Sunday, 26 January 2014

Of trauma and bloodshed

Morning folks!

Week in review - 

Up until yesterday, the week had been utterly uneventful. I could happily have had it stay that way too. 

Yesterday was housework day. I cleaned out the rats and usually I would have vacuumed today because both things stress the boys out. When you put the two things together it makes for very unhappy rats. While filling their food bowl I managed to spill some on the carpet, so I decided to vacuum yesterday. This proved to be a VERY bad move. Rusty started bouncing off the cage walls, stressed to the max and trying to escape the noise. I switched off the Hoover and then tried to calm him down, cooing at him and trying to soothe him. Next thing Ringo had Rusty by the mouth and was biting him. There was rat squeeling and panic! I was flicking Ringo to try and make him stop. Eventually they let go of each other and I could pick them out of the cage and check them over. 

Rusty was catatonic. He just lay in my hands in blind panic. I spent a good 10 minutes soothing him and his heart rate and breathing came down to normal. Ben noticed blood on his nose. I checked him over and realised quickly that the blood wasn't his own. It turns out Rusty was biting Ringo rather than the other way around. When I checked Ringo out he had a lot of blood on his muzzle which was swelling. I took him into the bathroom and cleaned him up. The bleeding stopped quickly, but the swelling is making him look like he's had filler injections! Trout pout! 

I went to the local pet shop and bought a travel cage for them. It's in their cage now so that they can get used to it. My plan was to finish the vacuuming today but to take them into Ben's bedroom first so that they're away from the noise. 

I got to test this plan earlier than I planned this morning. Bleary eyed, I stumbled into the kitchen. I filled the kettle and reached for my caf├Ętiere. I was looking forward to a pot of Teapigs English a Breakfast tea. I put the caf├Ętiere down next to the kettle while reaching for the box of tea........ and missed the counter top. The glass shattered and skittered all over the floor. Sigh! I cleaned up the big pieces and put the rats in Ben's room while I hoovered up the rest of the mess and finished up the living room which was put on hold by yesterday's trauma. 

Feeling the love - 

I did finish the first of my Scalloped Tulip socks. My plan was to knit the second sock using the pattern I've written to check for errors. I had hoped to get the second one done by this weekend and the pattern published. It hasn't happened. I blame Mel. It's all her fault! 

She told us about Friendship Fetish February. At some point, somehow we will find a new friend. We will share some of our sock yarn with this new friend and then knit a pair of socks together. I quickly decided that I'd like to knit the Thanks Socks by Regina Satter. They're a lovely free pattern with a simple lace eyelet pattern which flows over the foot. It's written with a heel flap and gusset which I wanted to change for my trusty Fish Lips Kiss Heel. I re-wrote the pattern to reflect the changes I made and I've put it on my project page. They're my In Preparation socks. I'll also put it here at the bottom of the blog. 

The orange/brown sock is the In Preparation sock. Is hard to see the pattern as it runs down the middle of your foot, but you can see the increases at the top of the leg and at the base of the foot. The original pattern doesn't tell you how to make your increases, and in the past when I've made these socks I've just picked up the bar between 2 stitches to make one. This create a hole which, in the original pattern, works well with the other patterning happening around the leg and foot. In my sock, it looks odd I think, and on the second sock I'll probably either knit front and back or pick up the leg of the stitch below. 

The purple sock is my Scalloped Tulip sock. From the angle of this shot, you can't really see the scalloped top, but I'm really pleased with it. 

So, this week I've made the first Thanks sock and cast on for the second; and I've worked on the leg of my second Scalloped Tulip sock. 

I DID finally spin a bit last night. Perhaps only for an hour, but it was lovely. 

I'm enjoying the humbug nature of the fibre and seeing how it barber poles in the single. This will be Navajo plied in the end and with any luck I'll make my first ever pair of socks with it. Fingered crossed!

On the Horizon - 

My task for next week is to finish these -

I've got, from  the left - my second In Preparation sock, my second Scalloped Tulip sock and both of Ben's socks! Oh, and I still need to get some work done on the Peacock shawl. And I want to spin. And I need to do housework. I wonder what might get done, and what might get ignored!?

So. I hope you all have a great week. I live in hope that I get lots done this week coming. 

