Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon**

Oh, I wish! While the dogs seem to be practicing their relaxation technique:

I've been busy. There's one big thing brewing that I hope to be able to share soon, but even without that, there is plenty afloat.

Stash Out, Stash In...

I took part in two yarn swaps recently. I love yarn swaps; it's a great opportunity to cull the stash of project leftovers and things that are no longer wildly loved, and trade them for something new, bright and shiny. This is what came home with me:

This is the only one that actually is shiny. A good project's-worth of what I think is a silk/mohair blend from Artfibers. The rest are a little more muted, but still new and full of possibility. Any suggestions?

Some Yarn Place Graceful. I couldn't for the life of me get a focused shot, but this one shows the color pretty accurately.

Alpaca Baby Twist

Koigu... two pretty colorways!

I have no idea what this is, but I liked it so I let it follow me home.

And, as I was actually getting a little bit low on plain cotton, I picked up some more for dishcloths. I lurve hand-knit dishcloths!

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch...

I couldn't help myself. Yup, more brown. I took some fiber from one of these:

Spun it into this:

And last weekend I turned it into this:

It's Pretty Thing by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. This yarn was a little heavier weight than what's called for so it doesn't look quite as delicate as hers, but I think it still works. I did however, totally space at one point and all of the decreases in the middle section lean the wrong way. So it's not perfect, but the reversal didn't turn it into Ugly Thing by any means, and I'm happy with it. It's a great and easy pattern (especially if one actually pays attention - ahem...) and I'd make it again in a heartbeat. It's going back to Vermont as a gift to my friend who owns the alpaca; I thought it would be cool to send her something made from one of her own.

In keeping up with work on UFOs I've been working on Lady Eleanor as well.

I'm closing in on this one - it's nearly 4' long now. Not too much more to do! But I doubt it'll be finished soon; I've swatched for this:

(that's rust damnit, not brown!) I still have some math to do but I should cast on for the Sandrine cardigan soon.

I swatched and actually did cast on yesterday for Peasy, using some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool left over from a long-finished project.

There's a lace panel in the front that will require some concentration, and I will need to alter it a bit, but I still think it should be a fairly easy knit. I hope those aren't famous last words.

I've spun a little too.

This is some Ashland Bay Merino I picked up at Stitches last year. I have a sweater's-worth, and decided I wanted to get going. In keeping with my New Year Plan #1, I'm not in a rush to finish this; it'll be spun a little at a time. Ideally I'd like it completed in time to knit something for next winter, but we'll see how busy I am in the next few months!

Obligatory Food Porn (if you're not a vegetarian)

Here's another thing that took a long time.

I roasted beef bones, then simmered them with carrots, onion, garlic, celery and home-grown herbs.

This is what it looked like after bubbling on the stove for five hours. The next evening I froze half of it and turned the rest into onion soup.

Soooooo worth the time.

**Points to you if you can identify the artist!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On Epiphanies and Monochromy

So Is That How It Happens?

Every Sunday, Kathy and I get together to go walking; we usually do a couple of miles, talking all the way. This morning we discussed how we'd each had recently had the same epiphany: projects get completed when you actually work on them. Wow. Who knew?

I have been an accomplishing machine:

I started the Haruha Scarf in June 2008. I used Lana Gatto VIP (wool/cashmere blend) that I won a million years ago, and dyed about a year later in a fit of productivity. I'd completed about six inches and then it sat marinating in the UFO bin until two weeks ago.

Once I got going on it, it sped right along. Two days ago it looked like this:

I was so anxious to finish it I stayed up 'til 1:00 this morning to finish it, and blocked it before I headed out to walk:

Close up:

And here it is, done! I have no idea why I let it sit for so long - it's an easy pattern and the yarn soft, not-splitty, and completely faboo.

I finished another project as well; one I started in July. Alison had given me some Qiviut, explaining that she couldn't spin as fine as that particular fiber required. I started it in July as part of my Tour de Fleece project, but abandoned it due to finding a job and subsequently losing any semblance of life balance. Part of my resolution to finish some projects included getting back to my spinning wheel again; I hadn't spun in months! This was a good project to pick up; it had to be spun pretty fine, but there was only one ounce of the fiber, so how long could it really take?

Well I went from here:

to here:

to here:

to here, in about a week.

Upon which I promptly ignored Alison's orders to keep it and gave it back to her so she could knit it into something lovely to pass on, as is her way. I can't wait to see what she makes with it!

It's Looking a Little Bland Around Here...

