Fiber Adventure Weekend – Day 2

And the fun continues! What a shame I can’t do this EVERY weekend… but I have to say that the house is a total wreck with so much equipment out all at the same time. I’m having a blast, though. :o) You want to know what I did on Saturday? Okay, here goes!

First of all, the triloom project is moving right along. I’ve woven half the pins now, which, although not half of the weaving work, is a landmark point anyway. I’ve also reached the point that I feel like I’m just going to burst if I can’t take it off the loom to see what it really looks like, but I’ve got a long way to go before that can happen. :SThe spinning continues to be utterly delicious. I think I could be stranded on a desert island, and if I had my wheel and about 50 pounds of this stuff, I might not even notice. :o) I’m anticipating the pleasure of working with the finished yarn almost as much as I am enjoying the current spinning. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I’ve spun through the papaya and am into a rich red orange. Scrumptious!Today’s dyeing adventure was another theory busted, though I can’t call it a total loss, as I have some more pretty fiber to play with now. My concept was to try to create a gradient dark to light by VERY slowly lowering the wet roving into the dye bath, using the same Easter egg dyes I was using yesterday. I put 4 cups of hot water and 3 ounces of vinegar into the pot, dissolved the tablet, and wet down 1 ounce of wool. I then spent about 4 minutes doing the “slowly lowering” part. Despite the good effort I made, the first one came out the same color from end to end, so the rest I put in without wasting the 4 minutes. ;) It was a good exercise to do these as solid anyway. I’m not sure what to say about the purple, though. I did it precisely as I did the others, including stirring it just as I put the wool into the pot. The water LOOKED blue, and the whole time it simmered, I thought it WAS a blue pot. I was most definitely surprised when I pulled out the roving and found it multi-colored! Still have 3 colors to do. Since it’s only one tablet per pot, even though I’m cooking them for just 90 minutes, it’s still taking longer than yesterday’s process.When my daughter called on Saturday evening, it was the perfect excuse to pick up my current Angela’s Fabulous Felted Bag. This is the third one this spring, and a definite addiction. The first is finished except for the lining, but since the sewing machine died, that’s going to take a while longer. The second is knitted, and I’m waiting for the rest of the group so we can have a fulling party. This will be a new adventure for them. Meanwhile, I’m well onto my third and have yarn for two more. Yeh, I like them – a lot! BTW, the actual colors foiled the camera, even outdoors. Whereas the burgundy isn’t too far off, at least on my monitor, that is NOT tan! It’s mustard, and I think it’s a lot prettier than the tan, even if it does work…Probably the scariest and most adventurous thing I did today was pulling out my circular sock machine – CSM. It’s not been touched since last May, and then there were people who actually understand the little beasties around to help me every step of the way. Although one of my annual goals includes making two pairs of CSM socks, that wasn’t today’s goal. Today I just wanted to actually use it successfully all on my own. The project I had in mind was to take 4 balls of Knit Picks bare sock yarn and turn them into two blanks for dyeing. It turned out that I had a few obstacles to overcome, the biggest of which was that the machine wouldn’t crank. :( I don’t know a whole lot more about sock machines than I do about overhauling a jet engine, so trying to avoid total panic was the first step.I finally figured out that the little metal piece sticking up – the V cam – was not supposed to be like that, and I wondered if it wasn’t supposed to be under the butts of the needles. So, I pulled out some of the needles, dropped the cam down, then replaced the needles… and voilà! It worked! Now I realize that in the world of sock machines, that was a pretty minor fix, and scarcely worthy of an Einstein award, but I have to say that I’m seriously proud of myself! It’s my first solo trouble shooting success, and I’m quite pleased. :)

With a little more effort, along with the dregs of my oil, which appears to have evaporated (can oil do that???), I got the machine cranking fairly decently, though it’s still holding stitches at times and not knitting as nicely as it was last year.And a little while later, I had 7 yards of not-so-perfect-but definitely-good-enough-for-the-planned-purpose tubing knit. Now I need to find out what sort of oil I have to go buy. I can’t do socks on it without that.

Last but not least, I watched the DVD How I Knit by Rita Buchanan while I was cranking out my tubes. It was light and interesting, but not as in depth as I’d expected from it being a 2 disk set. It also isn’t very good training toward my MSP certification. Buchanan obviously loves what she’s doing, and she makes beautiful yarn, but she works rather freely and organically, openly ignoring some of the rules and techniques and even terminology that I have to learn to manage in order to complete my lessons. A large part of this set is also a bit more simple than I need. It was nice to watch her make yarn and to see some approaches that are different than I’ve seen with my limited exposure to other knitters, but I’ll probably tuck this set on the shelf for a while right now and look for something a bit more technical. I’ll try to remember to post what I find.

Okay, that’s it for Saturday’s activities. There’s one more day to go yet, and I’m eager to get with it!

Wow Weekend!

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending my first fiber retreat, and what a treat it was! It was awesome to be in this small group of people and see so incredibly much talent in one spot, creating some really special projects, displaying at least 7 different skills. I lost track of how many times I had my mouth gaping in amazement in the four days of the retreat.

