Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Plague Strikes (and other sundry matters)

By and large, we're a pretty healthy family. If kidney stones are crossed off from the list of Things Requiring Medical Attention NOW, I think we'd have to go back into pre-blog history for a time that illness necessitated a trip to the doctor.  And that week, Filia had bronchitis, my mom had bronchitis, two had bronchitis, and the rest of us just had a cough that was taking 6+ weeks to depart. 

So, when Filius commented on Monday that he wasn't feeling well, it was time to mention hydration and lots of rest.  By the end of Tuesday, he was feeling better, but still possessed of a cough and no energy.  I should have mentioned a home remedy (because I'm the only one that likes them, but the mere MENTION of them helps everyone else feel MUCH better. No thanks, mom -- I feel better already!) but I didn't.  And this morning, he's feeling better yet - and has a temp 5 degrees lower than yesterday.  I wonder if anyone else will succumb? 

The counterpane is moving along nicely.  I'm up to 12 completed squares, and am half done with the next.  To balance out my cotton knitting, I have some alpaca and wool on the way for a few test knits. 

Friday - after I wrote Friday's blog post - I got an e-mail saying my harp was ready for pick-up.  Happy dance!!!  Saturday, Filius (before the plague) chauffered me out to Red Wing and we packed my new harp into the van.  We are getting along together wonderfully, and I am looking forward to playing in church on Sunday.

My book-reading seems to ebb and flow, just like the rest of life.  Currently, it's flowing.  I'm working on Gabe Lyons' The Next Christian (which my mom just finished) and will dive into Liturgy of the Ordinary after that (once mom finishes it.  Isn't there something wrong when one adds a book to one's mom's book order, and she starts reading it before even telling you that it arrived?).  And then comes a book by Tim Keller on Prayer, which was in the same order and which mom will probably snag before me as well.  The current audiobook is Vanity Fair.  It should last me through quite a few Counterpane blocks. 

The auger on our pellet stove jammed, the very day the furnace was to be cleaned so we could use it for a secondary heat source with confidence.  What lovely timing!  (Except, the furnace guy didn't come, and we ended up getting it cleaned a few days later.)  Vir and I dismantled the pellet stove, and the auger and motor are still firmly stuck together, but sitting on the kitchen counter surrounded by Eau d' PB Blaster (which is like Liquid Wrench, but not helping).  I hope we can get the parts apart, and then put everything back together, in time to have the stove up and running for drying test knits later next week!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Hard Water

In our town, we have hard water.  I'm told it's not your run-of-the-mill hard water, or even your average very hard water (over 10 grains), but that  it's in the 'over 40 grains' category. I amuse myself by thinking this means I actually DO make dehydrated water in my amazing tea kettle.
Flakes of water

My tea kettle is amazing in that, unlike others that I have owned, this one comes close to being self-cleaning.  The hard water deposits build up for a week or so, and then, marvelously and amazingly, the kettle sheds them.  I'll be boiling water, and hear some popping noises come from the kettle, and voila ... flakes of deposit have sprung free from the bottom of the kettle.  The largest one in the photo above is over 4 cms in each direction.  Except for thickness.  Previous tea kettles have needed scrubbing and soaking in vinegar and a bit of chipping to remove the build-up. Over time, that results in tea kettles needing to be retired because of holes in the bottom.  

I have some actual knitting content this week!  One of my recent projects was a pair of gloves. Now, I'm a mitten knitter, and mitten-wearer.  I had a pair of Isotoner gloves eons ago which I used before I became a Serious Knitter, but really ... mittens are such a gorgeous canvas on which to create designs, why make gloves?  All those fingers, and differing finger lengths, and ... 

Then along came a test knit for a pair of gloves several years ago.  I knew I could do it, and didn't have another project in the wings, so I accepted it and quickly knit up Anu's Gloves as a practice 'how does this glove thing work, anyway' sample.  Then I knit up the test knit, sent off the gloves, and didn't pay any more attention to them for several years.  Except to note that really, they DID look nice in the professional photos.  So I decided to play with lovely, skinny yarn and knit up a pair of Sanquhar gloves from a free pattern.

They were surprisingly easy to knit, and gorgeous, and I let them marinate in my stash of finished knitted items for YEARS before I decided that, despite how lovely they were, I should still use them.  And suddenly, I became a glove-wearer.  And a glove-knitter.  It took several pairs of gloves, but I no longer have to give myself a serious pep talk before beginning a pair.  I'm always surprised at how FAST single-color gloves knit up.  Stranded gloves at 12 sts/" take a bit longer, but they're so lovely!

Checking for fit
Admiring the design

Sometimes, when one is knitting merrily away, one misses a mistake -- like, having a red square where a white square belongs, and vice versa.  I discovered a mistake in the second glove when I tried it on as I was about to start the fingers.  The mistake needed fixing, and I *thought* I could do it by laddering down over the 22-st section and reknitting the blocks in the correct order.

