Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plying Update

Here are the three possibilities from spinning this fleece. From left to right: Dark and Light plied together, just the light and just the dark. Could not find any storage bobbins anywhere, mustn't be much demand around here. So, I will have to ply as I go. I think I will work through the dark, as there is more of it, until I have a sweaters worth. Then the light, until I have a sweaters worth. Then with whats left I will combine to make a quantity of the mixed. I just want minimum wastage and maximum product out of this fleece, I really love the colors.

Plying Dilemma

After washing all the fleece and spreading it all out on the table, I split the batch into 2, one half the lighter fleece, the other darker. Here you can see the differences.
Only problem is now I'm not sure what to do with them. I think I want a batch of dark, a batch of light and a mixed batch. But although I think I will have enough fleece, I'm not sure. The goal is to get at least 2, preferably 3 sweaters out of this fleece. With about 3kgs or 6.6 lbs or 105 oz. either way alot of spinning!

I am going to try to locate some storage bobbins today, not sure if I'll have much luck, and try to get some organisation and planning done with all the singles. I like the idea of spinning all your singles before plying, so you can balance out changes in your spinning and get a yarn that is even and the weight you need. I don't have a bobbin winder either, but I'm sure I can figure out a way around that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Frogging Back

Over the last few days, when I have had the chance to knit, I have picked up my striped, raglan, top-down, V-neck sweater and knit a few rounds. Things were going well, I tried it on regularly to ensure the shaping was working, and it seemed fine. But once I had done the inch or so of straight knitting for the waist, before you begin the hip increases, I realised that the sweater was just not sitting right and I had put the decrease bust shaping in the wrong place. I had also somehow ended up with more stitches on the back of the sweater than the front, and it was bunching up a bit. So later today  plan to rip back to just before the bust shaping began and try again. I don't want to, but I can tell I will not be happy if I leave it as is.

So rather than continue on last night after driving Mum home, I did some spinning and worked a bit on my socks. They have been on the needles forever, so maybe I should try to finish them up by the end of the year. My feet no longer get itchy in my handknit socks, which is great. I now find that if I wear cotton store-bought socks, my feet freeze. I now need the warmth and thickness that the handknit socks provide. Which I love because I do get a kick out of seeing the colours when I see my feet. A lot more interesting than white cotton socks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Another Christmas Over

And now with all the festivities over, Christmas is finished for another year. Kids are happy, lots of pressies, I am happy, lunch was a success and my knitted gifts were a success too. And now, with all the chaos over, leftovers for dinner for the nxt few days, I am hoping to finally get some knitting and spinning in, because I sure haven't had much opportunity in the last few days, but at least those days flew.

And now, it is time to start contemplating my goals and objectives for the new year in regards to health, wellbeing and work. All three make up a person and I like to look into all three when I reevaluate things at this time of year.  Health generally includes a promise for healthier eating, more exercise and looking after myself. Wellbeing is things that make me happy, knitting, spinning, reading, anything that I do to keep myself feeling sane and well. Work..........in the past this has included focussing on the kids such as when they were babies, studying or looking for work. The part of our lives we are obligated to do to survive.

There is also the aims we have as a family for our household, as a couple and just for the kids. Either way I love the idea of a fresh start even if it is just another day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Birthday Present to me......Finished Cleaning Fleece!

Yesterday was my 28th birthday, only 2 years off 30! Although you may think that would scare me, I'm actually excited about getting closer to thirty, I think there will be certain changes in personal growth/perspectives/opinions that can only come with age. After all, I know I am not the person I was in my teens, so how could you expect to be the same in your 30's as in your 20's? Personally, I love change. I embrace it.

My birthday gift to myself was not planned, although certainly hoped for. I had the goal of finishing washing all of Ebony's fleece before Christmas, as I am hosting and I didn't want wet fleece covering surfaces. And to my pleasant surprise, the last few batches (had to do it in batches in a bucket.....no top loader washing machine) finished drying yesterday. In time for me to enjoy looking at all the clean, washed fleece spread out over a table.

I managed to seperate it into 2 pillowcases, one bag lighter fleece, the other darker. I think I will try to spin them seperately and ply them together. I tried weighing it all, and although not overly accurate, I have about 3kgs of grey fleece. That should keep me spinning for a while! I have no idea the breed, only that it belonged to an ewe, the staple is quite long and the color variations in the fleece are gorgeous.

So Happy Birthday me! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Baking with the Kids!

So today was spent baking Christmas cookies, to enjoy in the lead up and on the day. Although the kids don't really get into the baking side yet, Miss C loves to help decorate them. I keep Mr N away most of the time, he just tends to make a giant mess and the product ends up a disaster, but he is only 3.
So first is the classic shortbread. I made two batches today, one using cornflour and the other using rice flour. I did not like the rice flour shortbread as much. So,  will stick to the cornflour version.

