Friday, July 29, 2005

OK, can I just say this? Never, ever plant Fallopia japonica var. compacta, otherwise known as Japanese knotweed. Ornamental groundcover, my eye.

I guess that technically, it does have pretty green leaves and pretty though somewhat insignificant spikes of white and pink flowers. And yes, it could be termed a groundcover, as in it seems bent on taking over and covering my entire yard. However, groundcovers do not, in my book, grow to be three feet tall. That's a shrub, folks.

The former owners of my house, in their zeal to landscape the front yard, planted NINE of these demon-spawn plants. They started out in 8-inch pots...I can tell this because you can still see the outline of the garden-center soil in the ground.

I have spent many hours over the past few days trying to pull up, dislodge, and otherwise eradicate these plants. They are crowding out all the other nicely behaved plants in the beds, like lavender, oregano, rosemary, and hydrangeas. They spread out from their 8" starting points literally 6 feet in every direction. And three feet tall. Did I mention that? Shading out the neighbors. Just cutting them down does absolutely no good, because they spread by underground runners. The tiniest piece left in the soil will give rise to a whole new plant. Pulling up the runners causes their well-behaved neighbors to come loose as well. The new growth on the end of the runner is brittle and breaks off with the slightest tug. The older runners are so woody and tough that it's almost impossible to break them, and they go not only sideways, but down, so that they're almost welded into the clay soil that is under the top layer of my yard.

Emma did think it was funny this morning when I sat down hard after a root broke unexpectedly. "Mama go boom! Hee hee hee hee! Boom!" Just wait until you're older, girlie, and can be put to some serious child labor...

I harbor no illusions that I got all the pieces of roots of the six I have dislodged so far. I'm going to be pulling up this plant forever.

Why, oh why do evil nursery folks even sell this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tremendous exciting news! Look what I found at the Thrift Store today!!

This was another case of "No, I don't really need to go. I'll just go home. But there's probably something really good there, and if I don't stop, I'll miss it." So I stopped. And I got this Clemes and Clemes drumcarder for the staggering sum of $10.00! It had a lot of dirty fiber still in it, but it was pretty easy to clean. You can see the pile of old wool I stripped off it in the background. I can't believe how lucky I've been at the thrift store recently. First the alpaca fleeces in June, now this.

Here is my very first batt to come off my very own drumcarder. This is the Rambouillet x Cormo fleece.

This carder isn't ideal for the fine wools I like to work with, and it's a little small (the drums are only 4" wide), but it will do until I can afford the carder I really want. Yay me! Now I can get to work on those fleeces.

I've still been crocheting, and am working on a motif table runner, using this pattern for inspiration. I'm making a bunch of motifs, and will design some sort of filler motif to join them all together. I only have three so far, but will ultimately have 15, I think, in three rows of five. Each motif takes about an hour to make. I'm using #30 thread and a #12 hook, and each motif comes out about 4" in diameter after blocking.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Here's the finished hardanger sachet, containing lavender from my garden. I really like the way this came out. When I was fabric shopping off-island last Saturday, I was actually on a mission to find fabric with a print of lavender (the plant) flowers on it. Though there are dozens of fabrics with prints of lavender (the color) flowers, I was unable to find the exact fabric that my mind was picturing. Serves me right for venturing out with a preconceived notion of exactly what I wanted. The fabric on the back of the sachet is very close, though. It's just not quite as "photo-like" as what I had in mind. I think it works very well with the lavender sachet theme, and the stylized flower sprig pattern probably goes even better with the geometric nature of the hardanger.

I found several fabrics that were possibilities for the sachet, and since I live on an island with no ready access to a fabric shop, I got samples of each. By "samples" I mean at least a yard. Fabric stashing is as bad an addiction as yarn and fleece stashing.

I also got the ribbon and velcro to finish a little crochet hook case that I made about a month ago. I was using the case that my steel hooks were passed down to me in, made by my great-grandmother, but it's made out of felt and is somewhat fragile. It also didn't have a strap to keep it rolled up. So I made a new one, modeled on the original (which is a pretty standard design).

It has slots for 20 steel crochet hooks and rolls up nice and compactly, with a velcro-ed ribbon to hold it closed. I have a complete set of steel hooks from size US00 to US14 (2.7mm to 0.6mm) that were my great-grandmother's, great-aunt's, and grandmother's, all on my dad's side. There are many duplicate sizes in the box I inherited, but I pulled these out to be my "working" hooks. It's nice to have vintage fine-thread crochet hooks, because the shape of the shank is so much better than the ones you can buy today. Some of these date to the 1910's.

