Thursday, December 18, 2008

Update/Daughter's Christmas Socks

I've realized it's been almost three months since I posted... it's been so busy. So I thought I'd sneak on here, post an update and a picture of my most recent completed project.

A little over a week after my last post, a specialist confirmed what my regular doctor hinted, and what I had long realized: I needed surgery to fix ongoing health problems. Two weeks later I went under the knife.

The whole thing went very well. I only had pain enough to require a morphine pump the day of the surgery, was able to go home the next day, and after only needed Percocet and Motrin for a few days before I was able to wean off onto Motrin only.

I spent six weeks in recovery and returned to work at the beginning of this month. I'm still processing, adjusting and healing - it takes up to a year to be completely "normal" again after the procedures I had, and the process has its ups and downs. I just hope during the "down" days I test everyone else's patience a lot less than I manage to drive myself nuts.

In the meantime, of course, I have relied on my knitting for sanity. I was able to finish my daughter's socks that I started a couple months ago in time to send them off to her for Christmas:

I hope she likes them and that they fit her feet. I had a lot of fun working with the On Line Supersocke.

In the meantime, I'm taking a break from sock knitting to work on a sweater for my son. I've been wanting to make him a pullover with cables for some time and I found some Patons Classic Wool yarn in Denim at my local JoAnn's on sale a few weeks ago that will look nice on him. Because I'm horrid at guessing how much the cables will pull the yarn in I've had to start the project over three times, so it's not going to be ready in time for Christmas, but he'll still have something nice to wear on really cold days this winter soon enough.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Son's Socks are Done!

I finished my little boy's socks last week - they're the very first pair I've knit start to finish:

I did a better job grafting the toe on the other one this time. I guess it's one of those practice make perfect type of things.

Here's the little man checking them out - I couldn't get him to model the finished product but he did like the way they felt against his skin:

In the meantime I've continued work on the sock I was making in On-Line Supersocke yarn, and I've started a pair for my husband using JoAnn's Soles & More in Grey Shades. I take turns working on each - as you can see I've gotten to where I'm constructing the heel with the first pair:

I'm using the same pattern as for mine with the first pair, except I'm making the top part a couple of inches shorter so I can make the foot a little larger. I love how the self-striping is turning out - my husband couldn't believe that the yarn does all that fun and colorful work all by itself, all I have to do is knit and enjoy :-)

With my husband's I'm using Patons' Spiral Socks free pattern. I picked up a leaflet for it while I was at Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins a few weeks ago. You can click the link above to access the pattern online - it requires membership but it's free and they don't spam you unless you let them so they're cool.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pitter-Patter of Little Feet

No, I'm not expecting... just focusing on the little feet already in my home and those of a friend's.

I've started work on some socks for my son. He got so excited watching me make mine that I decided to put that project down for the interim and do some for him instead.

I'm using JoAnn Crafts' own brand of sock yarn called Soles and More. My son picked out a ball that self-stripes in shades of blue, red and grey. I'm using the Magic Loop technique with a size 3 29" circular and sort of doing my own thing based on ideas I picked up from free patterns at Lion Brand and Red Heart.

I've already got the first one done - my son modeled it for the camera:

I'm hoping I can improve my Kitchener/grafting stitch for the second one. I don't like how it turned out on the toe here at all.

I also knit up a pair of booties for a friend's baby. I used the Snuggle Booties pattern from Bev's Country Cottage. They went really quick and easy. Since the little guy is almost two months old already, I used the instructions for making the 3-month size along with size 5 needles to make them just a little bit bigger - I'm hoping that will do it:

The yarn is Sirdar Snuggly Domino DK baby yarn in Deep Blue. I've had it in my stash for some time. It's been discontinued since '05. I may or may not make a matching hat as I have a couple more balls.

