Monthly Archives: January 2013

Yarny Update

Last week I finished plying that lovely purpley Squoosh Polwarth in two marathon sessions. I have no idea how much I’ve got yet. I know I have about a hundred and fifty yards in the second part, but I have no idea how much is on the first bobbin that I haven’t skeined yet. There’s more than was on the second one, though, I know for certain, because the bobbin of singles was less than half full when I started the second round of plying. [LATER: 376 yards. Oh, yes.]

And last week I also finished spinning the first two ounces of Ashland Bay Merino I added to my first WEBS order. It was going to be chain-plied too, but I changed my mind just as I hit the halfway point, and now I’m doing the last two ounces on another bobbin and making it a two-ply. I feel a bit like a snob because I caught myself dismissing the idea of the Ashland Bay, since it was commercial instead of indie dyed, but wow, it’s super soft and spins nicely and I kind of like how the colour is a blend of mostly green, a bit of red, and a touch of darker green. I’m glad I ordered some to try it. I have two other colourways in my stash, one that was a gift (Wildberry), one as another test from the same order (Sandalwood).

The Ashland Bay (it’s the Sage colourway… and I don’t think it looks sagey at all — more celery-ish — but the colour is nice anyhow):

And the first half of the Squoosh Polwarth, chain-plied:

In other spinning news, I wound 266 yards of heather-coloured, Aran-weight, woollen-spun singles off my Louet S15 three weeks ago, thinking as I did so that it was possibly the last yarn I’d spin on it, as a potential buyer is coming to see it that weekend. I wasn’t using it enough, and it could be someone else’s intro to the love of spinning like it was mine. And it turned out that yes, I did sell the Louet wheel to that like-minded individual I met through friends, after watching him fall in love with it over three hours while I taught him how to use it. It went to a good home, and I am so very happy. The test yarn I talked him through making was better than the stuff I made on a wheel for weeks. Mind you, I learned on my own, and he had someone there talking him through it. But still! He was so excited to go home and knit it into something. I love helping people discover new abilities. And I now have someone to spin with now and then!

Is it weird that I feel like he was doing me a huge favour by loving it and taking it home to live happily ever after with him? Because I do. I’m so relieved. I didn’t want to list it in a classified ad and possibly sell it to someone I didn’t know. Especially after angsting about the decision to sell it for about a year. In fact, when he was leaving, HRH said to him, “You know, if you hadn’t taken it she would have had to list it online, and there would have been adoption interviews.” I loved that wheel, and it spun lots and lots and lots of great yarn. I’m glad it’s going to help someone else on their journey into the wonderful world of spinning.

Milestone: Check

We were sitting on the kitchen floor this morning, watching a batch of oat-banana-cranberry toddler-size muffins bake in the oven. Owlet pointed at the oven and blew in short little huffs, which is her way of indicating something is too hot to touch. (She picked it up because we blow on hot things to cool them down enough to handle and eat.) Then she pointed at the reflections and babbled a bit. “Who’s that?” I said. I touched my chest, then hers, and said, “That’s Mama; that’s Owlet.” She tried to sound out the name, so I repeated it with very clear enunciation. And she repeated it after me, very clearly. “Who’s that?” I said, pointing at her reflection. And she said the name very clearly again.

Baby can finally say her own name? Check.

Owlet: Seventeen Months!

Owlet napped while we decorated the Christmas tree, and when she came out she stood there and gazed at it for a while. Then she took a deep breath, and said, “Wow!” I taught her how to lie under it and look up through the branches to see all the lights twinkling off the ornaments, and she and Sparky did that for a while together. She tried to reach out and touch an ornament with a finger, but I said, “No, we look with our eyes, not our fingers.” She put both hands behind her back and leaned forward as far as she could, as if she was trying to touch it with her nose instead of a finger, and repeated, “Wow,” very reverently. She put together her first word combo while looking at the tree later, too. “Purple ball,” she said, pointing into the branches at the single tiny purple bauble we have. I’d never even heard her say purple before. And a few days after Christmas she pointed at the top branches and said, “Buhd.” As we have about four birds in close proximity up there, we’re pretty sure that’s what she was saying.

