Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Knitting

Christmas is over, New Years is almost upon us and it's been a very busy season. I'm not complaining at all. It's been very good for me to stay so busy I think. I decided the weekend before Christmas, that I needed to knit a scarf for a good friend for Christmas. Mind you, I had never completed a single knitting project up until this point but I was determined. I called my friend Carol for advice on patterns and she suggested a moss stitch variation. I bought wool yarn and set to work with number 10 knitting needles. Here's how it turned out.
Directly after this scarf, I decided Jeff needed one for Christmas too. I took him with me to the yarn shop and he picked out a wool yarn he liked and I finished his scarf at 11:59pm on Christmas. He got it before Christmas was over. Here it is.
So now, the girl who claimed she hated making scarves, had knitted two and they actually turned out really nice. So nice in fact, that I'm making one for me now out of an alpaca blend. Here's my scarf-to-be.

Mine is a basket weave pattern as you can see. My knitting has improved with each scarf so I'm going to continue experimenting with textures and yarns while I make more of them and give them away. After all, there are only so many scarves a girl needs, right? :)
Because I am enjoying the alpaca yarn so much, I also found some alpaca roving and I've started spinning my own yarn. It's a rose/white blend of alpaca and I think it's just lovely. Here's my yarn.
Sorry this post is so picture heavy. I've been busy. :) Craft group is scheduled for January 12th and I'm looking forward to seeing the girls again. Also, Carol and I will be getting together for a craft day before too long also. Our will probably involve cookies, naps and bird fun too.
So my new year, although it hasn't officially started yet, is already shaping up nicely. I have high hopes for 2011. More on that later. For now, this is my knitting progress and I'm very pleased with it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Saved-From-The-Trash Sweater 2004- 2011

Here's a picture of sweater number 3 that my mom saved from the trash repeatedly. The story goes like this. In 2004, before I was married, when I still lived at home with the parental units, I began this sweater because I loved the color of yarn and wanted a fast, longer, tunic style sweater to wear over my clothes. I got it all crocheted in record time and had it sewn together only to realize that I'd sewn the left front panel on inside-out. I grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped the thread I thought I had used to sew the seam together. Instead of the seam coming apart, the back of the sweater began to unravel - in the middle. I reacted badly. I had worked so hard on it and now it was sewn together wrong and the back was unraveling in the middle. I picked it up and threw it away and went to my room. My mom pulled it out of the trash (thankfully Dad had just put in a fresh liner so there was nothing in the garbage but the sweater) and put it on the couch gently. She never said a word. When I came out later and saw it on the couch, I picked it up and put it back in the trash. Mom removed it again. This went on for a few days. She'd rescue it and I'd trash it. Finally I realized she wasn't giving up So I kept it in a basket with the rest of the yarn it was made from and it sat. Mom used to refer to it from time to time and laughingly call it her "rescued sweater" or something to that effect. I always meant to finish it and give it to her but never got around to it what with one thing and another. I moved 3 times and got married and moved again, and still it sat untouched in its basket of yarn. Finally this summer I tackled it. I re-crocheted the back, corrected my sewing and seams, put on the edgings and the silver celtic style buttons and submitted it to the state fair for review. With everything that sweater had been through and considering the fact that, once again, it was made from acrylic yarn, I HOPED for a ribbon but wasn't sure it would even place. The day the fair opened and drove down to see how it did and was happy to see  a 3rd place ribbon on it. I just know Mom would have laughed happily and then made me hand over the sweater AND the ribbon. lol!  Here's a picture of it at the fair.
It wasn't hung very flatteringly but I can't complain. The would-be-sweater I trashed that would have been rotting in some landfill somewhere if I'd had my way with it, was now hung on the wall at the Western Idaho State Fair, and had won a ribbon. It took me 7 years to finish this thing but it's my reminder that with a little perseverance, even a lost cause can become something lovely and when someone believes in you, it's best to listen. :)
I haven't worn the sweater yet. It's in my cedar chest waiting for the right day this winter. But I am going to wear it with pride and I just know I'll be smiling a secret smile all day and thinking of my mom.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crochet vs. Knit

