Monday, March 30, 2009

Holy Crappa, I want me some Alpaca!

Anywhere with a sign like this means a good time! AND good freaking fiber I may add.

OK, in a nutshell, let's say that I now officially have a fiber stash. I did have a few balls of fluff, NOW I have a stash. Holy Crappa indeed. What fun! Teri, Cheri and I braved freezing rain, sleet and snow on Saturday to go to the MOPACA show at Hale Arena (next to Kemper with the American Royal stuff. Fun was had by all, corndogs were had by two of us, fiber went home with us all. There were vendors, fiber, knitting and crocheted exhibits and alpacas walking all over the place. It doesn't get much better than that. After spending most of the day there Sat, I heard that there was ANOTHER whole area with a few vendors that we missed on Sat. Sunday I snuck back out and was able to get a few photos without the driving sleet ruining my camera. yay! Oh, and a bit more fiber (2 bags full) came home with me then too.

I had such fun meeting the people (and sometimes the ACTUAL ALPACAS) that the fiber came from. There were farms with hundreds HUNDREDS of alpaca, farms with 5-8 alpaca. I got a kick out of one couple. The husband said they had 8 alpaca now, they were waiting for their kids to get out of high school to expand. Hmmmm, where have I heard of waiting to trade in kids for critters? Gotta get that farm, the kids off to college and then I can think about an alpaca....but they're herd animals, so I'd need 2 or 3. But you have to keep the males & females separate to monitor breeding, and you can't have one lonely male, so that's up to 5. Then you need a couple of superdogs to keep them safe..... Ah well. if the man can have cows, I can talk about alpacas. :) For now I'll just dream and spin a ton of alpaca fiber. I picked up a flyer about "Planting Alpaca Beans." I grabbed it, thinking, Oh we could plant this food for our critters down the road. Oh no. Alpaca beans is the terminology for Alpaca poo. Apparently the fluffy creatures produce a serious amount of beans. I think I'll stick to the fiber. There's less waste to deal with this way!

I have been in a knitting funk lately. Nothing sounded fun, not even starting a new project! So, I pulled out a few ufo's that have been waiting patiently for some attention. Finished these the other day. Yarn is Handmaiden with a little bit of cashmere in there and they're WARM and SOFT! Working to finish up another pair of tess superwash socks that have been sitting around for over 2 years now.

OH, there was YARN there too, did I forget to mention that? I found a new favorite hand-dying company and bought 3 balls of wool fiber PLUS two fingering weight skeins of gorgeousness. The first is going to become a pair of socks. OH the colors! The purple one has sterling silver throughout the yarn. Not sure how that will knit up, but it's SOFT and silvery and gorgeous. I'm thinking it's going to become a lacy scarf of some sort. Garter stitch will be involved! jwraco is amazing. Two women that know their yarn, their fiber, their dying and their spinning!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Well, we've got our farm baby, but now we've got no farm, baby!

First the happy news:
Meet Number 42. That's her eartag number and apparently her name. She's also referred to as "Hamburger Maker" instead of "Hamburger" as the boy-baby cows have been named in the past. We're hoping she grows strong and becomes a good mama cow like her momma is turning out to be. This is the first heifer calf we've gotten down at Jeff's friend's farm. I love saying things like "Oh, it's a girl-baby cow!" around the local ranchers. You can actually see them wince when I say "cows". They're apparently "cattle" or "heifer calves" or "steers" and "bulls". I even made one neighbor choke on his chaw when I called the bulls in his field "such pretty cows" last fall. His expression? Priceless.

Now the not-so-happy news:
We've got no farm. *sigh* I really REALLY liked this one. REALLY. Well, thanks to the wisdom of the US Government, we were originally given pre-approval on a big farm loan. Then we applied officially once the contract was awarded to us for our farm. Then they turned us down because they said we had too much money. The farm bureau suggested we add more detail to our expenses. So we did. Then we were turned down because we didn't have enough money. Sweet. We were able to get financing with a local farm co-op lender, but holy crap-a-moly, with the interest rate being almost 3 times the govt farm rate and a big down payment, it would have meant HUGE monthy payments and bye-bye to all of our savings. Each and every penny. Even with the rent from the resident Formerly-Amish now turned Bull Rider, it would have wiped us out.