I signed up for the event last January, thinking it would be the high point of my spring. It would be the perfect way to complete two of the goals on my annual list, so would be well worth the price of admission. Not only have I achieved my two goals, but I went well beyond! Even though it’s now just one part of an incredibly busy spring, I’m more than glad I went.

Target goal number one was to make one pair of socks on my circular sock machine (CSM) this year. With Jenny Deters’ patient assistance, I had my first pair done by the end of the first evening, then I started a second pair solo. By the end of the weekend, with help, advice, and some generous loaning of various tools from Jenny, Kim, David, Lori, and Myra, I made THREE pairs of socks! I couldn’t have done it without them, and I’m going to be grateful for a very long time for all the help they provided! First pair was plain with hemmed top. I used “my ugliest ball of yarn,” which I’d broken out for practicing tubes last year. I figured that since it had been through the machine about 5 times, it was about time to give it a rest. Of course, that means that although my heart is connected to my first pair of CSM socks, and although they are error free (I believe), I also think they are ugly! ;) But I love them anyway! I’m sorely tempted to frame them instead of wear them. ;)

Next I did a pair of hemmed tops solo, working from the notes I took as Jenny coached me through my numerous practice heels. She did tell me how to do a picot top edge, then had to teach me how to frog, which, it turns out, was a very valuable lesson. Bad thing about these socks is that I used my favorite yarn, and they turned out too small for me. I could cry! I did make it through the project without having to ask for help beyond my notes, though, so that makes them a triumph. :)

For the last pair I did, I sort of bucked the advice of the experts and insisted on getting my ribber going. It was tough sledding for most of Saturday until Dave discovered an alignment pin that wasn’t properly situated. After that, it just took a few tweaks and I was ribbing confidently! I’m VERY glad I persevered, as I want to make some cotton blend socks, and I know for certain that I’ll need that ribbing to fit my leg correctly. Note that I used my ugliest remaining ball of yarn, and again they fit…

I guess my next goal is going to be to make socks that fit and I like both! ;) By the way, details about the socks are available on my Ravelry project page.

My second goal for the weekend was to learn how to spin on a spinning wheel. Now technically, based on some very good advice from a fellow Raveler, I was spinning before the retreat, and my first skein of yarn was entirely solo – and definitely not bad for a newbie. Well… at least it exceeded my expectations… Using part of a Louet Northern Lights undyed wool top, I did this – about 164 yards of approximately DK weight yarn:

Then, still at home, I spun the singles for this next skein out of the same top, but didn’t ply it until the retreat, as it was pretty fine and very squirrely, though much more even. I don’t feel like I plied this one as well, but I’m not sure that, if having washed it and all, it would work to go back and try to make it tighter. I do have just a few yards short of 400, and it is 4 ounces of fingering weight yarn, so there’s quite a bit of work here – and enough yarn to make something real!

On Saturday night after battling my ribber all day long, I decided it was time to spin. I don’t know why, but I pulled out a batt that I honestly did not like. I thought it looked like a wad of hair out of my hairbrush. Several people had encouraged me to try spinning it anyway, promising I’d like the finished product. Whereas I can’t believe it will be my all-time favorite yarn, I have to admit that by the time I was finished with it, I had project ideas floating around in my brain. What I’m most proud of on this skein is that I finally managed to spin fairly fat, and I also was able to do a reasonable job of relaxing my craving for perfection, keep the silk noils actually IN the yarn, and produce a creditable novelty yarn. :o) This batt came to me as a freebie with the lazy kate i bought from CJ Koho on Etsy, and it consisted of nylon glitz, mohair, Border Leicester, and the silk. It’s nice and squishy, and weighs in as a bulky yarn.

A smaller goal I have had for several years was to have someone show me in person how to use my hand cards. Jenny stepped in again, giving me a short, but definitely sufficient lesson on Sunday morning, and I produced two rolags – enough to feel I have a firm grasp on the basics. This may well help me toward my goal of fleece to finished project for this year, and if it doesn’t, Maria’s demo and tips on how to use a drum carder will! I found that I love this stage of spinning – moving the clean fiber into an organized form, ready to spin. But then, I’m beginning to think that every stage has its own little bit of magic! This was just the only thing I’d not done at all, so it was especially fascinating to me. I’ve had a tough time since I’ve been home, as I’ve really been wanting to card wool instead of working on catching up my to do list and knitting for my upcoming trip.

In addition to all the things I went hoping to accomplish, there was a last minute bonus. Jenny offered to teach a class on felting hats – and that’s wet felting, not needle felting or fulling. (If you are beginning to think she is extremely versatile and talented, you are right!) Since I’d never tried this art before and had no idea where to even start, I jumped at the opportunity. :) We started with a stack of alpaca batts, and we ended up with real hats, just needing trim! Me being me, I didn’t do just a plain hat. I decided I wanted to add some color to mine, as plain, dark gray just isn’t good on me. A couple minutes of thought reminded me that I’d picked up some green angora from the sale table and brought some white BFL fleece with me in my spinning tub. Adding some pink wool locks Jenny brought for the class provided me with just what I needed to dress up my batts.

