Monday, May 04, 2009

Elderberry Cordial, Mint Cordial and wines

I had a busy weekend, working on several on-going wine and cordial projects. Two wines, a Chardonnay and Viognier, have been racked, and a Shiraz has been fined and is now settling out.

I've been experimenting with mint cordials over the last few years, since we grow cinnamon mint in the garden. I've found that filling the jar as full as possible with mint, then filling the jar as full as possible to eliminate air space helps preserver the light green color. If there is more air in the jar as it steeps, the color becomes much darker.

Since I love elderberries, the elderberry cordial is one of my favorites. Beautiful aroma and color, and the flavor is incredible. This batch will probably need to be racked one more time before I do a final bottling.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Wrist Warmers

I like my Cabled Wrist Warmers (details on so much that I am using some other handspun Merino to make another pair. This project is serving a dual purpose, to make another pair of wrist warmers, and to see how the K1B technique may work with socks. These K1B Wristlets are a simple tube with no shaping or patterning. I'll get an idea how the fabric behaves with the K1B.

I've finished the first one of these, except for weaving in the ends, and started the second. A fast, satisfying and useful project.

I've found using wrist warmers/wristlets to be a great way to keep comfortable on a chilly day, indoors or out. Since these leave the palm of the hand open they work at the computer, too. Styles that cover the palm interfere with using a mouse.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spinning of Spudnick's fleece is done

I finally finished spinning Spudnick's fleece Sunday. I took 2 days to ply the 3 nearly full bobbins, winding one into a center pull ball and leaving it on the winder so the yarn would 'set' in the ball. I then plied the other 2 bobbins until one ran out of yarn. I did all the spinning, of the entire fleece, on my Mazurka, and all the plying on my double-treadle Lendrum with the plying head.

That was Tuesday evening I started the plying. Wednesday I finished plying the rest of the remaining bobbin with the center pull ball, and when that was gone the other end of the ball, finishing what has been, for me, a very long journey. I skeined, washed it and hung it (unweighted) to dry. It is now wound up and in the box with the rest of the yarn. Next step: get pictures then figure out how I want to do the yoke. Who knows, maybe I'll finally be able to wear a sweater made from this yarn next winter!

After I finish the Spiral Dance Shawl. Back to the border!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

K1B Knit One Below, Wristlet

I've been working on several projects lately, mostly Spudnick's fleece and the Pink Spiral Dance Shawl, but this is one that I just restarted as a completely different garment. I had started this on size 3 US needles as a hat, using these small needles to make a more dense fabric for warmth. It made a thin, but pretty tight fabric, but the colors from this yarn spun from Ohio Valley Natural Fibers Merino core roving in black and white, was streaking shades of grey.

When I realized that I had made a mistake a couple rows below, not getting enough increases in, I decided to try something else, using the techniques from the Knitter's articles and what I've learned reading the book 'Knit One Below: One Stitch, Many Fabrics', of which I've posted previously. I decided to start another pair of wrist warmers/wristlets. I really like the way this lofty hand spun is knitting up in K1B fabric. It's very flexible, but feels like it will be thick enough to stop some wind, and yet thin enough to wear well with other clothing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Finished the Quiviuk Feather and Fan Scarf, Thoughts about

I finished my travel knitting project yesterday. It is a Seaman's Scarf with a Feather and Fan Pattern that I knit out of Quiviuk, a quiviut yarn. All the gory details are here on Ravelry. I'm finding Ravelry to be quite a good way to keep records about my various knitting projects. It's all in one place, and since I'm online all day while I work, a few minutes now and then give me a knitting 'fix' at times I'm not able to actually knit. I don't tend to do as much with the social networking aspect of Ravelry, mostly just keep track of my library and projects.

While I don't often use it, there is a huge amount of information and access to other knitters with all sorts of skills. It is nice to know it is there should I need it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Day has us all busy

We have had a busy day today, enjoying the lovely sunny spring weather. It is cool, but the sun is warm and the sky clear. Perfect day to walk the dogs, sit out and crack hickory nuts and do some handspinning.

