Monday, July 30, 2012

Finished Log Cabin UFO; Stash Reports

Here's what's on my design wall / clothesline: Log Cabin Quilt Top, blocks circa 2004.  My July UFO is now a FO!  I had it seamed into a 48" square, and then Saturday I decided to add an extra row at the top and bottom.  I did have to use some of the blocks I mistakenly made with larger red centers, but it's really not noticeable  So now the quilt top is 48"x60", just about right for a lap quilt.  I usually make bigger, bed-sized quilts, but I just did not have the willpower to piece more.  So now it joins the queue waiting for machine quilting.  I love the huge variety of scraps in it.

We discovered a surprise in that overgrown rhododendron bush in the background a few weeks ago:
Very vigilant robin parents with three younglings.  The nest is empty when we check now, though.  They must be off enjoying their summer.

Stash report:

Fabric used this week: 3.5 yards for log cabin top
Fabric used year to date: 53.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 25.5 yards

Yarn used this week: 1000 yards (estimate) from Lady MacBeth shawl
Yarn used year to date: 4406 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 903 yards (whew, in positive numbers again after the Tour de Fleece!)

I'm enjoying keeping track of my stash used.  My goal is to not buy any yarn at all this year, but I am allowed to spin new.  I shouldn't buy spinning fiber until after I've used up what I have, either.  Doing pretty well there.  On fabric, I'm buying what is necessary to finish projects but not trying to enhance my stash.  I seem to collect lots of scraps from sewing friends and family members too, which I love.  When I finish a scrappy quilt top that is densely pieced I multiply the dimensions in inches to get the square inches, and then multiply by 2 because of all the seam allowances.  Then I divide by 1584, which is the number of square inches in a standard yard of fabric.  I don't multiply by 2 for less densely pieced quilts, maybe 1.5 depending on what kind of piecing is in it.  And of course, these are all just estimates.  But the progress in using up stash this year has been encouraging!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finished Shawl - Lady MacBeth

Isn't this ethereally lovely?  I've been working on it since March.  This is my 7th shawl in the 12 shawls in 2012 challenge, Susanna IC's Rose Lace Stole.  I'm calling it "Black Roses" or "Lady MacBeth." 
Here's why.  After three soaks in water with vinegar added, it's safe to wear.  I wore it today!  It might leave a slight pinkish glow on my skin, and I'm not trying it over a white blouse.  But it's finished!
 It has beads, but it's really hard to see them.  Imagine how hard it was to put them on.  I'm really not sure I'll ever do beads again.  But!  It's 100% cashmere, from a reclaimed unravelled thrift store sweater, dyed with Wilton's cake decorating gels, it used up about 1000 yards of the yarn, 22"x70", and earns me some kind of knitting brownie points.  Maybe even a merit badge.
I loved how it fluttered in the breeze outside.

In the knitting Olympics, a setback today: I realized my gauge was consistently 4.5 stitches per inch when the pattern was 5 per inch, and this made the circumference of the garment too big, even for someone who grew up in the '80's.  I mean, the recipient is a size larger than I am, but not 3 sizes larger.  So I ripped back to the beginning and cast on a smaller size.  I'm almost caught up with where I was after 2 days of knitting.  Does this count as a false start in the Sweater Triathlon?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Randomday: Olympic Cast-On

The Ravelympic, er, RAVELLENIC Games are on!  It's a total coincidence that the mass cast-on was at the same time as the Olympic Games opening ceremonies.  And that our goal is to finish whatever project we cast on by the closing ceremonies.  And that most of us are watching the Olympics at all... are we even allowed to say we watch the Olympics?

The challenge: complete Rhinebeck Goes Ravellenic before the end of closing ceremonies.  By complete: all knitting and seaming finished; buttons and blocking optional.  The materials: 22 skeins of orange superwash yarn, handspun during the Tour de Fleece, in 5 colorways: Classical Copper, Trademark Infringement Caution, Olympic Torch Flame, Bronze Age with Mycaenaean Patina, Ancient Embers.  I have about 1800 yards total of a worsted weight 3-ply.  The needles: size 6 KnitPicks Harmony tips on a 40" cable.  I went down a size because I'm generally a loose knitter and I'm trying to achieve an accurate 5 stitches/inch gauge to get the right amount of positive ease and not bagginess.

