Monthly Archives: April 2011

Weekend Roundup Etc

I was disappointed in the debate last night. I was hoping for actual adult discussion of policy and platform. What we got was people pointing fingers at one another. Snarking about it on Twitter with Canadian friends helped me get through it. All I really got out of it was an odd dream that I was an environmentalist active in avian preservation, and Stephen Harper personally promised me that he’d build a new habitat for penguins at the Biodome if I’d vote for him. I think the bird book is getting to me.

We had a whirlwind trip out to Rowan Tree Farm on Saturday for our annual spring equinox ritual (affectionately referred to as OsTaras) with t! and Jan, which was very enjoyable, and the next day we did a late equinox/early Easter brunch and egg-decorating session with the Preston-LeBlancs:

The bulbs HRH and the boy planted all over the place last fall are coming up, and we have discovered naturalized crocuses (crocii?) in the back garden, to our delight:

(Hello, lovely macro setting on my camera. You make crocuses look very, very nice indeed.)

I did a preliminary dye test to tint the Falkland warp fibre green to better match the Manos weft yarn. The green dye really turned the fibre an emerald, Astroturf-y green despite me using a half-saturated solution, gack. So I hauled out the hackle and blended the emerald fibre with undyed fibre in two different proportions, spindle-spun both samples and plied them, et voila; a pretty decent match, I’d say. The left photo shows the Manos at the back, a sample skein of a 2 white:1 green yarn in the middle, a sample of 1 white:1 green yarn on the right, and on the far left is the emerald dyed fibre, just for kicks. The photo on the right shows the two sample skeins laid over the skein of Manos, showing just how close my two hand-blended yarns got.

There’s so much variation in the kettle-dyed Manos that either of these blends would work, I think. Or rather, I could be a bit less precise about how much of each colour I’m blending in as I go, and it will still look lovely. Now I know that I can blend it, I could dye up about 4 ounces of green at this solution and trundle down to Ariadne Knits with it and another 4-6 ounces of undyed fibre to crank out 8 to 10 ounces of batts on the drum carder there… or I could further experiment with a much, much weaker solution of emerald green on a larger amount of fibre. Which I may still have to card with undyed fibre; who knows? It’s academic at this point, though, because I need my order of undyed Falkland to arrive at the shop first.

The bird book proceeds apace; deadline is in two and a half weeks, five days of which I am away for Easter. We had a bit of a setback last week when we discovered some of the art wasn’t available, which led to a three-level list of birds to be cut, and unfortunately I’d already written over half of them. It was somewhat demoralizing so close to the finish line, especially because I immediately assumed I’d have to find about twenty replacement birds from among the available art, but it turns out I won’t, so I’m still on track. I do mourn the loss of the research and time spent writing those entries I’ve already completed, though, especially since a couple of them were extensive. I am very tired, and I am aware that this manuscript will not be the shiny, polished thing I prefer to hand in. It’s somewhat uneven in that some birds just have a pile of folklore and superstition attached to them, and others don’t. Generally, birds that are found both in the Old World and the New World have more; New World-only birds have a lot less. It’s simply a question of the amount of time that the lore has had to accumulate. The proposed cover for the book is just wonderful, and I’ve been signed to write the intro to the accompanying birdwatching journal as well.

The book has been wringing me out, so I’ve been restless without a lot of mental focus to apply anywhere. I’ve been spinning a bit, and because I can’t seem to gather enough energy to select music I actually want to listen to I decided to try downloading free audiobook recordings. I’m working through the Librivox Sense & Sensibility right now, and I’m of two minds about it. Librivox switches narrators every two or three chapters, which is fair, but also jarring. I’m lucky in that there’s only one narrator I’ve really disliked so far whose reading isn’t very good at all (her recording level is low, in mono, and her enunciation isn’t great so a lot of the time it’s mostly a murmur). On the other hand, it’s kind of neat to have different interpretations; the change in narrator really wakes you up and makes you listen a bit more closely. I do about five chapters in a session and get through almost a half-ounce of fibre in that time. I wish my library had a decent audiobook selection.

A Friday Fibre Post

I’ve finished spinning the first two ounces of the Rambouillet. Oh, lawks; this is the sweetest thing. It’s like creamy Merino, only better, somehow. (Without going into a major digression about breeds and history, Rambouillet is essentially a offshoot of the Merino breed, created by breeding Merino with French or German sheep in the eighteenth century, and handles very much like it. I find it a bit silkier.) This is the “Wistful” colourway from Squoosh Fiber Arts. Her dyeing and preparation are spectacular, and her fibre is absolutely going on my list of things to stalk in Ravelry destash RSS feeds.

