Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yarn on Sale For a Reason

 I saw this yarn and thought wow, a great price, half off of course, and bought up all four skeins of it.
 You know it. It was marked down for a reason.
The yarn doesn't have enough twist and when you knit or crochet, as I tested it with in this photo, the yarn comes unraveled significantly. That means I really have to watch it when I knit to make sure all the tiny strands in the ply are pulled through on each stitch with the needle. I tried a few stitches with crochet as well as knitting because I wanted to know if by chance the yarn would handle better with crochet. 

Yarn spun in different manners gives you a more open or closed look depending on whether you crochet it or knit. If I'm confusing you, you should check out the blog by Interweave Press to learn about yarn twists. But know this, most yarns are spun with a knitter in mind and that yarn will come untwisted more when you crochet than knit. Though there are some patterns calling for specific yarns with a certain twist pattern. Curious, check out this blog and learn more about yarn twists.

Next week I'll tell you about where to find this pattern. Meantime, know that I've learned my lesson, if it is on sale, check first to see why. Don't let colors and price cloud sensibility.

I will be out of Internet coverage for the next few days but know I'll be thinking of you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Socks, Toe Up

Last winter, I spun a combination of llama and alpaca. One strand of llama and the other alpaca to which I plied the two.
 This shows just how small the yarn is. The red blob on the left being my fat finger and the needles being size 1's.
 I'm using my daughter's book, Socks from the Toe Up, with a little help from her. I don't read patterns well and even though I've made seven pairs of socks, they were all pretty standard and from the top down.
 The problem with the top down method is how hard it is to keep trying on the sock to know when to change to another section of the foot like the heel, instep, and toes.

Everybody has their own unique set of feet and mine are hardly candidates for modeling sandals, being I have these stubbed off crooked toes. The second toe being longer than the big toe, a Kinghorn trait I inherited from my dad.  This requires a wide toe base.

No, I never, ever, ever paint these toes and bring attention to them. Not my crooked fingered, stubby, work worn hands either. Besides, nail polish and garden dirt aren't a good combination. Yes, I admit it, I love the feel of garden dirt under my feet and between my fingers. To me, long polished finger nails are just too good a hiding spot for germs. A bad bad combination with a love of cooking. 
 My other problem is a high bottom arch and almost no arch on top at all. This move not being easy while holding a camera and early in the morning on a 52 year old ankle. You other 50 some year olds know just what I'm talking about.

The ankle on up is a no brainer match for about any pattern so starting with the part of my foot hardest to fit makes sense. I have also found the sock much easier to try around the knitting needles as I go along. That is if I'm not trying to hold the camera in hand and contort my foot for a photo. 

And I couldn't help but think about my ex-son-in-law with expert only, ski slope toes. I'm mean a steep, steep slant from the big toe to the little toe. Thankfully none of the grand daughters inherited those unattractive toes but this tow up method would work great for them too.
 I started with the easiest toe design in the book and even then I had to have my daughter explain it. LOL After two starts I had a wide enough base and off I went. Here, I'm knitting with size 2 needles.  The size 1's reserved for the knit one purl one ribbing around my skinny instep.

One of my handy dandy knitting project bags in the background. I love them.  I've got a scarf I'm working on in one and these socks in another. We'll talk about the scarf later.

I knitted to just a little shy of covering all my toes. Hard to show with having to photograph with my hands while the sock threatened to slipped upwards off my toes but you get the idea.
 I always do ribbing around the instep as mine is so... narrow. My husband is the opposite with a really high top arch and he needs more room in this area.
I'm to this spot on both socks and I'm becoming a bit concerned about the heel. What will the instructions tell me? Will my top down short row method be the same, just backwards? Will my daughter have to explain the directions? LOL We will soon know.

