Monday, 28 February 2011

Just another day in the life of a mother

Monday morning dawns, and with it, a sick child. Poor wee T is right at this moment fast asleep on the couch, having spent a good part of the morning with his head in a bucket. He did request muffins before he conked out though, so they're waiting patiently on the bench, cooling, ready for when he wakes up hungry. Well, one can hope. I'd far prefer that to him waking up because he needs to vomit again...

The weekend was rather uneventful, but I did manage to finish the second sleeve of my Jaden sweater. I have, however, run out of yarn :-( I contacted a lovely young lady in Canada who happens to have 1.5 skeins in her stash, and is willing to do a trade with me. I'm going to send her some lovely NZ yarn and goodies, and in exchange she will send me the yarn I need to finish my sweater, and some Canadian yummies just because. Win/win!!

I also finished spinning my fibre and plying it, but no pictures as yet because I am waiting for it to dry. I'll put them up next post. I was rather impressed with myself, as I managed to get a laceweight/light fingering weight two ply - a whole 474 metres of it!! Now to decide what to make...

I have a few days to fill in while waiting for SM5 to start, so I've started knitting squares for the Christchurch Earthquake appeal - Helen from The Little Craft Store is making blankets and soft toys to send to the earthquake victims. So far I've managed four, and should have plenty more by the time the first sock pattern is released.

Oh, and just thought I'd mention that this is my 100th post. Yay!! Now I'm going to go have some lunch...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

No words

There are no words that can accurately describe the horror that Canterbury is going through right now, and in fact have had to endure since September 2010. Continuous quakes, damage beyond imagination, and now deaths and serious injury, with many still missing. Its heartbreaking to watch, and yet I find myself unable to look away from the TV whenever the news broadcasts an update. I guess, like everyone, I'm hoping for some good news - somebody found alive under the rubble; a person, previously thought to be missing, showing up unscathed. What is heartening to see is the whole of New Zealand banding together to help out, whether it be cash donations, offering accommodation, food, clothing, blood, whatever. And the amazingly resilient Cantabrians helping each other out - a couple of guys were on Campbell Live last night. They've been working around their neighbourhood digging and building long-drops for their fellow residents. The 10,000-strong 'student army' have mobilised and are getting stuck in, helping wherever they can.

Every little bit helps, the smallest kindness shown can be huge for somebody going through such a horrible, unfathomable situation. I just hope that the quakes stop soon, and the people of Canterbury can start rebuilding their lives. And those few idiotic, unconscionable people that are looting and scamming money will grow a brain and learn a bit of compassion.

::Deep breath::

It felt wrong to post an update on here about happy things without first acknowledging the Christchurch earthquake, but I'd prefer not to dwell on something that can send even the cheeriest person into fits of depression so please forgive me for moving on...

Sock Madness is nearly upon us knitters crazy enough to sign up, and I have been preparing for the competition as best I can. I'm over half way through the second sleeve for my Jaden sweater (and really, the more I look at the colour, the more I'm convinced the person who named it Aubergine was colour-blind) - I'm going to try very hard to get it done by at least early next week. I'm perfectly well aware that Tuesday will be the 1st March, and I would very much like to have all WIPs out of the way before embarking on SM (please note, that does not say S&M. Perhaps I should refer to it in future as SM5 (Sock Madness 5) just to be clear).

I'm so very close to the end of spinning 'waking up the wolves', and have only about 10 grams or so to go. I think I'll try plying from both ends of a centre-pull ball, as I've heard this method can be quite effective, and there is no wastage. I just hope I don't end up with a giant tangle on my hands. If I do, I promise I'll post pics ;-) What is likely to be very frustrating for me will undoubtedly be entertaining for you!

I knit another Chudley Cannons square (Rav link), and the knitting process and subsequent end-weaving wasn't quite as horrid as I remember it being the first time around, so I may yet knit another eight - the jury's still out on that decision. The swap cut-off isn't until mid April so I still have time.

For a little mini-project (so I could hand in six classes this month for the House Cup) I knit a wee project bag out of some of the 'valentines bouquet' yarn:



It's called the Knitfit bag (Rav link), designed to be worn around your wrist so you can knit on the go - it may come in handy during SM5 ;-)

Another deadline I have looming is the 'Thai fabrics quilt'. My stitching group from Wellington set a challenge for its members last year, after I brought along the fabrics I bought while in Thailand. Each of them took a two metre piece of fabric, and KJ came up with the idea that we had to make a quilt using this fabric and a 'new to us' technique by Easter 2011. I have finally started on mine. Okay, so all I've really done is washed all the fabrics, ironed them, and cut a bunch of strips, but that's something at least. I've also decided on a block pattern - 'rectangle squared' by Ashley from Film in the Fridge. Yes, its a pretty basic block pattern, but the Thai fabrics are very busy and I thought a simple block with plain white fabric to break up the riot of colours would work well. I have no idea how its actually going to look, but I guess I'll find out once I get my butt moving and start sewing it all together. I made the mistake I always make when quilting - I forgot to buy thread. So until I get my hands on some, the strips of fabric will be sitting, draped over my sewing machine, waiting patiently. Next week, I swear...

