Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FO: Tangled Yoke Cardigan

Yesterday I finished blocking my Tangled Yoke cardigan and I just sewed on the buttons today. Details of the project are here on Ravelry.

Unfortunately, it did not block out as much as I had hoped. It fits ok and I will definately wear it but I was hoping it would be a teensy bit looser and longer. I guess I was just trying to be too clever, haha. Live and learn. Having alpaca content, there is a good chance it will loosen up a bit with wear and hopefully that will be enough.

This is one of the few times I have actually used the yarn recommended in a pattern. I like the Felted Tweed but I don't know that I would use it again. It is a bit too hairy for my liking and somewhat scratchy. Some people have said on Ravelry that it softens quite a bit. This was not my experience, so perhaps different colours act differently (not unheard of).

Now I get to move on to something new! I'm thinking of doing a bunch of smaller projects for the next little while. A pair of socks for K. (already cast on, of course!), a spring cardi for youngest, and perhaps a nice shawlette with one of the pretty yarns from the previous post. For my next sweater project I'm thinking of doing something quick in a chunky yarn, perhaps a vest. Although I do have my eye on several hoodies....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fibres West

So I went to the small local wool show, Fibres West, yesterday. My feelings about it are mixed. On one hand, it is nice to go to something like this and see different yarns from small vendors that I don't normally get a chance to check out. On the other hand, it really sucks paying $7.50 admission charge to get into basically a retail mall for knitters and spinners. Unfortunately, there were limited things to do there other than buy stuff..no animals to pet, no music or demos, limited food (coffee, muffins and sandwiches) and only 20 or so vendors. There were some classes and lectures, but you had to sign up for them in advance and I'm just not that organized. It would have been nice if it was more of a fair-like environment with stuff for the whole family to see but I'm guessing the organizers have a different vision of how it should be. As well, I just don't think that there is a huge market, locally, for fiber craft supplies.

All that being said, of course I bought some goodies! At these sorts of things I try to stay away from commercial yarns and stick to the small, local indie dyers that basically work all year to have enough stock for this kind of small show. I really believe that the little guys really need and deserve support in order to keep doing what they are doing. I think of it more as supporting the arts rather than supporting my yarn habit, lol.

First up is some luxury yarns dyed by a local girl, Melissa, from Yarn Candy-Sweet Fiber. I had a hard time deciding what to choose but I settled on a skein of silk/cashmere fingering in oranges and a skein of silk/merino fingering in purples. Both have enough yardage to make a small shawl and the colours are very rich and deep.

Then I went over to Unwind Yarns and picked up a couple of hand-dyed sock yarns in a superwash wool/nylon blend. Again the yardage on these skeins is really good (450 yards) and she had a really nice range of colours and several different base yarns to choose from. K. actually chose the orange/green blend for himself!

There were a couple of other hand-dyed yarn vendors that I checked out as well, but didn't buy anything. Felicia at Sweet Georgia Yarns was very friendly and helpful. She has many different base yarns in a wide variety of vibrant colourways. Unfortunately, she didn't have the colour that K. wanted in the base he wanted but she assured us that she could easily dye it for us if we wanted to order off her website. So we will most likely do that in the near future. Indigo Moon was another really great vendor with an absolutely gorgeous collection of yarns to fondle. Deep saturated colours on plump, squishy yarns. But, alas, their prices were a bit too stiff for me at this time so I passed after wistfully fondling many skeins.

And then came the exception to the rule when I was walking around admiring all the yarns on offer at Knitopia's booth. Knitopia is a local commercial yarn shop but the owner, Lynne, also sells her own hand-dyed yarns at the shows. Lynne is a mostly a nice helpful person but sometimes she comes off as odd and unfriendly. When I was visiting her booth she suddenly grabbed my arm and said, out of the blue, "Oh, I have something for you!", then she reached under a table, hauled out a bag of yarn, thrust it into my arms and said "Here. But you have to buy the whole bag." I looked into the bag and saw it was full of Tahki Donegal Tweed in a deep burgundy. Now I know this is expensive yarn (I've been coveting it for a long time) and there were 10 skeins in the bag. So, ready to hand it right back, I asked her "How much?". "Oh" she says offhandedly "$5 per skein". At this point I almost peed myself and my voice dropped down to a whisper (just in case any nearbye knitters were listening in) and I asked if she had any more. Unfortunately the answer was no, that she was just getting rid of the last of her stock. Well, I held that bag in a death grip until it was safely paid for then chuckled my way all the way out to the car. I'm still giggling to myself over it, actually. Every once in a while you come across an awesome score that is almost too good to be true and it becomes a favorite story to tell to anyone that will listen. I think I'll keep this one going for a while, lol.