Lots of soap, water, and elbow grease – enough that my pedometer registered over 2000 aerobic steps on Friday afternoon without me moving more than a foot in any direction – produced hats. Felting isn’t for wimps, but what a cool payback for all that work!

This one is mine – dry and ready to trim. Even though I saw it with my own eyes, I still find it hard to believe that I turned a pile of alpaca fiber into this! More fiber magic!

I have some ideas about how I want to trim it, but I will need more time than I have available right now, and since I don’t think I’ll have a good excuse to wear an alpaca hat in the next few months, it can wait. ;) One thing I’m definitely going to do is to tighten up the edge of the brim and a few other spots that didn’t felt solid, using a felting needle. For some reason, we all seemed to have problems with the layers not bonding well. I have a neat idea for a band. This is definitely a “stay tuned” sort of project!

So you can see that I definitely had a productive and fiber intense weekend. :) If I did nothing else the entire month, I’d have plenty to satisfy me just in this four days, I think. However, I believe I can pretty much guarantee you that isn’t going to happen!

Goals Post – January 2010 Recap

So, January 2010 is now history! What a busy month it was, and February looks as if it will be a wild ride, too! I feel like I had a good month of progress toward my goals, and I’ve even done a fairly good job of not feeling impatient that I couldn’t get to everything all at once. ;)

January didn’t see progress on my miniature related goals or any of the remodeling work. I’m a little disappointed about the latter, as winter is flying away at a rapid pace, and there was a lot I wanted to do in terms of painting. The majority of my other goals saw some sort of progress, though, even if it was only baby steps. Enough baby steps will eventually lead to accomplishments, of course!

The most massive project I undertook during January was to get Concerto ready to publish. I just discovered I have one more fix to make tomorrow morning, which is agonizing due to what it is. However, the worst of the work is finished, and tomorrow I’m intending to celebrate! That will be one of my four patterns published this year. I’ve put in a good bit of time on the one I hope to publish during the Ravelympics, and I’ve been knitting whenever I can on my next lace shawl design, so it’s easy to feel positive about this particular goal!

My smaller areas of progress are fairly numerous. I’ve spent several hours sanding my spinning wheel, remembering why she was so easy to set aside more than a year ago. ;o) I finished my BSJ for my first UFO, and I’ve been working on my next one, which I’ve converted it to knitting continental style so I can reach my competency goal for that at the same time. I’m slow – feeling very much as if I’ve just learned to knit – but I AM doing it, and I know that my fingers will eventually learn the new tricks I’m trying to teach them.

Even with my flute wooing me, I’m surprised to find it so difficult to keep up with my music goal. Now I understand why it had been so long since I’d played. It feels good, though, even if I am having to strive for this one! The weekly blogging has been much easier! I’m behind where I would like to be on my reading, having logged only 7 books so far. The intense work on Concerto has eaten huge holes in my reading and knitting time, and I miss it!

For the spinning and CSM, I’ve registered for a retreat that will be populated by crankers and spinners – 4 days of immersion! Surely I can make a pair of socks in that length of time, and there will certainly be at least one person there who is eager to encourage a spinning addiction as well. :D If I’m really on top of things, I’ll take my hand cards with me, and some fleece, and perhaps get help with those, too. That will help with my “fleece to finished” goal.

An exciting thing has been gathering everything I need to try some Navajo style weaving. I believe I have all the supplies for a loom, the minimum of tools, and all my yarn – as of tomorrow. I’ve also designed my project! It will definitely be a “squeeze it in” sort of deal for the next while, as February is already full to the brim. I’d be thrilled if I could have my loom put together by the end of the month, though. I really wanted to weave on a tri-loom this year, too, but I keep running up against walls there. I can’t seem to find one to borrow or rent, and I’m loathe to buy one just to make one or two projects.

The annually recurring part of my list has seen a little bit of progress, too. Debt is down, weight – well… maybe a pound, but I’ve been more aware of things the last week, so hopefully will do better soon. My email account is already about 10,000 messages lighter than at the beginning of January, though even at that rate, it won’t be done by the end of the year. I have my Bible verse very securely memorized: ” I have come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46

And last – and definitely not least – DH is talking rather confidently about us going to Alaska this year – which would most definitely count as “someplace new.”

So, I think I can say that even working around knitting classes and ceilings and all the other stuff of normal life, I’ve had a positive month. I’m exhausted from the Concerto marathon, but still feel very upbeat about everything right now. Bring on February!!!

Goals Post – Forward to 2010!

Perhaps this post should be titled “Living in Dreamland.” ;) It’s unquestionably the most ambitious list of goals I’ve ever set out at the beginning of the year, and I’ve not ever completed my shorter lists, but my philosophy of goals remains that having a higher target means I hit more, even if I don’t complete them all. The most important factor for me is to remain realistic in that I remember it IS an overly ambitious list, and that anything I do accomplish is a victory; it’s not a defeat to not do all of it. These are goals to help me stay on track, not requirements that identify whether I’m a worthwhile person!