I managed about 2 inches of knitting and one skein of orange yarn (96 yards, colorway 145-copper/bronze/embers) before going to bed last night.  I'm on my second skein midway through the day (98 yards, colorway 345-flame/bronze/embers) and may finish about a skein a day.  It could happen!  When I did my 12 sweaters in 2009 challenge I used to aim for one inch of body knitting per day, which is roughly equivalent to 4 inches of sleeve knitting.  That can be hard to achieve with fingering or sport weight, but this is worsted and I think I can, I think I can.  Keep up the 2 inches per day pace, I mean.

Citius, Altius, Fortius!

Random observations: The Vatican did not field an Olympic team this year.  I don't know if they ever did, but it would make an interesting story.

My daughters had never watched Chariots of Fire, but now that they've seen Mr. Bean's version they may think it is the authentic one.

QEII as a Bond girl.  Now I've seen everything!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympic Preparations

The Ravelympics have been renamed the Ravellenic Games in response to claims of trademark infringement... but I'm still calling them the Ravelympics.  Or just plain Olympics, during which I'll be knitting.  I'm almost but not quite ready.  I have the yarn wound into center-pull balls, and I have a basic color progression planned for the sweater:
(The chicken sandwich on top left is Tertia's -- I was hurrying to put the yarn away before lunch!)

The sweater is Rhinebeck, from A Fine Fleece, by Lisa Lloyd.  If I had world enough and time I would knit just about every sweater in this book.  This will be the second time through for Rhinebeck, because I already have a version of this sweater for myself.  This one's for Beth, who wanted one just like it.  So, starting tomorrow, there will be lots more of the orange... of course, you've already seen the orange being spun during the Tour de Fleece.  Can I knit a sweater, start to finish, in 17 days?  Um, maybe.  Depends on how much I get distracted.

I still haven't done a swatch or selected a needle size or cleaned out my knitting bag.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WIP Wednesday - Vision Appointments

I'm still processing the astounding non-coincidence (because there is no such thing as coincidence) that I know Petra Anderson, the young woman in the Aurora shooting whose brain had a benign "defect" that channelled the bullet through without causing major damage.  I remember her as a little girl, as shown in the picture with her mother at the end of this post.  When I saw the first pictures of her as an adult, I was struck with the resemblance to her mother as I remember her; the same heart-shaped face, the same creative spark even in a still photo.  Her mother is now fighting terminal cancer, just as my late mother did.  I know the story has gone viral now, and the care fund started for their benefit is doing well.  I'm glad something positive and uplifting can come from this, but of course I'm so sorry to see the Anderson family having to go through such terrible stress.  And I just came across another blog written by a little girl I used to know.  And I wonder how is it that she became so grown up in the 13 years since I knew her?  All these kids from the old days, now serving the Lord in their own unexpected ways.

Here in the Northwest, I'm taking kids to eye doctor appointments.  Tertia got to go all the way down to Lake Oswego with me yesterday to the ophthalmologist.  Then this morning I took her along with Daniel to the vision center... Daniel to get contacts and Tertia to pick out frames.  Speaking of kids growing up... I'm old enough to have a kid wearing contacts!
Okay, works in progress... 5/8 of the way through seaming this Log Cabin top together.  Ignore the offset blocks... I moved the finished part to the right to make room for the light switch.  These blocks were so fun to make with scraps that I bought back when I lived in Denver and Quilter's Newsletter Magazine used to have a brick-and-mortar store at their HQ.  I remember stuffing a bag with selvedge scraps for a dollar, or something like that.  I noticed a few green scraps from my very first quilt ever, finished in 1988.  There are also scraps from several other Denver-vintage quilts.  I guess that's what happens when you trot out an 8-year old UFO.  Wow, I'm nostalgic today!
I'm working on more purple Anita's Arrowhead blocks as leaders-and-enders while I seam the log cabin blocks together.  I have 40-something now.  I should really come up with a plan for the finished top.
So this may not be the best picture. But for the yarn-along I am working on Lady MacBeth, the Black Roses stole, and I'm trying to catch up on back issues of World.  I'm more than halfway through the final border... so there's hope for finishing it before the end of the month and staying on track with my 12 shawls in 2012 challenge.  You can't see it in the picture, but there are tiny seed beads in there.  I've been working on this one since March, and I'm ready for it to be done!  I also need to wind 22 skeins of handspun orange superwash into balls before the Olympics opening ceremonies Friday!  Yay for orange!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Design Wall Monday: Double Digits edition