And to end this rather haphazard post, something completely unrelated. I was driving home the other day, after picking the boys up from school. As is often the case, I found myself smiling. Why, you ask? Because my son was singing. This is something he does often, and terribly. He changes pitch, is horribly out of tune, and mumbles when he doesn't know the words. Its beautiful, and I love it. I'm very certain in the knowledge that he will never be a famous singer, whether in a band or solo. But I couldn't imagine life without listening to X singing away to himself in the backseat on the short journey home after a busy day at school. I hope you all have something that makes you smile (^_^)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

My idea of fun

Is spending the weekend doing crafty stuff. Which is exactly what I've been doing! On Friday evening I finished off X's sweater (Rav link) while watching Buffy:



I think it came out really good, and its definitely a bit softer, whiter looking, and far less sheepy smelling after a few soaks. I'll have to give it another wash to get the neck clean (which was knit after blocking and sewing together) and stretch out the sleeves a bit - they're a little too much like leggings worn on your arms. You know what I mean - skin tight! Looks a bit silly really. Nothing a good blocking won't fix though. I would get pictures of X wearing it, but he refuses to have it on for more than a few seconds. He says its too itchy. I have the sinking feeling that I will be donating it to the local women's shelter, to go to a needy child come winter time. He'll probably never wear it.

Lesson learned #1: If you're going to insist on knitting a sweater for your child, use good quality, expensive, non-itchy yarn (eg: Malabrigo, MadTosh - I'm looking at you Polly!! I'll be ordering sweater-lots from you in the future! I'm sure you won't mind ;-P)

On Saturday I did some Kool Aid dyeing. I started with some Naked Skeinz that I ordered from Skeinz in Napier (previously known as DesignSpun):



It arrived in three 200g skeins. I reskeined them into 100g lots before dyeing. Using some Grape, Cherry, Berry Blue and Lemonade Kool Aid kindly brought over by my Rav friend Jill last year, I ended up with these four semi-solid skeins:



They didn't quite turn out as I expected them to, but I like them anyway. I'm wondering if the semi-solid effect is because I didn't use enough Kool Aid, or because the yarn sucked up the colour so quickly it didn't have a chance to get to all the places it needed to go. The instructions say to heat the yarn/water/Kool Aid in the microwave or stove top until all the colour is gone from the water. When I did it, all the colour was gone from the water pretty much as soon as the yarn hit it! I still heated it anyway to set the colour, but its definitely patchier than I envisaged. I had a lot of fun doing it, and decided to give Orange a go today:



Eye-searingly bright, huh? The reason I was dyeing all this yarn was in order to prepare for Sock Madness, which is due to start in a little over a week - there are several colourwork patterns in the list, which need contrasting colours. With these five skeins, I'm sure I'm gonna end up with some seriously funky socks!!

Lesson learned #2: Kool Aid dyeing is fun, but be careful not to get any on your benchtop - that also soaks up colours, and your landlord may not approve.

While I was waiting for my yarn to dry yesterday, I picked up my Jaden sweater again. The sleeves were proving a little more difficult in that I couldn't wrap my brain around the lace pattern, with the decreases on one of the main pattern rows. After two botched attempts, I decided to draw up a full-sized sleeve chart in order to keep track of the pattern better, and its working perfectly. I'm now over a third of the way through one sleeve, and will hopefully be able to get most of the knitting for this sweater done by the end of the month.

Lesson learned #3: Sometimes doing things the long way is actually the short way.

In between dyeing and knitting, I've also had some time to get a little spinning done. I'm still only a quarter of the way through my braid of 'waking up the wolves', but I'm hoping to make a decent dent in the pile, especially since I've promised to bring my wheel to Wednesday knitting next week. It'll make a nice change for me, and everyone there seems keen to see 'spinning in action'. Should be fun! I never get much knitting done there anyway, what with stopping to help all the newbie knitters with patterns, fixing mistakes, yarn choices, cast on questions etc. Spinning is easier to put down and pick back up - there's no 'middle of the row' to worry about!

Lesson learned #4: Don't ever expect to get any knitting done at knitting group, you'll just end up disappointed

Earlier in the week, I received a few parcels in the mail - one was a gigantic conglomeration of knitting goodies and books from Jill in the US:



She'd crammed as much as humanly possible into a flatpack box and shipped it over. I was amazed at how much stuff I pulled out! She sent me some awesome books, and a couple for Deane - one of which was titled 'White Trash Cooking'. Hilarious!! There's a number of rather intriguing recipes in there, I wonder if Deane will actually give them a go. Can't promise I'll eat them...