Oh, the words. The words are tumbling out of her at a surprising rate. (Well, okay, it’s surprising to me because Sparky was atypically talking up a storm at ten months, remember.) Apart from “purple ball,” we had “purple bottle” (also unprompted, while looking at a book), “haus” (“Bye-bye, haus,” she said one day as we were heading out), and “awl” (her pronunciation of “owl”) has become “ah-wuh-ull.” She has become obsessed with pretending things are telephones, and holds random things up to her ear and says, “Haow, Dad-eh! Haow!” She can say “Ada,” and suddenly started saying “Papa” very clearly on New Year’s Day over at her grandparents’ house. She started saying “peese” and “ah! oo!” or “tans” voluntarily at the correct times (although she still needs prompting if she moves directly to stuffing whatever she’s asked for into her mouth), pointed to the moon in a new picture book and said “moon!”, and says “cookie” very clearly (sigh – fortunately, graham crackers are her cookies). And there are others that I am completely forgetting because I don’t write them down quickly enough and my mind goes blank when I sit down to write these posts. Physically, she’s getting better and better at controlling her body. She has started colouring reliably with crayons instead of eating them, and finally managed to stack two blocks carefully instead of banging the top one down on the bottom one and sending them both flying. Her use of forks and spoons is improving. She learned how to say “cheers!” and clink her glass, right in time for New Year’s Eve. She can now climb up on the living room chesterfield, the last seat she was having difficulty with.

One morning she was trying to yank open the child-locked pantry door and getting frustrated. HRH said, “Come away from there, you’ve already had your breakfast.” She wound up a whine, stopped; started a frustrated cry, stopped; made a grr sound; then stood there and looked at him, and said, ”Peeeeeese?” He opened the cupboard and gave her three goldfish crackers. She was very pleased with herself, and said “ah oo” when prompted.
There are still moments where she is all toddler, though. While waiting in line at a store before Christmas, she was saying, “eh, eh, eh” and making her little grabby-hand signal to get me to give her some more corn puffs. I prompted her for the please, I got a muffled “pss,” and gave her a couple of puffs. As I did, I said, “What do you say?” Her enthusiastic response was, “YAY!”

We’ve had a couple of toddler meltdowns these past couple of weeks, too. I think I’ve finally figured out the root of it. After not showing any desire to help, Owlet suddenly and out of the blue wants to hold everything and feed herself. First it was holding both the container of yoghurt and the spoon, and feeding herself. Then it was holding the little bag of crackers and feeding herself, instead of me putting some in her bowl a little at a time. She’s never had real tantrums before, and these are full-blown screaming, red-faced, throwing things, arching the back breakdowns. She’s getting more aggressive about demanding snacks from the pantry, too, and melting down when I try to portion it out one serving at a time. I can’t give her the entire box of crackers or Cheerios, or the entire carton of juice, though.

One of the adorable milestones this past month: first ponytails!

The weekend we saw Santa, she had a three-hour nap in the middle of the day instead of two naps lasting a hour and a half each. This could be a very useful development, giving me more time to get things done both when she’s awake and asleep, making it easier to schedule stuff, and actually allowing her a bit more sleep since I won’t be trying to get her down by two, having her fuss till two-thirty, then waking her up at three-thirty to go get Sparky after school. That said, attempts to shift her morning nap later for a midday nap start time worked, but she still only slept an hour and a half, which made for a wholly strung out toddler come about four o’clock. So we’ll stick to the two-nap schedule for a bit longer.