The last Chapman has reached double digits today. She received a pocket knife, $20 spending money, and a game of Battleship.  I feel old.  Ten years ago this evening I was recuperating from an emergency C-section and the sudden sensori-neural hearing loss/ vertigo that had put me in the hospital 2 days previously.  The vertigo has improved, the left ear is still almost totally useless, and the baby girl has grown.  Birthday dinner menu: Homemade lasagna with meat sauce, green beans, garlic bread, strawberry spinach salad, and a strawberry triple-decker cake with blueberry frosting.
Design Wall: some progress on laying out and seaming up my old Log Cabin blocks.  I have no idea why I'm starting from the bottom, I just am.
I finished sewing the binding on Jack's Chain, Jr.  I may try to enter it in the county fair.

Stash report:
Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 50 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 22 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards, must finish something!
Yarn used year to date: 3406 yards
Yarn added this week: 307 yards (2 skeins, one cat, one Targhee)
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: -97 yards in the hole (I really need to finish knitting something!)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tour de Fleece - Finish Line

Aaaand... we cross the finish line!  24 skeins finished, a total of 2140 yards, about 45 ounces (not quite 3 pounds) and lots of fun.  Now, a short breathing space before the Ravelympics.
In the top half of the layout I put the 10 skeins from the first week of the Tour, all of which were 3-ply with each ply a different colorway.
These are the 12 skeins from the second week; 2 plies of one colorway mixed with one different colorway.  There is also one little N-plied skein of the leftovers from colorway 4.  No 2 skeins have the same makeup.  The 5 colorways are 1. Classical Copper, 2. Trademark Infringement Caution, 3. Olympic Flame Orange, 4. Bronze Age, 5. Ancient Embers.  Now I'll need to figure out a nice way to construct the sweater with a gradual progression of the colors.
I'm pleased with the N-plied Targhee skein.  Maybe I'll make another shawl-I-never-wear with it.  Or maybe a baby sweater, or socks that would have to be hand washed.
Here's a closeup of the "novelty" spinning.  Cat, all 15 yards of it, and the BFL/silk singles on the Kuchulu, still in progress.  I have a lot more to spin on the Kuchulu before that project's finished!
And one last shot of Bradley.  I'll probably put my spinning aside for a bit and focus on quilting and knitting.  I didn't actually start anything new on the wheel since yesterday, but I'm wondering whether my next project should be hemp or one of my wool braids.
Details on my Ravelry stash page, which has links to the other two pages I used to record the Tour de Fleece.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Randomday after the Dark Night

Marie of A Miniature Clay Pot was in the movie theater with her two daughters in Aurora early yesterday morning.  They got out safe.  She writes beautifully about the goodness of God in this tragedy:

God is always good.
Man is not.
Don't get the two confused.
But what I think is most telling are the comments.  Obviously this is a woman who has tangled with the militant atheists before, and they are willing to politicize and personalize the event even if most politicians are not.  Accusations of selfishness because she and her daughters ran to safety.  The assumption that a prayer that she doesn't even remember must have been selfish too.  Berating her for not calling 911 after she got out of the theater, or going back in to carry others out. (What, now Christians have to all be first responders too?)  Scolding her for commenting on how she and her daughters are feeling -- too inconsiderate of those who died?  She does an admirable job again, responding to the responses.  But what is it about atheists that writing a nastygram is their first response to a tragedy?

Petra Anderson is recovering well after being shot multiple times.  Her sister has set up a Facebook page.  It is a surreal feeling to realize this little girl, one who used to play Red Light Green Light with Daniel, has grown into a beautiful young woman whose life has just been so cruelly disrupted.

Okay, I need to do some lighthearted random stuff now.

Forget the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Ravelympics -- have you heard about the Creation Museum's discovery that the Smithsonian Institution stole a picture of its dinosaur?  Now that is not only a copyright infringement, but a big embarassment.  I wonder how many heads will roll at the Smithsonian?

