Friday, December 31, 2010

Doily Craze!

I am officially crazy about knitting doilies.  I am most fascinated with their construction.  It's probably my math teacher brain that is so intrigued with them.  Well, not probably, it is.  I love all of the symmetry and constructions and proportions.  For example, here is a doily:

Not overly unique but it illustrates the basics.  The whole thing is made up of repeating sections.  All you are ever doing is knitting this section of knitting eight times.

This doily has a cast on of 8.  Eight pattern repetitions equals eight cast on stitches.  Basically, what you are doing is building a piece of pie from the point up, or for math teachers, a sector from the center to the circle's edge.

I have been trying to find a set formula for the amount of increases necessary to have a flat piece of work.  This is my thinking.  Let's say that I cast on 6 sts and just keep knitting round after round after round; my finished product will be a tube.  If I add increases, evenly spaced and every round or every few rounds, my piece will grow outwards and lie flat.  The problem is here, if I increase too little, my work will start to look like a bowl; if I increase too much, my work will have ripples.  So, what is the right amount of increase?

 I'm finding that there is not one set answer, rather a range of possibilities.  This bugs me.  I like my math to have a nice clean answer (this is probably why I don't teach that fake math, Statistics). 

Designing is another level unto itself.  I sort of played with a simple design using constructions and symmetry.  I ended up with a nice little picture.  But how to translate that into a pattern?  When do you know to end a motif and continue with a new one?  I was banging my head against that wall trying to figure this one out and after almost a bottle of wine and several sheets of paper, the math bubble broke open in my brain...Proportions!  The thing I use consistently in knitting and cooking eluded me for most of the evening.  Obviously, I was trying to make things WAY to hard.

So, now I'm at the point of trying to put it all together.  Tomorrow I'll start the knitting and charting.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Holiday Stress is Over!

I am a huge fan of the Holidays but lately they have turned into a ton of work.  Last year, my entire family showed up for Christmas.  It was so stressful, that when the last one left, I came down with a cold and spent the rest of my winter break on the couch.

This year, it was just me, Jeff and our nephew Alex.  We participated in our neighbourhood block party (we did dessert) and held our annual party on the 23rd.  Both were amazing successes.  Jeff and I have leaned to to entertain quite well.

Our good friends and neighbours , Paul and Gail, had us over for Christmas dinner.  It was so nice not having to cook that meal too.  Even with the lessened work from last year, I'm still tired.  However, this has not stopped me from knitting. 

I've been jumping around from project to project of late, not quite being able to get interested in just one.  For some reason, I am being sucked into this vortex of lace knitting.

I know that I said that I wasn't fond of it after completing my sister's shawl but I'm changing my mind.  I think the problem with the shawl was the pattern; not enough going on, too much of the same over and over again.

I am now fascinated by knitting lace doilies and circular shawls.  I totally blame MMario for this.  It was his Queen Ann's Lace pattern that got me going.

I really enjoy teaching all about circles in my Geo class and I really like circular trig and I think this just falls in to that realm.

In order to understand the process better, I am working on a lace doily and sort of dissecting it while making it.  I have been taking copious notes on what stitches to what and when and how increases are happening. etc.  It has been super informative even though Jeff thinks I'm a total dork for doing this.

On the yarn front, I'm finding as I progress through my knitting experience, that I'm not finding the colours that I like at my LYS(s) or, if I do find yarn that I like, they never have enough and it's super expensive. It's driving my nuts.

I'm really into kettle dyed yarn in one colour group. I just love the way one colour flows from light to dark and back again. Anyway, I think it's time to take matters into my own hands. That's right, I'm going to start experimenting with dying my own yarns. But don't worry, I'll be f'ing up my own kitchen and not yours. The only problem now is that there isn't going to be enough time to do all of my fiber related projects. Sigh...

Also, on the yarn front, I have been hanging on to this skein from Curious Creek Fibers called "Happiness Is."  It was gifted to us at the 2009 Men's Knitting Retreat.  Well, I set out to get a bunch more of it to make it into something beautiful.  Thank the Universe for Ravelry and Men Who Knit for all the kind sellers and donors who enabled me to piece together a enough skeins.

The yarn is a lovely blue-purple.  It's more blue or purple depending on the light.  Here are two pictures that illustrate what I am talking about.

Yum, can't wait for them all to get here!

Okay, enough ranting for now; back to the doilies!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lace Shawl Done

I did my first ever lace project, the Chinook Shawl.  Here it is all laid out being blocked.  Now that I have done lace, I have to admit that it's not going to be one of my favourite genres of knitting.  It seemed to be too much of the same thing over and over and over and over.  However, it could be the pattern and not lace knitting in general.  I'm still thinking that I'm a sweater man.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Steeking Away!

