No White Christmas for Us

When I planned our trip to Wisconsin, my primary goal was to spend some time with my family and celebrate Christmas with them. My secondary goal was to let Max go out and play in the snow and learn to appreciate hot cocoa as something other than what he drinks every morning as a matter of course. My sister and her husband offered to take us snowmobiling, and my husband and mom had a plan to make Max shovel the driveway. It was going to be perfect.

It’s still perfect, just without the snow. In fact, my dad said that instead of shoveling, maybe he’d take Max and Alex out and show them his new lawnmower.

Seriously, there is no snow. None. There were flurries on Saturday, but only enough to make one asymmetrical little ice ball for Max. No snowmen will be constructed this year…

We’re still having fun.

Jojo and Sami are enjoying some down time, and this afternoon we’re going to go shopping. Yesterday Max and Alex went to the Railroad Museum in Green Bay, and today they went to Great-Grandma’s with my dad and Penny to help put up the Christmas tree.

My mom collected black walnut hulls throughout the fall, and this morning we’re dying wool.

And I’m still trying to finish my Christmas knitting.

I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to finish, but I might just buy some back-up gifts in case I don’t.

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Mine, all mine (for now, anyway)

Ok, so I got distracted from knitting the second pair of sock summit socks after the first one was done

In Season by Melissa Morgan-Oakes, from the 2009 RSC

because I finally finished spinning all the yarn I need for the mittens I’m making. First to be knit is the pink (which you’ve seen before) and white (which totally hurt to spin after using the lovely stuff I’d dyed – soooo boring! and which you’ve not seen because it was too dull to photograph).

Oh yeah, I made that…

I’m not using a pattern for these so much as I’m referring to several for guidance and inspiration, and using Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” for the colorwork patterns.

By the way, the several I’m using for reference include:

  • “Bird in Hand” by Kate Gilbert – to figure out about how deep the turned cuff should be (btw, on size 0 needles, I knit 6 rows before and after the turning row)
  • Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis – to estimate how many stitches to cast on using size 0 needles (I used 72 )
  • “Andalus Mittens” by Heather Desserud, plus the two above, to figure out roughly how many stitches wide to make the thumb gusset (I tried the mitten on at 17, but it seemed a little tight. I’m going to go up to 19 to accommodate the padding caused by the floats)
Here they are so far.
I’ve been winging it a bit with these, picking out the stitch patterns as I need them. I really like the pattern on the back of the hand, although it’s hard to see in these photos because I’m only halfway through the first repeat and the fabric is curling onto itself. The thumb gusset and thumb itself are being designed on the fly as well…for every stitch/row I add, I put a couple more dots on my paper.
These are, in my opinion, the coolest mittens ever, because I dyed the wool (er, baby alpaca), I spun the wool, and I knit the wool. Plus, I’ve been doing TONS of math to try to make these work out; not good or correct math, but I’m trying (yesterday I tried to fit a four stitch pattern into 70 stitches evenly not once, not twice, but three times. In case you think you should give this a go, don’t bother – it doesn’t work).
I also finally finished spinning the yarn for the second pair of mittens (fingerless mitts, actually). This was exciting because I needed brown yarn, and wasn’t having any luck creating brown. After several tries, however, I got this:
Yeah, I made these too.

Not too shabby

This evening I got  home well before my husband, Max, and Penny, and I used my time alone to finish spinning the pink/purple baby alpaca. Just as I let go of the end of the top and let the last of it wind on to my spindle, they pulled into the driveway, and I set my wheel aside, vowing to let the freshly spun stuff rest at least overnight, and probably until tomorrow afternoon before plying it. But then Penny went to bed without much fuss, and Max was in the bathtub, and even though I do have two pair of socks just waiting to be finished, that alpaca was calling to me…

“Ply me! Ply me!”

Seriously. How could I resist a pleading alpaca?

It seemed to take forever to ply, but I think I was going a little slower than usual, because I actually need this yarn to turn out well. According to my count (and my husband’s faulty memory) I think I have about 232 yards here of (approximately) fingering weight yarn. This is the most even and fine yarn I’ve spun to date, and I’m pretty darn impressed.

It took nearly as long to wind it off the spindle and onto my niddy-noddy, and when I was done, I found my self very carefully, very slowly securing the hank with figure-8 ties. Because as soon as  it was tied up, I’d have to take it off the niddy-noddy, and only then would I know if I’d plied it well, or over- or under-plied it; if there were spots where I’d spun it too tightly, resulting in little curlicues that didn’t ply at all.