While watching Tour de France coverage from UK commentators, I learned that St. Swithin's day, July 15, is used as a sort of predictor of weather patterns for the rest of the summer.  And it was raining her on July 15, and we've had a very... British summer here in the Northwest.  I'm hoping for a few warm days.  Today was one of them, but we've had a lot of dampness and misty cool rainy days.  I know the rest of the country is suffering from drought and heat waves, but I personally feel like our summer hasn't even begun yet, and it's more than half over.  The plums are still sour on the tree.

The New York Times had a fascinating article on the bleak future of liberal Christianity last week.  Regular attendance at the Episcopal Church has dropped an average of 23% over the last decade.  This wouldn't be such a remarkable article, if it weren't coming from the New York Times.

Have you ever pondered the irony of John Shelby Spong and R.C. Sproul being shelf-mates in the religion section of the bookstore?

The Tour de Fleece is almost over.  I won't be spinning cat anytime again soon, and I'm almost done with the final sprint.  I still need to do a finish line photo, and it would be nice to finish the cop on my Kuchulu spindle.
I've decided the lion mascot's name is Bradley, after Bradley Wiggins, who is almost certain to win the Tour de France unless something goes south in a major way.  Bradley even has sideburns like his namesake.

Speaking of whom... what if Wiggins is not his real name?

What if he's a long-lost Weasley sibling?  We always thought Fred and George were twins... what if they were actually triplets?  Probably not... Bradley is way too serious.  But you have to admit, there is a resemblance.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Flashbacks to Columbine

Secundus went to a midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises with friends today.  I slept well, woke up early enough to catch the end of the Tour de France stage of the day, and was mildly surprised to see Secundus out of bed before 9:00 a.m.  He was checking out reviews of the movie, which he said was the best yet, when he found and told me the news about the horrific shooting in Aurora, CO himself.  At least I never had to worry about him.  At least I was able to do ordinary things with him today, like going on a practice drive, helping him clean up after he spilled gasoline on his clothes while pumping gas for me, and trying to understand why he likes movies with dark themes so much.

Thirteen years ago last April, I was 4 months pregnant with Tertia, just beginning to come out of the haze of hyperemesis and contemplating the pros and cons of trying to eat Thai food.  We had just moved from a 3-bedroom house to a 4-bedroom house in suburban Littleton, Colorado.  It had a finished basement that we planned to use for quilting and homeschooling (I was still under the delusion that they were compatible) and it had a nicely landscaped yard with a playhouse and small swingset.  I used to let the little boys, 4 and 2, play in the backyard while I concentrated on trying not to barf.  There was an interesting odor in the house: not bad, but not really good for one in my condition either.  I think it was maybe old wood polish.  Once the doorbell rang and a kind passerby informed me that she was worried about my little boy (that would be Secundus).  "He's on the roof of the playhouse!"  As if it wasn't one of the safer places for him to be, actually.

On that particular day, I can't remember where I first heard the news about the Columbine High School shooting.  It was either TV or radio, both of which I used to have on in the background to try to occupy my mind so I wouldn't think about how wretched I felt.  They broke into the regular programming with the first reports: shooting at the school, less than 2 miles away; breaking news had reports of escaped perpetrators in the nearby park, possibly at large in the community.  I brought the boys back in from the yard and pulled down the blinds.  We could hear helicopters circling for the rest of the day and into the night.  Reports of fatalities began trickling in as I stayed glued to the TV.  I needed to understand the sequence of events, but that didn't happen for days until the newspapers pieced it together for me.  A reporter from World magazine called and asked if I knew any of the victims, but none went to our church.  I was able to point her in the direction of some of the churches I had heard were affected through my day of watching the coverage, one of them being Cassie Bernall's church.  I remember being upset that the first responders hung back for so long while evaluating the situation, and left people bleeding and dying inside the school.  It does appear that first responders in this situation have had the benefit of training post-Columbine.  People may be alive now as a result, and that is something to be thankful for.

I know at least one family affected by the shooting: a young girl, whom I remember as an even younger girl at the church we attended in Colorado, is hospitalized after taking 4 bullets, one still lodged in the back of her skull.  Please pray for Petra, that her family will once more be able to enjoy doing ordinary things with her.

