Monday, September 27, 2010

Tunisian Delight

Part of what I wanted to do while I was "for real" job hunting in Denver was to hone the skills that I have and learn new ones at the same time. I wanted to get better at spinning -- be more consistent and be able to spin yarn of a specific weight on purpose (you know -- other than either really bulky or really thin). With this project, I got to kill two birds with one stone, which made me all kinds of excited.

Tunisian crochet is something that not a lot of people practice anymore -- at least, I'm only starting to learn about it and see a few projects here and there. You use a looooong hook with a stub at the end -- so it looks like a knitting needle, but with a crochet hook at the end.

Photo ganked from Google.

I was recently introduced to a new blog called Nikki, in Stitches. She recently did a post on Tunisian Crochet and her efforts at learning the craft. Her post was not on the type of stitch I had seen before, so I went to YouTube and found a tutorial (I used this one). Turns out what I wanted to make is called Simple Stitch (easy enough, but apparently also called the afghan stitch) and after about 10 minutes, I was crocheting away.

I used the yarn I had spun up from Tanis Fiber Arts' Prism colorway (read about my adventures spinning it here). I love the way this yarn turned out -- I purposely plied it so that the colors would match up randomly, and when I saw another Tunisian Crochet scarf I knew that it would be the perfect way to showcase the beautiful colors. (Here's a link to my Ravelry project page.)

Tunisian crochet is kind of exciting because it manages to look like nothing else -- it's kind of knitted, kind of crocheted, kind of woven. There are other stitches that mimic knitting even closer.
It's a little on the short side, but I like it anyway. I may wear it a couple times and then perhaps gift it to a deserving niece or cousin somewhere.

I also finished a really great book this week. I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, recommended by my wonderful mother. The main character in this book, Rose, discovers at an early age that she can taste other people's feelings in the food they cook. She discovers her mother's depression, the baker's feelings about his girlfriend, and so much more. She copes by eating heavily processed foods -- chips, vending machine snacks, frozen dinners -- anything that's so heavily processed it has no emotion tied to it. She tells the story of Rose and her family - her brother's reclusive-ness and strange disappearances, her mother's struggles with her private life and what her friends are facing. I really enjoyed this book and thought Aimee Bender did a wonderful job with the prose style and describing what Rose is feeling throughout. The ending was a little ambiguous for my taste, but it suited the rest of the story -- you don't really know what happened, and neither does Rose, so it's okay.

I love a good book, so I'll be talking about those that I read here a little more. I wish I could knit and read at the same time ... that would be wonderful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Needs Gold Toe?

Here I sit, knitting away ... trying to finish up as many projects as I can. Problem is? Everytime I finish something, all of my unfinisheds seem to have multiplied. At any given point, I'm working on at least two or three projects and lately that seems magnified. On the needles right now, I have a pair of socks (my own plain vanilla sock pattern), the Cobblestone Pullover by Jared Flood and a Tunisian crochet scarf. Last night at the LambShoppe, I volunteered to make a beaded scarf (Gilda by the Twisted Sisters) as a sample. (It seemed like a good idea because it's a small project and a free way to try beaded knitting. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I'm also still half-shopping around for yarn for an afghan for Dear and I, not to mention my multiple spinning projects.

So I have to stay pretty strict with myself about finishing a project before starting another one. I have to remind myself that it's just as rewarding to finish a project as it is exciting to begin a new one. As much as I dislike weaving in ends (it's a necessary evil), I don't dislike it enough to let a project sit around because I haven't done the finishing steps for it. Sometimes I get a finished project that is not quite what I had in mind in the first place. With that in mind, I give you the Orange Toe Socks.
I started these for Dear because I hated hated hated the Noro Kureyon I was using for the first pair I started for him. I purchased two balls of Ambiente by Schoppel Wolle in what I thought was a very appealing fake Fair Isle pattern (I just love that fake Fair Isle patterning sock yarn). I noticed the small yardage (135m per 50g) on the ball but figured I always end up with leftovers so I should be fine. As I knit happily along, enjoying watching the patterning reveal itself, I realized that I would be short by quite a bit. Like, the entire toe. I explained it all to Dear and he voted for the orange that was a dyeing mistake I made a few weeks ago that he fell in love with. The first one turned out so that only the toe was orange ... the second one fell even shorter by about an inch before it was time to start the toe decrease.

Both balls of the same yarn, same dye lot, purchased from the same shop on the same day. What a freaking rip off. These are a Men's size 11 and I fell FAR short of a full pair. I wear a Ladies' 11, and would also fall far short of a full pair from two balls of this (not cheap) yarn. As much as I like the pattern that comes from their yarn, I am not planning on buying this yarn ever again.

I promise I'll have pictures of other projects up soon ... in the meantime, have a great weekend and happy knitting!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of Needles Clicking ....

