say I've finished all the large and extra large blocks, done some of the small medium and medium blocks and done some tiny and small blocks. Make sense? I've also figured out that I will definitely need more yarn scraps in warm colored superwash fingering weight.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Stash Enhancement

I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas so last week some new books came home! Except for the first book, I've given Ravelry links to the books so you can click through the designs in the books and see them for yourself. (I'm assuming if you're not a Ravelry member, you're probably not a knitter and you really don't care about knitting designs. If you are a knitter and you're not a Ravelry member, you need to fix that.)

The first book I got was Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Abby spent part of her childhood in rural Peru where she was taught to spin by the local population. Abby has probably forgotten more about spindling than most of us (myself included) will ever learn. I'm still reading through the book but what I've seen so far is wonderful (and the photos are beautifully done). Many of us start our spinning with a spindle before jumping in and purchasing a wheel and this book makes you look at the spindle as far more than just a "gateway" tool to spinning.

Next is The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman. This is a self published sock book that has 14 different patterns pretty much covering all the bases for socks: top down, toe up, sideways, solids, textures, colorwork, lace, you name it, there's a sock in here with it. There are some really unique and beautiful designs in this book, but being self published, it is probably hard to track down at most bookstores.

Also by Janel Laidman is The Enchanted Sole. This is her (again self published) sequel to the above book. It has 20 sock patterns all based on fairy tales and folk tales. Again all types of construction techniques are used and this book includes a good number of knee high socks (a style I've never made but would like to).

Finally, if Janel's books cover all the sock knitting bases for standard construction, Cat Bordhi once again completely leaves the ball park, goes off roading where no sock knitter has gone before and still comes back with designs that fit human feet. Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters is her second book in her "New Pathways for Sock Knitters Series." I have the first book and while I look through it periodically, I've never knit from it. It's not that the designs aren't wonderful, it's that I still haven't knit the little homework sock you're supposed to do before you start the patterns. (It's so you can understand the patterns - probably an important part.) Since I tend to want to knit socks RIGHT NOW, I turn to more traditional construction techniques. This year I plan to sit down and knit that little homework sock and start understanding why and how socks knit upside down and backwards (OK, it's not quite like that, but have you seen her designs?) can still fit feet, and seemingly fit them well. I expect you guys, as The Blog (kind of a warmer, fuzzier collective than The Borg) to hold me to this after the Olympics are over!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Babette

I keep making squares for The Babette. I've made 16 squares so far and these are the three newest. I'm starting to lose track of what I've shown on the blog so I'll probably just start taking pictures of all of them when I blog this project (which will also help me to see if I need more light squares or dark squares). I'm trying to get the bigger squares done first (although I give myself a little treat with a smaller one after completing a big square) so that I have plenty of yarn choices. Looking at the yarn situation, I'm thinking that I need to knit some socks with warm colored yarn so I have more scraps. I don't think I've got enough to finish the blanket! Is that wrong? Knitting socks just to make scraps for the blanket?

Of course I could set The Babette aside and start messing around with the cool color scraps...


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Manly Mitts


I finished up Daddy's mitts this weekend! Once I had some measurements and knew when to stop and start things on the first one, the second one was super fast. I didn't really use a pattern on these and even though I started out looking at The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, I didn't use any of the numbers in there either. Despite the fact that I basically winged them, they came out looking surprisingly like mitts- don't you think? Of course now that the weather has warmed up around here some, he might not need them, but he'll have them for next year. (Mom and Dad thought Texas would be warmer than Colorado - Bwah haha!)


Monday, January 11, 2010

Random Monday

Just a few random things I thought I'd share today.

I'm doing the pattern for Yarn4Socks February Sock Club and I like to go ahead and get the chart written in the computer before I knit the sample so I can work from it and catch any errors. Back in March or April of 2009 I switched from a PC to a Mac (love it) and I also purchased Knit Visualizer to make my charts. I had previously used either a spreadsheet program or Stitch and Motif Maker because I thought it did better cable symbols than the free font programs. There were some limitations to using both of those so I did some research on what other knitting programs were out there and what would be available for a Mac, before I switched over. What I found was Knit Visualizer. My earlier software, while it did what I wanted it to for the most part, didn't have anywhere near the customizable options Knit Visualizer has (and currently, Stitch and Motif Maker is not available for Macs, but the company is starting to release Mac software). This gives me a lot more flexibility but there's also more to learn in order to use the program. It's not particularly difficult to use and the instruction manual seems pretty well written, but it does take time to figure out how to make it do what I want it to do. Over the weekend, I sat down with Finn and we figured out how to make a custom stitch for one of the charts for the sock design. It's not the kind of discovery that will change the face of civilization as we know it, but I felt pretty proud of myself by the time we finished. (Finn had fallen asleep by then.) I need to keep messing around with Knit Visualizer so I can not only get a better sense of how to use it, but also to make it easier and faster to get it to do things I need it to do. I don't know how helpful it would be for someone who doesn't write knitting patterns and only makes charts to get written out stitch patterns into a chart format to make them easier to knit. Since I seem to keep designing knitting patterns, it's nice to have all the bells and whistles though.

