I’m being very quiet these days, because I’m exhausted.
I remember this. It’s what the beginning of fibro felt like. The kind of zoning out, the physical exhaustion, the inability to hold a thought in my head past a certain period of time. I’m irritable as a result of all of this. I have a constant low-grade headache, and my body is starting to hurt again. I’m not sure how to relax, because a lot of my time is just spent sitting there, trying to interact with my children or fold laundry, and not getting very far. I’ve forgotten how to enjoy myself again, because it’s kind of a weary triumph when I just get through doing the regular stuff. I wonder if I need to try to start the “yay me I accomplished these things today” posts again. It would serve to get me journaling more often, and to show me that I am accomplishing things, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I need to consciously start implementing my fibro-coping mechanisms again, starting with my expectations and limits for my daily activity.
I’ve had time off from work, thank goodness. After a crazy few months, I’ve had a couple of weeks of evenings and naps to myself, and I’m so grateful. I don’t know how I’d handle it otherwise.
I’m reading a bit every day, which is nice. I’m almost finished Guy Gavriel Kay’s new River of Stars, and as usual, I don’t know how I feel about it. Kay has vaguely frustrated me a bit over the past few books for reasons I can’t pinpoint, and every time I read one I decide it will be my last… then every time I read an excerpt of the next one and the poetic prose just sucks me in. I disliked the Sarantine Mosaic duology when it came out, but now I think it’s my favourite of all his works. Funny how one’s opinions change.
I’m sending a box of handmade projects to a swap partner from my mums’ group today, and working on that has been lovely. I can’t say any more than that until she’s received it, but I pushed some of my boundaries and skills making the items, and explored new techniques, and I’m pleased with it. Even with the last-minute wibbling about one project, redoing it, and deciding in the end to send the first version after all.
I finally got around to making an appointment to drop in at the local spinning and weaving studio that’s been open for over two years, and it was glorious. Oh my goodness, I will never have to shop online again! There were shelves and shelves of silks, cottons, flax, wools of all sorts, and luxury fibres like yak, camel, and alpaca, which I’d never touched on their own, only as blends. She has two full-size floor looms set up, six wheels, and lots of swifts and rigid heddle looms and carders all over the place. There were cones and cones of cones of weaving yarn, dyes, spindles… I wanted to move in. I could have easily spent so much more than I did. She was so patient with Owlet, too, who wanted to touch all the things. Especially the packets of ginned and dyed cotton that she kept picking up and squishing, saying “skish, skish,” and the huge skeins of handspun she picked up and cuddled, saying “soft, soft.”
We actually had to go two days in a row, because I’d forgotten to take money out of the bank to pay for my order the first day, so we went back. Owlet stopped at every dandelion plant along the sidewalk and yanked off the flower tops, then gave them all to the woman who runs the studio. And she told me she hosts a spin-in once a month on a Sunday, and invited me! Unfortunately, the next one isn on a group cello class day, so I’ll have to wait for the next one.
Owlet is great, Sparky is great (he has a school concert tomorrow afternoon, and I hope everything works out; HRH’s parents are coming to stay with Owlet so I can attend, and then I think there should be a Mama-Sparky treat afterward), I have a new-to-me spinning upright wheel that was a crazy good deal (thank you, enormous tax refund allowing me to give myself a little treat amid paying debts) and HRH has a new-to-him iPhone that we’re trying to set up (ditto the treat, but grr, technology and things not talking to other things). We are a single-cat household for the first time in… well, ever, actually, since I had to take Cricket in to the vet to be euthanised two weeks ago. She’d stopped eating and drinking, and you could almost see through her; it was just time.
That’s about it. Trudging along.
The Fibre-Dyeing Experiment:
About three weeks ago, I was halfway through spinning the merino/silk half of Mum’s yarn, and I found myself craving colour. It is spring! I want to spin something pretty! The yarn I’m spinning for her is gorgeous, but it’s white. I thought that as a treat after all my crazy work and hard budgeting, I’d subscribe to a three-month fibre club. Except they’re all so much more expensive now that the USPS shipping has gone up, and the one I wanted to do that I subscribed to in 2010 took off over the last two and a half years and now has two different clubs, a waiting list, and a jump-on-it-as-it’s-released rush, like Phat Fiber has. (I am thrilled she’s doing so well, but I am kind of cranky, too, in a ‘get off my spinning lawn’ kind of way.) So as much as I love getting fibre surprises in the mail, I can’t justify the cost knowing that I could do it myself for so much less.