When I hold this little roll of crochet hooks, I feel like I'm holding a treasure.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

OK, so it took me two nights, not one, to finish the doily. If I had been paying attention to what I was doing instead of the Tour de France, I would have been done sooner. As it was, I had to take out the third-to-last round TWICE. Grr.

Anyway, it's done, and after a wash, 45 minutes for pinning, and a heavy starch, here it is drying.

I starched this one much more than I usually do, because the points are mostly chains and don't have much structure.

You may have noticed that my version looks different than the picture shown with the pattern. I'm not sure what's up with that. I followed the pattern as it's written, but the chain loops around the outside edge of mine are much too long to form nice rounded scallops like the model in the pattern. Either it's a typo (not unheard of) or my chains are looser/triple crochets are tighter than the designer's. I decided that rather than modifying and redoing the last 4 rounds, I'd just block the loops into points. I think I like the original a smidge more, but I do like the way the pointed edging looks like tulips. So I'll leave it.

On the docket for fibery work today:

  • Finish Emma's ladybug dress. All that's left is sewing on the buttons, which I picked up when I was off-island yesterday.
  • Turn this into a sachet. I got the fabric for the lining and backing yesterday as well.
  • Finish plying the brown wool for the Sheep-to-Shawl warp. Everyone else finally finished spinning their singles, so now I can ply.
  • Prepare one last piece of hardanger for framing. This just involves attaching a piece of lining fabric behind it, which I also picked up yesterday. I don't have a frame yet, but it will have a 6" square opening, which won't be hard to find. I was supposed to get this yesterday, but I forgot in my rush to get back to catch the ferry.

On the docket for non-fibery work:

  • Clean the bathrooms.
  • Clean the cat box.
  • Laundry, mine and Emma's.
  • Change the beds.
  • Load and run the dishwasher.
  • Pick up the constantly-renewed piles of toys.
  • Vacuum the newly uncovered carpet before the toy piles reappear.
  • Mow the yard.
  • Clean out the roof gutters, which haven't been cleaned since the house was built (only 2 1/2 years, but still...) and actually have weeds growing in them.

Notice which list is longer. Notice which list I wrote first. Which one do you think I'll actually finish?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Since I seem to be on a crocheting jag right now, I started this on Tuesday night. It's going pretty fast- two nights so far and tonight I should finish it up. I'm using #30 crochet cotton, and according to the pattern, it will be about 14" in diameter. No progress picture, but maybe a finished picture tomorrow!

Emma and I spent a couple hours yesterday in the garden, cleaning up a little. There are two HUGE lavender plants in the backyard, and one of them was in danger of taking over the world. The previous homeowners obviously hadn't trimmed it since it was planted three years ago (when the house was built), and the main stems were woody and floppy. I whacked it back severely, and along the way was able to harvest this:

Three big bunches! I'm drying them for use in sachets and other assorted frou-frou.

It was a little hard for me to prune the plant that severely, because it was so pretty with all those flowers on it, but I learned at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm this past weekend that lavender likes to be really aggressively trimmed to keep it in shape, to keep the "trunks" from breaking, and to ensure bountiful flowers. And I actually only took the flowers off about half the plant, trimming the main stems that had fallen over and were trailing on the ground. There are still plenty of flowers to keep the yard pretty. I'll cut it back even more this fall after the flowers are done. Or maybe before if I decide I want to dry more flowers. Though there is still another whole giant lavender bush that needs pruning too!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Last night I started AND finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. It was great, possibly the best one so far. There were points where I said "Ohhh!" at the revelations, points when I said "Yay!" at the events, and points when I said "Oh no!" at the events.

Six hundred and fifty-two pages in five and a half hours.

Just sayin'.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I had an extremely productive fibery weekend! I've been gathering the things I want to enter in the County Fair, and came across several mostly-finished projects from last fall that could go in. First, I found this piece of hardanger.

This is a mini-sampler I designed, with inspiration from Janice Love's Fundamentals Made Fancy book, to showcase greek crosses, dovecotes, picots and filet stitches. I sewed green velvet along both long edges, and inserted it into the lid of a box. Pretty, I think!

