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.