Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015-Week 8

In week 8 of 2015 I refocus on my February must finish projects and hide from all my WIPS as I get ready for the last push towards the end of the month and the start of Sock Madness.

Packing My Bags

In preparation for several projects I hope to start in late March/April I placed an order with Abstract Fiber for a kids sweater's worth of Calder in the Hydrangea colorway (which K picked out herself via text) and some super sock in the Solid Clover colorway for Aprils solid sock challenge. I also ordered my cotton bamboo fingering for the Knit Eco Chic Solar Flare MKAL from The Unique Sheep in the beautiful gradient Sunset Road colorway. While I was there I decided to try out their Sip 'n Stitch yarn club for 6 months and I couldnt resist getting 772 yds of Sushi Sock in Doctor Blue for a certain someone (and maybe me too).

I received my package from Unplanned Peacock with the lovely Peacock Sock yarn dyed special tonal blue and variegated purple hydrangea colorways just for Sock Madness 9. I got one of each and might be placing another order to get my hands on the newly added tonal purple soon.

First Steps

Last week I had just finished the first sock of my Purless Monkeys on Fire sock and cast on sock 2. I didn't get any time to put into it this week but I'm planning to focus in as soon as my His Golden Lair is complete.

Morning Stroll/Uphill Path

My His Golden Lair continues to be an extremely intuitive knit. I've made a few mistakes by not counting my initial set of pattern repeat carefully on one row and ended up noticing on the next right side row and having dropping down two rows to tink about half the width of the pattern row to move it back one stitch and re-knit it up. It went surprisingly well and even though it's a pain I felt really good knowing that I have the skills to do that without thoroughly buggering the rest of the project.
I'm knitting it in my Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted in the Hadia colorway so at that weight it moves quickly but you add stitches every row and now that I'm in the scales charts each row requires a different count of the increasing/decreasing pattern repeats so I have to re-count each row before I start to make sure I don't make the same mistake again. All that to say that, while easy and fun to knit, each row feels like it takes longer than the last and even with long stretches of knit repeats it seems to take a long time to get to the end of the row. At times it feels like slogging along but I cant wait to finish the last 10 rows and see the finished shawl. I'll bet it looks awesome.

Final Destination

No FOs this week but hopefully I'll have two or three next week.

Back Porch

My three jars of canned locally grown white beans came out great. I'm looking forward to doing other beans throughout the year. The leftover beans that didn't fit in the jars were just perfect to add to a massive batch of crockpot Minestrone Soup that I found through Pinterest and let cook during one of our snow days. It was just the thing to warm and nourish my family on that cold day and the leftovers were even better for several days more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Canning Beans

Its been a while since I've done much preserving and even longer since I've blogged about it. I've started to get back into cooking and deriving pleasure from creating healthful meals for me and mine and even did a massive kitchen, and kitchen gadgets, clean up this week. It was so nice to see my kitchen space neat and tidy. So of course the first thing I wanted to do was mess it up. :-)

I dug out the pressure cooker and inspired by this recent canning beans post from Food in Jars , a long time muse in my blog feed, which reminded me that even in the darkest days of winter there are things that can be preserved, I set out to can some beans. I had some dried white beans left over from a local Mennonite farmers market vendor that I had picked up last year. I also had some of their mixed beans and commercial black beans but for this experiment I decided to stick with the smaller quantity. Now I just needed a few jars.

This summer, after finally admitting that I wasn't in a good place to deal with canning and preserving I had loaded up all my extra jars, finally empty and the contents used or tossed from my preserving high water mark in 2010-2012, into their boxes and moved those out to the storage closet on my porch. Of course, its 10 degrees out there and snowed 8 inches so I wasn't interested in bundling up and dealing with the cold just for a few jars. So I dove into my pantry/junk storage are in my laundry room and was able to scrounge up 3 wide mouth Ball pint jars in addition to the one I've been using as my coffee cup for the last month, which I would have sacrificed if I had too but luckily that wasn't necessary. In a winning moment for my sporadically obsessive organizational binges my jar lids, rings, and accessories were right where they were supposed to be, right next to the pressure weight for my pressure cooker!

So following Food in Jars helpful tutorial and dusting off my own knowledge gained from years of canning experience I preped my equipment, heated my jars, pre-cooked the beans (which I had soaked overnight), jarred them up in 3 pint glasses (had about 1 cup of beans left over which will go towards dinner) and proceeded to can.

I'll let you know how they turn out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015-Week 7

Packing my Bags

Received my order of yarns from Blue Moon Fiber Arts this week. I ordered Targhee Worsted in Haida, a mostly black worsted with bits of greys, for my His Golden Lair dragon wings shawl and Silky Victoria in Aubergenius, a paleish figgy-plum 85% wool, 15% silk sport weight yarn for a sweater. I hand wound the Targhee into 1 giant ball so I could start on it as soon as I finished 1 full project.