When we looked at the big picture we realized this wasn't the absolute farm for us to sink our entire future into at this time. Even though the house was quaint, the land picturesque, the location not too close and not too far from a town, spring fed well & pond AND it's own graveyard and potential farm zombies.... not to mention the fact that hiking around on the land didn't cover every inch of my body with ticks and other creepy crawlies. Damn. Damn, Damn, Damn. I really wanted this place. We're still looking and not in any hurry. I'm sure the perfect place will appear when we're ready. Dammit.

For now, we've got Jeff's friend's farm to do our galavanting on. The fact that it is, in fact, infested with bazillions of seed ticks (I can't even type those words without getting chills and itching all over ICK!), has a crappy ass old trailer with NO BATHROOM as the only place to stay on it isn't supposed to depress me in the least. I'm supposed to think of that land as our land and just bring my spinning wheel and knitting along to "enjoy nature" and crap. Damn. Better start buying up the damn bug spray.

Martha Stewart's tv show on Monday is going to be her Yarn Show. I may have to head home early from work to see it. I just saw that you can watch old episodes on her site as well. I watched the show back in the good-ol-working-from-home days, but may have to watch a few online to get back into the creative spirit. I know it may not be politically correct, but I heart Martha Stewart. She's one of my two favorite prison biotches ever.

This is some beautiful yarn that came home from AZ with my dear friend Chery Knits and I think it wants to grow up to become Spring Forward Socks. Casting on this weekend!

Well, I guess not having our farm now means more time to figure out uses for the four HUGE tubs of old acrylic yarn. Cow cosies? OH, I mean Cattle Cosies or chicken coops or even bug-proof tents as suggested by Teri. Or maybe I'll just crochet a few more ripple afghans, while sighing deeply and only slightly cursing the farm bureau for sticking me back with the whole peeing behind trees and de-ticking myself each time we go to the country.

OK, you wanna know the really sad part? I had just bought myself a pattern for a real, live Little House On the Prairie sunbonnet. Seriously. The Bonnet by Amy Karol of king pod patterns. Come on, I can't be the only one that would wants to look a little like Ma when working out in my garden or tending to whatever critters we kept on our farm, right? I think I'll make it anyway.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hard to believe, but I'm speechless...

Bought from Nikol at the Harveyville Project.
Stained, painted and assembled by my husband.

So worth the wait. Spins like buttah.

Notice the wheel is painted to match the couch? That means it has become a fixture in our living room.
Oh, I forgot, I'm speechless.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The dangers of Wear-Blocking

You've all heard of steam blocking and wet blocking, right? Basically lay out your finished knitted pieces and either steam them or wet them down and pin them to size to dry. Well, there's another kind of blocking entirely. It's called Wear Blocking. In this case, let's just assume that you were supposed to knit a scarf for your mother-in-law. Let's also assume you created this FABULOUS garter old shale lace scarf out of some socks that rock yarn.

Well, the scarf is fresh off the needles and the ends woven in. Before you put it into the tub of lukewarm water to soak, then roll into the towel and stomp to get the water out and lay it out, pinning to shape to dry, you stop and think. Wow. This scarf perfectly matches the shirt and jacket you're wearing that day. And hypothetically you may have a little event to attend that afternoon. The scarf would be the perfect little wowza to set off the outfit. Well, you decide to Wear Block the scarf a bit before Wet Blocking. It makes perfect sense. It'll give you an idea of how the scarf will look and how severly to block out the width. It's for the good of the scarf, after all.

After a few compliments you decide that said scarf actually sets off your eyes into this brilliant blue. Mother-in-law has green eyes (I think?) so of course this is not the perfect scarf for her. Also, it's early spring. Your MIL wouldn't be needing a scarf until fall or winter and it would be unkind to give her a scarf now and force her to store it until then. Your daughter decides she really likes said scarf and being a tween that you're trying to get bitten by the bug of knitting and wool yarn, it would be the good motherly thing to do to give it to her. The fact that this daughter only wears scarves and winter attire when it's 10 below zero and wears shorts throughout most of the winter season, leaving this scarf available for someone else to borrow doesn't factor into this decision at all.

