Friday, October 19, 2012

A less visible SSK

Quick note so I won't forget.  On SSK, slips first stitch as though to knit (as normal) but then slip the second of the two as though to purl, still with the yarn in back.  Then proceed as normal with the K part of the SSK.  It appears to be quite less visible.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Equalizing Mirrored Yarnovers

This has always driven me nuts.  It applies to cases where a Yarnover is preceded by a knit stitch and followed by a purl stitch, and then that string is mirrored elsewhere in the row (the Yarnover preceded by a purl stitch and followed by a knit stitch).  I looked at tutorials, watched youtube videos and none of them seemed to equalize the size of the eyelets.  That was until I began working on Whippoorwill, a shawl that has mirrored YOs throughout, and they MUST match in size or the shawl will come out with a longer wing on one side than the other.  In the stitch legend, the designer describes a method I hadn't seen before.

Important Note:  Bear in mind, on this particular shawl, YOs are worked on every row (both RS and WS) serving as wingspan length increasers.  On the RS rows, the pattern states that "no modifications are needed."  It's on the WS rows that this treatment is specified; however I think this also may apply universally if the key to equalizing eyelet size is not twisting the yarn on one of them on the next row.  So if working in stockinette, it would just mean that since your "next row" would be a purl row, where on the below shawl-specific example it says "knit into the back of the YOB to open up the eyelet," in general you would instead purl that stitch on the next row in whatever way necessary so that your yarn doesn't get twisted in the process (thereby undesirably closing up that eyelet).  If working in garter instead of stockinette, I think it would be just as written.

That stated, here's how it goes on this shawl.

For k, yo, p, you bring the yarn forward between the needles over the top of the right needle, and back under the right needle to the front of the work, ready to purl the next stitch. 

For p, yo, k, she calls this a "YOB" (yarnover backwards).  Here, you bring the yarn between the needles to the back of the work, over the top of the right needle, and back under the right needle again to the back of the work, ready to knit the next stitch.  However, on this one there's a critical next step.  In the following round, you knit into the BACK of the YOB to open the eyelet.  This prevents that YOB from being smaller than the YO it mirrors.

As for Whippoorwill, I've been wanting a really cozy, BIG shawl, purely for warmth (non-lace).  So though this was designed for fingering, I decided to make it in the large size, and use Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a worsted weight yarn.  My gauge is substantially different on a size 9 needle than her fingering weight yarn on a size 6 needle, and I was counting on that to yield a pretty good size shawl.  However, a Big ETA:  I need to figure some things out before recommending that size modification because there is a design issue that works well for a small shawl but presents a problem with the size I'm making it.  I'm considering a workaround to make this work out in the end, and will blog and/or include Ravelry project notes on it if it does.  Or doesn't.  It's not the shawl's fault.  I'm just bending it into a size beyond what it was specifically designed to be.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It Wasn't Horse Heaven After All

This is an update to what I thought was to be a wonderful forever home for my much loved (and only) horse of 7 years.

I previously wrote that Cloud was being placed with a wonderful family, etc. You can read that post as I have not changed it.  Well, after telephone updates from Wendy that Cloud was doing great over the course of a 2-month period, after having taken Cloud in June (the beginning of the prime riding season), on August 22 (getting toward the end of the prime riding season), Wendy called me with a "just thought you'd want to know" statement that she was placing Cloud to a lesson barn in a nearby town....  "just for a while." 

I was shocked!  I asked why.  Wendy said that Cloud wasn't being ridden as she'd thought she'd be.  I said that was easy, I could come ride her a few times a week.  Wendy then said, "Well, that, and financial."  I asked what she was talking about.  When we'd talked about her taking Cloud, and she was telling me Cloud would be in her forever home, right here in town, she'd told me that keeping a horse didn't cost her what it normally does because she grows her own hay and her husband's business generates no end of bedding shavings.  So what expense??  "Oh, grain, fly spray, fly masks... "  Well, she knew all that, and these are not expensive.  I went silent.  She then continued, "That... and school's starting next week." 

Awk??  School's starting?  You knew that when you took her."
Now the silence was on her part.  "Well, so anyway, I thought you'd want to know."
I asked if she was selling or giving Cloud away?  "No nothing like that."
Was she making money on Cloud's use as a lesson horse?  "No."
When was this going to happen?
"Sometime in the next couple of weeks."

I asked more questions.  Basic questions.  Cloud's planned time at this lesson barn? (which I'd never heard of).  Wendy didn't know one answer.  These were rudimentary questions you'd know if you were placing a horse in their care.  She said she'd ask her friend (who works there) and call me back the very next day, not only with those answers but with a time when I could come see Cloud at Wendy's before this transfer even got a chance to take place. 

Well, she never called me back and so I started calling her, leaving messages.  Whereupon she call-screened my calls, not answering them (carries a cell phone with her all the time) and didn't return any of my messages to call me back.  Note that I bit the hell out of my tongue and even assured her I wasn't trying to make things uncomfortable, just needed information re what this new plan was since it was all new.   

Obvious scenario?  This goon took a horse, given free with conditions, and lied about the conditions purely to get a great riding horse throughout the summer, then when school started, summarily dumped her.  And either didn't know, or didn't care, about providing proper care to the horse.  "Oh well, she'll be fiiine, let's go to Staples and buy school supplies, then stop at Micky D's, tra-laa."   

Finally I called her husband who said, "Oh yeah, Cloud was moved to the lesson barn last week.  You can go over and see her there.  She's very happy doing trail rides and lessons." 

I went over to the lesson barn.  Only to find some big surprises.  It turned out that not only had Wendy given Cloud to this lesson barn (the whole "just for a while" thing was a lie), but that this had already happened when she'd called me.  I explained to the owner that Wendy had no right to give Cloud to anyone, she had not yet been given a final bill of sale.  But I wanted to see Cloud.

The owner took me to the stall barn where Cloud was, and led her out.  Cloud was skinny!  Ribs showing.  Reeeeeally showing.  Her flank was sunken in.  How can a horse get like that in two months?? 

From this:

To this:

In two months.  Oh.  Well, I later found out she hadn't been given ANY grain.  Period.  Nor hay neither.  Just forage grass.

And she walked like she was in a lot of pain.  I asked what that was about, and the owner told me Cloud had arrived with severe thrush in all four feet.  She'd arrived with her hooves themselves also neglected so that her toes were ridiculously overgrown and the sides of her hooves had starting to actually curl upward.  Lots of hoof wall breakage as a result.  The barn owner had brought in her own (very good) farrier the very next day and he had no choice but to do a very, very close trim to get rid of the damage and start over with new healthy growth.  The barn owner said Cloud weighed in at 980 lbs. (She's a good sized horse, 15-3hh, she should be between 1100 and 1150 pounds.)  She had put Cloud on a high fat grain, 3 times a day, and hay 4+ times a day.  She also had her on probiotics and she was med-packing Cloud's frogs (soft tissue of feet) with medicated strips 2x/day to treat the thrush.  In short, Cloud had been neglected at Wendy's.  Badly!