And so ends my fibrefest adventures. There are rumors of a different, competing show in the fall so we'll see what comes of that. If anyone is reading this, please check out the links to the small dyers I put in above. These artisans need all the business they can get in order to keep doing what they love!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

School Headaches

Sorry, no pics today...its one of those kind of days...

I've been spending a lot of time with Eldest lately helping her with her school work. Since we moved and switched schools she has had to do a lot of catching up in order to be at the same level as the kids in her new grade 4 class. We have found out the hard way that switching from a low-rated, heavy ESL school to a high-rated, "upper middle class" school is a big transition. There are a lot of areas that the kids here are much further ahead in, particularly math and writing. So I've been spending 2-3 hours most days after school tutoring her on math concepts that she should have learned (but didn't) at the start of the year. She is a fairly good student but has definite problems with organizing herself and using her time effectively. She is being treated for ADD but she still has to work harder than most kids to keep track of everything. It has been very stressful for me to make sure she is doing ok and nothing is falling by the wayside. I'm so afraid that she is not going to do well and slip through the cracks in the system. A lot of the time I feel like a bad parent because she doesn't seem to pick things up as quickly as other kids and always seems to be struggling to get her assignments done. I know I have to step back and let her find her way but it is really hard to release control of the situation and accept that she will never be a "perfect" A student.

Besides math, she is woefully behind in the writing department. The kids in her class here are actually doing research assignments and detailed reports. She has never done anything like this at her old school so, consequently, has no clue how to tackle this kind of project. So I am helping her quite a bit. Of course I'm not actually going to do any of the work for her but I am helping organize everything and breaking the project down into smaller pieces that she can work on one part at a time. Currently she is starting a research project on a First Nations band of her choice. She actually chose the Coast Salish Indians because they are the ones that knit the Cowichan sweaters...awww! She is also expected to do a poetry assignment during the same time period. For this she has to pick 10 styles of poetry and write 3-4 poems for each one. Since she has never done poetry at her old school I have to help her out quite a bit with this as well....sigh.

In the midst of all this school angst I have been faithfully working on the Tangled Yoke cardi. I have joined it all together and just finished the cable chart today. Let me tell you it was a challenge. It took me hours to do those 18 rows and my fingers are killing me! I'm hoping to get the whole thing finished in the next couple of days and get some pictures up.

Tomorrow I am going to a small, local fibrefest. Hopefully there will be something cool to report in my next blog post!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quickie Update

Just a quick post before the weekend. I'm officially sick of being sick now. Hopefully my body starts cooperating and just gets over it already! Mr. Cat has been sick as well. And, as those who have cats know, when your cat is sick you get to find all sorts of nasty things to clean up all over the house. We think he must have eaten something bad outside because he was acting very much like he had been poisoned. I was actually worried that the poor guy wouldn't make it because he looked so bad but he seems to be rallying now. Mr. Cat is almost 8 years old and has had previous health problems (bladder stones) so hopefully this won't cause any lasting complications.

I have been working away at the Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I am finished the body up to the armpits.

Its not very exciting but at least its getting done. I added an extra 2" to the body ribbing and will add 1" to the sleeves. When blocked it should (fingers crossed) come out to the right length. Hopefully I'll get some work done on the sleeves this weekend and then it will be on to the exciting part: the yoke!

Lastly here's some crappy pictures of my craft room. Pardon the mess..I still haven't found a place for everything yet. What I'm not showing is the big pile of rubbermaid bins full of yarn. I think the Ikea yarn walls are bad enough...

That's it for now. See you next week.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Swatch Tales

First thing first...I finished eldest's sweater:

It was a great success all around. Details on Ravelry here. It turned out to be slightly larger than expected (thank-you superwash wool) so not only will she be able to wear it now, but she will also get to enjoy it the whole winter next year. It was slow going to get it finished..not because it was hard (it wasn't) but because I have been really sick with some sort of nasty virus for the last week. I actually couldn't get out of bed for a couple of days there. So much for my big Spring Break plans to clean, ha ha. We did manage to get a bit sorted out but not as much as I had hoped. Oh well.