This is of course entirely hypothetical. I will warn you, Wear Blocking will give you lots of good info on how it drapes, behaves and how severe to block knitted items. It will also make it really REALLY hard to give them away. Or maybe it's just me.

Pattern: Old Shale Scarf with modifications of leaving out one repeat, using 1 sz larger needles and working in garter stitch lace
I love this pattern! I still have my 2nd red one on the needles. Will probably make the same thing for my MIL the 2nd time around. Pattern by Tiennie Knits, which means it's well written, fun and turns out beautiful. I've always had such good results on her patterns. It must be since she knits 4-8 of everything. :)
Yarn: Socks that Rock mediumweight, colorway Bella Coola

Also, finished up my crocheted afghan. Remember the craze going on about a year ago with all the knitters doing ripple afghans? I'm apparently just getting up to speed. I'm thinking I may start working my way through the tubs (yes, BIG tubs and many of them) full of acrylic yarn and get each of the kids their own afghans. Of course, that would be after I make another scarf for my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How gorgeous is this? Function and Beauty. The perfect mix.

Best money I've spent. I commissioned a darning egg from SJS Woodworking, here's his SJS Woodworking Etsy Shop. I got this for under $30 and it's not only a GORGEOUS piece that I can leave sitting out near my knitting basket but also it made my job MUCH MUCH easier. This one is made of hard rock maple and walnut and he's buffed it with a wood wax finish. I dug my darning needle against this egg while fixing 8 pair of socks with 12 holes. You can't even tell I used it. It's still just beautiful. I highly recommend it. The woodworking genius is also a husband of a local knitter/spinner, so she's given much input and is involved in testing out the products to find what really works.

I know most people follow the Yarn Harlot's theory of darning socks as saying "Darn it!" and dropping the pair into the trash. Well, I thought about it. When I only had 2 pair with holes I really REALLY thought about it. I couldn't bring myself to do it, though as one pair was my monkey socks. I love my monkey socks. They're the only pair of lace socks I've made so far and they're koigu for cripes sake. I decided I'd just set them on a shelf in the basement where I would only look at them during laundry day and THINK about what to do with them.

This was a workable plan for some time, but as the number of socks on that shelf increased and the number in my sock drawer decreased I started to wonder if maybe there wasn't a better option. Time went on....and then there were three pair left. I was actually WEARING one of the last few at a spinsters meeting in Harveyville, KS. These were my first pair of socks that rock socks. Someone complimented me on them, so I pulled my foot out of my shoe and said "Oh! These are one of the last pairs I've got left without any holes!" and put my foot down onto the ground. I felt a very cold spot. Picked up the foot, and said "well, FUXX it" Yes. Another hole. It's a good thing "darning" was named long ago. I explained to the husband that women say "DARN IT" and laugh as they spend the weekend darning. I usually said something stronger, so told him I actually spent the whole weekend "Fuxxing". Apparently I'm not as funny to others as I am in my head because I laughed for at least 20 minutes on that one while he just walked away rolling his eyes.

Finding myself with only TWO pair of socks left was the deciding moment for me. I have no problem letting a well worn pair of socks go when they've given their all. BUT I happen to be quite hard on knitted socks. I occasionally quite often wear them w/out shoes while running out onto the rough cement driveway to grab something from the truck, have worn them sans shoes walking down the blacktop to the bottom of the hill and back to get a child. I have worn a pair while walking the length of the MN/St. Paul airport without shoes when the heels I was wearing bothered my toe. These socks hadn't given a lifetime of service, they'd been beaten and abused and had the bruises and holes to show it. The bottoms of the feet were holey before their time. The rest of the socks were just fine.

These were good socks that really wanted to still be worn. I don't actually TALK to my socks, but some things a knitter just knows. (OK sometimes I do actually talk to my socks, but they've never answered back so it's not at truly crazy levels yet). I owed these socks a better life. I have darned one pair of socks before without a darning egg. It was miserable. The lightbulb thing? First of all the needle scratching on the glass surface would just do me in. Second of all, I'm clumsy enough that we really don't want me wandering around with a lightbulb and needle. Can't you just imagine someone SITTING on it? Darning without the egg meant that my tension was all wonky and I either pulled too tight or not tight enough.