What bit of nursing that has remained has been decreasing bit by bit, at Owlet’s pace, and is for comfort only. She dropped her good-morning nursing session about a month ago, though she’d beetle over and ask to nurse after HRH left for work every couple of days or so, but that stopped in the middle of December. She usually snuggles and comfort nurses to sleep for a couple of minutes before her morning nap, but she dropped that a few times over the holiday, and I suspect it’s not long now before she just snuggles with her soother till she’s in a doze. We settle down to do the same thing for her afternoon nap, but lately she’s refused to nurse and asked for a bottle, and even then she hasn’t been able to get to a doze on my lap and I’ve had to put her down awake, which she grizzles about for a few minutes before banging around and then falling asleep. (Did I ever share what she calls nursing? She asks for “neyneyney.” I don’t know where she got it from, because we always called it just milk (or “the milks”). But she’s called it that for a few months now.) The holiday schedule has been really distracting, to say the least; wake-up times are a bit different, and everyone’s home, and Sparky is watching cartoons or playing video games or running around with her, and she’s very stimulated. Naps have been frustrating for everyone.

Now that her last molar is in (and a weary parental huzzah for that), we need to start switching that night bottle to a cup. We tried it about six weeks ago, but the molar gave her too much trouble both with the drinking motion and the unsettled being-on-edge mood. The bottle was more familiar and soothing.

The only thing better than reading in a laundry basket is sharing the laundry basket with the cat, right?

The other day she was feeding Gryffindor with the small wooden spoon I’d given her for her kitchen, after stirring something up in a little bowl. I’d noticed that the mums in my online group were talking about how their children were developing nurturing relationships with their dolls, feeding them and changing them and so forth, and just yesterday I kind of shrugged and said to myself that maybe Owlet just hasn’t clicked like that yet. Most of her preferred toys are animals, and while she sometimes undresses her girl doll or giggles at the belly button on the little boy doll she inherited from Sparky, she doesn’t seem to have a specific connection to them. And then I saw this happening, and thought that it was just adorable. And the cat was being so patient with her. He is also very patient with her full-body hugs, and her attempts to hold her pretend phones to his ears.

I am so glad we decided on giving her a play kitchen. She has spent a significant amount of time at it since Christmas. So has Sparky, who does little crazy cooking shows. So much so that we have to remind him not to crowd Owlet out and to let her play in her own way with it, even if it’s wrong according to how he knows a kitchen works or according to his plans for whatever he’s ‘making.’

And finally, here is the first use of the full snowsuit, in the situation for which it was designed:

Recent Knitting & Spinning

Not only did I cable while knitting for the first time this past week, I finished an entire 8×8″ test square. Go me! I am so proud of myself. I’ve only owned the cable needles for three years now. The square isn’t blocked yet, so it’s a bit scrunched, but you can see the owl!

I am thinking that this yarn I swatched with isn’t going to work for the blanket squares I’m knitting for my online mums group swap, though. It’s a thick and thin woollen single, which is charming, but it’s a bit wonky on gauge, and the thick and thin is making the cabled pattern look like Jack Sparrow knit it, all weavy and staggery. I finished it anyway, and I will make it into a lovely throw pillow cover I can use on the new chaise, but that’s because it will have personal meaning, being my first longdraw handspun then knit with my first attempt at cables. The colour is even complementary to the linen pillows HRH got for the chaise. I foresaw this eventuality, however, and added a couple of balls of yarn from KnitPicks to Ceri’s order this week. Although I do have some other browny-plum handspun woollen singles on the go on my secondary wheel, vaguely intended for blanket squares. I should finish a bobbin and full that yarn, then swatch it to see if it’s a bit more even. The one I’m testing now was my very first attempt at longdraw, and I know my newer woollen-spun yarn is much more uniform.

In other knitting news, I knit five washcloths in December (eep), two each for our mothers as Christmas gifts, one to include in a swap package. I got very good at them. I forgot to take pictures, though. And I feel so smug about slipping the first stitch in a row, a trick I picked up from knitting blanket squares for new babies being born in my online mums group. It makes edges so neat! I’ve started applying it to pretty much everything knitted with an edge.