I've put a new bobbin on the Mazurka wheel as I spin up the final few batts of Spudnick's wool. I've gotten several batts spun up this weekend, as well as making progress on the Pink Spiral Dance Shawl and the Knit One Below Reversible Vest. I even got a little work done on the quiviut scarf when I walked the dogs this afternoon. Now it's time to work on the spinning for a bit before the last of the late afternoon sun goes.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Knitter's Abacus Bracelets and other neat tools

I have on a pretty Knitter's Abacus Bracelet that I'm using as I knit. I have picked up several of these over the past few years, and enjoy wearing and using them. I'm not much good at keeping paper and pencil by my knitting, probably because I usually knit as I'm riding in the car, or walking the dogs down the road, or....

Until I found these little bracelets at my local shop I would just periodically count and put in stitch markers. I still do that, but now I also use these handy abacus to help me keep track of things.

Since I live a fair distance from anything, and nearly an hour from my favorite local shops, I love mail order. 'Deliver to my door'. Fantastic! When I decided I wanted more bracelets in different colors to coordinate either with my project or with my outfit, I started looking online. I found these nice bracelets at Hide and Sheep, along with various stitch markers.

Simple, neat and efficient tools.

Knit One Below - Reversible Vest

The article about the new book "Knit One Below" in the Spring 2009 Knitter's and pattern in the Winter 2008 Knitter's have really been inspiring me. Yesterday my husband reminded me about some of the machine knitting yarns I've got, so as soon as I got home I started through my stash to see what took my fancy. These are all coned yarns, mostly Yarn Country. I found 3 different black yarns that I thought would be fun used together, 100% Tussah Silk, Designer 737 80% wool 20% silk, and CashWool which is 50% cashmere 50% wool. I thought they would be a nice background for some purples. The real interest yarn for the contract color is Violet Night, a variegated rayon chenille in purples, violets and green. With that as a base I added 3 other yarns for my first swatch, Hilcasa, a 20/2 waxed cotton in a dark purple, a Ming Blue 2/17 wool, and Concord Designer 737 WoolRay, a wool/rayon blend.

The vest calls for 14 st and 42 rows for 4 inch/10 cm square. The vest has a 2 stitch garter border and an odd number of stitches so I cast on 21 stitches (14+1 to be odd, +1 stitch per side so the garter stitches didn't distort the gauged, and 2 stitches per side for the garter border). This swatch gave me a chance to learn the pattern, learn how to cross these yarns at the edges to make the edges neat and pretty, and get used to correcting mistake. I recommend a crochet hook for this!

As the article said, this is a quick, fun technique that doesn't take long to master. The fabric is thick, but not stiff. Both sides are pretty, with very different but interesting looks. The first swatch is finished, measured and has been washed. I'll measure again after it's dry.

In the mean time I'm working on a second swatch, with only 2 yarns as the contrast, the Violet Night and Hilcasa. It is only a bit over an inch long, but is a much thinner fabric and drapier. I think I will like this better for my vest, but that remains to be seen after measuring, washing, and remeasuring.

I'm not usually one to do this much swatching, but since I'm not using a regular yarn, but instead just knitting 2 or more yarns together as one, and because I don't want to do all the various math to figure out my own pattern, it's worth it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More k1b (Knit One Below, not knit through the back loop)

I often do not read my knitting or spinning magazines right when they come in. I've always got a lot going on, and the size isn't easy for me to read much of the time. So I stack them up and when the mood strikes I'll start going through them, usually reading several one after the other over the course of several days. Then it will be months before I read them again.