Long story short?  The barn owner acknowledged that if Wendy had no bill of sale, then she had no right to give Cloud to anyone.  However as prejudiced as I was right off the bat at the sound of the phrase "lesson barn," as I was first hearing of this plan from Wendy (and absorbing the shock of her condition as I was standing there with the owner of the lesson barn), I was also seeing one very knowledgeable and caring owner of that facility.  Paints are her breed.  She loves them.  She adored Cloud, that was obvious.  She was treating Cloud's feet, told me in great detail about the grain formula she had Cloud on, and in fact, she and one other barn had done a 1-year trial on it and swears by it.  The more she talked, the more I liked her.  And this whole conversation was pre-set to be headed south before I even arrived.  By my prejudices.

While there, I looked at her other horses.  She has 42 of them, both boarded and her own herd.  Every one of them looked to be in prime health.  No, I mean really prime health.  You can also tell when horses are happy or not.  They carry their state of mind in their eyes and body language.  They were happy horses, and they were secure (a biggie).  She told me that because of Cloud's temperament, she had been planning to train Cloud as a therapeutic lesson horse.  She is not a certified therapeutic riding instructor, but she has parents who bring their mentally challenged children to her, well aware that she does not have her degree or licensing credentials.  But talking with her, I could see, she knew what she was doing and had a lot of information that the average person doesn't. 

This is now becoming a whole new twist.  Now I'm thinking that maybe Cloud would have a better home here than at any private home.  In other words, I kept an open mind which is very hard to do when you arrive somewhere pissed. 

I visited several more times, stopping in unannounced (it's a public business place).  I watched what turned out to be the operation of getting all the horses in the big group corral (over 15 of them) into their stalls for the night, one by one.  (This has to be done well, because there's a pecking order in a herd, they all know their grain is waiting for them and once you start a thing like that, the horses get edgy, wanting to be next.  Herd dynamics come into play, any lurking challenges can manifest and they can get scrappy.)  It was handled like clockwork.  Fast, no stopping once it's started, wham, bang, one by one, edgy challenges spotted and short circuited before anything escalated.

As she was taking them out and overseeing who's next, I was following along.  And she told me story after story about this one and that one.  One of them was in that barn collapse in Bedford, MA some time ago.  It made big news. He'd suffered broken vertebrae and his whole lower lip had been severed off his face.  She said that at first, the only way he could eat was for her to make a gruel of grain and hay cubes and he could sort of slurp it up with his tongue.  He now wore a permanent pout with no lower lip, but he's re-learned to eat and this was a healthy horse!  (She also gives them chiropractic massages.)  Others had like stories.  She takes in rescues.  She rehabilitates them.  And she puts them to work in what sounded like really sensitive ways.  She said if a horse is happy doing lessons but hates trail rides, she doesn't use him for trail rides.  Doesn't believe in making a horse work at a job he hates.  (And you really can tell.)  She has one horse there who's 41.  Very swaybacked, he doesn't get used at all.  She walks him or lets him be outside in his own pen.  She said until recently she had one horse in her early 50s, who finally died.  The oldest she'd had was in his 60s.  She loves that.

Another time I came by, she showed me the chiropractic horse massage, using Cloud.  40 minutes of it where she's literally hanging off the horse's neck at one point, swinging her own weight back and forth.  Cloud looked very happy!  She stuck her finger in Cloud's belly button to get a landmark for her other hand position, then spread her hands apart, dug her fingers into a claw configuration and putting on pressure, scraped upward.  (Huh?)  Cloud hunched her back up about 3 inches, and I looked at her eyes.  She was relaxed and looking very content.  Whereupon she (the owner not Cloud) mumbled, "Releases pheronomes and at the same time stretches XYZ muscles."

Okay, you know the rest of the story.  I don't have objections whatsoever about Cloud giving lessons OR trail rides.  That's not the part of "lesson barn" that made me nervous.  It's that lesson barns CAN be pretty commercially-oriented, more so than horse welfare oriented.  This was clearly not the case here. 

The first time I visited, one of the questions I'd asked was whether Cloud was lying down.  I know Cloud.  She won't lie down unless she feels totally secure.  Most horses won't because it takes a minute for them to get back up again so they're very vulnerable when lying down and horse are hardwired as prey animals.  But Cloud is particularly discriminating about that.  She'll settle for sleeping on her feet.  Horses do that all the time.  They simply lock their knees.  But it's not deep sleep.  Cloud was definitely lying down.  In the morning she had shavings on her side and I've been there since, seeing telltale spots on her sides and you can only get those lying down.  It's a different dirt/mud pattern than when a horse rolls, but for a horse to roll it has to feel secure too.

UPDATE:  10/6:  At first I left it with this woman that I'm considering leaving Cloud with her.  Not for sure.  After being burned twice with people who sounded so perfect, I needed to see how things went before finalizing anything.  Well, since the above paragraphs, all signs are excellent.  I stopped by a week ago (Cloud's been there since 9/23) and she has definitely put on weight.  Enough to where I think she's likely to end up a tad chubby by some standards.  (Barn owner does tend to like her horses like "calendar horses" meaning no rib showing at all.  She was still walking weird, but she just is going to have sore feet until things grow out.  However she'd just been in the arena by herself and had taken off cantering and frolicking so that might well have made her feet a little sore if they're as compromised as they appear to have been.  But then if she was cantering around on her own... that's a pretty good sign.  But the energy that Cloud was putting out, that little something where I know if she's happy and well cared for or if something's just not right.... everything I saw said she's very content there and feels secure.

So a very bad situation appears to have led to a damned good one.  I like this woman.  She has no children and says she won't be, and her horses seem to fill that gap for her.  There's another story behind why she took to Cloud so.  Reserved for another time, but it's kind of a tear jerker.  Cloud is a dead ringer for a horse that this woman lost.  Same blue eyes.  Same black "eyeliner" rims.  Same neck markings.  Same face markings.  She showed me a drawing portrait a friend did for her, and I thought it was Cloud.  Paints have very specific unique markings.  Very rare to find two that similar.

There are times when something just seems meant to be.  I can go see Cloud anytime.  Tracie assured me she would never sell or rehome Cloud, period.  The girls (volunteer stable teens and pre-teens are at every barn) all vie to groom Cloud, everyone there loves her.  I'm afraid to say it feels right because it did twice before and I got Cloud burned both times.  So I won't say it.  But if things are as they appear to be (and I've been there just often enough and without warning to spot inconsistencies), then it looks like Cloud slipped into a very good situation that I probably would not have ever placed her into straightaway, where the owner is a vet tech, has a full medical kit, not enough ego to hold off on calling a vet if she's unsure or just wants confirmation, goes to seminars on continuing education on horse care (homeopathic leanings but not a stance against conventional meds), good vet choices (and I've heard of the ones she uses, all with flying colors)... dare I say it?          

Best Insight into 1-year-old's mind I've ever read

Quote from her mommie...

