Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday catch-up...

I can't believe it's been a week since I've last updated. These past couple of weeks have been sooo busy! And the changing of the clocks doesn't help much either. Nobody tells little children about daylight saving time! All the people we know who have no kids, or bigger kids rejoice about an hour longer in bed, while us, and everybody else with little ones, just has to make do with an hour less sleep every night, because of course you immediately adjust the time you go to bed to an hour later, but your kids will still be up at their usual time, which now isn't 6am but 5am. Oh, the joy!

Despite all the work and the lack of sleep, I've been knitting, though. And crocheting. Mainly the latter, actually. I'm still 2 pattern pieces behind. Actually, it's a bit more than that now, actually, so things are not exactly moving in the right direction! Still, I've nearly completed all the pieces for pattern piece 2 and the weird popcorn stitch. 

Once it's done it's not quite so bad, but it's still not my favourite pattern. I'm looking forward to pattern piece 4, which has a lovely flower in the middle of each square. Very cute. :)  

Other than that I've slowly making headway with the Garter Yoke cardi. I'm basically at the end of the first sleeve now, with just the cuff to go. I'm kind of bored with this now - while it makes great mindless knitting it's also quite dull to just knit stockinette in the round... Can't wait for it to be finished.

No progress at all on the Lombard Street Socks, mainly because I've forgotten it at work for the past week. That said, right now the crochet squares have replaced it as my small portable project. I'm determined to get this done before Christmas though! 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WIP Wednesday

Look what arrived last week:

It's the yarn for my Scheepjes Mystery CAL blanket!! I'm so excited!

Needless to say, I've been a little preoccupied. I only wish I wasn't so busy at work or I'd have crocheted far more. As it is I have at least completed the first part of the pattern - 6 squares. They are quite large, about 20cm x 20cm, so it took a while. I'm still very much behind (about 2 or 3 pattern pieces) because my yarn arrived so late. Hopefully I'll still manage to catch up, but if not there is an alternative November start date that I could join. 

This is the start of pattern piece 2. Popcorn stitches... So far I'm not entirely sold on this, but I'm sure it'll be fine when combined with the rest of the pattern pieces. 

In all the excitement I haven't quite forgotten about my Garter Yoke Cardi. It's coming on nicely - managed to do a few inches during Downton Abbey on Sunday night, so sleeve #1 is nearly done! :) 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washing fleeces...

I had an unexpectedly productive Saturday last weekend, which was all the more surprising because I had a really rubbish night's sleep the night before. Since the weather got warmer again , our old heating system has no idea what it's supposed to do, and it's been boiling in our bedroom. While I don't particularly like to have arctic temperatures in the room I sleep in I nevertheless prefer it to be cool and I was tossing and turning all night, trying to get comfortable.

Still, when you've had three babies you know that one night of pretty mediocre sleeping isn't anything too dramatic and I immediately set to counteracting the creeping influence of tiredness with strong coffee. :) Sure, there was that one moment when both D and I nearly caved and almost fell asleep in boy #3's bedroom while he was talking to us about his assorted Spiderman action figures.

After narrowly avoiding that happening I threw myself into GETTING STUFF DONE. Doing landry, working at the allotment, getting the garden ready for winter... that kind of thing. And when that was done I felt I wanted to do something fun just for the sake of it, and I thought of my fleeces.

A few weeks ago I purchased a Ryeland fleece from a fellow Ravelry-member. It arrived, a huge box full of fleecy goodness, and it's been sitting in in the lean-to on top of the washing machine ever since. Being unwashed it's a bit too... pungent, to keep in the house, and there just hasn't been time to go through it and clean it. 

About a week ago that was joined another fleece, this time a Cheviot. We had visited friends of ours who have a farm in the Peak District, and they breed these sheep (along with some other breeds) there. Our friend C kindly put aside one of the fleeces for me. 

With all that sitting on top of the washing machine the situation had become kind of dire and I thought it might be time for a little test-wash. Since clearly I have nothing better to do I thought I'd document the process - also so I can refer to it when, in a few years time, I've totally forgotten again how to do this! ;) 

So there we go, the dark fleece is Ryeland, the white one is Cheviot:

This is really best done outside, but I decided to just use the kitchen sink - I don't actually recommend this because a) it really smells pretty sheepy, and b) the lanolin that comes off the fleece can block your pipes if you are not careful! But anyway, take a washing up bowl: 

And some wool wash:

Boil a kettle of water (no, there is no picture of the kettle, sorry!) and pour it into the bowl. Add some really hot water from the tap if there isn't enough. Then add the wool wash (don't add it earlier because you'll get a lot of foam that way, which is pretty annoying because you can't see your fleece properly. Then drop the fleece on top and gently submerge it. 