That said, here are my goals for 2010:

My online miniatures group is doing a goals based project, and we were asked to spell out five mini goals, so I will start with those:

  1. Finish the interior and/or exterior of Friendship Cabin, a Real Good Toys Adirondack Cabin that we started several years ago, but which has languished untouched since sometime before the beginning of 2009. Here’s the album where I chronicled our first days working on the project.
  2. Finish my Gail Wilson Hitty, which was started with enthusiasm during the online class, worked on for three nights, and now has the rest of the girls giving me “the look” for not getting their sister done. I have a little glitch in the painting, and since this is a challenging project for me anyway, the moment I encountered a problem, I put her away for a time when I could really feel relaxed. ‘Nuff said? :S
  3. Finish my Teresa Layman Cottage By the Sea project – actually barely started, and a massive project for someone who really doesn’t like embroidery or French knots. This will be a rug for Friendship Cabin.
  4. Finish my Boat Sampler – stitched on silk gauze – lots to go on it, but most of the hardest part is completed. Like the Layman project, I started this on our last cruise. Unlike the Layman project, I loved working on this one, so I did quite a bit more of it. Also belongs in Friendship Cabin, and perhaps will be finished on another cruise…
  5. Knit something tiny – size 4/0 needles or smaller – probably something for my future miniature yarn shop

Fiber Goals:

  1. See #5 in the miniatures
  2. Publish at least 4 knitting patterns – should actually be more than this, as I have 3 projects that just need the paperwork part of this goal in order to be ready. The paperwork is the hard part of course… I’m knitting my next shawl design right now, and I’ve promised another KAL for the spring, so I’m going to be busy with this!
  3. Finish my spinning wheel – I can’t believe this sat untouched for an entire year. Where on earth did the time go??? The staining is about half done, but it’s an involved project. Once that’s done, I need to finish and assemble it.
  4. Learn to use said wheel
  5. Knit a project from wool I’ve cleaned and spun, using a pattern I’ve designed – I have a bit of a jumpstart on this, as I’ve cleaned a goodly pile and picked some of it already.
  6. Stash all my yarn on Ravelry – yes, maybe I’ll get it completed this year… – Starting with 550
  7. Get competent purling continental. I think I need to have a dedicated project for this… maybe a washcloth. :)
  8. Make another 2 pairs of socks for myself (maybe I’ll get the next done before I wear holes in what I have?) This was one pair until a friend twisted my arm and said I should try for two – and one pair has to be top down, to boot! Bad thing here is that I also promised a pair to my daughter, so this means three pair this year, when I’ve never done more than one. Gulp!
  9. Finish at least 3 of the projects currently languishing in my WIP/UFO tubs – items started before July 1, 2009. This one will also be a challenge. I love the stuff in my UFO tub, even though it’s all pretty good at inducing guilt. I’ve found that designing really slows down the knitting, though, especially on other people’s patterns!

Other Creative Goals:

  1. Finish at least one of the remodeling projects… sigh… Acceptable candidates are the kitchen (which is in the impossible dream category), painting the door to my future studio (easy), or finishing the nook, laundry room, or my sewing room. Nook and laundry room both depend on hubby – most especially the nook – though I have a load of work to do in those two areas, too.
  2. Organize my computer photos, then print and label as I think necessary. I’m rereading this and laughing at the thought of actually getting it done, but…
  3. Spend at least a few minutes every week making music – LOVE doing this, but I’ve really ignored this part of my life for the last few years. Looking for a flute – like I need more instruments around here?
  4. Learn my new camera – for starters, needing to know why I can’t take a decent close up with a camera that cost this much!
  5. Make up a Gail Wilson kit – see mini goal #2
  6. Finish Reba – poor thing! Her sisters were finished in 2006 (pix in this album) but my teacher suddenly stopped classes with Reba just one firing away from being done. Every attempt I’ve made to get her fired since then has ended in failure. Need to get a kiln up and going here so I don’t have to depend on anyone else.
  7. Make a pair of socks on my CSM – This could be anything from amazingly easy to a terrible headache, based on things I’ve heard. First task is getting the new needles and such that I need.
  8. Probably crazy, but I joined a Navajo style weaving Yahoo group, and now I have the bug to weave something, even if it’s small. I’m torn between tri-loom and Navajo style, but would adore trying both. One item is enough to qualify.
  9. Move one of my dolls from hospital patient status to display status – maybe Aaron, so he can show off his adorable knitted romper? He is on this page.

Personal Goals – and these tend to have a very familiar ring to them:

  1. End the year 25 pounds lighter than I started it. Why is this so hard?!
  2. Read 100 books
  3. End the year debt free – both money and promises made
  4. Go somewhere new – state or country. I have a life goal of visiting all 50 states and all 7 continents, and I need to keep at it if I’m going to succeed!
  5. Clean out one of my email accounts – frighteningly big project, but I’ve made a lot of progress already in the first two days of the year. It’s amazing how quickly this can fall behind again, though.
  6. I have a challenge with a friend to blog at least once each week
  7. Solidly memorize the scripture verses on my calendar
  8. Get the treadmill inside – Sounds like no big deal, but it’s going to need cleaned up, and the area where it belongs is packed solid with things that don’t belong where they are – which aren’t where they belong because their spots are filled with stuff that doesn’t belong where it is, which… well… you get the idea!