I like hand winding yarn, especially the hand spun, hand dyed types. Yes, it can be a pain both in mental and physical aspects and yes, it takes a while and can at times be frustrating but I find that its worth it. I like connecting with my fiber and I've learned over time to appreciate the materials I'm using. And what better way to get a feel for the yarn, inspect it for imperfections, understand the coloring and impart it with positive energy than by running it through your hands while winding it.  I like to use the time to meditate on the intended project, feel the energy of the twist (the physical kind, not the woo-woo kind of energy) and how it behaves off the skein. I feel how it moves across my hand and through my fingers and it gives me a chance to really appreciate the skill of the spinner or dyer who are responsible for the product in my hand. I also like to think that by touching the material and thinking an intention to it as I wind it, I'm imparting some positive energy (here I mean the woo-woo kind) into the project, a pre-blessing to the energy that I'll put into it when I actually knit something with it.  And sometimes I'll decide, like I did with my Crave Yarns Filigree, that the yarn didn't suit my purpose in some way and find a better home for it before I spend too much time learning the yarn as I knit and then have to either live with it or rip it out and start over.

First Steps

So since I finished my project (see Final Destination below) I got to cast on one of my two first step ready projects. Since the His Golden Lair is the February pattern the Mega-KAL in which we do 1 pattern a month and it's the first KAL I decided to do and since everyone who is ahead of me on it has been commenting that its a fairly quick knit for its size I decided to cast it on. Since its done in worsted weight yarn and since it's mostly a reverse stockinette design with a bunch of right side only twisted stitches that I can do without cabling (which means I knit across the back side and only purl occasionally on the front but its interrupted by the fast moving pattern) it really does move quickly. There are a bunch of charts but there are total stitch count grids for each row and the pattern is really logical and easy to memorize each row so that it knits up intuitively. I got through the first few charts in one sitting and have a feeling that as soon as I catch up on my February solid sock I'll finish this up quickly.

Morning Stroll

My No Purl Monkeys socks, the deep red socks I'm knitting up as my entry to the Solid Sock February Theme Challenge-Fire, are coming along nicely. I've just about finished the first one and the second should be easy enough now that I've figured the pattern rhythm out.  My only concern is that this pattern, while written for a medium women's foot, is coming out rather loose on my size 9.5 feet. The heel is very roomy. To be honest, I don't know that its the pattern, it could just be that I'm a loose knitter and need to go down a needle size or two. I don't think they will be too big to wear around the house but I'm prepared with a back up plan to gift them if they don't fit well in the end after washing and blocking. This might be a good reason to try the pattern again with different yarn and on different needles to see where I need to make my adjustments. I might also start experimenting with different kinds of heels and toes to see which style I like best.

Uphill Path

Last week's stroll turn into this weeks up hill slog along with a couple of other things, mostly due to me charging ahead with my assumptions and not really absorbing the full details of some of the more advanced pattern elements, ending up with me having to really examine my work hard, tink back, and re-do a lot of stuff. The SolidSock Mystery KAL sock, Buttercup's Heros, moved to the next clue which reduced the cuff cables into a six stranded cable pattern. Since I failed to read it properly I mis-judged a three stitch cable for a 4 twist cable and that threw my whole pattern off. Luckily I was able to figure it out and go back before I got all the way through the 1st row but it took me way longer than it should to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Then I kept making similar mistakes in my V-Day scarf end pattern and my ALS Keep Warm wrap on the edging fringe lace.  The silver lining was that with each mistake I was able to see what I did wrong and how I can avoid it in the future and with all this practice, I'm getting better at dropping down to fix stitches, re-twisting things and working backwards on complicated patters. I'll take it as a sign that I'm growing as a knitter that mistakes like these don't have me throwing in the towel or ripping all the way back as much as they might have before.

Final Destination

So I finished FO #10 for 2015. These are my first pair of socks finished just in time to gift them to my BF for Valentines Day. He had been watching me knit them and even commented on how quickly they were going from cast on to finished sock in between times he looked over at what I was doing. They aren't a perfect fit but with washing and blocking they should loosen up a bit and now at least I know where to plan in some extra stitches to make the next pair fit better. I'm just so happy to finally finish a whole pair without tossing in the towel. It was the perfect time to give them too as the weather has gotten really cold and he wore them all weekend and said they kept his feet nice and warm..

Back Porch

I took some time this weekend to organize and move my yarn stash off of the floor and look back through it and see how its changed in the time since I've picked up a lot of hand dyed yarns. No real revelations, though I got a few ideas for some things I should do. But it was still nice to get it cleaned up and organized in a way that is semi-visible but no so obtrusive.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2015, Week 6

This week I started more stuff, faced my tough issues in knitting, ripped out/started over several timed, and generally made a little progress on a lot of things but finished nothing.

I'm going to try some new section headings to bin my updates and keep me on track. Since I've always looked at my life as a journey I'm imagining my quest for creativity as a series of wanderings, each one a sort of hike. Some are morning strolls, some more rigorous stomping, and others may be multi-day backpacking treks through isolated forests but all paths bring me back home to a place where I can drop my bag, rest my feet, drink a tall glass of liquid and contemplate my next outing.

