Unencumbered

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This is a photo of a pair of socks I started knitting the other day. I’m just knitting them from my head – no pattern needed. I needed a travel pattern and I have this great sock yarn that I finally splurged on. It’s Lorna’s Laces Solemate yarn in color Amish. I told my mom the color name and she was bemused. Then I told her to picture an Amish woman holding a bouquet of flowers. That works.

I needed the travel socks today because after driving to Sacramento and selling my car, I got a ride with Uber to the train station, got on a BUS to Stockton, and THEN got on a train, down to Merced. The photo was taken on the train.

I sold my car to Carvana which was a fantastic experience! I did most of the transaction online and then made an appointment to drop off my car. A real person called me to offer help to find the drop off point. A guy drove my car around a parking lot and then handed me a check. What could be better? I only had to drive so far to drop it off because they are only located in major metropolitan areas. Merced County doesn’t meet that criteria by a long shot. But it was so worth the effort to drive up there! A few days earlier I drove to Modesto (and had my mom FOLLOW me to Modesto in the expectation of selling my car and needing a ride back to her house) to Carmax.  Carmax offered me such a low amount for my car that I actually laughed at them and asked for my keys back. I walked away fast.  And sold to Carvana for $2k more.

So now I’m homeless, jobless and car-less! What a relief! I was so worried about having that albatross of a car around my neck when I’m flying out of here on SATURDAY.

At the same time, I LOVED THAT CAR! I am sure that that was the BEST car I will ever own. In the Netherlands cars cost 50%-100% more than they do in the U.S.  I will never be able to afford a car like that again and it was really your basic SUV. Say goodbye to a ride with leather seats (heated) and so many ways to set your power/braking/battery charging that my techie brain was blown. And 4WD. And enough room to take an entire market set up and wool inventory for a weekend fiber event. Sigh.

I am completely unencumbered. Meaning no obligations and really here I mean monetarily.  I have no debt. I owe no one any money. How many Americans can say THAT?

I will enjoy it while I can because on Monday I will most likely be encumbered again with the promise to create a new mortgage for a new house in the Netherlands. More about THAT next week!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

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I made this lap blanket for my mom as a Christmas/birthday/going away present. I’m the one going away.

The pattern is “A New Angle” and you can find it on Ravelry to buy and make one yourself. The yarn is Cascade 220 superwash worsted. Each square is 7” on a side and I added 2 rows of double crochet as a border.  It took me 2 1/2 months to make, working on it pretty steadily.  I had a deadline!

Just to bring you up to date, we sold our house in SoCal, I quit my job, selling my car to Carvana tomorrow, and on Saturday I’m flying back to the Netherlands. DB has been back there since January 1, working at his new job, and we already have a new house picked out and an offer accepted. We’re BACK baby!

There will be another blog post regarding “why we are moving back” and all kinds of discussion about being an American in the Netherlands. One step at a time. 🙂

It feels like the past 3 years have been a kind of dream and now we are going back to reality. Living and working in SoCal was not a nightmare, but was definitely not the dream we had imagined when we moved there. Life is hard there. Dutch people have no idea how good they have it. They complain a lot about life in NL, but honestly they have no idea what hard is.

All of the above is why I feel like resurrecting the blog. I have a lot to say, having come out of the dark tunnel of a terrible job and terrible traffic and not so great health. I am on a better path and want to talk.

Hat Heads

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Here they are, the 8 hats I knit in December that tomorrow (the 31st of December) will be mailed off to Heartstrings yarn store in Chico, CA.  There are 2 kid sized hats, 3 medium sized, 2 large and 1 XL-ish sized hat.  I enjoyed knitting every single one.

If you’d like to see individual modeled photos, go to my Ravelry projects and see the lovely DB wearing each one except the bright pink, which is too small to get on his head (or mine).

Four of the hats are made with yarn that has 20% wool in the yarn, but they are all machine washable and dry-able, which is typically a requirement for hats to give away.  I tried to pick the most wool-like acrylic I could find at Jo-Ann’s.  At least none of them have that acrylic “crunchy” feeling, which is truly awful.  Remember when that was the only yarn you could get?  It’s a wonder anyone knit anything in those days. Ugh that was truly terrible yarn.  Acrylic has come a long way.