I was spoiled - I got The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (which, sadly, I've already read, but may pass on to another fellow knitter if you don't mind Jill), Porn for Women, which is chock-full of pictures of men doing housework (heeee!), Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller which is just what I need - I'm always forgetting basic crochet stitches! Now I have a reference book on hand at all times :-) And last but not least - At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot). I've already read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it!! Awesome.

I also got two skeins of sport-weight sock yarn (something I didn't have in my stash) and some yummy heathered laceweight yarn, and a Knit Picks sock blank, all ready to dye. Yay!!! There's all sorts of little bits and pieces in there too - spindle earrings (cute!), egg-nog flavoured tea (whaaaat???), post-its, J cards, a book mark, fridge magnets, sheep ribbon, a New York Starbucks travelling coffee mug (always useful!)... so much stuff! I had a lot of fun sifting through the goodies, and will enjoy them all for a long time to come - thanks Jill, you rock :-)

Another parcel I had the pleasure of opening was some gorgeous navy blue lace weight yarn I bought for $8 a skein from (again) Skeinz.



Apparently I broke the 'listing to order' record ;-) They broke the 'order to delivery' record, because I ordered on Wednesday afternoon, and had it in my hot little hands by Thursday morning. Certainly can't complain about the service!! This yarn is being set aside for a specific project (Rav link) that I've been eyeing up for a while, although there's only one finished project on Ravelry (the designer's), and by the sounds of everyone's notes, its a really hard pattern to follow. I'm a little dubious about paying for a pattern that isn't well written and is likely to cause no end of problems. Perhaps I should look for something similar, that's easier to follow...

Lesson learned #5: Always research a pattern before jumping in with both feet - best to know what you're dealing with beforehand. Nobody looks sane while yelling at their knitting.

Well, I've spent far too long yammering away in this blog update, and I haven't even mentioned yet that we went to the Chinese Lantern Festival last night with the boys. It was pretty cool. But Deane took the photos, and I don't know how to work his phone, so I can't post any here.

Lesson learned #6: Make sure your phone is charged before walking out the door.

I have a stack of knitting and spinning to try and get done before Sock Madness consumes my free time, so I must away. Have a good week!!!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Hope you had a good one. I got a lovely surprise yesterday afternoon:



How cool is that?? Deane made it himself :-) It's got two pairs of bamboo needles in it too. I didn't get him anything - oops.

Earlier in the day, I had the great pleasure of meeting Kathy Reichs, which was kinda awesome. Although (not surprisingly) I did blunder it a little. I'd decided beforehand that I would give her this scarf:



And I had a whole conversation in my head (as you do). I got to the bookshop early, and waited at the front of the line - there were lots of people milling about, but nobody was game enough to be the first. So I grabbed the Sookie Stackhouse short story compilation off the shelf, turned to the third story (which was the one I had read up to. I've made a couple of half-hour visits to the bookshop before - I'm working my way through the stories, so I don't have to buy the book because its $30 and I don't want to spend that much on it) and read quietly, looking nonchalant, while patiently awaiting the arrival of 1pm.

At 1pm on the dot, in walks Kathy Reichs. She sat down, moved the wee sign on the table, and smiled. So I wandered up with her latest book in hand, and my friend's name on the front cover on a post-it note (which we'd been asked to do beforehand, so Kathy would know who to sign the message to). We said hello, she started writing, and while she was doing this I asked if she would accept a hand made gift. I don't think she'd answered before I practically threw the scarf at her. It was all folded up, as it had been in a bag, so she didn't even get to look at it properly. She did say it was lovely, and asked if I had made it. Her publicist asked if it was knit or crochet. I said that yes I had made it, and it was knit. Then - get this - I said "I hope it keeps you warm in your... country". Seriously!!! What an idiot! Kathy then asked if my name was Tania (the name she was writing in the book) and I said "no, that's my friend. She's a fan". Then I said thank you, grabbed the book, and left. Poor woman probably thought I had a screw loose!

I walked to the back of the store where the armchairs are, finished the short story I was reading, returned the book to the shelf, and walked out of the store. On my way out I noticed that the line (which I thought was quite long to start with) was at its end - she was talking to the last person, who was shaking her hand and gushing over her. And here I had been worried that I would take up too much time and thought I had better be quick! She was only there for half an hour and I thought if I spent too long asking questions or talking, people would get annoyed. So I rushed. Shouldn't have. It was only 1.10pm.

I've written a letter of explanation to her explaining my odd behaviour, saying what I wanted to say, asking what I wanted to ask, and telling her a bit more about the scarf I shoved at her. That was my first 'author-encounter' and going by how I behaved, probably my last. This letter will also be my first 'fan letter'. I hope she doesn't put it in the 'stalker' pile...

