Sunday, August 31, 2008

A long weekend is a wonderful thing.....

I have got the back of the Leilani cardigan up to the armholes, and it looks great. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that I do not have enough yarn to actually finish it. The bit of yarn left in the ball in the photo is all I have left of the 1st ball; the remaining 2 are definitely not enough to finish the back, both fronts, and the sleeves. I haven't yet decided what exactly I am going to do about it, so it will go into hibernation for a while until I come up with a new idea. My original idea when I bought the yarn was to make a vest, but took a chance on Leilani to see if it would work. So it looks like I'm back to the vest idea. Any good suggestions?

I've made good progress on the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket - it's definitely getting bigger, though so slowly that sometimes its hard to tell. It's just about up to being square, and the goal is for it to be 50" x 60" once its done. But done-ness might be achieved in a different manner by simply running out of yarn at some point in the near future. But I am enjoying knitting on this. The yarn is so pleasant to work with and garter stitch is so soothingly mindless that this makes for superb coach-potato knitting.

Since I don't have much new getting started right now it feels like I don't have much to blog about, but seeing all the things I found to take pictures of reminded me that I've always got several projects going at once. I spent part of this weekend working on a couple of hats for Afghans for Afghans. These are intended as kid's hats and are knit with bulky weight yarns on size 10.5 US needles.

I work these scrap yarn hats from the top down, beginning with a bit of I-cord that gets tied into an overhand knot, and then increasing out from there. Using 4 double pointed needles makes it easy to plan the increases: I just knit into the front and back of the 1st and last stitch of each needle every other row until I have enough; the larger hat had 14 stitches per needle; the smaller one 12. I work even from there until it looks right (about 5" for the larger one, less for the small one) and then do the ribbing, and bind off. Doing the increases in this way makes for a somewhat squared hat top, which worked very well in these bulky yarns. While I didn't follow the pattern in doing this, I got the idea from brooklyntweed's Turn-a-Square hat.

And at long last I made the 2nd part of my baby gift for my coworker, Delphine's expected little boy, due in December. I made this sweater a while ago, and then decided it needed something to go with it. I found a nice little orange and cream checked cotton for a pair of overalls, and finally got them sewn up today. They turned out very well, but I think I made them in too big a size - I made the 3-6 month size but now I think the sweater is closer to a newborn.

But that's ok - they can both be worn at sometime, even if not exactly at the same time! Take a look at the 2nd picture for the carrot buttons - too cute.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer's end

While I used to think of summer's end as being after Labour Day, or at least when school started, it now is marked more by a state of mind than by specific events. At work, it's time for the annual autumn grant deadlines looming very close, and for TW, faculty meetings start this week. I am feeling my usual pleasantly melancholic emotional sensation that always means fall is here. Don't get me wrong - melancholy isn't a bad thing in my book. During such moods I am even more than usually introspective, inwardly examining, and self-reflective. These are very powerful states of mind and usually productive of times of change and growth for me. Spring is usually thought of as a time of growth; for me it's always been autumn.

So how have I spent the last few days of my summer? Today I was with my niece for her 3rd birthday party, which was a blast. At least a dozen miniature human missiles masquerading as 3-year-olds shot around my brother's yard, fueled by raisins, lemonade, and birthday cake. My mom was there, too, along with my my sister-in-law's parents from Wales. My niece has known all of the children her whole life and it's great to see her grow up with such a cohesive group of friends from such a n early age. She's also old enough to know what was going on and to know that I was there, and very likely remember next year that I was at her party. She opened her birthday gift (the pink dress with bloomers from an earlier post) and wore it for the party. It fit perfectly and she was absolutely adorable in it.

As for the Ravelympics, I managed to fill 2 complete bobbins of spinning of my Dad's vanilla merino, which was exactly 8 of the 16 ounces I was attempting to spin up. While I did not fulfill my entire goal, I am very, very happy with what I did accomplish. In the parlance of the sportscasters, I didn't win the race but I did finish it. I'm also pleased that I was able to greatly expand my ability to spin with either hand, which was a big part of my personal goal. My right hand now has an equal partner in spinning!

Knittingwise, I am sadly without pictures but I am on the home stretch with the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket. I'm on to the last large intarsia-section at the end, and when I run out of the taupe colour I am done, with the exception of a border. It is definitely too big to take on my commute but it's getting lots of couch-knitting time. For commute knitting, the Leilani cardigan has actually begun and there will be better pictures soon!