Well, the new Spring 2009 issue of Knitter's came in, and for some reason I actually opened it and started to browse through, The inside cover had an interesting looking little diagram showing a knitting stitch technique called Knit One Below. There were some really beautiful multi-color sweaters on the same page, and a book cover with a stunning sweater on the facing page. The publishers of Knitter's, XRX, Inc, also published this book, "Knit One Below: One Stitch, Many Fabrics" by Elise Duvekot. It can be found at the Stitches Market and on Amazon.

I haven't yet purchased the book, but probably will very soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Knit One Below" review by Knitters Magazine has caught my attention

I've been enjoying Knitter's Magazine, among others, for many years. I don't often actually read it when it arrives. I quickly flip through to look at the pictures, then put it in my stack to get to when the mood strikes. The Spring 2009 issue arrived the other day, with a good, big review and lots of pictures from a new book called 'Knit One Below: One Stitch, Many Fabrics' by Elise Duvekot. The picture of the front cover of the book, the little graphic showing the k1b (Knit One Below) and my attention was caught.

I'm not usually much of one for multi-color garments other than socks, which I basically wear at home, usually as bedsocks. I don't much like horizontal stripes, and the pictures showing columns of color, many in colors I love, really caught my eye. The description of the fabric and construction techniques are rolling around in my head, and several of the yarns in my stash seem to suddenly be calling my name and saying 'k1b'.

I do love all the unvention/invention that has been happening in the knitting community. I consider myself so lucky to have all these wonderful, inventive people helping all of us be better, happier, knitters.

I've got to get a copy of this book!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alka Seaman's Scarf

Here is a picture of my latest alpaca scarf. I think the yarn is called Oceans. It is a lovely, soft sport weight yarn It was left over from making an Alka shawl. I had started it a long time ago, and this winter the scarf I've been wearing for many years had the yarn on the selvage break. I know I have about 10 inches of the yarn left over someplace, so the damaged scarf is put away until I figure out where it's filed. In the mean time I needed a new scarf. I found this very lost WIP, untangled the yarn and started knitting again. I'm sure the tangle was why I stopped working on it so long ago. I should have rewound the ball when I finished the shawl, but I didn't and it fell completely apart. Too late smart, as they say!

I was traveling when I was working on this, so I didn't have my book with the pattern in it, so I made up the pointed edges as I went. I've no recollection if the original book pattern had a point or if it was squared off. At some point I will get a real camera out and get better pictures.

Kid Mohar Shawl

I've been slowly getting pictures taken of various things I've made. Here is a Kid Mohair Shawl that I knit a few years ago. This picture doesn't do it justice. It isn't as long as some I've knit, but the length is very convenient, coming to middle of my forearm rather than down to my wrists or farther. The pattern is Anne from Stahman's Shawls and Scarves.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wrist Warmers

Sunday I finished up the Handspun Mitts I've been working on, and since I was riding in the car with another hour or so in front of me, needles and yarn in my lap, I decided some more comfort was in order. The Mitts were knit in double-knitting, at 4.5 stitches per inch, so I made a rough estimate at 4 1/2 * 6 3/8 and got 29 (28.6875). I wanted ribbing, both for elasticity and for added depth to the fabric, so I decided to cast on 36 stitches and start off in 2x2 ribbing. I wanted cables, so ended up with 7 baby cables and 2 cables crossing over each other every 8 rounds to make a chain, crossing over the purl stitch next to them accordingly.

I finished the first one later in the evening, and started its mate. It's comforting to start and finish projects so fast, and I really need the added warmth sometimes. More details are on Ravelry.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Handspun Mitts

The white mitts are made from my own hand spun yarn, from Targhee wool. The pattern is one I've been working on for a while. I've actually made several pairs of these mitts, but the others I've given away as gifts. I'm still doing some minor tweaking to the pattern, and may have to make another couple of pairs to decide what will make it 'perfect'. My goal with this pattern is for the backs of my hands and wrists to be kept warm while my fingers and the palms of my hands to be open, free to knit or do whatever other activity I may feel like doing. I often walk and knit, and when it's cold out I sure appreciate some additional warmth! Oh, and these are accurate for my historical reenactments, too. Sure hope life eases up soon so I can get to some!

