Sunday, May 25

On the needles

The trip to Wales yielded a couple of newly-started objects. Above, my Mini Clapotis which I am making with Rowan RYC silk wool DK. The colour is much more greeny than the picture shows, but after several attempts in several different lights, this was the closest I could get!

Also on a green theme, these socks will be coming with me on the trip to the USA as my airplane knitting. They are the Artichoke socks designed by Megan Humphrey. I am really enjoying the pattern on these socks, and I'm going to do the traditional heel flap for a change, rather than my usual short-row heel, just to keep up all the skills! These are possibly going to be a birthday present for someone, so you might not see them much more until they are finished.

Tomorrow I'm off to the USA for a ten day trip - Baltimore, followed by Minneapolis and then Pittsburgh. I'm really excited because in Baltimore, I'm going to meet up with Laura, aka Soap Turtle, whom I 'met' a while back in Sockapalooza 4. She made me some glorious 'skyscraper' socks which are still going strong, as well as sending me some more little gifts too, including homemade soap of course!

We are going to meet up for dinner, and hopefully will have time to go to one of the local yarn stores too...! Watch this space.

Sunday spinning

Thought I would talk a little bit about the spinning that has been occupying my wheel time of late. As I mentioned, I go to Vauxhall City Farm every Saturday morning to the spinning & dyeing group, and we are getting ready for the sheep & wool day on 14 June. I'm busy spinning up some fleece to make some handspun yarn - hopefully if I get it finished on time I might dye it and then knit it into something, or else it might just get sold on the day.

All the fleeces we use are organic, although this is mainly because of the fact that they come from small producers (and I don't think they are certified organic) it's not so much that we demand organic fleeces. Since we don't generally pay anything for them, it would be difficult to make demands...!

Anyway, the one I am using at the moment is from a Beaufort sheep. Apparently these are a mix of merino and shetland, and there are only two flocks in the UK at the moment. One of the other women in the Vauxhall group has already spun and washed a hank of yarn from this fleece; it looks so gorgeous and feels so soft that it is spurring me on to my goal!

I'm spinning it dirty, which has pros and cons. The main pro is that the lanolin leaves your hands feeling wonderfully moisturised afterwards. The main con is that I spend quite a lot of time picking bits of dirt and grass out of the fleece!

There is quite a lot of 'double cut' in the fleece too, so I am trying to pick it out as I go (you can see a small lump of it on the right hand side of this picture). Any bits that are left in, end up as lumps and bumps in the yarn when you spin it.

So, here it is on the carder, ready for preparation. All the dirty ends at the bottom, all the cut ends at the top.

Carded nice and smooth. Most of the dirt is now on the floor...

This is the bit I don't like, pulling the the fleece off the carders to make a rolag.

Spinning! It's a slow and laborious business but I'm enjoying it. Nearly filled the second bobbin, I'm now waiting for the extra bobbins I ordered from Scottish Fibres to turn up, before I can ply them (my third bobbin is already full of something else I'm spinning. Didn't plan this too well..!)

Saturday, May 24

Back for a quick breather...

...before heading off to the USA for ten days.

The Curse and I have been in Wales for the last five days; there has been much knitting (five and a half hours on the train each way!); some walking; lots of inhaling of clear air and sweet aromas of May flowers; moderate drinking and over-eating; and not a lot of much else.


Above - view of Cadair Idris range of mountains, as seen by us after finally reaching the top of the long and painful hill we climbed on our 11 mile walk.

This is the footpath through the woods from my aunty's house where we stayed, to the local village. We used to holiday at the same place every spring, and this view is firmly rooted in my childhood memories. Many things in the area have changed, but this woodland is resolutely the same.

More about the knitting tomorrow....

Friday, May 16

Two FOs

Second pair of Saartje's booties, this time for a friend whose baby is due in a couple of weeks. Rather cute I thought, made out of leftover sock yarn. I don't put buttons on, I make little bobbles out of the yarn and sew them on.

And here is my current pride and joy - the first Real handspun FO! This was fibre I got from the Yarn Yard some months ago; I tried to spin it from the fibre in a logical order so that it would ply together in blocks of colour, rather than a mish mash, and to some extent it seems to have worked! There are some sections where the red and yellow mix, but these are offset very evenly by the sections of yellow and red solids.