Here are the major headings:

  • Packing my Bags-Any preparations,  planning or activities before the knitting begins
  • First Steps-What I'm casting on
  • Morning Stroll-Projects that are moving along easily, that I'm making progress on, or are otherwise on cruise control
  • Uphill Path-Stuff that I'm working on that takes effort, a new skill I'm working on or something challenging. Also knits that seem to take for ever or that I've had to start over on and I have to tell myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. This is where the disasters get documented.
  • Homeward Bound-The finishing, blocking and other stuff that needs to be done once your done knitting
  • Final Destination-A place to show off finished objects
  • Back Porch-Other creative chit chat
So without further ado...

Packing my Bags

Getting ready for all the projects I have planned for February I made lists (I like lists) of all the things I needed for each project and started matching yarn and needles with patterns. I realized that I didn't have enough sock needles or longer cables to do some of the things I wanted simultaneously and since I didn't think I'd finish my other socks until after this month's KALs I decided to order some more needles. I also took the time to hand ball my Crave Yarn Filigree in Red Earth Sunset and my Abstract Fiber O'Keefe in Solid Red. Thats when I discovered that although I had bought the Red Earth Sunset for my SolidSocks challenge (the theme is Fire this month), it was too tonal to qualify. But I fell in love with it for my Sacre Coure Shawl KAL, which is due to start in the middle of February so I replaced it with the Solid Red for the sock challenge and I'm happy with the results.

First Steps

This week I cast on a bunch of stuff. First was the cuffs for the SolidSocks Mystery KAL, Buttercup's Heros, themed after the heroic men of one of my favorite movies, the Princess Bride. Each clue tells a bit of the story of each hero, includes a quote and relates back to it in the pattern. Next I cast on the 1st of 5 clues in my CBD Cowl Mystery KAL which focuses on stranded colorwork this month. I'm doing it to practice my colorwork skills, not so much because I want to do this pattern or really enjoy the format of the group. Then I started my entry for the Fire challenge, No Purl Monkeys pattern, a variation on a CookieA sock in my beautiful deep Solid Red yarn from Abstract Fiber.

Morning Stroll

The cables on Buttercup's Heros went really well and were so easy to do. I added more rows to the ribbed length of my shiny pink V-Day scarf. The No Purl Monkeys pattern is actually really easy to work and is fairly straight forward to understand so I made some good progress on the leg, almost finished with 4 of 6 repeats of the pattern and then I can start on the heel. A lot of my knitting time has been dedicated to keeping these and other stuff I've already cast on moving forward.

Uphill Path

I have been making continual progress on the wrap I'm making from a Meagheen Ryan Mystery KAL design I call my ALS Keep Warm project. So far its a stockinette triangle with a cabled pattern running up what I think is the bottom. I've made my fair share of mistakes but its been somewhat easy, with all the repetition, to figure out where I am and fix it on the main body. Its just taken a lot of knitting to get there and at times I've been impatient and lost my place and have to count back to the last cable cross to figure out what decrease I should be on. Would have been easier if I had placed a row marker at the start of the last clue so I wouldn't have to guess.Where I'm struggling now is figuring out how to pick up the cable edge to do the finishing fringe on the body and get it to some out on the correct side. I had to do it several times and then start over because I ended up purling on the knit side and at 152 stitches to pick up it takes a bit of time to re-start. But I did it and now I cant wait to finish it and get to wear it.

Homeward Bound

I have a bunch of things that should be blocked and with all the bigger scarves, shawls and sweaters that I want to do this year I figured I need a better solution than a towel on the counter so I invested in some blocking mats and those came in this week. I didn't get around to doing any actual blocking but I'm looking forward to trying them out on the finished hats I have laying around.

Final Destination

No FOs this week. Hopefully I'll have more next week.

Back Porch

I'm finding that keeping track of what I do on a daily basis can be really helpful. I'm using a pre-designed 365 day creativity journal that someone gave me, that's been sitting on my shelf for years. Its got half a page for each day and while I'm ignoring the creative prompts that come written into each day I'm using the blank space as a place to do several things. I'll note which project I worked and which rows I finished or where to start. I'll make notes about the other stuff I've done or when I've changed out to a new skein of yarn. I'm also documenting the official weather temps for my Temperature Scarf project so I don't have to go knit on it every day, I'll just go in periodically and catch up when the mood strikes me. Its been really helpful when I set a project down but don't get back to it write away and I don't remember where I dropped off and its been essential when sometimes I knit from the pattern on the screen, sometimes a printed copy, sometimes just sticky notes...I have the final word on what got done in one place. And on days that I don't have lots of knitting I use it to write out plans, lists, or other notes to help me organize my many ideas, wants, needs. At some point I think I'll add in other stuff and translate some of that from there to here but for the moment I like having a physical book to write in.