When these pair are done, I'm going to branch out and try one of the other toe up methods in the book. The ones not marked easiest. And I'll even try a new heel method. Yes, I'm actually going to learn to knit, not just do the same patterns over and over with a few changes of my own.
I can see I'm going to have to purchase this book for my own. Especially now since Toni is knitting socks herself. Her's, the very first pair she has ever, ever made are fancy yancy. She being far more talented than I. Am I jealous? Not one iota. It just means I have a daughter and a precious friend, who is also my teacher and I love it.  Now to make up that list of teach me's before she comes home to see our new grand baby, her niece.
One of which is how to knit two socks at the same time on 40 inch circular knitting needles. You can do this with the toe up method also and I've got the book on how to do this method going from the toe down. Won't be any big deal to switch to toe up. I think? I'm sure my teacher can figure it out. I've tried following this book's instructions once. Okay, several times and became all befuddled so badly I had to quit.

I've ordered some, on sale, hand painted sock yarn for just the occasion. Not that I don't have plenty of hand spun but when I was ordering larger needles from Knit Picks, I couldn't resist. Those colors were calling to me, "I need to come home with you." Who can resist such alure?

And even though I'm going to learn to knit two at a time, I'm not sure I don't want some of those tiny circular needles our daughter is knitting her socks with. They are cool. The needles and the socks too. Where did she get them?

Now I really have to go and get livestock chores done. I've then got bags to sew and I've some imitation tortoise shell buttons to make along with a flower water buffalo horn button, and start on some lily buttons made from Jade. Kirk promised to drill holes in my other buttons tonight.

This is my day without the munchkin to run after. I'd better put the pedal to the metal and get going. I've also some yard work to get done today before the rain fore casted for tonight. Whew! Run, run, Holly run!

I also need to find those buttons so I can finish that possum hat. Oh where, oh where can they be?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ivory Leaf Button

I'm back making buttons. My supplies are cast offs and left overs from Kirk's knife business. Bits and pieces of a wide variety of materials from a selection of different kinds of horn, mammoth ivory, exotic woods, and even marble. Some of the material arrives in nice, neat, smooth slabs and some are rough cut pieces.

At the moment, I'm working on several pieces of mammoth ivory, though I've some water buffalo horn in the early stages.

Some of the mammoth ivory Kirk buys comes in neatly ground slabs and others come in a sections of a tusk or little chunks. The sections are never very big as it is very rare to find anything large after centuries of lying in the ground where the earth has done its best to reclaim it. We couldn't afford it anyway.
The supply of woolly mammoth ivory comes from the far north in Russian and Alaska where a few men scour the open tundra each spring for these treasures. Few want to go where these men travel.

It isn't necessarily a new area that they search each year. Let me explain. You know if you live in rocky country how the earth heaves with the freezing and thawing and a field or garden that was once clear of rocks seems to grow more over the winter. The same thing happens with mammoth ivory. New pieces spring up every year.   
This is the back side of the chunk you saw above. It is not suitable to make a knife handle out of because it is too small and the deep ridges are not flat enough. After staring at it for a week and searching the Internet for ideas, I've got a plan for it. But I can't start it until I finish with what I've already in the process of making and there are quite a few pieces in the works already.

 The first step to creating buttons is to hog off excess ivory. The pieces after all are chunks or knife handle thick.

Sometimes chunks of my skin go missing as my hands are often within a quarter of an inch from the whirling sandpaper belt. I work on four or more pieces exchanging one for the other in an order for the ivory gets hot quickly and you gets burn marks easily. Not to mention get too hot to hold.

The inner part of this tiny section of tusk is missing. I cut the most curved section off and ground and ground and ground the rest until I had a relatively flat back.

Taking inventory of what was left, I then created a leaf design I felt would complement the coloring of the ivory and best use the area available. 
I then used the belt grinder in an unusual way and rough ground the leaf. Now I've got to hand sand and use files on the edges, working my way down to finer and finer sandpaper which will make the leaf smooth. Then I want to carve leaf vein grooves adding detail. Not before Kirk and I repeat Kirk shows me how to achieve a more squared up button holes.  That is my weakest area I've found so far in this process.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Possum Fibers

No, I haven't found the button for the hat and hence, I can't extend the other end of the band until I do because I don't know how big to make the button hole. What's a girl to do? I know, start two more knitting projects of course, socks and a scarf. I know, they don't go together but it's what strikes my fancy. Besides, I've found out that I need more knitting projects going on at the same time. It always works out that one project is at a stage that requires too much concentration for the distractions of traveling. Then again maybe it is just me that has to have it fairly quiet and calm to figure things out. Knitting is definitely not my first language. Come to think of it, not sure what is because nothing seems to come easily to me.

