Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Finished Sweater and A New Warp

I finally finished Michael's new sweater and it turned out larger than I thought it would.

I worried about making Michael's sweater large enough to fit for a couple of years and it definitely should. But even big, Michael loves it and I am glad. Funny thing though. I planned for the sweater to be just a little bigger than the last one I made and I thought I hit gauge. But it is so much bigger than I thought it would be. I suppose my poor math skills could be to blame. Since I don't know why it happened, I don't know why it happened. Oh well.

I wound my large warp on the back beam of my loom, threaded the heddles and sleyed the reed.

It took me all day. I don't know how Kimberly weaves so fast. She can warp her loom before her kids awaken and finish weaving several items in the same afternoon. One day perhaps I too will be able to weave so fast.

I found some sock yarn in my stash for the next pair of socks I plan to knit.

It is Lisa Souza's South Pacific sock yarn. I promised a pair of socks to someone after Christmas and I'm eager to start. Well, I actually started last night until a headache caused me to mess up so bad I pulled everything off the needles for a fresh start today. Lousy headaches. (Gabrielle has been suffering from migraines lately too and I feel so bad for her.)

With the new year about to start, we are planning our garden. We've been spreading leaves and compost over it to enrich the soil. We will till that into the ground and then I will mineralize. Hopefully we will have better soil and better results this year. I love all the possibility a new year possesses. And perhaps this is the year Jesus will return???

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Aftermath

I failed to finish Michael's Christmas sweater by Christmas and I am okay with it. We've been having tropical winter weather so who needs a wool sweater right now anyway. Despite a high yuck factor (a pile of wool on my lap in the sweltering wet heat because I refuse to use the air conditioner in December), I have set a new personal knitting record for sweater knitting. I accomplished this in one week:

Granted, Michael wears a pretty small sweater. However, I think I've done well for a week's worth of knitting considering the last sweater I knit for him took 3 weeks and that was last Christmas and an even smaller sweater. I am fairly glowing with pride over the whole thing. And since I promised my Mom a sweater a little over a year ago, I need a good boost to my sweater knitting mojo. (I actually knit an entire back and a portion of the front to a sweater for my mom before I decided I didn't like the way it looked and accepted the fact it was too big anyway. It has been sitting and waiting for me to unravel it ever since. I have a new pattern in mind and plan to cast on for it in the very near future.)

Yesterday I wound a warp for a wrap for me. I wanted something long and wide and cozy.

I bought the weft yarn in front from Heritage Yarns a couple years ago before Kurt finished repairing my loom. It is a discontinued yarn called "Cloud 9" in the "Flower Garden" colorway.

I'd planned a 520 end warp and ran out of Perle cotton at 475 ends. Although I did the math before starting and should have had at least 20 yards left over after winding my complete warp, I think the string I cut to measure my warp stretched as I plotted my course around the warping board resulting in a longer warp then planned and an insufficient supply of warp yarn. Fortunately, I should be able to reduce the width of the wrap and make due with what I have. If I am careful not to pull in the sides of the warp as I weave, I am hoping I can reduce the take-in and have a wrap as wide as I want it. The recent scarves I've woven have had almost no take-in at the sides when finished so I feel the odds of success are good. Otherwise, I'll have a crazy fat scarf on my hands.

We have a new wireless Internet modem and all is well on the computer front right now. I am so glad.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

Any minute, our new wireless Internet modem could go up in flames. Seriously. We've been unable to connect to the Internet all day except in bits and pieces. However, in an amazing feat of obsessive-compulsive behavior, I've managed to upload a dozen Christmas pictures over the last few hours of trying.

We had a nice Christmas. After sitting up to watch Star Gate SG1 with the children until an irrationally late hour on Christmas Eve (I have no idea what we were thinking), everyone slept in this morning. Well, not Kurt. He generally gets up insanely early. This morning was no exception. He got up and tried to be helpful. Putting the dishes away. Or so he says. I awoke convinced someone had crashed Michael's new wagon into the wall separating my bedroom from the living room.

Originally we planned to open presents after breakfast. However, I gave in to the children's pleading when I realized I could probably escape cooking an entire meal if we had breakfast AFTER presents and ate dinner a bit early.

I gave the children the coordinating hats I knit for them.

Gregory's favorite color is blue. Gregory actually got excited about getting a hat after I told him I wouldn't knit for him anymore until he took better care of the stuff I make. We'll see how he does with his hat.

Gabrielle's favorite color is pink.

And Michael flips over the color red.

Unfortunately for Michael, green wagons cost less than red ones.

One of these days I will have to face him when he discovers wagons are supposed to be red. Oh well.