I'm planning to finish my son's socks now that I got the booties done. From there I'll probably finish the pair I'm doing with the On-Line yarn. I also got a couple balls of Soles and More in black and grey shades that I plan to use to make socks for my husband, and then I might finally get around to finishing mine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Joy of Socks

Oh all right, so my post title is dumb :-)

This is my first attempt at knitting socks. I'm using Red Heart's Heart & Sole sock yarn in Spring Stripe and using the accompanying free pattern Red Heart has on its site:

I figured I'd make a pair for myself first, that way if I mess them up then I'm the one who has to live with the mistake :-D

If these turn out well then I'll be digging into the ball of On-Line sock yarn I got from The Recycled Lamb and knitting up another pair. The color variations in that yarn look like they'll be a lot of fun.

Update, 8/18 - First one down:

I think my son approves:
I've also started a pair of socks using the On-Line sock yarn and a technique called Magic Loop:

Basically Magic Loop is where you use a longer circular needle to knit a smaller garment in the round. This site and this video are good tutorials if you want to learn more.

The advantage of Magic Loop, aside from not having to deal with DPNs, is that your work will supposedly come out more seamless. Given this is my first effort I suspect that won't be the case for these socks, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the striping coming out of this yarn and learning something new.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mother-Daughter Time

My daughter came out to visit this past week from California - I can't believe it's come and gone already. She came out with her father, grandmother and aunt.

We belatedly celebrated her 17th birthday when she got here. I gave her my Little Meggie kick spindle and emailed her Jan's demo of it from YouTube at her request so she can see how to set it up and get it going at her pace.

I finished her W tank just in time. It looks really great on her:

It did turn out a little on the large side for her so she is opting to wear it as a vest, and it's working out pretty good. She got a lot of compliments while she wore it here.

We got her a really gorgeous lemon poppy cake from Rheinlander Bakery:

We spent most of our time the rest of the week doing what we do best - raiding all the fiber, yarn and craft places we could hit. We first went to Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins out in Boulder, where my daughter got herself a few ounces of a beautiful merino roving and some gold Angelina fibers that she has already started combining on her drop spindle:

My son loves to watch his sister on this video over and over :-)

I also got myself some "Summertime" roving by
Alpine Meadow Artisan Fibers that I began spinning on my wheel right away:

We also visited The Recycled Lamb in Lakewood for the first time. While my daughter grabbed a few balls of bright colored wool yarn from there, I got myself a ball of sock yarn and half a pound of alpaca fiber. We descended upon Hobby Lobby a couple of times too so my daughter could spend the gift card my MIL gave her and got even more yarn.

My daughter went home with several pounds of yarn from my stash - I felt it was time to go through what I had and pass it along. She is planning to keep some and then give away the rest to her great-grandmother and possibly to charity.

When we weren't busy going to the craft stores we were busy using what we got, sitting around like a couple of old ladies and making our projects :-)

My daughter's grandmother also visited SS&S and Hobby Lobby while here. She said she had to shut her eyes at one point or she would end up buying everything in both stores.

We managed to get away on an overnight trip up to Idaho Springs and also visit the Buffalo Bill museum and grave on Lookout Mountain. My daughter did an Old West portrait at Margie's while in Idaho Springs that turned out fantastic - I loved watching her dress up in costume and have fun posing for the camera:

My husband and I had one done for our anniversary last month, so now we have a matching picture to put up with ours... one day we'll get one done of our son when he's older and can sit still and then we'll have the whole family!

My daughter also made a painted stained glass project for her aunt, who has a birthday the day after hers:

Finally, we caught a couple of movies - Iron Man and Wall-E. I have already seen Iron Man and love it, my daughter thought the electromagnetic thing in Tony Stark's chest was "creepy." Wall-E was a hit for us as well as my husband, it really bowled us all over.

8/11: I just got an update on my daughter's trip back home. Her Dad had decided to attempt the I-70 route back to Cali and it was a challenge between massive rain, a sandstorm, and just having a hard time getting the RV over the passes in the mountains. Thankfully they had family in Vegas who treated them to some hospitality and relaxation before they made it back home last night. As long as everyone is safe and sound, that's what counts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Navajo Plying and Tank Tops

Hot enough for you all out there yet now that it's officially summer?