I've been crocheting in one form or another for the majority of my life. I started crocheting LONG chains when I was in 3rd grade. In 5th grade, a school friend taught me to single crochet and I made blankets for my little stuffed animals. My mom was a left handed crocheter so although she was great at crochet, she couldn't teach me, her right handed daughter, how to crochet. Years after I mastered the single crochet, my mom's friend in Utah named Sally, taught me how to make granny squares. Once I learned the double crochet and had something to do with it, I began to crochet in earnest. I can't tell you how many afghans I crocheted and gave away. Each year when we visited Sally's family in Utah, Sally would teach me a new stitch and I'd begin a new wave of afghans. It wasn't until years later again, that I found myself not wanting to wait another year before I learned something new. So I taught myself to read patterns. That was something Mom could help me do. I knew the stitches so with her help, I learned to decipher patterns, and a whole new world opened up for me. After I got tired of doing nothing but afghans and dishcloths, I decided to take a risk and crochet a sweater. I found a pattern I liked and started. The pattern was a crochet stitch that LOOKED like a cable knit. Here are pictures of my sweaters in that pattern. They both won blue ribbons at state fair the years I entered them. I was pretty proud. 
The first sweater I did was in a color called Aran fleck. It's acrylic yarn and not very soft. At that time I knew nothing about yarns at all. It turned out really small so I gave it away to a little lady at church and it fit her perfectly. Notice the moose buttons! :)
This is the second sweater. My mom liked the first sweater so much that she asked me to make her one in burgundy and a size larger. She looked great in burgundy! I had everything but the buttons on when she died. She got to wear it twice before she died even though it wasn't finished. Two years after she died I completed it and entered it in the state fair as I had done with the first one and it won a blue ribbon too. :) This sweater would have fit me if I'd kept it but I gave it to my grandma (Mom's mom) so she'd have something of Mom's to wear and keep her warm if she felt like it. I don't know if Gram wears it or not but it felt good to share it with her.
I completed my third crocheted sweater this past summer and entered it in this year's state fair. It was a much simpler pattern and again, it was made from acrylic yarn, and it only won a 3rd place ribbon. But I still placed! :) I'm very proud of that sweater. It has a long and involved story of me trying to throw it away and Mom saving it from the trash can. It took me 6 years to finish it but it's done and now that the weather is cool, I'm going to be able to wear "our" sweater. Mom used to tell me that the sweater belonged to her even if I kept it because she'd saved it from the trash can so many times. :) I miss my mom! Sharing these stories of her helps though.
Here's my problem. I'm lousy at knitting. I KNOW I just started it and I'm probably expecting too much too soon, but I look at what I can crochet, and then I look at my pathetic attempts at knitting and I get all discouraged that I'll never master it before I die. My goal is to someday knit a sweater made entirely of my own handspun and hand dyed yarn and then I'll enter it in the fair. I have a LONG way to go before I'm there. My spinning will have to improve as will my knitting, but that's my goal. I'm slowly but surely steering my skills toward that end but it gets discouraging sometimes to think how far I have yet to go before I'll have any real skill at knitting. My lazy side asks if I'm really going to ever be able to produce a quality garment knitting or if I'm deluding myself. The ambitious side of me asks the lazy side (politely of course) to shut up and sit down. I can learn anything I put my mind to and then it's just a matter of practice to master the skill. But is that really true?
Right now work is providing some serious challenges (some of them to my mental health!!!) and I have found very little time to sit and knit. If I knit in a group or while trying to talk, it's a sure way of guaranteeing that I'm going to make a BIG mistake that I'm unable to correct. So I have to knit when I'm at peace and undisturbed and not distracted. I can crochet while eating dinner, watching TV and playing with the birds all at the same time practically. *sigh* Will knitting ever be that easy for me??? I certainly hope so. In the mean time, I'm going to make it a practice to try and make at least a half hour a day available for knitting. I'll let you know how that works out. :) Speaking of knitting, now that I'm finished blogging it might be just the time to put a row or two on my scarf....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad Day at Black Rock

