Sunday, March 24, 2013

A theme

I was taking pictures of various things I've been working on, and looking at pictures of some of the non-fiber pursuits I've been engaged in recently, and I think that there's a theme arising.  Let's see if you see it, too.

It's all purple and green around here, apparently.  I've been gazing out of my office window longingly these last few weeks, noting that the ceonothus are in bloom, but unable to get out there to enjoy them.  Last weekend, I took a nice long hike in the hills behind my house, and, as you can see from that top photo, they are blooming away.
And buzzing with bees.  Walking along the path bordered in these bushes is like walking through a giant beehive.  The bees are so focused on the flowers that they almost never actually fly into the path.  I went again this morning, much earlier in the day, and found that bees' alarm clocks must ring later than mine.  It was quiet on the way out, and I got up to the top of the hill to find a lovely view waiting for me.
Mist-covered hills and mountains stretching away to the east.  And back down again in time to catch the sun making it over the big hill I'd just climbed.
By the time I got back down, the bees were hard at work again.  I was relieved. 

There's also green and purple in the latest knitting I've been doing.
This is the body of the Northmavine Hoody, a Kate Davies pattern from her new book, Colours of Shetland, which I absolutely adore.  Totally aside from the patterns (there are quite a few in there that I'd knit), her writing is lovely, and she has essays about each of the places that inspired the patterns in the book.  It's truly a pleasure to read and look at.  The patterns are also well-thought-out, with the kinds of little details that I enjoy seeing in my knitwear - you can see the turned hem in the picture up top, and this pattern has several other details like that, the sort of thing that make it look professional when it's done - handmade, rather than homemade.  As you can see, I have finished the body, and tonight I will cast on for the first sleeve.  I'd love to finish this before the May Grey sets in around here - I think it could get some use.  It's knitted out of Jamieson and Smith 2-ply jumper weight, on size two needles, so it's a lovely weight, and a nice crunchy wool, in colors that I wear all the time (I admit to a total lack of originality on this one - I ordered the yarn used in the pattern, in the colours used in the pattern - but they are so me!).

And then some of you may have noticed that other picture I slipped in there.  What's that, you may ask?  That is the Cricket loom that my mom bought for me and the girls about a year and a half ago.  We wove the yarn included in the package, and then it rather languished.  When my LYS advertised a weaving class, using exactly this rigid heddle loom, I jumped at it.  So yesterday morning I went in and spent a lovely four hours at the store, re-learning how to dress the loom, and getting some good tips for using it.  When I got home, I spent a busy hour reclaiming my front and back patios from the chickens (have I mentioned that five chickens not only produce a good plenty of eggs, they also produce a good plenty of poop?), and trying to devise some way of arranging various patio furniture and cushions so that the chickens will not think that roosting on my patio furniture is a good thing.  (I'm also working on convincing them to return to their coop at night to roost.  They used to, until they discovered the couch on the front patio, so now they need retraining.  Any suggestions?)  Once that was done, I settled down on the back patio under the blooming wisteria (more purple and green, but no photos), listening to the bumblebees bumble about in the flowers, and weaving.  This morning, I wrapped the whole thing up, and got this.
I'm pretty happy with the final result, especially given that it's my first time out, really. 
The warp is a merino/cotton blend, in a solid seafoam green.  The weft is a linen/rayon/cotton blend, variegated (as you can see).  I finished it by washing it in my washer on the wool setting, and then chucking it in the dryer for a bit.  I wanted to soften the linen up, and figured that tightening up the wool a bit wouldn't be a bad thing, and I was right.  It is much more drapey now, and will probably continue to soften up with wear.  As I was weaving, I got curious as to how this would have turned out differently had I switched the warp and weft yarns, so as soon as I was done, I redressed the loom, using the linen/rayon/cotton blend for the warp.  I didn't have much yarn left - really, this second time around is more in the nature of an experiment, and good practice for locking down in my memory how to dress a loom - so this won't be a "real" scarf.  I also realized that the girls had "misplaced" several bits and bobs (read: the clamps for fixing the loom to the table, and the dent hook), but I managed just fine.
A heavy box pinned the loom in place and, in case anyone cares, an orifice hook works nicely as a dent hook.

As I said, this will be half the width of the first one, but I'm plugging along, and it's interesting to see how different the two yarns look when woven the other way around.

