Monthly Archives: May 2013

Knitting And Spinning April-May 2013

It took me two months, but I finally finished the test knit for n e o n, an acquaintance’s toddler sweater. This is knit from a wool/nylon yarn I found in my stash that my mother had passed along to me, originally a partly-knit pullover, and dyed by me with purple acid dyes. I learned how to do wrap and turn short row shaping (both the regular way and the garter stitch way for wrap and turns when the regular one didn’t work for me), and a three-needle bind off. Things I have learned: I think I am very good at weaving in ends. I can’t find most of them. But seaming garter stitch is not as fun as it appears to be in photos. Also, when you have used a contrast yarn for the cast on and then later sew the two pieces together, you need to somehow carry the contrast yarn across the seam so that it looks like one piece after joining. I did that by weaving in the front ends across to the back, and vice versa.

I love the contrast bind off on the shoulders, the picked-up cuffs with the contrast bind off, and the buttons on the sleeves. I did something weird on the right side of the placket; only I can mess up garter stitch. I am calling it rustic and embracing it. Everyone’s going to be looking at the sleeves and the little girl wearing it, anyway, right?

Owlet has bedhead in these pictures because we did the photos right after her nap. She was surprisingly cooperative. And then she got upset when I took the sweater off, and whinged until I put it back on her. Best baby ever!

I spun the lovely blue-green-purple gradient braid of BFL I dyed for my own fibre club in March (I posted a picture of the dyed fibre here). I ended up with something like 350-370 yards of lovely DK weight yarn, spun worsted and chain-plied. Ceri now owns it, and I hope she pets it often, because it is so deliciously silky. Look at that BFL lustre! You’d think there was silk in it.

In April, I dyed 3.5 oz of BFL/silk blend top. I experimented with braiding the damp top and injecting purple, green, and chestnut dye in random spots with a syringe, because when it spun up I wanted different subtle streaks of colour and the natural colour of the fibre too. Well, it’s working.

I’ll ply this with a plain undyed single of BFL/silk to make the colours even more subtle, which means I need more BFL/silk top. I shall add it to my list of things to buy from the local spinning/weaving studio over the summer! Ultimately, the yarn is destined for a triangular lace shawlette that I’ll tuck into the neck of my spring/fall jacket.

In May, I dyed some fibre for a swap package destined for another spinner. I worked with two fibres I’d never dyed before, a mixed BFL top (also called humbug BFL, because it’s streaked natural and brown like a humbug candy), and superwash Merino/bamboo, which was deliciously silky.

The mixed BFL I dyed in three shades of green, a mossy green I blended, a dark emerald, and a half-strength emerald solution. I wasn’t sure about it when it came out. It seemed awfully dark, and the variegation in the mixed BFL was kind of lost. I think the colours I used were too saturated for it.

So I dyed a second braid of mixed BFL, mostly with the moss green I mixed, and added a contrast highlight of russet red:

This time I got the saturation right so I could see the natural variegation of the base fibre more clearly, but I realized that while it looked great in the braid, spinning red with green gives you, well, brown. So I ended up sending my swap partner the original green braid, as she loves green, and I called that colourway Malachite. I called the second version Apple Orchard and it stands as my May entry in the My Own Fibre Club series. (Which means I get to spin it at some point and find out if the red and green really do merge into a muddy brown, or if I can spin it intentionally so that the red bits stay red. We shall find out!)

The second braid I dyed for my partner was a very daring (for me, anyway) assembly of bright colours: sky blue, emerald, golden ochre, and chestnut. I love how it turned out so much that I will now spam you with lots of pictures of the process.

I loved how saturated the colours were when the fibre was wet.

And when it dried, you could see the streaks of white bamboo against the dyed Merino. (Acid dyes don’t dye bamboo; you need another kind of dye for that.) It’s a wonderful effect.

I’m going to do another version of this one for myself. I called the colourway Sunflowers Under Blue Skies. This was hard to photograph, because the white, shiny bamboo kept picking up the lights and making the braid look even lighter than it was.

I’ve been getting to know the little secondhand Baynes wheel I scored at a fabulous price. It’s got very sensitive tension adjustments, and I find I either feel like I’m gripping the fibre so it doesn’t run away into the orifice or there’s no takeup at all. It spins incredibly smoothly, though. I’ve been using the regular flyer, but the braid of BFL I’ve been working through should probably have been spun on the faster flyer; I’d have had fewer problems with the single drifting apart. That means my tension and the wind-on aren’t quite right. I have two bobbins with 2 oz on each; now I get to ply them together. The hooks are driving me crazy, too, since even when I swing them I can’t fill the bobbin evenly. I’ve ordered a pair of the pinch-and-slide yarn guide hooks that the newer flyers come equipped with from the US rep, and I’ll take the hooks off both the regular and faster flyer and use the sliding one instead. That way I can control the packing of the bobbin more efficiently.

Here’s a photo of it, since I realize I didn’t post one before. I love that I can carry it around, and spin in the playroom while Owlet watches PBS or plays with the trains. I’m looking forward to spinning outside this summer, too. The Tour de Fleece is coming up at the end of June!

Fibro: The Next Step

As of today, I am officially back on the medication for my fibro. I’ve been off it for about five years now, having stopped taking it after a year so we could try for another baby. (When it looked like that was a strike-out I went back to the doctor and said, “I cannot deal with the pain and physical fatigue any more, and it looks like the second baby isn’t going to happen, so I need to start taking it again even though I don’t want to.” I took it for three weeks and then ta-da, baby conceived, so I stopped again; it didn’t even really get properly underway that time.)