So that makes two formerly-stagnated things completed this month so far, and three projects total for 2010. My goal was to finish one UFO per month, so I'm ahead of the game. I'm not sure what I'll work on next, but after looking through the pictures I've posted today so far, I think whatever it is, it won't be brown. Browns in the scarf. Brown Qiviut. My obligatory food picture of the day (home-made chai) is brown:

Even Miele's nose is brown. Thank goodness there's the blue of my jeans to liven up the shot...

Next post's pictures will be livelier. I promise. Maybe I'll knit something black.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ooh Look! A Shiny New Year!

We weren't very fond of 2009. It didn't go well for us, and there were some losses and disappointments that just weren't much fun, so we were more than happy to usher it out the door on Thursday night. Welcome 2010!

I'm not a big one for lots of New Year's resolutions. I used to promise myself all sorts of drastic changes and of course most of the time it would all be too much. They would then fall by the wayside within months, if not sooner. So instead I am planning smaller goals in hopes that a more moderate approach will allow me to actually reach them and develop some new good habits.

Plan #1: Instead of embarking on major (and exhausting) projects, try chipping away at tasks a little at a time. Get into the habit of doing a little every day rather than wearing myself down in a monumental burst of effort. This applies to housework, creative projects, job hunting, whatever.

Ok, well I kind of missed the boat on that one for my first finished object of 2010 - I made a mini version of Clapotis in 2.5 days - not exactly 'chipping away' there, but it was fun. The yarn is Manos de Uruguay Silk Blend, which was a birthday gift from Bogie. Lovely stuff - great to knit. It grows like crazy - after soaking it was at least a foot longer than the original knit length, if not more. Good thing it wasn't a sweater!

As you can see, the extra length is fine, even on a short girl like me.

Now that I finished that speed-knitting project, I am working on reducing my pile of UFOs. I have two pairs of socks, 3 scarves, a sweater, a Lady Eleanor wrap and a top to finish - along with a couple of pieces that need to be frogged and the yarn reclaimed. I've joined the UFO Smackdown 2010 group on Facebook, and if I can complete (or frog) one item per month this year, I'll be done with everything by 2011. Of course, I have some new things I want to knit as well, so I'm pretty sure I'll still have a UFO pile at the end of the year - but perhaps not the same UFO pile. One recent Christmas purchase that has been tempting me to cast on is this:

That's eight skeins of Rowan Felted Tweed in the Cinnamon color way; enough for a sweater. It's a DK weight and shows off cables beautifully. Any suggestions for it? I definitely want to use it for a cardigan, but otherwise haven't committed to anything. If you have any ideas let me know.

Plan #2: Get out and play. I tend to feel an obligation on weekends to stay home and take care of the house. Brian spends most of his time building his business. Consequently we've been working our butts off for the past few years and not indulging in a whole lot of fun together. We plan to get off the couch this year and enjoy ourselves more.

The first thing we did toward this goal was to get rid of cable TV. Not just downgrade - it is gone. This was mostly a financial decision - even though we didn't have premium channels or HD, our cable/internet bill was ridiculous, and by eliminating the cable TV portion we'll be saving over $100 a month. We've still got our Netflix membership (Yay for the Roku box) and there's always Hulu for when I need my Glee fix! However, I'm really looking forward to spending more time doing more knitting, reading, and stuff that I sometimes put aside in favor of NCIS re-runs (I hope Mark Harmon isn't too disappointed that I'll no longer be watching him every day).

We took another step toward more fun on Saturday when we spent the afternoon at Sunol Regional Wilderness. It's not far away but it feels very isolated and it's just beautiful. We took the dogs with us as they need to get out and have fun too.

It's one of the few areas where you are allowed to let your dog off leash, so once we were away from the main parking area we let them free. Trouble, who is completely nose-driven, took some nice deep sniffs of something on the ground then took off like a freakin' shot through the underbrush and across a running stream. We weren't too worried by this but we did need to keep an eye on her so we ended up doing some pretty serious bush-wacking to keep up with her. Miele helped too, and as a result had her first experience with water that wasn't a bath. She did great - still hasn't figured out that puppies can float so she avoided the deeper spots but she did splash around and seemed to enjoy it.

There is cattle in the area so as we got closer to a potential bovine encounter, we got Trouble back on her leash and headed up the hills. Miele got to stay off leash as she was timid enough to want to stay close by.

The color in these shots isn't quite right - the rocks here were actually quite blue! I'm not sure of the mineral content but the blue combined with the orange lichen was positively garish.

These are a little farther away but the color is a bit more accurate:

It's gorgeous out there. There are some steep grades but the climb wasn't all that difficult. We'll probably return some time to do some of the more challenging trails, and possibly to see how well the dogs take to camping out.

Finally, Plan #3: Develop better sleeping habits. Getting lots of exercise helps with that. Here's Miele, demonstrating how it's done.

She's good at it.