Quiviut Feather and Fan Seaman's Scarf

The brownish thing shown on top of the pink shawl is actually another Seaman's Scarf, this one in Feather and Fan stitch, one of my favorites. The yarn is quiviut (aka Musk Ox down), which is very light but very warm. I like knitting on this kind of scarf, which is knit from both ends of a ball of yarn. When it's close to being finished, I weave in the beginning yarns, then when I'm done knitting it's ready to wear. A nice, neat, way to finish using a ball of yarn completely up.

Pink Spiral Dance Shawl

The pink circle is a cotton shawl I'm knitting for my niece that I'm calling Pink Spiral Dance Shawl. It uses her favorite numbers 8 and 16, and is her favorite color. Someday I'll document the pattern, if I get time. The little bit of yarn you can see at the bottom is the tag end of the 6th ball of the yarn. It is over 32 inches across now. I've 10 balls of this cotton Mandarin Classis yarn.

Knitting Rules

I finally got around to getting some (very bad) pictures of some of my current knitting projects. I'll do a separate post about each.

This blue on black, which is difficult to see, is a Seaman's scarf, knit in the Alka pattern from 'Stahman's Shawls and Scarves', one of my favorite shawl knitting books. It is the only time I've used this pattern for the scarf, although I've used it any number of times for shawls. I'll try to get a better picture soon.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fire wood and wood stoves

Summer before last I got a new, Mansfield Soapstone woodstove. I just love it. All my research said that it would be more efficient, not as hot on the outside as a metal stove, but hold the heat longer, giving a nice, gentle heat over a longer period of time. I didn't get it from the place with the link, I got it from a local distributor, but they don't do much over the internet, so that link has more information if you're interested.

We have found that with this stove we can keep it at a low burn even when it is up to 50 F without it being so hot we're driven out of the house. That was not possible with our cast iron woodstove. It would run us out of the house with the heat if the outside temperature was over40 or 45!

We have been running this stove almost continuously since cold weather came last fall. It has been our primary source of heat in the home during that time. Needless to say, this means we must have wood to feed it. Some of the wood we have used this year has been from the many trees that were blown down during the big storms. Some from Hurricaine Ike, some from the damage after a huge snow/ice storm followed a week later by thawing and then very high winds again. Lots of cutting and splitting of wood around here, mainly done by my husband, with a little help by my younger son and myself.

Sunday afternoon I went out in the cold, windy yet sunny day and restacked and recovered part of the woodpile. As we have been bringing wood into the house to burn the wood pile has gone down of course. To get the wood that was actually on the ground back up into stacks I reorganize the pile every now and again. We have a couple of sections in the pile that we are not using to burn since they are too green (from Ike), but as we remove the dry, seasoned wood I want to get the pile moved around so that everything that is getting seasoned is under cover so it will finish drying. Except for the new stuff, of course, as that will need some more time to season before it's ready for stacking and final drying.

It is a peaceful, rewarding, activity, to work on the wood pile, whether splitting or restacking.

Quiet weekend at home

We had a really nice, quiet, weekend at home. Since my older son is away at university it's just my husband, younger son and me, along with the 2 dogs, BJ and Cadee, and Hawkeye Cat. My younger son is learning to drive, and since we have cars with standard transmission it has taken quite a while for him to get enough experience with the clutch to get out on the road. Last weekend was his first time actually driving on the roads, and not just in parking lots, or the little access roads over by the lake. This weekend we got him out for about an hour each day, getting him all sorts of different experiences. In town, country, and he even got on a major highway yesterday. They sure grow up fast!

I have been working along on a few projects, and planning out others. Never ends. Things have been pretty crazy for some time, and it's nice to start feeling like I'm getting forward progress made on my own goals. The lovely pink shawl I'm making for my niece is coming along very well. I expect to be able to finish it in good time to get it shipped out for her birthday. She wants a knitting spool, too, so I need to take a trip to find her one to include in the box.

