Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas saved - Gingerbread is a go.

Yoga on Monday was wonderful. I found out there is going to be a partner yoga again some time in March. So Monday was not actually the last class, and I'm glad.

Tuesday I saved Christmas when I remembered that bead is another word for button. I'd finished two of my Chevette inspired crocheted chokers (pattern forthcoming, pictures soon), except that I needed to sew the buttons on. There were no buttons. None to be found in the house.  Despite the fact that I know SOMEWHERE I have a bag full, and all this less than an hour before the party where I was planning on giving them away. Enter the beads. Freak out averted. The party was great, and the gifts went over well.

This evening I went and made gingerbread dough with my sister. We argued about discussed how we were going to build this year's gingerbread house. We have the same end goal, but different ideas of how to get there. Eventually we agreed on a new plan and got down to the business of making the dough. I think we are getting better at it - it didn't take nearly as long as it did last time. We stuck the dough in the fridge, it needs to be chilled, and then spent the rest of the evening watching Doctor Who with my dad and DH. Perfect.
I hope your Christmas preparations are going well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Blur

The holidays are here and I’m having a hard time keeping everything straight. So before I forget, here’s what we did this weekend:
Thursday I went to the gym for the first time in a month. I moaned and groaned my way through my workout, but I felt great after. So much so that I convinced DH that we HAD to go to the midnight showing of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I loved it, no surprise as I am a huge fan of anything Sherlock. Getting up on Friday was difficult, but the movie was worth the exhaustion.

Friday afternoon I picked up my sister, who had just gotten home for winter break, and whisked her over to our place. She needed to do bit of laundry, so DH suggested we watch the beginning of How to Train Your Dragon. We ended up watching the whole movie. It was so cute! The previews did not do it justice. After the movie and laundry, we headed over to hang with P&S for food and fun.

Saturday DH headed off for disk golf, while my sister and I headed over to the parents’ to start on gingerbread house. After she put a Batman cape on my dog and chased her around the kitchen, we got down to some serious interneting. We’ve decided to branch out and make a house that is not in the Gingerbread Architect, the gingerbread bible that we’ve used the last few years. So after much pouring over Google images, while I crocheted, we came up with a plan. A plan we will start on Wednesday.

That evening DH joined my dad, sister and me to go see a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors that Mom was in. She was a shepherdess; I was very proud. After we waited for Mom to change, we all headed over to Hank’s Garage for the duck fat fries (yes, you read that right). It’s a Belgian pub, so you can get poutine, and the best crème brûlée this side of France. DH and I got home and tried to stay up till our houseguests showed up, but it didn’t happen.

Sunday we got up, I crocheted, and listened to the radio until K&V woke up. Then DH and I decorated the tree, while I made K&V watch the first episode of Grimm. Not the most Christmas-y show, but I really enjoy it and I wanted to share. That’s in the Christmas spirit, right? I got one of Victorian Texting Gloves that I was hoping to have done for V before they left, but I just didn’t have time to do them both. Since she has already seen and tried one on, I don’t feel bad showing it to you before Christmas. 
I'm almost done with the second one.
That afternoon, we went over to P&S’s for their Holiday Party. The spread was incredible: sausage, cheese logs, queso, pesto pasta, cookies, sticky toffee pudding, pigs in a blanket, the works. K of S&K baked goodies for Christmas and we had a few. The Snickers cookies were a treat, and the peanut butter fudge was wonderful. We decorated cookies, ate until we hurt, traded gifts, played a game of Killer Bunnies, and ate some more. K&V had to go to work today, so headed back to Dallas. I wish they could have stayed longer, but I’m glad they came.

We are going to the last partner yoga session tonight. I’m sad that it’s ending, but I think it has done us a world of good. I’ve still got a bunch of crocheting left, but I’m starting to feel like I might actually get everything done. Let’s see, Tuesday we’ve another holiday gathering; Wednesday is baking gingerbread; Thursday training at the gym; Friday is probably more gingerbread. That leaves Saturday, Christmas Eve, and Sunday, Christmas.

…Christmas is THIS Sunday?! Eeep! Somehow, I thought I had more than a week left. I may be giving gifts on Twelfth’s Night, because that’s been the plan all along. I swear

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm going to write a post real quick...