"Oh, look! Buttons on the keyboard! I think I'll press them all Oh look! Mama's toe! I think I'll bite it Oh look! A glass of water! I think I'll slowly pour it over this other laptop oh look! A dog! I think I'll cackle and try to pull her nose off oh look! A plug! I think I'll suck on it Oh look! Mama's lap, I must sit in it and press all these laptop buttons again oh look! Mom let me onto her lap! I must IMMEDIATELY push away and get down so I can pull these cords out of the wall oh look! It's mama's toe again! I must bite it! If she yelps I'll put on my cutest face and lightly sing "mommommommomm..."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Old Romney Bird's Nests into a Balanced Navajo-Plied Worsted Weight

Taking up room in my stash were a bunch color-related bird's nests from dye tests I made years ago.  At the moment I'm focusing my spinning on targeting a predictable end result yarn grist after plying.  Much easier to do with a 2-ply, but with each additional ply, the thickness of the single becomes more and more critical.  And I'm also focusing on getting a really balanced skein which I thought would be harder to do with Navajo plying than with 2-ply.  
All these nests totalled 5.5 oz and I haven't tried out my jumbo flyer yet so not wanting to try it on a potential project yarn, I settled for doing it on 2 bobbins.  I've completed the first which goes from lower right in the above photo through one of the two medium-blue/green bird's nests (3rd color over from the top right). 

The ideal would have been to spin the entire 2 bobbins worth of single to keep my grist perspective on the single, and then Navajo 3-ply it all at once but with a full bobbin, there's no way I could wait to see if I'd end up with a worsted weight 3-ply, nor could I stand waiting to see how the color progression blended.  And also whether I could get a balanced skein with chain-plying, using my new-to-me twist control technique.

Well, it is balanced!  Here's the freshly chain-plied skein, right off the bobbin-->niddy noddy, then hung on a door knob.  Not wet-set.  Gheeeeeeeeeee!  
I started out with about 4 treadles per X distance from the orifice, and did the loop test initially to check the twist.  With just a tad of clockwise self-ply action (pretty feeble but enough to pay attention to), I shortened my X distance just a tad.  After a few more checks, I went with it, letting the swoop happen after 4 treadles and not counting the swoop.  Eventually I refined it to 3 treadles, swooping on the 4th and that seemed right.  It worked until the end of the bobbin (which is the first part of the spun single) and wowza, I'd sure started that single out with a crapload of twist.  Not wanting a harsher yarn than I was going to get anyway from these stale nests, I didn't increase my ply twist as it wasn't enough length to worry about.  I'm just making note of it.

I wanted to end up with a worsted weight after 3-plying and voila, I got it.  Yay. 
I've been after trying to gauge singles for a targeted final result grist ever since I started spinning, and with 3-ply, just the teensiest difference in the singles' thickness makes the difference between DK and bulky.  It's a really fine line.  This time I really focused on it though, and early on I sort of identified that spinning the single at 27wpi looked like it would get me there.  (I used my "I-Spin Tool Kit" Ipod App's grist gauge and that little sucker is terrific because each wpi thickness is represented by a white line with red borders so the goal is to see only red on either side of your laid-over yarn.  Much easier to do than that acrylic see-through wpi-marked ruler which I always found useless.)
A couple strand lengths came out bordering on DK and one or two small lengths a little heavier than worsted but for the most part, it's a pretty consistent worsted grist. 

I got 118 yds (less any stretch on the niddy which I tried to avoid this time) out of the first bobbin, total 81.7g, or 2,.88 oz.  That leaves 2.6 oz. left to spin, which I estimate would add another 107 yds. for a total of 225 yds. 

Spinning from stale nests made for some rustic single now and then, and the unwashed yarn felt scratchier than I remember this Romney being.  But with dye tests I would not have used my finest locks.  Maybe even would have used some semi-junk locks (from belly or leg flanks) since my staple length wasn't overly long.  I did, however (well, fairly early on, that is) remember to establish which way the fiber scales lay on each nest to spin from sheep's body to lock tips.  Re that, these were combed nests, not carded, and since I load my combs with shearing ends mounted so as not to peel (strip) the fiber's scales against the grain in the combing, spinning against the grain makes for a rougher yarn.  But the grain was respected and the yarn did soften considerably after washing (Eucalan) so inferior locks or not, stale nests or not, it's project-worthy.    

For later reference, the amount of ply twist was as above, but the amount in the single?  Recall says I got more than a lazy self-ply on loop tests but not multiple, aggressive sproings.  In the very beginning, yes.  I was coming from the merino/tencel "Shiver" colorway laceweight singles in the previous top.  But when I lightened up (pretty early on, before the green was finished), my recall says my loops were forming themselves into just one-stem self-plies that held themselves confidently, but not to a snitty, bratty degree that I had to struggle with to unwind.  Some did though, I did have to hold a few stems secured at tip end to pull apart on occasion but I think I drafted against those.  So I'd say a fair bit of twist, but definitely short of snitty-bratty stage.

I still don't know what twist gets added/subtracted after it goes through the orifice and onto the bobbin, that just remains a mystery because I haven't found anyone who seems to know.  I therefore pull my loops back out, off the bobbin, not just what's yet to go through.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Getting a Balanced 2-Ply

Well, one method, anyway...

When I first began spinning on a wheel, I would hold my hand in my lap, the two singles separated by my fingers and just ply away happily in one smooth continuum.  I got some very pretty 2-ply yarns, but they tended to be overspun on the ply side.  That over-twist made some of my yarns look like a string of perfect beads, but it was sadly overspun as yarns go. Soaking and/or thwacking would beat it into submission, but the overtwist gave some of my yarns a harsher feel. 

At some point, the niggly Caroltude in me began breaking down the plying stage into parts so I could analyze how to control the amount of twist I was putting in—the goal being to get a perfectly balanced yarn and to control how much twist beyond that point that I was putting in because sometimes I just like a little more ply. But to have any predictable say in the matter, I had to first be able to get a perfectly balanced yarn. 

Well, I left that experiment half done over a year ago and have been knitting lace shawls and shawlettes with purchased yarns since then.  But a couple of weeks ago, reminded how much I liked spinning by watching Cyndi learning to do it, I dusted off and oiled Wheel Annie and broke out a 4-oz. top of merino/tensel, hand dyed by Squoosh that had been tucked into my stash because memory said it would love to become a laceweight or light fingering yarn and end up as lace.  The original plan was to Navajo ply it so I could keep this most talented dyer's color changes, but dreamer that I was, there simply would not have been enough yardage 3-plied, Navajo or otherwise.  So back to 2-ply.  And my quest for a perfectly balanced 2-ply yarn because that was unfinished bidnez. 

This was also my first time spinning fine enough to get laceweight (2-plied) because my default spin has always ended up worsted weight which is what I mostly knitted with prior to the lace obsession.  So here's the yarn after 2-plying.