"Oh God - air conditioning, please!!!"

We're supposed to flirt with 100 degrees tomorrow and Thursday here. Still, it's nothing to complain about compared to where my daughter is - she told me it hit 110 over the weekend in her area. From what I've seen it looks like she'll be getting a reprieve soon though if not already.

But enough about the weather - this Kneedle Junkie wants to talk about her addiction!

I recently decided to learn how to Navajo ply, in which you triple-ply from a single strand of spun yarn. The Joy of Handspinning site has a mini-video and a page dedicated to this technique but I needed more, and frankly I needed a "Navajo Plying for Dummies" type of lesson if I was going to get it.

Enter rexenne's most excellent YouTube video, How to Navajo Ply: Demystified and Unraveled. To say that she is a genius in being able to teach something that otherwise looks incredibly complicated is an understatement. She not only explains how to do it but adds a couple of tips for making it easier, AND - bless her heart - slows parts of the video way, way down so you can actually see how it works. Throw in her upbeat personality and some fun background music, and you've got yourself an awesome tutorial.

After watching the video I tried my hand at Navajo plying on some old baby yarn... and did better than I thought for a first try. So, I took the yarn I finished spinning from the roving I got at Stick and Stone back in April and did it "for reals."

Here's my end result:

I have to say for only my second effort I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Still haven't decided what I will do with it yet, especially as it's only about 8 ounces of yarn. I may wait until I've spun or bought something that coordinates with the color and then see what it inspires me to do.

In the meantime, I've been making tank tops. Maran Illustrated has its knitting and crocheting book for free online, which contains a pattern for a summer tank top. I used Lion's now-discontinued Magic Stripes yarn in Denim Stripe to make one for myself - I made it to wear out to dinner for my anniversary this weekend, and it'll be a fun top for the 4th of July:

I found the Magic Stripes yarn at Big Lots a few months ago. Like the Fettuccini yarn they had it at an insane discount, $1.50 per ball. They no longer have it that I can tell, I suspect they were just helping get rid of the last of it (it looks like Lion Brand's replaced it with something else since). I have, however, seen some people selling it on eBay here and there. I plan to use what I have left to make my son a sweater.

I am also making a tank for my daughter as one of her birthday gifts. I found a really nice pattern on Knitty called the W tank and I've already finished one side - I'm using some of what I have left of my Lion Brand Homespun in Adirondack and it's coming out nicely:

I am running into one snag though. I'm so low in my stash of this yarn that I've got mismatched dye lots - they don't even look like the same yarn when you put two skeins side by side. That's what I get for not listening to my ex-mother-in-law about how a project can get ruined if you don't get enough of the same dye lot. I may have to fudge it a bit to get the other side to at least look halfway the same.

Aside from that, I'm finding that knitting this pattern is just a lot of fun. It's quick and it's actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. I may end up making one for me and there's at least one other person I can think of who would look good in this. Probably will use another yarn though so I can make sure everything matches!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This and That

I don't have any specific updates to report, just thought I'd share a few pics... hope you enjoy.

First, I finished spinning my silk - sorry for the fuzzy photo, for some reason my camera decided the texture on my couch was more interesting:

I've decided I'm going to use it to make the short-sleeved version of Stitch Diva's Hourglass Jacket. As mentioned on the site it does work up pretty quickly - in just a couple hours I got the first part of the back and the armhole shaping for that section done, and I've never done broomstick lace before.

I did get another couple ounces of the pink silk from Rose Weaving so I will hopefully have enough to finish the project - I may go get another ounce this weekend to be on the safe side. But it will have to wait a bit as I finally started in on the wool I got from Stick and Stone while in California last month:

It's proving to be a nice fiber to spin, and I like the way the taupe is coming out. I also got a mauve-ish color - I had thought everything was the same color because they do look so close. I'm cool with it though, I think they'll go together nicely on a project.

