Monday, March 31, 2008

A Very Jane Weekend

On Saturday I watched The Jane Austen Book Club, and then got to thinking that I have only read three of Jane Austen’s novels (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma), and should read them all. So I went to the local used bookstore to see what I could find. Let’s just say that it’s you’re place if you’re after romance novels of a much more explicit nature, but it was terribly bereft of classics. There was nothing to do but drive over to the nearest town of consequence and see if I could do better, and now I’m reading Mansfield Park and only missing Northanger Abbey. On Sunday, I figured I’d make a weekend of it and watched Becoming Jane.

I think I might have caught the lace bug. I mentioned before that I’m spinning some laceweight. The first project is tussah silk top, which is naturally a ‘honey’ color. Mine arrived a bit more on the beige side I dyed it to be more gold and it turned out sort of a champagne color that I like very much. Spinning it is kind of a pain, not because it’s fine or slippery, but because the fibers come loose and stick to everything. I can’t just spin from the end like I usually do, or it coats my jeans and anything else it touches. Worst of all, it sticks to my naturally sweaty hands. I spin a handful, then rub my hands together, and have a little fluff of waste that comes loose. Frustrating. But I have 4 ounces and the intended project is small, so I’ll stick it out.

Tussah Silk

The other laceweight project is the Spunky Club February mailing, Think Spring South African Fine. My first instinct was baby stuff, but I’ve been doing a fair amount of that lately so I wanted to do something different. I sat down at the wheel, and, well, laceweight happened. As it tends to do when you have things set at the smallest whorl. I’m thinking maybe a Flower Basket Shawl?

Spunky Eclectic Febrary

Speaking of whorls, I ordered the extra small and extra large whorls for my wheel from The Woolery, and I’m dying to try them out. They came unfinished, though, so I didn’t want to use them and get oil on them before I finished them, and it took me a while to come up with a good way to do that. Some pegboard thingies from the garage turned out to be perfect.

Give it a whorl

The stain I hastily picked doesn't quite match the finish of the rest of the wheel, but since these aren't 'original' parts I'm not too bothered. They'll look less odd this color than in the unfinished light wood. I’m really happy that I could expand the capabilities of my wheel with only a $30 investment. I can only imagine what the extra small whorl will produce. Cobwebs? And I can't wait to try for chunky singles with the extra-large whorl.

All this laceweight spinning of course got me to thinking about knitting lace. I finally do have enough alone time to knit lace, and I could even wear it if I wanted to since there’s no Bruneaux around to jump on me and snag it. Little dogs can’t jump that high, and Smiley is better mannered than that. Before I knew it, I had pulled out a project that I started last spring and finished the first repeat and am already halfway through the second. I think I might commit myself to one repeat per day until it’s finished. The good news is that it gets shorter with every row from here on out. And I think I’ve finally figured out how to read lace, so it’s going well.

Lily of the Valley resurrected

How’s that for avoiding knitting sleeves or taking pictures for a tutorial? After all, it's hard to get into gloves and sweaters with this going on outside.

Azaleas in our front yard

Think spring, indeed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bloggity blog

I’ve been unmotivated to post lately; I don’t really know why. I used to spend so much time on the internet when I had a job I couldn’t stay busy at, and now I’m not working and barely spend any time online. I often wonder, what did I do all day? Which is funny, considering my current situation, in which the answer is pretty much whatever the hell I want.

The house is sold, for the second time. And we’re actually getting close enough to closing that I’m starting to have to think about moving for real. We got a bite within three weeks of listing, but our first buyers backed out, so we’ve been skittish about this second deal. Perhaps unreasonably so. We’ve also been reluctant to really move into this place when we feel like we’re going to be maybe buying something in some indeterminate short period of time. I tell ya what, though, it will be nice to have a real couch and a real bed again. I’ve had our washer and dryer for a couple of weeks, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed doing laundry so much. Living with almost no personal property has also greatly reduced my ‘requirements’ for a new place. I just want it to be so far down country roads that you have trouble finding the place (we had one like that picked out, but now it’s sadly off the market and we can’t really find anything we like nearly as well for as little, but there is a possible contender) and a dishwasher that works.

