Monday, December 24, 2012

Same fleece, new skein

Early this year, I obtained a handful of fleece from an indeterminate breed of sheep, which was lovely to work with. It was beautifully fine, and soft, and a joy to touch. I combed every lock carefully, keeping them all aligned, and spun it all on my spindle from the cut end. Of course, it had to be very fine!

I like good texture when I use a yarn for knitting, so I spun them with a lot of twist. You can see what happened when I plied the yarns! But they came out very nice when I washed the skeins. So it was all well in the end.

However, while working with the fleece, I kept thinking that I would like to spin a soft yarn too, just for comparison, and to see if I can do it. So I also combed the locks, and spun it true worsted as before on the spindle. The spindle kept falling to the floor because I didn't have enough twist in the yarns! It was a delicate operation to put in just enough to hold together and not much more. I had to concentrate to hard!

The plying was not much better. Because you lost about half the twist when plying, the singles would come apart very often, so I had to splice them together many times. I wanted to use up all the singles in the skein, so I made it as big as possible. The singles also had to be aligned, so there is a definite direction to the yarn. I wonder how I should knit it?

Here is a pic of my finished skein, with a penny for comparison. I do like this yarn, it is nice and soft, and looks like a yarn. I think it would be nice for next-to-skin wear... maybe a scarf or shawl of some kind. That will be determined later.

I want to wish you all the very warmest of Christmases, and much happiness (and good knitting) in the New Year. It must have been the end of an age last week, so we are now starting something new.Let's all have renewed energy, and new outlooks on life. It does get better!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Completed work

One of the things I like to do is look through second-hand or thrift shops for something that I might need. Often times, it’s not so much that I need it, as that I could make use of it. That is how I gathered together my sets of knitting needles. I say “sets” because I have more than one complete set: I have bamboo, plastic, metal, wooden in straight, circular, double-point. Most are packed away somewhere for we all just use our favourites most of the time.

On one visit, I located a rather large bag of yarn. Usually, all I can find are the oddments – something left from a project. Not quite enough to do anything substantial with it, and yet quite nice yarn. I then have to find something else that I could mix in with that to complete a project. But this time, it was a big bag with three huge balls of yarn. It was an afghan kit complete with instructions, and even needles. In fact, there was about 15 cm (6 inches) of work started. Perhaps it was someone that got ill and could not finish it, or someone that got really bored with it. The knitting was very well done – it was not some beginner here – so I was envisioning all sorts of scenarios of why it was being given up.

I felt that this project needed to be completed. Something that was started, and then interrupted for some reason, really needed to be finished, and I felt it was being presented to me to do the job. I imagined some elderly woman starting this for a new great-grandchild, became very ill or perhaps even passed away, and the work was not finished. It was up to me to carry on and get it done.

It was in three strong bright autumn colours: brown, orange and darker tan. And acrylic! But there was a set of circular needles, I think about 4 mm, and I’ve always wanted to do one of these. The price was right, so why not.

That was sometime early in the spring, I think. Since then, I’ve been working on it when the mood struck me, and then I really just wanted to get it done. It was a simple chevron design, quite boring to do, so it was perfect for those mindless movie-watching times. It was not very wide, perhaps a single person width. I didn’t know how long it should be, but just kept on working. I measured against myself, thinking it should be large enough to cover yourself from toes to nose. And there appeared to be enough yarn to make it so.

There were two stitches on each edge in garter stitch, but I didn’t like the way that looked, nor how it lay. The rest was in stocking stitch, which is okay for the front of the afghan, but since the other side would also be visible, I felt it needed to look good as well. I carried the yarns along the side, which was a bit cumbersome. I also felt that all three yarns should not be on the same side so I changed one to the other side… which meant that two of the colour changes began on one side and the other on the opposite side. It also meant that the pattern row had to be done for that one colour on the purl side… so that required some technical skill. Well, it was a boring job, so I had to add some interest to it!