Have a good one
Ellen x 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Technology fail

So there I was, minding my own beeswax, having my lunch on Tuesday, watching podcasts and I nearly choked on my lettuce leaf (sigh! I long for empty calories!). There was Mel telling all and sundry that I have a podcast. Now, it's some thing I've been thinking about for a while. I've enjoyed doing the odd video to embed in the blog, but I'm not sure I've got the time or the editing knowhow to do a video podcast with any regularity. But the thought of an audio podcast has been running around my brain, Mel just gave me a push to do something about it.

So Tuesday night on the way back from knit night I recorded a little message and then spent the next 3 hours trying to embed it in the blog and also set up a feed for iTunes. Now, at this point I feel I must declare that I don't class myself as a technophobe. I can usually muddle my way through pretty much anything; but on this I'm stumped. I've managed to embed YouTube videos with no problems and you can stream them from the blog. No matter how I fettle, I can't get my head around this. So, for now, I hope you guys can download the podcast file from the blog. I'm trawling through the techno speak to find how to make an RSS and how to submit it to iTunes. Until then. Bear with!

Week in review - 

This week I have mostly been dieting. I've been following the Atkins plan and it's made me feel atrocious. I mean just truly abismal. I've had headaches and migraines all week again! I've done this diet before and I can't remember it making me feel this bad, maybe I'm being too strict with myself. I've only eaten protein and a bit of salad for each meal. And the least said about the effects of so little fibre in my diet the better! ;-(

Feeling the love - 

Last week I told you I cast on a pair of Gansey socks. Well, I ripped them back out. Honestly! Me and Gansey just don't get on! Well........ My current concentration levels and Gansey don't get on at any rate. The yarn I'm using is a gently variegated yarn of dusty lilacs, vivid cerise and deep purple. The colours hid the purl bumps in the Gansey pattern, making it difficult to track where I was up to. So the yarn got wound back onto the cake and I started again. 

I do love a bit of lacework. I love a good YO!  When put together with a K2tog, or an SSK I'm ecstatic. So I had a trail through my old stitch dictionaries. I have 2 dictionaries I bought from eBay they're both 30 years old and I love them. I get so inspired to design when I flick through their pages. I'm always looking for old stitch dictionaries. I'd love to find one from the 40's. I wonder if they even printed them then.

Any hoo, I found a pretty, simple pattern which I thought would be great and set about putting it into a sock. The upshot of this is I've mostly been working on this new sock. As I sit writing to you this morning I'm a hair's breadth off finishing the toe of the first sock and I'm really pleased with it. I've been writing up the pattern as I knit, and I'll test it when I knit the second sock. With some good luck and a following wind it will be up on Ravelry by the end of January. 

The consequence of this is that pretty much all my good intentions for progress on my other projects went to the wall. 

I did try to spin though! I say try, but when I got the wheel out my son made puppy eyes at me and he spun instead. Ah, well maybe next week!

I did get some dying done though this weekend. 

I signed up to a knitting class last week. Mel of SingleHandedKnits fame is running an online class called Swatch Like You Mean It. The clue is in the name. Mel is an avid swatcher. She loves to play with her yarn and get to know it. That's probably why her patterns turn out so well she knows exactly how the yarn will behave before she puts pen to paper. Me? I have a violent allergy to swatching. It brings me out in hives! I HATE the idea. To me it's a waste of time and yarn.
 I told you, I'm tight! There's a vicious rumour going around that I invented copper wire by fighting with someone over a penny!  
This chronic aversion to swatching probably explains my equally powerful loathing of knitting garments for myself! If you don't swatch the likelihood of you project turning out as you hope is slim. I know this, but I just can't get past the waste of yarn thing. Yes, yes, I know! I can hear you shouting at me! It's a vicious circle. 


I bought Mel's Halele'a pattern. Wow!!! Now THAT'S what I call a swatch! It's basically a trial run at the pattern. You practice all techniques you need to knit the full garment. The cast on, the decrease, the pick up for the button band, the button holes - everything. 
This is a revelation. A lightbulb moment. If I read the pattern I want to knit through properly before I start, if I practice the techniques on my swatch I might prevent major disaster on the real project. It's more than checking tension and picking needles, it's getting it right first time. 

Who knew?!

Mel has sent out a list of things to gather ready for the class starting. One item needed is 600 yards of dishcloth cotton. Now, I don't do dishcloths. The idea of washing dishes with my beautiful knits makes my blood run cold. I'm not a huge fan of working with cotton either. It makes my hands hurt.