So that’s what I decided to do. I bought a $20 roasting tin for dyeing, and I’m going to dye 4oz of fibre for myself every month. Or I may do a couple at a time in different colour combos, and put one aside to pull out randomly when I don’t have time or inclination to dye some. I have lots of plain fibre tucked away to use. It will be a do-it-yourself fibre club!
My first dye experiment was a gradation from green through blue then red on some BFL. But it didn’t blend as much between the colours as I wanted to create a blue-green and purple, because I set up for low-immersion dyeing then handpainted in the pan, so it didn’t work the way it was supposed to for either method. I did a blue overdye of the whole braid the next day, though, and it turned out beautifully!
The Test Knit:
I signed up to do a test knit of an online acquaintance’s child’s sweater pattern, in an Owlet size. It’s garter stitch and a simple construction, but elegant in its simplicity, the kind of thing I could manage, I thought. I got the pattern via e-mail mid-March, and started angsting about yarn. Choosing yarn is hard! It’s so much easier to make it yourself, because then you can get the exact grist and composition you need, and often the colour, too. Plus, it’s a lot less expensive. (I realise the statement “it’s easier to make your own” makes an awful lot of people snort incredulously. Just go with me, here.) I got the pattern, and I was so excited! Trepidatious, but excited! I’ve never test knit anything before! And then I got hit with that last massive edit to do on a hard deadline, and lost my time in which I relax and knit or do other stuff. Okay, no problem; maybe I could knit while Owlet was awake. (Ha ha ha— no. Never.) The designer okayed my past-deadline projected finish, though, bless her.
I had nothing in my stash (of course, because I don’t knit, so I do not have a yarn stash of sensible stuff, only handspun of enough yardage for scarves), so I looked at my budget, said, “I can get a really low-quality wool blend or a good acrylic,” and found an acrylic that was not completely unrelated to the dusty plum colour I was envisioning. I brought it home and swatched it up. It was just a tiny bit over gauge. So I went ahead.
And I hated how it felt, and the knitted fabric was stiff, and I couldn’t go up or down a needle size or it would be wildly off gauge or even stiffer. So I groused a lot and researched more yarn, and finally decided that I’d either get Cascade 220 or something else if it totalled under $30, and even that I shouldn’t do because money was, as usual, super tight. (The acrylic will be used, don’t worry. I have a project in mind, for which it will be perfect.) I’d been angsting about this project a lot, and I was already stressed because the product was going to be late, thanks to work.
Then a week ago I was shifting things around in the storage room, and I found a box marked “Mum yarn fabric” that hadn’t been unpacked after the last move. And I remembered that five years ago, my mum had sent me home with a bunch of wool and mostly-wool yarns from frogged partly-knit Aran sweaters and such, plus some linen fabric that she was clearing out of her own stash. And I found the perfect undyed yarn, wound into balls with no label. It was the right weight, and it swatched to gauge. I did a burn test, and it seems to be mostly wool with some acrylic/nylon. And a sample skein took my purple dye beautifully.
So the test knit was in business again! I skeined up the handwound balls to dye it, discovered that there was over a pound of the yarn, measured out the 530 yards I’d need (and there’s enough to do more than another of these sweaters left). I dyed it a pretty dusty plum colour, which ended up a bit bluer than I’d intended but it’s lovely, so I’m not messing with it by overdyeing it. I have about five inches of the back knit already.
The Blanket Square Fiasco:
I have a very careful chart of all the blanket squares I’ve signed up to knit for our knitting group’s baby blankets. And yet despite this, I somehow managed to mix the next yarn I’d need for an end-of-March set of squares with the yarn another mum and I are sharing for a blanket squares due in May. I’d planned to order the yarn for these two squares when Mum came to visit in February (the visit that was rescheduled to late March, so I could perhaps be forgiven in that respect), so I hadn’t even ordered it yet when I realised it was due in two weeks! I ordered it immediately, and the yarn arrived in less than a week. I started knitting right away, but the pattern I was assigned for this square isn’t my usual pattern I usually knit for our group’s blankets. It requires a lot more concentration than my regular one, so it’s going slowly because I can’t do it while Owlet is playing or while Sesame Street is on. The coordinator for this blanket okayed me being late on them, too, but I felt like I’d let everyone down somehow. What good is a detailed chart if I can’t interpret the info on it properly?