I think I finally picked a Christmas gift for one of the children of which Kurt approves. When I told Kurt I got Michael a wagon, I suggested we could teach Michael to transport bags of feed from the workshop to the chicken coops. Kurt liked the idea - very much.

And while I shopped for improperly colored toys for Michael, we picked up a blue Lightning McQueen car.

The whole blue thing confused Michael temporarily. However, he discovered the blue car shoots missiles and he got over the whole red thing rather quickly.

Michael really loves his red hat. In spite of sweltering tropical weather, Michael wore his wool hat all day and then hid it under some Christmas decorations so I wouldn't take it and put it away.

Gregory loved his new digital camera, though the rest of us are starting to become very annoyed with it.

After a few hours, the constant flashing (he had to replace the batteries in his camera half way through the day) started to set off a migraine. Silly kid. He keeps taking pictures of me and telling me I'm beautiful and then shows me the face of someone much older and flabbier than I could possibly be and so I make him erase the pictures. The whole thing is quite tiring.

I managed to distract Gregory temporarily with weaving yarn.

I got him a couple cones of 10/2 Pearle cotton so he can try some of the intricate drafts he loves to pick out. Once we get the Internet actually working again, he will probably update his blog as well.

Gabrielle got her Christmas present a couple of months ago (her sewing machine) so there wasn't much for her under the tree today. We let her open the family presents her grandparents sent.

She handled the whole "limited presents thing" very well and in fact used her allowance to buy everyone else in the family a present. She maintained an "others" focus that was very sweet.

I gave Kurt the scarf I wove last week and I think he likes it.

He put on the scarf and the socks I knit for him immediately. With the sweltering heat, the woolen gifts seem out of place. It is hard to believe we were breaking ice off the windshields just a couple of days ago.

Kurt gave me a lovely gift today.

600 yards of textured alpaca yarn. He actually tracked down the one yarn store within 50 miles and bought me yarn. I love it. I'd like to weave it into a scarf I think and I'm wondering if I can use wool knitting yarn for warp. Like some Jaggerspun wool and silk lace-weight perhaps.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Superpowers Lost

I can't believe how fast I've been knitting. I finished a couple Christmas watch caps in record time, Michael's red hat being the latest.

Michael loves the red hat so much I cannot find a place to hide it where he can't find it. I put it on the back of my dresser behind the baby scale until I could wash and block it. Michael climbed up a stack of Christmas boxes, climbed on my dresser, ferreted out the hat, brought it to me and asked if he could wear it. He figures if it is red, it must be his. By the time he gets it on Christmas, he will hardly be surprised.

I started and finished another pair of socks for Kurt to replace the giant ones I sent to my brother.

And of course I finished the weaving I blogged about a couple days ago. I had really given up the idea of completing a present for everyone on my list by Christmas and yet I finished late Saturday night. Illness had given me knitting superpowers!

With my new superpowers I dared the impossible. Late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning in some parts of the country), I cast on a sweater for Michael. Never mind that I've never even finished a pair of socks in 4 days, I had superpowers.

And then it happened. Not kryptonite. Not catastrophe. Health.

I regained enough energy I could no longer justify refusing to cook for my family or do basic housework. They too were regaining health and looked to me to provide for their basic needs. All of a sudden, my knitting time shrunk back to a normal hour or two a day of constantly interrupted and distracted knitting. Despite all of the optimism I can rally, I start to suspect I won't finish Michael's sweater by Christmas.

Part of me believes a project undertaken without a pattern can be completed faster. So I am making up Michael's sweater as I go based on the E.Z. percentage system in her book, Knitting Without Tears. I have a couple skeins of compatible yarn in a few Fall colors and think I'll knit a stranded design around the yoke, if I can find one or create one I like. I'd like something with leaves. Today is Tuesday. I have until tomorrow night to finish. Sadly, I don't think I could do it even if I got my superpowers back.

Yesterday morning, winter blasted through the area. It has been warm for a week or so with temperatures in the mid 70s during the day and mid 50s at night. The Weather Channel predicts a return to warm weather tomorrow. We've spent the last 30 hours trying to cram in all the cozy, warm fuzzy Christmas stuff we could.

I turned on the fireplace (a gas fireplace just seems wrong though I sure love not having to haul wood) and made hot apple cider.

I use the apple cider found in the grocery store produce section as a base for my cider. I scrub an orange and stud it with whole cloves. It all goes into the cider in a crock pot. I also add a few sticks of cinnamon. I keep it hot in the crock pot and we help ourselves throughout the day until gone.

