Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The knitting field trip that almost wasn't

Sometimes I question why I still let myself receive newsletters and email updates from things I really don't need to see all the time.  I get all my personal and work emails on my phone, and 9 times out of 10 I open it, decide I really don't care enough to read it, and move on with my day.  Last week on Friday, this very thing nearly happened and would have caused me to miss a spur of the moment knitting field trip.  I got a Shall We Knit? email newsletter, and while I like the shop just fine, I've never taken a class there, and don't really need the regular newsletter updates.  I opened the email and scrolled down a weensy bit and had a mini heart attack when I read "fleece festival".  The Woodstock Fleece Festival was the very next day, and I had no idea.  Thank you Shall We Knit? for keeping me in the knitting know!  I will read your newsletters with gusto from now on.

I immediately sent a text message to Catherine hoping against all knitting hope that she wasn't scheduled to work on Saturday.  For once in my life, I didn't have anything (urgent) to do on Saturday, and I was all for it.  We scratched together a plan that didn't totally come together until 8:30 or so that night, and it meant only being at the show for not-quite 2 hours.  I accepted this challenge and went to sleep ready for sweet woolly dreams.

Our plan for the festival meant working around Catherine's inconsiderate work schedule for the day, which was created weeks in advance of us even knowing the festival was happening.  Considering I was on the planning committee for the KW Knitters' Fair, you'd think I would be up on the local knitting happs.  Catherine had to be at work, ready to roll for a full day of helping customers, at 11am.  The festival opened at 8:30am, and was only a 30 minute drive away.  I love when life-math adds up in your favour.

Welcome to the Woodstock Fleece Festival!  I love the friendly sign to let you know that the non-descript building next to the farmer's market was indeed full of yarn.

With such a short amount of time for shopping fun, we did a quick tour of the booths and then took a shopping breather at the barn with soft and fluffy animals.  There was also spinning equipment for sale, but with less than 24 hours notice about this festival's existence, I didn't come prepared to purchase the big stuff.

Hello bunny!  We couldn't stay for the angora rabbit grooming demos unfortunately, they were happening at 11, but it worked out for the best since I don't have a rabbit to groom.

It took me longer than I thought it would to find the head-end of this one for a picture. 

This is the friendliest little alpaca I've ever met.  This fellow had me researching my own alpaca hobby farm later that same weekend.  He made adorable whining noises and wanted to be petted, a lot like my dog.

So cute!  They even come with a built-in harness for adorable alpaca walks!

These four little bunnies were huddled together for warmth.  They shouldn't be allowed to put so many cute things all in one place.  Two of the angora rabbits were for sale.  I messaged Fuzzyhead while I was at the show to ask if I could buy one.  He said no.

Without having a real budget in mind, I kept to my budget and only spent about $100 at the show.  I bought a bright pink Namaste bag for Tam Tam for her birthday from the Needle Emporium.  The bags were on mega-sale - I paid $55 for the one I bought for Tam Tam, while I paid at least $80 for it online, plus shipping.  Her bag is exactly the same as the peacock blue one I purchased a few weeks ago, but it's bright pink.  She'll love it.

The only purchases for myself were two skeins of sock yarn from The Black Lamb.  One in "Mochachino" and one in "Olive Drab".  They were $15.99 each, and while I was looking for some deeply discounted show specials for sock yarn, that was a pretty good price.  My final purchase of the day before we wrapped it up at 10:15am (I know, right?) was a set of 2.25mm square double pointed needles.  I was so excited to try them out, I started my third real current WIP (Bad vrock, bad!  Finish your current projects before casting on more!).  This is the Viola Sock yarn I bought at the Knitters' Fair in SeaStorm, on my pretty new copper square needles:



Monday, October 10, 2011

Having it all

Today is a holiday Monday readers, when everything is closed and I don't bother putting contact lenses in since I don't have to leave the house.  Glorious.  I've been felting slippers today, and I thought I'd share the whole process with you, including some of the slight modifications I've made to the pattern having completed two other sets of slippers already.  I'm totally old hat at this now.

Here's a quick refresher, team - I first made these a few months ago as my practice pair of French Press Slippers:

They worked out really well, I love how they look like ballet flats and not like a frumpy pair of chunky knitted slippers.  These have less of that homemade slippers feel, and I like that about them.  They could almost pass as real shoes if you didn't look at the bottoms.  After trying out the pattern with my own pair, I determined that these would be an acceptable gift for the sisters for Christmas this year.  I made a second pair, which I previously blogged about here.  I made no changes to the pattern, and they turned out just fine.  The only thing I noticed in my pair (not sure if this will turn up in the purple ones since I haven't been wearing them myself.  Well, just once.  Shhh, don't tell Slim Jim) was that the seams where I joined the top to the sole are kind of hole-y.  I thought that by felting them thoroughly, the holes would all tighten up together and disappear.  Most of them did, and the extra large and loose stitches had no trouble tightening up, but the seaming stitches weren't as close together as they needed to be to disappear.  The pattern just calls for you to seam any old way you like, since the felting will hide any problem spots.

