Saturday, December 30, 2006

Here are my Noro purchases in one to three ball lots, from the left Transitions (which is wool, cashmere, alpaca, angora, camel, kid mohair and silk, which sounds like it's what was swept off the floor at the end of a day and whose color mix is about as homogeneous), Silk Garden, and Shinano which is wool & silk and gets my vote for the most interesting without being exotic. When one has limited opportunities to fondle Noro one can't say, oh I know what these feel like and I'll buy this. I have numerous one-ball Noro hat patterns and my vote goes with the Shinano which I also have 3 balls of. I might make a hat for A out of the Silk Garden, and look for matching/coordinating yarn for mittens. The Transitions is definitely the softest but I don't think would make decent mitten as it is spun too loosely and would either not last or would felt unevenly.

At the left is the ball of grey wool from the spotted fleece. I mentioned before that part of it was much lighter grey than the rest.

Before sitting down to blog I vacuumed the living room and both bedrooms and changed the linen on both beds. I would do massive amounts of laundry except the forecast is 80% for thunderstorms this afternoon, which I am hoping is right but am not willing to do laundry to prove. Since the cricket finished in 3 days instead of 5 I will have to turn to videos or DVDs or take naps. Most folks who are out and about are tracking down post-Christmas bargains and since there is nothing I want to buy, I stay home and listen to crested pigeons saying "Hoo!". They nest in the tree between the 2 houses and I watch the males display to the females each year. A variation on feral pigeon displays involving puffing your self up and making funny hooting noises.It must work as a new lot of crested pigeons appears every year. We also have baby magpies, blackbirds (introduced) and rosellas. There might be a willy wagtail nesting in the enormous rose bush that occupies the corner of the back yard but I am not sure since this would be the first year and I'm not sure what to look for.

Friday, December 29, 2006

All this blogging when not working. Today I put new linings in the living room drapes that face east and get the first summer sun. Somehow the lining developed mysterious holes when the Imp was a kitten. She tended to see shadows and try to catch them. The sheers on the front windows need replacing as well but they are only decorative whereas the liners are thermal protection.

I listened to the podcast from The Yarn Shop which in this instance is in Powatan, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond and a place I recognize from driving past signs directing to it a million times between Washington and Petersburg in an earlier life. The owner of the yarn shop in question also raises cashmere goats so that input is of value as well. Another site of interest I stumbled upon is also from a previous life, the Raleigh News & Observer which has a fibre column in their Lifestyle section.

To continue our weird weather we have continued cool weather and this afternoon had a thunderstorm with buckets of rain, and quite a bit of hail. It is prefereable to 40C and will help the zucchini I am grooming to be a blimp reach a size to become pickles. However, the blueberry folks informed me when I called that they had total crop failure and there would be no blueberries this year. Gnashing of teeth because I LOVE blueberries. I think I have just about finished off the rest of the berries by making berry jelly.
If you can't tell, I'm having one of those wired in the middle of the night spells possibly brought on my too much chocolate after a 4 month gap. I have been looking at the Harlot's Socks that rock and think that the sock wool I just ordered from the Etsy shop of Yarnahoy is at least as striking and easier for me to get. I also added a button to my bog template for knitting from your stash. Easy for me to say as with the exception of some summer cottony things I have only added to my stash in sock wool and handspun. Therefore promising to knit from my stash is a relatively painless promise. I am actually lusting to knit from my stash. I have finished the cardigan's sleeves and have half a pocket lining done then on to the fronts. Math4knitters clued me into worksheets for doing the planning for a top down raglan sleeve pullover so that's up there although I am not sure that my first top down should be for the Bear. He can be very agreeable until it's too late when he announces it binds across the shoulders or something similar when I've already reached the end.

It was equally spooky to look at my blog stats and find referrals from a French discussion group that's discussing Robertas. I was beginning to freak. I MUST got to bed!!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Found it! Sticks & String. And a fun lot of more Aussie podcasts. Now I don't have to do my own especially because I don't sound Australian, do I?

I got my book on Lithuanian braids which are very colourful but look like they are woven out of extremely fine warp--thread-like almost. There is no way I can do an authentic replication but the design elements and colours are vibrant and interesting altho I will probably stay away from the swastikas, no matter how ancient the symbology.

