Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Long time no blog

The last month seems to have flown past.

The weather's been (generally) nice and it really feels as though Spring is here.  Not that Winter was horrible - no snow and not that many nights when there was a frost, to be honest.  The weather at the end of last week was hazy and smoggy with winds bringing sand and dust from the Saharan region.  This was last Friday morning when I took DD1 to the train station:

The wind blew away the Saharan smogginess overnight on Friday and by Saturday morning the sky was bright and Spring-like:

Saturday lunchtime when I took Jess for a walk before I got ready for work, there was more signs of Spring when I spotted these rabbits.  I'd hung back, keeping Jess on a short lead so the rabbits weren't spooked and was able to get this photo:

Aren't they cute?  I think the bigger one on the left might have been Mum!

A crafting round-up:

There's been no spinning going on, so no point in taking a photo of my non-progress.  I'm not sure why I haven't done any spinning; I think it was a case of not finding to time.

Knitting-wise, things have been plodding along.

Puffin sweater:  very slow progress.  I've done a few inches, that's all, and I'm nowhere near the end of the decreases for the waist shaping:

Stripey scarf:  not much progress.  I've been picking this up and doing a few rounds at knitting group, so it's growing very slowly (not that I need a scarf in this weather):

I did buy some more yarn from Colinette for it last week:

I have to admit that when I opened up the package (it's another Jitterbug Creative Pack) I was a little disappointed as the colours are quite muted, but I think they'll make a change from the brighter colours I've been using, especially if I alternate them.

Socks:  I've finished the Rico Superba Tweed ones I was annoyed with following the knot I found in the yarn:

I cast these off this morning.  

I'm still knitting my plain hand-spun socks, but those are an 'upstairs' project and I add a few rounds every now and then while I'm waiting for the bath to fill up or if DD2 is awake during the night and I need something to do until she settles down to sleep again.

Next up will be another pair of socks as I found a hole in one pair the other day (my nice purple/green Fyberspates ones - I might try and darn them) and some of my other pairs are definitely past their best.  The next pair will be another pair of plain socks, using some blue yarn that my friend Lucy dyed and which I bought at least two years ago.  DD2 helped me wind the yarn from the skein into a yarn-cake yesterday, an activity that she seems to like (we wound the new Jitterbug small skeins for the scarf at the same time).

So, that's a round-up of my crafting endeavours for the last month.  I did start something else, but I think I'll talk about that next time.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Puffin Sweater

Last week I showed you the beginnings of a new sweater I've started to knit.

The pattern is Puffin by Kate Davies, from her Colours of Shetland book.

While I like the colours Kate used on the yoke in her original, they're  not really 'me' colours.  Several months ago now, before I got distracted by DD2's pink sweater and the alpaca fleece, I and my mother had a trip out to Woodbridge, a town not that far away in Suffolk and we visited Twist yarn shop.  I'd been there before and knew it was a very nice shop and that it stocked Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift.  I spent a while browsing the shelves of the various colours that Twist stocks and came away with ten balls, nicely packaged in a cellophane bag.

Obviously you can't see the colours properly through the cellophane, so here they are, laid out.

Colours are a bit richer in reality!

The yoke doesn't need ten colours though, so I shall be playing about with the balls, putting them next to each other and seeing how they look and then I'll make my final selection.

I think I'll have plenty of time to play with the colour combinations.  I only finished the 27 rounds of k1, p1 ribbing for the body of the sweater yesterday and have only managed two rounds of stocking stitch today.

Did I mention that I think this sweater might be some time in the making?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The second half of February - round-up

It's been nearly three weeks since I last posted here and I've thought several times that I should get around to it, but Things happened and, well, here I am, at the beginning of March, with the sun trying to shine.

I seem to have had back-to-back colds over the last six weeks and to try and be delicate about it, my nose doesn't seem to have been very far from a tissue for very long.

However, I do have some photos to show.

I have this one:

I've finished the first of the socks I've been knitting using some handspun yarn that didn't come out quite as I'd expected.  I've also started the second one; started it twice because I realised when I'd nearly finished the toe that I'd done it differently to the first sock so I ripped it out and started again.

I've knitted a bit more of my stripey scarf (it had got put to one side while I was making the alpaca hat and cowl).  I'm currently knitting green stripes and think I might go with hot pink for my next colour:

I've finished spinning 200g of red yarn which is destined to become a Breckon cardigan:

(lilac yarn's in there because my camera has trouble with things that are just red).

