Monday, February 28, 2005

The best laid plans, you know..... I didn't get any carding done this weekend after all. Shaun and Emma and I went to Seattle instead. Shaun had to referee a lacrosse game, and Emma and I tagged along. It was a nice mini-vacation. We stayed at a hotel in downtown Seattle,where the view from our room was this:

The Space Needle!

Shaun went to his lacrosse game on Saturday night, while Emma and I hung out in the hotel room, ordered pizza, and read all the books I brought for her. I was going to venture out with her and eat dinner at one of the zillion restaurants nearby, but by the time we got to the hotel it was after 5:00, and I was tired since I drove the whole way from the ferry. Seattle traffic and I don't get along. I-5 (the major highway) was a mess, then there was the city-street-driving to get to the hotel. Anyway, I was tired. Pizza seemed the easiest option.

Sunday morning we got up and had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel. It was actually really good. Lots of times, "complimentary breakfast" means stale doughnuts and coffee, but this hotel actually had a real breakfast with eggs, ham, biscuits, toast and all the trimmings, fresh melon, juice, milk, yogurt, and muffins. And coffee, of course. It is Seattle after all. If you ever need a hotel in downtown Seattle, the Hampton Inn and Suites is a good choice.

Then we went to the Woodland Park Zoo. We'd never been there before, and it was great. Emma likes animals, and she had a good time though we only made it through about two-thirds of the zoo before she got too tired and needed a nap. We got there at 9:45, and left at 2:30. Not bad for a girl who usually likes a nap around noonish. She was so excited to see the animals that she just kept going and going, until she crashed. She had had enough when we got to the Rainforest House, and had a major meltdown. We left, and she was asleep before we even left the parking lot.

The scrapbook binge continues. I got some more adhesive while we were off-island, since apparently nobody on the island carries scrapbook glue. I had organized all the honeymoon pictures into page groups on Friday night, and I put together four pages last night after we got home.

So it was a fun weekend, though I didn't do anything fibery. I forgot to bring my knitting! The ferry rides seem much longer when I can't knit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

I'm still on the scrapbooking binge. I've done 15 pages (front and back of 7.5 pages) over the last three nights, and am now done with the wedding/reception. On to the honeymoon! I can't tell you how much of a relief this is, to finally be done with the reception. For some reason, it seemed really overwhelming. There were just so many pictures!

My recent scrapbooking binge was brought on in part by the fact that the last time I was off-island, I got one of those scrapbooking suitcase things to hold all my paper and stuff. I resisted this for a long time, because they are so hideously expensive, and I don't want to become an obsessed scrapper who buys and buys and buys stuff. When we moved, though, I realized that my three canvas totes of supplies are messy and disorganized and made it a chore to work on the album. When I was in Joanne's last time, they were having a huge sale, and I saw a Crop-in-Style Navigator for 75% off. I caved and bought it. I'm glad I did, because it really is much better. I don't have to completely unpack everything in order to find what I'm looking for, and it's much more organized. My three messy totes are now consolidated into one tidy bag, which fits nicely into a corner of my fiber closet. Yay! Plus, the canvas totes are now freed up to carry groceries, which is the reason I made them in the first place.

I'm not sure how long the scrapping binge will last, but I do plan on carding some more of the Rambouillet x Cormo this weekend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

OK, I have to write another post just to get that ugly pink sweater off the top of my blog! By the way, there were four skeins of the pink yarn left, if anyone wants it.

I've taken a break from fibery things the last two nights. I don't know if I'm still shell-shocked from the sweater or what, but I just needed a break. Instead, I did some scrapbooking. I am so far behind on my album, it's not funny. Last night I worked on pictures from my wedding- in May, I will have been married five years.

I did make really good progress on it the past two days, though. Monday night I went through all the pictures from the reception (all the pictures from the ceremony are already done and in the album), and organized them into page groups. That makes it MUCH easier to just sit down and do a page without feeling overwhelmed. I pull out a group of photos and know that they all go on one page. Deciding what pictures to use is the hardest part for me, since I hate to exclude pictures. It must be done in this case, though. We had disposable cameras on the tables, and lots of kids at the wedding. There is picture after picture of kids making funny faces, usually out of focus and dark. Even the good pictures that the grownups took can't all go in. Lots of pictures of the same people, and many of them dark.

One more night should finish up the reception, then I can move onto the honeymoon. We got married in Maine, and went to Acadia National Park for a week afterward. One of my "very most favoritest" places on earth. Actually, anywhere in northern coastal Maine is good. My family vacationed there for years, I went to college there, my parents retired up there, and I would live there too if there were any jobs. I'm looking forward to getting the honeymoon pictures in the album. I looked through them again last night, and they're so pretty. Sigh. I miss Maine.