I also meant to comment on how interesting His Majesty's Spanish Flock is.Apparently English sheeps' wool was washed on the sheeps' back before shearing and this techniques did not work with the Spanish sheep because of the heaviness of the grease they carried in their fleece. The Spanish washed the fleece in hot water after shearing and this added to the cost of preparing the wool for processing in England. Some comments on how the merinos were not used to the rich wet pastures around Windsor and suffered from various foot complaints because of this shows how they had been adapted to the high and harsher landscapes of Spain. I have just gotten to Sir Joseph Banks receiving the first wool from the merinos raised by Captain MacArthur in New South Wales (1801)and judging the rams' wool to be equivalent to the Spanish rams' fleece from the King's flock. His judgement was that the production of fine wool would be a good commodity for the new colony. Two hundred years later and our economy is tied to wool in both good and bad ways. The drought is having an adverse effect on the ability of wool-growers to maintain production and in some cases even maintain their breeding stock. From other viewpoints, we have been trying to grow wool in areas that are marginal in terms of agriculture and this is Mother Nature swatting us back into place (altho she should take it out on the rice and cotton growers as much as woolgrowers). I have also just read the Australian Bush Conservancy's report the numbers of feral animals removed from their reserves is staggering. Horses, camels, donkeys, cats, foxes, wild dogs in the thousands. The good news is that the threatened species bounce back (usually) when given protection from ferals
I have recovered my cardigan's sleeve back to almost the casting off part. Hooray! I sooooo hate reknitting. I rewarded myself by flickcarding and then drumcarding some of the feelthy fleece. I wound off the plied yarn from the spotted fleece so that I can now (or almost now) can ply the dragon hair and start spinning something besides camel down. I listened to Math4knitters podcast while I carded and I like it a lot, possiby because there is very little math in it and Laura is always saying how she couldn't learn math while growing up. This inability to grasp math, which in my case is really limited to arithmetic since I got excellent grades in all non-arithmetic math genres, is the one thing that stands between me and designing stuff and why I tend to tweak patterns rather than strike out on my own. I don't even trust that I have managed to figure out what numbers need to get added together or whatever, so a calculator doesn't necessarily help. I have used sweater design software and I like it for very basic designs. I will probably use it to design the jumper for the Bear which is next on my to-knit list and since he's so ginormous it will take forever and he won't allow me to do cables or anything to relieve the monotony, claiming they are too "fussy" whatever that equates to in bear land.

I went out and found more knitting podcasts to try altho I cannot find the one I have heard reference to several times which is supposedly from an Aussie bloke who knits. If somebody out there knows the name of it please tell me. I caught up on my podcasts of Lingua franca yesterday as well. Podcasting seems to be fraught with technical difficulties so I haven't jumped in yet. I also don't think I have a very attractive speaking voice which is one thing when I'm lecturing about something I know more about than my audience and quite another when I am supposedly entertaining (as I guess podcasts are supposed to be). I whipped off the article that has been percolating at the back of my brain for some months about the Bendigo wool show and shipped it off the Fiber Femmes, hopefully in time for their deadline which I missed several times already. I don't have much of a clue as to what my readership base is with this blog aside from a few identifiable friends so I don't know whether anything I do is really of interest to the average knitter. There's lots I could say about things like, my philosophy of socks, what the attraction is with raw fibre (occasionally), why I blog instead of knit sometimes (like now). I do resent knitting podcasts that are short on knittting content and unless someone lives a very exciting life, I don't much care for blogs without a strong underlying theme. About the only exception I will make to that generalization is Crazy Aunt Purl who is just so out there you have to love her or hate her.

It is quickly approaching my afternoon nap time. For some reason I get exceedingly sleepy around 3.30-4PM and sometimes manage to keep a nap at bay but today isn't going to be one of those days. And I got all the way here without vacuuming or laundry either. Shame on me for being a slothful slob who willl someday be eaten alive by dust bunnies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I hope you all survived the holidays intact and healthy. I discovered that I was very much dependant on the anti-histamines I had been taking to be able to breathe at night. I forgot to get them and wondered why I was sleeping poorly, why my nose was running constantly, why I had a headache unrelated to the the volume of chocolate I ate. Then I realized what I had stopped taking because I thought it expendable. Out on Boxing Day to find an all-hours chemist and now my nose is no longer dripping and I slept through the night. It seems that almost all my Christmas presents were cat related for reasons that are hard to fathom. I especially like the cat craft book's suggestion that you save up all your cat's hair, learn to spin, and then knit the result.