I thought it would be more like the first photo, pale olive greens and crabapple reds with some barklike grey-brown. As you can see for the second photo, it’s got those colours in it, but overall the browns and pinks became more predominant. I find how dyed fibre spins up fascinating. It rarely behaves the way I expect it to. I’m going to preserve the colour changes in this by chain-plying it to a heavy fingering weight. (I am lazy and have not measured the WPI of the single, but my eye and experience tell me that it should yield a heavy fingering weight after chain-plying.)

The wheel continues to work well and is a pleasure to use. I’m testing out the Scotch tension this time, since I’ve tried and like the double drive setting. And it wasn’t until I read the article on flyer wheels in the latest issue of KnittySpin that I realised durr, if I can set it up in Scotch (flyer-lead) tension by putting both loops of the drive band over the flyer pulley and the brake band over the bobbin, it’s also possible to set it up in Irish (bobbin-lead) tension by putting both drive loops over the bobbin and the brake band on the flyer. I’m sure this hasn’t occurred to a lot of people, since Irish tension is considered the most basic and limiting of the three settings. Having trained on a Louet, which is bobbin-lead tension, I know it’s not limiting. It just doesn’t occur to most people to use it if they’ve got the preferred Scotch or double-drive options.

Oh oh oh! Hey, gentle readers! You know that I am not a knitter, right? I knit very basic things like scarves, but somewhat badly. Well, I’m having a baby, and while there are spinning-then-weaving projects in the works for this event because that is my forte, I thought it would be kind of neat to actually knit something for her, all myself. I know plenty of fabulously talented knitters and I am aware that there are already two or three blankets on the go for the Owlet, as well as hats and variously snuggly things (plus a quilt!), but I wanted to knit at least one thing myself. It wouldn’t be heirloom quality, not by a long shot, but it could be cosy and pretty in whatever colour I chose, and it would mean something to me.

So I did. This is the Owlet’s Daffodil cardigan:

It’s a plain old garter stitch cardi done in a soft yellow Pima cotton yarn. I used a pattern for 3-6 mos and modified it to fit a 0-3 month old. (Yes, that’s me, converting a pattern I haven’t yet knitted before I can see how it works, with little to no understanding of how knitted objects are put together. I change recipes before testing them as per the written instructions, too.) It seems to have worked. I may add a couple of rows of crochet in pale green cotton to the bottom as trim. (No, I do not crochet at all. See how fun this is? My enthusiasm far outweighs my skill.) I forgot to put the buttonholes in when I knit the front because I was paying such close attention to making sure it matched the back, so I made button loops for the lovely buttons I bought for it instead. I love how rustic this is, with the bumpy garter stitch and the little wooden buttons.

My next project is tiny little boots in pale green Pima cotton, made from garter-stitch squares that you fold up like origami to magically make a shoe shape. There’s no point in taking a photo, because at the moment it’s only three four-inch-long rows of knitting on a needle. But hey, garter stitch squares! That is totally within my skill set!

And for fun, here is a snap of the test samples I did for the blanket I’ll be weaving for the baby. I spun test skeins of Corriedale, Merino, and Falkland, and have chosen Falkland for the warp to use with this lovely green Manos Clasica yarn I bought to use as the weft. Thing is, I didn’t know if I wanted it to be weft-faced, which makes it more green but creates a stiff fabric (left), or a more balanced weave, which drapes better and feels softer (right). I like the visual of the left, but prefer the feel of the right. I may try a dye test on the white Falkland warp and see if I can get it a pale willow green that matches one of the paler variegations in the Manos; then it will vanish more into the warp colours, and I will have my cake and eat it, too. The Falkland fibre I need won’t be in at my LYS Ariadne Knits for at least a month or so, so I’ve got time to mess about with dye tests on the sample Falkland skein I spun. I designed this to use a fingering weight warp so the green of the weft would be predominant no matter what, but I’m wondering if spinning a fluffier two-ply Aran weight to match the Manos wouldn’t be better. I have some Falkland left I could spin a sample of that with, too. (I theoretically could use the Manos as warp, too, but I don’t think I have enough for both warp and weft, and it’s a single instead of a plied yarn, which fares less well in respect to the beating of the heddle; a single gets worn away more easily than a multi-ply warp does.)

In Which She Thinks About Pregnancy Stuff

There are some thoughts I need to write out about this, because I’m trying to work out how I feel.