In the process of knocking out these things, and finishing a sweater, all in December, I have injured my shoulder.  I was trying to knit Continental as much as possible, but these hats are mostly cables and ribbing which is not conducive to practicing a new way of knitting.  So I was “throwing” most of the time and my right shoulder is a mess.  I went for a massage 2 weeks ago, and again today, which is helping, but now I just need to rest. How long can I go without picking up needles?  And spinning isn’t any better – almost the same motions for a shoulder.

In a day or so (because I’m sure I won’t wait longer) I will cast on a new project. It will be this – Ninilchik Swoncho by Caitlin Hunter.

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Part sweater, part poncho, I think it will be perfect for a SoCal winter. I’m going to use yarn I bought in New Zealand 11 years ago! You know the story – the yarn that is too precious to use and so it sits in your stash, taunting you to use it.  So this is the year, 2019, when I will put it to good use.  I have white as the main color, with shades of grey and brown to add to it.  If I have enough white I think I’ll dye 1 skein red just to have some color, and work it in somewhere as a pop of color interest. The yarn is Naturally Harmony 8-ply (DK weight).

More about my 2019 knitting, spinning and dyeing goals in the next blog post.  I hope everyone is having a nice holiday time!

Monday Through Friday

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I have been wanting to make this sweater for a very long time.  You know how it is. So many sweaters to knit, so little time. This is a free pattern from Knitty.com called Girl Friday. Seems to me it is the perfect work sweater.

I knit this with the perfect yarn, Quince & Co. Lark.  I LOVE this yarn. It’s 4 plies of wool making it a bouncy worsted weight. It’s not superwash which means it is also lighter weight than, say, Madelinetosh Worsted.  Comparing my MadTosh Worsted sweaters with this one – wow! what a difference! This yarn is just soft enough to wear next to skin without any problem. I’m wearing this sweater right now, with that collar on my neck, and it’s just fine.

The pattern called for knitting the pieces separately and sewing it together, but I’m getting lazy in my old age so I did some math and figured out how many repeats I needed to knit the body all in one piece, separating the fronts and back at the armholes.  I also knit the sleeves in the round from cuff to armhole and then back and forth up to the top of the sleeve.  The only sewing was setting in the sleeves, which I actually enjoyed. Just enough sewing to be enjoyable but not a slog.

I made 4 buttonholes instead of the 3 in the instructions. I hate gaping sweater bands.

It fits me really well (the lonnngggg sleeves are intentional) and I’m very happy with this sweater. I knit it in one month and 2 days, so a very quick knit. I’m sure I will wear it a lot!

On a Mission

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Wow, you can tell I need to try again to photograph this neon pink hat! This is hat #1 in the mission to knit all the hats and send them to Chico to distribute to people out in the cold.  I bought MORE hat yarn last Saturday during my LYS holiday party so now I have enough to make 12 hats.  I don’t know how long it will take me to make all 12, but I think I’ll send the ones I have done by the 21st of December so there are some for Christmas hand outs.

I contacted a LYS in Chico, Heart Strings, to see if they were collecting knitted items to give out to charity.  This is a really nice yarn shop that I’ve been in many times.  They are accepting small donations of knitted things, but they said if I’m planning to send in a LOT (not sure how much that is) I’d be better off delivering items directly to the Red Cross that is set up at Bidwell Presbyterian Church.  With my small donation I will send my hats to the yarn shop, with my heartfelt thanks to them for distributing.

Here is another bad photo, hat #2.

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and hat #3 in progress.  I was knitting a few rows during my lunch break at work.

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I’m trying to keep this interesting by using a variety of hat patterns.  I will probably make a second, larger, Antler Hat, as hat #4.  I’ll take a group photo before sending them off.  You can see details of all my projects here on Ravelry.

I have also finished a sweater! But I don’t have photos yet so you’ll have to wait until the weekend to see what it is.

In holiday news, one of my spinning wheels got the treatment.  DB was in charge of lights and I turned around and saw this!

