Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sea Glass and Fuschia

I wanted to write a quick post even though not a great deal has been happening. As I write this, my husband and son are downstairs watching the World Cup final game. I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one will be happy when it's all over and all my social media feeds return to normal.

I've got a bit of new spinning to show you. This is merino, dyed in a local shop. They called it 'Envy' but I think it's more a sea-glass turquoise than a real green.

I love the colour, but I'm not crazy about this batt. 

I had a lot of trouble with 'folded' fibres in the batt and I'm not convinced it was blended as well as it could have been. The top side has all the colour and the bottom, the part that is folded in was still very white. That said, the end result is a fantastic colour though I think it is actually a little underspun (that part is totally me and has nothing to do with the preparation). I haven't quite decided how I'm going to finish it; I'll need to run it through the wheel again to add more twist but I don't know whether I'm going to then wind half of it off onto another bobbin for a two ply finish, or Navajo ply for a three ply finish.  

So while I'm thinking about how I'm going to finish this, I'm still working on my sweater.

This is a sleeve. It's actually the second sleeve but the first piece that I think is actually going to be the right size. I had some sort of mental collapse when I started knitting this. The pattern provides both measurements as well as row counts. I fixated on the row counts without bothering to actually measure. So while the front, back and first sleeve are all wide enough, none of them are actually long enough. As I said, I'm not sure what I was thinking - I guess not thinking is closer to the truth. The front and back aren't obviously too short, but that one sleeve that I did is perhaps 3/4 length - fine if that is what you're going for but not my goal.

In other news, totally unrelated to this I've been tagged in a blog hop and I'm looking for a few people who would be interested in participating.  The questions (4) are about design and the creative process - not knitting specific.  I'll be posting that entry next week.  If you want to participate, leave me a note and I'll have a link to your blog next time.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Gift of Alpaca - Phase 1

Some of you have heard the story of how I came to have 10 oz (approx 300g) of Alpaca fibre in my stash. For the rest of you, this is what happened.

Several years ago, I took a half day spinning class at a local shop. At that time, I bought a new-to-me wheel and seriously thought I was the king of the hill. Look at me everyone - I can spin. I actually kept what I spun that day that I was so proud of.

It's a good reminder, both in humility but also to see just how far I've come.

I went to work the following Monday and told my then-boss about what I had done, and how pleased I was with what I had learned. She was thoughtful for a moment then said, "There is an Alpaca farm near my timeshare in Vermont. If I bought fibre, would you spin it for me?" Being so pleased with myself (and not having a clue what I was committing myself to), I said "Sure!"

So, true to her word, the next time she went to Vermont, she picked up three large bags of alpaca fibre and gave it to me at work. Two bags were for her, one for me as a thank you for doing the spinning.

That is about when the enormity of what I had committed myself to really sank in. I was looking at (what appeared to be) pounds and pounds of alpaca fibre and I knew that I didn't really have the skill to spin it. Not properly.

Thus started the my spinning education. I have the good fortune of living very close to the Wool Grower's Co-op Warehouse in Eastern Canada and was able to pick up small bags of roving for very little money.

I spun, and spun and spun some more. I learned to ply - no small feat when you only have one bobbin!

I ordered fibre online and spun that. This is where I learned that you have to be really careful with dyed fibre. Some is great, some, well - not so much.

I bought a new spinning wheel and kept trying.

I kept spinning and every once in a while, I would take a small amount of the alpaca out of the bag and test spin it - just to see if I could. Most of these experiments were abject failures and just when I thought I was going to have to admit that I really couldn't do it, I did it.  It wasn't great, but I did it.  I bought a bag of Alpaca fibre, and spun that. And it was lovely - if you ignore the catastrophic error I made while doing it.

So a few weeks ago, I took one of those lovely bags of fibre out from the bottom of the bin and started spinning. And spun, and spun and spun some more.  And then spent a day plying.

And this is the result.

That my friends, is 600 yards of 2-ply laceweight Alpaca.  And it's divine. But mostly, I'm so happy to be able to make good on my promise.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

An Honourary Liebster Award

Kaiya of Winterlime Knits has very graciously nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Thank you so much!

  1. Post 11 random facts about myself
  2. Answer 11 questions the awarding blogger has asked
  3. [Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers, add their links to this post, and let them know that they have been nominated]
  4. [Create 11 questions the nominated blogs have to answer]
These are the rules, but I'm going to change them somewhat.  The thing is, while I'm deeply pleased and gratified that I was nominated for such an award, the current structure feels a little too much like a chain letter.  So, in keeping with the spirit of the award - of introducing you to blogs which I like and which may be new to you - I am going to suggest a few that you might want to look at, but I'm not going to come up with questions for the owners to answer.  As such, this is an honourary Liebster Award, and not the full blown thing.