So I had to go shopping for cotton. I found 6 balls of a generic cheap and cheerful dishcloth cotton online in a rather dull ecru colour. Not very inspiring. So I decided to dye them. Here's what happened: 

I knew from checking online I had to approach this differently to my previous forays into dying with wool. My acid dyes wouldn't work. So I went to town and looked for Dylon cold dyes. I was looking for the solid disks of dye but came home with three packets of powdered dye. I bought a jeans blue, a navy blue and a dark green. 

When I read the packet it said that one packet will dye 250g of fabric with the intensity of the colour on the packaging. Hummmmmmm........ I thought. I have 600g of yarn. Therefore if I use all three colours I should be ok. Right? Erm, not exactly!

So the first task was to skein up each of the six balls. Turns out each one was 170 yards in length so I've more than enough (maybe I'll knit dishcloths with the remainder!). I twisted them up really tightly. My plan was to dye one colour, untwist the skein and re-twist it in a different way to expose different areas of the skein each time. After that I left them to soak in a bath of warm water with salt added while I walked the dog. Soaking allows the dye to penetrate the skein easier and also allows my poor right arm to recover from skeining 6 balls of cotton with my homemade, very heavy, niddy noddy!

Next I drained the yarn and refilled the pot with more warm water and salt. I then added the whole packet of jeans blue dye. One packet does 250g of fabric and there's 600g in there so I should get a light shade of blue, right?

At this point my heart sank! That's a dark blue; really solid, dark blue!! I waited the hour advised on the packet and came back to find the dye bath as full of colour as I left it. 
With a heavy heart I tipped out the pot

Can you see? My heat lifted as I caught the smallest glimpse of cream. Top right of the photo! Can you see? I unravelled the skeins

Whoop whoop! Happy days! 

I reskeined the yarn which was no easy feat with wet cotton I can tell you! As I twisted I thought. 

When I used the whole packet I threw most of the dye away. After all most of that 600g of yarn is unavailable to the dye because it's twisted so tightly. So I'll only use half of the packet this time. Dark green is next

After the second hour I still threw most of the dye away, but I was happy with the colour. I unravelled the skeins for the last time 

As I was unraveling I thought again. Originally I'd considered stopping at 2 colours. But because the first 2 were so dark and intense I thought that the natural colour was too much of a contrast. So I went with the final navy blue colour. This time I only used a quarter of the packet. 

Still a very saturated dye bath! I was slightly concerned that the last dye would ruin the previous 2. I didn't retwist the skeins this time so that all the yarn would be in contact with dye

Ta da!! 

I'm really pleased!  Now I REALLY can't wait to start swatching like I mean it! 

Oh, and next on my dying hit list is the yarn I bought for Halele'a. It's Sirdar Countrystyle 4ply. It's too blue, I wanted a more grey/blue. I think I'll take it to my dying lesson in a fortnight. 
Didn't I tell you?
Oh, I'm having a dying lesson. I'm so excited! My friend Marion, who is a member of Woolclip, co-organiser of Woolfest, design guru, dying queen and all round good egg is going to show me how it's done! Properly I mean. I hope to be able to dye with intent at the end. Rather than hoping for the best and having to endure those buttock clenching moments when you think you've ruined 600g of cotton! 

On the horizon -
Will I get to grips with iTunes? Hopefully
Will I get my second sock design finished? Pretty please
Will I get some spinning done? Fingers crossed
Will I get some progress made on the Peacock shaw? Possibly ;-)

Have a great week guys. 

Ellen x 

Episode 2

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Can you hear me now!?

Hello there readers.

How would you like to be listeners too?

Well seeing as how Mel decided today that I podcast I thought I might as well give it a go!

Having things to say won't be the problem. Technology might be the problem though. Now I'm no technophobe, but this interweb malarky it's tricky!

Let's see what happens

Episode 1

Ok, so Episode 1 can be downloaded but not streamed! I'll work on that!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Of migraine and frustration

Saints preserve us! What a week!

Week in review - 

As the title suggests I've had a migraine or a headache most days this week and it's left me feeling "off". Not unwell or anything I can put my finger on. Just off. 

Because of this it's not been a week of huge progress. This is where the frustration side of the title comes in. 

When I've had the motivation to knit, I've not had enough concentration to do a good enough job. And, well, when I've not that the motivation, nothing at all got done! So I can only hope that this next week sees some kind of improvement in my knitting mojo levels. 