Famous last words I know, but here it goes:

I've got 12 balls of cotton yarn in front of me. The pink one is looking at me sideways. I've been working on crocheting Christmas gifts till my hands have gone tingly, and I'm still not done. I've started improvising patterns because I'm sick of making the same thing over and over.

I needed something faster. What could be faster than the crocheted things I can't tell you about? Accessories! So you may be getting something that works with my theme this year, or you may be getting something that will go with that lovely outfit your aunt gave you. It depends on how sore my wrists get between now and Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love making things for friends and family. I just started too late in the year; I should have started in June.
Okay, back to crochet... and Buffy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The baby blanket is done!!

Saturday, we went to San Antonio to have a birthday lunch for the MIL. Then back to Austin and back to knitting. I stayed home that night because I’ve been sick, but I kept knitting and that night I finished the blanket! I wet blocked* it and the fleur-de-lis are obviously fleur-de-lis. I couldn’t be happier. Well I could, I can tell I messed up a bit on one or two of them, but it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else so I’m not changing it.** I’ll post pictures after it is gifted.

Sunday DH had to work; every month or so he has to work a weekend day. I spent the day working on the Christmas crocheting and it’s humming along. After months working on one project, it’s nice to finish a piece in an afternoon. That evening we went to Alamo Drafthouse to watch The Muppets. I’m not as hardcore a fan as DH, but the movie had me laughing till I cried. We ended the evening bouncing into Krispy Kreme and bouncing out with doughnuts. All was right with the world.

And now: Partner Yoga!

*I soaked it in Soak (a non-rinse, wool friendly wash), gently moved it into the salad spinner to get most of the water out. After quite a few spins, I wrapped it in a towel and stepped on it to remove more of the water. Then I laid it out on my blocking board, pulled the edges straight, and left it to dry.

**I reserve the right to go back and fix it if I have time after Christmas and before I send it off. But for now it is done.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rainbow Yarn and Fibers

Before we went to Memphis this Thanksgiving, I did my homework. I was visiting a city I’ve rarely been to, so I researched the Local Yarn Shops first. I found one nearby in Germantown that sold fiber as well as yarn. The Fiber part is important because when I buy yarn, I try to have a project in mind before I buy it. Fiber doesn’t need a project - it is a project. Of course I need to figure out what to do with the yarn once I’ve spun it, but that's neither here nor there.

I had to decide on one store to visit because unfortunately the family we were visiting are not fiber people so do not understand the need to visit more than one yarn store at a time. So looking for a yarn store that sells fiber was a quick way to narrow down the choices when researching LYSs in a new city. It might not be the best yarn store, but when you can’t compare stores because they don’t have websites (why don’t they have websites?!), it’s a shot in the dark anyway.*

When I first walked into Rainbow Yarns and Fibers, I thought I’d missed my target.
Well, it has some yarn.
It’s a little one room shop, and not stuffed to the gills. But upon taking a closer look, I realized that this little shop was selectively stocked. There wasn’t a lot, but it was all yarn I’d want to own.
Handspun yummy!
There was a place to sit and knit, and probably take classes.
There were these fun felted hats for sale, right next to the sidekick I wanted to take home.
Magazines and more yarn!
The register had buttons all around.
Found the fiber I was looking for, it was under other handspun, next to project bags. I wanted them all.
I've struck fiber!
I did buy a bit of white cashmere and some bamboo in a red-gold color I couldn’t resist. Although with the list of things I want to knit between now and January, I’m probably not going to be spinning anything until February. But that’s ok, it can wait.
Isn't it pretty?
I’m glad that DH and second eldest SIL were willing to go out of their way to appease my need to visit a yarn store. It was just a quick trip, but this little gem was not to be missed.

Blanket update: Five more rows of garter stitch, bind off and block. Should be done tonight or tomorrow.

*I found out about a great yarn store in downtown Oxford that we missed because they don’t have an online presence. Oh well, guess we’ll have to go back.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Delightfully Rainy Weekend

Friday we hung out with our usual crowd, always a good time. Saturday was rainy, so we stayed in for most of the day. I knitted and DH gamed while we watched Buffy. That evening we headed to YA, J and YS's gingerbread (read: graham cracker) house decorating party. Met a lot of new people, had a lot of sugary fun.