I took the handspun socks to my MIL for her birthday, but I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of the finished product. I loved how the roving spun up, but the socks were a little bit of a disappointment because of the uneven spinning between the first and second socks. And you can tell just by looking at them; the texture on one is much deeper and more pronounced than the other. I just keep telling myself that I didn’t muck it up on purpose, and it’s not like she knows whether I can do any better, anyway. It’s the thought that counts.

Besides, I think she’s just as happy with the trade we made on her birthday. Bruneaux for Smiley. My rough-and-tumble little-dog attacker for her sweet Australian Shepherd/Border Collie guinea-killer. I think everybody’s happy about the situation (including the dogs) except for maybe my husband, who had repeatedly announced his plans for leaving with three dogs and coming back with two. I got a big lecture on how if you see that a dog seems to spend its days tied up to a chair on the front porch, that you should expect that offers to trade will at least be considered, if not pounced on. Which I should have and did know, considering that Bruneaux spent his last weeks with us sequestered from the little dogs on the sun porch. Fine with me, I’ve wanted Smiley since I met her. She’s a good dog and gets along with the min pins and likes to spend her days sleeping on her back under the ceiling fan. Meanwhile Bruneaux gets to play rough with the other working dogs and live at the ranch instead of being cooped up inside and always in trouble for eating something he shouldn’t.

Smiley sunbathing

She's a little brattier than I had her pegged for. For instance, I just told her to go outside and she ran out, turned around, and ran back in again before I could close the door. Turns out she's named for the face she makes when she doesn't want to do something. And she wants to be petted all the time, but that's because she was rescued from a puppy mill where her puppies were fussed over and she didn't get any attention. Poor Smiley-face.


I’ve done a little bit of knitting and a good amount of spinning, but the knitting hasn’t been blocked or photographed and the spinning mostly laceweight and taking forever. And I’ve learned not to rush it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This is why I shouldn't get in too much of a hurry.

Even though I weighed the finished first sock and the remaining fiber and so determined that I should have more than plenty to knit another sock just like it, this happened.


I guess I was in such a hurry to spin the yarn for the second sock that I spun it a little thicker. And even though I had 1/2 oz. extra, I still came up short. Which led to this:


I still need to cut the cuff off of the first sock to match and redo the cast-on/off for both socks. You know, after one more row of this:


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


So, I spun up half the roving for the MIL socks and told myself that I'd knit the first sock while I was spinning the yarn for the second, all multitasking like. Except it's hard to multitask two activities which require both hands. I vaguely remember thinking after I turned the heel that I should stop and go back to spinning, but I finished the sock anyway. And then I spun the rest of the yarn. And then I couldn't work on the project while it was blocking.

Ready for the second sock

It's certainly not the end of the world; the first sock went pretty fast, so I should be able to finish by the weekend, anyway. And it gave me a chance to finish the 4-ply cabled handspun socks. This morning when DH woke up, he said, "I'm going to wear my new socks today!" and was disappointed when I told him I still had to weave in all the ends from the stripes, so I got to it first thing this morning.

Handspun Socks for DH

Handspun socks for DH

Handspun Socks for DH

I duplicate stitched a faux toe seam to tie in the stripes, and I think it really works. Rugged, manly socks. They feel slightly rough on the feet, but very cozy. The yarn was a little splitty to knit with, but worth it if the color placement or durability of the cabled yarn is a goal.

Oddly enough, aside from the colors, the rovings for both pair of socks looked pretty similar. It just goes to show what a difference the spinning can make. I don't think I'll ever get tired of that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More of the same.

I was itching to see what all that work would look like knitted up, so I started some socks for DH with the 4-ply cabled sock yarn. I started two at a time on two circulars toe up, but gave that up in a hurry because, 1) I hate knitting anything two at a time, 2) While I prefer two circulars to magic loop, I prefer DPNs better still, and 3) I'm not a big fan of toe-up, either, so I should stick to just one thing I don't like per pair of socks, I think.