My daughter also sent me a CD of the pictures she took during our Tehachapi trip last month that include shots of the purse I made as my Confirmation gift to her. I spun the yarn using Sullivan's felting fiber pack in Heritage colors.

She got pictures of me finishing it up in our hotel room, as well as goofing around wearing it as a hat. The circular knitting needles looked like little bug antennae sticking out the top and we both had fun laughing about that.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fort Lupton Heritage Fair

My family and I went to the second annual Fort Lupton, CO Heritage Fair yesterday.

"Dude, where's my pants?"

Unfortunately it was rather cold and windy (which makes me wonder how the guy in the picture above fared), and with my men fighting off some nasty respiratory thing that meant we couldn't stay long. But it was still fun to visit - they had re-enactments of the frontier days, including the Buffalo Soldiers, Native American dances, music and Annie Oakley. A couple of different people demonstrated candle making and blacksmithing. There were different activities people could do too, such as re-enacting Viking sword fights, tomahawk throwing, panning, and they had a barbeque where everyone could feast on pulled pork, buffalo and beef.

They also have an old schoolhouse and a home from the 1800s that they've restored and are now historical landmarks that you can go inside. The house has restored furniture and other amenities, including a sewing machine - you can even see the belt that helped move the needle with the help of a foot pedal:

They also have women from the South Platte Valley Historical Society who demonstrate handspinning and weaving. People could come over and learn how to use a weaving loom if they wanted.

This nice lady here allowed a young girl to help her draft the wool she was using to spin yarn.

All in all we had a great time and if you're from the Denver/Boulder area, I think it's a great event for your kids to attend so they can experience history in person.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Joy of Silk

I bit the bullet and got myself about six ounces of a very pale hand-dyed silk from Rose Weaving Gallery and Studio in Arvada a couple weekends ago at a discount:

This week I started spinning it on my wheel. It was my first time attempting to spin silk and it was a challenge at first. The fibers are so slippery they can get away from you quickly - and they did quite a few times! I also ended up with some areas that were as thin as a thread trying to figure out how much to draft out to get a consistent weight.

But now I'm getting the hang of it and my yarn is starting to look better:

I also discovered the belt had loosened on my wheel, which explained some of the trouble I was having with getting enough twist all of a sudden. Fortunately Jan has instructions available for download at Heavenly Handpsinning on how to tighten the belt. I followed the steps and in no time the wheel worked again like a charm.

The fibers are so slippery it drafts and spins quickly. Also because I tend to spin on the fast side as it is, the increased twist actually works well with the silk.
I'm not sure if it's the dye or something the fibers picked up in the store but it also smells very pretty.

I won't get to buy silk fibers very often but I will definitely enjoy the opportunities I get to spin this soft, luxurious fiber.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I knit myself up a quick, easy and fun project over the weekend called the Audrey Turtleneck Shell. The pattern and the yarn are from Lion Brand - the yarn is Fettuccini in Coppertone:

I got an incredible deal on the yarn. I found it at Big Lots for $1.50 a ball - normally it's $9. So for just a dollar and a half more than the normal price, I was able to get enough to make the entire thing!

I also modified the pattern a little - normally the turtleneck is 10 inches long, but I made it about 6 inches instead. I felt it would be too bulky and goofy looking if I went the full length, and at the same time it's still long enough that I can roll it down.

The only problem I've had with it so far is that the armholes stretched out some when I washed it last night, so I will need to reshape it again. Otherwise it's surprisingly light for a bulky wool yarn and it's a lot of fun to wear.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Fun with Kool-Aid

I decided to try my hand at being a little more creative with the Kool-Aid dyeing last night and this morning... I've spun about a pound and a half of the Corriedale I got to make my husband a sweater using my Gratia wheel so far and hubby mentioned recently that he'd like some color in it:

My husband likes tie-dye so I thought I'd give that a go... and I decided to try the microwave technique this time, not really following any directions in particular but going off of what I observed using the stovetop technique. I figure if I botched the yarn I can just make a brown shade by mixing the different Kool-Aid colors together and cover my tush :-)

By the way if my site is the first you've come across in researching Kool-Aid dyeing techniques, bear in mind that it works with protein fibers only, such as wool, soy, or silk. Cellulose and artificial fibers such as cotton or acrylic will not take Kool-Aid dye. The same goes for if you want to color using easter egg dyes.

