Not As Planned

To be quite blunt, this has been a really difficult week for me in many ways – but I’ve made it to the end, and I think I may have even survived. I even came out of it with something to blog, even if that was a bit of an accident. 😉 I’m not going to bore you with the details of my lousy week. Instead, I’ll share the good part of it, hoping that will multiply the upward positive trend that has been beginning to grow over the past 24 hours. It’s starting to look like I have some of the difficult things in order, and I believe I may have finally cured the nagging computer problem, too. But best of all, who doesn’t smile when the have a finished project? Even if I wasn’t intending to have one, I’m not passing up enjoying the thrill of victory!

A few weeks ago, I found myself out of the house with three knitting projects, but only one of them had everything I needed to work on it – very bad planning on my part! It was my February Lady Sweater, which was not something I was targeting, but I certainly wasn’t going to just sit and do something when I had wool and needles available. I finished the first sleeve to the point it needed to be tried on for length, but when I did that, I was chagrined to discover that although Rita’s FLS looks adorable on  her, mine dragged me down, makin me look and feel like a 3-day -old apple dumpling. Talk about frustrated! I’d been trying to get that sleeve done since January, and now it looked terrible! In the midst of my pout, I noticed that the sleeveless side DID look cute. Hmmm…

I folded it away, but then looked again the next day. Yes, I really liked the “vest” side, but the sweater side was not good at all. Trying not to think about how many stolen moments it had taken for me to finally get that sleeve knit – nor of the $17 I spent just to buy a short circular needle to knit it – I frogged the entire sleeve. This past Thursday, my class at the library was functioning independently, and once again, I found myself with three projects and only one with all the necessities – my FLS again. I picked up the stitches and bound off the yoke edge around the sleeveholes. Today I sewed in the ends, plus I added a strand of yarn woven through the stitches inside the rolled neckline, which isn’t strong enough to support the weight of the sweater alone. I’m pleased as can be with the finished project! I’d happily make this pattern again, but I’ll most likely plan for it to be a vest from the start. 🙂

Project specs: This was knit on size 8 needles using Cascade 220 Heathers. I’ve managed to misplace the rest of the yarn – probably in the turmoil of packing for the retreat a couple weeks ago – but I originally bought 7 skeins, and I know I have one full ball laying here that I frogged from the sleeve, and one more that was held back for the other sleeve, so no more than 5 skeins for a nice long vest. The buttons I chose were reproductions of antique Czechoslovakian buttons, using the original molds. I bought them on ebay, back in the old days before I stopped shopping there. I’ve seen similar buttons on Etsy.

Of course, the ultimate irony is that I’ve picked at this as a background project for exactly 7 months, so when did I finish it? The first day I’ve been at home when it was in the 80’s… I do know it’s warm, though! 😉

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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!

Knitting With Purpose

Thinking about my forthcoming trip, it didn’t take me long to realize that there were some rather definite empty spots in my wardrobe. I’m fine without them in my everyday life, but I would not be so fine without them in Alaska. Some are needs, and some are closer to wants, and I have no idea how much of either I’ll be able to finish before the big event, but I’m giving it a go, starting with the smallest projects of the most importance and working up to larger and down to least importance (in my perfect plan, of course) the best I can manage. Believe it or not, I didn’t even have a proper coat, but I decided to forgo knitting that, and bought a really cool one at the Eddie Bauer outlet. I absolutely could not bring myself to buy a hat and mitts, though. 😉

My first project was the one I deemed most important – a hat. I’d been eying the Thorpe pattern for a long time, but I knew in my heart of hearts that it would look absolutely silly on me. Still, it drew me… So when I decided I needed a hat with ear coverage, I bought myself some chunky Misti Alpaca and spent two evenings knitting one up – sans braids, mind you. I did the crocheted edge that the pattern calls for, but I just didn’t like the way it looked, so I ripped it out and changed to an I-cord edge in a color I didn’t expect to use. The finished hat fits close, and the I-cord holds it cupped around my ears – after a couple failed tries. It’s going to be perfect, and as a bonus, it is incredibly touchable! I used one ball of the main color and just a bit of the contrast. Woolma condescended to model for me. Her head is a bit smaller than mine, and I think she’s a lot cuter in it, but…