Today my loyal postie brought my book on Lithuanian sashes whose photos and diagrams are fantastic, even if I can't read the text, and a package of ebay fibre: wool & mohair for socks and gorgeous silk. While I am dying to spin, I must knit furiously as I discovered almost at the end of the second of the cardigan's sleeves that I had started off with the wrong number of stitches. I had to rip all the way back to the ribbing and re-knit and I am almost back where I started from. I have reloaded my iPod with podcasts, there is cricket on TV so I must knit like the wind (apologies to Breand's podcast intro).

Friday, December 22, 2006

I mentioned that I listen to podcasts while I work or, as this morning, while I iron. Two of my favourite podcasts are Here on Earth from Wisconsin public radio, and Bush Telegraph from our own ABC public radio. Both transport me into environments that I would otherwise never visit, whether it's harvesting wild rice in the Northern hemisphere or listening to a carer of an husband with Alzheimer's in rural Australia. I encourage anyone who can afford the most basic MP3 player to download and listen if streaming is too tempermental in your locale.

I just forked over the $$ to sign up for the weaving course next term at the ANU. I look at the beautiful things other people weave and hope I can at least step on the lowest rung of this new ladder, so that I may on the future create things as basic as placemats and tea towels for our home. I don't think I will ever run out of things to learn and practice so that I will keep my brain alert as I grow older. Apparently that seems to be one of the keys in keeping healthy mentally in your later years; a mind that is still learning and active is less prone to dementia and (especially close to me) depression. Maybe even if nobody reads this blog, at least it will keep my brain ticking over, trying to find the right turn of phrase to capture what's going on between my ears.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On knitters' podcasts. I have trialed about 5 different knitting podcasts over the past 2 months and I am sorry to report that only one (Brenda's) is worth regular listening. Most of the others are either full of random thoughts like "I knit a red hat. I don't know who I'm going to give it to." or hysterical giggling at in-jokes that the rest of the world doesn't get. Or noises off the microphone that either prompt a long explanation or something disrupting the course of the podcast. Don't these people have notes before hand so they know what they are going to talk about? If they lose their place or get interrupted, can't they pause the recording and perhaps rerecord the bit where they fumbled around looking for the notes? Maybe it irks me (one of my favourite MIL expressions) because I used to do a lot of public speaking in my previous job and I learned to speak in complete sentences, to enunciate, and to talk at a speed and volume that were easy for people to hear and understand. People who do podcasts should learn to do the same things. I toyed with the idea of doing a podcast that was less cutesy and perhaps more witty and definitely more on-topic but I'm not sure what I'd cover that isn't in my blog already. (and as a naturalized Australian, I get annoyed when people in the US find our vocabulary in some way cute or even worth calling attention to in any way; the worst side of Americans is implying if not outright declaring that the American way is "right" and all others are quaint or wrong. Somewhere along the line I have morphed from being seen as a tourist into being treated as a permanent resident since I am no longer asked how long I'm here for, but instead how many years I've lived here) I am cutting back on the podcasts I listen to and want to listen to more music.

I made the third batch of berry jam today and this time I tried it by the seat of the pants method with bulk pectin and a guess at proportions. I am following the knitting tradtion that ignores all the yarn manufacturers warnings printed on patterns that if you use any yarn but that specified "your results may be unsatisfactory." When I first started knitting that instruction terrified me, especialy because I have a lot of old knitting patterns for yarns no longer made. Now that I have handspun I know that you are your own designer and anything goes. My first project involving hand spun is one the inkle loom as pictured on the right. While I know it's nothing special, it's all mine, from raw fleece to spun yarn to dyed and now woven. The colours are an interesting mix and nothing at all like what I was aiming at but they work, I think. I have only woven about 8" of a rather long warp and I have lots more yarn dyed. As I said earlier, I intend to weave enough to make a tote-style bag. English Leicester has such a luster it almost glows but is definitely high on the prickle factor so I might add some leather to the handles, and will definitely line it as anything sharp would poke a hole in it. The inkle loom is C-clamped to a little rolling kitchen work table with a ceramic tile top, one small drawer and wire baskets below full of crochet cotton at the moment.