There is nothing better for getting a ton of knitting done than a long plane flight coupled with a long stay at your parents house.  This has been my recent experience; a nice long flight from Portland to Houston (and back) and then lots of time watching old movies with my parents.
This allowed me to complete the body of my first ever fair isle sweater.  The next step was to cut open the steeks and pick up the stitches for the sleeves.  Having never cut open my knitting before, this was a terrifying concept for me to wrap my brain around.  Anyway, after a glass of wine, I had enough courage to cut away. (actually, the wine probably wasn't the best idea) 
At some level, I feel that cutting open your first steek is a rite of passage in the world of knitting; so, I documented it.  Here are the pictures!
Look at all of that knitting that I'm about to cut into.

And here it is; a beautiful open space for me to pick up stitches for the sleeve.  I'm actually very surprised at how well this works.  I did backstitch the edges of the steeks just to be on the safe side; however, the steeks just rolled up on themselves and stayed put.  I have started the sleeves and it's knitting up really well.  Doing seamless sweaters this way just makes a ton of sense.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Little Miracles

Well, the latest gay discrimination incident with my employer seems to be working itself to some form of resolution.  To avoid all of the of the nasty details, I'll just summarize and say that the remedy is just a step in the right direction.  My school district really needs to do a lot more work around GLBT issues.

The whole situation made me very depressed and on Wednesday I started my day with my internal committee in full session.   Most of the questions coming out of their meeting were of the "Why do I still teach?" genera.  Well, the universe has many unique ways of answering questions.

During my plan time, I happened to pass the tap studio and I poked my head in.  The class was filled with sixth graders who were, being sixth graders, complaining about how hard tap dancing is.  Not being able to keep my mouth shut, I told them that they were a bunch of whiners.  They responded with "You can't do this."  Well, never wanting to turn down a challenge, I ran to my room, got my tap shoes and headed back to the tap studio.  The look of terror on their faces, as I put on my tap shoes, was priceless.  I jumped right into the lesson with them.  We had the BEST F'n time.  They were truly my little miracles.  Even though I can get bogged down in all the crap from the District, parents and coworkers, it doesn't take much from my students to make me happy again.  I plan to attend tap class with these guys whenever I can.

On the home front, we had a great dinner party last night.  I made sever courses paired with wine.  My hangover can attest to the party's success.

On family front, my mother's health is good; however, my stepfather's dementia is worse.  Mom says that he is angry all the time.  I feel that I will need to take a trip to Houston very soon to take care of things for her.  Max is at the point where he is no help to her.  It's really sad to see him in this state.  I'm worried about her often, stuck in the house with him and no one there to help her or to give her a break.

Well, enough for now.  Time to get some knitting in.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gay Student Teacher Removed From Classroom

Recently, the Beaverton School District here in Beaverton OR., removed a gay student teacher from a 4th grade classroom. The only information that we have is that when asked by a student if he were married, he replied "no." The studnet asked why and he said that he couldn't get married because he would marry a man and it is against the law.
My employer says that this is not an age appropriate comment. I would have to disagree. People talk about their spouses/partners all the time. If he had said that he didn't have a girlfriend, I don't think there would have been an issue.
Here are links to two editorials about the problem. If you are upset by this situation, I urge you to make your voices heard.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back From Texas and Sheep are Really Gross!

Well, I haven't posted in sometime because I have been in Texas dealing with my Mom and Stepfather.  My Mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer and she had to have emergency surgery.  She asked that I be there during the surgery because my stepfather is not capable of making decisions due to his dementia.  She signed medical power of attorney over to me.  This was pretty scary stuff.  Anyway, all is well with my mom.  They were able to remove the cancer and found out that it is a really slow growing type so she will not need chemo or radiation only future CT scans.
My stepfather is another story.  Dementia is a terrible thing.  My mother's husband was a great guy but that man is not there anymore.One good thing that came out of all of this is that I got a lot of knitting done and I got to fly first class.  Here is my latest project next to the coffee and brandy plus a nice shot of Mt Hood from my window.

 Coming back home was a bit more tedious.  I had to take three flights to get back home and I almost got into a fight with some jerks over my knitting.  They were smart and backed off.  I have a short fuse and I'm not too proud of it.  However, it worked wonders in this instance.

I had ordered a merino fleece just before I left and I was very excited to play with it when I got home.  Well, it wasn't as clean as I was hoping for.  It has a good amount of vegetable matter in it and it has tar tips, meaning that the tips of the locks have become gumped up with dirty lanolin. 

Sheep are just gross.  If it wasn't for the fact that the produce such wonderful material, we wouldn't bother with them.  Here are a few pictures of the processing of this fleece. 

Here are the cleaned locks (picture on the left) and the locks loaded up on the wool combs.  You can see the bits of vegetable matter and the tar tips that didn't come out in the wash.  Luckily, man was smart enough to figure out a way to process this stuff to get it clean and ready for spinning.

After combing the fiber for several minutes I ended up with this, combs filled with beautiful bits of 
clean fiber.  The combing removes the left over dirt and vegetable matter.