What I find even more amazing is that they have knitted up so evenly! I cast on about 54 stitches on my normal sock needle size (I usually use 60st on 2.5mm), to account for the fact that the handspun is a little thicker than normal sock yarn. And then I knitted a simple sock, toe up, using the colours as they came.

The only slight alteration I had to make to the use of the yarn was that when I started the second sock, I had to steal bit of the yellow/red mix from the end of the first ball to do the toe, so it would match the first sock. Then I attached the second ball and knitted, and amazingly the colours seem to have more or less followed in the same order!

This is officially a Five Star Super-Chuffed Finished Object!

Monday, May 12

My weekend

I spent the last two glorious days up here, on Eyam Moor in the Peak District, leading a group of volunteers in some conservation work.

Hard work, but what a fantastic bunch of people! There was some knitting involved (in fact I was not the only one to bring sticks and string with me, and it turned out that several of the other volunteers were also knitters) but nothing to write home about. Nice to have a change of scene, very relaxing and fun!

Tuesday, May 6

On the needles

At last! The first of the handspun Yarn Yard fibre is making it into a finished object!

I reckon the fibre has been spun to approximately sock yarn weight, and I've knitted a swatch which tends to back me up on this.

So I'm using the usual 2.5mm circulars for the job, but I've cast on 26 instead of my usual 30 stitches, making a total of 52 for the full circumference.

The first sock is now finished, I've started on the second one. It might take a bit of jiggling (and a few extra ends) to get the colours to be similar or match, but I think it will be worth it!

The second lot of Yarn Yard fibre is currently in the process of being spun , but there's going to be a bit of a hiatus because I've run out of bobbins and need to buy a couple of spare ones. It's quite complicated finding these bobbins for a wheel that is now discontinued, but the lovely people at Scottish Fibres are ordering some for me, so everything's under control...

Sunday, May 4

Last day

Our last little scamp is off to her new home later today, I'm going to be sad to see her go, but she will have a much more exciting life there, with a garden to play in and all those kind of things. Even if we had a garden, our domestic arrangements are too complicated at the moment to accommodate little kittens that need lots of attention, company and food! I don't want to be housebound at weekends for the forseeable future, I am going stir crazy as it is, so it will be a relief to have my freedom back.

So as well as no more getting up at 6am to feed the noisy little tyke, no more emptying litter trays and hanging the washing back on the clothes horse after she's pulled it down onto the floor, there will be:

- no more kitten in a basket

- no more kitten neckwarmers

- no more kitten technical assistance ('here, let me help you catch that pesky cursor!')

..and no more early-morning/late-night kitten attack/nose licking while I'm trying to sleep! There is no picture to illustrate this for obvious reasons!

It's been frustrating and time-consuming, as well as great fun at times, but now I'm ready to reclaim my life!

Friday, May 2

Still alive

My dinner last night was a mish mash of leftovers from the fridge, since it was thrown together after my pilates class. Despite the lack of planning, it was a rather tasty combination of a couple of strips of smoked mackerel, some pickled herrings in mustard sauce, a basic salad of lettuce, cucumber and tomato, two slices of toasted homemade date and walnut bread, and some marinated artichoke hearts.

When I was doing the washing up I noticed that the 'best before' date on the jar of artichoke hearts was ten months ago, 7 July 2007 in fact! And by my calculations, it must have been open in the fridge for at least a year! (the jar said to eat within two weeks of opening!)

Which just goes to show that
a) I am a slovenly housewife with very bad meal planning capabilities and
b) best before dates on things like artichoke hearts in olive oil are totally meaningless.

I generally ignore the supermarkets' recommendations; even on meat and fish I give them a few days' grace over the official throwaway date. Have a sniff at it and if it smells ok, it's unlikely to kill you (assuming it has been stored properly of course). I'm a bit more cautious with things like leftover rice, although this is rarely a problem since it's quite easy to measure portions!

I have actually witnessed someone throwing away eggs that were one day beyond the best before date - and throwing them away from the fridge, moreover! Am I alone in finding this shockingly wasteful?