What About Sparky’s Socks?
Well, the only thing worse than second sock syndrome… is third sock syndrome. I finally cast on for his second properly-sized sock two weeks ago. I’m at the beginning of the heel.
So much knitting, most of it on a deadline. I don’t know who I am any more.
Not exactly fibre-focused, but related because it’s with my online knitting group:
I signed up for a toddler busy bag swap with my Ravelry group that’s due in mid-April. I think I am moderately insane, but now I have time to put my bead-stringing project together. (Twelve times. Ha ha ha. Still, it means I get eleven other busy bag projects in return, which is really awesome.) And we’re doing a Reduce/Reuse/Recycle swap, due in mid-May, which I haven’t even started on yet either, though I have an electronic scrapbook file of ideas…
So, this sock project.
We started with off-white yarn, and wound a long skein:
Then we dyed half of the skein in one bag of yellow dye, with the other half in a bag of burgundy dye next to it (we used the microwave to steam and set the dye, and the pictures were awful, so they’re not here).
After it dried it looked like this:
I reskeined it, so we’d have a better idea of how it would look knit up:
And I knit it:
Hey, check out that self-striping! How cool am I?
And the boy tried it on…
… but it’s a just-fit, verging on a shade too small.
He had a lot of trouble pulling it over his heel. I saw him hauling on the ribbing and there’s no way it would last. I had to inch it on his foot for him to get the photos. There’s no point in knitting another one this size. And I was so proud of my number crunching, scaling my sock pattern down through every step for a youth foot, too! The main problem is easing the cuff and heel over his instep and heel and then settling the toe on properly. So, you know, if he never had to take it on or off, and didn’t have to move in it, it would be fine.
So I’ll knit a bigger pair. I won’t have enough of the self-striping yarn for two whole socks, though, especially if they’re bigger, so I will use the dark red Cascade superwash I have left over from knitting a baby blanket square for for the body of the leg and foot, and the striping yarn for the cuff, heel, and toe. It will look awesome.
But I am very proud of this sock regardless! It is a real sock to be worn as-is on a foot! And I knit it in six days. I cast on for sock 1.2 yesterday and finished the cuff today, so now it’s on to the leg.
Sparky dressed as Tintin for book week at school. He looked awesome. We expected him to choose his default of Harry Potter, but we’re thrilled that he went in a different direction. (Also thrilled that I had a perfect sweater, he had a pair of lightish-coloured pants, and there was an arctic fox stuffie that made a somewhat convincing Milou.)
LATER: Since Blade requested it… photographic evidence in the form of a bad phone camera shot!
I dyed that self-striping yarn in crimson and gold for Sparky’s Gryffindor socks. I’m at the heel gusset already. Sock knitting is fast; sock knitting for kids is super fast. I could get to like this. It’s a short colour repeat, but they’re smallish socks, so it balances out. I’m hoping he wears these more than his Gryffindor scarf; he kept asking for it to be longer while I was knitting it, but then it ended up being too long for him to play in. He’ll grow into it, I guess.
The car gave us trouble earlier this week. The engine light started going on, and the car was uncharacteristically sluggish. I started saying a quick prayer every time I got in to drive to the school. We were pretty sure it was either the alternator not charging the battery for some reason, or the battery not holding a charge. We hoped it was the battery, because we’re covered by full replacement warranty on the one we bought two and a half years ago. HRH took the day off work yesterday, dropped Sparky off at school, then drove the car to the garage he uses near his parents’ house, and the car pretty much died as he turned into their parking lot: no power steering, no power brakes, no accessories. Turns out it was the alternator (which was original, so nine years old!), and the belt was dead, too. So it was costly, but his parents paid for half of it as his birthday present, bless them, for which we are extremely grateful. I should be thankful that I had money in hand at the moment to do it, but it was designated for various bills, which now get shuffled to the next payday, and we’re tight again for another month instead of being okay. Grr.
More grr in that Sparky and I have had dreadful colds, but I’m thankful that Owlet doesn’t seem to have caught it. It’s one of those colds that makes the ears and throat hurt like blazes, which is no fun for anyone, but especially hard on toddlers and babies. I thought everything was fine, and then Sparky came home from school early today and went right to bed. We’ll see how he is tomorrow morning.