There you go, all submerged:

Take a wooden stick or spoon or something like that and gently move the fleece. Don't rub it or move it excessively because it will felt. Then carefully drain the water away. It should be pretty disgusting and brown. You can see it better with the white fleece:

Once you've drained it you are left with a slightly foamy clump which looks a lot like something your cat might cough up. :)

Now boil another kettle and fill the bowl again with hot water (the hotter the better). No wool wash this time, you are rinsing the fleece. When you fill the bowl, make sure you don't run the water over the fleece as that might felt it. Keep the fleece out of the way. Also make sure that the water you use throughout this process (washing and rinsing) is always approximately the same temperature - so don't suddenly use cold water to rinse for example - it will immediately felt your fleece!).

Repeat this as often as necessary (you'll be boiling a few kettles!) and gently check the fleece for any really matted bits that you can just pull off and discard. Once you've finished, make sure you pour at least one kettle of boiling water down your sink to dissolve and flush out any remaining lanolin!

Gently squeeze the water out of the fleece and spread it out to dry:

And there you go! Please note that this process will not get you a 100% clean fleece. There will be bits of vegetable matter still in it, and you will also pick it over to remove any particularly dirty or matted areas that did not wash out. The vegetable matter should drop out in the spinning process. There should also be a small amount of lanolin left in the fleece, which is good for spinning. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This moment...

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .
{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The closet of unfinished and abandoned WIPs...

Don't we all have one? Some bag, basket, cupboard, box or drawer where these unloved, forgotten and neglected projects linger? 

Well, mine are in canvas bags, in my office. 

I don't tend to look at them much. It's too depressing. And kind of stressful too, because I feel so guilty about them, just lying there and gathering dust (and possibly moths...).

I'm determined to get rid of some of them this year, though, so I thought I'd round them all up.

First up is Cozy. I actually really like this scarf, and I'm sure I'd wear it if it was ever finished. Unfortunately at the time I didn't buy nearly enough yarn. 

You can see here how far I, well, didn't get... I still have 3 or 4 balls of the cotton blend that I used for this lying around, but with the size of this scarf that's not going to get me very far. It might double the length of the scarf, but since I'd only done about a quarter of it that's still only half-way. :(

This was one of my earliest projects so I really struggled with the lace pattern and put a lot of effort into it at the time. I think knowing that this predates the kids, and getting married, and everything, plus the effort I put into it has so far prevented me from frogging it, but since there is really no way of finishing it the frogging is kind of inevitable.

Next up, my 'felted tote'. Years and years ago I bought some 100% wool yarn on ebay. It was old yarn and not particularly inspiring in its colour or in the way it felt, and eventually I decided that I was going to make a felted bag with it. I used three strands together and very big needles and started knitting a simple rectangle that I would then make into a simple rectangular bag with a flap to close it and a broad strap. The construction would be similar to Satchel, although not quite, because I'm not following any pattern and was just planning on felting the pieces and then cutting and sewing them together with mattress stitch. So once I used up all the yarn the idea was that it would go off into the washing machine, to re-emerge as a sturdy and thick piece of fabric that can be assembled into a sturdy and useful bag for all my papers, and other stuff. Good idea, no? 

Well, that was years ago. YEARS. I knitted quite a bit of it, but as you can see I still have some yarn left. Maybe I'll finish it this year? 

And last but not least, the Easy Raglan V-Neck. This is actually also on the list for Year of Projects, although I've never dared show the WIP itself. I actually really love this pattern and I think I'd get a lot of wear from a simple v-neck jumper like that. What I don't love so much is that GGH Savanna that I'm using for it. The problem is pretty much everything about it - the colour is sort of off-putting, and dirty-looking, and it seems to attract dust and fluff like a magnet, making it really scruffy-looking. I also don't like how the whole thing knits up in a kind of fuzzy way. Add to that that I must have started some other project with it at some point (I have forgotten or repressed what project that might have been), because all those balls are hand-wound and the yarn clearly looks used, so I very much doubt anyone would want it if I offered it around, even if anyone could make friends with the muddy colour... So yeah, you may gather - I'm not a huge fan of this yarn. This means that I cast on for this jumper a few years ago and then just stuck it in a canvas bag and forgot all about it. I'm determined to finish it this year, though, because I think this may actually make a wearable item - maybe not particularly stylish, but warm, and good enough to wear around the house, or for country walks in the winter. 

Second picture is merely so you can enjoy a close-up of how messy this yarn looks. :) 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday and A Year of Projects update

I think it's time that I review my project list for this year again. Things seem to change on there all the time!  