One of the great frustrations in my life healthwise is forcing myself not to do things I want to do. I made jam this morning, which involved standing a bit. I would like to put the ornaments on the tree but that also invoves standing and if I did that my legs would be useless (i.e., in great pain) for at least one day. So I force myself to sit down, do computer stuff, weave a bit, watch things I've taped from the past month of TV, etc. It is also cool and damp today (it rained last night) and would be an excellent time to do gardening stuff but that's standing work too (I can't kneel). There is still the whiff of smoke in the air and things look bad in eastern Victoria. I keep thinking of that for our potential rural lifestyle.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ARGH. Headache, legs ache, generally want to retreat to my bed but even lying in bed makes different places (my back) hurt after a while. I managed to get the Christmas tree up and lights and garlands on yesterday but haven't got any ornaments on. The Imp only tried to eat the tree, but that's not unusual. I have to go pick up my new contact lenses so maybe after that. Missed another day at work but have accumulated flex time to cover. Just trying to focus my eyes hurts.

After a few quite cool days it's hot again. I must sit down with the Bear and prepare an emergency escape package during fire season so I don't have to think about that if we do get a scare. I made 2 batches of mixed berry jam, one with reduced sugar. It set but tastes different. More like fresh berries and less sweet? Hard to put my finger (or tongue) on what's different.

I finished one sleeve on J's cardie and one of the Bear's grey socks and have cast on the second. I've woven about 6" on the inkle loom and am somewhat satisfied with the results. I won the sash book on ebay so I expect some new ideas. The current project is the first almost serious inkling--that is,not just playing to see how it works. Since warp and weft are equal in weight it's not really warp faced weave but the colours are nice. Photos to follow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This is what the Imp looks like when it's 35C (ca. 95F) as it was yesterday afternoon. The air was full of smoke from a bushfire 50 kms to the west. Then a front went through and at midday (noon) today it is by my thermometer 14F or about 54C and I'm wondering if I need to put on a heavier top or just keep cuddling the Imp who is curled up on my left arm purring. The limas were loving the hot weather and they are probably are wondering what happened to the sun.

The only knitting news to report is that I am de-stashing my books and have been ruthless in getting rid of those I know I won't use or have enough info in other books that I use frequently. They are all up on ebay (Australia). I have bought some bits & pieces of Noro on ebay to knit one ore more one-ball Noro hats. I love the colours and fibre blends of Noro but it just costs too much to knit an entire garment out of it. I am down to the toe of the first of the Bear's grey socks and am reinforcing the toes with nylon in addition to the nylon in the yarn.

More progress on cleaning out the *stuff* infesting the house. Any step is a step in the right direction. Because of the $$ involved with my eyes I will not be tracking down plasterers any more till after the holidays. The Bear bought his own Christmas present of an iPod nano. It's tres cute and electric blue. But it's so tiny I would surely lose it. Mine is an "old" 30G. and it's not half full!

Came home a little early because of developing headache. Not sure whether it's eyes or a morning spent on authority work. After I eat I will lie down.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rules for people with kerataconus: Make good friends with a reliable optician/optometrist, one who is not terrified that you have a corneal irregularity or frightened of fitting RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses on a graft. There are a lot of optometrists who would rather deal in fashion lenses (and charge accordingly) and can't believe how frequently your vision changes. When I was first diagnosed, the ophthalmologist I was seeing at time once practically refused to fit me with lenses because my eyes would be changing. So, you are going to leave me really visually impaired just because I'll need new lenses in 6 months? Make good friends also with an ophthalmologist/eye surgeon for the same reasons. Some surgeons are more comfortable dealing with cataracts and glaucoma and even eye injuries but kerataconus may be something they studied in eye-doctor-school but can be reluctant to do the sometimes radical things to your eyes. The doctor I was referred to when I got to Australia freaked when he detected a blood vessel approaching the graft. If the vessel reached the graft the cornea could be rejected and I'd have to get a new graft. He then told me two things I found out later were false. There was a SEVEN YEAR waiting list for corneas and once you rejected one the powers that dispense the corneas would be reluctant to give you another. So he told me to take the lens I had out of the offending eye and never wear a lens in that eye again, thereby causing me to be essentially blind in one eye. I asked for a second opinion and he sent me not to another doctor in Canberra but to Sydney, where that doctor only confirmed what I believed and that it was safe to wear lenses once the irritation that had caused the original problem had subsided. Back in Canberra the quack (my term of endearment for this Dr.) removed all the stitches from my graft in one session without anesthetic and sent me on my way. Ow is a very large understatement. Fortunately the Library was offering free eye check-ups for anyone doing computer-based work and I went to a different optometrist. When I saw on their list of specialties kerataconus I practically danced for joy. Now I have my eyes monitored and trust them completely and they referred me to a different eye surgeon who is fantastic.