I'll be spinning 600g of this yarn in total.  I've another 100g spun into a single and resting before it's plyed and am two-thirds through a fourth bobbin, so progress is being made.

I'm cross with these socks which I started as a project to keep upstairs for nights when either I or DD2 can't sleep:

The foot's fine and the yarn's knitting up into a nicely patterned effect.  Yesterday I worked on these at knitting group and was halfway up the heel flap when it was time to leave so thought I'd knit on them some more yesterday evening while I was watching television.  I'd done a few rounds on the leg when I came across a knot.  I made my feelings on knots in self-patterning yarn known in this post!

I undid the knot and pulled out some yarn until I'd got to what I thought was the right place (it was more or less the middle of a grey stripe).  Carried on knitting and then, this happened:

Can you see?  The grey was followed by black.  Now, I don't expect my socks to have perfect striping all the way up because stitches are increased for the gusset, which is obviously going to affect the yarn's patterning (that's why there's that thin purply pink stripe), but to have the yarn do something completely different?  No thanks.  The grey should be followed by a round or so of the dotty effect, then go into the purply pink.  The socks are now in the naughty corner until tomorrow when I'll decide how best to sort this out, but sort it out I need to do.  I don't match stripes on hand-knitted socks, so I'm not overly pedantic about it, but this just looks Wrong.

I've also started a new sweater.  Progress is slow:

I cast this on about ten days ago!  2.5mm needles.  280 stitches per round.  27 rounds of k1, p1 rib to do.  I think this one might be a slow burner.  It's not all black, but I'll show you the other yarns I'll be using in my next post as I've rattled on enough.

In the meantime, I've got DD2 to keep entertained for the rest of today and probably tomorrow as well.  She was unwell on Saturday and I was up most of the night with her as she had a high temperature and was sick a few times.  She actually slept on the sofa for a couple of hours on Saturday morning and a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon and - hardly touched her dinner and didn't ask for dessert (that's a sure sign that she's poorly).  She seemed find on Sunday and yesterday daytime and evening, but was up again last night being ill.  She's also lost her appetite, so finding food that she'll eat is a bit challenging at the moment.  She's refusing to settle down and try to have a nap today though, which means I'm also very tired, so apart from doing several loads of laundry (the result of last night's 'activities') I'm ignoring the housework other than the essentials.

At least the sun's decided to come out.  I might see if I can get DD2 to come out with me to walk Jess in a little while, even if it's just for ten or 15 minutes.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Hurricane Honey Cowl

I realised this morning that I hadn't shown you the second item I've knitted from Hurricane the alpaca's fleece.  I had a look on Ravelry for ideas and decided on the Honey Cowl.

I'd spun the yarn a sort-of woollen style, from hand-carded rolags, so it was a bit airy and fluffy (my first attempt at spinning woollen style, which is why I say sort-of because I haven't completely got to grips with the technique yet).  The yarn was, I reckon, sport-weight and the pattern's written for DK, but with alpaca being a warm fibre, I wasn't overly worried and decided to try for a fairly drapey fabric.  The pattern is simple knitting, once you've got the hang of how the fabric looks after the first half-dozen rounds or so.  I didn't strand the yarn too loosely when I did the 'p1, sl1 with yarn in front' rows, which gave it a bit more of an open look.  Here it is:

It's now sitting in a bowl of warm water and then I'll block it a bit.  I did think about steam-blocking it, but then changed my mind as I thought the yarn could probably do with another wash.

It's horribly dreary here, so it's difficult to take any photos indoors and too drizzly to take photos outdoors, so I hope the next photo will show the stitch pattern a bit better:

I'm not going to block it too vigorously - just open it out a bit.

After casting this off and finishing the Regia stripy socks for my Mum, I cast on another pair of socks:

I spun this yarn from a merino/bamboo mix I bought at World of Wool and, to be honest, I was a bit 'meh' about the result.  It isn't the prettiest yarn and I think I could have done better (note to self:  think about the colours when spinning dyed roving), but it's fine for socks.  I'm using my Chia-Goo circular needle for these and for some reason, I'd got it in my head that it's a 2.5mm needle.  It was only when I was nearing the heel that I happened to spot on the needle that they're actually 2.25mms.  They look bigger than the usual 2.25mm Addi Lace circular I use, but that might be because it's stainless steel whereas the Addi is brass.  They're knitting up into a nice fabric though, but because the yarn's a bit thicker than regular sock yarn, it makes for more hand-aching knitting.