I know I'd said I wasn't going to get into weaving - too many fiber sports already.  But I figure a little bit couldn't hurt, right?  And it seems like a great way to start using more of my handspun, not to mention the rest of my stash.  In fact, to that end, I appear to have ordered another heddle, a ten-dent one this time (I don't think I'm quite using my vocabulary correctly; I'll get there), which is more appropriate to weaving the fingering weight yarn that makes up so much of my knitting and spinning stash.  I may also have ordered a stand for the loom and a book with some ideas for rigid heddle loom projects.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Many steps

I was about to say that I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted, but that's not true.  I've been aware that I haven't been posting, and I've also been aware that it's an artifact of something that I know to be true about me, which is that I can only be disciplined in a certain number of areas at the same time - anything else just falls off the table.  This last month has involved a tremendous amount of discipline at work (yes, I'm looking at you, Fall schedule build), in my knitting (you'll see what I mean), and in the area of exercise.  The blog just fell right off the table, mostly because in those moments when I wasn't doing one of those things, I did not want to be on the computer - I wanted to be knitting, or reading, or talking to the girls and Rick (or all three at once).

First, knitting.  I finished the Gathered Blouse sweater (a long time ago, actually - I just haven't been able to get it together enough to be wearing it when it's a) light out, b) the beginning of the day, and c) a camera is nearby).  But it is done, and I am actually wearing it now, so in lieu of no photos, here are some bad photobooth photos (better than not posting, still, right?).
It is definitely a loose fit, and I think I could have gone down a size (and yes, I have washed it on hot and dried it - this is what I've got).  It's very comfortable, though, and the cotton is soft soft soft, which I love.
Not a great shot, but it lets you see the pleats around the neckline.  There were a lot of things I really loved about this pattern - it is very well thought out, and brings some nice details in, like the gathers at the neck and sleeve tops, and the short rows that raise the back neck a little.  And the braid across the small of the back.
So, I do wish I knitted this in a smaller size, but not enough to pull it out.

I also finished the couch blanket (the Mitered Crosses Blanket) that I've been working on for ages and ages (I was rather embarrassed when I looked at the start date on my Rav page).  This is part of my goal to use stash yarn (the sweater was knitted from stash) and to finish projects more often than starting new projects with new yarn.

Knitting the blanket didn't require discipline, really - it's a fun knit, the squares are small and portable, and easy to do without looking at the pattern.  But putting it together (involving picking up stitches and then doing a three-needle bind-off) took a bit more self-discipline.  And weaving the ends in?
That took a glass of wine.  It was a big pile.

But the blanket has gotten a LOT of use - I haven't even blocked it yet, because one of us is always sitting with it.
I did, finally, manage to get a picture of it laid out.
All in all, I am very happy with my first (non-baby) blanket.  It's a good size for covering most of oneself, if one is small.  And in fact, it served as a blanket on the nights I slept on the couch last week to keep my coughing from waking Rick up (I got felled by one of those horrible head colds that are going around - more on that in a moment).  If you don't mind finishing work, this is one I recommend.

The other area of self-discipline lately has to do with a challenge on the walking front that I took on, encouraged by my SIL (who has REALLY been challenging herself in this area lately) - a half-marathon.  I've been working up to longer and longer walks (aiming for my old racewalking speed from back in the day - and, someday I hope, faster), and I finally committed and signed up for the San Diego half-marathon, which took place this past Sunday.  Of course, last week, I ended up getting really sick for the first time in years - I was truly worried I'd have to pull out (it's hard to walk 13.1 miles when you can't breathe).  But thanks to a Z-pac and some sleep, plus the weeks of training I'd done before, I went.  (I just want to note that this was the day the time changed, and that I had to be ready for a 7:18 am start, which meant getting down there by about 6:30, which meant leaving the house at about 5:45, which meant getting up at what felt like really really early, since all of that was - let's be honest with ourselves - an hour earlier than that.)
There's the start (from the back of the second-to-last wave).  And I walked that sucker, I truly did.
(One of only three photos taken of me by Older Daughter.)  And I finished.  As a walker, I'd been hoping to make a 3 hour total time.  By the time I got to the race, though, having been really sick all week, I was worried that I wouldn't make the 3 1/2 hour course closure time.  But I did.  In fact, I finished in 2:54:21.  I'm good with that.

But no pictures of the finish!  No pictures with my medal!  Rick and the girls came down to cheer me on at around mile 10 (after the big hill - that's where Older Daughter took that picture), and again at the finish.  My dear friend Vivienne came down to congratulate me, too.  We had enough time to drink some water, eat a bagel and get the girls something to eat, and then we had to race off to get Younger Daughter to the first of her St. Patrick's Day Irish dance performances (it's that time of year when her school goes to various senior centers, churches, and VFWs to perform for St. Patrick's Day).  To which I went, sweaty and footsore, but pretty proud.

And there it is.  That's what I've been doing.  I'm scaling back the long training walks for a little while, to get ready to walk a 5K with Older Daughter, and the first pass of the fall schedule is in, so with luck I'll have more time and energy on the weekends to post updates on what I'm doing (which includes knitting another sweater and, soon, taking a class on how to weave with my little Cricket loom), and to catch up on what everyone else has been doing in the knitting world.  I've missed it!