School went back on Monday. Both boys are back in the swing of things now. Because Matthew travels to the station by bike and the weather's been so foul, I've been taking him in the car. It's strange that just that little bit of change in my routine can throw me out. I usually get to work early, somewhere between 3/4 and an hour before the pharmacy opens. This gives me time to tidy up loose ends, put the kettle on and sometimes get a couple of rows of knitting in to soothe my brain. Because dropping Matthew off eats into that time, my pre-work knitting has suffered. I wonder if that has contributed to that "off"-ness I've been feeling?

And because school is back, that means swimming club is back too. I'm back to teaching my 5 sessions. This first week is always the hardest I think. It's a trial to get back into the rhythm of things. I soooo don't want to go, but when I'm there it's just as much fun. It amuses me how the kids' swimming slips with just a 2 week break. Happy days. 

Feeling the love - 

This week I've concentrated on Mara's mitts. I'd finished the first one by knit night and got Mara to try it on. As I mentioned last week, I was concerned about the fit. I increased a bit too quickly for the arm, knit it straight until almost the end, and then decreased again for the last few rows just to get a snug fit on the cast off edge. As it turns out, Mara loved that mitt and it fit great. Snag was it took some doing to get her to part with it at the end of the night! Sadly the second ball of the Katia Darling was as irritating as the first. I still found breaks and clumsy joins. *sigh*. But they're now an FO. I'll give them to her on Tuesday. 

Next on my hit list was the peacock shawl from my KAL. It's been sat on my work box in my beautiful yarn bowl for a week unloved. Or at least I thought it had had no attention. I came to work on it last night and I discovered that someone had given it some attention. That someone hasn't owned up yet, but I suspect that one of my cats had decided to play with my gorgeous project! I started to knit and as I ran the working yarn through my fingers, I noticed that it the yarn felt strangely crispy. Almost as though it had been sucked! Blah. Then I discovered that, not content with making the yarn all nasty and sucked, the evil animal had actually chewed through the yarn! Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!!! So last night I ripped it out, decided it couldn't save the manky bit and cast on afresh. I had 2 goes at getting started and gave up. It seems like my heart wasn't in it. I kept losing my place in the chart and making silly mistakes. I gave it up as a bad job and went to bed to read. 

I'm still ploughing through The Casual Vacancy. I can't say that I'm enjoying it yet. I won't be defeated by it, but I'm hoping that the story will start soon and grip me. Right now, I'm definitely not gripped! But that might be because I've had little or no reading mojo either this week. 

So here I am on Sunday morning. My knitting morning. The boys are still in bed and I cast on the peacock shawl........ again! I've made good progress. I've put in stitch markers this time at the border and centre stitches. It's helping no end. Lord knows why I thought knitting without them would be a cunning plan. It's so much easier to track back and work out where I am in the pattern now. 

On the horizon - 

I now have 2 'at home' projects.  I have my peacock shawl and I have the Gansey socks which have felt no love at all this week. Of the 2, I think the socks will be TV knitting as I proved last night that lace and TV aren't a good combination for me at the moment. I need to cast on a mobile project. It will probably be a pair of socks. Or maybe a hat. We'll see. I'll have a rummage through my stash and see what takes my fancy. 

I really want to spend some time spinning to. Whenu sits looking woefully at me. She needs to feel the love!  This week. This week I will spin. Honestly! Hopefully!

What are you guys up to?    

Have a good week 

Ellen x 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Two Steps Forward

And at least 3 back!

Week in review-

I finished reading 'Rachel's holiday' and also read 'Here's looking at You' by Mhairi McFarlane. Rachel's holiday was another pleasant read. It wasn't challenging in anyway and make good reading while I knit. Likewise Here's looking at you; no brain was needed. I knit vanilla socks and was pleasantly entertained by this story. Both books ended happily ever after. It's been nice to read something I wouldn't normally pick. I'm a sci-fi and fantasy girl usually, while these books have been enjoyable, I'm not inclined to change my reading habits now. I like to have something to get my teeth into. Some action, suspense, mystery rather than superfluous fluff. To that end I read 'Die, my love' by Penelope Fletcher. Sigh! More fluff. I suppose I should have read the synopsis. I saw vampire and thought "ooh, blood guts and gore!" Nope. I got vacuous cack. I have a horrible feeling that there are more in the series. I won't be buying them!  I'm now reading 'The Casual Vacancy' by J K Rowling. I'm not that far in, and so far I'm still struggling with the tone of the book. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help thinking that the language used shouldn't be coming from the pen of the woman who wrote Harry Potter! 