I did consider lining this, partly to hide the ugly purl side, and to give it a bit more heft. But what do I use? Certainly, it had to have some stretch to match the knitted material, and soft and warm. I did consider knitted jersey, in some brushed finish, but decided against all that in the end. It will just have to be as it is.
As I was nearing the full length, and watching the amount of yarn I still had left, I began musing about putting a border around it all, which would finish the side edges nicely, and add some width to it as well. The trouble was the ends – because of the chevron design, how do you do a hem on that?

But I worked it out, thinking that I would like a folded hem. That is easy enough to do: knit to the width of the hem, do a purl round, and then knit the other side, grafting it on the final round. I had to be sure I had enough yarn left for the hem though!

All was working well, except for the ends. Remember this had that chevron pattern, so I was just able to continue the pattern for the front hem. I was able to pick up stitches easily on the caston edge. But the back side of the hem had to be done IN REVERSE design so that it would all lay flat neatly. I never thought of that until I actually started doing it.

So in the end, when I changed colours, I then just picked up stitches all around the sides and the other edge and continued the colour stripe. I then switched to the dark brown for the purl round, thinking a darker colour along the edge would set it off nicely, and then the colour sequence on the back side. By then, I was running dangerously close to running out of yarn, and when a colour ended, I just continued on with the next colour. If anyone examines it closely on the back side, he will see that the stripes aren’t exactly even all around!

In the end, I kind of like it. It is acrylic so won’t hold up well for long, so it was a waste of time to spend so much time on it for little use. It is on my bed already, so I am trying to get as much out of it as I can. I have collected a lot of the old Gunsmoke TV episodes (began in 1955) and watched them while knitting this afghan. Those early episodes are over 50 years old! And in black&white – does anyone remember those? I never watched these when they originally ran, but I do remember some of the later ones, in colour, when the series finally ended in 1975. This afghan took many, many episodes to complete!

Here are some pics. It’s really difficult to show you the true colour, but I think I got close to it. I’m showing you the overall appearance, and a close-up of the hem, both sides.

So while this is not the type of thing I would ever want to do for myself (not in acrylic!), I felt a sense of accomplishment that I finished something that was started (even if it wasn’t my own project at first) and that I will use it for a time instead of the intended recipient. Maybe there will be a feeling of completeness in the world now. I can only hope.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's happened again

It happens twice a year – regular as clockwork. Well, actually, it IS clockwork!

Since the first day of summer, the sun starts its slow trip back to the south. At the height of summer, it rises far up into the north-east, makes its way to just a little south of us at noon, and then the slow descent to set in the far north-west. During a couple of weeks in June, you can actually see it sneak across the north just below the horizon to come back up in the east. At the summer solstice, we get about 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight.

The avenues in our city run directly east-west, while the streets run north-south generally. At this time of year, and earlier in the spring as well, the sun rises directly in the east along the avenue. When I am walking to work in the morning, the sun is very low in the east and directly in my eyes. Everything in front of you is in dark silhouette; there is no colour! It makes driving very difficult. Walking is bad enough!

In spring, this occurred on April 9 or 10 this year. These are the only two times in the year that the shadows of the street signs and trees on the avenue are all parallel to the curbs. It’s a curious phenomenon. I’m sure that most people don’t even notice it at all, but I find it pleasingly comforting in some strange way that we can always depend on the sun appearing in the exact same spot year after year after year. I seem to like everything to line up in some way, for it all to be in the right place.

There is little in our world these days that can be said to be dependable like this. It seems everything and everyone is in a state of flux, very changeable. The only rule to follow is: “it depends”. There are too many variables in play to be able to make any kind of prediction with any reliability. We shall see what we shall see.

There is a change in the air already. I can feel a chill in the shadows, and in the air at night. The sun is still warm, but not with the burning intensity of mid-summer. I know fall is pushing its way in, and winter is not long after. This is my least favourite time of year. I have a feeling of dread, of foreboding, and of general dismay. I’ve always gone into a slight depression at this time of year for as long as I can remember. But being aware it is happening helps in the struggle to get through it.