Goals Post – A Recap of 2009

What happened to 2009???!!! I remember it seems like just a few weeks ago that I posted my goals for the year, intending to blog monthly updates on my progress. When I found myself halfway through February having not done so, I decided that quarterly probably made more sense. By mid-May, I realized that semi-annually was clearly a more reasonable idea, and by September, I realized the end of the year was so close that it probably didn’t matter if I did an interim post. ;)

Most of the year I thought I was doing a terrible job on completing my goals, but looking at them now, I realize that although I didn’t shine spectacularly, I didn’t do nearly as poorly as I’d thought. Here’s the final tally…

  • Be Debt Free by the End of the Year – Okay, this was definitely a failure in every way – probably my worst, as I think I might be worse off than at the beginning of the year, due to a horrible bout of therapy shopping. That makes it totally my fault. On the other hand, I did take a few steps in the right direction – primarily in the opening of my Etsy store. I’ve been too busy the past 3 months or so, meaning I’ve not been able to get much stocked, but I’ve had a fair number of sales in relationship to how much I’ve listed.
  • Get My Email Under Control – Another failure, though this one doesn’t rest as heavily on my shoulders. I’m also farther behind than at the start of the year, but the busyness and the computer problems were contributing factors.
  • Make a Gail Wilson Kit – Well… Poor, dear little Hitty! I’m still painting pieces – as in first class. I have an oops to repair, and have had a problem finding the time for it. I’m not as comfortable with a paintbrush as I am with knitting needles, so I have to be at my best and have some spare time both. This seldom happened in 2009. I’m farther than I was at the start of the year, but no where near success.
  • Finish Reba – This is a big zero again this year. With no kiln set up and DH not feeling driven to finish the floor in the laundry room… and then the play date that would have resulted in her completion being canceled by the other party involved… She’s no further ahead nor behind…
  • Complete Sewing Room – Not completed by a long shot, but I did get all the shelves painted and loaded, and the mantle is done, plus some smaller bits and pieces. That’s solid forward progress, just not enough of it.
  • Complete Laundry Room – Other than one section of floor tile laid, the windows scraped, and the bougainvillea hung, this went nowhere this year – extremely depressing. DH needs to have a tile cut, and he’s not overly motivated to do it. On the other hand, there are things I could have done in that room, but I didn’t do them either.
  • Lose 25 Pounds – Lost 14 pounds quickly, then didn’t drop another the rest of the year. While that means I didn’t succeed, the really great thing is that I held steady at the lower number, so I’m ahead of where I was last year this time – so a partial triumph on an important goal.
  • Learn to Do Entrelac and Knit Backwards – Since I didn’t say I had to finish the project, this would be a total success. :) I’ve knit far enough on my Autumn Entrelac Shawl to prove I’ve nailed the two techniques, and having learned to knit backwards paid off by making it easy to teach a lefty who showed up at the Knitogethers I hostess at the library. I get a nice star on this goal. :)
  • Go Somewhere New – This is the first time in many years that I’ve failed this goal. I actually had 3 different cruises planned at various times, any one of which would have qualified this goal, but each time, the other party involved canceled. With no invites and a lean year financially, I had no place to travel, and other than a couple of visits to a friend in PA, I had a no travel year – rather abnormal for me.
  • Become Comfortable Spinning – Hmmm… No qualifiers on this one either. ;) I didn’t do what I’d pictured at the beginning of the year, but I’ve played with my spinning a fair bit, and I’m able to produce fairly consistent yarn on my supported spindles finally. I’m definitely pleased with my progress. :)
  • Read 100 BooksClick here for current status. Total success, but just under the wire! I thought this was a shoo-in, but all the changes over Christmas week were nearly the death of this one! With hubby’s support, New Year’s Eve saw me listening to the last 4 disks of my 100th book, which I finished just before 10:00 pm – a bit too close for comfort, so far as I’m concerned!
  • Knit Another Pair of Socks – Did it! I don’t think I’ve blogged them, but they are here on Ravelry, finished at the end of September, and I’m wearing them almost constantly. :)
  • Stash All My Downstairs Yarn on Ravelry – Well… I didn’t get this one finished, but I did work on it. I had 244 at t he beginning of the year, and 550 now, so I nearly doubled what is done. Lots to go! It would help if yarn didn’t keep wandering into the house…
  • Do a “Difficult” Lace Pattern – It wasn’t what I’d planned to do, but I did qualify to consider this done when I made my three little cobweb lace shawls. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I blogged them either. I’ve not done so well at blogging my knitting this year. :(
  • Do Something/Anything with my CSM – Qualified this one, too! It wasn’t much, but I’ve knit tubes on my machine now, so I know it’s in working order. I need to spring for some parts and tools before I can do much more, but I’m thrilled to know my machine is functional. :)
  • Take Steps Toward Designing Knitting Patterns – Laughing – succeeded on this and then some! I’d say I more than exceeded my expectations. :D

In my knitting this year, I tallied 12,660 yards of yarn knit – comfortably over 7 miles! This doesn’t count several projects, like Spitzbergen and Beauty’s Song, for instance, as they are difficult to total while in progress. It also doesn’t count the massive amounts of yarn knit into swatches for my design work. Once I started designing, I was startled to see how much my yarn consumption decreased. I never thought about how much longer it takes to knit when you aren’t using someone else’s finished pattern… but slower or not, it’s worth it. :)