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's the journey that counts

My weekend in the mountains with my dad and stepmother was beautiful and restful, and even included lots of spinning, but unfortunately ended with a migraine that kept me form posting on Sunday as usual. But I'm back on track today and got some more spinning done, so where am I in my quest for Ravelympics glory? Well, there are lots of days of competition left, but I must say I'm really just happy to be participating.

My goal was to spin up 1 lb of my white merino top, which came out to completing 4 oz, or about 1 bobbin's worth, every 4 days over the 16 days of the event. It didn't take long to realize that this was not a very realistic goal. My back can't usually handle spinning for much longer than an hour at a time, and while knitting is portable on my commute, spinning on a wheel is just not really practical on public transportation. Granted, I haven't tried it yet, but I think it's safe to assume that I won't give it a spin (sorry, bad pun). I did spend several hours spinning while visiting with my folks; my dad is fascinated with my wheel and seems very intrigued with the whole process.

So what have I accomplished so far? I've spin a total of about 6 oz as of about 4:30 pm Monday evening. It comes out to 1 full bobbin and one about 3/4 full. Quite frankly, I'm pretty happy with this amount. I preferred choosing too big of a goal to picking something that I secretly knew I could complete easily. I would possibly also be a lot further along if I had not decided to spin with my opposite hand, as this has slowed my production down somewhat. But It has enabled me to become much more efficient with left-handed sinning, and if I had done all the spinning with my right hand as usual my arm would probably have been be too tired to have done as much as I have actually done.

And of course, there are still 6 days to keep working towards my goal. If some amazing burst of spinning mojo happens, along with the accompanying time, energy, etc., it still could happen. I will be away from home for more family activities over the weekend so I'm probably be spinning only in the evenings, but I will be thrilled with whatever I get done. It's been very gratifying to get even this much done toward spinning up a big batch of the merino.

What about knitting, you ask? Well, the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket is progressing very well but has finally gotten too big to carry around on my commute. Dragging along a big blankie is quite comforting and I certainly have had the urge to crawl under my desk with it for a pleasant little nap, but it's just too big to keep dragging about. But now I really need a new knitting project for commute knitting.

I'm planning on starting a project with the beautiful Brooks Farm Yarn's Acero I bought at Stitches West last spring (it's much more teal than in this picture). Does winding it into balls count as starting? Probably not. But I'm going to take a few different sized-needles with me tomorrow and get started on some swatching. The yarn is pretty fine so I'm guessing size 3 US at most. Right now the plan is to do the Leilani sweater from Berocco. The pattern was designed for a much heavier yarn (Linen Jeans) that what I have chosen, but it's very simple shape lends itself easily to reworking in a different gauge.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And the Games have begun.

Anyone who is a Ravelry members is surely by now aware that the Ravelympics have officially begun, as of 8/8/08. The Ravelympics, for those not into fibre sports, consists of setting a personal goal(s) to be accomplished during the duration of the Beijing Olympiad. The official start time is whenever the actual start time for the Opening Ceremonies would be in the competitor's time zone (there's a world time converter on Ravelry, for those who need it as much as I did!) and will conclude at the Closing Ceremonies. For my time zone, that meant I could actually have begun at 5 am on the 8th, and will conclude at 8:59 pm on the 24th. I must admit that I did not start until 8 pm that evening while actually watching the Opening Ceremonies - the 8th was a work day after all, and I was A) far too sleepy to get up a 1/2 hour earlier than usually to begin, and B) not even remotely prepared yet.

But I have commenced on my personal challenge, which is to spin up 16 ounces of the 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of beautiful vanilla merino top my Dad brought me from New Zealand a few years ago. I've already spun up 15 ounces of the deep brown Perendale he brought me, and once I finish the comparable amount of white I will make some pillows for his mountain house as a (somewhat overdue) thank you. I need to spin up 4 oz every 4 days on average to just spin up all the fibre; plying it as well will be a bonus. I'm going to be visiting my Dad next weekend for a long weekend and plan to take my wheel so hopefully I will get lots done and maybe get a little ahead of myself time-wise.

