January 2009

I am currently binge-knitting.  Socks, glove-y things, a shrug, that sweater, and some mittens.

The glove-y things, these ones:


are the garter stitch mitts by Ysolda Teague.  (Ravelry PDF here, if I did that right.)

I quite like this pattern.  The shaping is  original and really works, it results in a close-fitting glove that’s actually shaped like a hand, and no funny gaps at the thumb opening.  There is no actual thumb, but I suppose you could put one on after if you wanted.  Or even during, if you didn’t mind a little stitching, but I digress.  Point is it’s a neat pattern, and knitting mittens sideways is fun.

Mine are made in some yarn from the IYS, no idea what except that it is a wool-and-something-plastic blend, in a worsted-weight single.  It is soft.  It is smooth.  Very smooth; it slid on my steel needles like warm butter.  But not too slippy, just smooth enough that the knitting was quick and easy.  It does fuzz and pill somewhat, which I think is kind of par-for-the-singles-course, but I’ve seen worse.  There is nothing not to like about this yarn.

And I hate it.  Loath it.  Am damn near ready to chuck it in the furnace and heat the house with it. The sight of it, sitting there in my knitting basket waiting for me is starting to really annoy me.  I am getting angry at yarn, how’s that for wasted energy?

Now, I have given this yarn every chance.  It’s not like I’m basing my opinion on a single pair of mitts!  I knit a little capelet out of it, years ago.  I have never worn it, not once – because I hate the yarn.

I used it as one of a couple of knit-with-two-strands yarn in a big sweater I made, also a few years back now.  Didn’t much like it then either, although that sweater did get worn, too bloody often in fact because it was really way to big for me – I swear the skinny model they had it on must’ve had shoulders like a halfback, because the thing sure wouldn’t stay on mine!  I frogged it recently, and the other yarn in it is what I used for that hoodie two posts ago.  Which means I have a pile of this chubby single again.

I have braided this yarn into my hair, which it should be good for because it has that bit of slip, and so doesn’t get tangled easily.  But I don’t like it.

And then I knit these mitts.  And so I think I can say with a fair amount of experience now, that I hate this blinkin’ yarn.  Further, I think that with all it’s good qualities, I must hate it because it is a single.  I think that I just like plies.  Now, I’m not getting on a soapbox about singles, except maybe a little tiny rant about the fact that I went to our LYS in Windsor the other day – quite a large store with a huge selection – and there were a LOT of fat singles there.  (This is starting to sound like a bad dating club.  Sorry.)  But honestly, I do not feel that plied yarn – just plain YARN, like people have been making for millenia – was adequately represented.  Which I do think is kind of pathetic, yes.

I don’t hate singles because they bias – I’ve never had that happen, and as long as the spinner knows what they are doing, I am assured that it shouldn’t.  (Personally, if I made them, they would, because I’m still fighting overtwist, but I don’t.)  I don’t hate them because they pill.  Some yarns pill, that’s life with wool, and it really doesn’t bother me.

I don’t hate singles because they are lazy.  I think they are lazy, but I don’t particularly give a darn.  (I know, you can do some nifty pretty things with singles and they wouldn’t look the same at all in plies.  I agree.  But they aren’t as strong, that’s why plying exists, and the over-representation in that yarn store mentioned previously leads me to the conclusion that singles are the cheap and fast-to-produce consumer-grade yarn – it’ll wear out faster but who cares because these knitting people will have bought tons more before they even notice.  Plus that Wal-mart wool is singles. /aside)

Anyway, none of those apparently common complaints are why I don’t like them.  I don’t like them because there is no texture there.  No bounce, no twist, no subtle bumpity-bumpity as the yarn slips through my fingers.  I only recently discovered this about myself, having spent a lot of time wondering why I was glowering at this inoffensive yarn.  I think it is the bumpity-bumpity I miss the most.

It’s ok.  I’ve got socks, another mitten and that shrug on the go, all different textures and weights of yarn, so there will be plenty to keep my picky hands amused.