For newbie spinners, a "balanced yarn" is... well, technically, it's X counterclockwise twists per inch where X is equal to the effect of the combined clockwise twists per inch that reside in your singles.  Practically speaking, a super overplied yarn might skew after it's knitted.  So the general idea is to have it balanced.  And the way you can know if it's balanced is to pull a length of plied yarn (that you've let wind all the way onto your bobbin) back off your bobbin, back out of the orifice through which it went, and let a long length of it fall into a loop.  If it has too little plying twist to balance out what's in the singles, the yarn will try to balance itself by adding more clockwise twist.  You can see that because the long loop you're allowing to hang free will twist around itself counterclockwise.  All by itself.  If you have too much plying twist, the loop will twist itself clockwise, as though wishing to add more twist in the singles.  If it just hangs there in a long limp loop, it's a balanced ply.  It's not trying to correct anything.  (Note:  This assumes you spin your singles clockwise and that you ply by spinning counterclockwise.)

So here's what I do to get a balanced ply.  I stick my Lazy Kate under the table, to my left, and position my wheel at a comfortable distance away.  I hold my singles in my left hand, the two separated by a finger, and I pick a holding position that I can eyeball (e.g., lining up a table leg behind it) and mentally record that hand's position as my go-to "holding place."  And that's where I keep my plying hand.  To start ply-spinning, I watch the two singles close to my holding hand, not the part that's going into the orifice.  And keeping my hand there, I treadle.  Once the twist has reached close to my plying hand via traveling toward it from the orifice, in one swift but smooth motion, I pinch off the singles in my left hand and swoop that whole length into the orifice.  A big suckup, all at once.  My take-up tension is set so it's aggressive enough to gobble it up happily, but not aggressive enough to be tugging at my holding hand during this holding process. 

I do that a couple of times, then stop and pull out a long length off the bobbin, through the orifice, and do the loop test.  Just let the yarn dangle and see what it does.  Meanwhile, I've been counting my treadles between swoops.  If my ply isn't balanced in either direction, I either move my holding hand's place closer to the orifice (for more plying twist) or farther away from the orifice for less twist.  This part is trial and error until you find the magic place to keep your hand for the number of treadles you're going to make, the latter being based on your wheel's whorl size, etc.  For me, with my settings, it's 4 treadles.  This remains a constant whether I treadle fast or slow.  (The revolutions of the wheel are the same per treadle at any speed.)

And that's it!  My "swoop" happens fast enough so it doesn't add much twist because I don't stop treadling as I'm swooping, but I do try to keep the speed of that consistent too.  I do stop and check from time to time (more often at first) to make sure I'm right, and make little adjustments to my holding hand's distance from the orifice if needed.  Now as you get used to this, you'll start noticing that another way to gauge your twist is how long the V is.  (The top 2 legs of the "V" are your singles coming off the lazy kate with your separating finger in between the yet-to-be-plied singles and the bottom point of the V is where the twist has traveled up your 2 singles from the orifice so that your two singles are ply-joined).  Based on the distance from orifice of my holding position today, that yarn's balanced twist point had the bottom of the V about 1.5" from the two top legs of the V.  It's a visual thing, but fun to make bets with yourself as you refine your senses to include another way to tell how much twist is enough vs. too much.

This next photo shows the most balanced skein I've ever gotten so far, which is why I'm taking time to write this post.  Simply, I don't want to forget what I did because it's been about a year since I was doping all this out the last time, and I had to do some recall.  But this is one. very. balanced. skein.  And I'm proud of it.  Past ones have been close, but not like this.  This shot was taken with the yarn right off the niddy noddy.  No thwacking, whacking, no soaking, nada.  I didn't even want the hanging skein supported even to the extent of it lying against a flat vertical surface, so opened the cabinet door so the bottom of it was completely free to turn or twist.  Perfectly straight.  Yay!
I did go ahead and soak the skein to set the spin, and gave it a couple whacks for good measure, just because I entertain myself with the notion that it sort of marries the singles.  Okay, so it's also fun to watch my dog get excited when a human hauls off and slams a yard-long hunk o'stuff into the hollow side of the washing machine which makes a loud noise.  She always behaves even nicer after that.  And it's kind of like the punch down in yeast breads.  Kind of one of those things we just deserve to do.

Ignoring the stretch that happens on a niddy and having only counted one side, it looks like I have 308 yds.  I think the shawlette I planned to make this with needs 340 yds.  I have a little of one single left over which I'll ply on my drop spindle but I think I'm going to fall short of enough yarn for another English Ivy (the shawlette).  But oh so close!!  I'll do the match and see if I cut out one repeat that'll do it.  If not, I will probably walk around with my eyes in that pinched up look that happens when someone's pissed and feeling cheated.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jogless Color Changes

After a year and a half of lace knitting, I got a yen to knit a pair of legwarmers for my precious, adorable, loveable, never-sits-still, determined, speed-crawling 1-year-old granddaughter.  Momma Jenny said she really likes stripes.  And bright colors.  My LYS recommended Plymouth Merino DK which throws in "Superwash" on the label, to boot.  This is a corded type, many-ply yarn with very high twist and it has no halo.  (That also spells frighteningly high stitch definition where any irregularity GLARES at you.)  All they had for "bright" was orange, but since Jenny likes orange and they had one lone skein left in a green that was asking to be paired with it, that was that.  Her colors. 

Okay, so in my 5 years of knitting, I've never done stripes that are narrow enough to keep two yarns active, carrying them forward.  Let alone doing that on a tube, knitted in the round. 

So at my first color change, I tried a simple k2tog which I'd been shown at the LYS but didn't like it.  Next, I tried TechKnitter's "jogless" method where you simply start knitting with the new color, but on the next round you slip that first color-changed stitch purlwise (without moving yarn to back I found out).  I still saw a visible jog.  Now, TK says it's minimally noticeable if seen on the fly, and her samples appeared to have been blocked which can make a huge difference, but I'm obsessive about stuff like this, in the raw.  So I then went to youtube and watched "jogless knitting stripes in the round" by knitpurlhunter, where she also just starts knitting with the new color but on her next round instead of slipping the stitch as TechKnitter does, she lifts the right leg of the stitch below, up onto her left needle and knits it together with that stitch.  I didn't like that one at all.  I did watch Eunie Jang's video on the subject.  Well, as always, I was so depressed watching how freaking fast she knits that I don't even remember how she did her color change other than that, again, I saw a jog.

So I went back to the TK's method.  Okay, so it does have a jog but admittedly it's not a bad jog.  And I do see that if stretched much at all, it shows very little. 

Ignore the top green-to-orange change just having been made on the needles, which I'll talk about in a minute.  The rest of the color changes are just as TechKnitter prescribes.   

Well, looking at it closely, it's that right leg that's the culprit.  That's the long-ish one from the slipped stitch.  The left leg lends itself to "unobtrusive slant" if it just didn't have that damned right leg sticking down longer. Still, it was the best I'd tried out of the lot, so I accepted it. 