The shawl is too big to easily take with me now, so I am working on a pair of hand spun mitts. I've started to post about them on Ravelry, and will eventually get pictures of them, too. The first one is finished, I just need to finish it's mate. Usually I knit both of a pair at the same time, but this time I didn't. These are being knit on US size 8 Brittany wooden needles, which are so much bigger than the US size 1-3 that I usually use for socks!

The other 2 knitting projects that I have in the background waiting their turn are a quiviut seaman's scarf knit in Feather and Fan, and a pair of cotton socks. I really don't much like knitting cotton socks, but for some reason I started these to take on my trip. I don't think this pair is meant for me. I think they will end up a bit too big for me. I've got someone in mind, but will have to see if they fit! Whomever they fit is who they are for. How's that for rationalization?

In addition to the off-and-on knitting I also got some time at my spinning wheel. I am slowly finishing the spinning on the last shade of Spudnick's fleece. I've got a bobbin and a half spun from 12 batts of this last shade. I have 12 more batts to go. At this rate another month or so to go! As with the rest of the fleece, this is being spun on the Kromski Mazurka wheel. What a lovely little wheel. I love sitting by the big front window where there is lots of natural light, enjoying the heat from the woodstove. It's close enough to the stove to be cozy, but not so close that it will heat or damage the wood of my wheels.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I need my Mitts!

It has been cold at the office lately, so I've brought in a pair of mitts to wear. They are described on I've made 2 pairs of these, one for a friend and this pair for me. The yarn used was less than a skein of Berroco Jasper, a randomly space died single ply Merino wool yarn. I need to get a better picture (this was taken with my phone under fluorescent lighting).

It sure helps to have something cozy to keep my hands and wrists warm, while leaving my fingers free to type.

I'm working on another pair out of handspun yarn, using a pattern I made up that a couple of years ago. These will leave the palms of my hands open, which will make using the computer mouse much easier. This is probably the 4th or 5th pair of these I've made, but I've given all the rest away as gifts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shawls are wonderful

The chill weather has been uncomfortable for me the last few weeks, as it so often is. Since I work in an office I have taken to wearing some of my shawls the last couple of days. It has really helped. Yesterday I wore a white kid mohair lace shawl and today I've got on a lovely blue alpaca lace shawl. Both of these shawls are knitted from Myrna A. I. Stahman's book "Stahman's Shawls and Scarves: Lace Faroese-Shaped Shawls from the Neck Down & Seamen's Scarves". The blue is the Alka, which I've made several times in various weights of yarn, always lovely. I don't find the pattern I used for the white one on Ravelry, but it is a similar diamond pattern as the Alka, only the interior of the diamonds contains 3 vertical k3tog's, making the shawl even airier than the Alka. I only had so much of that white kid mohair, and using that very open pattern managed to get the shawl long enough to reach about to my waist.

I highly recommend the book and love the shoulder-fitted Foroese-shaped shawls. They stay in place well and are very comforting to wear.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Maui is beautiful

I spent most of January on the western short of the island of Maui in Hawai'i with my Mom. We had a wonderful time, even though I had to work most weekdays. I learned to snorkel, which was a bit of an adventure getting used to the magnification of a prescription corrective mask. Nice that things were magnified so they looked closer, but it took me quite a bit to get used to how far away things really were when they looked like they were inches from me!

While we were there I started a pink shawl for my niece, which was fun, since she is showing interest in knitting.

Over the weekend I got some time at the spinning wheels, plying one shade of grey, the next to last, and starting to spin the last shade. As usual with this fleece, I've been spinning on the Mazurka and plying on the Lendrum. I have 12 batts of this last shade, so it will take me some time to do. When that is all spun and plied I'll have the interesting task of figuring out how I want the yoke of the sweater to look, how to shade the greys in a final garment.