I was also aimlessly wandering around Ravelry this weekend and while perusing patterns, yarn and crocheted hexagons, I ended up wandering into the Internets and discovered the blog Attic 24. (I didn't exactly discover it, I mean you can see from the number of comments she gets that clearly I'm pretty late to the party, but since I really only recently figured out which end of a crochet hook is the useful one, I'm not really beating myself up over this.) I did some wandering and reading and I must say that I absolutely adore the colors she uses. I mean just look at the pictures - that color! Pinks and limes and periwinkles and yellows and lavenders and sages and just WOW! Rowan seems to be one of her favorite companies for yarns (she is in England after all) so even the brightest of colors are subtly muted just the tiniest bit. Maybe it's been so cold here lately that I needed the hit of color to thaw out my brain, but I could look at her photos for hours.

Finally, we got a new mattress this past Fall (which we desperately needed) and the new mattress is taller than the old mattress. (The new box spring might also be taller - I don't know.) Anyway, this means that the quilt that used to cover the old mattress just fine, doesn't cover things as well now. It's like the bed's slip is showing. (Does anyone still wear slips or have we all just switched to Spankx?) So I realized that I would need to make some new quilts for the bed. This was not a new condition as I had seen some signs of wear on the quilts before, but had successfully ignored it so far. Fortunately, I used to quilt - a lot. I even worked at a quilt store for a while. When I was a quilter, I was just learning to knit and would only buy yarn for my current project. I know, scarey right? Well, the funny thing about quilters is that they tend to have quilts in various stages of completion at any given time. This hasn't really changed for me so I went stash diving (in my quilt stash) and found fabric for a couple of king size quilt tops as well as a quilt top in progress that shouldn't take too long to finish.

This is a log cabin quilt (in progress) and I've completed the blocks and have sewn them into rows (and conveniently labeled each row with it's row number). Now I need to sew the rows together and add borders. Then it's off to be quilted once I pick a backing and some batting for it. I plan on making this big enough to fit over the new giant mattress AND cover the box springs AND cover the top sheet AND have enough left over to tuck it in under the mattress at the foot of the bed to keep our feet warm. I will have to add some pretty serious borders, but I still have enough fabric that I should be able to do that without adding something new to the top. This feels like a Fall and Winter type quilt to me, so I'll probably back it in flannel and put a good weight of cotton batt in it, but I thought I'd show you guys what's going on so no one would have a heart attack when a quilt shows up on this blog and also so I'd have some motivation to get it finished. Of course this also means that I'll have to do a more Spring or Summer type quilt too, but I have a idea for that.

Friday, January 08, 2010

I solved my crochet problem all by myself!

I'm feeling quite proud of myself right now. It feels the same as the first time I cast on for knitting and didn't have to look up "Casting On" in a book. What did I do? I changed the start for the tiny squares for Babette and now they seem to be the correct size. On the left is a medium square with two tiny squares done as the directions tell you to. You can see that the tiny squares are a bit too big to fit two along each side of the medium square. On the right is a medium square with two tiny squares done with a sliding loop start like I mentioned trying yesterday and clearly, these guys fit better.

None of the squares are blocked yet of course, but using the sliding loop which allows me to tighten up the center of the square makes it just the right size to fit to the medium square. I can't take responsibility for the technique of the sliding loop - I learned that in Beyond the Square - but since I learned the technique for my little star flower motifs that I made last Fall, I realized that it might be just what I needed to make the tiniest blocks for The Babette (I think it needs a "The" in front, don't you?) the perfect size. If you look, you can see that the tiny blocks on the right don't have a center hole, while the rest of the blocks do (and will, as I continue to make them). I don't think this is noticeable and I certainly don't want to downsize the rest of the blocks. Do you guys think it's noticeable?

Have a great weekend and stay warm!


Thursday, January 07, 2010


Like most of the rest of the country, it's gotten really cold here! It's about 21 degrees right now plus we've got some pretty serious wind. Finn was out and in pretty fast this morning and thinks it's probably a good day to play with his woolly man. Ramius was eyeballing the down comforter last time I saw him and I'm guessing he's one of the lumps underneath it now (I haven't made the bed yet this morning).