Then, the moment of truth.

232 yards of Baby Alpaca

Tomorrow, we’re going on an adventure, which is the rationalization I used to justify plying this tonight. I’ll have plenty of time to knit in the car, and there’s no way to fit my wheel into the car. Hopefully my next post will include pictures of at least one pair of completed socks.

Obsessed

That’s really the only word for it. Sure I still knit when I’m at work lunch, or when I go to the bookstore to relax. But if I’m at home, I’m interested in doing just one thing.

And it’s not housework.

I showed you yesterday the blue/green/pink/purple baby alpaca that I’m spinning. But I forgot to show you what I’d finished last week.

That’s nearly 500 yards of superwash merino wool, dyed and spun by yours truly. And although I was so impressed when I took it off my niddy-noddy after plying it I actually shed a tear, it’s still not perfect.

You see, this nearly 500 yards of lovely green yarn…

…was supposed to be brown.

Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have more dye, and plenty of wool to practice my color mixing skills on.

Lunchtime Entertainment

Yesterday I bought a treat for myself: a digital copy of “How I Spin” with Rita Buchanan from Interweave Knits. I wanted to put it on my iPad so I could keep it next to me while I was spinning so I could refer to it as I spun, but I just got a chance to look at it a few minutes ago.

Oh my goodness. She is amazing.

I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I’d be able to learn something so tactile and hands on from a video, but after watching the first 15 minutes, I can see that it’s not the medium that affects the learning process so much as the instructor. Ms. Buchanan is charismatic and cute, reminding me of role-model type characters from books I read when I was a child. Her accent (New York, I think) is charming but not distracting. And the way she mixes stories with instruction makes watching the video a pleasure.

The video is $30 for the digital download, and $35 for a DVD. I paid $20 to sit with a master spinner in San Marcos for an hour and have her coach me, and while that was well worth the money, for $10 more, I have constant access to a well known spinner who is both informative and entertaining.

That didn’t last long.

Ok, so I wrote my resolutions out on Thursday, and yesterday I screwed up one of them… I didn’t write my 200 words.

I thought, as I put that promise to myself out there so the Universe would know my intentions, that 200 words seemed pretty wimpy. After all, when I glanced down at the word count that my blog editor so kindly provides, the resolution post was more than 300 words, and it just kind of appeared. Certainly I could write a paltry 200 words a day.

Or not. Yesterday I thought about what I wanted to write all day long, but I never got to my computer. I picked up my iPad several times, but Max nabbed it every time. A similar thing happened when I sat down to my regular computer. Not even my phone was safe. By the time I finally had a chance to sit down and write, it was 1:00 am. I’d already missed my goal.

And so, I went to bed, vowing that I’d make up for my slackiness today. Well, let me tell you, that hasn’t worked out so well. It’s already 10:25, and I’m just sitting down to write. I knit on a cable-y hat throughout the day (just so you don’t think I was just lounging around in my PJs), but missed the first set of decreases and didn’t go back to correct my oversite, so now I’m praying that I can make it look not stupid. I’ll let you know how that works out. This is my all time favorite hat pattern, and I’ve knit it five or six times, which makes me feel like even more of a dolt for missing those decreases.

Habitat Hat by Brooklyn Tweed, knit with Cascade 220. I used needles one size bigger, and knit twice as much “brim” because this hat is for a young man with an unusually large head (or so I’ve been told)

Since I wasn’t writing yesterday, I had lots of time to spin (because Max didn’t want to use my wheel; he did, however, figure out that by dropping a toy car on the yarn as it was winding on to the spool he could make me stop and turn my face really red).

This is actually coming along quite nicely, and if I can keep up with my goal of spinning for a while each day, I might even get – dare I say it? – proficient, perhaps even good, at spinning. Ah, I can dream, can’t I?

Today, I played cars with Max. And even though I don’t think we played by the standard rules, we had a great time: he sat in the middle of the living room, and I sat at one end with all of the cars, and I pushed them towards him with great force and in rapid succession. He tried to keep them from getting to the other end of the room. It was noisy and funny and I had a great time. I assume he enjoyed it too, because he let me continue flinging cars across the floor for quite a while.

And now, my word count claims that I have 523 words, plus two photos, which according to Helena brings my total to 2532. I think that more than makes up for yesterday.