There is a sense of helplessness in a tragedy like this, but for a thinking person, there is also a desperate need to make sense of it.  For the community at large, it is devastating.  The long-term effects are more subtle than the immediate aftermath, but no less profound.  I find myself thinking back to that April day today, and remembering how thankful I was to be moving out of Colorado a few months afterwards, even though it did mean a second move in one difficult pregnancy and a great deal of disruption.  I'm just as irritated as I was then by the attempts to politicize a tragedy, to posture on gun control or violent video games.  But I do feel very sad, each time something like this happens, that our society has so few mechanisms to stage an intervention for a troubled young person before a tragedy.  His own mother reportedly suspected him immediately.  We'll learn more in the coming days, but I suspect that, like the shooting in Arizona, there were clear warning signs above and beyond the shooter's clean criminal record.  Perhaps our society, without sacrificing the freedoms that we cherish (above all else?), could come up with ways of identifying individuals who are a danger to themselves or others, and acting appropriately to prevent them from carrying out that threat.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Like Spinning Cat

It was hubris.  I should have listened to the few posts about spinning cat I could find on Ravelry: slippery fibers, need to be blended with wool, tend to shed, felt and break.  Well, duh!  Of course cats tend to shed, that's why I had this crazy idea in the first place.  I should have taken warning that Challenge Day in the Tour de Fleece was on a Wednesday... and I've never gotten the hang of Wednesday, somehow.  I should have paid attention to my own screen name, for goodness sake.  Seize the wool!  Not the cat.  Cats don't like to be seized.  Cats are terribly, fiercely independent.  Especially Muffball.
Did I really think this creature would make a good fiber animal? If domestic longhair cats in general were a good source of fiber, don't you think we'd all be more familiar with cat yarn in the knitting world?  Don't you think maybe there would be cat farms where kitties were raised to supply fiber for the hobby spinning market?  Maybe even a reasonably priced cat-fiber sweater in the Land's End catalogue?  But I thought I would be able to do it.  Because I'm so special and talented.  I had visions of blissfully spinning a soft, fluffy laceweight yarn, maybe fine enough to make a lovely lacy "smoke ring" style cowl.  Ha!  I saved her fur for over a year.  I washed it gently.  I combed and brushed it as best I could, picking out clumps that were too matted.
Cats attack your spinning wheel when you're using it.  Apparently their fur has an aversion to being spun on the wheel.  So I tried a spindle.  A spindle is a little like a cat toy.  I think the fur tolerates that because it is curious about the toy, just like the cat would be.  I managed, with lots of clumps and lumps and breaks, to spin all the fiber up on a spindle.  Never mind that it was not the lovely fine yarn I had envisioned.  Never mind that parts of it looked like a dryer, cleaner version of the hairballs that occasionally get deposited on my floor.  I finished spinning that ugly lumpy yarn because I'm just as stubborn as any cat.
I was determined to ply it right away.  Maybe salvage what I could of the challenge and come away with enough to knit a cat toy.  Or a cat finger puppet.  So I wound the single onto my right hand to make an Andean plying bracelet.  There wasn't much; I made the bracelet before the circulation was completely cut off to my middle finger.  And then... I lost the other end.  I couldn't find it.  So I started winding the end I did have onto a bobbin.  And I discovered something.  You know how cats always land on their feet?  Well, cat yarn always breaks right about at the halfway point.  Or at least it did this time... only I didn't know that yet.  So I wound the rest of the yarn onto the other spool-like item I had handy... the handle of a cat brush.  THEN I plied the two yarns together, back onto the spindle.  It worked, kind of.  I mean, I have a little bit of cat yarn.
I wound it off.  It's about 15 yards.  That's how much yarn I got from more than a year of saving Muffball's fur.
Some cat owners will tell you their cat sheds enough to knit a whole new cat.  I'm here to tell you that's not true, even though I thought it was.
What do you think?  Enough to knit a cute little kitty finger puppet?  Maybe after my feelings have recovered a bit from the ordeal?

Humph.  I'm going to go spin some wool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Making of Yarn

The Tour de Fleece is when I kick into production spinning mode.  Last year and this year I estimate I made about 80% of my handspun yarn during this one 3-week stretch.  I like the idea of "spinning Tuesdays" but it hasn't worked out as a regular thing I do.  But I'm pleased to report that all 2.5 pounds of orange-dyed superwash wool has now been spun and plied.  This bowl is the final 12 skeins, about 800 yards all told.  When the Tour reaches the finish line I'll have to take some more photos.  And then I'll have just a few more days before I start knitting my Ravelympics project with it.