On a brighter note, I've made quite a bit of progress on X's cabled sweater - I've now got the front, back, and one sleeve done. I have to wind more yarn before starting on the second sleeve, but that won't take too long with my handy dandy new ball winder!!

I'd done a little work on the sleeves of my Jaden sweater, but royally screwed up the pattern. They've now been frogged, and are waiting until X's sweater is finished before being cast on again.

I've managed to get a little spinning done - some yummy maude & me fibre, 'waking up the wolves'. Not sure how I'm going to ply it yet though, I think I'll decide a little closer to the end.

I've also managed to go for a couple of 5km runs in the last week - hurrah!! Getting back on track! See, having the boys back at school really makes life run a little smoother :-)

For now though, I'm off to get my housework done, so I can sit on my butt watching Supernatural and knitting a cabled sleeve. Enjoy your day!!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Best. Idea. Evaaaaarrrr!!

T was a good boy and ate all his dinner on Tuesday night, so as a reward he got to pick what we had for dinner last night. Not surprisingly, he chose pizza. We have several takeaway pizza stores located conveniently nearby ;-)

So last night I ordered online, waited 15 minutes, then moseyed over the road with the boys to pick up our order. The good thing about it is that we can order two half and half pizzas, and that covers the whole family. T gets cheese, X gets meat lovers, Deane gets sweet chilli prawn, and I... change my mind depending on what I feel like. Last night I got marguerita. So anyway, today all I had left of my half of the pizza was one slice. Not really enough to fill me up for lunch, right? So, after a quick brainstorm, I decided to make a pizza sandwich.

I buttered two slices of bread, warmed up my slice of pizza in the microwave, bunged it between the two slices and voila!! Pizza sandwich!! It was gooooooood...

Monday, 7 February 2011

We made it!!!

We're alive! After seven weeks of school holidays!! I haven't lost the plot (completely) and the boys survived with their eardrums intact.

I sent them off to school this morning, all smiles. My housework is done, I've been to the gym, caught up on grocery shopping, run my errands, and its not even lunch time yet!! Gonna update this here blog, then blob on the couch to knit and watch Desperate Housewives. Yay.

I've started X's sweater (Rav link) - here's a pic of the back, unblocked:



I cast on the front last night, and have done the ribbing and three pattern repeats. Going well so far! This sweater is from the Charmed Knits book, which is full of patterns inspired by the Harry Potter movies - Harry wears this gorgeous red cabled sweater in the first movie. I love it! It doesn't look quite as good in white, but oh well. I've adjusted the pattern slightly to fit X better (hopefully). I was going to make the smallest size, which is the child's medium, but it didn't look like it was going to fit too well around his middle (fat puku!) so I frogged and started again with the child's large size. However, I've shortened the length of it, knitting to 13" before starting the armholes instead of 14", and making the armholes the same size as the medium. I'll have to remember to make medium sized sleeves so they fit in properly later!

I've finished the front of my Jaden sweater, and cast on the sleeves, but haven't got much further with it - it's been put on hold while I knit X's sweater.



I sometimes think "I've only got the sleeves to go, then I can sew it up and crochet the neck edge and I'll be done", then other times I think "oh God, those seams are going to suck!". I can't decide if there's heaps to go, or not really much at all. I guess I'll carry on with X's sweater and finish it quickly, then concentrate on the Jaden. I'd like to get as much done on these sweaters as possible, because I've done something a little crazy...

I signed up for Sock Madness 5! Sock Madness is a competition that's been run for the previous four years (hence this is SM5). People sign up, then when the competition starts, everyone is sent the first sock pattern via email. The first 160 people to complete the pair of socks makes it through to the next round. These 160 people are split up into four teams, then round two commences. People are knocked out each round until a winner is decided - speed is clearly the key here, and things get a little crazy. It sounds like a lot of fun, and having been chatting with participants online who've competed in previous years, they sound like an awesome bunch of people, who have great senses of humour! There's a bit of a running joke about avoiding being put in the Norwegian team - Norwegians are generally fast knitters, and clearly very dedicated! The last two years in a row a Norwegian has won - in fact, the year before last, the Norwegian lady that won knit her pair of socks in 12 hours!! All her friends came over to her place and kept her fed and full of coffee, keeping her awake and knitting until she finished. Now that's madness!! Clearly I won't be going to quite the same extent, but it'll be fun anyway just seeing how many rounds I can get through before elimination. There are six rounds in total, so I'd like to get to at least round three or four. Once the competition starts (some time in March) I'll keep you posted on my progress :-)

For now though, X's sweater, the couch, and the Desperate Housewives DVDs are calling...