Last night I pulled out my Felted Tweed and a bunch of needles to start this:

Behold the swatch. It is not really purple, but more of a dark purplish brown (Treacle, I think) that is really hard to capture in this crappy, overcast light. I don't like making swatches. In fact I avoid them whenever possible. But experience has taught me to be cautious when dealing with new to me yarns, especially when they contain fibers that have a nasty tendency to grow after you knit them up (alpaca I'm looking at you!). A look on Ravelry reveals that this yarn is notoriously hard to get gauge for and it grows with blocking. So I tried out the recommended needle size (3.75mm) for the project..too big. I tried 3.25..too big. I tried 2.75..seemed a bit tight but I washed it to be sure. This size was a bit too small even after washing so I will work with a 3mm and hope for the best. Washing revealed little growth width-wise but a bit of growth length-wise so now I know to knit it a bit short and let blocking bring it to the right length for me. Other things I have learned from this swatch: This yarn loses some color in the wash and blooms a lot to become quite fuzzy. It also softens a bit and is quite warm against my hand. This yarn is also too fragile for seaming so I will have to find something sturdier in a similar weight and color.

Some people wonder what to do with their little swatches after the necessary information has been gleaned. I keep them around until I'm finished the project to make sure that I don't need the yarn, then they go to the girls to become toy blankets or mats or whatever suits their particular purpose. I used to only make little teeny swatches but now I find that they are in such demand, lol that I make sure to provide them in more generous proportions.

So now it's time to cast on. I'm hoping for lots of mindless knitting which will be just right for recuperation from the nasty ick, ha ha.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Project Re-Visit

I finished my Trekking socks on Thursday evening. I didn't take any pictures because, quite frankly, they look just like every other pair of plain-jane socks that I make! After that I hemmed and hawed a bit then dug out Eldest's sweater for assessment. At first I was worried that it wouldn't even fit her anymore so I held the pieces together and made her try on the work in progress. Not only did it fit, but she declared immediate undying love and begged me to hurry and finish it! What's a mom to do?!? So I pulled out everything to do with the sweater and set about sorting out what I had done and what I needed to do to complete it. The worst part about picking up an old, unfinished project is definitely trying to decipher what I've already done. I always alter patterns and I hardly take any notes at all (I know, I know) because I usually finish things fairly quickly. This method definitely bit me in the butt as I spent most of yesterday afternoon cursing and ripping out my work until I hit on the right way to go. Add to this the fun of getting a new hot water tank installed yesterday, complete with the requisite "I guess I need to replace this valve" and "crap, where's that water coming from?"....

It should only take a few days more to finish up the sweater (I had more done than I originally thought) so after that I can start up my Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I will have to swatch first (ugh) because alpaca blends are always dicey...but more on that in my next post.

It was a beautiful Spring-like day here yesterday. The sun was shining and flowers are starting to bloom everywhere. It is Spring Break for the girls next week so hopefully the weather will hold. If not, I have plenty of fun lined up for them in the form of helping me sort out the basement rec room, ha ha.

Finally, Mr. Cat says "I don't know what this green stuff is, but it sure is yummy..nom, nom, nom!"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Backyard Visitors

A new family has moved into our backyard. A pair of Steller's Jays have taken a liking to one of the coniferous trees and decided to stay awhile. They have begun nest building and are industriously collecting sticks and dried grass. Every morning we are awakened by their raucous  chatter and every breakfast we watch them through the large sliding doors as they go about their business. Yes they are loud and some people consider them nuisances but we are charmed and are eager to catch glimpses of the babies when they come. We rarely got to see these birds while living in the city so it is a real treat to watch them go about their daily routine! The girls have nicknamed them Bob and Jenny, lol. So far I have one poor picture of them but I hope to gain their trust and get some better ones in the coming days.

In knitting news there is not much new to report. I am whipping through my plum Trekking socks and should be finished them in a couple of days. I haven't really decided what to start next but I'm thinking of finishing up a languishing ufo first. I have a sweater for eldest that I started before Xmas that I'm sure she'd like to wear before she outgrows it. It is about halfway finished so it should only take a week or so to complete. After that I am considering the Tangled Yoke Cardigan out of some Rowan Felted Tweed that I have squirreled away since my birthday last year.