Saturday, 30 August 2014

nobody was hurt - mostly

Yesterday the boys and I tootled down to the park for our daily constitutional. There is a fellow who we see occassionally who has a welsh sheep dog. These folk that have sheep dogs as pets - I don't know, she really needs a flock of sheep. Anyway, this fellow had a load of rhubarb from his allotment, and was carrying it about till he bumped into somebody who wanted it - yes it is a bit odd, but not nearly as strange as the man with the golden retriever. Although, in fairness, both the characters have beautiful dogs.

Anyway, the bloke with the welsh sheep dog gave me his rhubarb. The bugger had slipped in a courgette damn him. At this time of year everybody has courgettes coming out of their ears. The other day my allotment neighbour gave me a bag of tomatoes, and slipped a courgette in there too. M has started putting courgette in cake so we don't notice we're still eating it.

So I had this bag of rhubarb, and one courgette. I really like the rhubarb jam from my local baker, and thought I'd have a go at making my own. I'm glad the Mother-out-law has FaceTime now. She was very helpful, and it's so handy to be able to call her up this way. I'd ask my Mum these things except for the time zone thing, and the Mother-out-law is an expert in jam. As a Mother-out-law she's quality.

The recipe didn't have a lot of instruction. I started the whole affair in the slow oven, partly to break down the rhubarb, and partly to give the jars time to get clean in the dish washer. Then I put the jars in the oven to sterilise, and brought the pot to a rolling boil.

My word, making jam is stressful. Surprisingly I didn't use any expletives. And eventually I did the wrinkle test and found that the jam was infact wrinkling. I'd been doing the wrinkle test every few seconds, so that couldn't really go wrong. The jars came out of the oven, and I started pouring the liquid.

The first bit of jam started to bubble in the jar. A bit weird, but I added a bit more. The bubbles were quite violent now, so I stopped pouring. Then the jar cracked, and the side fell off. Just like that. I stoud there with my mouth in a O wondering what to do.

At this point all of the jars had cracked. Fortunately they had been standing on a roasting tray, so everything was nicely contained. I put the rest of the jam in a bowl to cool. Then in true twenty-first century style I put a picture on Instagram and Facebook, and FaceTimed the Mother-out-law to show her the mess. I think I might get her to supervise my next jam making experience.

I'd like to say that nobody was hurt, but I did manage to drip a bit of hot jam on my hand well before the whole jar incident.

The jam itself is quite nice. I would like to think I'd make it again once the trauma of having the jar fall to pieces has subsided. I would quite like a thermometer too. That would take the guess work out of the process, and eleminate the wrinkle test.

I made tomato sauce earlier in the week without incident.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

project 3 - crazy pink wingspan

I am so much more excited about starting two new projects than I am about having finished this Crazy Pink Wingspan. This was another experiment in knitting with my own spun yarn, and was a recipientless project. You know how uninspired I am to knit things without a person in mind. The pink factor also deminishes my enthusiasm for this project.

All that aside, I am rather pleased with it. I enjoyed this spinning technique as a way of bending colours, and would do it again without all that pink. This was the first time I'd spun anything significant with merino. The resulting yarn is spongy! Knitted up in garter stitch the finished fabric as a luxury towel sort of feel. The pink lover who eventually wears this scarf is going to have a really cosy neck.

There are already two new projects going on, and I thought I'd leave you with a little irony today. The Crazy Pink Wingspan has been living in my favourite project bag. Note the colour scheme.


Friday, 22 August 2014

resolution project 2 - socks

There is a resolution knocking about here today. I really want to be starting things, but there are a load of unfinished projects knocking about. The resolution has been gradually fermenting at the back of my mind for some time, and I've finally arrived at a ratio that pleases me. I'm allowed to start two projects for every three that I finish. There isn't much logic associated with these numbers, but it does mean that one languishing project would be finished every now and again.

The Busy Aunty's Raglan was number one. Today I present you with project number two. I cast a side my usual vanilla sock formula, and branched out with a new pattern. This is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Maccasin Sock. I really enjoyed this pattern even though the heel and the grafting along the sole was a little fiddley. I wish they were for me, but they will be heading off to an extremely deserving recipient. She has already fulfilled her end of the swap, and will be looking forward to these now that the weather has turned chilly.
Now on with project three!



Thursday, 21 August 2014

start knitting NOW!

Today I am stoud at the finishing lining, and on the starting blocks all at once. My Tour de Fleece yarn is finished. And the SPAKAL sweater is ready to begin. I can't believe I've spun and plied 800 grams of yarn. I was just sitting here wondering how over 100 grams of fibre could disappear in to waist. Then I remembered all pre Tour sampling. The question now is whether 800 grams of chunky yarn is enough for a large jersey. If it were aran or finer I'd feel quite confident, but chunky is a realm unknown to me.

You might well be wondering about the colour gradient in this yarn. Some of you might be curious how 900 grams of undyed Southdown top came to be green and yellow. While others might be wondering how I achieved the gradient.