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December Hats

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This morning I went to Jo-Ann’s, which is within walking distance of my house, and bought this yarn. I’m planning to make hats to give away by Christmas.  I really hope this is a conservative start and I will end up buying more yarn from my LYS and make even more.  This yarn should make 10 hats – 6 for adults and 4 for kids.  I had to buy yarn instead of using stash yarn is that I needed machine washable and dry-able yarn – a requirement for charity hats.  I have nothing like that in stash.

We have some furniture we want to give away to fire victims around Christmas time when we will head north.  If we can find a place where they are taking furniture, we’ll drive to Chico to deliver it, and these hats.  If people just aren’t ready for furniture yet, I’ll find out where I can send the hats to.  If anyone out there has ideas where we can send or deliver stuff please let me know!

Coincidentally, in the last Yarniacs podcast, Gayle and Sharlene talked about hat patterns because they are the perfect quick gift to knit.  They came up with a nice list of hat patterns on Ravelry.  What great timing!  Head on over to their show notes to see the links to patterns.  Just so I don’t get bored I will knit as many different patterns as I can find that look appealing to anyone.  I’ll make a couple of simple beanies and a couple of cable-icious hats.

Are you knitting holiday gifts?  Will you be done in time? 😉

Ketchup

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Oh I have so much to catch up on! I’ve finished a lot of stuff since I last posted here.

Let’s start with the above shawl. Done! What a project – from the dyeing to fiber blending to spinning then knitting. It was a 6 month labor of love.  The end result is really lovely but I was very glad to be finished with it.  I was tired of looking at those colors every day for so long.

Then I made a hat for a precocious 5 year old.  This was a quick and easy off the top of my head knit using Wolmeise in color Red Hot Chili.  Perfect.

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Then I made a baby blanket and romper that I had to get done before we went to the Netherlands so we could give it to the new parents-to-be. They are scuba divers so I thought the sea turtle was better than a teddy bear.

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And THEN I made a sweater for myself.  I decided I had so much yarn in stash that I had to start knitting sweaters – maybe even a sweater a month! If you are going to make such a bold statement like that it’s best to start with a sure success, which meant knitting with bulky yarn to get it done quickly.  I really love this sweater and wore it almost every day during our vacation and even the past few cold days here in SoCal.  It’s knit with Cascade Eco+ Wool which is a lot softer than I imagined it would be.  The patten is from Vogue Knitting Fall 1994.  Some things just don’t go out of style.

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And of course I had to knit a couple of gifts for my friends who I miss so much.  It was so great to see them, even if just for a short evening.

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Last but not least, I finally finished these socks.  I started them in February 2017! OMG what a bad case of second-sock-syndrome.  I only really finished the second one because it was the only plane knitting project I had going on to take with me.  I worked on it a lot during our layover in Toronto on the way back from Amsterdam, and also on the plane until they turned the lights out.  I do have a light with me, but I always feel a bit guilty turning on lights on a flight when so many are trying to sleep or watch movies.  I am pretty good at knitting without looking, but with this patterning on the legs I didn’t trust myself to do it.  But they are DONE and I love them!

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PHEW! That’s a lot of knitting.  But there is also spinning!  I just finished spinning 108 grams of 2-ply lace weight, gradient from dark turquoise to light green, BFL/silk.  This is a gift for a friend who has given me many hours of podcasting joy.

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Lastly, I’m almost finished with a worsted weight lace cardigan for myself, but I don’t have a good photo of it yet.  I hope to have it done this weekend.

My next projects will be hats for charity.  I’m going to make hats for the Camp fire victims and most likely take them up to Chico at Christmas time.  I’ll keep you posted.

And that is my project catch up post for today.

I have been seriously considering starting a second blog, that is not at all fiber or knitting related.  Since moving from the Netherlands to the US I have a lot of stuff in my head that needs to get out into words and into the world.  I am afraid of alienating any blog readers I might still have, or would attract, who are only interested in the crafting posts.  What if I had buttons at the top that said “click here for only craft related topics” and “click here for NON-craft topics” and “click here to see everything”.  That seems easier than creating a whole new blog.  Stay tuned.