SO, I set aside some time this weekend and I darned. I darned and I darned and I darned some more. I tried both the weaving methods and the duplicate stitching methods. Being a lazy woman and having most of the holes on the bottom of my feet, I favored the weaving as it was faster and looked fine to me. On the toe holes I just unpicked the cast off edge or even snipped it off with scissors and reknit the toe. I got into a rhythm and really started cranking them out. I suddenly had a drawer full of beautiful happy socks again!

My monkey socks are back on my feet just in time for spring! I even walked to OTHER office buildings to take some photos, but really my building is set so that the pretty landscaping and indirect light is right in front. The other 2 nearest buildings had dark shadows and were unusuable. I timed it well and kineared my feet in front of the building between people coming outside and avoided the smoking crowd. If I got lucky there wasn't anyone looking out their windows watching the strange woman with her pants rolled up, standing next to the flower beds with her butt in the air taking pictures of her feet. Just call it my CYG (Crazy Yarn Girl) duty to keep the conversation at the water coolers and elevators going.

I've also sworn to my socks that I will no longer run outside without shoes. No longer wander airports or stairways without shoes and be extra gentle while washing them.

Think about darning a sock next time you're in the same situation. It's really not that hard, doesn't take much time and is a great feeling of accomplishment. Plus in today's world it's sure good to be frugal and make that sock yarn money last. Leave a comment, email or check out the links to get yourself a darning egg. I love that my fiber tools can be functional and a thing of beauty. Speaking of functional things of spinning wheel is almost ready! Jeff's stained, painted, sealed and put together almost the whole thing. It's been hard to wait as he gave it many, many coats of stain and finish. Can't wait! Hope to have pictures soon of my new wheel!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Crazy Yarn Whisperer Skillz...we haz dem.

Yes, that is me wielding a CROCHET HOOK (while Teri slaved away trying to detangle enough for the hook to keep hooking! My first yarn adventures were hooking back when I was about 8 yrs old. My grandmother is an amazing crocheter. AMAZING crocheter. I'm a ripple crocheter. On a good day. And I have a habit of forgetting and then one side of the ripple grows wider and one smaller. Ah well. My crocheting grandma is in her late 80's and still going strong. She makes afghans that are works of art. I think the lowest one of her afghans have gone at an auction is $400. LOWEST. Seriously an amazing woman. This amazing woman is giving me a lot of her library of patterns as she downsizes to the retirement home she now lives in. I'm trying to honor her and her gifts to our family by reuniting with the hook. I'm so thankful that her hands are still going strong. Please let me be blessed with that gift as well. We really REALLY don't want to see me as a grumpy old lady NOT ABLE TO KNIT or crochet. It's the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind attacking random people in the street. OK, more like attacking those I share a home with. :) It just sounds less lock-her-up-in-a-white-jacket with the random people part.

ANYWAY. I pulled out some yarn from years and years ago. It was one of those mighty mighty skeins of old acrylic yarn. I mean OLD and I mean ACRYLIC. Not acrylic like today's soft and supple acrylic yarns. No. I mean SQUEAKY and pulling shards of plastic bits out of your fingers old acrylic yarn. Not only was it horrid and old, but apparently the last time I'd attempted to use this monster skein I'd frogged an afghan, wrapping it willy nilly around the outside of the skein. Not a problem with the Yarn Whisper around. BUT after the yarn whisperer did her whispering (and a bit of HOLY CRAP WHAT DID YOU DO TO THIS YARN WOMAN-ing) I was able to crochet enough for the 10 bands of off-white plastic between the colored strips. Teri's unraveling skills are truly amazing.