I also found a small ornament that only needed to have the eyelets around the edges done. So I finished the eyelets and sewed it into a small stuffed ornament, complete with twisted cording that I also made Saturday.

While I was looking through the hardanger pile, I found a piece that I did without really knowing what it was going to end up as. I had no idea how I was going to finish it. It's about 10" square, so I decided to hemstitch around all four sides and make it a doily. It takes a loooong time to hemstitch over two threads all the way around a 10" square on 28-count linen! I used my rotary cutter to trim the fringe, and it came out great.

I also came across some fabric I got last time I was off-island, to make a dress for Emma. I was initially only going to get a 1/2 yard, just enough for the dress, but the print is so cute and it was on sale, soI ended up getting the rest of the bolt! I have 4 1/2 yards of this now, and will put most of it into a quilt, whenever I get around to it. Emma loves the little ladybugs.

I took 1/2 yard of it last night and made it into the skirt of this dress. I also crocheted the yoke yesterday afternoon, so except for stitching the hem (which is pressed and ready to go), this is a complete dress-in-a-day!

And lest you think that Emma and I spent all weekend holed up in the house, we went here yesterday:

This is one of the fields at Pelindaba Lavender Farm. They had their annual Lavender Festival this weekend, and Emma and I went over to stroll through the acres of lavender. It was glorious. There is no way to describe what it's like to be in the middle of a sea of lavender with butterflies everywhere and bees humming, and a warm breeze wafting a fragrance so strong it's like breathing lavender syrup.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I finished the spiral pineapple doily, finally.

The end of this pattern gave me fits. It was just wrong wrong wrong. Each of the pineapple tips is worked separately back and forth, and the pattern says that there are supposed to be chain-8 bridges between the pineapple and the double-crochet shells along the sides. I did a couple following the pattern, but it quickly became obvious that this wasn't going to work. The ch-8 bridges were too long and floppy, and the whole tip cupped horribly. If you scroll back to July 9, you can sort of see this on the one that's done. I test-blocked the two tips that I had done, and realized that no amount of blocking was going to help this. So rip those two tips out. I figured that since the ch-8 bridges were too long, if I just shortened them it might work. So I redid one tip using ch-5 bridges. Alas, still no good. Still severely cupped. Rip, rip.

After thinking about it I realized the reason the tips were cupping was not that the bridges were too long, it was that the double-crochet shells at the sides were not able to stretch as much as the pineapples in the middle. The bridges were the right length for the pineapples, but the outside edge had much less "give." So I redid a tip using TRIPLE-crochet shells along the sides this time, and lo and behold, it lays flat!

So the bases of the pineapples, the part worked in the round, have double-crochet shells and the tips have triple-crochet shells. It's not too noticeable, and since it's the same all the way around the doily, it looks fine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Last night and the night before, I've been working on the warp for this year's Sheep-to-Shawl event at the fair. I'm the plyer this year, so last week at spinning group, everyone else gave me the singles they had spun, for me to ply up. Here's the result:

That's six skeins of two-ply Romney, about 1500 yards (though I haven't measured it exactly yet). I also have about a quarter of that amount of (natural) brown Romney still to ply. Our shawl this year is going to be made out of only naturally-colored wool, not dyed fiber like we've done the past three years.

It's quite a challenge for a group of people to spin to a standard. Each of us gets a yarn sample when we pass out the fiber, and we're supposed to spin our singles to match. Sounds good in theory, right? In practice, however, the singles I got back were all over the place. Some people spun thicker, some thinner, some tighter, and some so loose I had to run their singles through my wheel again before I started plying to tighten the twist so that the singles wouldn't drift apart! Kind of makes me wonder why we bothered with the reference yarn samples, if people were just going to spin whatever the heck they wanted!

It does make for an interesting yarn, though, and once it's all plied it looks acceptable. The warp will be random wide stripes of the white and narrow stripes of the brown yarns, and the weft will be mostly white with a couple stripes of the brown at each end. Should be pretty. And it's locally grown wool, too!

I have discovered while working with the Romney, though, that I greatly prefer fine wools. I'm totally spoiled by the Merino, Colonial, and Rambouillet x Cormo I've been working with this past six months or so. Romney feels scratchy and coarse to me now.

Must finish washing and carding my soft, fluffy, luscious fleeces!!!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Here's the current doily-in-progress. I finished the part that's done in the round last night, and did one of the pineapple tips this morning. It looks pretty sorry right now, but as in knitted lace, blocking helps a lot. I'm not in love with this pattern, but it will be good to finally get this out of the work-in-progress pile. Ten and a half months is a long time to have a simple doily hanging about unfinished!!