Gradient in Lace

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I’ve made good progress on my Evenstar shawl in the past week.  I had a lot of hanging around time last weekend and also a lot of sitting in the car while DB drove knitting time (yes, you read that correctly, DB is driving!) If you’ve been following along on Ravelry or FB you might be thinking “Hey, you were going to make Briarcrest with that hand dyed, gradient blended, hand spun yarn! What gives?” And you would be right.

I haven’t even finished spinning all the yarn for this project.  I still have the solid light blue to finish up.  I’ve got one bobbin done and I’m half way through the second bobbin of singles and I’m trying with all my might to keep up the enthusiasm to finish it off.  I’m just so ready to be finished with this spinning project!  And at the same time I’m super excited about knitting the shawl, so you know where I’m spending my time.

I ended up with 104g and 636 meters in skein 1, and 95g and 595 meters in skein 2. That’s already going to make a huge shawl.  When I thought about wearing a huge triangular shawl, I just didn’t see it making me happy.  If I have that much gradient yarn to use up I’d much rather put it to good use in a square or circular shawl.  And Evenstar has been on my radar for AGES.  It was time to cast on.

You can see more photos of the yarn on my Briarcrest hand spun Ravelry project page.

I WILL make Briarcrest, which is really a perfect shawl for hand spun yarn.  But I will make it with some Shetland gradient that I spun as a fractal.

I’m such a nerd that I’ve made a spreadsheet to track progress of the shawl to see how I’m doing against a KAL deadline. Yes, another deadline project.  I swore I wouldn’t do these anymore for a while, but this one is fun and with fun people and it’s very relaxed with a long 3 months to get it done.  This is the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL (all info here). You cast on the first day of Summer and must be finished by the first day of Fall.  That’s in order to be in the drawing for prizes. But I’m really going with the attitude that I will do my best against the deadline and that’s all the pressure I’m putting on myself.  So far I’m ahead of schedule according to the spreadsheet calculations!

I’ve calculated the total number of stitches in the shawl, how many stitches I’ve done so far and what % that is, compared to the number of days in the KAL and the number of days into it we are now.  And the % of yarn I’ve used up.  This is almost as much fun as the knitting itself.

In other news, two weeks ago I painted my little Electric Eel Wheel Mini.  I used chalk board paint and then found some chalk markers to write on it.  I really love the idea of writing on the bobbins what I’m spinning. Not that I would forget.  Probably.

The bright green makes me happy.  What makes you happy?

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Summertime

Summer in the “Inland Empire” (just what makes this area an “Empire” escapes me) arrives with a sudden pop of heat leaving me uneasy for the dreaded July and August temps.  Not to mention – what is a wool addict supposed to do in such weather?

Thanks to a lovely friend and fellow Californian, who sent me this yarn, I have started a lightweight t-shirt knit, using Holst Garn “Coast” which is a blend of 55% wool and 45% cotton. It’s also very fine and light which is perfect for our weather. I’m making “Confetti” but highly modified. I’m making the neck smaller so it doesn’t fall off my shoulders so much, making some different colored stripes, and I moved the beginning of the round from the front to the BACK of the sweater, which is where any self respecting round should begin and end. Plus I’ll be making short sleeves instead of 3/4 long. The yarn is lovely to work with. So lovely in fact that I actually bought a stash of it!

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I went to the Holst Garn web site and found that there was a sale going on plus thanks to  another friend I learned that the shipping from Denmark is not so expensive and it’s very fast. Which was all absolutely true. I now have enough for 2 more sweaters and maybe a little more. Yay! It felt so good to buy yarn! I haven’t bought yarn in the last 6 months, which is very long for a knitter, even a knitter with a big stash already. Everyone needs a little retail therapy in the way of stash enhancement now and then.