Lombard Street Socks
These are progressing - slowly but surely. I've finally arrived at the heel section for the second sock. Since for some reason the knitting always seems to be faster once the heel is done I am hopeful that I'll finish this project soon.

I'm still considering some DK socks, simply because I'm curious how much faster the knitting would be! So it's either the Skyp Socks or the Breaking Waves, but I'm not sure about the yarn yet. 

So otherwise, where are we, regarding my projects list:

This is going really well. I'm well into the first sleeve, and because this is now just mindless stockinette in the round I tend to pick it up quite a bit when watching TV for example. Last week I posted a picture of how it's looking right now (but forgot to link it to anywhere!). If you want to see it, the post is HERE. It's not changed much, although of course the sleeve is a little longer. 

I'm still contemplating the button question. I think horn would work, or, as Catherine suggested, wood. Alternatively I suppose mustard yellow would be OK, but I'm wondering if it's too much since there are so many buttons... 

 Ink Flare
Yarn: huge hank of green Fleece Artist hand-dyed mohair 

Yarn: Olive wool/cashmere blend
Yes, this is still part of the list! I have a shed-load of this yarn, and it refused to be the Garter Yoke cardi, because although it's supposed to be aran weight it was just too thick to get the correct gauge. I think it might work for the Shalom cardi.

Yarn: orange and yellow handspun

Yarn: sock-weight feltable yarn from stash
Yes, still part of the list!

Yarn: Single skein purple Cascade
Yep, same.

Yarn: GGH Savanna
This is such an awkward project for me. I actually cast on for it ages ago, but I'm really not fond of the yarn. I don't like the mottled brown of it, and from the way it handles just when knitting with it I get the feeling it's going to wear really badly. On the other hand I can't imagine that anyone would want it, after it's been handled so much (I ripped another project, so it's been handled A LOT).

No yarn allocated yet, but I have enough single skeins lying around that it shouldn't be much of a problem.

Yarn: Light brown cashmere / wool blend in heavy Aran

Some of the swapped cotton yarn I've recently acquired!

I fancy a couple of those for the table. Any number of cotton leftovers will do for this.

pot holders
Possibly Hilde's Hot Pads, or or the Blue & White Pot Holders, or the Flower Pot Holders. I'm inspired by my Gran's old 1950s potholders which I inheriteda few years ago when she sadly passed away, so I'm thinking of a nice retro cream/orange/brown colour combo. 

I'll likely use some of the ivory sock yarn I have lying around in abundance.

Cable Cushion
Either the Cable & Twist cushion or the Super Chunky Rope Cable Cushion, or possibly the Super Chunky Basketweave Cushion. Or perhaps all of them?
Yarn: This is going to be knitted with some white Shetland that I still have from ripping an old jumper out. 

And of course there is the Scheepjes Mystery Crochet Blanket CAL
I joined this a few weeks ago and ordered the yarn. A couple of days ago Deramores emailed me to say that my order is finally being processed so I'm expecting the yarn to arrive any day now. I have some catching up to do because the CAL started two weeks ago, meaning that two pieces of the pattern are out now. Still, it's about 12 squares so if I receive the yarn soon I should be able to manage it. 

Finished Projects

This actually got a bit of wear these past couple of weeks. The weather has been cold and drizzly, and we went to see friends at their farm near Sheffield (which is another post, because I got a whole Chevier fleece from them!!). Boy #1 took this picture of me with Ink Flare in action. :)

Socks for boys
Done, done, and done! They love their knitted socks, those three, so I'm sure there will be more to come. 

Yarn: Berry Handspun (by me)
I'm wearing this all the time, so I'm already planning another one. I fancy the 1-hour Herringbone Cowl... 

Granny Square Blanket
We all love this blanket. It's on the sofa and every evening the boys snuggle up under it to read or watch TV. Definitely one to stay! 

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Some time to reset the mind...

I was feeling a bit out of sorts today. Everything seemed to get the better of me and by lunchtime I was feeling thoroughly frazzled and ill-tempered. Not a great way to be on a Sunday, and if I wasn't benefiting from my foul mood neither was the family. D suggested that I take myself off for some me-time at the allotment. I had to run an errant anyway, the kids were playing, and boy#3 had refused to get properly dressed all morning and was clearly in no state to go out that very moment, and I gratefully accepted his suggestion. 