I have made some more Babette squares though! It's fun to mix and match the different colors and see how they come together in the squares. There is a Babette group on Ravelry (they also do hexagon blankets, which is really the reason I started messing around with crochet) and it was mentioned that the smaller squares all seem to run a bit bigger than they should (compared to the other sizes) and mine seem to be doing this too. (If you look at the medium red square on the right, the two tiny squares underneath it should be the same size as the lower edge of that medium square. As you can see, they're a little bit bigger.) I'm going to try using the sliding loop* as a center instead of the start given in the pattern because once I've gotten my first round worked, I can tighten up the loop and make the center as small as possible, which might solve the slight size issue with the smallest blocks. If this works, I'll just do my smallest squares this way from here on. I will probably still use the first ones I've made because there are so few - I'll just space them around the blanket and make sure I sew them in carefully.

*I learned the sliding loop technique as a start for the star motifs I made into a scarf last Fall from the book Beyond the Square. I Googled for a link to this technique and while I found something similar, it wasn't going to hold as well as the one in the book (so I'm not linking it here.)

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mitts for Daddy

Last week my Dad asked if I could make him some fingerless mitts to keep his hands warm. This is the first time Daddy has asked me to knit him anything so of course I got some measurements of his hands and wrists and got started. I had a bunch of black Cleckheaton Country 8 ply (it's a DK weight, superwash wool) that I got from my old LYS in Virginia. I decided this would be perfect for a manly pair of mitts. I decided to knit it at 6 stitches per inch (slightly tighter than DK weight usually is) to make them more durable and to counter act any "growing" that the superwash tries to do.

Using Daddy's measurements, I pulled out The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns for directions, promptly decided I'd use them more as guidelines than rules, and started knitting. At this point I've done all of the thumb gusset increases (you can see the thumb area on the right) and now I'm working even until I get to the point where I'll separate the thumb stitches from the rest of the mitt. I need Daddy to try them on this morning to see how much farther I have to go before I can separate those stitches. Fortunately, we're supposed to go to the gym in a little while so I can get him to try them on then.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010


I didn't lose Cassidy, but it did get ignored for a few weeks while I finished up the Christmas Knitting. A while back I had finished up the back and cast on for the fronts, but that's about as far as I got. Last night it came out to play again and I got past the lower ribbing edge and started working the cables on the fronts.

I would love to get this finished soon because it's the perfect season to wear it and the color is so happy - perfect for a cold, gray January (or February) day.

Yesterday Caleb and I got to work and got the Christmas decorations all packed up. It always seems to take forever to get the tree down, but we worked all afternoon, packaging up the ornaments and taking down garland from the stairway and now all the decorations are packed up safely in their bins, waiting to be hauled out to the garage until next year. The house always looks a little sad and empty when the Christmas decorations come down. Of course there are also the little bits of fake tree (yeah, we use a fake tree - real ones don't come prelit and sometimes do come with squirrels - hey, I saw Christmas Vacation!) and the random glitter all over the floor now so I'll be doing some serious vacuuming.

Today Caleb is back to school and we get back into our usual routine around here!


Monday, January 04, 2010

Something New and Different

On New Year's Eve I started a new project. (Yes, I still have other projects, but let's not discuss that now. Now we're discussing my new project.) Can you tell what it is?

It's the Babette Blanket from Interweave Crochet Spring 2006. I had seen this a while back, but since I barely crochet, I hadn't really thought about it very much. Then I realized that the pattern calls for fingering weight yarn. If you knit socks, you soon have tiny bits of leftover sock yarn, which happen to be fingering weight. So I sorted through my sock yarn leftovers and made piles: non superwash of any color, superwash warm colors, superwash cool colors, and superwash whites (which in this case meant whites, creams, pale beiges, and pale grays). Since I knew that if I didn't narrow the colors down some in this project, I'd obsess over every stripe, I grabbed the scraps of warm colors in superwash wool. This was yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, rasberries, magentas, browns, and burgundies.

The only rule I gave myself was to only use yellow in 10% of the squares. The pattern calls for 128 squares, so 12 or 13 of those can have a yellow stripe in them. The reason I'm doing this is because yellow can easily take over a project, but limited to 10%, I can scatter the blocks with yellow in them around to move the eye across the blanket.

I know I'll want my blanket bigger than what the pattern calls for, but I'm going to start with making the squares called for. Then I'll play with layout and figure out how many more I need to get the size I want, working with my yellow rule on the additional squares. This means that the majority of this project will be lots of little squares, but at the end, there will be a lot of sewing up. I realize I could sew as I go, but I want to make sure I have the squares where I want them and the easiest way to do that will be to wait until they're all made. On the other hand, I just gave myself a new portable project while I do the little squares!