Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oh, my aching back!

After 3 days of unremitting effort, I am pleased to announce the completion of Phase 2 of the Great Garden Overhaul.

Phase 1 began last summer. Here is where we started in May '07. And here is were Phase 1 ended. The raised beds are currently planted with tomatoes, peppers and onions. The outside dirt area will be planted with peas, green beans, cucumbers, squash and strawberries. The areas with cypress mulch are the flower gardens with many of my lilies already transplanted and a few phlox and geraniums already moved in. Oh, and that giant green thing in the center is rhubarb which seems to be on steroids because it gets more massive every year. Oi!

While I had hoped to move into Phase 3 yet this summer (the construction of the white picket fence and small arbor surrounding the vegetable garden), it is looking unlikely for now. Some of my annual gardening budget had to go toward some new evergreen plants in the front. The lack of winter color/structure really got to both my husband and me this past winter and we just had to rectify it this year.

Still on the agenda - plant vegetable seeds, plant 4 more shrubs/evergreens in the front yard and divide perennials in other parts of the garden to fill in the new flower bed around the vegetable garden. That is, if my aching hands/feet/back/arms/shoulders/hamstrings/etc. can take it.


Friday, May 23, 2008

New projects

With decent weather FINALLY upon us, we've kicked our landscaping/gardening activities up a notch.

This project was started last year, with the removal of sod and enlargement of the vegetable/flower garden in back. Right now, I'm in the process of laying down landscape fabric and mulch in the flower bed portion of the garden.

I'm not sure if we'll get the white picket fence of my dreams in this year, as the garden budget is fast disappearing. But if sweat equity means anything, we may manage it yet.

In fiber news, the Malabrigo burned a hole in my stash and I just had to cast on. I decided on the Tweedy Vest from Knitscene. Until it gets too long and heavy, it will be my kwitting project for now.

Well, time to get back to the gardening. Ta ta for now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful!

It is difficult to figure out where to start when trying to catch up. While blogging may have been on the back burner, fiber arts projects certainly were not.

So we'll start with the good. Inspired by Trek, I started "kwitting". It has become more and more apparent that the added padding I'd gained over the winter was not going to just disappear on its own. Drastic action needed to be taken. But how could I sacrifice those early morning hours previously spent in fibery pursuits in order to sweat off the winter weight. Along comes Trek with her ingenious solution and I was off and running walking. The washcloth is the result of 3 morning walks or the equivalent of 12 miles of kwitting. Not bad, eh!

Now for the bad - I just can't seem to stop casting on new projects. Although I did finish a number of projects over the past few weeks, the UFO pile really has not decreased appreciably in May. I am just not good at good intentions. This old dog just can't seem to learn new tricks.

This little scarf pattern was first seen at Rani's blog. I was so fascinated by the stitch pattern that I just had to grab some leftover cheap variegated acrylic and give it a try. The little girls think it's beautiful and I may end up having to make two, just to keep the peace.

Of course, I have half a dozen other projects lined up as well, since I'm firmly on my way toward planning far too many projects and activities in this brief span of summer vacation than anyone in their right minds would plan. What can I say, besides being a bad girl, I'm an incurably optimistic dreamer.

Now for the beautiful. A quick stop at Coldwater Collaborative last week to find a set of purse handles netted this treasure. I managed to snag 3 hanks of Malabrigo - ON SALE - 33% off. What is more, these are a variation of the local school colors. While there is not enough yardage for a full sweater, I'm hoping to get a nice vest out of it for fall. Or coordinating it with some solid yarn for a patterned sweater.

I foresee some happy hours spent swatching and searching Ravelry for the perfect hockey watching vest or sweater.

Good, bad or beautiful, it's shaping up to be a wonderful summer already. Woot!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spinning progress

You'll have to forgive the poor photo quality. Hubby changed some of the camera settings and I can't seem to take decent photos anymore. I'll have to either learn how to change the settings on the camera myself or twist his arm until he sets it back to a higher resolution setting.

Anyway, here are three hanks of handspun yarns drying after a good bath. The dark gray is more of the same Coopworth I've been spinning since I received the wheel. I have actually started the Back-to-School vest from Fitted Knits with it and am trying to spin just enough to finish the project.

The white 2-ply is the practice yarn from the class at Shepherd's Harvest. It is an unknown breed but it seems to be a close match (in crimp and coarseness) to the two shades of Coopworth that I have on hand. I am planning on using it as an accent color with the other two Coopworth colors for a Fair Isle hat and perhaps matching mittens. The design is still in it's embryonic stage in the old brain pan, though.