It’s kind of been a big knitting year for me, actually. I became comfortable with alternating knitting and purling, and no longer have to look up how to correctly do a purl stitch every time I want to do one. I became comfortable with using DPNs, and am on the last couple of rows of ribbing on Owlet’s legwarmers that I’m using as a dry run for socks. I cabled, of course, and am becoming more proficient in following patterns. And I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of Ceri and my mums group.

I think perhaps I have not mentioned here that my mother has asked me to spin the yarn for a lovely big shawl/stole she wants to knit. The pattern calls for qiviut yarn, and the cost of the yarn required would be something astronomical like eight hundred dollars, so even buying luxury fibres like cashmere and silk and the dye to colour it is cheaper. Plus we get the fun of designing the yarn. We took ages going through all the different permutations of various luxury fibres, talking about the pros and cons and how the hypothetical yarns would behave, before she decided on two different plies of Merino/silk and cashmere/silk in very specific ratios. I ordered the fibres in the fall, and started sampling them last month.

How determined am I to make this yarn perfect? I separated out a half-ounce of each fibre to test. I split that half-ounce into quarters, two quarters of each to be dyed then test spun, and the other two quarters to be spun as-is and then dyed, to see what works best. For each fibre, I planned to try:

1. Spinning worsted from the end, without predrafting
2. Spinning worsted from the end, with predrafting
3. Spinning semi-woollen, long draw (possibly by prepping into mock rolags)
4. Spinning semi-woollen, from fold

So by this plan, I’d have to do that four times, once with each fibre undyed, then once with each fibre after dyeing. And then I’d get to ply all my samples, matching the Merino/silk with the cashmere/silk. (It is possible that I was overthinking things. I just want to make sure we do this the best possible way, because it’s such a huge project with such expensive, luxurious fibres.)

In the end, what happened was I spun the worsted without drafting it (#1) and immediately realized that predrafting it would be pointless, since it was all so smooth that it glided without needing any fluffing or prep whatsoever. And spinning woollen from mock rolags rolled from bits of the top (#3) was pretty much like spinning from the fold, as I could see the folds being pulled as I drew the fibre back, so there was no point to repeating the process. So I never even tried #2 or #4. (Why would #3 and #4 be semi-woollen? Because the fibre preparation is combed top, not jumbly roving. Even putting it up into mock rolags, it can never be classified as fully woollen. Utterly fascinating fact to perhaps 2% of you, I am sure, gentle readers.) And I’m leaning toward dyeing the fibre first, because I preferred spinning it that way (the crimp reasserts itself a bit in the dyeing process and the fibre catches better in the mock rolags), but dyeing the finished yarn may be easier. I’ll test that next.

I showed Mum my sample spools of worsted and semi-woollen singles while she was here for Christmas. She liked the sheen of the worsted singles, but she preferred the lightness of the semi-woollen singles, and correctly intuited that the worsted ones would make a heavier yarn. And since the piece is so big, she wants it to be as light as it can be so that it’s more pleasant to wear. I’m very happy with her choice, because woollen is so much quicker to spin, and I have eight ounces of stuff to spin up. I’ve plied the undyed and dyed worsted singles anyway, to see what happens, and they are super, super fine yarn, like two strands of embroidery floss twisted together. It’s impressive, but not what she needs. She gave me a sample of yarn she used for a scarf to use as a reference for the grist, and yeah, my plied worsted stuff is about half that weight. I anticipate the plied semi-woollen yarns to be much closer to what she wants.

My first dye test of the Jacquard dye in Russet as-is in a standard 1% solution was, as I suspected, too pink, despite how perfect the colour chip looks. I sat down with Mum at the computer and we adjusted the colour on a photo until it matched exactly what she wanted, so now I have a proper reference for dye tests. We’d been using the same photo from a website as reference, but my monitor displayed the colour very differently from hers, so now we’re on the same page. I’m going to start experimenting with adding touches of orange and brown to get closer to the saturated terra cotta colour she wants.

And finally, here’s a photo of the Polwarth I worked on off and on between May and August. I finally finished spinning four ounces of single. It’s resting on the bobbin now, destined to be chain-plied into fingering weight yarn.