DH's creation
My blurry manger.
Sunday was also rainy, so knitting and Buffy in the morning. Then I headed over to Gauge Knits where I took a class on soap making (the heat-already-made-soap-add-scent-color-and-dye-then-pour-into-molds-to-set kind of soap making) taught by Knitcrawler. I preferred the soap re-combining to the soap making. It's easier and less caustic.
Here's the glycerin soap melting.
The table before we started.
Adding the dye and scent.
Spraying the soap in the mold with alcohol to prevent bubbles forming.
The mess at the end of class.
My finished soaps. These will probably be Christmas gifts.
After class I headed home for more Buffy and knitting. I’m really, just about, almost done on this baby blanket. I’ve only two thirds of a row of blocks, the garter stitch boarder, and some blocking left. I hope to be done by Wednesday.

Next time: A review of Rainbow Yarn and Fiber in Memphis.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last of Kid 'N Ewe... spinning classes.

Oh my goodness, is it December already? Okay, quick wrap up of Kid N Ewe, and then back to knitting.

On Sunday I got up fairly early, made even more early by having spent the previous night at Wurstfest, and headed back into Boerne. I got there just in time to pull out my wheel and set up at the Spinner’s Workshop.
This is not my wheel, but it's pretty.
I mentioned having hurt my shoulder from spinning too much, which distressed the teacher to no end. She insisted that I learn how to do the long draw drafting method. As it was one of the many things I’d been looking to learn, I was not opposed to the idea. So I spent the class practicing the long draw, and spinning with different fibers. I had the most success not reverting to the short forward draw when I was using merino. She said that, while I am still perfecting my long draw, I should use the best prepared fibers I have because then I can focus on technique.

Fiber I brought and wanted to try out.
Of the different fibers we tried, the sari silk and the flax left the biggest impression. I carded and spun some of the sari silk I’d bought months ago. It had scared me, I loved the colors but I was afraid of messing it up. Being in a class setting gave me the courage to give it a try. Spinning flax, which once spun is called linen, was very different from anything I’d tried before. You spin flax wet, which kind of blows my mind. Spun dry it’s really hairy; spun wet it’s not nearly as fuzzy and much stronger. The class covered how flax is made but, while it was interesting, the earliness of the hour had an affect on my retention.  It's from a plant. We'll leave it at that.

After class I had a quick bite to eat then headed back for my last class of Kid N Ewe, Spinning with Cotton. We were greeted with a bag of goodies, a tahkli spindle, and a bowl or glass of some sort.
Bag o' cotton and little bitty spindle.
In our bag of tricks we had a bunch of different types of cotton: ginned fiber, sliver, punis, boll cotton, and even a cotton ball. We learned about the difference between cotton and wool cards, the different types of colored cotton, how to plant and take care of cotton plants, and how to spin using the tahkli spindle.

The tahkli is a supported spindle; you attach a leader, set it in a bowl and spin it like a top. It feels different from a drop spindle because instead of holding the fiber and pulling downward with gravity, you pull up and away from the spindle. Unlike a wheel or a drop spindle, the only pull on the fiber is the spinner. This causes a tendency to over spin, which is helpful with such a short staple length.

I love how small and portable the tahkli is, and when I got back to Austin I spun on it for quite a while. By the third day of spinning, my left wrist was telling me to take a break. Like any other spinning that I’ve obsessed over, you can hurt yourself if you do it for too long. I’ve backed off but I already have a few baby skeins.
Aren't they cute?
As much as I love the portability, it is still a spindle and my wheel is just so much faster. I may try spinning cotton on my wheel again, but not until after Christmas. I’ve been neglecting my gift knitting and if I want to get any done I'll have to set the spinning aside. Yarn Harlot has a post that perfectly explains the gift knitter's motivation. It also happens to include what to get a knitter. (Hint: more yarn is always better.) So I’m off to go work on that baby blanket. But if it’s not done by the end of next week, I'm setting it aside until after Christmas. The baby isn’t due till February, and I’m hoping it's not in a hurry to be born. I’m knitting as fast as I can.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Post Turkey-Weekend randomness