I was going to show something I was about to start, but as I've still got this horrible cold (I felt dreadful yesterday), I've put that off until my head's less fuzzy.  No point in mucking something up and wasting time, which I fear will happen and this is something that I want to go right!

In other news, we have a new boiler, so the house is nice and warm and hot water is available whenever I want it.  Bliss!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Sorting Out and Third Pair of Socks of the Year

The heating engineer arrived just before 8.30 this morning and is currently working away to do all that needs doing so we have an updated heating and hot water system (hurrah!).  Jess is more or less behaving, but she's decided she likes the plumber's son (who works with him) and keeps following him around, trying to bring him one of her toys.  Hopefully she'll get tired of that soon and will settle down for her morning nap.

The guys need access to all the radiators in the house, including the one in the (not used because that, also, needs replacing) en-suite bathroom.  The en-suite is where I've been storing my yarn stash, so I've been sorting it out, making a note of what yarn and fibre I've got.  I've been fairly ruthless and got rid of odd balls that I'm never going to use and I've also put some yarn into a bag to take to knitting group in case any of the ladies there can use it.  That bag is of the 2x100g balls of aran left over from a sweater variety.  Some of the ladies have grandchildren (a couple have young children) so they might be able to use it whereas I won't.

The grand total of yarn is:  approx 40 kilometres.  My yarn stash has grown (and that doesn't include the acrylic DK stash I've got).

My fibre stash stands at approx 7.5kg.  As hubby bought most of it for me, the blame lays at his door for that!

I reorganised it all into a tub, a wicker hamper-type basket and vacuum bags.  This is what it looked like once it had all been put away:

Once I'd squashed the air out of the bags, it looked a bit more manageable:

Still a fair size though.

Yesterday morning, I sorted/cleared out underneath our bed (one of those jobs I'd been putting off) and there the bags and boxes now reside.  I started off using my vacuum cleaner (a Dyson) to suck the air out of the bags, but it started making a funny noise (oops!) so I then stopped and squished as much air out as I could by lying on the bags and then squeezing them (which DD2 found rather amusing).

There - a much better organised stash.  I did remember to get out the yarn for the next project I've got planned and that's downstairs in the hollow area under one of the footstools.  I'll show you that later in the week.

I've also finished another pair of socks (and cast on a new pair).  These are in Regia Kaffe Fasset Design Line and I think I said that they're going to be a present for my Mum.

No, I didn't match the stripes.  I often think that I will and then forget to start the yarn on the first sock so I can start at the same place in the ball on the second one.  Mum won't mind though!

Hopefully, the next time I write I'll have a nice warm house and tankfuls of hot water.  First thing I'm going to do when the work's been finished is wallow in a chin-deep bath!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Drinking Tea and Knitting Socks

We've just started our third week of having no hot running water.

You'd think that in the current economic climate finding a heating engineer/plumber to come out and have a look would be a fairly simple thing (the chap who used to service our boiler has retired).  This proved to not be the case.  Heating Guy One (after I'd chased up the message I'd left him) finally replied saying that he wasn't able to help, but knew someone who could and would ask him to phone.  Heating Guy Two never called.  I phoned someone else, but, again, no response.  I then put a post on Facebook asking for recommendations and was finally able to speak to someone, who came round last Tuesday to have a look.

The upshot is that we're having a new boiler fitted (including new gas pipework from the metre to the boiler - because the existing ones aren't the right diameter), a new water cylinder, new immersion heater, new thermostatic controls on the radiators, a new water pump, plus other bits and pieces such as a new water pump.  I know we said we'd rather wait to get a new boiler, but that isn't a viable option given the age of the old boiler.  Oh well.  It's a good thing I've got a large yarn and fibre stash as we're going to be putting as much money in our savings account as possible for the next x months in order to get other work done around the house.

We've been getting by when it comes to bathing, including sending DD1 off to stay with grandparents for a few nights (and she's going there again from Weds-Fri this week), although the first thing I'm going to do when all the work's finished is have a chin-deep bath!

In the meantime, I've been drinking lots of tea and have been knitting away on the vanilla socks I cast on a couple of weeks ago.  The yarn's Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line and it's not the most excitingly coloured sock yarn I've used.  I'm going to give these to my Mum on Mothering Sunday as she hasn't had a new pair of hand-knitted socks for at least two years.  As she managed to felt the socks I made her from Natural Dye Studio yarn, I've made an executive decision to only make her socks from now on in machine-washable yarn!