A couple of people have asked if we announced the pregnancy when we did because we couldn’t hide it any longer. This amuses me. People, I have been wearing maternity clothes since Christmas. That’s three months earlier than last time. I am built like a stick; my body shape starting changing pretty early this time round. Granted, my winter sweaters are loose and bulky, but I didn’t go out of my way to swath myself in disguises or anything, and I went out threeish times a week to mingle with the masses, so I wasn’t holing up at home to avoid being noticed. No, we announced it when we did because we finally had good news from the doctors about the health of the baby. (It occurs to me that people aren’t noticing as much as they might because of my initial body shape: I have a very short waist, so I’m basically ribcage/baby right now, and that’s not as noticeable as it might be if there were another four inches of space between the two.)

Long-time readers will remember that we didn’t publicly announce our first pregnancy at all via the Internet; we told people in person as we met them. This resulted in some people being told that we had a baby before they knew I was pregnant, thanks to the boy arriving two months early. But one of the reasons I didn’t share the news last time was because I didn’t want to be treated any differently. I was curious to see if our approach to sharing the news this time would support my previous suspicion. Sure enough, now that they know, there are people automatically assuming that I am differently-abled in some way because I’m pregnant. I am the same person the world has been dealing with for the past five months. Nothing has changed. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a bit slower getting in and out of chairs, cars, and bed, but that’s about it.

I find this fascinating, as well as exasperating. I can explain fibro till the cows come home, and although people say they think they get it, it’s a hazy, vague understanding. But tell someone I’m pregnant, and they jump to the assumption that I must be exhausted, my back must ache, I must feel sick all the time, and so forth. That’s how I feel the majority of the time thanks to fibro. Pregnancy was and is a breeze for me, possibly because I’m used to this sort of thing. (In fact, I feel better fibro-wise now that I’m pregnant. Go figure. This is not a serious option for long-term fibro treatment, though, people; we’re stopping here at two kids!)

I guess what it comes down to is familiarity. Everyone knows someone who is/has been pregnant, so they have some level of direct experience with it. Millions of women do this; we have a cultural perception of pregnancy and what it does to someone. Fibro? Not so much. There’s a reason why a lot of FM/CFS sufferers default to an explanation such as “It’s like I have the flu all the time”: it’s a common experience people can draw on to get some idea of what you must be going through. That cultural perception of pregnancy isn’t universally applicable, though, and that’s what drives me crazy. The experience is not one size fits all; everyone’s pregnancy is different, affects them differently, and impacts them differently. I appreciate the fact that people are upping their solicitousness and concern, but it kind of frustrates me that I’m being placed in a box marked “Pregnant” along with the general assumptions that rattle around inside it. We all pigeonhole people and situations, myself included — it’s human nature, and it helps us deal with things efficiently — but as often as I can, I try to evaluate every new situation and individual, and not default to assumptions. It just feels weird to have people dismiss fibro because they don’t have experience with it, and overemphasize pregnancy for me.

Okay, enough of that. Here’s something wacky.

Last fall I figured it was about time to get my eyes checked again. It has been about five years since my prescription changed, twoish since I started wearing my glasses full-time, so I was due. As usual, I procrastinated, so I got pregnant before I went in for a checkup. And then it was Christmas, and there was travelling and other family health issues, and it fell off my to-do list. My eyes started acting up in about January, and I remembered that I really ought to make that appointment with the optometrist.

And then I paused. What if it wasn’t my vision alone? What if it was the pregnancy? It isn’t unheard of for women to report major vision changes during pregnancy; there are people whose eyes have significantly improved or worsened permanently due to it.

I didn’t notice any sort of change in my first pregnancy. This one, though; whoa. I can now get away with not wearing my glasses at all most of the time. In fact, I have to take them off while driving a lot, because they make my distance viewing slightly blurrier. Reading from a book is mostly fine, depending on how tired I am, and ditto for the computer screen: I can go glasses-free earlier in the day, but as the day goes on and my eyes get tired, I have to put the glasses on again. The main problem I have discovered is that I have developed the habit of taking a pair of glasses off and putting them down if they’ve started straining my eyes, and then I can’t remember where I put them when I need them again hours later.

So in the end I think I’m glad I didn’t get that optometrist appointment before the pregnancy happened, because if I’d spent all that money on a new prescription that was just going to change anyway, possibly permanently, I would be pretty cranky. (No, HRH’s health insurance doesn’t cover eyes. Or dental, despite the atrocious amount of money he pays for it.) I’ll make an appointment for this coming fall instead.