Things that happened that took me totally by surprise this past year:

  • Being the speaker for the Dayton Knitting Guild in March.
  • Publishing two good knitting patterns and getting 3 more to the point of being just a few hours of work away from being ready to put out.
  • Teaching knitting classes for hire.
  • Hostessing a KAL – and with my own pattern to boot!
  • Having new friendship blossom
  • Having to reconstruct computer files, etc., after being offline 3 weeks due to a computer virus
  • Discovering how difficult it can be to cope emotionally when one daughter experiences a fractured wrist, an earthquake, two armed burglaries, the kidnapping of a church member, and a political coup all within 6 months’ time, and all incurred at a distance that made it impossible for me to do much beyond pray

In the end, it wasn’t a bad year, though it was insanely busy. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2010 has in store for me and for those whose lives are a vital part of my own.

May you have a year filled with many blessings and the eyes to see them all!

Happy New Year!

Looking Forward; Looking Back

I think I’m officially the last person in the entire blogging world to do this, but it’s been percolating so long that I can’t quite bring myself to not do it. Besides, I feel like I need to, if only for myself, so here goes – my New Year’s Day post!

I never was real keen on making New Year’s resolutions, as it just seems like the perfect way to start off the year with a resounding dose of failure. Sometime around the end of January you eat that piece of turtle cheesecake, miss 3 consecutive days of exercising, or realize you are already a week behind in your read the Bible in a year program, and you promptly brand yourself a loser, throw hopeless hands up into the air, and say, “Maybe next year…” I just don’t need that sort of thing in my life. I’ve fought hard to get where I am emotionally, so I have no intent to shoot myself in the foot by setting myself up to 334 days of each year thinking uncharitably about myself. However, like most of the people I know, I do feel that fresh start excitement that comes with the scent of a January calendar page, and a couple years back, I came up with an idea that is working much better for me – New Year’s Goals.

New Year’s Goals have very few rules, though last year they did need a few more than they had. They have to actually be possible. I’m not allowed to beat myself up if I don’t accomplish them. They have to be well defined. Two of those three rules were added this year. Having goals instead of resolutions gives me an entire year to succeed, and they help focus my ecclectic brain on a little bit narrower range of possibilities. Another benefit is that it sets some things before me that I have heard myself say, “I always wanted to” so many times I’m sick of hearing it, but without a steady reminder, I find drifting out of my mind when I have the time.

Last year’s goals were not too many:

  • Knit a Pair of Socks – This one was accomplished with my Coriolis Socks, which I absolutely adore!
  • Master Lace Knitting – This goal would show you just how little I knew about lace knitting December a year ago. It’s also totally undefinable in reality. Just how does one know they’ve “mastered” lace knitting? Should have been “Become Very Comfortable Knitting Lace.” That I definitely accomplished.
  • Go Somewhere New – I didn’t think I was going to get this, but when I ended up with a nearly last minute trip to Honduras, which included a side trip through Guatemala into Belize, I found I’d accomplished it well beyond my original dream.
  • Read 100 Books – Somewhere around June, I added this, which has now been classed as an illegal move on New Year’s Goals. I didn’t succeed, but I might well have made it had I not read th e entire Outlander series. Books with 48 CD’s take a good bit longer to read than your run of the mill 6-10 CD offering.
  • Make a Gail Wilson Kit – Considering the collection I have of the kits, I thought it was time to put my money where my mouth is – or my hands where my money is, or some such thing. Thinking is as far as I got with this one. Oops!
  • Finish the Laundry Room Remodeling – Well… Perhaps this would have happened if my dear daughter hadn’t offered to help get the sewing room started, then hubby hadn’t suddenly revived his nook project and added allowing me a studio door. I was spread too thin with those four projects to complete even one of them, though I don’t regret the progress that was made on all.
  • Be out of Debt by the End of the Year – Total flop. ‘Nough said?

My list for 2009 is much longer and definitely more ambitious, but I’m doing some things differently, and I’m feeling quite positive about a lot of them. The biggest change is that this year, I’m not settling back in January and thinking that I have a whole year to do this stuff after all, so why rush? There have been a fair number of serendipitous occurrences to help me move in the right direction, too, so I’m off to a great start! I don’t really think I’ll be able to get them all done, but I’d sure like to surprise myself, and I’m not going to aim low!