I started this new braid of combed Targhee top from Sweet Grass Wool.  I've never spun Targhee before.  I'm thinking I'll try to Navajo-ply this to keep the color progression in the finished yarn.  My N-plying is far from perfect yet.  I've noticed I'm not really a technically proficient spinner at all.  I just make yarn the way it feels right to make it.  Our Knit Night has had to relocate away from the local Starbucks for a few weeks while they renovate; I spun this at the Starbucks cafe of the local Barnes and Noble.  Felt awfully self-conscious dragging my Traveller into the bookstore!  But I was in good company.  I don't get a chance to spin socially that much, and I enjoy it.  I got a chance to see Patti spin on her Lendrum, Stephanie on her Hitchhiker, and Carol on her Turkish spindle.  She also had a Russian support spindle, which is beautiful.  Now I want one!
This is "challenge day" in the Tour, and here's my challenge, to be started as soon as I fill the first bobbin with a little more Targhee.  This is Muffball fur.  You remember Muffball?
She's grown some since this was taken and the above fur is combed and brushed (I don't own hand-cards) from over a year of saving her fur.  She's like one of those primitive breeds of sheep or musk ox that you have to collect the clumps of fiber from wherever they snag: the carpet, mostly, but sometimes I find them on top of a table!  Since it's summer she's been having hairball problems (she's a longhair even though in this photo, when she was a kitten, it was shorter).  She has the most adorably soft fur, like angora or cashmere.  I think the fiber is from her undercoat mostly -- it's fairly short hairs.  There was one time last week where I captured her for a much-needed brushing session and actually cut out two large felted clumps under her kitty armpits.  Poor thing!  I'm looking forward to the challenge of spinning kitty fur.

My other projects, quilting and knitting, have been taking a bit of a backseat during the Tour.  But I am in the final, beaded section of the Rose Lace Stole, a.k.a. Lady MacBeth. (Using last week's photo since I haven't been taking pictures of it).  I should really have someone take a photo of my hands after knitting for awhile: stained fuchsia with the Wilton's food coloring I used to dye the cashmere.  I'm still trying new recipes from the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, too.

In quilting I'm laying out my July UFO challenge quilt blocks (same picture as Monday).  My machine quilting setup is back together with replacement parts, but I still haven't reconnected everything and plugged it in for a test drive.

I should have enough blocks for at least an 8x8 layout.  That will be a nice lap or wall size.  At this point I don't see making enough blocks for a bed size quilt; any extra blocks can just be saved for next year's Cedar Tree crumb signature quilt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

S'Mores Pizza

After watching several episodes of "Cupcake Wars," Quarta had a brilliant idea last weekend as she was making pizza for us.  There was enough extra dough for her to try making a dessert pizza, and she decided to make a S'Mores flavored one.  And it was delicious!

She was a little disappointed to see the flyer that came a few days later for a S'Mores pizza from Papa Murphy's.  She honestly came up with the idea on her own.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Design Wall Monday and Tour de Fleece Report

I took down the purple arrowhead blocks to make room for my July UFO project.  OLD log cabin blocks from a scrapbusting project ... hmm ... maybe 8 or 9 years ago?  It's amazing how much better all my quilts look from across the room.  I'm serious... up close I have a hard time seeing the light/dark patterns as I'm laying them out.  I guess this is what we need a design wall for, right?  I have more blocks to lay out... we'll see how many more I'll need to make, or whether some will get orphaned.  Oh, and I am almost finished putting the new parts on my Grace Frame for the Megaquilter.  The tracks, especially the ones on the carriage, were cracked a lot more than I realized.  I cleaned it all off with a soft cloth and had Daniel lift it back onto the carriage.  Now I just have to reconnect the "brain" and hope it still works.  Lots of machine quilting needs to get done.
Saturday on the Tour de Fleece...
And yes (drumroll please) the final plying is done on my orange superwash as of the 3rd hour of TV yesterday.  I'm washing the skeins now, giving them a good thwack, and hanging outside to dry.  I am currently dithering as to what I should spin next.  Targhee?  BFL? Merino with silver? Undyed Romney or Wensleydale?  Hemp?  Silk?  Whatever it is, it won't be orange!  I've got about 1800 yards altogether of the orange, enough for a sweater.