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In other fiber news, today was the monthly “Spin Inland” meet up at the LYS in Redlands. One of my fellow spinners said she was going home at 2 to wash some raw fleece. That sounded like a grand idea.  I’ve been storing a Polwarth fleece that I bought from a farm in England about 3 years ago and it’s about time I washed it.  It’s a lamb fleece, first shearing, and the staple length is not terribly long.  Maybe 4″ in some places, but mostly about 3″.  I’ll have to put it through the drum carder, even though it is super soft and fine and normally I’d want to comb it, but it’s just too short for that. I can’t wait to give it a try and see what kind of spinnable fiber I get from it. What you see here in the tub is just over 300g/10oz.  I’ve got about 4 times that much in total so it will take a few weekends to get it all washed and dried. I’m weighing everything at every step along the way just to see how much I lose from raw to washed to carded to spun yarn. You know how much I like data.

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I soaked it in a tub of soapy water for 45 minutes, then soaked in plain hot water for 10 and then laid it outside to dry still in the garment bags.  Maybe I’ll have time tomorrow to do another batch. I’ll keep posting photos along the way so you can see the results.

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And now I think it’s time for a late afternoon cocktail and some outside knitting – hmmm – is that a bad combination?

Do it for Love

IMG_3367 2I have finished a sweater that is not a sample! It’s just for ME, which makes a change from nearly all the projects I’ve worked on in the past TEN YEARS. First, about this sweater, then more about MUST MAKE projects.

This little gem of a sweater is made with Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in color Stormborn. I bought it during my LYS’s Holiday Party this year. I fell in love at first sight. The pattern is Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, which has been in my queue list for years. I’m wearing it with a fantastic dress from Uniqlo, my favorite clothing shop. My gauge was different from the pattern so I made the 42″ pattern size to end up with a sweater of 40″ around. I also did a 1-1 rib for the collar instead of just stockinette stitch because I didn’t want it to roll. Lastly, I used needles 1 size smaller for the last 1″ if the sleeve ribbing, which just seemed neater. It’s really the perfect summer sweater. I could use another one in a less warm yarn, like a wool/cotton blend or cotton/silk blend.

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I made this sweater to go specifically with this dress to wear specifically to a wedding at the end of June. While it is not a sample for my shop, it WAS deadline knitting, and had a purpose and date stamp on it. So, while it is just for ME, it did have a bit of stress built in to the project just because of the deadline.

In the past week I’ve been thinking about my next knitting project, with a particular KAL in mind (the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL) and I realized that here again I’m getting ready to sign up for a deadline project. But what struck me most is that I have been so focused on making projects to use for shop samples, and event deadlines, that I no longer know how to pick something JUST FOR FUN. I have a house full of beautiful yarn and still I just kept turning things over in my head and couldn’t get excited about anything.

Looking back, since opening my first web shop in April 2010 (which I closed due to work changes) and then starting to dye fiber and selling it in November 2015, nearly everything I’ve made has been for a sample of some sort.  And that doesn’t count the patterns that I started writing in 2008 and needed samples for. Or projects for gifts.

Since July 2008, when I wrote my first little pattern, I’ve finished 145 knitted items and 15 official spinning projects (as opposed to small spinning samples – again with the samples!).  Out of all those projects, the ones that were not for samples, or gifts, but were just FOR FUN FOR ME number 36.  That’s 22.5% of projects, for myself without strings attached.

And like the nerd that I am, it’s probably seeing this in black and white, as a hard number, that makes me say “oh that explains why I feel the need to stop with the web shop and dyeing business”.  It’s also that I don’t have the energy to work full time AND try to keep up a dyeing business, but when I see this written out I realize too that it’s because I’ve spent YEARS doing what I love for reasons other than love.  I need to find the love again.

It’s no wonder I don’t know how to get excited about a project just for me, just for fun, just for the love.  In fact, the project I’ve chosen to start for the KAL that begins on June 21 is actually a SAMPLE for a shop I’m going to CLOSE.  But I am still going to finish spinning the yarn and knit the shawl that my talented friend Christopher designed for Ply magazine (Briarcrest Shawl), because it’s lovely, because I’m almost finished spinning the yarn, and because I said I would. And it won’t be because it was supposed to be a shop sample, but because I love the colors and really want to make it.

And after that I want to spin some yarn for gifts for friends, which is also for love and all the best reasons.

And I will cast on a new knitting project just for me, just for fun, without a deadline or obligation. I wonder what that will be like!