Thursday, February 23, 2012

Funny February

Well, last year at this time the weather was somewhat different,  and I was complaining then.  And I am going to complain now!!   No snow is as frustrating as too much.  I definitely have all the earmarks of cabin fever, without actually being home bound.  The problem with having it look so inviting outside with the bare ground and mild temperatures is that once out of doors there is nothing to do.  Unless you are a syrup maker.
Jeff has a new set up for his syrup production which enabled him to tap more trees this year.  He is very happy with it, although it has taken a bit to work the kinks out.  These last few nights have not gone below freezing, so that will impact the sap flow for a bit.  And it is early for sugaring as it is mostly in March that we get the long run of cold nights, warm days.  However almost every sugar maker has tapped at this point so that they are all in it together.
Boiling away
It is always a gamble to know when the best time is to tap.

Lest you think that all I have been doing is sitting around eating bonbons and reading novels, let me assure you that I have been busy.
I am in the process of spinning some black alpaca that I carded with some black merino.  I am thinking that this is going to be a warp for another scarf with color counterpoints.  I haven't decided on the pattern or weft yarn at this point, but I want to be ready when inspiration strikes.

I finished a shawl I have been working on that was a kit, won as a door prize.  It was only exciting to knit in the beginning when I did the drop stitch edging.  After that it was long time of knitting a rectangle.  Not exactly challenging, but good for my visits where I didn't want to be looking at any directions.

I am still working on my cabled sweater.  I also have a pair of socks on the needles.  It is a case of knitting "fraternal" as opposed to "identical" socks.  This is a concept I learned from Brenda Dayne and I love it.  I also did the toes of this pair using her Sherman Method.  It was really super---I think I will probably use this way often.  I just have to relearn how to do an invisible cast on.  Or learn to do it.  The very simple pattern for the socks is so easy that I keep messing it up.  Hopefully by the time I get to the leg I will have it down!  The pattern is called "Uzu" and although I did a different toe, I think I will do the heel as written.
And so February works through itself.  The days are brighter, longer and wierdly warmer.  The chickens are laying lots of eggs.  It must be a response to the lengthing days.  They sure love running around the yard, even if there is a dusting of snow.   Go, chickens, go!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day!

It is a very quiet Tuesday today, Valentine's Day not withstanding.  My darling husband presented me with half a pound of Divine chocolates from  Priscilla's Sweet Shoppe.  Quite unexpected!  I am not complaining.
Had a nice weekend with the Daughter and her family.  We have a long standing tradition of having a winter picnic in the snow every year.  It usually involves sleds, shovels, snow pants and sometimes skis and snowshoes.  We pack up easy to cook things like hot dogs and the like, and head out into the back pastures of my folk's place, forging through the snow until either the kids get tired and don't want to go any farther or the grownups get tired and don't want to go any farther!  Then, while the adults get the fire going, the kids make snowmen, sled and generally have a great time.
The question arose--Could we still have a winter picnic without snow?  The answer--heck yes! So we did.
Here are the photos to prove it.

Bringing the firewood

Getting food

We had to pretend that we were forging our way through the waist high snow.  Actually, the girls brought their skates in case there was still a beaver pond for them to try out.  There wasn't.  Still, one never knows what might be at the end of the trail.

Roasting bratwurst
It turned out to be a really decent fire and fun eating.  The girls didn't mind playing in the fire instead of the non-existing snow.  Fun day for all.

The other fun thing I did was start working on a sweater for myself with the lovely blue yarn I dyed last time.  It is coming along very nicely except I may have to drop back two stitches on the insides of the little cables to redo them as purl stitches.  I think that will make them "pop" better.   And hope that I really do have enough yarn to actually finish!
Pretty cables

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dyeing Day

Some time ago, in fact it is probably several years now, I won a drawing at my local yarn shop Stitchy Women.  It was a bag of Cascade Yarns "Dolce".  Ten skeins of it in a very tealish sort of color.  The yarn is 55% superfine alpaca, 23% wool and 22% silk.  So it is very nice, only the color just was not one that appealed to me.  I had long been thinking about over dyeing it, and today turned out to be the day.  I decided to go with blue as I am envisioning this as a knit for myself.  I used the dye River Blue from Greener Shades.  Doing the math, I figured that each skein at 1.75 oz times 10 would be 17.5 oz. or just over a pound of yarn.  The directions for this dye are only that a 1/2 oz jar will dye three pounds of materials.  How to figure what a third of the jar would be was beyond me as I have already used some of the dye in another project.  I decided to follow the directions using a tablespoon of dye.
It was sufficient.
Finished dyed yarns
In fact, it was over sufficient.  The dyebath was clear at the end of the heating session which is a good thing as that meant the dye was all taken up by the yarn.  And so it was, until I started rinsing it afterwards.  I rinsed.  I washed.  I rinsed.  I washed and I rinsed some more.  Always there was blue dye in the water as I drained it out.  After about 6 or 7 times of this I had had enough.  I am sure that the blue will come off on my hands as I knit, but one can only stand so much!  When I am finished with my sweater it will get another soak and wash--hopefully that will do it.  Another waste of dye.  When will I learn that one only needs a small amount??

Bit of leaf edging

I had the same problem with the shawl--excess green.  I washed and rinsed and washed when I was finished knitting.  Still was getting a slight shade of green when I quit so that I could block it.
Finished shawl
I am pretty happy with the finished shawl.   At the middle of the leaf edging I was nervous that I wasn't going to have enough yarn to finish, so I ripped it back and started making smaller leaves.  Then I segued into just a knit one, purl two together edging until the very end where I knit one last leaf.  It worked out great.  And I had about 40" of yarn left over!

All in all a pleasant way to spend a Saturday all alone, especially when there is not much to do outside given that we still have No Snow.  At least the sun was shining.  Now the fun part comes as I look for a pattern to knit my lovely blue yarn with.   I think it will be a top down, cable patterned cardigan.   Not sure if it will be knit in the round or not.  Can't wait to pile the books up beside me, curl up with a pleasant beverage and peruse patterns!