If you're working with a blend such as wool and cotton or wool and acrylic, the wool fibers will take the dye. It is a combination of the acidic Kool-Aid package mix and the protein in the fibers that make this work together. There are tons of other sites out there that discuss dyeing techniques for all different fiber types and I recommend doing lots of homework so you can decide what technique you want to use and how you want to dye your yarn or fiber.

So here's how I did my Kool-Aid wool, "tie-dye" style. First I put the yarn I'd spun in a resealable bag with just enough water to get it wet and then microwaved it until it was really hot, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes:

Next, I created some colors that I thought would work well within what my husband likes. I made a dark orange/terra cotta shade by mixing Orange and Black Cherry, an olive green using Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade with Orange, and then varying shades of indigo blue and violet with the ice blue raspberry and/or Berry Blue mixed with Grape... the ice blue turned out more purple shades with the grape, whereas the berry blue made more of a blue/indigo color. Here you can see me prepping the colors - I added water that I boiled in the microwave first, which seemed to help the mix dissolve better:

I then took an old oral medicine syringe and squirted/injected the colors into the yarn. The syringe gave me control over where and how much I could put the colors; if you're just working with one color then you can just dump the entire container into the bag and massage it through:

I found that if I didn't take care to inject color exactly where I wanted it, then it would leave undyed patches. Given I was going for a tie-dyed look, that actually worked out very well, but if you're wanting uniform color make sure you get the dye everywhere you need it to go.

From there I microwaved the yarn again to get it very hot. This time because the yarn was already warm from the first nuking, it only needed about 90 seconds... and it comes out scorching so make sure you are using oven mitts to pull it out of the nuker:

Oh and unlike what you see me doing, I recommend using rubber gloves for the process. Kool-Aid is a bear to wash out of your skin, and if you have any cuts or scratches on your hands, the acidity from the Vitamin C in the mix really stings.

After microwaving the dyed yarn I let it sit for a while... the yarn is so hot it'll cook itself. I liked that over the stovetop process because then you can just walk away, you don't have to babysit it. But if you have little ones like I do keep it out of reach - I know I'm being annoying but I can't emphasize enough how hot the yarn gets.
Additionally you will need to massage the yarn from time to time to make sure it continues absorbing the color, so again, keep the oven mitts handy.

When the yarn finishes absorbing the color the water is virtually clear:

At that point I squeezed out the excess water as much as I could. I suggest opening the bag and letting the yarn cool a few minutes, but if you're impatient like me you can just don the oven mitts and squeeze it out while holding the bag open upside down.

From there I hung the yarn to dry:

All right, so I use the rack where we store our mops and brooms to dry my yarn and our calendar is still on February. I have a small place and it's been busy. Work with me...

After the yarn drip-dried for a while, I re-wound it to help disperse the moisture, get some air in between the strands, then put them on a towel in the sun to dry. They're still sitting on the back of my couch, making the house smell fruity... so far my cats seem to understand their normal sun spots are taken and are dozing elsewhere.

My husband is admiring his yarn every time he walks by; he really likes the colors I got out of what I did. I also experimented with mixing things a little differently with various skeins, having the pretreated yarn be wetter or dryer before coloring, and also with sprinkling the dry mix onto the yarn after coloring it but before putting it in the microwave.

These experiments resulted in some color variations as you can probably see, but I think they'll all still go together well when I knit hubby's sweater. I also did try tying off parts of some skeins prior to dyeing to get more of the tie-dyed look and that gave me some nice white bands here and there.