After a couple of times though, just for the heck of it, I tried something of my own to modify it.  And Wow!!  NO jog!  There is still the slant, yes.  But knitting in the round is a continuous spiral, so you're going to get slant anyway.  But this had very minimal added slant. 

Here's the first color change with my little added trick, shown at the top of the green-to-orange color change just after knitting a few rows beyond the above photo.
So here's what I added to TK's method (my changes shown in red). 

Round 1 of a color change:  Knit 3 sts in old color just as you've been doing.  Then simply start knitting with new color starting on the next (4th) stitch.  Knit around with new color up TO that 4th stitch of the next round (your first new color stitch).

Round 2:  And having knitting the first 3 sts and now ready to slip the 4th (color changing) stitch, bring OLD color's yarn to front of work.  Slip stitch #4 purlwise (wyib).  Return OLD color's yarn to back of work again and drop it, and just continue knitting with new color.  (You'll have now wrapped the slipped 4th stitch with the old color.)

Round 3:    Knit 2 of the first 3 again, and knit the 3rd stitch somewhat tightly.  Knit 4th stitch (the one you've slipped and wrapped) as normal.  On 5th stitch, pull old color's wrap taut from the back so that its tension looks consistent with all else on the front of the work, and trap old color's yarn however you normally trap a floating carry-forward (OR see below note re trapping a yarn being carried forward vertically).  And just keep knitting with the new color.  At some point, give a glance to the wrap to make sure its tension remains right, and maybe trap the old (carried forward) yarn once again in another couple of rounds just to secure it more.

So what have we done here?  Not much!  TechKnitter's little jog is still there.  All I did was wrap the slipped stitch with the old color.

Here's a close up, face-on shot where it shows with the wrap pulled aside.

These next 2 photos are shot at the same angle, one with the wrap pulled loose, 
the next with it pulled closed.

So we've used TK's otherwise very excellent color changing method, however we've added an old color's wrap around TK's 2nd round's slipped stitch which simply covers up the bottom of that right leg that creates the jog.

Now what's fun about all this is that normally a wrap sits horizontally across the top of a stitch, just like a purl stitch's collar.  But because slipped stitches pull things off skew, fortunately the wrap itself gets pulled into a slant too, just enough to be really useful. 

So that's how I'm going to do my color changes from now on.  Using TechKnitter's very good method, but adding a simple wrap around her 2nd round's slipped stitch and securing its tension on the 3rd round.

Meanwhile, just a side note.  Many people do their color changes at the beginning of a round because that's where they do them at the beginning of a row when knitting flat. Well, when I first started knitting in the round, I'd already seen laddering from both magic loop and DPN needle changes and vowed I'd never get them.  I learned that when you change needles on either Magic Loop or DPNs, you do want to pull that first stitch tight, sure.  But it's the SECOND stitch that needs to be pulled tight also.  So that's sure not the place to be doing color changes!  So I just picked the 4th stitch of a color changing round arbitrarily because by then I'm done with pulling the first 2 sts tight after a needle change, and I do like to snug even the 3rd one a bit. 

One last thing about color changes followed by a slipped stitch done on the next round.  Techknitter points out that if you do the color change repeatedly on the same column (e.g., in my case on the 4th stitch), especially on narrow stripes, you'll very likely start to see some pulling up, because you have repeated cases of slipped (not knitted) stitches in the same column.  She suggests moving your first stitch of the color change over to the next stitch each time.  So my first color change took place on the 4th stitch of the round as outlined above.  The next color change after that, I did on the 5th stitch.  And so on.  The last color change on this particular legwarmer took place on the 11th stitch of that color changing round. 

Trapping a Carry-Forward yarn while knitting with the alternate color:  Okay, since carrying another color yarn vertically was all new to me, I was really watching everything closely because I wanted this first legwarmer to be the only place I see any messes.  It's my learning piece.  Well, I found that when I wanted to anchor (trap) my old color's yarn every few rounds to avoid long snag-worthy floats, I've only known to twist the old yarn once around the new yarn every now and then to trap it, and keep knitting.  One time it worked fine, it all stayed behind the scenes.  But another time, the old yarn peeked through so that there, right in the middle of my subsequent nice clean knitting, there was this unwanted peek-through of the unused color.  Awk??  I had no idea what I'd done differently.  Well, oddly enough, on the good traps where it did not show through, I'd twisted the yarns counterclockwise.  The one where it showed through, I'd twisted them just the same, except I'd done it clockwise.  Now don't ask me why this would make any difference, but the ugliness happened twice and both times I'd twisted the yarns clockwise.  So while I'll just plan on making my trapping twists counterclockwise from now on, if you have any idea why there's a difference, please leave a comment because I'd love to know.

Techknitter's article on color changes:
...and in getting the link to include here, I just happened to scroll down farther on her page only to see that she has a sample with the exact same green/orange color combination that I'd used for these legwarmers!  So hey, not being an orange or green fan, at least I know I picked 2 colors that have some universal appeal.  :-)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Horse Heaven

When you have a horse for seven years and you've taken care of her, from her most intimate needs to scratching fly bites on her chest as she cranes her neck to guide your scratching spots...

When you've gotten out of bed at 2am to trudge out to the barn with a flashlight to see if the sub-zero temps and high winds that knocked out your power have her shivering...

When the barn roof got to the point of its last legs so that metal panels are banging loudly in a vicious pounding rain storm and you know she's run out into the middle of the field to brave it worse there rather than be in a scary loud barn where she could eat her food, and she's gotta be hungry as well as cold and scared, so you've set a clock every hour to suit up in rain gear and run dry hay out to her in the dark...

When you've hugged that horse because you're down, and you've stuck your nose right into her shoulder so you could flood your senses with the incredibly right smell of a horse...

When you've been rudely dumped out of the saddle during a spook, and that horse has run off by instinct, but stops and turns around, ears cocked forward, her expressive eyes showing worry and concern as she looks for you to stand up out of the the tall grass...

But then also when that horse gets scared and is just on the verge of turning to flight when the sound of your voice saying "it's o-kaaaaay, it's o-kaaaay" makes her stand still and her ears relax...

When you take that horse across country and for 3 days each way, and your porta potty in the trailer is within reach of her plopping a glop of gooey half masticated hay on the top of your head as you squat and pee... and then she does it...

And also when you throw down a tarp in a stall neighboring hers at a horse motel en route because it's too late to pitch a tent, and you fall asleep to the sound of each other's breathing...

And finally, when you take that horse into the trails alone and it's just the two of you, and you suddenly feel things change so that you know your imperceivable impressions are being read loud and clear, and you become aware that there is some unexplainable line of silent communication that's come about between you and her...

You get to where you really, really love that horse.