I am working on a colourful afghan in fall colours! It has brown, rust and orange, so at least that is trying to put some brightness into my life. The pattern is very plain and oh-so boring to do, but I keep on plodding. Of course, it’s not a small item, so has been taking a long time to do, and I’m not sure of the final size. I was planning on working until I run out of yarn, but it just seems to go on and on and on! I keep thinking of doing a border all the way around it, and I may do that as well; that is still in the planning stages. It depends (see, I told you!) on how much yarn I have left when I finally determine to terminate this whole process. More about that later.

The Fall Equinox is in another two weeks, so enjoy the last few days of summer that you can. We’ve had just a hint of frost this past week, and this weekend, we are forecast to reach a high of +29!! (That is in Celsius, of course – I don’t know what that would be in American) We’ve only had a couple of days of +30 this summer as it is. As I said, everything is quite unpredictable. Very.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A fine day

This week, on our regular spinning day, I took the day off work so that I could enjoy our year-end outing. The ladies usually like to plan a little trip somewhere to go and spin and have lunch. This year, we travelled about an hour south of the city to a small farm of a spinner. It was a lovely day, with sunshine and gorgeous blue skies! We haven't seen that for ever so long. But being the first day of summer, we were so fortunate in getting this. I do think, however, that this may have been our summer! For the forecast for the next seven days is clouds and rain. Great.

The lady at the farm has a couple of sheep, of unknown heritage. They are free range, and there wasn't any control of which ram bred which ewe, so there is a large mixture of probably everything in these. She had one fleece there for us to play with. She had a pot of dye on the stove, and welcomed any of us to take a handful and dye it. She also told us to take some home with us, if we wished.

I did take a lock and spin it on my spindle. It is quite a long staple, with good crimp, and fairly fine quality. After spinning 2-3 locks, I decided I would take some home, wash it, and spin something fine with enough yarn to knit a small delicate something.

Here is a pic of the washed fleece. It wasn't too dirty, although some sections had a bit of VM in it. I tried to pick out the better section, and the longer staple. I washed it with some soapy water, not very hot, so there is quite a lot of lanolin still in it. Feels nice on the hands as I spin! I was careful to pull out the locks and lay them out all in the same direction as best I could. I combed each lock, laid them out together, and then made some roving out of them.
Keeping the direction the same, I spun the singles keeping the hairs all in the same direction. I could very easily tell if there was some hairs that were turned around, for it didn't flow as smoothly.

What will I do with it? I'm not sure yet. I will make a 2-ply and then see. I don't know how much I will get out of this small handful. But I am getting good yardage out of the little bit I have spun so far -- and so I should, seeing how fine I am making it!! I may have enough for a short scarf or something like that. That is yet to come.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


In my cleaning up after the flood, I found this bag of some alpaca-merino blend. I had completely forgotten about it. I can't remember where I got it, but it appears to be from a farm that no longer produces alpaca fibres.

It sure does feel yummy!! So I had to spin it up! I used my wheel for this, since I felt guilty that it was being neglected. It wanted to be spun fine, of course, so I just let it. I filled one bobbin, and then another. When it came time to ply, I put them on my lazy kate, only to realize that they were different shades. That is, one ball was noticeably darker than the other. I could clearly see the difference! But it all came from the same roving. The only thing it could be was it was not uniformly blended, and there were some darker fibres at one end.

As I plied, I could see the barber-pole effect. I didn't like this at all! I was still so shocked to see that there was this much of a difference in one roving! I didn't realize it could happen like this.  But I continued on.