Why am I going on about this today? I have been noticing some deterioration in my vision, both distance and close. I wear reading glasses for close work and the lenses seemed out of sync; what was clear at X inches for one eye was not clear for the other eye at the same distance. So I saw said wonderful optometrist today and I was not losing my mind (one of the things that has made me depressed is straining to see) and my vision has changed and I need new contacts and new glasses. So I'm looking at probably $1200 in eye stuff soon. I will be getting new lenses made by Nikon on my glasses that are sort of bifocals in that they grade from looking straight ahead at a computer screen to a stronger grade if I'm looking down to read (or knit). It will mean going back to wearing full size glasses for a lot of what I do at the Library and perhaps at home too. While I've hated wearing glasses for eons, I hate not being able to see worse. One of the many things I resent about my father's tight purse is that he deemed contact lenses for me as too expensive and I later found out that my eyes probably would not have deteriorated so fast had I been wearing contacts from an earlier age (they were one of the first things I bought when I had a real job). Penny wise, pound foolish.

Hot and dry again. All normal TV has left the screen for the silly season, where we get bad American shows that were cancelled or snippets of good ones or other unwatchable things. So I have been watching Bangkok Hilton which was a mini-series Nicole Kidman did when she was very young, and Season 6 of Gilmore Girls which might get shown here, except they stopped showing it in the middle of the 5th season last summer so who knows what they'll do this year. Foxtel has just added the Scifi Channel so there's lots to watch there. I saw the very first episode of the X Files last week. I am not a fan but it was kinda amusing to the the two before they really knew each other. I was quite cheery at work yesterday due entirely to loading Cheap Trick and Def Leppard onto the iPod and I came home and loaded all the remaining Def Leppard. Some reviewer once called them "the thinking person's heavy metal band" and I must agree. I was dancing in the stacks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I have been totally negligent about my blog. On the one hand there is very little new stuff to post about. I am knitting grey socks for the Bear, J's cardigan, spinning Dragon hair, not inkle weaving. As well, I have been driven nuts by the black dog for a week. For those of you who had not heard this euphemism before (and I hadn't before I came to Oz), I have been depressed. But enough about me! This blog is supposed to be about.... me? I have no reason to be depressed bar the usual. Pain, mess, barking dogs, noisy neighbours (why do the girls next door have to converse at such a volume after I've told them already I can hear every word they say since their living room window is 3 meters from my bedroom window?). The nice couple across the street had a screaming fight (not the first) Friday evening with much yelling of the F word at the tops of their voices in the front yard, each telling the other to leave the house, ending with him throwing stuff in the ute and driving off followed by her playing some dreadful hip--hop type music so loud it set up a sonic vibration making their windows rattle. And all of this with 2 (3?) small children at home. I made nominal progress in our house, with the hedgetrimmer having left the building finally. I have been unable to find a plasterer yet as they either don't return messages, say they will call but don't, or say it's too far for them to drive. Canberra is not that big, folks. Why do people advertise if they don't want the work? Can I ask the newspaper to pull the ad because they don't really mean "no job too small"? And blaming it on Christmas when it's the first of the month is absurd.

Anything new? I have lima beans sprouted! I laid a new drip hose last night as the old one had spuing a leak and discovered limas. Wrestling a hose which has spent its formative months coiled in a circle to lie flat is not fun for me or the hose. We are due to go on more stringent water restrictions in a week or so because it hasn't rained, but drip systems are allowed. The possums have been eating my strawberries. They do not eat the other berries and I made the first batch of mixed berry jam on Sunday. I planted a miniature watermelon pair (yellow and orange) in the spot of the garden that has killed 4 different melon plants despite careful watering. I won't be sad if nothing becomes a melon but it's a waste of a great spot. I'll plant some silverbeet (swiss chard) there later in the season.

I plied the grey wool from the spotted fleece and got a bit short of a full (big) bobbin's worth. I want to spin more and knit less but J's cardigan is first priority followed by the grey socks. I am continuing to card the grey fluff and when I asked about how to get a more homogeneous batt was given the advice to flick card first before drum carding. Well, the result are much more satisfying but its's adding another whole laayer of work to the process and showing me how much short fibre is in this wool ( A LOT ) and I am again cursing myself for having invested so much effort already in this fleece when it should probably been composted. But the good fibre is silky and shiney and very soft. It's just the finding of the good wool....

I have bid on a book on ebay of Latvian sashes. In Latvian. I've seen some of the cotents of this book and I figure it will translate to the inkle loom. The last time this book was up nobody bid on it so maybe I'll end up with a totally useless bit of weaving junk. See how cheery I am?