I got this horse, my first, at my age 63, her age 18 and that makes us peers.  We had many great times together, and I know she did too because horses have ways of telling you that.  When I decided that prudence and common sense dictated it was time for me to hang up my reins, that left her standing around with nothing to do, and as a lone horse, that's not a good thing.  For that reason, I tried to re-home my equine buddy twice in the last 6 months.  No fault of hers that it didn't work out, I repo'd her the first time because I had underrated red flags (or else they just weren't there then as they became so in retrospect).  The people looked good.  They weren't.  Stupid decisions, lots of lies and overuse of her without conditioning almost lamed out one very good horse, and though I had to walk her out of there in pouring down rain and winds for 3 blocks to get her into temporary housing, then pay dearly to have her trailered back home, I went over there and took her back.  The second rehoming I did on a trial basis and nothing wrong with new owner OR the place, but this horse is a long way from retirement and she was too hot for the level of student she was looking to accommodate.  From my buddy's standpoint, it was just too busy of a lesson barn.  A good lesson barn where horses don't get overused and get very well cared for, but it just wasn't right for someone who's been on her own, in a free run-in.  She wasn't happy there, and you could see it in her eyes.  I didn't think she'd ever have been happy there.  Back home again. 

I believe I've finally found the perfect place for her.  There are 3 other horses in residence, a Fjord gelding, a Hafflinger mare and a little spit of a thing, a Mini.  They are all sane, sound and friendly.  There's a calm and contented energy among them.  My buddy has not lived with other horses and I wasn't sure she'd do well at fitting into a herd after so long as a solo, but under the circumstances which follow in more detail, the herd instinct can become more valuable to a horse than what they're used to, just because they are.  It's how they live in the wild.   

This is a very nice couple here in town.  They have four children, one of whom is taking riding lessons.  Mom rides, too.  Dad, once in a while, and he's a secure male, not one who likes to show how big he is by needlessly jerking around a 1200 pound animal.  They have 100 acres.  Mom's a feminine little spit of a thing but she does all the fencing herself, from digging post holes to stringing it, and the entire place has perimeter fencing.  In the morning, the horses are given their grain.  They are then led out "to pasture."  And this is the most natural environment I've ever seen anywhere near here.  They are simply turned loose into hay fields where one field leads into another, into another.  Plenty of nooks and crannies with shade trees are spotted around here and there throughout these meadows.  The horses all stay together, but they migrate as a herd from one grazing area to another, freely, at will.  Just like they do in the wild.  They will lie down and nap, and roll.  They are secure.  They can even go into the woods part way to the outer fencing.  It is completely ideal.
One or more of them gets ridden a couple of times a week, usually for an hour or so.  Other than that, they get to be horses.  At night, Mom and Dad or one of the kids go out into the hayfields and find them.  They come when called or are even waiting by the gate because they know the routine, and she leads them back into the barn/paddock area near the house, where they get grained and retired for the night.  And the next morning, repeat.  It's predictable, it's safe, and it's natural.  Since she rides on property only, and ice isn't an issue there like it is in the paddock here, she keeps them barefoot, unshod, the very best scenario.

My buddy has only been there for a few days, but I've been in touch with "mom" at least once a day and she reports that all signs are good.  She's blending in, and from all appearances (and there are equine-specific signs), she's showing every indication of being one very happy horse.

I will know for sure that all's well and permanent when I feel it is.  It probably already is, but I just need time to be sure myself.  They're right here in town, I can go by and see her, and the new owner said that if I want to come over and go riding with her, she'd love to.  I see nothing that appears unworkable about this.  All "vibes" are good, and the signs I'm looking for appear to be happening.  The squeeling when another horse got too close upon first introduction was very short lived.  It only happened two or three times when they were first integrated, and within a couple of hours, she tolerated the gelding co-grazing on her (then separate) hay pile.  Out in the pasture, the first night after a full day out there, she followed the other horses when they came in for the night.  She hasn't shown neck over neck bonding yet, but this is too soon for that and it might happen out in the fields before it gets seen, or not.  But there's no fighting and no signs of it.  While I haven't been there to get impressions of her in pasture residence yet, from the sound of it she's putting out a very peaceful, content appearing energy.  I will rest finally sure when I know that she's willing to lie down (a vulnerable proposition for a horse, and one of the last signs to show that she feels secure).  But I strongly suspect that once she's had a chance to see the other personalities in action over a period of time, she'll trust them to stand sentry, and they'll trust her when it's her turn. 

If this continues to be as it sounds like it's headed to being, then I can say if I were to design the absolute perfect rehoming for this animal, I wouldn't have even ventured to ponder anything this perfect.

UPDATE:  It's been over 3 weeks.  She's fit in.  I went over to visit her after 10 days and just in that time, her muscle tone went from good to solid.  She's getting exercise just naturally during the day with the other horses, and she shows every sign of being thrilled to get tacked up and ridden--one of the many better-than-the-last of surprises she gives her human companions as they get to know her.  (Not too many horses like her.)

So, beautiful, sensitive On Cloud Nine, finally and long coming for it to be just right, it's still very weird not to hear you nicker and trot in when you see me and I think it always will be, but this is the best gift I could have given you. 

Run with your mane in the wind, old friend...

My Most Challenging To Date...ARG!!

A childhood friend of my daughter (her first when we moved here) is getting married in late July and it will be an outside wedding in a park.  Not dressy, but not jeans ilk, either.  Chances are greater than not that it'll be hot.  I'm trying to avoid buying an outfit I can't get wear out of, so figured that a simple, plain solid, summerweight "nice-fabric" pair of slacks or skirt and hopefully same color top would work well if I made a very nice lace shawl that could honor the occasion.  That means lace, so it's not hot.  And it means something other than wool yarn, because even an open lace pattern in wool laceweight provides warmth. 

My LYS has their own brand of yarns and they have an outstanding dye guy, who uses good quality yarns.  I went in there asking for "something fine, something very cool."  We landed upon his line of very beautiful 100% silk laceweight.  (1085 yards to 100g).  All his colorways were gorgeous in this silk line, but what kept calling my eye back to it was a dusty light green without yellow tones or "minty."  This color doesn't show up on most photographs, but I was able to get it pretty accurately on this one, so in viewing the photos that follow, this is the yarn, complete with sheen and all.

About that yarn, this by far THE most challenging thing I've knitted to date.  Not because of the pattern, but because the yarn is very slick, it's extremely thin (like working with 2 strands of sewing thread) and my needles are also slick enough so that when laying the point tip of one against the shaft or taper of the other to dig out an ssk, it's like mercury against crisco.  Not only that, when you slide the sts from your circular cable onto the shaft of the needle, those sts have pulled taut onto the much thinner cable (being slippery, nothing prevents it) so they are a struggle to push onto the needle.  And then, of course, they readily overlap, one over the other.  Sometimes one over several others.  MUCH time is spent carefully, painstakingly e-x-t-r-i-c-a-t-i-n-g all that overlapping of stitches with the thinnest edge of a fingernail.  These rows took me a minimum of 35-45 minutes each.  The one row that involves a complicated Estonian Lace stitch (5-st twist a/k/a star stitch) took me 3-1/2 hours.