When it was all done, and I wound my skein, I thought there is some of it missing. Surely, I must have had more. It seems so little to come from this bag. I haven't weighed it, but I think I had perhaps 225 gm... but I don't know for sure. After I washed the skein, the colours seem to have subdued somewhat, and it looks alright. There is a slight difference which only seems to add some dimension to an otherwise plain skein of alpaca. It's not too bad after all. I wish there was more, although I think I have quite a bit of metres out of this one. I still am not sure what I will do with it, but as I was spinning and plying, it seemed to be telling me it wanted to be a shawl of some kind, and in lace naturally. Shall wait and see what becomes of this. In the meantime, here's a pic of this new skein in my collection.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last night, I had heated up some oil in my nice cast iron frying pan, and had sliced up some potatoes. Then I dropped them into the pan, but it was too hot, and they splattered. I got caught with my hand a little too close, and one finger got burned with hot oil. Yes, it hurt!!

I ran some cold water to cool it off (and not hurt so much) and then I sprayed it with salt water. For some reason, I find that the salt water seems to allow my skin to heal faster. I repeated it several times during the next couple hours, until it stopped hurting, and then went to bed.

By morning, this is what I had!

I'm trying to be really careful that I don't accidentally knock my finger against something, and break it. I will let it stay this way for as long as I can, and then maybe drain it, and cover it. I may sprinkle some cayenne pepper on it before I wrap it up. That seems to really speed healing of minor skin scrapes and cuts. And no, it doesn't burn when you put in on a cut! I've used that many times, and always am amazed at how fast it heals up with barely any scar at all.

Oh, yes, I've been spinning too. I have some pics and will post them later on. I seem to be spinning faster than I can take photos to post here! But I have to keep busy, you know. Otherwise, --- well, you never know what I might get into!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

What a Difference

Of course, around here we are used to having the weather change almost instantly. I will look out the window and see a bright clear sky. When I walk around to the other side of the building, I can see white-out conditions with a snow storm! And through another window it will have cleared up. It's not that we have different types of windows in this building, but that the weather can change from moment to moment. If I am not quick in getting a photo, it will be gone!

So it snowed off and on for the last two days. Incredibly, there is not much snow accumulated on the ground. The streets are wet, there is a lot of slush but I think another day or so will dry it all up. We are predicted to have temps of +12 by Friday!

This morning, in the morning sun, the mountains looked gorgeous with their new white coats, and they were just brilliant in the west. I didn't get a pic for you right then -- it was a crazy morning around here -- but I did get one now. It's always a good day if I can see the mountains!
I haven't been to the mountains for many years -- it's so close and yet so far. But I do get to enjoy seeing them most mornings. Sometimes they are better viewed from a distance!

I was able to view a cam set up near my brother's house in Saskatchewan. They have had very little snow this winter, and it was almost all gone. But when I looked at the live feed yesterday, I was shocked! I didn't understand where this was coming from -- everything was covered with nice, white, fluffy snow about a foot deep. I haven't seen anything like that for many years.

Apparently they received this storm just overnight, and are now digging their way out. My brother did think about waiting for the +12 temps to clear his drive, but wouldn't have been able to open his door, so he decided he had best clear a path at least. Of course, another brother has just returned from 7 weeks in Mexico, and he deserved this! Serves him right for going somewhere warm and leaving us to suffer through a Canadian winter! I'm sure he must have thought it was a wonderful coming-home present.

Spinning is continuing at my house. I will get some photos up one day soon. I really need to do some plying as well, but the spinning is more fun! I also need to do more knitting, and I have umpteen projects in the cue, but there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day, what with work, eating, and spinning. I just don't understand how some people do it all!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It's Back!

Just when we think that winter is finally over, and we can now look forward to some sunshine and warm weather, winter slams us hard. It will not leave without a battle!

We have been teased all winter this year. It's been an odd year. The forecasts were for a very long and cold winter. They kept telling us that we've been experiencing mild winters for several years and this year was going to be back to "normal", whatever that means. So we were all prepared for the cold and the snow.

