Monthly Archives: March 2013

The State Of The Knitty Spinny Thing

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…

The State Of Cello, And News About The Boy

When cello started again after the Christmas break, we reviewed my Christmas recital performance (which confirmed that yes, I’d been pretty darn good, better than all of us expected considering where I was at my piano rehearsal the week before performance, frankly), and my teacher and I decided to work on my bow hand and arm. So we began Chanson Triste, the last piece in Book 4, and I’ve been really enjoying that for the past three months. It’s done me a lot of good. It sounds beautiful, I’ve been able to focus on what my bow hand is doing, and jumping from the first to the final piece in the book has done wonders for my self-esteem. We’ll go back, of course, but this was something positive I could cling to these past few months, and I really needed that.

Orchestra, on the other hand, has been suffering really badly. I have had zero time to practice at home (something I admitted to my teacher, who understood—she was probably not happy about it, but she understood) and it’s really reflected in how behind I am in the orchestra music. We have a concert in two and a half weeks, and I have lost three months of practice time. I am so thankful to be sitting at the back of my section.

This seems a decent place to say: Hey, locals! Spring concert on April 13! Valois United, 7:30pm! Beethoven 2nd symphony, an Elgar string serenade, Grant’s Sinfonietta (yes, that would be our conductor), an Albinoni oboe concerto (soloist: our conductor!), and a couple of other smallish things.

The boy has been working diligently on his cello, however. He is just about there when it comes to reading music, something we have been working very hard on, and something he has been very frustrated with. He is playing a couple of really fun group things in the upcoming recital, has pretty much learned an impressive arrangement of the Angry Birds theme by heart since January (his teacher was hoping he would play it as his recital piece, I think, but he insists on playing Song of the Wind, with me accompanying him), and is zooming through his pitch and rhythm book. When he is frustrated, he tells me how much he hates cello and how he wishes he’d never chosen to play it, but when it’s going well he is very cheerful and says how much he loves it.

Speaking of going well, he finished up his second school term halfway through February. Two weeks ago, he brought home his second term report card. He got 40 in French communication last term. (That was the number grade his teacher told us not to worry about, as it reflected his English stream background.) He has a 91 in it this term, and 92 in producing oral and written French.

He more than doubled his grade. We were completely blown away. I cried, I was so proud of him. “Mama,” he said, “is my report card good enough for you to buy the Hoth level in Angry Birds Star Wars, like we talked about?” “Good grief, yes,” I said, scrubbing at my eyes. “Go get me the iPad and I will do it right now.” And then I took him and his sister to McDonalds for lunch as a surprise the next day, too. (Or rather, we went through the drive-through, since Owlet was fussy. Still, as we go to McDonalds maybe once a year, on the drive to or home from his grandparents, this was a Big Thing.)

In general, every single grade went up a percentage point or two, except gym, again. He’s a bit of a klutz, yes, but he has fun, and that’s what’s important. And we are so very, very proud of how hard he has worked, and continues to work.

In Which She Summarizes Two Months Of Work

I am so tired.

I’ve been working pretty much nonstop for two months. Every nap I’ve been working fanatically, as soon as the kids are in bed I’m back in front of the computer, editing editing editing, and I’ve had to cram work time in on weekends, too. The good news is there will be money down the line. The bad news is I am exhausted, I am out of touch with an awful lot, I don’t have much cope in reserve for my daily life with kids, and I have zero down time in which to decompress.

In February I worked on a lovely little book about the arts and the Christmas story with an independent author who is self-publishing it, as well as a book for my publisher that required a tonne of fact-checking. I made an error when I evaluated the independent book for an estimate, looking at it for only copyediting. I didn’t realize until I started working though it that it required the next level up of editing, and I blew past my estimate of time and fees, ending up doing twice as many hours as I’d estimated the project would take. I felt so badly about it that I split the over-time with the author, absorbing half the cost because of my error. Fortunately, she was absolutely wonderful about it, and very receptive for the constructive criticism and reworking I asked her to do to get the manuscript to the next level. Not only that, she turned my invoice around in a weekend, and I had my cheque in less that a week. (I wish all clients were that speedy, and that positive about the editing experience!) I get to review her edits and her new material this coming weekend, and I’m quite looking forward to it. I like seeing a project through from a draft to a polished final product, and working with such a positive, open client is a lovely experience.

When I delivered that on March 1, I had a few days to myself to be braindead before my publisher sent me another manuscript to edit, this one a collection of learning activities to do with children. It’s a terrific book, and it was really nice to see some external support of the activities I do with Sparky. I handed that in last night, pulling the old no-sleep-till-it’s-sent-in thing. I am hoping for a little time off before my next project lands, because wow, do I ever need it.

My mother in law has been absolutely wonderful, coming over for a day every two weeks or so to play with Owlet so that I can get a whole afternoon of work in. And my mother came down to visit this past weekend, so she entertained Owlet and sometimes Sparky while I worked, too. That wasn’t ideal; I wanted to be spending time with her, but the work needed to be done, and so naps and nights were work time as usual, with bonus hours on the weekend days and two weekdays while Nana played with Owlet.

I haven’t blogged much this year, and I’m upset about it. I have missed journaling about things that I like to keep track of, other than my easily logged fibre stuff. I shall post a separate post about cello and children next, because they deserve to be their own post rather than shoved in with my vague summary of work over the past two months.

Owlet: Nineteen Months Old!