He was selected for a lunchtime homework assistance program, which I was thrilled about, because it’s taking an hour or more to do his homework after school (most due to concentration issues) and it’s hard to help him when Owlet is running around screeching, plus make supper at the same time. He now meets a teacher twice a week to work on his vocabulary and reading, and it’s knocked at least half an hour off his homework those two days. As a trade-off, he was allowed to register for an after-school program on a Tuesday or a Thursday. He wasn’t allowed last term, because we knew homework needed to be his main focus, and he was really upset about that; but if his homework load is going to be halved two days a week, then sure, we can swing an after-school club on one of those days. He dithered between science, chess, and art, but eventually chose science. I know he’s going to love it, especially because his best friend in class registered for the same club.
This week is the last of the second term, which means report cards by the end of the month. I’m looking forward to seeing how he’s doing. I can’t wait to see how his French marks have climbed up again.
A few years ago I knit a pair of brown slippers and felted them. They are very, very warm, and the soles have worn out twice. Two weekends ago I darned them… and then they wore out next to the darns. So I cut off the tattered second soles I’d knitted for them and savaged what I could of that knitted and felted fabric, cutting out patches and sewing them over the holes in the original slippers. And then the patches wore through.
I needed new slippers.
I wear through slippers very quickly, most likely because I wear them all the time at home, fall through spring. Since my feet are long and narrow, store-bought slippers don’t fit me very well. So I decided to knit more.
Except this time, I wouldn’t knit a slipper. I would knit a sock, a low anklet-style sock, and felt that instead. Because, you see, my online knitting mamas group have been luring me into sock making, and Ceri has been doing the same in person (going so far as to buy me a whole set of gorgeous KnitPicks DPNs, in fact, so I would have the tools at hand when the sock whimsy strikes). And doing this, in a bulky yarn on big needles to boot, would be a good way to ease into the whole event.
So in my last KnitPicks order I got a ball of lovely bulky Merino blend Full Circle yarn in Ponderosa, a lovely cool piney colour (a single, so squishy!), and I cued up the highly recommended Silver’s Sock Class tutorial, and I cast on for the worsted size, using size 10.5 needles. (This first photo is the actual colour; the others are all odd thanks to lighting issues.)
I knit a couple of inches at the ankle in straight stitch, no ribbing, with just a line of purling after my foundation knit row to minimize curling. And then I got to set up the heel gusset! And then I turned the heel!
Then I knitted and knitted the foot, and then I got to do the toe decreases, and I was all set for grafting.
And then, dear readers… I grafted the toe.
I am not sure what the angst about grafting toes is really about.
I KNIT A SOCK!
It is floppy and too big because it will be felted down to a slipper, but I did it, and it is mine, and it is soft and warm and I am terribly proud of myself. I owe a lot of this success to the incredibly well laid-out instructions of Silver’s Sock Class, and the accompanying fantastic photos that reassured me I was understanding the written instructions properly.
Now, this is a huge success on one hand — I knit an entire sock! in about two days! — but only a qualified success on the other, because if I stopped here, my other foot would be very sad and cold. So I have to knit another one. This is exciting, because turning the heel was really cool, and so was grafting the toe. The problem is… I have to wait to knit the second because I don’t have enough yarn! I can cast on and maybe knit to the heel gusset, I suppose, but I don’t have enough to go any further. That’s okay, because I’m conveniently doing a KnitPicks order this weekend for baby blanket yarn. I should have thought it through and known that 100 yards wouldn’t be enough to do two socks, even if you’re doing four inches less of the leg than the pattern calls for.
And in the meantime, Sparky has requested a pair of Gryffindor striped socks. He wanted to know what I was going to use the purple Squoosh yarn for, and I said I thought it might be my first pair of hand-knit socks, but I’d have to practice on something else first so I didn’t ruin it, like maybe smaller socks for him or Owlet. He got very excited and said, “You could knit me Gryffindor socks! In stripes!” So that’s up next. I’ll buy a skein of white yarn when I pick up the yarn I need to do my next blanket squares for a group baby blanket this Saturday, and we’ll dye some self-striping crimson and gold yarn for his socks.
Achievement unlocked: Turning Heels, Grafting Toes, and Handling DPNs Without Devolving Into A Spitting, Swearing Mess. Thank you, everyone who helped and cheered me along. I should have another sock in a couple of weeks. Then the felting adventure begins!