I've also been spinning.  I bought 600g of this merino blend from World of Wool.  It's various shades of red, ranging from a deep reddish brown/burgundy to a bright pinky-red.  So far, I've spun and plied the first bobbin full and have spun another 100g single, which I'll wind into a ball and ply.  I'm planning on making this into a Breckon cardigan.  I bought the pattern ages ago, but didn't have the right yarn.

In the background of the photo, you might be able to see something cream-coloured in a bag.  That's something else fairly mindless that I've been working on and it just needs ends sewing in, a wash and blocking and then I'll show it off.

In recent weeks I've been baking more.  I think I've mentioned that following a gluten, dairy, artificial sugar and MSG-free diet helps manage DD2's autism (she's still challenging, but we get fewer emotional outbursts and less head-banging and her speech is improved if her diet is 'clean').  The downside is that store-bought gluten/dairy-free goods are very expensive and they often include 'extra' ingredients (presumably for a longer shelf life) and with DD2, the fewer ingredients, the better.  I've just taken this out of the oven:

It's a gluten/dairy-free butterscotch brownie.  This one has risen more than the chocolate one I made last week.  The mixture was fairly wet and it might have been because I used an egg from one of my diva-hens and they do tend to lay fairly large eggs (around 70g).  One the brownie's cooled, I'll cut it into bars, which give a decent size for her to have in her lunch box.  See the red silicon loaf tin?  I spotted it in Home Bargains last week.  £1.99 - a bargain!  Although it's silicon, I still line the base with baking parchment/paper as it makes getting the cakes out of the tin a bit easier.

That's all for now.  I'm off to drink another cup of tea before DD1 phones to say she needs collecting from the station.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

First socks of the year

Before you start thinking "blimey, her needles must have had smoke coming off them", I must confess that both pairs were started last year, but finally had their ends sewn in this morning.

This pair I started last May, got halfway up the second one and then, well, just didn't knit on them any more.  Actually, that's a bit of a fib.  I did get up to the ribbing, did a few rows and then realised I'd knitted the leg shorter than the first one, so had to rip back, got cross with myself and then didn't finish them off.  They're done now.

The second pair were the ones where I found a knot in the yarn when I was a few inches up the second sock.  I put them to one side while I decided what to do - carry on or frog.  I more or less forgot about them and then came across them when I was tidying up last week.  I frogged the second sock as I decided a join would annoy me, so started again and just got on and knitted it, mostly while I was watching television and then at knitting group yesterday morning.  I finished the ribbing yesterday evening and cast off and then sewed in the ends this morning.

I've already cast on another pair of socks.

I did think about doing these in alternating two-row stripes (one stripe from one ball, one stripe from the second) but wasn't sure if that would work out, never mind the jogs when I changed colour, so have just gone with knitting them straight up, one sock from each ball.  This is yarn I've had in my stash for ages.  It must have been a bit shocked when it was actually taken out of the box it was in!

Am I in a sock-knitting mood?  Not particularly.  Simple, stocking stitch socks are my go-to project when I've got something going on in Life and need some easy, no-brain knitting.  At the moment, we have no running hot water in our house.  Our boiler's broken and when we switched on the immersion heater/water tank, it tripped all the downstairs electric sockets, so that needs to be repaired....... but finding someone to do what I hope will turn out to be a not-too-difficult job isn't proving easy.  Our boiler is elderly, but we'd rather it was repaired than replaced at the moment because we think a replacement will be a big job that'll involve ripping out part of the kitchen for new pipework.  Our house plans for this year are Spring - new windows; Late Summer/Early Autumn - new kitchen and boiler, so we'd rather keep disruption to a minimum, especially when upheaval such as building works upsets DD2 greatly.  We do have heating as we've got three oil-filled radiators that run off the mains, so it's inconvenient rather than a problem, but something we want to get sorted out as soon as possible.

Of course, with no hot water, the weather has inevitably turned colder.  There was a frost overnight and it was foggy this morning when I took Jess out for a walk (I've just looked out of the window and it's still foggy).  I had my camera with me, so I took some shots:

The sun, trying to peek through the fog

The first 'battalion' of geese that flew overhead
The second wave of geese

These geese fly over twice a day.  I think they spend the night closer to the sea on the marshes and then fly over to the Dedham valley to spend their days.  As the sun starts to go down in the late afternoon/evening, we hear them flying back again.

Frosty blackberries that never made it to maturity before autumn set in

I need to go and do some housework now.  I have a large-ish pile of ironing as well as some general cleaning and tidying, as well as tracking down a heating engineer!