  • Be Debt Free by the End of the Year – I hate having to have this goal. This also includes non-financial IOU’s. I’m going to have to have a miracle to pull this one off. I need to sell an awful lot of books if this is going to happen – and my knitting pattern needs to be a smashing success! I also have several projects, including a quilt to finish for this.
  • Get My Email Under Control – This is another one in the miracle category, but who knows?
  • Make a Gail Wilson Kit – Sound familiar? Serendipity is that Gail is currently running a Hitty class, I have the kit, and the fee wasn’t very high. I’m far behind the front runners, but I HAVE actually started my girl.
  • Finish Reba – The most attainable of the miracle class of goals. There is little to do for her to be complete, but it involves a kiln, learning to fire bisque, renewing my acquaintance with bisque painting, and getting up the nerve to put my beautiful, nearly done head in for a last firing.
  • Complete Sewing Room – Mid-range in terms of difficulty. I’ve done an awful lot in there, but I still have oodles of sorting and organizing, along with quite a bit of trim painting to do – like the bookcase and two casement windows. This isn’t a gimme!
  • Complete Laundry Room – Another mid-range sort of project. As much as is done in there, the floor tile is a bothersome, time consuming project, and I have some trim painting to do. Really challenging would be that I have to stop knitting long enough to crochet the curtains!
  • Lose 25 Pounds – This is going to be easier than I thought. I’m already half the way there!
  • Learn to Do Entrelac and Knit Backwards – I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the pattern and yarn to do Autumn, and a week or so back, I finally found a tutorial that made knitting backwards suddenly easy. I’m still slightly awkward at it, but a little bit of practice and it’s going to be second nature. Biggest challenge here is just to actually break away from the temptation of so many interesting KAL’s and do this piece.
  • Go Somewhere New – Looking very challenging at this point in time. I had two cruises planned for this year, both to new places,  both depending on other people, and both fell through already. So much for this goal being a gimme. All the states within decent driving distance I already have, and I don’t currently have any good set up for a low cost visit in a new state or country – and there ‘s that “out of debt” business… Stay tuned!
  • Become Comfortable Spinning – Easy? Well… First I have to finish building my wheel. Then all that remains is finding time!
  • Read 100 Books – I’m really cooking on this one already! I think I just listed book 15 – or was it 16?
  • Knit Another Pair of Socks - This is more desperation than goal. I adore my socks and I hate it when I have to take them off to wash them! I need more hand knit socks!!! This is a “just do it!” sort of project, and I’m sort of hoping that the SHP KAL is enough to jumpstart the process.
  • Stash All My Downstairs Yarn on Ravelry – This would be much easier if the stash would quit multiplying! That said, I’ve already been working hard on this. I’m currently at 244 in my regular stash, so ignoring minor fluctuations due to usage, it will be interesting to see where I am on Dec. 31.
  • Do a “Difficult” Lace Pattern – Challenge here is just focusing on doing it – ignoring some of the other rabbits dashing across my path constantly. It’s tough to do that with something like 7 shawls on my  needles and two KAL’s imminent…
  • Do Something/Anything with my CSM – I’m not even aiming so high as a pair of socks at this point. I just want to sit down with someone and find out for sure my machine actually works! Socks would be a nice side benefit to the process, though. ;o) A circular sock machine is too valuable to just hold down the floor, in my opinion, and that’s all my lazy contraption has done for about 3 years now.

Now that I type this all out, I’m thinking it’s a very good thing I have a solid start on so much of it. This is quite a list!!! I think I’m going to make a separate page listing the goals in the sidebar here on the blog, then update as things happen…

On Being Eclectic

For many years now, “eclectic” has been the first adjective to come out of my mouth when I’m describing myself. Never more than yesterday have I seen such a compact proof of it being the single most perfect word there is for my personality, though. It was one of those frustrating days when the majority of things I’ve been waiting to receive in the mail all arrive at once. I had a huge stack of packages to open – a real Christmas type moment. Personally, I like it better when things dribble in an item at a time, but the postal service never asked me…

Anyway, when I took an accounting of what had arrived, I laughed out loud. It was me to a “T” – and if properly employed, enough stuff to keep me busy for an entire year! No wonder I always have more to do that time to do it – but I digress…

I like being me, and I love being eclectic. I’d never be able to function in a world where everything was always the same – where I didn’t have oodles of options dancing about me at every moment teasing me to go this way or that. I’ve fantasized at times about only having one thing with which to deal at a given moment, but it takes me about 10 seconds in that line of thought to know I’d go nuts by the end of day one. Besides, I’d never be able to choose the one single interest that I’d want to keep as an only child.

Now, if you are curious, here’s my ever so eclectic packages from the day’s mail.

First off, this is a fantastic new cloth doll book by Antonette Cely. Actually, I’m not sure just how new it is for the rest of the world, but I just discovered it recently. Titled Cloth Dollmaking, it’s jammed with enough information, details, and tips to keep me busy for months – and I’d still not have mastered everything she has to offer in this book, which clearly demonstrates her expertise. Even just to study, it would keep me engrossed for hours, but beyond that, I know I will have dozens of dolls flitting around in my mind, begging for life long before I’ll come to the last page

Next I opened a package containing two back issues of the ever so incredible Gildebrief. If I could only keep one doll magazine in my house, this would undoubtedly be the one. Eye-candy, porcelain doll painting, and incredible, detailed costuming… this is the Cadillac of magazines for the doll artists – particularly those with a strong leaning toward bisque dolls and historic costuming. I’ve seldom seen anything in Gildebrief that I didn’t want to make – now!