Next came the classic Christmas Trees. We make these every year, just plain vanilla biscuits, cut with christmas tree shapes and then iced with green icing. We then decorated them with colored choc chips and melted chocolate for the trunk. Very yummy and loved by the kids.

These starts were meant to be white, with the metallic cake decorations on them, but we made a decision to make them red, as red is a christmassy color and Mr N's favourite color. And he loves the stars. Although they look more orange in this photo!

And finally, the grown-ups get their own christmas bells, coffee biscuits topped with melted dark chocolate and sprinkled with icing sugar. Absolutely delicious and perfect for the coffee lover, or someone with a more mature palette. Not as sweet as the others, but definately rich!

I think I am done with the baking for now, and the next few days will be about ensuring I have everything I need for christmas lunch, including food and decorations. The turkey is defrosting in the fridge, presents are all wrapped, so there's not too much left to do in the next few days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Knitting

It came to my realisation that I have knit a cardigan for my mum, a sweater vest for my father-in-law, and a shawl for my mother-in-law. So who's missing? Dad! I felt terrible and since it is now less than a week til Christmas I think I'd better get moving. So I decided upon a cabled beanie and matching fingerless mitts. Although it is the wrong season, I hope he will find them beneficial in winter, especially when he takes the dog for a walk.

On another note I have been looking at knit toy patterns, and I am very fussy about the ones I like. I don't like the ones that look like a 5 minute knit sewn up and called a toy. I like the toys that look like animals, have many design techniques involved and that look really really cute. Although both my kids are past the soft toy stage, I am thinking about making some for the Christmas Tree Donations at the department stores next Christmas. That way I get to experience the fun of making these toys and know that they will be going to less fortunate kids.

Friday, December 17, 2010

First Bobbin of Ebony

Here are a few pictures of my first bobbin of Ebony, the fleece I recently bought off ebay. Although she was named as a black sheep, only the skirted parts of the fleece were actually black. The rest is a combination of grey, brown and sun-bleached tips.
 This photo shows the most accurate color of the fleece, and as you can see it is spinning up nicely and evenly and I haven't even had to prepare it beyond washing the fleece. To wash it I have soaked small portions in a laundry bag, in a tub with Earth Choice dishwashing detergent. It is gentle and safe and has worked really well. I usually do 3 loads with the detergent and a final rinse soak. The fleece has come out clean and in excellent, ready to use condition.
I am very pleased with the results of this spinning as well as the color. I really hope that I will be able to use the finished product for a sweater or cardigan or other big project. I am loving the color!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quality fibre equals quality spinning

Ok, so I was having a nightmare trying to spin up the white fleece I had washed and flicked for spinning. I am able to spin it, but with the staple length being quite short and there being lots of little lumps/pill type things, I kept having to rejoin the fleece and accidentally overspinning it and ending up with a very multi-textured yarn. So not happy. I was beginning to think that perhaps spinning is not for me, that I can't seem to create a yarn that has any consistancy in thickness or twist.

But before I gave up entirely, I decided to put up a new bobbin and try the grey fleece I have been washing that I bought off ebay for a steal, $20 and it's the whole fleece from a black/grey sheep. A lot got removed with the skirting, but I sill have a massive quantity of a gorgeous colour fleece. It is mostly a steel grey, with darker sections and lighter, where it was sun-bleached. So I pulled some out and realised that it didn't really need to be carded/flicked/combed, that the locks are already very open, and although I haven't measured, the staple seems very long. So I threaded it up and started and it was delightful! It was so smooth, spun up so easily, and the single I was creating looks lovely and uniform in twist and thickness.

As an added bonus, the color changes have all blended together nicely to create a stunning rustic grey combination that I am truly in love with. And my love for spinning has grown. I was truly feeling the satisfaction that I'm sure spinning provides others, and felt very proud of what was lying on the bobbin. Tonight I intend to spin more of this grey so I can ply it up soon and see what the final result looks like.

As for the white fleece, I'm not sure what to do with it. Whether I should continue on spinning as much as I can and use the rest as stuffing for a toy or cushion, or to just throw it away. But I don't like throwing anything away even if it is doing my head in, so I will think about it and decide later. But the idea of cushion filling may be the most logical and least painful option!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FO - Wave Shawl