But here it is, finished and finally blocking.  Wet-blocked onto 7 ft. of blocking mat squares lined up with one offset mat at each end for the curve.  I did NOT block it aggressively.  Center back, bottom to top, about 20" at the points and about 18" at the rises (the white blocking mats are puzzle-notched, the unmatted portions are my office desk).  This took me two days short of 7 weeks.

Full depth.  Laying flat as it was, I measured 20" depth at the points and 18" at the rises, neck edge to bottom.  (Photo looks weird because of the puzzle piece edges of the blocking mats, it's the neck edge that's off the mats and I used sewing pattern weights to trap it in position.

Close up of the beaded sections...

Beads take a LONG time.  To mount one, you use a ridiculously thin crochet hook that looks more like a hypodermic needle and has the teensiest hook on the end that I can't see it without a magnifying glass.  You slide a bead onto the hook shaft, then take the stitch off the knitting needle.  Slide the bead down over the whole loop.  Return the stitch back onto the knitting needle.  And knit it.  You do that for every bead, one by one, stitch by stitch.  (If you accept that this is just going to be very time consuming it gets easier.)  The pattern does not call for the beads on the lower mesh section, only on the u-shaped scallops above that.  Another knitter beaded the mesh sections and I loved it, so followed her design.  Nicely, she provided a diagram for others who wanted to do theirs that way also.  I did learn a shortcut to beading over ssks and k2togs as these are, which made it easier. 

This is a closeup of the Estonian Lace stitch.  Fortunately it only occurred in one row.  (Two per repeat, 13 repeats, there were 26 of these.)

Though I'm not done experimenting with how to wear this bigger-than-expected shawl, this is what Jenny and I came up with so far.  Though I took it to my LYS who did the yarn, and it seems to have contracted some because at least in their mirror, just laying it over my back so the designer's talents show, and letting it cascade down the front, worked.  I might re-block it pulling more depth to shorten wingspan because I really treasure Susanna IC's designs which deserve to be shown in detail.  (To say nothing of showing off the result of HOURS of at times very frustrating work.)

But until then, at least this shows it some, on a human body.

Unfortunately the top back neck edge was rolled up here, and that's actually one of the prettiest parts of this design, which is why I want to get the wingspan blocked shorter so that I can wear it in a way that shows that beautiful bit of design work.

So there it is.  My biggest knitting accomplishment up to now.  I don't know if I'd ever tackle anything this large with that slippery of a yarn/needle combination again, but I learned a LOT in the doing and will unmodestly say that I am very proud of having completed it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Home Pressure Canning

   Wow, I haven't done any canning for several years, and about a week and a half ago, I got the bug.  It's been on my mind since the last 3-day power outage when I was thinking how wonderful it would be if I could crack open a quart and a pint of homemade spaghetti sauce with lean ground beef, sweet Italian sausage and chunky veggies and sort of just live on phenomenally delicious spaghetti, all for the time and hassle investment of making a box of pasta. 
   Whether during a power outage or just in the course of living, there's just nothing like a bunch of mason jars in your pantry, filled with recipes of homemade goodness that normally takes 2-3 hours to make each.  Split Pea Soup for example, Beef Stew for another, your own family recipe of spaghetti sauce with good quality lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausage.  Chunky veggie stew and even "real" gravy for open face sandwiches using cold cuts on bakery fresh bread. 
   The only kind of canning I knew how to do originally was Hot Water Bath canning, where you are very limited in what you can safely can—mostly fruits and fruit based jams and jellies.  Those are high acid foods and they're wonderful if canned in season because unlike commercially canned peaches, you can do them when they're at perfection of ripeness.  And spice them up with cloves and a stick of cinnamon in the jar. 
   Alas, however, canning peaches, for instance... while there's nothing like them otherwise, it means lots of pots, lots of time, lots of space, timing and a huge amount of clean up.  With Water Bath Canning, you need to sterilize the jars, boil the lids, have one pot of syrup, another for blanching the skins loose, your sinks somehow available for peeling off the skins, another pot for treating the fruit so it doesn't darken... everything gets sticky and messy.  In fact the times I've done it, the floor also has to be well-mopped because that sticky syrup drips around as you're rushing to get sterilized jars filled and closed.
   About 10 years ago, actually more, a friend introduced me to pressure cooking, and from there I went into pressure canning.  Now that had always sounded very scary to me.  Low acid foods are where people get into trouble with little things like botulism.  However some research (and I did a LOT) made me realize that if you learn how to do it and observe all the safety rules, it is SUCH a no brainer!  I mean, ridiculously simple.  You don't even have to sterilize the jars, it's all done in the high heat processing.  So Pfffft.  Easy Peasy.
   From there and more research, I started seeing that you can, and often should, undercook everything before canning it which avoids ending up with the mush you get from grocery store shelves.  Is that safe?  Yup.  Because it's cooking inside the jars as you process.  75 minutes under the high heat that takes place under 10 pounds of pressure... if you don't undercook it at least a little, you'll end up with mush.
  Yesterday I made Split Pea Soup again because I canned a half recipe of i a week ago and it's almost all gone.  Prior to that, I made spaghetti sauce.  This weekend I'm planning beef stew.  And probably some canned carrots with dill, just to have on hand.
   I forgot how simple it is, how little cleanup it generates, and how unbelievably great it is to get to enjoy a recipe (that takes several hours to make) months later with nothing more elaborate than 2 minutes of reheating in a nuker.

Split Pea Soup with sliced carrots, potato and ham...  Total "active" time?  Maybe an hour accumulated.

These carrots do not disintegrate in your mouth, nor are they anything like the flavorless pap you get commercially.  They went into the pot of "al dente" undercooked pea soup only long enough to heat through, as did the potatoes and ham.   

   A quart jar of homemade spaghetti sauce.  I use a LOT of meat, both ground beef (90% lean and excellent quality) and sweet Italian sausage, plus this "straight-from-Italy" authentic family recipe uses pretty good sized chunks of bell pepper, carrots and other things.  Try finding that on your supermarket shelves, it just doesn't exist.  Jar is lying on its side to see through better...

 There are certain things where newer isn't necessarily better, and it's been my experience that cookware is an arena where that's true.  I use a vintage Mirro-Matic 12-qt. pressure canner.  It does 8-10 pint jars (depends whether regular mouth or wide mouth style) or 7 qts. of either jar type per load. 

Pardon the splash of pea soup on the side, it was a casualty of a ladle that slipped as I was loading jars and didn't notice it when I took the photo.

A close-up of the pressure gauge which was mounted here to operate the canner at the 10 lbs. pressure used for canning...

   This vintage canner is like a tank.  I haven't seen today's "new and improved" ones that are made in China, I only know that they are significantly thinner material, and for something like pressure canning, I personally prefer heavy cast aluminum.  It works every bit as well today as it did when it was sold off the shelf, and I have no idea when that was, probably 60s or 70s, I doubt later than that. 