Ok, they’re not even a little bit my first batts, but they are the first wool that I have dyed IN the batt.  (I did mention that I was jonesing for colour, right?  I might have gone a tich overboard.)

I stitched them into net bags, and soaked them and dyed them in the oven in a big flat pan.  And then as they were drying (still in the netting, I didn’t want to take them out wet and risk messing them up) I thought “Oh, they look all squished!  Now, part of my brain was saying “Of course they look all squished, they were very very wet.”  But part of my brain was saying “Aaaaaah!  I messed it up, they are squished and flat and they will never be nice batts again and I will have to re-card them and lose all my pretty color splotches!”  (I’m sure they would be pretty if they were re-blended too, but differently pretty.  I wasn’t shooting for subtlety here.  It’s cold, I have no water that isn’t snow melt because the pipe has not thawed yet, and I wanted to let go, relax and play with colour, dagnabbit.)

So I wrote Jessie to say “eek, did I do it wrong?” and she was terribly reassuring, especially since the batts weren’t even dry yet and there was probably no justification for freaking out.  But you know, I’m having that kind of week.  She said that if I kind of tugged on them when they were dry they would fluff up more, and she was right.


Why do cameras so frequently reject purple?  I know I’m not the only one who has this problem.  Most of the colours here are right, but the dark almost-black looking stuff should be purple.  Dark purple, granted, but still.  I took eleventeen pictures, and this was the best I could get.  Poop.

They are small batts, but I dyed them together, and between the two of them there are about four oz. of Rambouillet.  I think they’re pretty, they make me happy, and I’m going to do it again.

Raven has cleared quite a bit of ice from the troublesome pipe, but we think it must be frozen quite a way underground, so it’s been a fight.  Especially for a guy with a bad back crammed into heaven-only knows what position with a blowtorch in the tiny space beneath our house.  It is supposed to approach 0C in the next few days – cross your fingers for us, would you?

I totally meant to tell you yesterday, and then I went and got all distracted by the cute hen-stuff. I made this sweater, which is from Vogue Knitting, fall 08. (Scroll down a bit; you’ll find it.)


Except for the part where I don’t actually own that magazine, and so had to fake it. I would own that issue, had I seen it, if only for the crazy flower socks. But I don’t. Anyway, this is knit on much larger needles than called for, with two strands of yarn held together, and basically I just picked a number* and started knitting. What with corrections and mind changes, I knit basically the whole thing twice, but it is finished and only halfway through January! Woo!

*A brief trip through my brain: the cast on for felted clogs is 51 sts. That is nearly equivalent to 2x the length of my foot unfelted, since you knit out from there and then shrink them. My foot, as we all know from Da Vinci, is the same length as my forearm, and if I hold my elbow at my waist and reach around, my forearm goes about half way across my front. So I cast on 106 sts to allow a bit of ease. Yes, I really do think like that.

It’s been enthusiastically wintery this week.  Having dumped a few feet of snow on us, the winter decided to really hammer its point home by dropping the temperatures to -20C plus wind chill.  In response to which, last night our pipes froze.

I must be clear – the pipes Raven replaced two years ago have NOT frozen, and in fact even the ground water under the house (the water table here is bizarrely high, especially since we aren’t that far from a cliff over a lake) is still water-not-ice.  Which means he has a very muddy crawl over to the far side of the house where the metal pipe that brings the water underground from the pump house is.  THAT pipe is frozen.  It is a) metal, b) necessarily  travels  up through the frost line, and c) is on the side of the house that hasn’t got heat yet. Anyway, now he’s got a heat coil on it and hopefully we will have water again before nightfall.

In the meantime, thank you to those who have asked, the heat is working fine.  I bank the furnace (load with wood, shut door, turn off fan) at night, and it can go about twelve hours that way and we lose three or four degrees, mostly in the last couple of hours.  Last night was the greatest drop by far, it was only 11C this morning (about 52F) – but that’s at lord-only-knows-what below, with wind – it was -20 when I got up this morning.  Most of the time we are between 65 – 70F, which is just dandy.  Totally worth the wait.

Also working fine is the toilet, about which we did a little festive dance last night, since the lack of water does not affect that convenience.