Next project was a pair of mitts, knit from my own design, Sightseer Mitts, which I hope to share here sometime in the relatively near future. Although I wanted to make a pair of mittens, I started thinking about taking pix with mittens or gloves on, and knew that wouldn’t work. Then I thought about taking gloves off and sticking them in my pocket and taking a picture and getting the gloves out and putting them back on… Not going to happen! Mitts on the other hand…

These are made with most of the remaining ball of contrast I used on the hat, so both items can be made with just the two balls, and there’s still a bit left over for my Odd Balls Tub. 🙂

The third project I have finished is a vest I’ve wanted to make for years – the Taos Bolero Vest. I loved it the moment I saw it, but haven’t been making myself any clothing, as that would curtail my desire to be slimmer. However… well, I knit this a bit smaller than I’d have done for my size and blocked it under a bit of duress, so it should have some long term potential. I also used Wisdom Yarns’ Poems, which is very affordable, so no guilt. Added benefit is that I found I really love this yarn, so it wasn’t even a sacrifice to use it! And just look how pretty! I couldn’t get the camera to see the colors entirely accurately, but you can get the idea, at least. The area that looks sort of light slate blue is actually a lovely medium teal.

I did learn a few things doing this vest. First, I looked carefully at the balls for the ones that matched color repeat all the way to the center. If they have a twin, there is almost guaranteed to be no knots. (I’m now using this trick when I buy Noro off the shelf, too.) These single strand yarns with long repeats are prone to knots, so it’s worth the time to shop them carefully. I picked two balls that were twins and did my fronts from them, two at a time, so I could be sure they retained some balance, which was important to me. I know a lot of people love the mismatched sides on sweaters and vests, but they leave me feeling edgy. I didn’t obsess over making them absolutely identical, but I did watch to be sure they didn’t get very far off. No problems with these two balls, and I didn’t even have to make any adjustments!

I also chose to lengthen the body below the armhole quite a bit – a good inch and a half. I wanted my vest to end about the same place or a little lower than the waistline on my dresses. I like where it ended up, and to my surprise, I didn’t need any of the spare balls of yarn I bought. (This means I have enough yarn to make the vest two more times – or make something else wonderful from it… blush!)

And the final thing I changed is that I didn’t like the single crochet edge called for around the armholes in the pattern, so I changed it to ribbing. I worked the ribbing with one extra row around the outside edge, and I worked the armholes to match, picking up 85 stitches around each on the size XL. I’m not happy with the ribbing on the edge. The instructions didn’t say to size down needles, and it’s a 3×2 ribbing, so it doesn’t draw up much. Since she says to add a stitch in one spot during binding off, I was given to believe this would be a rather close fit, but instead, I found the number of picked up stitches to be far too generous for the length of the edge, even with my extra 3 inches of edge length from lengthening the vest. Next time around, I’m going to size down my needles, use a different ribbing, or pick up fewer stitches. Also, because of the way this is worked – all stockinette until adding the ribbing after seaming, it curls like mad! If you hate blocking garments each time you wash them, think before you knit this one! Personally, I love my final vest enough to put up with the inconvenience. 🙂

And this is what I’m working on next – The Hexagon Shrug by Elizabeth Lovick – Northern Lace. I’m just going to leave you with a teaser now, but I have to say that although this is far from an overnight project, it’s a great pattern for someone who wants a simple lace project with a lot of wow to it. The Kraemer Silk and Silver yarn doesn’t hurt a bit, either! Can’t wait to see this one finished!