As for the back deck, we now have less room than we used to! Shaun went off-island on Wednesday and came back with this:

We had a Christmas/housewarming Home Depot gift certificate from my mother-in-law, and we (Shaun) decided that it should go toward a grill. Shaun is thrilled. It has a big main grill, plus a side burner on the right, so he can really go to town with the grilling and cooking. Perhaps a bit of overkill for this family of three, but it's great for crowds. We had a party (with six kids under age four... wasn't that chaotic!) last night, and at one point had twelve burgers and eight hotdogs on this thing. Hey, anything that means I don't have to figure out what's for dinner or clean up the greasy splattered stove is a plus in my book!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Well, as is typical, I got sidetracked from my plan of washing wool. It's been rainy for the past two days, so maybe that's why. The back deck is the best place for drying wool, and there's not much point in washing the wool if it's drizzly outside.

Instead, I have been working on finishing the doily I started on Sept. 22, 2004 (according to my blog). You think it's been waiting long enough?? I don't think it will take long to finish, since I'm using #30 thread for it (which feels like rope, after the sewing thread). This is the second time I've picked this up after crocheting with sewing thread. When I put it down last September, I had done 18 of 50 rounds. Last night I did another 13 rounds, finishing the pinwheel in the middle. The middle part will go fast, as it's mostly chain loops, and the bases of the pineapples. The outer edge will be a little fiddly, as the tip of each pineapple is worked separately back and forth. That means lots of ends to work in, but that's not such a big deal with the thicker thread.

Pictures tomorrow, of the doily as well as the behemoth we now have residing on the back deck.....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ta Da!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finished, after 58 hours and 15 minutes! Total size from tip to tip is 9 1/2 inches. I'm so happy with the way this came out.

The last round took 5 1/2 hours to do as well. Each of the little scallops along each point has two single crochets and four double crochets, and the loops at the tip of each point each have 13 double crochets in them. Time consuming, but not too bad.

As I was finishing up the last few rounds of this, I had the strangest feeling that the thread had gotten thicker. It just felt like normal crocheting. I knew that it hadn't changed, because I was using a continuous thread off the same spool, for heaven's sake. I found myself thinking that I need to find some thinner thread!

I think my next micro-crochet project will be this Daffodil Runner. It's been in the "to do" file for a while, and I think it's next up. I may not jump right in, though, since I want to do it in silk thread, and I need to scout around to find some. Plus I may do some wool-washing and carding first. I really need to finish washing that Merino fleece.

So, happy day, the doily is finished, washed, stretched, pinned, and dry. Now it's safely rolled up in tissue paper waiting for the fair.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I had hoped to have a beautiful picture of the finished doily to show off today, but alas, it was not to be. As I was washing dishes on Sunday morning, I somehow managed to slice my left thumb open on the edge of the blender. Not even the sharp metal spin-around-thingy inside, which would at least be understandable. No, I injured myself on the edge of the plastic jug part. How stupid is that?

So I didn't get much crocheting done on Sunday, due to a missing divot from the tip of my thumb. Luckily it didn't hurt anymore by yesterday, and I was able to make tremendous progress, even though I was somewhat impeded by the Band-Aid. I'm now on the last round and I'm thinking two hours tonight will finish it.

To entertain you until the unveiling (hopefully) tomorrow, here's the thread I'm using. It comes wound on a cylindrical tube, about 2 1/2 inches high. I got mine at Jo-Ann's. It's really very nice.

Because I am a science geek, I also staged a little comparison to show the size of the thread:

Left to right those are #30 Cebelia crochet thread, #80 DMC tatting thread, and the #50 sewing thread for the doily. The sewing thread is slightly thinner than the tatting thread. It doesn't show up very well in the picture- you'll have to trust me. I tried and tried to get a good shot, but it's really hard to take a picture of white thread!! Maybe I'll be really geeky and get a picture using a microscope. I was going to put some #10 crochet cotton in there too, since that is the most widely used crochet cotton, but I realized that I don't have any!

Sewing thread has a different sizing scale than crochet cotton, which is why the #50 sewing thread is smaller than the #80 tatting thread/crochet cotton. I keep meaning to do an online search and find out the "official" sizing scale for sewing thread, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.