While I thought about it, I knit two fingers.  If my repair attempt didn't pass muster, I'd have to rip them out as well to get back to the top of the thumb gusset, but, oh well.  I didn't want to rush into things. 
I'd seen a photo of a tortuous lace repair in which the strands of yarn were pinned out in a lovely arc, and thought that might come in handy for keeping track of which two strands of yarn went together, and in what order they should be used.  This was a lifesaver.  32 pre-knit strands of yarn floating around randomly tangling would have been a nightmare.

Halfway there in the reknit!
One by one, I reknit the rows, then un-reknit them after noticing the white stitch at the left edge of my repair which had not laddered down with its fellows, and re-reknit.

And then it was time for another pot of tea.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Counterpane Post

The Counterpane Square tally stands at 8 completed, and #9 was more than half-done when the yarn for a test knit arrived. I'll be finishing that off tonight, and can then resume working with cotton carpet warp.

After I finished #8, I made a pretty little stack of the four squares you see above and noticed that #7 had a definite blush to one corner of it.  I think what happened is that I'd not totally scrubbed the red dye off my hands from a previous knit, and the yarn got colored as it passed through my fingers.  I've soaked and washed the square a few times, and the pink is next to invisible now.  Hooray!  It's also much whiter than the other squares.  I should have expected that -- the yarn was made who knows how many years ago, and is on its third owner.

One of my blog readers asked me what my most-used needles and yarns were.  Hands-down, size 2.75mm needles are my most-used, when left to my own devices.  They're my go-to sock needle, to the point that when I was doing a year of socks, I wore out a few sets of birch needles before putting some Signature dpns on my Christmas list.  2.75mm needles + fingering yarn = happy me.  I could easily use nothing but that size for the rest of my life and not run out of things to knit.  They're perfect for socks, and if I jump up to 14" dpns and Frangipani Gansey yarn, perfect for ganseys.  Although the Frangipani is a bit rough on the hands, it wears like iron and I wouldn't mind having a lifetime supply of it tucked away somewhere.  The Counterpane is being worked on 3.00mm needles -- just a wee bit bigger, for a nicer drape to the square.  They'll be my most-used needle until I finish the project!

I'm also a fan of Shetland Lace. Fleegle's Gossamer Web Etsy store is dangerous for those who like tiny yarns.  I've only worked with Phoenix (52/2) but have made a square shawl and a nice long stole from it, on size 0 needles if I remember aright.

For colorwork, I love Jamieson and Smith yarns, but have only worked with them once.  For Latvian mittens, something a bit finer is better.  Well, better if one is aiming at 15+ stitches to the inch.  The finer the gauge, the more time I can spend knitting and the less time planning the project!  (In retrospect, that sentence isn't exactly clear.  As the stitches get smaller, the amount of time required to knit a given project increases, while the planning time stays about the same or increases just a bit.) 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

After the storm

We had a wee bit of a blizzard come through on Monday.  I've got a one-minute video of the snow falling, but it's too big to upload and I have no idea how to make it smaller.  Trimming it with Movie Maker results in a file type Blogger can't use, alas.  I do have some still shots of 'looking at a window', however.  It was much prettier in real life, trust me.  

We ended up with around a foot of heavy snow -- sufficient snow that most schools were closed on Tuesday as well, to allow time for the roads and parking lots to be cleared. Filia was able to reschedule some things at work so she could stay home; other employees got in early before the accumulations hit and just planned to spend the night.  Vir left earlier than usual on Monday to get where he needed to be before too much of the blizzard had happened, and landed at Ground Zero for accumulation in Minnesota -- 17".  In a white Chevy Spark, which almost looks like a snowdrift to begin with.  He made it home safely, with stories to tell.  

But the fun story this week has to do with a message I received on Friday.
Oddly enough, my harp was just a few feet away from me when I got this message.  But -- I was looking for a harp with a few more bass strings.  So I immediately became all ears (eyes) and we spent the next half-hour or so in discussion.  The next day, Filia and I went on a road trip to check out my harp.
And before we left the shop, I had a new harp.  Or rather, the shop had my new harp.  The harp was so new, it had only been wearing strings for a day.  And new harp strings need tuning (and tuning, and tuning....)  The harp is going to stay at the shop a while, getting tuned, getting sharping levers added, and a few other final touches, and then I'll bring it home, sometime when we're not having a blizzard.  