And that’s all you get for now. My list of things to knit for the trip is still pretty long. I’m relatively sure I won’t get entirely through it, but I’m not going to give up trying! Wonder how many other things I have on that list that people could guess… Hmmm…

Goals Post – March/April 2010

I still don’t have time to do the post I wanted to do regarding Honduras, but noting that it’s the end of April already, and I’ve not posted anything this week, I thought I’d take a few minutes and do a goals post – this time covering two months, since I couldn’t post at the end of March. Actually, all things considered, I’m doing amazingly well! Of course, if all things did NOT have to be considered, I suppose I’d be doing even better, but I’m not about to give up that month of service in Honduras just to make it easier to reach my annual goals. The virus I might be willing to trade in, but not that trip. 😉

Through March and April, I again did not touch my miniature goals, haven’t started a weaving project, worked on a single bit of the remodeling, or touched several other things on the list. I have to not look at those – and remember that I DO have another two thirds of a year to go. 😉 What I HAVE done though is not shabby! Although she’s not finished, I did spend enough time to make good progress on my spinning wheel. Although I have a long way to go to feel competent, I’ve also spun creditably on a spinning wheel – but more on that later. Technically, though, that would mean that I can consider one item finished – Learn to spin on a spinning wheel. 🙂

Although Honduras was brutal on my knitting in general, the one true project I took along got finished, and it qualifies for one of my goals. I’m knitting two pairs of socks minimum for myself this year, one toe up and the other top down. My toe ups are finished – twins (only a bit smaller) to my daughter’s Rushing Rivulets. Having fewer stitches on the needles made the pattern play differently, so all the things I thought I was so smart to have figured out in that regard ended up having to be re-figured. Add knitting mostly by memory and on those sawed off needles, and they were a much bigger project than I’d expected!

I’ve worked briefly on my photo organization, stashed a very few yarns, kept up with my weekly music and language sessions (these two being a shoo-in while in Honduras, and daily instead of weekly!), and also thanks to Honduras, I’ve had a lot of practice with my camera and learned a few new tricks in the process. Just wish I’d taken my manual along, as photo opportunities abounded, and it would have been a great place to play with so many of those mysterious new settings I don’t comprehend. Of course, with some leniency counted for the difficulty of getting written posts online while in Honduras, I managed to keep up with at least weekly blog posts, too. I can recite all four of my Bible verses for the year, and I got a bonus in learning 13 consecutive verses in John in Spanish while I was away, too, for a total of 17 this year. I’ve been lazy about Bible memory for so long that that accomplishment feels very good!

I’m a little behind on my book reading – just 30, when I need to have 33 or so by now, but I have to say that I’m glad to have even that many, and it’s not that much to catch up, especially if the back half of the year tames down a wee bit. (Hah!) Another behind project is the “debt free” goal. I was doing so well paring down that credit card bill, but these past two months have been somewhat brutal on it, starting with buying plane tix and having to shut down my stores for a while, not to mention not being able to teach this spring because of being gone, and going downhill from there. It’s going to take some time and a lot of effort to catch up, but pattern sales have been a steady trickle of income, for which I’m extremely grateful! The other area where I’d made such great progress early in the year was my email. Needless to say, that suffered a debilitating setback when I wasn’t able to tend it for a month. I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before I can catch that back up! 😦 The good news on the continuing battle front list, I decided to save for last. Apparently I worked off more calories than I ate in Honduras, despite my tortilla addiction, and I not only held steady on my weight, but I’ve lost 3 more pounds! I’m ecstatic over that!

And… my “go someplace new” goal is going to be met in high fashion. We ARE going to go to Alaska this year – YIPPEE!!!

So, that’s it for two whole months – lots of baby steps forward, a few slips back, and a couple of completed or partially completed annual goals. Add to that the fact that in the past month I also fulfilled 3 Life List goals – going on a short term mission trip, milking a cow, and spinning on a spinning wheel –  and I think that, exhausted or not, I have good reason to smile!

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