In the spirit of setting a personal challenge that requires a stretch of skills as well as a time commitment, I am trying something new. I use a variation of a backwards short-draw spinning technique, in which I control the fibre supply with my left hand and use my right forefinger and thumb to control the twist. This results in a strong pinching action in my right hand which over time makes that hand and wrist very tired. My new technique is this - I have a slight tendency to being ambidextrous and have experimented with reversing the hands while I spin - in other words, controlling the twist with my left hand instead of my right. It's become fairly easy to do with carded rovings but is a bit more of a challenge with a slippery smooth top as in this New Zealand merino. My technique is definitely a little different, and I lose the end of my yarn much, much more often this way, but about 1/2 a bobbin into the project I'm beginning to get the hang of it. The hardest part is resisting my perennial tendency to under-spin.

Other non-sports related news - I finished the Our Road Together scarf and it's beautiful. Jezebel is kindly modeling it for me here. I finished the scarf with a full repeat of the lace plus 4 rows of garter stitch, and had 12 1/2 inches of yarn left over. Once blocked the finished length is 62", which is exactly what I hoped for. My personal theory is that the ideal scarf length is the same as one's height - bingo on this one! The yarn is really beautiful - hand-dyed with natural dyes - and has subtle variations in tone. As is usual with vegetable dyes, the colour has a mellow patina that is very elegant and beautiful.

I've also been doing some sewing for little girls, and have indulged in all the pink, lace, and frills I can find. My niece Madi's 3rd birthday is coming up soon so I made her a jumper and blouse with two sets of matching bloomers. Too cute for words. The blouse and 1 set of bllomers is dotted swiss (the real woven kind, not flocked-on dots) with a pink embroidered eyelet for the jumper and 2nd set of bloomers. The lace is a scrap I've had from a fabric store I worked at in the 1980's - well aged stash by now, one might say. Madi's still small around but height-wise is about right for her age, so I hope the bloomers will work if she has dresses that still fit circumference-wise but perhaps are getting too short.

A 2nd sewing project was a gift for Suzanne - a museum colleague who is leaving for a new job this week. Suzanne has been a big supporter and very dear friend at the museum, and I wanted to give her something special as a farewell gift. She has a daughter who's just turned three, and she has always expressed admiration for a dress I made Madi long ago out of a fabric featuring a print of little 1930's style paper dolls and dresses. I had just enough of the paper doll fabric for part of the dress, but not all of it. But I ended up with a lot of the pink eyelet from Madi's dress to combine with the paper doll print, and ended up with something that I think Suzanne will like.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A quiet week

It's been a quiet week, which for my first week back at work after a 2-week vacation, is a good thing. My department at the Museum went on a staff outing to the di Rosa Preserve, a former private estate in Napa County with a very extensive art contemporary collection that is now open to the public for tours. it was a perfect day - warm, with a cool breeze, and clear skies. I work with a great group of people and it was a lot of fun to spend an afternoon together doing something not related to our daily work. I completely forgot to take my camera so no pictures, unfortunately. But if you are in the Bay Area it's well worth a stop.

My primary knitting project for the week has been to work on my birthday scarf. I'm knitting with the birthday gifts Thomas gave me while on our trip to Seattle - a hand dyed slubby cotton/rayon yarn from Shoalwater Bay, using the Road Not Taken pattern from the beautiful A Fine Fleece book. (blogged about earlier). In this close-up detail the lace pattern shows up quite well - I went ahead and steamed this end lightly to get a sense of how the lace will actually look when finished, as unblocked lace is usually a mangled looking little lump and this is no different. But a little blocking works wonders, even in a non-elastic fibre blend like cotton and rayon. The pattern called fro 400 yards, and my skein has 345 yards so I'm just going to keep knitting until I run out of yarn and that's going to be it. I'm getting pretty close to being done. I got a quick start on this project as it's a summery sort of scarf and I didn't want to wait too long to make it so I could go ahead and enjoy it now.

I've also been spinning quite a bit this week, working on the singles for my 3-ply yarn that I blended all the colours for. Starting with the darkest/coolest of the three blends, I've spun up one fairly full bobbin so far, and have started on the 2nd bobbin. Each of the 3 blends has 8 batts of that colour, so I'm doing 4 batts per bobbin. It will be interesting to see how close the different bobbins end up being when I get to plying the final yarn. I had hoped to get all of this colour spun up this weekend but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Best intentions, and all that.......