We waited. And waited. And it started late, which we didn't mind. Then Christmas came and it was quite mild, there wasn't the snow we expected. And the January had a week of really cold -20C temps, but we could stand that. And so it went.

Then this week, we've experienced very nice sun and quite warm weather. Even the shorts were out! You could go for a short walk on the streets at noon in just shirt sleeves. That is pretty good for January in the land of ice and snow!

But this morning that all changed. Winter came back once more to remind us she has not left yet, and she will make us pay! Here is a view of what we had last week:

And this was today:

It's been snowing all day long, and should continue into tomorrow as well. But for all the snow flying around, there sure isn't any accumlation on the ground! I suppose the streets are not that cold, and with a bit of traffic, it is all turning to slush and melting away. I don't mind. I don't like the slush -- everything gets all dirty and splashed with mud -- but I will put up with it. I know it will only be for a short time.

With the first snow for many long weeks, we had a ful one-quarter of the staff stay home! I walk, and that 1 cm of snow didn't phase me a bit! But for some reason, some of the girls at work suddenly took a sick day! I sure didn't feel like getting out of bed, but I still made it. But that is me. I'd rather be spinning!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And a new year begins

This is the first day of the New Year -- on the Old Calendar. This gives an opportunity for those of us that have messed up the first two weeks of the year, according to the new calendar, to have a fresh start. Sometimes we just don't get it quite right the first time we try it!

For me, my year hasn't started out that well. I was hoping that all my bad luck was over now, and I can look forward to a better year. Just not working out that way.

I had quite a horrible week at work this past week, I even missed an important appointment. Because I was so fed up with all the craziness, when the end of the day came, I just went home! It wasn't until 20 to midnight that I remembered my appointment!! It was a full moon, you know. Oh,well, nothing I could do about it now.

On Friday (another bad day at work with just too many crazies still running around loose), I was on the way home, and could see flashing red lights in front of my building. Not again!! And then I see that a police wagon has blocked off the street to all traffic. Would I be able to get closer to my building and see what the trouble was?

But the sidewalk was clear, and as I got closer to my building, I see that the fire trucks are parked oddly on the street. There is a little riverlet running down the gutter on the street. And there, right in front of the building, is a little bubbling gurgling spring! I guess the water main has sprouted a leak and was causing some flooding. Just great! The temperature is set to drop to a very cold -20 on Sunday; I've always wanted a skating rink outside my front door!

I got home, made supper, and then noticed that the water was running really weakly. There was no pressure at all. By about 11, there was no water at all. By morning, there still was no water. Normally, I wouldn't care too much, but I had to go out early that morning to meet some people, and I would have liked to at least have a shower! Oh, well.

I got home about 3:30 in the afternoon -- still no water. The water crews were out there digging a big hole in the recently paved street. But now there are some tanks outside our building with drinking water. We can go and fill up bottles and buckets, and pots and pans for our use. Not a big help, but it's something. Still can't have a shower, and can't flush the toilet. I warmed up some supper of leftovers from Friday night, and I was alright.

And about 10 at night, the water came on again. What a nice surprise!! I guess they finally got the break repaired and we are okay. I imagine they will need to flush the pipes to get any grit out of the lines, but I'll leave that to the rest of the building.

I was thinking today that I am having a really hard time trying to find anything good about living in this building. As hard as I try, I am having almost nothing going on the positive side of sheet of paper! The only thing I can say that is good is that I am close to work that I can walk over in less than 15 minutes. I can run home at noon, if I have to, grab a bite to eat and make it back to work in time. I sure would hate to lose that! But I can't face moving right now. I just can't take it.

So on the start of this great and wonderful New Year (for second chances), I want to wish all of you a very healthy and prosperous year. New year is the time to forget every bad memory of the past year and start your life afresh. Each moment in a day has its own value: Morning brings HOPE, Afternoon brings FAITH, Evening brings LOVE, Night brings REST. I hope you will have all of them everyday. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012