Handspun socks for DH

I was able to work in an extra inch and a half or so in the cuff by adding some stripes in matching stash yarn. It's not superwash like the handspun, but, really, if these socks ever see the inside of a washing machine I think I'll have a coronary anyway. Ignore the odd blue yarn laying over the yarn ball -- that's a scrap from the shell socks that I didn't notice until I uploaded the photo. I'm such a poor housekeeper.

I've had to leave them by the wayside while I quickly spin and knit socks for my MIL, whose birthday is this weekend. Since she helped buy my wheel and has generously mailed me mohair and promises of wool are on the way, I figured some handspun socks are due.

More handspun sock yarn

This may be my best handspun sock yarn yet. I split the roving four ways lengthwise, predrafted two of the strips (unusual for me) and spun them onto a bobbin at the second-highest ratio, and then Navajo-plied them on the lowest ratio. I only meant to go down one ratio for plying, but I must have been tired, because I went down two. Anyway, I'm loving the colors and the softness of the less-tightly-spun-than-usual sock yarn.

Handspun socks for MIL

If it wasn't for things like dinner, laundry, and dogs, I think I'd have no problem getting these done in time. As it is, I think it will be a little bit of a push. Bruneaux got out of the sunroom where he is sequestered from the little dogs this morning (turned the knob and opened the door!) and thankfully I saw him in the backyard before I hopped the fence. He's become quite the handful.

I also feel a little guilty about neglecting other projects that I was hoping to get done this week, like DH's socks, above. And I need to decide which of the two '07 holdovers to battle next. The gloves have sat stagnant since I finished the first and decided that I wanted to do a roositud tutorial on the blog with the second. Mom's cardigan needs sleeves and probably a new neckband, but since I'm making it up sort of as I go along, there's lots of room for error.

Mom's Cabled Cardigan

Personally, I think it makes a rather nice vest, but, alas, it was a cardigan that was promised.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

No second sock syndrome here.

I've been churning out socks like a mad woman.

First off, another 2007 holdover is finished:

Child's First Socks in Shell Pattern

Child's First Socks in Shell Pattern
Nancy Bush, Knitting Vintage Socks
Sundara Sock Yarn in Indigo over Aquamarine

I started these socks in December, and they were my purse socks. It took me about three months to finish knitting the first one -- actually, to even get to the heel of the first one -- because they had several perceived problems. First, I had decided to knit them on US0s instead of the recommended US1s because I wanted the lace pattern to open up a little more when worn, and I have this thing lately about snug-fitting socks, but then I was afraid that they would be too small. Second, the yarn tangled on everything in my purse, and the socks came off a needle or two more times than I'd care to count. I was just frustrated with them. But, since I am slowly knocking out the carry-over projects, and socks knit up pretty fast, they got moved to the top of the queue. And when I got the first one finished, I was so in love with it that I knocked out the second within another week. I really like how the subtle variegations in the blue yarn really highlight the shell pattern, and the fit turned out to be spot on.

The Cherokee-inspired Jaywalkers are also finished:


Jaywalkers by Grumperina
Knitterly Things Vesper Sock Yarn in Knit and Tonic

The Child's First Socks may be the pair that has taken me the longest to knit, and these may be my quickest pair of socks. Four days for the pair. There's something about self-striping yarn that just makes it go so fast. I think it's because I always want to knit a whole color repeat at a a time, or maybe because it's so easy to measure progress.

I did modify the toes on these, because I figured if I was doing decreases on the instep, why not work them into the toe shaping? So, when I was ready to start the toe (four color repeats from the gusset pick-up), I just left off the first and last increases on the instep and continued the chevron pattern until there was only one stitch on either side of the double decrease. Then I continued the toe as normal, abandoning the center increases as well. I think it looks pretty sharp.

Modified Jaywalker toes

In other news, we're going to have to find a new home for Bruneaux. :( He and Duke used to be best buds, but apparently the had a falling out when we weren't looking, because they've gotten into a couple of fights (which thankfully we were around to break up), the last of which ended in stitches for Duke. I don't think Bruneaux was trying to hurt him -- in fact, I think he was trying not to hurt him, or it would have been much worse, it's only a superficial wound -- but, nevertheless, he just doesn't understand how gently he needs to play with the little dogs. Duke, understandably, is terrified of him now, in that little dog I-think-I-can-take-you-but-I-can't way which is just sure to cause more trouble.