Even after I finish up the wedding and honeymoon pictures, I'll still have a job of work to do. There are three and a half years worth of photos between the wedding and Emma's arrival. Then the millions of pictures of Emma. That's going to be really hard, deciding which of those to exclude. At least most of those are digital, so I can shrink them if I want, and I can just print the ones I want to use.

Speaking of Emma, she had a major accomplishment today. She figured out how to climb out of her playpen/crib all by herself. Oh. Dear. Lord. Thankfully, it's not her regular crib at home, but the little one she uses at the babysitter's. I have to wonder, though, how long it'll take her to figure out the big crib. Since she discovered this new skill, it goes without saying that she had no nap this afternoon. I foresee a cranky evening.

Monday, February 21, 2005

On Friday night the ugly sweater looked like this. I finished the first sleeve and did the ribbed part of the cuff of the second.

Saturday I worked on the second sleeve, and got as far as the cap shaping while gulping down more episodes of Alias Season Three. Luckily Emma decided that she needed a three hour nap, so I had a blissfully uninterrupted afternoon of knitting. As blissful as working on this sweater could be, that is.

I think Naia was tired of me grumbling about the yarn, and he decided to do something about it. He sidled over to the yarn bag, crouched, wiggled, and POUNCED!

Beware the wrath that is cat. Normally, I would not encourage this, but this yarn deserved what it got. In the two skeins I used this weekend, I encountered no less than five knots!

However, I stuck to it, and ta-da! Here it is, the finished ugly pink sweater.

It fits me fairly closely, so I'm not sure how it's going to fit the woman who started it. She's shorter than I am, so the length should be OK, but she's a bit bigger in the chest area. I did ask her, though, if she wanted me to carry on in the size she started (medium), and she said yes. So if it doesn't fit, it's her fault.

Anyway, I'm glad it's done.

I think I'd make this for myself, but in the large size, with a longer body, and definitely wool. It's a nicely shaped pattern.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Not much to report this time. I completed the front of the ugly pink sweater, and have started a sleeve. Amazingly, the front and the back came out the same size, despite being worked on by two different people, across 13 years. I really don't like the yarn, though. It's Bernat Gloucester 100% cotton, and I think it's icky. It makes my hands hurt. I have to look at the knitting all the time ( I knit by feel a lot, without looking) since it's so splitty. I'll be glad to get this project done and out of my fiber closet.

While knitting on the sleeve last night, I watched the first four episodes of Season Three of Alias. Actually, it was more like I gulped them down. That show is so addictive.

In non-fibery news, I have started going to aerobics again. I used to go on a semi-haphazard basis when we lived in North Carolina, but haven't been at all in the four years since we moved. A week ago, I decided that I'm tired of being a tired slug. So I went to a step aerobics class. Now, I liked step aerobics when I went before. I also liked the sort-of-kickboxing class I used to go to. I could do the routines and steps, and I felt tiredly good afterwards. However, I dicovered last week that I am not only a tired slug, I am a pitiful, wimpy, uncoordinated, out of shape, tired slug.

The instructor of the class on Monday was OK, I'm just really out of shape and was totally exhausted when we were done. The routines were a little complicated, but I did OK. The instructor of the class on Wednesday, though, talked really softly and wouldn't use the microphone, didn't tell us what the next step was until she was actually doing it, and when she counted down the steps (you know: eight more! seven! six! five!...etc), well, when she got to "One!", it wasn't really the end, it was just her evil joke and there were really five more. I mean come on. If we're going to do 13 knee lifts, start counting at 13!!! She also went really fast, so fast that I couldn't keep up, and she got faster as she went on. I actually felt like I was going to pass out, and walked out halfway through. She glared at me as I was leaving. That class was no end of frustrating, and in protest (also because I was scared and still sore) I didn't go at all on Friday or Monday.

I ventured back today, though. I went to a different class, later in the morning. Thankfully, it was much better. It wasn't as crowded, and the instructor was better. I think I can do this.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day!

My Dad never fails to send me roses. What a sweetheart. Though I must say, I have never really gotten over the horror of working at a florist during the Valentine's Day rush. For several years, the sight of roses gave me the willies. I'm to the point now where I can appreciate them again, but even thinking about those three Valentine's Days when I was at the florist sends a cold shiver down my spine. It wasn't a very pleasant place to work during the best of times, but Feb. 10-14 were the worst. We processed about 400 dozen roses each V-Day season, and each had to have the end cut, thorns stripped, and either be inserted in a vial of water and wrapped in paper, or arranged in a vase. And delivered. Those of you who received roses (or other flowers) today, think a sympathetic thought for your florist.

In other news, here's the finished alpaca shawl. I believe I mentioned that I had only been spinning for a couple months when I made the yarn for this project. It really, really shows. The bottom half of the shawl is thicker and fuzzier than the top half. I was hoping it wouldn't be too obvious after washing, but as you can see, the yarn didn't change much.