I knew this day was going to be a challenge when by 9:30, physically choking someone until they turned blue started to seem like a really good idea. Fortunately for me, I know better than to act on some fantasies. Meanwhile, the day rolled on. We have 6 hours of mandatory overtime at work this week and I worked 4 last week. Don't get me wrong - I KNOW I'm blessed to have my job and I feel very grateful for it. However... there is something to be said for "Eight and skate". I miss working 8 hour days. I actually started to feel guilty for leaving at my normal time last week. Now I leave home in the dark and get home in the dark. I don't think I've actually seen my chickens in a week. I've seen their little black outlines but that's about it.
It feels great to finally be home. Well, it did until I got on Facebook. Apparently because I changed my avatar picture to a cartoon character, I'm now a chump. I mean honestly! Did I really think changing my avatar to a cartoon would raise awareness of child abuse? No. It worked for breast cancer when everyone put their bra colors on their statuses, but apparently the rules are different for child abuse or something. I don't know. And frankly, it didn't matter if there was a REASON to do it. I changed my avatar because it was FUN! Fun is now over and I'm tired of taking shots over my bow because I did it. That'll teach me to have a good time on a social networking site. Sheesh! Sorry to any of my Facebook friends who were adamantly against the cartoon avatars. OK This might be a good time to mention that I might be emotionally over reactive today due to stress. (Ya think?) I cried over a Christmas song, wanted to choke someone until they were blue and got all riled up over stupid Facebook of all things. Maybe I need an intervention. THEN on the drive home I started thinking about blogging. How much is too much when it comes to sharing life on here? If I only post about crafts and birds and weather, what's the point? On the other hand, I know there is such a thing as TOO MUCH information shared. So how do I find the balance? That question occupied my feverish brain for at least 15 miles of my drive home. Any advice is welcome on this question by the way. There are times when I share a personal part of my life and then I instantly regret it and feel exposed and vulnerable. I get that way when I talk to people and share my views on things as well. My choices are: say nothing or write nothing and never grow or share with my friends or say or write what I think or feel and have immediate reservations that somehow I've shared too much. I'm constantly learning new things which change the shape of my world. Feelings and conclusions are subject to change without notice in my life. My faith is a constant but even that grows and changes and morphs over time.
By now, Dear Reader, you have had a glimpse into what my day has been like. I am not sure what's driving this bus but I'm ready to get off at the next stop. :)
I think I need to go eat some dinner and then knit for a while. On a safer subject, I stopped working on my scarf and started a new one. The first scarf was rolling up on itself from the sides. I didn't know that stocking knit would do that. So I've started a new scarf with a knit/purl pattern in each row rather than knit a row purl a row. This knitting thing really is more complicated than it looked at first. I'm restraining myself from crochet right now because it would be easy to fall back on that and stop knitting altogether. But I WANT to learn to knit well. So I'm going to stick with it. I think I'm going to have some macaroni and cheese and play with the Quaker parrots for a while. Hope you all had a better day and I hope for better things tomorrow. After all, Scarlett O'Hara wasn't stupid about EVERYTHING. Tomorrow IS another day. :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

White White Everywhere I look

We've gotten enough snow and rain recently to cover, melt and then re-cover everything in a thick, icy layer of white snow.  Our dogs (two husky/lab mixes and one akita/shepherd mix) are loving the snow. The chickens would complain about it if they were able to however. That's chickens for you though. My inside flock here at the Wren's Nest is happily chatting and singing seemingly unaffected by winter. That's probably because with our wood burning stove running we stay somewhere near 80 deg. F indoors. Some nights I just "melt" into bed. But it's a small house and the stove is smack dab in the middle of it so there ya have it.
Here's something you should never do. Never go to a beautiful Christmas concert in the afternoon and then watch shows about zombies at night. Bad combo there. I woke up feeling depressed I think. lol! It'll pass but the zombies have gotta go. There isn't a single cheerful or uplifting thing about zombies. Not one. Think about that. :)
December is generally a rough time for my whole family since Mom died in the car accident in 2005 at Christmas. But because Christmas was her favorite holiday second only to Thanksgiving, I try and keep it alive in my heart. Mom was such an adventurous person! Everything she and I did together always had the feel of an adventure. I miss that a lot. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about what she and I would be up to if she were still alive. It doesn't take long to realize that thinking along those lines is less than helpful. It tends to make me less satisfied with how my life is right now and I just get sad missing her and wishing she were still here. I'll go through these ups and downs for the next few weeks and then things will level out again after the new year starts. Spring is actually harder on me than Christmas when it comes to grieving for her. Somehow, though, with all this snow, I think she'd have us at "Rigormortis Ridge" sledding with a huge group of people. We'd tailgate party with hot soups, rolls, ciders and hot cocoa while the kids and adults trudged up the very tall and steep hill only to come screaming back down in on tubes or sleds. That hill makes for one wild ride! She and I gave it it's name after she and I, Dad and Will discovered and sledded it at dusk one evening only to return the next day and see it in full daylight. At that point, we realized it was only by some miracle that one of us hadn't broken our necks coming down it the night before! But ah the possibilities for speed were too much to resist. We took groups of people there twice and had so much fun that I don't think anyone in either group will ever forget it. I've considered rounding up a troop to head back up there each winter but somehow I just can't bring myself to follow through with it. In theory it sounds wonderful. In practice, it would be much harder emotionally I think than I care to handle.
I'm skipping Christmas decorations this year. Some years  are just like that. I have a little clock that plays a Christmas Carol on the hour every hour and I think that's going to be my only decoration. Just think about how easy it will be to "undecorate" that. :)
Well now that I've completely depressed everyone else reading this, I'll go. It's chore day today and I have a lot to get done before the new work week begins. Enjoy your weather whatever you have. :) Stay warm, dry and happy!