Filius learned to drive a manual transmission earlier this month (which is very good, since the car he bought was a manual transmission) and driving out and back would be good practice.  But -- will my new harp fit in his car?  (Imagine how silly it would be to drive for 2+ hours to get a harp, and not be able to get the harp.)  I brought my new harp's case home, the better to see how it will fit, or not, in the back seat.  It also makes for a nice size comparison.  29-string Logan Meadows, bag for 34-string Marion.  And me.  (My apologies for the lack of readable book titles in the bookcase photo.)

 I've finished up the test knit I was working on last week, and am working on the counterpane while awaiting yarn for the next knit.  Seven squares down, 73 to go!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's been a little bit on the cool side

My knitting chair is right next to a window.  In the afternoons, and in the summer, it's delightful to have natural light for knitting by. My Ott light, a gift from my mom when I was about to knit a black sweater, is on the other side of my knitting chair.  It's seemed a bit cool lately, and I thought I'd stick a thermometer on the windowsill ('in') with the external sensor next to my feet ('out') to see if this coolness was all in my head.

Perhaps it's not in my head after all!  Cold temps outside (and in) aren't all bad, though.  You know how, after making a batch of stock, you're supposed to let it cool before putting it in the refrigerator?  At this time of year, I can just set it in the back room to cool.  And then notice it's frozen, and leave it there for a week or two until I'm ready to use it for soup.  

I have to remember to reinterpret cookbooks at this time of year. "Have ingredients at room temperature" is best understood as "place ingredients on pellet stove for at least an hour."  I made a batch of cookies on Saturday, and the butter re-solidified after I creamed it with the sugar because the flour and molasses weren't pre-heated.  I warmed the whole mixing bowl on the pre-heating oven for around 5 minutes to resolve the problem.  

I got a gift!  I was quite impressed with the gift bag it came in.  It's not quite the right shape for a knitting bag, but I am sure that it will see some use.

This past week's knitting has been of the incognito type. I'm halfway done, though, and will post pictures when I can. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017 Temperature Afghan

It's said the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And for me and my mom, this proverb has more than a seed of truth.  For the past two years, Mom has made a temperature afghan from her stash. 
Temperature 2016
The first year, she diligently worked one row for each day, plus a white stripe to divide up the months.  And - because we're detail-oriented people - she also added in some indicators of the precipitation.  The afghan was almost 8 foot long. 

So, for 2017, she changed the rules.  If the temperature stayed in the same color range for 2+ days, she still only added one stripe.  65 degrees for 10 days in a row?  Then one stripe of whatever 65 degrees is.  The afghan came out a lot shorter!
Temperature 2017
She's skipping the Temperature Afghan this year, and plotting out her yarn for a Temperature Scarf for next year.  I'm almost tempted to join her, but I've got this Counterpane thing going on, and since I decided to commit to Counterpane 2022, I've had 4 test knits crop up. 

I love test knits. They're like permission to MAKE time for knitting, as opposed to knitting when I've got everything else done. I get to play with new yarns, new patterns, and new-to-me designers.  And since I have a knack for picking intricate patterns with teensy yarn that can take forever, test knits remind me that there's a world out there with simple patterns and worsted weight yarn. 

I've learned I have another blog reader out there (Hi, M!) so I'm going to make an effort to get back on a weekly posting schedule.  We'll see how it goes! 

Now, please excuse me while I pop off the computer and work on test knit #4 ... on size 0 needles and 46 sts/4". 

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Wrap-Up

I've been noticeably absent from the blog of late, primarily because when one has things to DO, one does not necessarily take the time to write about doing them.  Keeping a good to-do list has been essential, and I find that the back of a Page-a-Day calendar is the ideal tool for the job.  Unless the projects span multiple days, in which case, something a little less prone to disorganization is better.  And so, I began a foray into the world of Bullet Journals.  I like my little journal quite well.  It serves as an anchor for all my ducks on a back burner. 

The beginning of 2017 saw me add Data Administrator to the list of hats I wear around here.  It's been a wonderful hat, and I've learned a lot about Data Administrating -- so much so that I was offered another hat by a company they work with, this time as a Systems Administrator.  I had to stop and think whether I had time to wear yet another hat.  My head gave me one answer, my heart gave me another, and after a week of waffling I knew the only way to convince myself that I did *not* have time for another job was to try it for a month. 

That was around September.  I still have margin around the corners of my life most days (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this blog post) and have decided that to keep myself out of trouble, I am going to knit a counterpane (or coverlet, if you prefer).  After a good bit of swatching - for, when a project calls for around 1000 hours of labor, it's a good idea to pick the right pattern/yarn combo - I settled on using carpet warp and the Corinthian Squares pattern, and a proposed completion date of Christmas 2022.  That's 200 hours a year, or 5 hours a week.  I am next to positive I'll finish in just 2-3 years, but time will tell.  The 5-year plan pleases my Russian-speaking brain, and won't interfere with test knitting, gifts, and life in general. 

Merry Christmas, all!