The Tour de France has been exciting.  Some nefarious individual put tacks on the road yesterday, right at the summit of a steep climb.  It caused a large number of punctured tires, seriously delaying the 4th place man, Cadel Evans.  Fortunately Bradley Wiggins, wearing the maillot jaune, showed decency and courtesy, keeping the rest of the peloton in check so that the overall standings didn't change.  I'm not generally a big follower of sports, but I'm really liking the Tour.  Most of the riders seem admirable and dedicated, and of course the countryside is incredibly beautiful.  Check out the series of still pictures from the Atlantic.  Daniel said there should be a fiber arts tie-in for major league football, and then I might be interested.  No, actually, probably not.  I have guys to tell me about the highlights, that's enough!

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 50 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 22 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards, making progress on Lady MacBeth
Yarn used year to date: 3406 yards
Yarn added this week: 858 yards (12 skeins in Tour de Fleece, the rest of the orange)
Yarn added year to date: 3196 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 210 yards (I really need to finish knitting something!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Randomday, the Klutz edition

It's Randomday again, when I attempt to make a blog post out of chaos.
In the Tour de Fleece, the days are starting to blur together in a swirl of orange.  This was Wednesday's spinning and plying.
This was Thursday's.  I'm plying two like strands with one unlike strand for all these skeins, and have used up 1 of my 5 colorways.  I'm coming up with names for the colorways like 1: Classical Era Copper, 2: Trademark Infringement Caution, 3: Olympic Torch Flame, 4: Bronze Age (with Mycenean Patina), 5: Ancient Embers.
And this was yesterday's.    Over the three photos you can see the progress on the little Kuchulu.  I was spinning parrot green Wednesday but now am well into peacock blue, moving towards cornflower.  Another two days of spinning might finish up all the orange and let me do something else with my wheel and its 7 bobbins.

I really enjoyed this Counterfeit Gospels Game on the Honey and Locusts blog.

Today I had a fall.  I lost my balance while painting on a stepladder and fell backwards.  Amazingly, I did not spill the can of primer I was holding.  It gave me a flashback to last summer when I fell while holding a glass aquarium and didn't break the glass.  Fortunately this time I didn't need medical attention afterwards.  But I've decided that we need all new painting equipment after painting the house last summer: stepladder included.  It's just too wobbly to be safe anymore, especially for me with my vertigo.  The girls' room is back to normal after the drywall repair; the living room has been primed at least.

Why would there be two people in human history with the name Engelbert Humperdinck?

Marathon spinning during the Tour isn't really possible for me; I've taken my wheel to Starbucks twice, and outside on the back deck about 3 times, but most of my spinning is done while watching/listening to TV in the evenings.  I'll then take the daily photo in sunlight the next morning.  Yesterday I was so drained after taking 8 separate trips with our 2 teenage drivers (4 round trips, I supervised two and Steve supervised two while I was in the back, which might be harder) that I didn't even care that there wasn't an episode or two of Hell's Kitchen to watch.  I sat and spun while the Fox News Channel wound through half of Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, and into The Five before feeling I was unwound enough to even attempt sleep.  When I'm accompanying a student driver, my right leg is almost constantly pressed against a nonexistent brake on the passenger side.  Why do you think that is?

From The Five, who were kinda punchy last night:  George W. Bush cannot be both an idiot and an evil genius.  Mitt Romney cannot be both an out-of-touch rich guy and a macchiavellian schemer.  The Obama campaign has apparently branded something that Mitt Romney never did but that they'd like people to think he did a "felony."  I'm still not clear on what the "felony" was supposed to be, but here's what it was not: arming Mexican drug cartels.

I like the Fox News channel coverage just fine, but I could certainly do without the Cialis and prostate ads.  Really, do they think women don't watch the news?  And that we don't get disgusted by the sight of 20-year-younger women gazing adoringly up at their "distinguished" partners?  Or the old men bragging about how they can now sleep through the night, as if they were just emerging from infancy.  Why can't there be some ads for ordinary things that everyone consumes... like, I don't know, potatoes or shoes?  You'd think I'd wandered into the spam folder of my email program, only all the ads were in English.  I wish they had spam filters for television ads.