   One thing to know if you buy a vintage pressure canner.  Most sold on eBay come with a manual but if it doesn't, you can often find one sold separately on eBay.  You might also be able to get one from the manufacturer (I'm for sticking with Presto or Mirro for vintage pressure cookers/canners).  If not, you might be able to get  someone to photocopy the chart and use pages and snail mail them to you, or scan and attach to an email.  Use that manual as your guide for operating the canner itself, including steam exhaust directions, how much water to use, etc.  Do not settle for what it contains regarding how long to process the various low acid foods.  Many of those numbers have changed over the years and you want updated information for canning safety, meaning info not the pot itself, but the length of processing time, here's what I've found to be our best bet. 
   The absolute best, and undisputed authority on all things having to do with canning is Ball who produces the jars and lids we use, and has for a zillion years.  Ball puts out an inexpensive but wonderful book that they update from time to time, called The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving (called simply "the blue book").  They sell for under $10.  Get one.  Study it.  Follow its time charts.  It covers hot water bath canning (fruits), pressure canning (low acid foods), freezing, dehydrating and has tons of tips plus recipes.  If using your own family recipes, there will be a similar one, most likely, in the Blue Book.  Make sure you aren't using any ingredients that aren't in their recipe, and if you are, no problem; in that case, just verify that its processing time doesn't require longer than called for in the recipe.  In other words, your total processing time is always that of the longest called for by any of the ingredients.  If everything else calls for 45 minutes and your one added ingredient requires 90 minutes, you might want to choose to omit that ingredient because it's forcing all your others to go disproportionately longer. 
  As for testing the seals, again follow Ball.  Let everything cool completely because lids often pop down during that time (you can hear them pinging, one by one).  Do not be alarmed if when you remove your jars from the canner you are still seeing boiling or simmering action inside the jars, even for 30+ minutes after they're out of the canner.  This is HOT stuff.  But observe the tests set forth in the Blue Book for knowing if you have good seals or not. 
   Third, don't panic if you see food around the neck of the jar and on the inside of the lid.  During the exhaust of air inside the jars, food can be carried.  It doesn't hurt anything unless it interferes with the seal, and you'll know that with the lift test (which you'd of course do with your other hand ready to catch the jar should the lid come off). 
   Once fully researched so you get the shtick of pressure canning understood, you have all sorts of fun ahead of you.  To say NOTHING of saving a fortune between your own far superior home canned soups and stews vs. that pap we find on grocery store shelves.  (By comparison.)  It's all relative.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Doo Does Lace. And Beads??

Okay, now that I'm becoming (cough, choke) "mature," I've been trying to figure out what kind of old lady I want to practice being.  It's entirely flexible because it's all a mindset.  I have zero interest in enriching a plastic surgeon and not being able to frown because when you inject botulism into your face, your face doesn't move anymore.  And that's pretty creepy but also, when I frown, I damn well want people to know it.  So that's out.  I sort of decided on accepting the inevitable aging things, but doing it gracefully.  That was the ideal.  However the reality concern about that mindset is that it's too easy to ignore style entirely.

I've pretty much decided to accept "conservative New England" because that's kind of where my head is.  It means LL Bean and I live in LL Bean clothes.  My whole wardrobe is LL Bean.  Like to an after-the-fact realization.  If I look at my wardrobe, "Regular" in winter is their Turtlenecks, mock turtlenecks and "dressy" is their Pima Cotton long sleeve tops.  "Regular" in summer is their Saturday T-shirt and "dressy" is their Pima Cotton short sleeve tops.  I can't knock those Pima Cotton tops, they're a thin drapy fabric, cool to wear and though they are pretty perishable, they go anywhere.

So with that mindset I did something strange.  I have no idea where this came from, but for some reason I got a yen to knit a "real lace" shawlette.  And with beads!  Now finer lace (meaning laceweight yarn) is a departure for me to some extent, but beads are a total departure.  It made me wonder if those neurons are starting to misfire.  I mean, one could take that as a sign, even though it would be a pretty benign sign.  But anyway, I went into my LYS and looked at laceweight yarns.  Now Jerry (husband) has some very set opinions that I don't always agree with (e.g., Ravelry won't be around much longer because Facebook is losing steam).  But he's a really good dyer.  Pretty phenomenal in fact.  He had a colorway that I can only describe as the color you stare at when deep sea fishing off the coast of southern California.  (Damn, I miss deep sea fishing.)  It's a color hard to describe, but that's the color of this colorway.  It's not deep green, it's not deep blue, it's somewhere in there.  It's not flashy, it's very muted.  But not dull.  And he pulls off an ever so slight verigation.  It's easy to get big ones at the dye pot, not so with "ever so slight."

I bought that yarn.  To give you an idea of how fine it is (maddeningly so on a size 7 needles that are VERY slick, to boot), there are 1,000 yards to 4 oz.  That's pretty fine.  Not "cobweb" but definitely at the finer end of the laceweight range.  Let's just say I have no interest in knitting with anything finer. 

The beads?  Well, Cindi is pretty blingy, she favored some really blingy ones.  I went for the same color beads as the yarn EXCEPT they have sparkle.  Not cheap brassy sparkle.  Okay, it's the kind of thing where on an ever so slightly cloudy night where you can still see the stars, they don't scream out at you, but you're definitely aware of them.  That kind of beads.

So I was going to make a shawlette I've made twice before because it's easy.  But instead, just for the fun of it, did a pattern search on Rav.  Bunches of thumbnails.  But one stopped my eye in its tracks.  Both eyes.  Not a lot of beads.  Again, like stars are on an ever so slightly cloudy night.  And the feature photo's yarn color was a dead ringer for mine.  And that's how I met Susanna IC, designer par excellence.  The name of this shawlette is "Little Leaves."  It was a definite step up from any lace I've knitted before in terms of complexity, but not so far out there that I felt defeated. 

People called this a "quick knit."  HAH!  Not for me it wasn't.  But I finally got it done and it came off the blocking mats yesterday afternoon (probably 12 hours too soon but oh well.)  It is GORGEOUS in person.  The shape is quite unique in the way it's constructed, but also because short rowing is used.  It fits if worn as a shawl because it meets in the middle and doesn't spread apart at the bottom edge.  It can be tied and it stays tied (the square cut ends).  Its wing tips can be flipped over the shoulder and they stay put.  AND they cascade into a point (out edge's front corners).  It's perfect.  I love this designer.

These photos do not show the color of the yarn but that's hard to get anyway.  So with that preface, here it is.

Blocked (the shape as you see it, but could have blocked it more spread out if I had more mats)...

Best shot to see the leaves stitch pattern....

Best shot to see the beads which are hard as hell to photograph and get their color.  I could only get it by shooting at a slant, totally warping the yarn color and to some extent the beads color but this shows their placement, hence "not overdone."

So now sure, this can be worn with LL Bean and with jeans too, because people do all that now.  But with a red down jacket that makes you look like a marshmallow??  I don't think so.  I might have to add a slight variation to "New England LL Bean Conservative" and buy some sleeker pants.  And shoes that aren't slip-in clogs....  with hay and dried horse poop on them.