We'll talk more about the two new projects later but for now, let me fill you in on a few facts about this unusual yarn I used to make this cable band hat. The yarn is made of 75% merino wool, 15% alpaca, 10% possum. No, I didn't spell possum incorrectly as you from down under well know. This is not our North American species of opossum with the skinny inny tail but a bushy tail, very distant, cousin. This umpteenth cousin on the genealogical chart lives in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.

The possum that is made into yarn comes soley from New Zealand. In Australia the possum is native and has a plethora of predators to keep the population under control. Not a native of New Zealand, when it was introducedto New Zealand in 1837 problems arrose. You guessed it. They began to destroy the country's vegetation, wildlife, and spread disease through the agriculture, especially the dairy herds.

Now impossible to eradicate, they control these bushy tail pests by lowering their numbers and wisely do not waste them by using their fur in yarns. The yarn companies in turn contribute a share of their profits back into environments projects. A win win situation for a big problem.
Because possum fibers tend to be stiff and difficult to spin, you aren't likely to see 100 percent possum yarn. Opossum down is similar in quality to mink and is around 25-35 millimetres (1 -1.5) inches in length. The underfur is light in color, the guard hairs are dark and tend to stand out from the spun yarn. Since the fiber length is only 1 to 1 1/2 inches, it has to be blended with a companionable fiber that is also short such as merino wool. Possum fiber is smooth and doesn't pill. This furry fiber  is also hollow making it warmer than wool in the winter and cooler in the summer. 
 Other characteristic are:
  • Feels like cashmere...
  • Is hard wearing...
  • Is light weight...
  • Breathes...
  • Has an angora 'glow' or halo to it...

  • Yarns have no more than 20 to 40% possum. I'd guess in part to the fact this fiber has no crimp or bounce. It also does not take dye well. And if you are thinking of a felting project, possum doesn't felt. Not a bad thing depending on what you have in mind for the yarn. I think possum would be great in socks since it isn't irritating, is extremely warm, and smooth. Hm... I may have to look into that.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Just About Finished, Finally!

    Can't anyone say Rip it?  Not again you are probably saying but that's the truth. You needn't fear about doing a project with me and not getting it done before me, even if you start after me.

    The hat was too short in height and so I had to rip back to where I started the decrease adding more height before decreasing once more.

    I did get it done to the height finish line finally and even got started on extending the band. I cut off the blue waste yarn and started but interruptions have me stopped for a brief moment.

    The grand daughters are staying with me while their mom is in the hospital. Meet our newest grand daughter. She is just 4 pounds 13 ounces and 17 inches long. Yes, she is a preemie but she is doing well. I can't wait to get the kids off to school tomorrow and meet this newest addition to our family. Unfortunately, the  grand daughters will have to just see her through pictures rather than in person until she gets out of the hospital. The risks of spreading the RSV virus has the OB floor shut down to those 12 years old and younger.

    Bare with me as I'm just a little occupied right now and my knitting is just sitting. But then can you blame me - uh, knitting or newest grand daughter. It's a no brainer choice.

    I will get back to it soon and maybe by then I'll have figured out where or where I put that button I think would look great on this hat.

    Be sure and show me how your hat is coming along on my Facebook page at The Calico Bush.

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    Spending Tme With Gerry

     Meet Gerry, for Geriatrics, but don't tell him that's what I've named him after. He might become offended and I can't afford that, we've just become friends. You see Gerry here has his own way of doing things and it's the only way he operates. You know the type, his way or the highway.

    It took me a while to figure out all his quirks. It was trial and error as the owner's manual had very few pictures and though it was in English, it might as well have been in a foreign language for all I understood of it.
    Gerry hasn't been with us long,--about a year. Kirk purchased him with the intention of sewing his knife sheaths on. We barely touched him as we were powerfully confused on how to thread and operate him. It didn't matter that I've been sewing for years, my home sewing machine, Suzy, (you know, Suzy homemaker) is barely related to Gerry. They don't look alike, they don't thread anything a like, and the only similarity you have a pressure foot to lift to put the material under and you don't do that with your hand, you do it with your foot. The bobbins look alike except Gerry's is quite large and it requires a screw driver.