Eleven Random Facts about Me
  1. I'm a military child so as a result of moving every four to six years I have no "childhood home".
  2. I'm a military spouse which means I also did a lot of moving as an adult.  In six months, I will have lived in this house for four years and two months, longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life. To put that in perspective, I'm almost 44.
  3. In real life, I'm a software localization engineer for a company that makes auditing and financial analysis software.
  4. My mother taught me to knit when I was about seven years old.  One of my aunts was pregnant with her first child so mom had me make a baby bonnet in garter stitch.  It was yellow with a ribbon tie that she sewed on when I was finished.
  5. I met my husband when I was learning to scuba dive.  He was the instructor.
  6. I first learned to spin on a drop spindle when I took a class with a friend.
  7. I have a scattered educational background.  I have a degree in Historical Musicology with a minor in history, a post-graduate diploma in Applied Information Technology, two years of formal language training from the Canadian Military Foreign Language Institute (Mandarin Chinese), and a college diploma in Drinking Water and Waste Water Treatment (my provincial certification has expired as I didn't get a job in this field fast enough)
  8. I spent three years living in Beijing, China as a diplomat.  At the time, I could speak quite good Mandarin and read enough that I could get the gist of a story in a newspaper.
  9. The artistic / crafting gene runs very strongly in my family on my mother's side.  There are musicians, artists, quilters, authors and actors.
  10. My favourite flower is the cabbage rose (followed closely by peonies). They will be incorporated when the south side of the house is landscaped.
  11. I have a kayak, for those rare daylight moments when I'm not knitting, spinning or dealing with the vegetable garden.

Kaiya's Questions
  1. When did you really start getting hooked on crafting? Was there a particular project or technique that sparked the hunger?
    I got hooked in 2000 when I was pregnant.  I was home alone with nothing to do and had this idea in my head that pregnant ladies knit.  But I hadn't done much knitting since I was a kid.  So I went to Zeller's and bought a ball of dishcloth cotton, some needles and a booklet called How To Knit.  I cast on a handful of stitches, and knit a square, then ripped it out again and did that over and over until I had some confidence in my stitches. The first thing I made was a little hat for my son to wear.  Incidentally, I still have the booklet.
  2. What's the most challenging project you've faced down so far? Did you conquer it or did it vanquish you?
    There are two things that come to mind here.  One is a sweater I made for my SIL for Christmas several years ago.  This was pre-ravelry so I don't have pictures.  It was a hooded cabled pullover with two separate cable patterns worked at the same time.  That was tough, but I learned how to manage multiple patterns at once. The second was a stole designed by Anne Hansen (Autumn Arbor Stole).  This was challenging simply because of it's size and the fact that the yarn was like thread, it was so fine.
  3. Do you like to have something going on in the background while you craft, or do you need stillness and concentration?
    Depends what I'm making.  If its a complicated pattern, or I'm trying to do something new or involves counting to more than four I prefer quiet.  For something like plain vanilla socks, I'm happy to have noise.
  4. What is(/are) the dream tool(s) you would get if you had the money and opportunity?
    Hmm.  This is a changeable list; depending on what I'm doing.  For the most part, I'm happy with the tools I've got and fall into the camp of "the skill of the craftsman trumps good tools".  That being said, I like having quality tools.  Viking wool combs are certainly on my "I want it" list
  5. What's one skill or hobby you've always wanted to pick up?
    Sewing.  I learned the basics of pattern reading and how to sew a simple item when I was in elementary school (when all girls did Home Economics) but I didn't continue with it and rather regret it now.  I have a machine, it's now a case of getting on with it.
  6. What are your favorite colors? Least favorite?
    I don't really have favourite colours, per se.  I do have preferred palettes for different projects.  I know that if I'm making something for me, then darker jewel tones work well.  But that isn't so good for baby clothes where I prefer lighter colours.  For socks, I tend to make them in fairly neutral colours so I can pair them with anything.
  7. What are your favorite foods?
    Hmm.  Another tough question.  This changes with the season I think.  Right now, it's high summer and stinking hot outside so cold meats, hard cooked eggs, pasta salad, fresh tomatoes with a sprinkle of chopped basil - that sort of thing sounds divine.  In the winter, nothing beats a good stew that's been in the slow cooker all day.
  8. How has technology impacted your crafting?
    This is a great question.  Technology has had a huge impact on my crafting in that it has made the global community smaller.  I find myself talking to people from all over the world about knitting, and spinning.  I also use video tutorials to learn new techniques - something that wasn't really available when I was learning. Curiously though, it has really solidified my desire to purchase locally.
  9. Is there anyone for whom you will Never Make Anything Again?
    Umm.  Yes, yes there is.
  10. What literary character would you most want to be like?
    I'm going to sidestep this question.  I think we spend so much time trying to imitate other people that we lose sight of who we are.  I'm in the process of trying to re-define and rel-learn who I am so honestly, I'd rather be me.
  11. Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future of your blog?
    This is another great question and I honestly hadn't given the future of my blog much thought until I was asked.  I think the next phase is going to be about getting my blog out there and increasing the number of people who are actually reading it.  I also want to improve my photography skills to make it that much nicer to look at.
The Blogs I'd like to Introduce You To
Here, in no particular order, are the blogs I'd like to share with you.  There are lots of really well known blogs, many of which I follow but since the whole point of this is to find new things to read, these are some of the smaller blogs, or blogs outside the sphere of knitting/spinning which I follow.