The shawl is 56" x 56" x 80". Pretty big- that's a queen-size bed it's on. I may wear it around some and see if the top fluffs any more. I'm somewhat disappointed with it as it is now.

I "started" another project yesterday. This is a partially finished sweater that a co-worker asked me to finish for her. Two and a half years ago. I feel a little bad that it's taken me so long to get to this, but since she started it 13 years ago, I figure she can't be in too much of a rush to have it finished!

This is a picture of how it looked when she gave it to me. The back is mostly done, and the front is about half done.

I finished the back last night, and got the front to where the neck decreases start. This is definitely not a project that I would have picked out for myself. The pattern is nice, but the yarn is a weird pinky purple color, and it's thick 4-ply/2-ply cabled cotton. It kind of reminds me of Kitchen Cotton that I use for dishcloths. It's splitty and rough.

The stitch pattern is nice, though. Sort of basketweave, with crossed twisted stitches.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Though my birthday isn't until Feb. 18th, I already have my presents. I bought my own this year, so strangely enough, they were exactly what I wanted!

Can you guess what they are? Here's a hint- think spinning...

A new niddy-noddy, lazy kate, oil bottle, and drive band! (The bobbin isn't new, it's just in the picture for scale. It's a standard Ashford.) I ordered the lazy kate and the niddy-noddy from Nancy's Knit Knacks and the oil and drive band from The Woolery. I must say I'm very impressed with the items from Nancy. The niddy-noddy is the best-constructed one I've ever used. It includes two handles, so you can make a 27", 1-yd, 1.5-yd, or 2-yd skein. It comes apart completely and stores in a tidy bag, but when it's together it is solid. The arms are attached to the handle with knobs that screw into fittings, so there is metal holding it all together. This thing does not move or wobble or creak at all, even when yarn is wound on and it's under tension. Fabulous. The lazy kate is great too- it totally comes apart and stores in its tidy bag, and works just as well as a horizontal kate. It works better than the kate I was using, the vertical Ashford one that came with my wheel, because it's so much more stable. Plus it has a tensioning device which the vertical one doesn't.

These two things were a bit spendy, but I think they're worth it. The niddy-noddy more so than the lazy kate, but I'm very happy with both. It's so nice not to have to wind yarn on the niddy-noddy gingerly, worried about whether I'll reach the end of the bobbin before one of the arms pops off. Not to mention being able to ply without the kate falling over every two minutes or the bobbin backwinding and jerking the yarn around.

I was initially attracted to these just because they are so packable, but they are extremely durable, functional tools, and also quite pretty!

So using my new toys, I plyed and skeined most of the rest of the singles. This is eight skeins, each 2.8-2.9 oz, and about 70 yds. I have two bobbins left with singles on them, enough for at least another full skein when matched up with a third bobbin.

Fun fun!

Oh, and I also finished knitting the handspun alpaca shawl last night. I plan to wash and block it tonight, so hopefully I'll have pictures of that on Monday. I'm reasonably pleased with the way it came out, though there is a pretty obvious difference in the two skeins. The yarn in one of them was much fluffier and slightly thicker. Oh well, we'll see what happens after it's washed.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I made tremendous progress on the shawl last night. I finished all the rows that have yarn-overs, plus a few of garter stitch! Now I just have 24 rows of garter stitch and the bind-off left. I was debating whether to do an attached i-cord edge instead of binding off, but I think I'll skip that and bind off on needles about 4 sizes bigger instead. I'm using US 7's now, and if I bind off with 10's or 11's, that should leave the top edge nice and flexible, and give a loopy effect that will match the yarn-over loops that start each row.

The last few rows went faster than I thought they would. It's still a lot of stitches (up to 303 now!), but not having to read the pattern at all or even think about what I was doing really helped a lot. And I didn't make any stupid mistakes- I checked before I started the garter stitch!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I think Emma and I have a small pseudo-cold. We're both sniffly, but not enough to really qualify as "sick." It may be dry air more than anything. She was restless last night, and woke up at about 11:00 pm crying. She didn't want to go back to sleep by herself, she just kept reaching her arms out to me and crying if I left the room.

I picked her up and sat with her a while. She has a comfy La-Z-Boy rocker in her room, so we sat there, wrapped up together in her fleece blanket, for about an hour. I could have put her back down sooner, but I just didn't want to. It was amazing. We were rocking ever so gently, listening to her sleepy-time CD (Bronn Journey) and looking at each other in the dim light from her clock. She was drowsy, but every once in a while she'd open her eyes, stare at me for a few seconds with that ancient knowing look, then smile at me behind her pacifier and close her eyes again. She seemed so happy and secure. She trusts me, she knows me. I will take care of her. Words cannot describe how much I love this little person.