    Plus, Gerry's needles cost over 13 dollars - a piece - minus the shipping costs. I know because I accidentally broke one.

    Right after we bought Gerry, we had to wait for months for his previous owner to return and clear up these confused minds. The tutorial helped but we were still groping in the dark when he left. But, now that I've sewn nineteen livestock feed bags with him. I've got the basics pretty well down pat. 

    With a breaking of a needle, I had to search the Internet for a replacement. Yet, what kind of sewing machine did we have. We knew it sewed leather but the details were sketchy.

    I can now tell you that originally, Gerry was built with a cobbler in mind. For those of you who don't remember such folks, they make shoes and repair them. No, cobbler is no longer a common term and to think there use to be one in every town. Makes you realize what a disposable society we now have.

    Since Kirk doesn't make too many sheaths, it didn't seem right that for the money he spent, Gerry just sat there most of the time. 
     So my little brain got to whirling. There were all these livestock feed sacks that originally held fifty pounds of grain. That is until the livestock ate it all. The bags are made of heavy woven plastic, brightly colored, and I hated to throw them in the landfill. The old feed sacks helped heat our house since they were made of paper and burned well in the wood/coal stove.

    Plastic bags at the grocery store and now at the livestock feed store as well. Doesn't seem right.
     So in one of my "Waste not, want not" moods, I dreamed up making bags from them.

    I wanted to make them reminiscent of the feed sacks with similar stitching and seams. The exception is that it isn't string they are stitched together with but a strong heavy thread, equal to sewing work boots or saddle leather.

    The handles are double stitched on by my home sewing machine, Suzy, as she is more flexible and turns corners much easier. Something I've not figured out how to do on Gerry, so Suzy handles those.
     The proceeds from selling the bags will go back into buying more sacks of feed for our livestock. With each bag you buy, you will receive a personal thank you note from one of the beneficiaries of your proceeds. Daisy here thinks it is a good idea.
                                                                 Chicory, well...
    she was no longer impressed with the feed sack even though it is now an attractive bag with handles. It was empty.

    Hop on over to Etsy, and keep checking as I'll be putting up more and more bags this week as they are completed.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Half Done

    The band is done and notice how the one side is straight and the other ripply. The straight side I figured out is where you pick up the stitches to make the body of the hat.
    This means you end on the purl side with your yarn ready to pick up stitches with your crochet hook.
     One little problem though, the pattern says to pick up 88 stitches but I did 90  because I wasn't about to start over figuring this was close enough and ...
     ...when I reached this point, I tried the hat on. The hat was too... small. This wouldn't be such a big thing except I have a really small head. I can't see a baby wearing this hat. Plus, I didn't like the transition between the green and the brown, I did a green stitch, a brown stitch etc. row to try and smooth the way but it still looks to blunt between colors.
     So... ripppppppp. Yes, I'm related to a frog for I do the rip it, rip it, really well, remember the hat band a half of it four times.

    Starting over, I added 12 stitches, making it now 100 stitches picked up. I did three rows in the every other color instead of one to smooth the change between colors.

    This made a much smoother transition. Wish now that I had of made a one row band of green in the middle of the brown, but I'm NOT ripping again, I'll never get done.

    I'm nearing the decreases stage. Yeah!!, I'm nearing the home stretch. I'm still thinking the hat might run a bit small. I really do need to order those size  7 and size 8 needles from Knit Pick. I love their nickel plated ones. The yarn glides so nicely across them. Okay, and off sometimes but then it is me we are talking about here. Not the best knitter by a long shot.

    How is your hat coming along?

    I can see this hat in snowflakes. Now that I have the band figured out, I think I might just try that but first I have to finish this one.

    Now head to Facebook and see where else I've been knitting.!/pages/The-Calico-Bush/339573436081232