It occurs to me that the Tour de Fleece combined with the political season would be prime time to spin some Romney .  And I don't know if any political cartoonists are even aware of the fact that there is a breed of sheep named Romney, but I think Romney the candidate has a sheep-like face that really is calling out for someone to take advantage of that connection.  You heard it here first.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hachee in the Crock Pot

It's summer, you say.  Too hot for heavy meat and potato dishes?  Not hardly if you have my family to feed.  I'm going to share with you my all-time favorite meat-and-potato dish, known to my side of the family as Haichee.  But I looked it up and the official, Wikipedia-recognized spelling is Hachee.  It's a recipe common in the South of Holland, where I was born, and my mom got the recipe from friends we visited while we were there when I was 7.  It was a very common Sunday dinner meal in our house ever afterwards, and Mom always served it with boiled potatoes that you could mash up yourself with your fork to your own preferred degree of ... mashedness.  In the summer it's great with cottage cheese on the side, along with sliced fresh tomatoes and a big tossed salad.  The changes I made to this dish last Sunday were cooking it in a crock pot instead of stovetop, and adding chopped Swiss chard (because I love greens cooked with meat and I'm sneaky about using them up like that).  Other than browning the meat first, which you can skip if you like, it's a very easy dish to throw together.  And the beef becomes falling-apart tender, and the vinegar and bay gives it such a homey yet exotic flavor that you'll love it as much as we do.  So here goes...

Haichee/ Hachee

2 pounds beef, cut into chunks for stew
3 pounds onions, chopped (I used 2 large onions but 3 would have been better)
3 or more bay leaves
about 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
optional: chopped greens, carrots, other seasonings such as curry powder or cayenne pepper

Brown the beef in a few tablespoons of butter in a frying pan.  When meat is browned on all sides, add onions and brown them slightly too.  Transfer to crock pot.  Add bay leaves, some glugs of vinegar and other vegetables or seasonings as desired.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes. 

Note to self: 2 pounds of meat is not enough anymore.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Works in Progress (various)

The Tour de France continues... and so does the Tour de Fleece.
The 10 finished skeins so far.  I still have a lot of orange to go, but should be plying again today.  I ought to have enough yarn to make a sweater for my Ravelympics project.
Here's my little gem of a Kuchulu, all filled up with Dicentra Designs BFL/silk.  I started another cop today.  Fun seeing a little progress on this long-term spinning project!
For my yarn-along project, I'm still working on my Black Roses stole (a.k.a. Lady MacBeth because my homemade dye job comes off on my hands as I knit).  I've been taking it to swim lessons the last few weeks and am finally almost done with the long slog.  The Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I borrowed from the library... oh my, such good recipes!  I've tried ground turkey kebabs flavored with yogurt, coriander and mint; some pan-fried fish, and several different recipes for different kinds of dal.  Yum!  It's not that difficult to cook some cumin and mustard seeds in oil and saute onions with them, and it adds so much flavor to a dish.  I could really get to like Indian cooking, and so could my family.
Here's the aftermath of one of our meals, before the turkey kebabs were gone.
My machine quilting is at a standstill as I gather courage and strategize how to replace the worn plastic tracks that the rollers have to move on.  You can kind of see in this photo how cracked and abraded they are.  That means bumpy quilting and very little control.  I have the replacements from the Grace company but have been postponing putting them on.  It scares me to dis-assemble the Megaquilter because it's so touchy to get set back up right.
And here's the quilting UFO for July I need to work on.  I haven't touched these little 6" log cabins for years, and it's time to finish them up.  I don't know if I want to make more or just finish a lap quilt.  Probably finished will be better than perfect, as it usually is.
The summary of WIPs:
  • purple arrowhead blocks - no progress this week
  • baby Jack's chain binding - no progress
  • log cabin blocks - evaluating
  • knitting Black Roses Stole - 85% done!
  • knitting "Summer Flies" - minimal progress this week
  • spinning Tour de Fleece - I've spun about 1000 yards of 3-ply yarn so far!
Check out other WIP action at Freshly Pieced!