The pale blue is an experiment in plying with a commercial yarn core. I took the blue batts from Fiberit and started a very slubby, unevenly spun single. Then I plied it with the over-twisted white wool cone yarn I've had in my stash for quite awhile. Unfortunately, I didn't look closely at it before beginning the plying process. The commercial yarn turned out to be Z-spun, which kinked up even more when I attempted to Z-ply it with the blue single. I ended up with a kinky, highly-energized yarn. I washed and rinsed it thoroughly and now am drying it under high tension to try and set the twist. I may even give it a quick steaming, just to see if I can unkink it enough knit with it. I have an idea to try a scarf from the Spring 2006 Spin Off Magazine article about knitting with energized singles. Hopefully the same principles will apply to energized 2-ply yarn as well. If not, it's been a successful spinning experiment in that I learned the value of checking the direction of the twist of commercial yarns before plying. Doh!

The next batch will probably be very different, as I want to reverse the direction I spin the blue single so that I can perhaps get a balanced yarn next time. Then I'll be ready to wash and perhaps dye the new white Coopworth that's waiting for it's turn to come out and play.

Oh, I have so many plans and ideas percolating in my head now. After all, dance recitals are over, homeschool is nearly done and summer is almost here and I'm SOOOoooooo ready to just play and play and play.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Checking in

It has been a wild week, trying to get the garden in, attending high school hockey parent meetings, repairing and steaming costumes and generally preparing for and participating in dance recitals. Lots of fiberlicious activities have taken place in the wee small hours of the morning but, alas, I've been too busy during daylight hours to take photos. I do have 3 hanks of freshly spun fibers ready for a wash. Hopefully, I will have some pictures tomorrow for you all.

One more day of dance recitals (3 shows today) and I'll hopefully be back to a more normal routine. Bear with me one more day and then I'll have some much more interesting posts for ya'll.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Shepherd's Harvest

Shepherd's Harvest was as delightful as could be. The day started out with an hour+ drive. I'm not a huge fan of driving but the majority of the trip was a straight shot on Hwy 494, so I could crank my music and sing along. If you knew how seldom I drive alone, you'd know what a treat it was for me to sing as loud as I wanted without embarrassed kids groaning and rolling their eyes at me.

I arrived at the Washington County Fairgrounds a little after 9 am. As per my habit, I made a round of all the vendors before buying anything. I even swung by the sheep/goat and llama/alpaca barns before shopping.

I've had a hankering to process my own fleece, so hand cards and a flick card were already on my shopping list, as well as a WPI gauge. Once these were purchased, I was on the hunt for the right fiber to use them on. I took my time looking at different bags of raw fleece and locks for sale. After awhile, I decided that this white Coopworth looked the cleanest and was within my price range. Having been spinning Coopworth already, I knew it would spin nicely for a beginner like me. Being white, it will also allow me to experiment with dyeing locks and blending colors.

By this time, it was after 11 a.m. and I wanted to stop by and say "hi" to Ellen at the MKG booth. The booth was very busy, with many people stopping by to get information about the guild, so we chatted for only a few moments before I had to leave her to fulfill her official duties for the afternoon.

I lugged my purchases back to the car and picked up the wheel and headed into the 4-H building, where the classes were being held. I had plans to meet with Tonyia for lunch and a little shopping during her hour long break in the Spinning for Scandinavian Knitting class.

I was a little early, so I wandered around and checked out some of the other classes that were already going on. I'd already decided that I'd like to take an advanced spinning class of some sort next year but the basket weaving class looked like so much fun that it also went on my list of classes to take.

At 12:00, Tonyia and I had lunch and shopped. It was so nice to meet someone I've chatted with via blogs for so long. I enjoyed it immensely and feel like I have made a wonderful new friend.

At 1 pm, the beginning spinning class started. As soon as I arrived, the teacher (Melanie Galligher of Fiburzzzz in Breezy Point, MN) asked me how much spinning I'd done. I mentioned that I'd already plied 6 bobbins worth of 2-ply yarn and she asked, "What are you doing in this class? You aren't a beginner!" I laughed and admitted that when I signed up, I didn't even own a wheel but once it arrived, I couldn't wait to practice. She was able to help me learn a few new tricks and I picked up some more basic spinning knowledge, so it was worthwhile to me. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with some of the other students and ended up heading over to the Fiburzzzz booth to buy some alpaca fiber.

After class, I headed home. Dancing Diva had been taking an Italian Cooking class and last night was the "final project." The teacher had all the students over to her home to prepare a full Italian dinner and dessert for the parents. It was a wonderful meal and time of fellowship with good friends.

The perfect ending to a perfect day.

P.S. I figured out how to finish the back pack! It was so funny how it happened. I asked my engineering genius husband for help. As I was trying to explain to him how the back pack should cinch closed and I suddenly had a picture in my head of how it should work. My hubby just sat and looked at me the whole time with this baffled expression as I explained the problem, how the solution should work and then snatched the backpack back and excitedly started threading the cords through the eyelets and danced around in joy when it worked.

What can I say, he's my inspiration.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Knitting S.O.S.

I have a crisis! I am in desperate need of some help!