My almost four year old son seemed to show some interest in what I was doing too. If he were older I would have had him help me with the painting process (not with cooking though), but between it being a really nice day outside and his preferring tire swings and mud, he's got his prerogatives :-)

Oh and by the way - yes, I do have a large stash of Kool-Aid, your eyes did not deceive you in previous photos:

I somehow got lucky when I hit our local Big Lots last night. They had boxes of the stuff, 50 packs for 5 dollars - I calculated that to come out to 10 cents a pack, what you'd pay for the generic stuff on a good day. So I stocked up and now I've got enough to keep things colorful for a long time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Trails...

Hope you're all ready for a long post with lots of pictures. I just returned last night from a trip out to California, where I got to see my daughter go through Confirmation and spent time with her.

We enjoyed our time together, which included an overnighter up in Tehachapi. First, we visited the California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster:

By the way, this is THE time of year to go. As you can see the scenery is almost surreal - the hills are intensely bright orange from all the poppies in bloom, and with the blue sky it makes for an incredible contrast. The pictures we took just don't do it justice at all, you really have to go and see it for yourself. They are also going to have a Poppy Festival the weekend of the 19th at a park in Lancaster that will have festivities, arts and crafts and more.

We then got to see a train go through the Tehachapi Loop:

Finally, we saw the big cats at the exotic feline compound in Rosamond - this serval was a bit friendlier than the bobcat that hissed at us when we tried to take his picture:

We also visited Tehachapi's famous Apple Shed restaurant and gift shop for lunch, where my daughter picked herself up some of their well-known fudge. I am not sure if I like how they've rearranged things since they got new management a couple of years ago but it is still a fun place to visit.

We also indulged in our spinning and needlework aplenty. We found a spinning supplies place in Van Nuys called Stick & Stone where we got an incredible deal - all their fibers and yarn are 70% off right now as part of a spring sale. They were pretty picked over by the time we got there but we found some nice roving nonetheless, and there's still some good stuff left, so if you're out in that area make sure you hurry and grab what they've got before it's gone!

Oh and I also suggest that you call them before you go. The owner told us that she isn't running normal business hours on some days, but if you call ahead of time like we did she will keep the store open for you.

We also visited Skein out in Pasadena. I picked up a pair of handbag handles and a small pack of roving from them. They also had a small knitting group going on while we were there.

I used the handles to create a handbag for my daughter as her Confirmation gift. I knit the bag using circular needles and yarn I spun on my Gratia wheel using Sullivan's roving pack in Heritage colors. My daughter watched me make it but didn't know it was hers until the very end so she was very pleasantly surprised when I handed it to her :-)

I also learned to use Kool-Aid as a dye the right way - when I did my Blue-faced Leicester roving a while back I didn't realize that I needed to follow some important steps, which left my wool on the pale side... mind you I still like how it looks, but this time I got a more vivid color. I found Knitty and yarngirl both had good suggestions for dyeing with Kool-Aid.

I also decided to spin the roving first and then dye it as yarn. When I did the roving first it made the wool kink and stiffen, which makes it harder to draft while spinning. Also dyeing it after spinning helped set the twist.

Here are my results using three packs of grape Kool-Aid on an ounce and a half of roving with varying natural shades that I spun on my Louet Octagon drop spindle:

Oh and yes, it smells as intense as it looks. I took it home with me in a ziploc bag in my carryon and I could still smell the grape through the bag.

My daughter and I also took some yarn she'd spun on her drop spindle and used lemon-lime on it. I don't have any pictures of the end results but it turned out this fantastic bright green - so fun! I'm hoping when she and her Dad get the disc together they've promised me of her pictures from Tehachapi that she'll include a shot of it.

As always my trip to California was too short and it's never easy leaving. It was my home most of my life, and it's always hard to say goodbye to my daughter until I see her again. But hubby has been talking about having all of us go and visit again in the fall, and I will get to see my daughter in the summer... here's hoping I'll have enough time off down the line and that the months in between go quickly.