The next night, the matted up skein of plastic started calling to me. Husband was traveling, kids were in bed early reading books, I had an ENTIRE EVENING of unspoiled knitting time ahead of me. Time to finish the 2nd sleeve on my orange cardigan. Time to work on one of the two lacey scarves on the needles. Time to swatch for new projects and designs in my head. Well, what did I spend the entire evening AND until 3am doing? Pulling bits of this crap yarn and following tails until I got the whole damn thing straightened out. Now I love me some good unraveling of yarn. I actually ENJOY unpicking mohair sweaters. I'm strange that way. I have no problem spending good time saving good yarn. At 1:30am I actually told myself OUT LOUD, "Self, you are spending precious hours on something that MAYBE cost $3 FIFTEEN YEARS AGO! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? It was like an obsession. (Hard to obssessed, huh?) Let's just say that I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open today, but I have 3 big ass cakes of plastic just waiting for me to crochet away.

I think sticking a bobcat and three squirrels with a skein of yarn in a big bag would have done less damage than my frogging and re-wrapping a skein fifteen years ago did. It was an amazing nest of fuxxed up yarn. The smaller skein you see? That came out folded in THIRDS (?) from the guts of the big blob of yarn.

Also, anyone notice I'm wearing socks with NO HOLES IN THEM????? No, I didn't darn my socks yet. Those are one of my last pair left without holes. There will be darning this weekend. And apparently crocheting. It sure does go FAST.

OH, and I figured I'd better take a non-tree action shot of the beautiful orange scarf. Yes that picture was taken in the office building's bathroom but there were no witnesses to spread the CYG updates. I heart this scarf.

My wheel arrived! It's still sitting in this sad state until it gets stained, painted and put together. Can't wait to get

Monday, March 02, 2009

CYG Strikes Again....

I love when I get on the elevator at a prime smoke-break time. At each floor more smokers got on and the gossip gets better and better. (Oh, and the largest population of the smoke-breakers? Is from an office that does some work with the American Cancer Association. Absolutely NO IRONY there, huh?) The smoking group always has the best conversations to overhear EVER! Well, today's topic was the most recent sighting of CYG. "Who's CYG?" one asked. "Crazy Yarn Girl" replied 3 others.

Oh. (Thinking to myself that this is a small office building to have TWO Crazy Yarn Girls, so I quietly shoved the yarn tails were hanging outside the mail bag I was carrying.) Come on, doesn't everyone carry emergency knitting projects for elevator trips to the lobby? Our elevators often shudder, shake and shimmy. Other elevator conversation is often about how loud the "elevator crickets" are squeaking that day. I'm not getting stuck in one without some yarn and needles.

Well, as the floors went down, the gossip got better. Apparently CYG was spotted taking pictures of scarves hanging IN TREES! While standing IN THE SNOW! "Can you believe it?" The Stall Knitting Incident was mentioned as the door opened and the laughter followed the group out the back door. Thank God I got out of there before the the Bathroom Dancing Incident was brought up.

Between all of this they talked about how could someone like crocheting that much? I was quite proud of myself for not screaming IT'S KNITTING PEOPLE! Though I do crochet, it's mostly afghans and even I would draw the line at hanging an afghan in a tree outside my office building. Scarves, hats and socks, YES. Afghans, NO.

Can you blame me? The lighting? Fabulous. The trees? Gorgeous. The snow? Makes for a natural light box just waiting for a yarny goodness photo shoot. I do actually use the side of the building that no one ever walks by and wait until no one's outside watching before arranging my knitted objects. Apparently those WITH WINDOWS (no frustration there for this little window-less office-less one, huh?) get to sit watching OUTSIDE them to see deer frolicking in the woods and CYG frolicking among the trees.

Pattern: my own Magical Malabrigo Scarf, which shows off the handspun yarn just beautifully.
Yarn: the very same handspun that looked like my grandma's crocheted toilet cover in the sweater recently. It's much happier as a scarf. It's gorgeous.

I mean, come on, how much cooler are those shots than the usual laying-on-the-carpet shot?

And since the blue handspun scarf, in Yarn Harlot's One Row Handspun Scarf didn't want to get left out of the fun, here's the shots of it as well.

And to show off both my newly spun fibers and the newly acquired niddy noddy.

And finally an action shot of the husband's Xmas Eve sweater.

Wheel watch continues. It was supposed to be delivered TODAY by ups, but hasn't made it yet. The countdown goes on...

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