This is the third pair, for the older sister thing, in a delightful rosy pink.  I finished all of the pieces a few weeks ago and seamed them all together this morning over coffee.

The first finished slipper is on the right, and the sole and top portion of the other slipper is waiting to be sewn up on the left.  For this pair, I decided to sew up the pieces using double strands of yarn.  This actually makes more sense than what I did the first time (sewing up using single strands), since all of the pieces were knit using either double or triple strands of yarn held together for extra thickness.  The top pieces were knit using two strands held together, so I sewed them up using the tail ends.

The finished pair of slippers, looking huge and floppy.

 For my own amusement, I held my perfectly normal-sized hand next to them for scale comparison.

 All of the finished pieces.  I also marked the right slipper this time before felting with a piece of kitchen twine.  I forgot to do that with both of the other slippers so I had to think extra hard when they came out of the washing machine looking exactly the same. 
 Ready to go in the wash, I pulled together some bulky towels and few pairs of jeans for extra agitation.  I use a mesh lingerie bag to keep all of the slipper pieces in one place during washing.  
The washing was done in my top-loading Kenmore washer, with the hottest water possible and the "Normal" washing cycle which includes fast-fast agitation for both halves of the cycle.  I added a smidge of detergent (Arm and Hammer liquid laundry detergent) and let the full washing cycle run.  I checked on them about 3 times during the wash cycle, and ended up putting the slippers bases back in for another half cycle of the wash.  The top piece flaps (the little pieces not attached to the slippers) were done after the initial cycle, and I pulled them out.

The slippers were nicely felted when they came out, and I rinsed them with cold water before squeezing all the water out.  I rolled them up in my knitting/dog towels (towels that no one really cares about since they cost $1.49 at Ikea) and squeezed a little more water out.  They went outside on the deck on the drying rack, which has adorable little shoe drying holders, which work perfectly for felted slippers.

The little flappies are currently hanging to drying on the washing line, looking like tiny pink elephant ears.

They should take at least 24 hours to fully dry since they're so dense, so I'll leave them out all day and bring them inside overnight to dry some more.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Charging all my batteries at once

Quiet weekend at home this Thanksgiving my loving readers, I will be enjoying some time to knit for sure.  I've managed to bring the usual run-around of Thanksgivings down to one, by only going to one this year (clever, huh?).  Fuzzyhead's family Thanksgiving is on Sunday, and true to form, my family made a last-minute decision to have our dinner on the same night.  I'm eager for a home cooked Momma meal, so I chose my own family's dinner, and Fuzzyhead will go to St. Catharines with his family, a perfect compromise.  No run-around, and plenty of guilt-free time to knit.

Let's start the recap:

  Hello Namaste Zuma bag, I love you.  Ordered with my most recent KnitPicks order, it was kind of an impulse buy.  I had been looking for a cheap Namaste bag, but it doesn't even come up on a local Kijiji search, and eBay only seems to have the "buy now" option for them, which means it's just an online shop selling them at essentially retail prices.  I bit the bullet and bought one through KnitPicks, it wasn't a bad price considering I didn't have to drive to my LYS to find the one I wanted.  In the end, I chose the Zuma bag, because of its look.  I have already taken this bag out and about as a regular purse, with a substantial haul of knitting inside.  There are also no zippers on the main pocket for yarn to get snagged on - I hadn't even thought of this as a selling feature, but I love it.

The yarn for Fuzzyhead's sweater, all 22 balls of it. 

So pretty!  I really love the colour, I'm glad I chose something light, to show off the cables.

Speaking of cables - my gauge swatch!  I did a very generous gauge swatch, I think it ended up being 6 or 7 inches square.  My tension was pretty bang on, 27 stitches over 4 inches, but my row tension was wonky.  I decided that was OK since all of the pieces are measured in total inches rather than in numbers of rows.  This little beauty used up most of the first ball of yarn, I'm very glad I over-bought (at least at this point I think I bought too much).

The work in progress, in its pretty little Zuma bag.

The first few inches!  As of today, I'm at about 10 inches.  This piece is the back and the sides of the cardigan, all in one piece.  At 18 inches I start to do some shaping, but I've got a ways to go before that fun.  For now I'm perfectly happy to be doing some straight boring knitting.  It's nice to have an easy project to fall back to, something I can bring with me anywhere without needing to look at a pattern.

Also, I've chosen a pattern for my next sock project for myself, using that tasty blue Viola Fibers sock yarn I got at the Knitters Fair.  First off, a quick refresher:

Viola Sock in "Sea Storm"

And the pretty little socks that caught my attention:

Kalajoki pattern by Tiina Seppala, a free Ravelry download (score!)

And to round out this post, I couldn't overlook a glimpse at my latest Suzy Homemaker creation:

Pumpkin spice cupcakes with brown sugar cinnamon cream cheese icing.  I made these on Thursday night so I could take a small batch to work on Friday before the long weekend and hand them out to my favourite co-workers (aka my family plus a few special extras).  They were truly excellent, the cupcake part especially.  I didn't even use a boxed cake mix for them, totally from scratch yo!  The cupcake recipe is apparently by Martha Stewart, but I found the cupcake and icing recipe on a blog - check it out here

 Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!