I love cold weather (the kind we have on the Gulf Coast, not the real kind). I love being bundled up in a shawl sipping cider or coffee and knitting. Even if my fingers do get slow from the cold. And they are cold and slow right now.

There probably isn't any way I'm going to finish that sweater by tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still Focused

The family's head colds turned into chest congestion, resulting in whiny children and low energy for me. As a family we've pretty much abandoned all order and responsibility around the house under the guise of rest and recovery. Somehow our current philosophy ended up with Gregory and I having a loom warping contest.

Actually, Gregory started warping his loom before he got sick and stalled out. He uses some of my equipment. I wanted to weave a Christmas scarf and told him I would be taking my stuff back if he didn't get going. Somehow, that turned into a race.

I tried something new.

I tied the ends of my new warp to my old one since I wanted to repeat the last pattern I used. Gregory considered it cheating though it didn't save me too much time. Knotting all those threads took awhile.

Gregory finished his warp first so I declared a race for finishing our scarves. (I didn't bother to tell Gregory how much fatter my weft yarn would be compared to his until after he accepted my challenge.)

I used alpaca yarn from Knit Picks while Gregory used Perle cotton for both warp and weft.

I won.

In order to weave with the Christmas tree blocking my natural light source, I tried something a bit desperate.

I balanced a very expensive lamp on the top of my frail castle. It almost crashed to the floor only once and then I managed to catch it with my pinkie. Although the resulting pain stopped me from weaving briefly, my sense of competition carried me though in the end.

With the exception of the first section of the scarf where my selvages are a bit messy, I really like how the scarf turned out. I'm hoping the recipient will appreciate the warmth and ignore the rough edges on the one end. I can't wait to start my next weaving project now that I'm getting the whole selvage thing down!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Cold Before Christmas

I have a head cold. A bad one. It is no fun. But I learned something the last few days.

I can actually knit much faster than I thought I could. I started this blue hat awhile ago and had just finished the ribbing before I got sick. I figured it would take about a week to get through the stranded portion. Then a head cold gave me focused knitting time. I finished the hat in a day.

I realized I normally behave like an ADHD child when knitting. I knit for a couple minutes then jump up to do something else. I tend to my preschooler's needs. I prepare meals. I do laundry. I clean up. I intervene in squabbles between kids. I assist with home school. I do a hundred different things while trying to work on the stitches of my knitted items. As I compare my speed to others, I always end up feeling slow.

This week, almost all of us are sick. No one is eating much. I made three or four days worth of muffins for breakfast and the kids help themselves if they want them. We've been sort of skipping over lunch. The kids grab an apple or baked potato if they get hungry. For dinner, we've been eating out of the pantry. I have jars and jars of homemade chicken soup. The freezer contains loaves of a variety of breads and vegetables. Preparation time is minimal. Most of our time is spent in front of the television or guarding our horded stashes of tissue. (Incidentally, we are going to have a tissue crises here if something doesn't give soon. The Kleenex is long gone and we have nearly decimated the toilet paper supply.)

The kids have little energy and I've allowed them unlimited afternoon television time. They've laid in bed, enthralled by their rarely watched video collection, for hours at a time. The boys sniffle and sneeze and periodically send Gabrielle, the only healthy one, to replenish the stash of videos. In the meantime I've been huddling on the couch, wrapped in my favorite shawl, listening to The Little House on the Prairie audio books and knitting. Yesterday, I started another hat.

I finished all of this in a single day. Who'd have thought I could accomplish so much. Michael went absolutely nuts when he saw me pull out the red yarn. He loves the color red. He paws and clutches at my red knitting whenever he sees it. He wants it, oh how he wants it. Fortunately, I'm making the red hat for Michael for Christmas. And thanks to my cold, I may actually get it done.

Right before we all got sick, we built the Christmas tree and started the ceremony of decorating it.

I get a sense of awe every time we bring out the decorations. A few years ago, after Hurricane Ivan stole most of our possessions, my Christian Artisans sisters sent me Christmas tree decorations. Many of them were handmade. As I lovingly unwrap each precious ornament, I remember the love my sisters in Christ poured out during the difficult time following the hurricane. I am reminded how blessed I am. There is nothing so sweet as true fellowship among Christians. Christmas reminds me not only that "our Redeemer lives", but that we belong to a world wide family when we opt into salvation through Jesus Christ.

For at least a year, I have wrestled with the idea of stashing some Socks that Rock sock yarn in the "Lunasea" and "Jailhouse Rock" colorways.