It's been over a week since my last blog post, and I can only claim self-pity. I had a short time where I was feeling massively sorry for myself for one reason and another and last night I decided it was time to snap the fuck out of it and get back to work. Money is looking a little tighter than we originally anticipated so I've begun the search for full-time gainful employment (gag). I have received little to no response (the little responses I've received have all been to the effect of "the position has been filled.") and frustrations are abundant ... but that does not mean I should be neglecting my original plan of making some money with my knitting and dyeing. And so, I bring you the finished Elijah (Ysolda Teague's link):

Isn't he cute? (Here's my Rav link, by the way.) He's for a friend of mine in Houston who's little boy just turned one. We agreed to trade this elephant for some web banner and logo stuff she's doing for me. I'll also be working on another one for her sister-in-law, although that one will be in a slightly less colorful yarn. I do love the way he turned out (he's very soft and squishy). My only problem is that there was no good color to use for his eyes -- nothing would stand out against all those bright colors. I ended up with white and added the eyebrows to make him look less creepy. He's my first knitted toy, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Definitely fiddly at the points where I had to pick up stitches for his body, arms, legs and ears, but not as bad as I thought. I hope Thadd likes him.

I did manage to finally get my Etsy store up. It has the yarns that I've hand-dyed (available in both fingering and DK weights) as well as photos of the hats that I can custom make for gifts. The hats are totally customizable -- color, yarn, etc. Take a look and send me an email if you'd like to place an order!

Last Thursday, I woke up at 5:30am for no real reason and lay there for about an hour until Dear's alarm went off. In that hour, I decided that the only thing I really felt like doing that day was making a pair of lovely fingerless gloves.

Aren't they Fetching? I knit mine up in Malabrigo worsted, the colorway called Paris Night that I got for half price at Knitting in the Loop's big sale back in July. I have about half the skein leftover, so I could easily make another pair for one of Dear's sisters or something. They took me about 10 hours total to knit up, and I was thrilled to have them for our weekend trip to Vail.

What's that? Oh, yes ... our weekend trip to Vail. My wonderful Mummy came to visit for the weekend, bringing with her her dashing boyfriend, Bill.

We spent one night up in Vail and then the second night back in Denver. We had a great weekend of beautiful scenery, great food and even better company. They were are first visitors to our new home here in Denver, and we had a great time. I miss my mother terribly and I already can't wait for the next visit.

The purpose behind the trip to Vail was to see the Aspens changing -- we saw quite a few, and they're mostly yellow. But the skies were so clear and you truly could see forever.

Makes me want to put on an apron and start singing songs with a slew of darling Austrian children.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I may be a cheater ....

I've noticed lately that I have a monogamy problem. I'm always thinking about starting new projects and what's next up on the needles. I'm never happy with what I have going at the moment, looking for the next cheap (or not so cheap) thrill, trying things on in my mind. I try to stay faithful, especially when I've promised projects to people. But really, what's a girl to do?

I've got two pairs of socks on the needles right now, both for Dear. I finished the first whole sock from the first pair the other day, a really manly color combo from Noro Kureyon (mostly wool with some nylon and silk). They look lovely, very manly (my own plain vanilla sock pattern).
The only issue is I hate this yarn. I hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Knitting with this yarn frustrates me to a level that can only be soothed by chewing it into a thousand tiny wads of thick wool spit balls. It's a single, so it twists up on itself without even the slightest breeze, which means that it gets random little knots in it constantly. It's rough and scratchy and not smooth even on my nickel plated DPNs (my favorites). I really wish I didn't still have half a ball of this shite left because nothing would make me happier than to throw it on the fire and watch it shrivel and smoke until it's never to be seen in my project basket again.

So I distract myself with something cuter: Elijah, by Ysolda Teague.

He's only missing ears and eyes, and then he will be ready to go to his new home back in Houston. I hope Thadd likes him (even if he is a bit late for his first birthday ... I don't think he'll remember that in the years to come).

I got to play with some fiber this week, too. Some from my Phat Fiber box. First up, Orange Jello. The tag didn't state what the fiber is, so I'm afraid I don't know. It was a little compacted, but spun up easily after some pre-drafting.

I wanted to practice my Navajo plying, but it wasn't coming off the bobbin smoothly at all -- it kept breaking. So I finally gave up. That's when I noticed

Sorry for the carpet being in focus rather than my fingers, I couldn't get my camera to focus properly.

Seems like graphite stains where I was pinching and drafting from. I don't know if this is dye or some other chemical treatment, but it was kind of sticky and not very pretty.

I also spun up some 100% alpaca from Crooked Fence Alpaca Farms (purchased at Fancy Tiger).

It spun up a little thinner than I was planning, but I got another chance to practice the Navajo plying and it turned out really lovely. About 37 yards of 100% un-dyed Alpaca. It's in the natural grey and black of the original animal. I might sleep with it under my pillow and pet it lovingly.

And check out the pretty colors:

Two colorful plies of Tanis Fiber Arts' Prism roving. Spun up into approximately 42 yards. I don't know what I'm going to make from this (child's hat? Tunisian crochet scarf?) but whatever it is will be a bright pop of color. I split the strip of top in half and then spun each half separately. Then I plied them together, purposely keeping them random. It's a little embarrassing to admit the small thrill I got when the colors would match up and then combine into two totally different colors again. I can't wait to see it knit up into something.