Oh, the words. New this month are: Mushroom, tomato (“may toe”), drink, toes, flowers, butterflies, bug, bath (we must be careful saying this, as she will beetle directly into the bathroom, start drumming the edge of tub with her hands, and say, “Bath. Bath? Bath!” then get very cross if we say that it isn’t a bath night), dance, again, UP-down, outside, happy! happy! happy!, happy baby, angry! grr (that’s all one unit: “Angry!grr“), mine, sky, sun,moon, and sad.

This month also saw her first three-word sentence: “Where Papa go?”

Singing has suddenly exploded as well. Owlet sings “Twinkle” with me, not that anyone would necessarily recognize it. We started off with her supplying the last word in each line, but now she burbles along. She sings the “ABC” song with Sparky, too, much to his delight, although most of the letters are e, d, or g. She also sings “Baa baa black sheep,” with some serious head-banging for the “yes sir” bits. (It’s so serious that we can’t sing it if we’re sitting at a table, because she will crack her forehead on it.) She sang the first two lines of the Cat in the Hat theme song when it appeared on PBS today, much to the astonishment of Sparky and me. It’s very simple and mostly repetitive; I’m not surprised that she can sing “Go, go, go, go” of course, but “on an adventure” was kind of a shock. (It was more like “onna vedjur,” but it was in time and on beat.) We read Goodnight Moon and I can pause to let her fill in lots of the items listed throughout it, too.

Furniture-moving is one of her newest pastimes. She likes to shove her bench out into the middle of the living room to stand on it. In the kitchen, if I’m doing something on a counter, she’ll drag a chair over to counter next to me, climb it, stands to help me bake. (Which, yesterday, involved her dropping a whole measuring cup into the Kitchenaid bowl, and sinking her entire hand into cake batter after it had been poured into the pan. So helpful.) We can’t build tents as easily as we could in the old living room with Sparky, who adored them, but sometimes I can manage this:

Another of her idiosyncrasies is her pretend sleep: She’ll flop over and start snoring really loudly… with her eyes open, watching us. Too funny! She has also discovered stickers. The kids got Brave sticker books from Santa when they saw him at Christmas, and she dragged one out the other day. Stickers are awesome! They stick to things! Like noses! And doors! And the fridge! And the cat! Thank goodness these ones are designed to peel off and restick in the book, but even they pick up dust and grime and stop sticking. Time to pick some assorted sticker books up in the dollar store now and then and tuck them away for days when we need something new.

Poor Owlet. We had a horrible February, as all four of her canines decided to come in at once. They were huge, swollen, white lumps in her gums, and she was miserable. The top two broke through two days apart during the first week of March, and the right bottom one has just emerged. The bottom left one is still a lump, but she’s back to her usual cheerful self. I think her appetite is finally slowing down. But that may have been the teeth. She still steals tea even though I give her her own.

We seem to be stuck between one two-hour (or more) nap, and two hour and a half-long naps. It’s hard. We kind of play it by ear as the day goes. Some days she makes it till past 10:30 and naps for two hours. Most days she goes down around 10, and naps for only 1.5 ish hours. If that happens I gauge her mood and usuallyput her down for a catnap around 2:30. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m thinking the time change may actually help us out in this respect.

She really loves sitting on the big potty. None of this kid potty thing for her! No, if everyone else uses the big one, she will too. So I got the child insert from storage and she cheerfully asks to sit on it several times a day, reading books or brushing her teeth. Nothing has actually happened yet, but it has to at some point.

Colouring is going better. Except she has to be supervised extremely carefully, because apparently our wood-based decor is in need of some colour. I went to pour another cup of tea the other day and when I came back twenty seconds later, I found red crayon on the floor. So I scrubbed it off with a tissue, saying, “No! Crayons go on paper.” And because she loves to clean and I wanted to reinforce the lesson, I handed her the tissue and asked her to help clean it up. She scrubbed at the mark industriously, and then turned and scrubbed at the mark she’d made on the bookshelf, then the other bookshelf, the spines of the books on that second bookshelf, the spinning wheel, and her bench. (!!!)

Sometimes she goes after Gryff, saying, “No! No, meow!” then a string of baby gibberish that very clearly tells the cat off for doing whatever she thinks he’s not supposed to do. Granted, we do shoo him away from various places and things, so it’s definitely imitative behaviour. Once she kept yelling at him to get him away from his dish, and it took us a moment or two to realise that she was imitating us shooing him away from Cricket’s dish when she imagines something is scaring her and runs off, leaving food in her bowl. So we find ourselves now having to tell Owlet that no, it’s all right, the cat is allowed to do whatever he’s doing. Except in the past couple of days we’ve noticed her shooing Cricket away from her own bowl, so apparently she thinks no cat is ever supposed to eat from that bowl, ever.

Her hair is a lovely honey colour, a warm light brown. Her curls are getting longer, which means the weight is pulling them down a bit and they’re becoming more waves with a half-ringlet at the bottom. Her hair dries super-curly, but it’s so fine that the curl slips out of it after sleeping or wearing a hat. Sometimes she reaches for my green spray bottle in the bathroom, and I spray her hair and squish it into curls for her. She loves the spray bottle, thank goodness. We’re sweeping her uneven, thin bangs to the side at the moment, but I wonder if trimming them to an even fringe might work better. (My heart just about stops every time I consider that. My baby can’t possibly be old enough to need a haircut.)