As mentioned before, I am making gifts for teachers. I am in the midst of finishing up the Fabulous Felted Backpack from Bags - A Knitter's Dozen and I've misplaced my copy of the book. I've made an exhaustive search of the house, told my kids there is a $5 reward for whoever finds it and prayed for inspiration to remember where I put it. It is just nowhere to be found.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem for me. I am a very creative person and manage to rewrite patterns from knitted items and can usually finish anything without the original pattern.

But I have hit the wall on this one. I DON'T REMEMBER HOW TO THREAD THE STRAPS THROUGH THE EYELETS! This pattern has the I-cord threaded through the eyelets twice in a specific way so that it ends up with two shoulder straps and sewn around the base of the backpack. I have experimented and tested with no success. I've looked at finished backpack pictures on Ravelry to see if I could figure it out and it was no help.

If anyone out there has a copy of the book or the Winter 2000 Knitters Magazine, please help me out.

Who knows, maybe Murphy's Law will kick in and the book will show up after I've received the help I need. If not, it will show up the day after I am supposed to deliver the gift.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

New goodies

It's been an exciting week of spinning related deliveries. First, I ordered a couple of books for the ol' spinning library. Spinning in Color came highly recommended by Bonny, since I am very interested in learning to card and blend my own color combinations. I also invested in the "Bible" of hand spinning - The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning.

ANNNND . . . the rest of the parts of the spinning wheel arrived this week. Now that I have the jumbo flyer and a REAL lazy Kate, plying will go much easier. Also pictured is the high speed flyer, which I'm hoping will come in handy in the future, when I join the ranks of elite lace weight spinners.

Also delivered today were some wonderful wool batts that Bonny carded up for me. It was a mixture of pale blue and green locks she had dyed herself. I forgot to ask what the breed was, so I'll have to figure that out before I start blogging about processing all that gorgeous, cloudy, soft goodness. All I know is it is light and fluffy as a dream and the variation between the blue and green should make it fascinating to spin.

Alas, the poor spinning wheel has been a bit neglected this week. I'm still finishing up some end of year gifts for various teachers, which was a higher priority. However, the spinning wheel will see some action this week, in preparation for Shepherd's Harvest. Gotta empty all those bobbins just in case I need them for my beginning spinning class. WOOT!

I'm planning on meeting Tonyia for lunch on Saturday. Any other blogger buddies want to meet us? Let me know and we'll make plans to get together. Can you spell "ANTICIPATION?"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Long delayed post

Wow, it's been 8 days since my last confession post. What is it about spring that makes you ignore blogger friends while engaging in a frenzy of fiber activity?

Anyway, I'm posting my Sewing Room Friday post a day early. I am hoping to finish this latest sewing project today so that I can clear up the dining room for the weekend. While sewing in the dining room makes it easier to keep an eye on the kids while they do their schoolwork, it does tend to make the house look untidy and drives the neatniks in this kooky crew crazy.

And what is this latest sewing project, you ask? Well, it is a tale of some woe. You see, one of the owners of the dance studio is retiring this year. She is a wonderful dancer and my girls have all loved being in her classes through the years. Her son is graduating from high school next year and she felt the need to spend more time with him and her husband.

So, when she approached me about doing some sewing for her, I jumped at the chance. This project is a set of window toppers for her breezeway. It is a pleasure to do something helpful for such a wonderful teacher and friend.

In other fiber news, I'm feverishly finishing year-end gifts for various teachers and church leaders. Last night was the Awana Leader Appreciation Dinner, where I delivered some hand-made soaps wrapped in yet more dishcloths. Yes, it's true. Even after the great Washcloth Wasteland of Christmas '07, I had the ability to pull out the tried and true Ball-Band Dishcloth pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting and make a few more. I also delivered Nautie to it's intended recipient last night. Nautie was a big hit - the life of the party, even. I'm just hoping the video of the evening doesn't appear on You-Tube and embarrass everyone. While Nautie is adorable, watching him swim around the punch bowl with a lampshade on his head was just a tad too much.

I am feverishly finishing up some gifts for the dance teachers and trying to complete my goal of finishing 3 UFO's before casting on anything new for myself. While I still have a couple of denial projects to report, they are towards the bottom of my "to be finished" pile and not getting any attention at the moment.

I've also been busy doing some costume alterations and repairs over the past week. After picture day, people realized that costumes weren't going to magically fit properly and needed to be worked on before recitals in two weeks. I'm praying that a crop of them doesn't show up on Thursday afternoon, the day before dress rehearsals start. Oi! That reminds me - Peeps costume is too big and needs to be taken in, too. Ooops.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for Shepherd's Harvest next weekend. I've been saving my pennies and watching the weather forecasts with an anxious eye, so that I can plan what to wear and whether I'll need to drag out the snow pants and galoshes one more time or if the new summer wardrobe and clogs will suffice. This spring has been insane, weather wise. I am so ready for summer that I may show up at Shepherd's Harvest wearing shorts and flip flops even if it is snowing and below freezing.

There is just a limit to how long you can stand wearing your winter duds.