It was a moment out of time, a perfect bubble of contentment.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I spun up the last four ounces of the Ramb x Cormo last night, and plied two bobbins full of three-ply. I'll probably ply up the rest of the singles tonight, then I'll have to do some more carding.

I may take a small break from spinning/carding, though, to finish the alpaca shawl. It's grown to the point now where each row takes about half an hour to knit. I just want it to be done. All I have left is three rows of the last pattern repeat then the top border, which is about 44 rows, half of which are unrelenting garter stitch. I hope to have it finished by the end of the weekend. I got a set of blocking wires last time I was off island, so I can get it all blocked and steamed and everything.

Finally, I'll leave you with a funny art photo- This is the outlet that I plug my laptop into in Shaun's lab, a fairly old building. Every time I see this outlet, it makes me laugh. The plugs look like surprised and yuck faces.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Despite the fact that my backyard looked like this:

again yesterday, spring really is coming to the Pacific Northwest. We had about an inch of really wet, sloppy snow early Sunday afternoon, to the point where our satellite reception was zilch. This sent Shaun into a fit of panic that he wouldn't be able to see The Game, so he and all the other people he'd invited over decamped and went to another friend's house whose satellite dish was still receiving a signal. Emma and I had a lovely afternoon with the house to ourselves, spent napping and knitting, respectively.

Today, of course, the snow is completely melted and it's in the mid 50's. Emma and I went on a nature walk around our yard this morning, to see what kinds of plants are poking up in our new yard. It's like Christmas, all the surprises! We found----

hydrangea buds popping...

daffodils almost blooming....

lupine leaves unfolding....

and many more leafy green things. The former owners of the house did a fairly decent job of landscaping. There are iris, heather, lavender, rosemary, wooly thyme, oregano, daisies, poppies, allium, snapdragons, gladiolus, and I don't know what all else. It'll be fun seeing it all come into bloom.

I got lots more knitted on the handspun alpaca shawl this weekend. I'm on the last pattern repeat, then I just have to do the top border. Yay! I also spun 4 more ounces of the Ramb x Cormo. I only have four ounces left of the first batch of carded fiber, then I'll have to do up some more.

I almost succumbed to the temptation of swatching the finished Ramb x Cormo yarn, but I resisted. I need to finish the shawl first.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ok, so either I can't count, or Emma hid one of the bobbins of finished yarn. I was skeining off the yarn last night, and after I had finished three, what do I see but Emma carrying around another full bobbin! She must have absconded with it last night while I was still plying. So my six bobbins of singles went into FOUR skeins, not three.

Anyway, I got them all skeined, tied, counted, and weighed. Every skein is within a yard of length and a tenth of an ounce of the others! This astounds me. I have never spun this consistently, ever. Yay me!

Looking at the one skein I washed, I'm also pleased to say that it seems to be a balanced yarn- no kinking or twisting. It puffed up nicely after washing, and is soft and squishy. I can't wait to see how this knits up.

I must get a new niddy-noddy, though. Mine is the homemade (as opposed to handcrafted, which would be OK) one which came with my (used) wheel. It's falling apart, and was never really comfortable to use anyway. I'm still debating whether to just order one, or make one myself. I'll probably order one, just 'cause it's quicker, and I need to place an order with The Woolery anyway for a new drive band and an oil bottle. I would like to get a niddy-noddy that comes apart, though. They're so awkward to store.

Oh, and the kicker- I showed the yarn to a (non-fibery) friend, and she said, "Wow, you made that? It looks like real yarn!" Ummm, thanks!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Yesterday I spun one more bobbin of Ramb x Cormo singles, bringing the total to seven. Then I plyed them all. Most of them, anyway- I went until I didn't have three bobbins with singles left. Remarkably, they came out fairly even. One bobbin is still mostly full, and another has about 2 yards on it. That means that six bobbins of singles went into three skeins of 3-ply. Could it be that my spinning was consistent throughout all the bobbins of singles??!!! Wow. That's hasn't happened often.

I must say I'm thrilled with the resulting yarn. I haven't skeined it off the bobbins or washed it yet, but it is nice and round, the plying looks even, and it is so sproingy. Hopefully I won't have any unpleasant surprises when I wash it. It came out a worsted weight that will be great for a sweater. (Just an aside- I do hate that term to describe a yarn's thickness. "Worsted" is a spinning technique, which I did not use for this project, not a measure of thickness. Same goes for "2-ply," "3-ply," or "4-ply" to describe a yarn's weight.) As I was plying, the yarn reminded me of Brown Sheep NatureSpun Worsted. My yarn is springier and softer, but they're about the same thickness.

Tonight's plan- Skein the three finished bobbins, wash one of those skeins as a test (I want to wash most of the finished yarn all at once when they're all done, so it all gets the same treatment), then start spinning more singles.