First and most important, unless it costs forty-five dollars a skein, buy more yarn than you think you are going to need. I’ve been working on a baby blanket since August. The pattern is blocks of moss stitch*, and blocks of seed stitch** fleur-de-lis on a stockinette*** background. I love the way it feels, but I’m afraid you can’t tell the fleur-de-lis are fleur-de-lis.
So, I decided that I'd do a fleur-de-lis in reverse stockinette stitch in a corner. This means I'm going to have to make one more row of blocks than the pattern calls for. I bought just enough yarn for the pattern. Just enough. I fretted about running out of yarn and had set the project aside. Yesterday, I explained my issue to DH and he suggested calling HCW and asking if they have any of the dyelot left. I did, they did, I now have it in my hot little hands and I’m going to try to have it done by the end of next week. I may be a bit delusional.

Another reason for having leftover yarn from a project is repair work. Here is my favorite sweater:

It's the Central Park Hoodie.
Here is the hole in my favorite sweater:
Aw, darn!
Here is the extra skein of yarn I bought just in case I needed it when knitting the sweater:
I’m so glad I hung on to it; it will make fixing the sweater much easier. Notice I didn’t say easy, I’ve never darned anything and I’m kind of afraid to. But, I’ve read a bit on fixing socks, and Yarn Harlot has posted about cutting a hole to fix a cable, I should be okay. I’ll let you know once I’ve gotten up the courage to try it.
Another thing I've discovered is that when deciding to knit for charity, do not volunteer right before the holidays and the holiday knitting. I’ve got three skeins of yarn that need to be turned into three Jayne hats**** for the Austin Browncoats. I’ve got a little time because they aren’t due until the end of January, but I’d rather be knitting them in May.
Finally, for the love of all that is holy, do not try to drive from Austin to Dallas the day before Thanksgiving! It took us six hours; I think it is supposed to take three. The rest of the way to Memphis was easy, although getting in at three thirty in the morning was a bit rough. Also, if you are driving from Memphis to Austin the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it is worth it to get up at five in the morning. It is so much better arriving at home while there is still some daylight, even if you started the journey driving in the dark. 

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of family, fun and good food. And now it is time to get a few more rows on this blanket before partner yoga.

Next time: The other two classes I took at Kid 'N Ewe. Both classes will probably be combined into one post because 1) it was a while ago, and 2) I didn’t take as many pictures because 3) they were both spinning classes. 

*Moss stitch is where you knit two, purl two across a row. The second row you knit your knits and purl your purls. On the third row you knit your purls and purl your knits. That counts as your first row, repeat.
**Seed stitch is where you knit one, purl one across a row. And then you knit your purls and purl your knits on the second row.
*** Stockinette is knit across a row, purl across the back. Reverse stockinette is where you consider the back the front, useful for making stitches pop, cables are usually done with a reverse stockinette background.
**** Watch Firefly. It’s a great show. It was canceled. The fans are called browncoats.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lye to me.

The second class I took at Kid ‘N Ewe was Creative Soap Making. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my favorite. It wasn't really the fault of the class. I was hungry and cold by the time I got there, so not in the most receptive mood. Also, while I had no preconceived ideas about using indigo to dye, Martha Stewart had colored my opinion of soap making. Can't be hard if it's a family project, right? I now know the soap making Martha is talking about is taking soap and adding ingredients, not at all the same as making soap.

Soap is not very complex; to make it you need three things: water, lye and oil. If you want to make soap quickly and efficiently you also need a thermometer, two bowls, two spoons, molds, non-stick cooking spray, a hand blender, and a Crockpot of some sort. Also, you should use eye protection and gloves, and have paper towels and vinegar on hand. The vinegar neutralizes the lye, should you spill it on yourself.

First we heated up our oils. We used a combination of Crisco, olive oil, and coconut oil. You can use the Crisco and olive oil by themselves, but the coconut oil supplies the lather.

I think this is for frying turkeys. If I were to do this at home I'd use a little crockpot.