Already feeling rich, I opened package three – another flat package, though in appearances only. Due to the cost and timing of the Circular Sock Machine convention this year, even with it being just a short drive away, I had to skip it. Since I don’t have my machine working yet, I had truly longed for the opportunity to go – the perfect chance to put this little beauty to work. As a consolation prize for those of us who had to stay home, extra copies of the convention book were printed and sold, and I’m thrilled! It’s got more info between the covers than I’d have ever dreamed, and even if my CSM were my only toy, I don’t think I’d be lacking for things to try for a very long time. I’m so glad I bought this!

By this point, I was almost of a mind to leave the rest of the packages for another day! However, they were blocking access to the kitchen, so I opened the fourth one – and smiled as my love of reading was blessed with a new treasure, a volume of new old children’s book series for me. One of the many reasons my handle is “Face From the Past” is because of books – and especially these old ones with pictorial covers. I have but few, but I’m terribly partial to them. I just recently discovered Honey Bunch, and I’m quite enamored with her at the moment, and eager to see how much of the series I can find in this edition – without breaking the bank.

Now I had but three packages remaining – though really just two items – or a hundred or so, depending upon how one counts these things. The fifth was two boxes holding enough of my beloved Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool to keep me knitting for months! I got a total of 53 skeins in five different colors and at bargain prices. I also refuse to confess to anyone who isn’t snooping around on Ravelry just how many skeins of Silky Wool I now own. I do so love this stuff…

Having fed my knitting, dollmaking, costuming, reading, and CSM inner people, it was time to come back to reality – though not as painful as some versions of same. I last opened a box jammed full of work – pretty work, I’ll admit, but definitely work. I now have somewhere over 100 antique fireplace tiles, which will eventually be doing duty in my Chocolate and Roses sewing room with something else that arrived recently… I’m going to save that for another post, though. For now, I will just say that I’m going to have something wonderful, but I’m going to have a lot of hours cleaning up and setting tiles before I can enjoy the end result. Stay tuned!

Neglected Toys

The past two years have been extremely busy, leaving me with little time to play. For that matter, there is plenty of work that hasn’t happened either… but that’s not what I’m thinking about at the moment.

Somewhere in the midst of the hectic days, I was having my car maintenance done in my home town. To bide my time, I wandered to the local thrift shop, where I found something that was a curious treasure – a sock knitting machine.

Harmony Auto-Knitter

(Click pix to enlarge)

Although I was quick to recognize the contraption, I knew absolutely nothing about it. However, it was too tempting not to adopt, so I paid the price and wedged its cast iron body, firmly attached to the splayed legs of its tripod, into my borrowed car and drove off smiling. And that’s as far as the romance went. Once it arrived home, I stuck it in a somewhat out of the way corner, complete with the makeshift cover, and I didn’t touch it again for what must be close to two years.

I knew a bit of its pedigree and had high hopes for it. Although there was no manual, it belonged to a lady I’d known. She sold knitting machines and the necessary yarn, I’d frequented her in-home shop, which was just around the corner from our newlywed home over a quarter of a century earlier. The CSM (circular sock machine) looked well tended, but it was also jammed, most likely by curious shoppers who couldn’t resist the turn of a crank. Let’s face it – who could walk past this without wanting to see what happens?

Close up of machine

Recently, a post in one of my Yahoo groups, combined with my awakened passion for knitting, brought my neglected toy to mind, and I started doing a little bit of exploration, aided by two very nice ladies who don’t know me from Adam, but were brought to me by the ever wondrous magic of the internet. Instead of knowing nothing, I can safely say I only know next to nothing now – great step upward! What I have is a Harmony Auto-Knitter, a well regarded 1982 green model. It has a ribber, and is equipped with a 60 needle cylinder. And it came with a fascinating, but somewhat baffling assortment of tools.

Tool kit

I have delicately worked to remove the yarn jam, and the crank turns quite nicely. I still believe the machine has been well cared for, but I was quite shocked to see the amount of dust revealed by the larger than life photos. (Does this mean I need new glasses?) I must confess, I really enjoyed taking pictures of it tonight. I don’t often find myself with a mechanical subject, and it was a great change of pace. Now, for my next trick, I’m going to see if I can make a slide show of the photos…

Okay, now that was definitely too much fun! On a more serious note, I’m putting these photos into my Flickr album, too. Keeping in mind that I know very little about what I have, I would truly appreciate it if people in the know would leave me some helpful comments and advice either here or there. The photos are all numbered, and quite frankly, I have no idea what most of the things are at this point! One thing that doesn’t show well is the metal piece that is shaped rather like a jet plane and stuck on the vertical pole. I understand it has something to do with carrying the yarn, but right now I’m more interested in getting it under control. As soon as I start to turn the crank, it shimmies down, much like the cage on a Mousetrap game, and impedes any further movement. Sometimes the carriage tries to snatch up a bit of the little wire protruding from this device. I’m wondering why the counter isn’t registering passes, curious about the lucite horse’s head in the one photo, and puzzled as to why there is a swivel bar that can be moved into a position that prevents cranking entirely. What might I be missing in regard to parts and tools? And what do I do with the ones I own? I know some of these questions will most likely be answered when I sit and study the online copy of the antique Auto-Knitter manual, but there is also a lot to be said for personal advice – and I’m surely open to hearing some!

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 9:41 am  Comments (2)  
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