Feeling the love - 
On the crafting front this weeks blog title says it all!  It started so well! I finished the vanilla socks

Despite measuring umpteen times, I still managed to make the leg on the second sock a good inch shorter than the first! For this reason, they're now my socks and Jean will get another pair! 

Mara's mitts saw significant progress - I've nearly finished the first mitt. I ripped it out twice which was no mean feat I can tell you! I'm using Katia Darling yarn. It's a 100% merino single and it's been an absolute swine. Ripping back was problematic because it's fluffy. That fluffiness objects violently to being unknit! Also the yarn has been processed badly in my opinion. It's a gradient, and being a single, it's more delicate to deal with than a plied yarn. I understand this, but when the single broke during processing there has been no care taken in re-joining the yarn. The colour progression stops dead and it's crudely tied to a completely different colour. This means I now have lots of bits of yarn where I've broken the knot and then had to pull out the ball to find the next section which is in the general area of colour change I was at before the break! It's frustrating. My frustration was compounded by my inability to get the Gansey pattern Mel designed. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing to do with the way Mel has written the pattern, it's me! It's not a difficult pattern by any means, but it seems to be beyond me. Dear lord! I've managed the most complicated lacework, and yet knit and purl defeats me! I must confess I've given in and substituted a different pattern into that section. It's a 2 row repeat that I can cope with! I've put them down now because I wanted to buy buttons so I can check the fit. I'm quietly convinced that I've done the arm increases wrong. I don't think the pattern section is going to sit straight on the arm. 

I've done nothing on my KTSSKAL project since New Year's Day. Mara's mitts and the epic fail that is the silver birch sock had taken most of my time. The silver birch socks are now frogged and even deleted from my project page. I just didn't want to focus that hard on a sock right now. The pattern is full of cables and twisted stitches. I also decided I was knitting the wrong size. It's a pattern I definitely want to do, but not now. I've got a complicated pattern on the go in the Peacock Shawl, so I need a mindless project to work on. 

To that end I've cast on a pair of Gansey socks from 'Socks from the Toe Up' by Wendy D Johnson. It's a simple diamond pattern - we'll see how I get on with this Gansey. 

I do have an FO this weekend. I test knit the 'wave and box hat'.  It's a great knit. Just 100 yards and a weekend produced a lovely hat. The simple slipped stitch pattern gives a great effect and the floats give a little extra thickness and warmth to the fabric. It's due for release towards the end of January and I can't recommend it enough. 

On the horizon - 

I'll work on the peacock shawl this week I hope. 

I'll also get some buttons on Mara's mitts and check the fit before I continue any further. 

Then there's my 12 socks in 2014 challenge. I need to work on pair 3 - the Gansey socks. I'm ahead if the game right now, and I don't want to fall behind. I'm thinking that my March - April KTSSKAL project will be a complicated sock pattern. 

Will I spin at all? I hope so

Have a great week guys. 


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a good New Year's Eve and this morning is not proving to be too traumatic! 

The purpose of this post is to flesh out my ideas on the Knit To Stay Sane KAL 2014. This year I plan to knit and spin from stash. My problem is that I go through my stash and pick a skein, then I spend hours trawling through patterns pontificating about what to knit next. To that end the KTSSKAL 2014 aims to facilitate this. Every 2 months a new round starts. 

What you need to do - 

Go to the Knit to Stay Sane Ravelry group and post in the "lets KAL 2014" thread. Make a poll telling us what yarn you want to use and give us 3 or so choices of pattern you fancy knitting. There are instructions in the thread telling you how to make a poll. Don't panic it's a doddle! After a week or so, take the results and cast on. 

There is a chatter thread for doing just that. Post a photo of your FO in the FO thread and at the end of the 2 months I'll pick a winner. Please don't chatter in the photo thread, it makes things tricky when picking a winner and I hate to delete what others have said. 

Use  #KTSSKAL to keep us posted on Twitter and Instagram. Use KTSSKAL to tag your projects. 

What say you? Is it a cunning plan?

I've started already. I'm casting on the Peacock's Feather shawl by Annette Socken-Wahsinn. I'm using a skein of Fyberspates Gleem Lace in the Tweed Imps colour way that I picked up at Woolfest last year. 

I'll keep you all posted on my progress

Happy knitting. 

Ellen x