We went outside and mixed our lye with the water.* This creates an exothermic reaction; the water went from room temperature to in the neighborhood of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. We poured the oil into a separate bowl and took its temperature. We wanted the oil and the lye/water mixture to be at the same temperature, that way they can cool down at the same rate.** Once both the lye mixture and the oils hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we poured the lye into the oil and stirred continuously. We were looking for when our soap got to trace.***

In order to get to trace without exhausting ourselves, we used the hand blender and gave it a good pulsing. It’s a fairly thick mixture so we gave it quick pulses, rather than sustained ones, or we'd have burned out the motor. Once we reached trace we poured the soap into molds that had been sprayed with non-stick spray. Then we mixed scent into the soap in the mold.

Our workspace once we were done.
We let the soap sit over night. The teacher was going to cut them into bars in the morning, but they were too soft. So, I took mine home in their containers.
Still fairly caustic.
You want your soap to mellow for at least a week before you use it. Or, if you don’t want to wait, you can heat it in the oven at 250 to get it to mellow faster. I haven’t done the research on that, so I’m just going to wait.

Another way to add scent is to make the soap, let it mellow, then chop it up, melt it, mix in the scent and let it set again. That way the soap is less caustic and won’t break down the lighter fragrances. I’ll see how the soap turns out, but I may be doing this later. This, by the way, is the "soap making" Martha talks about.

Will I be making soap for Christmas? Probably not. The likelihood of me spilling lye all over the house and myself, the time it takes to make, getting the temperature just right, the scents I’d want, all add up to... not this year. Crochet it is.

*There’s no picture because this is the kind of dangerous part and I didn’t want to be distracted. Also, once you’ve got your gloves on, and have lye on them, you don’t want to take them off until you are done.

** You can reheat the oil as often as you want but the lye-water reaction is a one time thing. If it gets too cold before you mix it into the oil you need to toss it out and start again.

***Trace is where when you lift up the spoon out of the mixture and drizzle a line over the top, the line stays visible for a moment on top of the mixture before being reincorporated.

Monday, November 21, 2011


You know the glut of fiber photos I keep talking about? Well, here they are:

Yes, I live in Texas.
Wish I’d gotten some of the gray, but it was gone by Saturday when I bought stuff.
These are silk hankies.
Silk hankies are silk cocoons spread out on a square form, one on top of another. They are dyed together and then the spinner pulls them apart to spin with each individually. Knitty has a good explanation of how to spin with them.

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
I did not come home with a bag of unwashed fleece. It was a near thing though; it’s hard turning down that much merino fiber for ten dollars.

I love this little bear.
He’s sitting on the shelf above the white bear fibers yarn. I know the guy who dyes these, he's very nice, you should give him money.

I didn't end up getting a spindle from these guys. But aren't they pretty?

Lots of merino fiber.
There's cotton, camel, cashmere, carbonized bamboo and other wool.
This is from the Spinning Silk into Gold stall. I got a bunch of fiber from them.

This is a silk lap.
This was also at Spinning Silk into Gold stall. It’s like a giant hankie, expensive but so pretty.

I love the way they set these up, from cool to warm.

It's good to have options.
This is fiber from the Rainbow Dyeing in One Pot class.
Next year, I may buy myself one of these pots and take the One Pot class.

I loved every color combination at this stall. I'd have loved to walk home with most of these.
This is the box charkha that I talked about a while ago.
This was at the Yarnorama stall. Once I get a whole lot better at spinning cotton, I’m thinking about getting one of these. Maybe.

Me at my wheel... wait a minute.
This was kind of cool, kind of creepy, but not something you overlooked.

I love how steampunk this sock knitting machine looks.
This is the bad hair day hat, knitted out of art yarn with large mohair locks. Isn't it great?
Goat on a rope.
This goat is where the mohair comes from. He was very soft, and wanted to eat the flag that was covering the table next to him.

This is a drum carder.

 It’s a fast and easy way to mix colors and fibers into a batt. Notice the adorable little spinner waiting for her batt.

Yes, the bearskin rug is knitted. No, I have no idea how they added the teeth.
Considering all the wonderful fiber that was there, and all the fabulous yarn, I think I was fairly constrained in my purchases.
Angora, baby suri alpaca, bison/silk, camel, cashmere, cotton, carbonized bamboo, mohair white and dyed, merino/cashmere/silk superwash merino white and dyed... I think that's it.