I finally gave into the temptation. These yarns are so pretty, so much prettier than I expected when I saw them online! I love the colors and can't wait until I am in a position to knit some socks for me again. I have a sock pattern called "Rivendale" that just begs to be knitted in the "Lunasea" yarn. Who knows, if my head cold lingers, I may actually get to it soon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


We got a call from friends at church yesterday asking if the kids wanted to come pick up pecans. The storm we had this week knocked most of the pecans from the trees.

Within a half an hour, Gregory and Gabrielle picked up a full 5 gallon bucket of them!

Now I have to get them all shelled. But I have a new strategy this year so we will see how it goes.

While I sat inside by the warm wood burning stove in Mabel's house (which I will admit to coveting), I shelled pecans and watched Michael. Miss Mabel let me bring the pecans we shelled together home with me.

That was a huge blessing. I stayed inside with Michael because he woke up with the start of the croup Gabrielle had a couple days ago.

Gabrielle seemed to be miraculously healed overnight from her croup. She went from barely able to draw breath to completely fine. We had prayed for her to be healed, yet it is amazing how tough it can be to accept it when the healing takes place. How frail is my faith.

While not as sick as Gabrielle was, Michael feels pretty lousy. He had a temperature of 104ยบ last night and ended up crawling in bed with me shortly after midnight. It is time to pray for him too I think.

Michael wanted me to take his picture yesterday. Here he is just getting sick. He has my eyes. They appear green when he is sick though they are normally a blue-green. Gregory has the same eyes too. Our eye color changes depending upon what we wear or how we feel. Weird.

Otherwise, I've been getting in some knitting here and there, but not much. Gregory has kept me busy with HIS latest weaving.

We finally got his floor loom set up and ready for weaving. (Gregory had been weaving exclusively on a rigid heddle loom before.) Gregory started with a sampler and fell in love with the floor loom. I know he wound a warp for a scarf yesterday. He is starting to make me look bad with his weaving accomplishments. I've been planning a scarf for awhile, but haven't managed to get to the warping board yet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December Marches Onward

We've survived the first third of December and sort of survived Gregory's chocolate birthday cake.

In fact, we finished the cake yesterday. However, in the wee hours of this morning, Gabrielle woke me up telling me she was sick and couldn't breathe. The family always gets sick around this time of year after the kids start eating sugary stuff on Thanksgiving and it continues through Christmas until the end of January when Kurt and I have birthdays. I haven't faced the scales yet and hope not to have to do so for awhile. But I did finish 3 of the size large skirts I started.

They ended up being a bit too big and I like to think it means I am getting smaller. I took an inch off of one of them and wore it to church last Sunday. I would like to see the day when they are all way too big to wear.

Yesterday I managed to plow and disc up all of the weeds in the back yard gardens before it started raining. I'd like to start planting again in a couple weeks, but everything is very muddy right now. It seems things always end up very muddy this time of year. You would think all of the 4 foot high weed debris I plowed into the ground would improve drainage.

I finished another pair of socks.

These are a better size than the last ones and are to be a gift for one of my husband's friends. I decided I am probably not going to be able to knit Michael a sweater for Christmas this year since I haven't started it yet so I will be starting a hat for him soon. Red is his favorite color and I have a cone of red yarn in my stash. Considering how late I am in getting started, I suppose I won't be doing much Christmas knitting this year. I think the MS4 being so much later than other mystery stole KALs threw me off schedule this year. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Birthday and Lace

My little guy turned 12 today and can look at me straight in the eye because our eyes are at the same height.

His grandparents all sent cool gifts. He got a really neat musical instrument and some books from one and a compass and headlight from the other. He loves these gifts. He told me he would be wearing his new headlight to lock up the chickens at night. He never likes going outside across the yard in the dark. Of course with his light, he may see eyes in the woods and like it less.

We gave Gregory the Rip Stick he wanted since trying a friend's during the church camping trip.

Gregory didn't think he would get one of these after Kurt and I pointed out we had no concrete on the property nor anywhere close. But the boys play with them at church in the parking lot and we figured he would enjoy his present on Sundays.

Since we don't have concrete, Gregory practiced his balancing in the front room.

He got pretty good, pretty fast. We also got him safety gear, including an adult size medium helmet.

Unfortunately we are a big headed family and Michael was the only one who fit into the helmet.

Gregory will have to learn to ride without falling on his head until we can find a helmet large enough for his head.

In the meantime, I finished blocking my second MS4 stole.

This one will be a gift.

I made it from Zephry lace weight in the suede colorway. I love this color and the beads are so pretty against it.

In fact, I like this color so much I may have to find a new lace project I can do for myself with it. That is if I can complete some of the other projects I have on the needles.