Somewhat ironically, over the past couple of days I’ve felt the best I have in about three months. But my appointment with the doctor was scheduled for today, so in I drove through stupid traffic (an accident on the highway meant I was late and Owlet was fit to be tied after being stuck in the car for an hour and twenty minutes). And it went like this:

    Me: So these are my symptoms. I think the fibro is making a comeback.

    Dr: Good grief, if it’s this bad, why didn’t you come to me sooner? It’s a chronic illness. How much Tylenol are you taking a day? And periods of using melatonin to knock yourself out and sleep deeply enough?

    Me: Um.

    Dr: It seems silly to suffer when we have a therapy that worked in the past, doesn’t it?

    Me: Well, um… yes? I guess I’m just… stubborn? About taking medication and… other things like admitting it’s bad enough that I need to do something?

    Dr: Well, let’s move past that and improve your life quality again, shall we? You’ll feel a lot better on several levels, including mood and outlook above and beyond the physical benefits of less pain and fatigue both muscular and mental, and you can stop beating yourself up.

I am so, so thankful that my new GP is just as supportive and open-minded as my old one. And apparently also knows me really well already. Heh.

This afternoon, Owlet and I have an appointment at her new daycare. It turns out it’s starting operations in two months, so she’ll be starting there the first week of August. I’m excited for her; I know she’ll love it. And it overlaps with a week or so of Sparky’s summer day camp, so he and I will be able to have a couple of hours in the afternoon together alone, which I know he’ll appreciate. We do have some work to do first, though; toilet training needs to formally start this summer, as does Operation Phase Out the Soother.

I owe the blog a post on my spinning and dyeing. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. My swap partner seems to love the package I sent her, which had some lovely dyed fibre in it, so I’ll show that off, too.


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.

Owlet: Twenty-One Months Old!

Now that the weather’s nice, we get multiple requests for “Ousside? Ousside?” each day. When we are ousside, she mucks about in the dirt of the garden, inspects every flower (or “flowerfly,” if you are Owlet), giggles on the swing till she hiccoughs, picks up rocks and carries them to new places, and picks up as many sticks as she can till her hands are full. And then she stands and stares at the ones in her hands, wondering what to do with them, because there’s another stick on the ground, right there, and if she lets go of the bouquet of sticks with one hand to reach for it the ones she’s holding will fall, and that will be a crisis of unimaginable proportion.

She adores pine cones, dandelions, standing on manhole covers and crouching down to poke her fingers in the grooves and holes, and stopping to talk to random people on the sidewalk. One of her latest obsessions is the small bell tower around the corner. We can see it from our back porch, as a matter of fact. Every day as we pull into the driveway she asks two things: “Flowerflies?” If I tell her no, we can’t spend half an hour in the front garden examining every single flower that is currently in bloom, she asks, “Bayels?” We walked once to the church to look at the bells, and now she asks to do it several times a day. Most of the time it’s a nice way to kill twenty minutes, especially in the early morning after we’re back from dropping Sparky off at school, but sometimes I have stuff to do, and it’s not a convenient time.

She is also currently enthralled with bugs of all kinds. She is especially fond of bees; bee-bugs (which are ladybugs); fufferfies (we get this one mixed up with flowerflies a lot, to her frustration); and nails (snails: she pointed at the spiral in Ceri’s seal tattoo the other day and informed her that there was a snail in it). We have recently managed to get her to understand that the buzzing sound in the sky is not a bee, but a plane. Mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumber are the best snacks ever. Unless there are goldfish crackers in the house. Then all bets are off.

New words are too numerous to keep track of any more. Monster, snail, loom, sit, sauce, pizza, dip, snack, bite (“Bite?” she says hopefully when she sees you eating something, and she offers you bites of whatever she is eating, too… also to the cat, whether he is there or not), diaper, people, sure (it is hilarious to ask her if she wants something and to hear a laid-back “Shuuuure!” in reply), and phrases like “here you go” chirped every time she puts something down by you. About six weeks ago she started calling me Mummy instead of Mama, and it’s rarely once at a time; it’s usually Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. Today I asked her, “Do you want to help me?” “Help you? Shuuuure!” she said. That’s huge, being able to turn the pronoun around from “me” to “you” and use it correctly like that.

She wakes up around 6:30, has lunch around 11:30, and has a nap from roughly noon till 2:00. Then we go get Sparky at school for 3:45, have supper around 6:00, and she’s in bed by 7:00. When she wakes up from naps she calls for Gryff (“Maow! Maow!”) and I open the door for him. He runs in and they get all excited, because the next thing I do is lift the cat into the crib, and the two of them lie there and talk to one another. Owlet covers him with blankets, asks me for some books and reads to him, or just lies down and cuddles with him until he’s had enough. It’s really sweet. The two of them play an odd game of Marco Polo in the house, too. If Gryff is somewhere and meows, Owlet will meow back, and the Gryff will reply, and they’ll carry on like that for a while.

We cut out the bottle or cup before her nap entirely; now it’s just snuggling with the soother till she’s asleep, which is usually in about five minutes, and then I slip her into the crib. (We do the opposite at bedtime: a couple of ounces of milk still, then into bed awake, although we need to switch that milk over to a cup of water now). Over this summer we need to start weaning her off the soother before naps, because she won’t have it at daycare.

She’s still incredibly social. When we drive to or from school, she waves to bus drivers (“Hello, peoples!”), and blows kisses to the drivers around us as we pull away from red lights. She’s cheerful, likes to make sure everyone gets hugs and kisses when people leave (family hugs are particularly important before Daddy goes to work in the morning), and shares everything with everyone, but expects the same in return. (You weren’t going to eat half that bowl of pasta, were you? Or that scone? Or drink that cup of tea?).