Poor Duke :(

My first instinct was to just keep them separated and put Bruneaux outside a lot more, but he's figured out how to hop the fence. So, we can't keep him outside and he can't be inside with the little ones, which means we have no place for him. My MIL is going to look for a place for him on a ranch where he can be a working dog and get some of his energy out. I think he'll be a better dog for it, and happier, but I will miss him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So this is what no car payment looks like.

I used to drive a black and white Mini Cooper. It was cute, it was zippy, and it was perfect for city living. But I don’t live in the city any more. And I always said I wouldn’t have that car if there was’t a service center nearby, so it was time to move on.*

So, last week, I sold the Coop’ and set out to buy a Jeep Cherokee. I’ve wanted a Jeep Cherokee since I was in high school, and it just so happens that you can pick one up (a Jeep Cherokee from when I was in high school, that is) for about the same price as I had positive equity in my car.

As of this weekend, this is my ride:


It met all of our criteria but one: the color. Now, before you tell me it’s not that bad and you actually kind of like it, bear in mind two things. One, I have always always always had black cars, so this is extremely bright to my eyes. Two, that’s easy for you to say; you don’t have to drive it.

I think it’s already seeping into my subconscious, though.


* And, honestly, I found the service center was a pain to deal with even when it was nearby. My last visit was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ISO the perfect handspun sock yarn

I learned to knit socks about a year ago, and in that year I've managed to knit over 25 pairs of socks. So, naturally, when I picket out and received a spinning wheel, my first priority was to learn to spin yarn for socks.

My first attempt was a Navajo-ply. I split the roving in two, and by the second half, I was really cooking with gas. It resulted in some nice stripy socks.

Handspun sock yarn, part deux Happy Handspun Socks

For my next pair, I did a traditional 3-ply. I tried to spin strips at random to break up any striping. The result was a tweedy-looking sock with subtle stripes.

Forbidden Fruit 3-ply merino sock Forbidden Fruit Sock the First

Both successes. But then I got to thinking, a lot of my favorite commercial sock yarns are 2-ply, so why am I focusing so much on 3-ply sock yarns?

Next up, 2-ply merino sock. The roving was merino from Enchanted Knoll Farms on Etsy, in the Fortune Teller colorway. The roving was slightly felted, which made it difficult to draft in places, resulting in a less uniform yarn than I would like, but it is so bouncy and squishy; I love it.

Fortune Teller Merino

Then the Yarn Harlot wrote about a 4-ply cabled sock yarn, and of course I had to try that, too. I pulled out some superwash merino I had dyed, and I think it came out looking a lot like denim.

Cabled sock yarn-to be

The difference between the finished 2-ply and the 4-ply cabled yarns is night and day.

Handspun Sock Yarn

For one thing, the 2-ply was much quicker and easier to make. Two singles, plied once. The 4-ply cabled yarn was much more involved. Four laceweight singles, plied three times.

The color interplay is also worth noting. The 2-ply should look somewhat stripy when knit up, whereas the 4-ply is all tweedy and marled.

The yardage also came out drastically different. I don't remember the yardage for my 3-ply yarns, but it was at least 350+. Enough for plain socks with some left over. The 2-ply yielded about 400 yards. The 4-ply cabled yarn? 278 yards. And you can see in the photo it's a little thinner overall than the 2-ply, too. I was *so* disappointed.

I agonized over what to do about this. Normally, if I thought I would run short of sock yarn, I'd do contrasting heels and toes. But the whole point of a cabled sock yarn is strength, so it would be pretty pointless to spend all that time spinning a super sock yarn and then use a commercial yarn for the places that would see the most wear. I had just about decided to dye up a couple of ounces in a contrasting color when my husband suggested that I just knit as much as I can with what I have (the yarn is intended for socks for him). I guess that's what I'll do.

I'll continue this discussion once I have socks knit out of these last two yarns, and probably again after a while when we've had a chance to see how they're all wearing.

In the meantime, I think I'll stick to the 2- and 3-plies. I haven't had a pair of socks wear through yet, so I think I will avoid the extra work and extra fiber required for the 4-ply cabled for the near future.