A few days ago I completed the Wave Shawl for my mother-in-law. Must say that the edging felt like it took forever, and that I was getting nowhere.......fast. A few times I was developing a strong dislike for this project, it was just taking forever. But eventually I decided to just power through and finish it and not do anything else until it was done.
 Then I blocked it and I have deceided I am really pleased with this shawl, I love the lace design and although the size is too big for me, I'm not really the sort to wrap a shawl around myself quite that much, it is still lovely. My mother-in-law, being larger should hopefully find it a very comfortable size and I really hope she likes it.
 The original shawl pattern included a sleeve, but I didn't like that idea. I wanted a more classic design, but I liked the size of this pattern and the lace edging. I think the rows of eyelets indicating the increases looks nice, it provides a narrowing effect across the shoulders and chest area.
After I memorised the lace pattern, it really flew off the needles. I am very very pleased with the way the edging blocked out and the little points I decided on. I think I may be ready to take on a larger and more complicated lace pattern now, either as a shawl or another cardigan for myself. I am eyeing the Girl Friday pattern from Knitty, an online knitting magazines with many fabulous patterns. And also the Ms Clarke shawl which looks relatively simple.....but so pretty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Elbow deep in Fleece

When I got the spinning wheel I was also given a white fleece. It is this fleece I have spent all week washing and flicking and preparing for spinning. It has most likely been washed before, it wasn't as dirty, greasy or smelly as I expected, but either way I figured it's a great learning experience. So now all the white fleece is washed, half is flicked, a quarter waiting to be flicked and a quarter still drying.

On ebay earlier this week I was able to buy a full fleece, black/grey for $20. It has been shorn off the sheep, appropriately named Ebony, and then I acquired it. I have skirted it already, but I think I can skirt more. I may also have to remove some of the tips which are sun bleached and take away from the beauty of the natural color. Starting today I will begin washing it in batches, as I did the white fleece as I have a front loader washing machine, and I figure this will give me the opportunity to skirt as I go.

I have finished the brown roving I was given to spin, and I think this second attempt at spinning and plying was a bit more consistant than my first attempt. Although I did notice some big inconsistancies as I was plying. When I had completed the plying I still had some single on a bobbin so I decided to try out navaho plying. I saw a video on youtube and thought I'd give it a go. I think I actually prefer it to 2 ply. I liked the finished product better, it had less thin/thick parts and was fun to do.

So now to go start cleaning Ebony's fleece and flick out the white fleece......I would call her Ivory but we all know I will be dyeing her soon enough!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frantic Christmas Knitting

I have never had a good relationship with my in-laws, and that is part of the reason why I decided to knit gifts for them this year. Whether they love them or not, they can at least see the time and effort I put in as a kind of let bygones be bygones sentiment. And as December has crept up on me ( last I checked I still had ages til Christmas) I have frantically been trying to finish my mother-in-laws shawl so that I can attempt to make a shawl (small) for the great-grandmother(s).

Crazy isn't it, but I think that there is nothing more difficult than shopping for people over 80. They have everything, they are very specific with gifts, eg. can't bath, so no bath products, food restrictions, immobility etc. But I figure a nice shawl for the women and a lapghan (crochet) for the grandfather, should not only keep them happy but be greatly appreciated. I just hope I don't start a trend for an expectation of knitted gifts. It won't always happen. Plus I have too much I want to make for myself.

So, I will work frantically on the shawl's edging lace and then block it. Hopefully by tomorrow (Hopeful much?) And then I will go through my stash and find yarn and a pattern for a simple, quick knit shawl requiring about 400meters. As for my sock, still travel knitting, and my striped raglan, languishing in the corner.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My First Completed Spinning Project

Here are photos of my first completed skeins of yarn, plied and washed.

 As you can see in this close up, the consstancy leaves a lot to be desired, but I did it! Still pleased, even if I'm not sure if I'll make anything out of it.
I began spinning a new bobbin last night and am very impressed with the consistancy and thinness I have acheived.....maybe there is hope for me yet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Boiled Needles

When making my tangled yoke cardigan I used 2 circulars for knitting the arms in the round. After a while I realised I thoroughly enjoyed it. So the other day I picked up 2 40cm 2.25mm needles for my socks, and decided to give that a try to see if I could lessen the ladders, It was certainly an odd adjustment and at the moment I am progressing a little slower than on DPN's, but I know I'm just getting my rhythm.

My biggest issue was a few twists in the cables that caused the needles to flick up and twist and generally go the wrong way in get in the way! I knew I could not handle knitting with 2 circs if it was going to be like this. Then I remembered hearing on a podcast, (unfortunately I don't know which one) tha it is possible to straighten out kinks and twists in cables by boiling them.

So I filled a pot with just enough water, and brough it to the boil. Once it was boiling, I brought it down to a simmer and placed my circular needles in the water. You could see the kinks disappear almost immediately. However, I left them to simmer for about 15minutes, just to ensure the best result.

And the result? I am thrilled with them. They sit in the perfect position when I'm not using them, I don't have to twist the needles to straighten up the cables anymore, and they feel a bit more pliable too. Working with 2 40cm needles is still an adjustment, but with the needles behaving, I can feel my hands getting used to the feeling and my rhythm and speed increasing.

And all it took was a pot of boiling water to turn something from inefficient to fabulous!