So this is how I wound up at the allotment on a rather hazy and foggy Sunday, on my own, with a flask of peppermint tea and the camera. It was lovely. I cut some of the last autumn flowers and then I just sat and sipped my tea, and I was still for a while. Having this moment of quiet and calm felt very precious, and when 10 minutes later D arrived with the boys because they'd been adamant that they needed to come to help mummy at the allotment that felt equally precious and I was so happy to see them and to kiss their dear little faces and give them a cuddle. Sometimes all you need is a little moment to find yourself again. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I apologise for the terrible pictures in this post, but I've been at work all day and only got round to taking them this evening, while the boys were watching Abney and Teal on Cbeebies. I was also already wearing my pyjamas... ahem. 

So yeah, not the perfect photoshoot, but at least there is an update, right? RIGHT?  ;)

Anyway, this is the view from the back, just to show what the yoke section looks like:

And this is the view from the front. Again, the yoke section, because, well, the mirror was a bit too high to show the rest of it. 

So what you can't see here is that I've finished the body and have started knitting the sleeves. I've finished about a quarter of the first sleeve, but the last couple of days I've had a really bad kink in my neck and it impacts on how much I can knit in the evening. Still, it's good progress and I can't wait to wear the cardi! 

What buttons does it want, though? Will need to ponder this...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The quiet after (and before) the storm...

I've been quiet this past week because... well, it's been busy around here last week. Boy #3 was christened, and in honor of the occasion the German and English parts of the family all turned out in (nearly) full force. The only person who couldn't be there was my dad's partner, something that was regretted by all. We had my dad, my step-sister and her partner staying with us, and D's mum was also putting up various people. Everything went well, the christening was fine, the party after was great fun (the family cherishes the few occasions we get to get together), including even a spontaneous jam session with D on his banjo, his brother on the guitar, and other family members joining in with spoons and drums. A few days after that it was boy #1's birthday so we had yet another party! We've had quite an exciting week!

It was nice having people stay over. Our guests made themselves at home, helped out, played with the boys, who were delighted that we had people staying over who were such fun (aren't kids always all about 'the more the merrier'?!). We had good food and good conversation, and I even got some knitting done (yes, I did! I just didn't get round to blogging about it!).

All that said, the night after we'd waved the last of our guests good bye, and after we'd brought the kids up to bed, D and I sat down on the sofa and stretched out legs. It was quiet in the house. I picked up the knitting and D picked up his banjo and we just sat, not talking, just reclaiming our home. It was lovely having guests, but it was also exhausting, and it's often only once they've left that you realise quite how exhausting it can be, even if those guests are the nicest of people, even if they help out and carry out the dishes, even if they play with the children, and even if they don't insist on partying well into the early hours every night. 

Well, after all that was done we had a few quiet days and then, yesterday, it was the start of the university term, so that's it with peace and quiet for the next 12 weeks!! I'm still knitting, and I will still blog, but it might not be quite as frequent as it often was over the summer. 

Anyway, I might as well show you what I have been up to:

Yes, this is indeed the Garter Yoke Cardi! We've reconnected, that cardi and I, and with all that sitting and chatting in the evening I'm managed to do a good deal of work on it. I'm past the decrease and the increase sections, so it's just plain old stockinette until I get to the right length now. I've quite enjoyed knitting it, although I had a couple of near-misses with those button holes. So many button holes! So two of them were 18 rather than 16 rows apart. I don't think it'll show in the end. 

I've also done a bit of work on the Lombard Street sock - not much, but whenever just a bit, here and there. I'm about 2 or 3 repeats of the pattern away from doing the heel. 

There is no rush with these socks. I'm enjoying them, but it's OK if they take a month longer, in particular as G, the lovely auntie who came all the way from Germany for boy#3s Christening and brought two pairs of socks for all three boys (she knitted 6 pairs of socks in about 4 weeks!!!) is determined to now knit for D and I. I gave her some of my huge stash of sock yarn to take back with her but she clearly thought my huge sock yarn mountain wasn't sufficient because I heard her muttering to herself that she might buy some more once she is back home to make sure that we definitely won't go without sufficient knitted socks this winter. I can't tell you how delighted I am about this development. The boys love their knitted socks and have been wearing them lots at the weekend (school days mean black socks I'm afraid...). 

In other news - do you see this:

Interesting, isn't it? In the throws of yet another bout of knitting insanity I decided to wind some cream coloured yarn I had from frogging a jumper up into a ball so I could use it to knit a pillow. i was envisioning a thick cable pattern...  Not possessing a nostepinne I decided to wind the whole thing around a pen so I could make it into a centre-pulling ball. It worked really well - until I decided to take the pen out. It won't come out. Believe me, I have tried. AND TRIED. It's stuck for good. Brilliant. Don't you just love a job well done? 

But anyway, that pillow. I had it all planned out. I know, I know, I really should focus on the 358 projects that I have already started and I haven't actually started it, but it would look so nice on the sofa... 

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