About two weeks before Tour de Fleece I had a panic. This huge bag of top had been loitering about the living area for some time. It was slowly dawning in me that spinning all that top was going to be an arduous process, with few milestones. And the resulting jersey was going to be very white. One morning I was gazing at this emorphous blob whilst sipping my coffee when I had a sudden and uncharactoristic bout of spontaneity. About half the top was shoved into a large pot, with dye, and water; then popped into the slow oven. An hour later the water was very green, but the colour just seemed to fall out of the fibre when it was lifted above the water level. It was quite a nice lemonadey colour, so I took two thirds out, leaving the remaining third in to see just how green it would get. The green you see was the outcome of another couple of hours in the slow oven. (I would have dyed the lot, but it wouldn't all fit in the pot.)

Having three different colours did break up the spinning, and gave me some definite targets to work toward.

My approach to creating the gradient wasn't particularly calculated or mathematical. I drew up the table you see above, and worked out that there were enough singles to create at least one bobbin of each of all seven yarns. That pretty much used up all of the green singles. The remaining yellow made a couple of extra bobbins in the yellow gradients, and the remaining bobbins were white.

I really love the effect. Will it look as good knitted up? Will my jersey look inspired and artistic? I'm nervous. I'm also at a point in my life where I can make this sort of investment of time as a learning experience, and except that the finished garment might be worthy only of the compost heap. Which is awesome really.

I've discovered over the course of my Southdown journey that the fibre and yarn from this breed just won't hold water. It just drops out. Seriously, you can hold up a wet hank of yarn, and all the water will run to the bottom and fall out. If you're used to washing merino, this is a whole other experience. Actually, the more I work with other wool, the more I think that the success of merino can be put down mainly to a good marketing strategy. But that's a whole other rant.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

neck renovation

Today was neck renovation day for The Busy Aunty Raglan Calculator. First I picked up the stitches at the point where the new neck band would begin.

Then I carefully snipped and unpicked the old neckband.

After that it was a simple matter of knitting up the garter stitch neckband.

I'm so pleased with the result, but my feelings about the yarn are mixed. Malabrigo Arroyo is a machine washable smooth merino yarn. In that respect it's a kid friendly yarn. But, Arroyo is also a heavy dense yarn, not the lite woolly stuff that I'm used to working with. I've been looking at other DK superwash yarn, and most of them are similarly dense. It makes me wonder if I couldn't do better with the superwash fibre on my spinning wheel. Meanwhile there is one more kid who be needing a warm jersey for the winter, and I have a wonderful yarn to knit it with.






Tuesday, 12 August 2014

the busy aunty's raglan calculator

You should know something about Project Roundup Week. Just because I show you only show you five projects doesn't mean there aren't more. So, on Friday I didn't reappear with a fifth and final project. Don't think there isn't a fifth project (and a sixth, and a seventh...), it's just that I might only have head space for four active projects right now. I might also have a wee bit of a cold. Not bad enough to warrant taking to the couch for the day. But niggling enough to warrant drugs and grouchiness.

Over the weekend I did finish the second jersey I've made using The Busy Aunty's Raglan Calculator. Mostly I'm happy with this. The Calculator factors in 30% ease. I know this is loose, but I wanted the resulting jersey to be oversized so that the kid will be able to wear it for more than five minutes. This is why I've been making the prototype henleys short sleeved, so that the occupant can freely flap their arms about whilst playing, and it can be used as a layering piece. The short sleeves will also make it more versatile in changeable weather; and for summer evenings, which can be quite chilly in New Zealand.

I'm still not quite happy with the neck width. It looks quite narrow, and out of proportion with the rest of the jersey. The measurement for the neck was based on 33% of the cross shoulder width. I made the henley neckline so that it wouldn't be too close about the neck. Even so, this just looks too narrow. I'm going to tweek the calculator for the next version, and cut off the neck on this one, then reknit the band.

Stay tuned to find out how that goes.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

prw - so, where did you go?

Yesterday it rained, so The Hairy Man and I headed over to Old Penny Memories in Bridlington. This is an old fashioned games arcade where they've collected together antique penny slot machines from other beach resorts around the UK, and fixed them up so you can play them. We bought two cups of old pennies, for the princely sum of £1 each, and spent a very pleasant hour playing the machines. I was determined to win a packet of Polo Mints from the pinball machine (I don't even like Polos); while Bob preferred the machine with all the levels that slide back and forth, so that the pennies fall over the edge and into the winnings tray. He was absolutely positive that the next penny he put in would result in a windfall, but all those pennies stayed purched precariously on the edge. He was sure they were glued. I did get my Polo mints eventually.

That was part of the reason I didn't post yesterday. The other reason is that I've been a bit like a kid in a candy shop with my projects recently. Choosing five to focus on was nigh on impossible. What would it have been like if I'd just had to choose one! So today you get a two WIPs for your viewing pleasure.

First up is the Wingspan made using that crazy pink handspun you saw last month. This is going to be my social and travel knitting project. After Trillian I just couldn't bare another garter stitch shawl as my main project.

I struggled to pin down which sock project to focus on, which says to me that I have way to many socks on the go. We'll sort that out another day. Really there was no dilemma at all. These socks are for a swap. The swapee has finished my socks, so I really just need to crack on. I've been branching into new sock constructions, so I'm looking forward to casting on sock number two.

That's a lot of knitting going on, so project number five needs to shake things up a bit.