Anyway, it’s a sunny day, I’m in a cheerful mood, and so while I wait for there to be tap water, I am dyeing wool in snowmelt, knitting socks, and watching MommaHen.

Yes, the hen that went broody back in the fall and eventually had to be moved into the living room for her own safety/sanity, has finally hatched an egg.  (For a timeline, this is the same hen that was sitting on eggs when Pawlie the kitten showed up in the coop.  Yeah.  That long.)  I swapped out her eggs when it was past time for the first ones to hatch, but I did it when she wasn’t looking, so don’t tell on me.  Finally, after sitting on her eggs for forty days and nights, she hatched on tiny black chick.  We have named him Israel.


I have put a little circle there, because he is, as mentioned, small and black and thus kind of hard to see.  Here’s a better one:


Isn’t he cute?  MommaHen says he is the best and smartest chick in the whole world, ever.  She’s very proud.  Also very protective, which is great except where she keeps attacking the dog.  Bryan is justifiably terrified of her, which really isn’t fair since he would never hurt a chick, and has never done anything that could be even remotely interpreted as threatening.  The cat is also deeply respectful of the hen, but that is just as well.

Dog attacks aside, she’s a great mom, and fun to watch.  She taught the chick to drink, and she’s worried that he isn’t eating enough so she’s always trying to get him to eat something, and she scouts the kitchen trying to find new things to bring back to him.  Except bacon, bacon isn’t good for chicks.  She won’t let him have any of that.  Everything else we’ve given her though, she runs straight over to the baby.  When he’s exploring by himself she watches him and she’s got the sweetest look on her face, like she’s so proud of him.  Sometimes in the evenings after she’s brought him to the nest  he wants to get up for a drink of water, and she lets him do it all by himself, just peeking her head out to watch and  make sure he doesn’t get lost.

MommaHens are awesome.

Ok, so I did the enormous sweater for the brother.  And those gloves for my MIL were natural; I dyed them after knitting.  Ditto the clogs for my SIL.  Then work gloves for Raven, which weren’t dyed because they’re going to get shredded and why bother?

Now, The Immortal Grandmother needs wool socks badly, because her circulation is awful.  Although I haven’t had a chance to spin sock yarn lately, I do have some DK weight that will do fine – they can be bulky, she isn’t walking around, they just have to be warm.

But this yarn is also undyed, and I just can’t do it!  I frogged these socks three times, and it isn’t because there was anything wrong with the knitting, I just couldn’t face looking at the danged things.

As for the wool still on the hoof, Vellum is feeling much better, fitting in well with the girls, and has even made little challenges to Blackie, after which they rub noses and make up.  But things have been getting progressively stranger around here – I mentioned the upswing in the amount of sheep-cuddles going on?  Woah.  They have gone so completely touchy-feely it is weird.  They lie in the sun snuggled up like a ewe with her lambs, they rub noses, they hug.

Then, yesterday morning, Vellum noticed that Chloe is… beautiful.  He wants to be more than friends.  At the same time, Freyja noticed that Vellum is not at all the nerdy pain-in-the-butt she thought he was, he is in fact kind of attractively shy.  And really quite handsome.  Even sexy, in a sweet, naive way.  So Vellum was chasing the hard-to-get Chloe all over the yard, and Freyja was sidling up to Vellum and just kind of… being there.  Hoping he would notice.  If he did manage to get near Chloe, Freyja would push in between them, making it difficult for him not to notice.

Vellum noticed.  Repeatedly.  He’s still got an eye on Chloe, but it’s hard for a boy to turn down a beautiful and experienced older woman!  Chloe, meanwhile, seems to be feeling something, but it is manifesting as crazy high energy.  She has spent most of the last few days climbing the pile of straw bales, and she seems to be trying to do A Trick.  She climbs up on the straw, waits for a sheep to come close and then tries to step off the straw onto their back.  So far no one is willing to play along, so she falls a lot.  But she persists – she’s sure it would be a Really Good Trick, and probably generate lots of extra sheep treats, if the others would only co-operate!