Next, I pulled off the fibers to be spun into yarn.  What you see on the comb is the dirty bits with
with vegetable matter left in it.  I take this and comb it again and pull more usable fiber out of it.  I'm still left with a lot of this stuff and I'm trying to find a good use for it.
Here is a look at the crap that comes out of "clean" wool after it has been carded.  It's a bit hard to
but this towel was covered in dirt, bits of grass and hay and who knows what else.  Anyway, the clean stuff should make FAB yarn.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Next Chapter in Spinning

Well, the first week of summer has been somewhat relaxing.  I started an art class.  It's the first in the basic design series.  I figured since I teach at an art school, it was about time I learned what the kids were there for.  Anyway, the first two classes were fun.

On the fiber front, I finally spun up the yarn that I processed from one of my fleeces.  Here it is in all of its glory.  I'm a bit disappointed in the finished product.  I feel that the yarn is too inconsistent in its width.  It's not bad but I was hoping for a nice worsted weight all the way through.  It just means more practice on my part.

I also spent today dyeing roving for the first time.  I used Koolaid and I had a blast.  However, my hands smell a bit like grape drink.  I intend to card it into this grey fleece that I have and see how it spins up.

I'm off to New Orleans, city of my birth, for and NEA conference.  I lucked out and got first class going and coming back.  Since it's about a five hour flight, I'll be able to drink and knit to my heart's content.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Current Projects Now That School is Out.

OMG!  Thank the Universe that school is out.  This has been one of the hardest years for me in teaching.  Now begins ten weeks of rest and Fiber Projects.

I started a spinning class this month and that has opened many new doors.  The only problem now choosing between knitting or spinning.

My spinning teacher recommended that I go to Black Sheep Gathering, my first ever fiber festival. Of course, I did and ended up spending way too much money.  My goal is to go from fleece, to yarn, to finished product.  The problem I experienced when I was down there was which fleece and how much.  My instructor told me what to look for in a good fleece and what types were good for beginners.  Anyway, I couldn't make up my mind and several fleeces that I was interested in were nabbed.  I finally cornered a volunteer who knew her stuff and recommended a really nice fleece.  It's ten pounds of Romney Coopworth cross.  It's a fab charcoal grey.  Here it is in all of is stinky greasy glory.

Well, I then thought that I should get two different types of wool just in case.  So, I bought six pounds of Corriedale.  Here's a shot of it.

Well, then there came the issue of how the hell am I going to process all of this wool.  Enter the drum carder.  So, now I'm set.  However, I still have to clean all of this wool.

I was very worried about this process.  There is a ton of information out there about the "correct" way to clean fleece.  I decided on separating the locks and putting them into mesh bags and do all of the cleaning in the washing machine.  I was surprised at how easy this was.  Also, everyone was correct about sheep being really dirty.  This is a really clean fleece and the wash water was GROSS!

Anyway, here are the lovely clean locks drying.  Hopefully, they will be ready for the drum carder tomorrow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Too, Too Long

It has been forever since I have posted anything.  Well, I ton has happened.  The biggest is that Bella, one of our show girls, had nine puppies.
This is when they were just about a week old.  The puppies were a lot of fun but were also a ton of work.  All the puppies found wonderful homes including the black puppy with the blue collar in the picture.  He ended up here with us and is affectionately called Dutch.

Here he is today playing with the Dead Squirrel Toy

[1]: Dutch is such a sweet boy.  He's the first lovey Standard Poodle that we have ever had.  He is such a wonderful addition to the family.

We also have a new member of the family.
This is my new spinning wheel.  I'm really interested in the process of going from fleece to a finished sweater.  I attempted spinning the other night and it was extremely frightening.  However, I'm not going to give up.  I am signed up for a class starting at the beginning of June.

My knitting is progressing well.  Hopefully, I will have time to post some pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Current Knitting

Well, it has been awhile since I have given an update.  Work has been SUPER busy.  It's the end of the term and I have had students lined up outside my door until four in the afternoon.  If anyone tells you that teachers don't earn their pay, please tell the to get F*^*^*ed for me.
It's a good thing that I have a friend who runs knitting club.  I haven't had time to sit and teach kids knitting since before Thanksgiving.  She jokingly calls me the loser faculty advisor.

I'm super active in my teacher's union and I have was at meetings Fri-Mon.  It was total torture.  I'm not a meeting person and most of the news was grim.  On the bright side, Oregon passed two ballot initiatives to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy.  About damn time!  My students can continue to be educated.

On the knitting front, I have finished another Baby Surprise Jacket.  My former teaching partner has just had a baby girl.  I found this really cute yarn.  Of course, cute doesn't mean that it's a good yarn to work with.  This yarn was a total bitch to work with.  I ripped that jacket out at least 6 times.  Anyway, all it needs now are buttons.  I'll get those this weekend.

Next on my list is the Carlito Cardigan.  I've started the pattern which begins with knitting a cable pattern.  I'm about 30+ rows into it.  Can't tell if there will be issues or not.

That's about it.  Time to knit....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finished at Last!

Well, it's finished and it fits!  I got it off the needles this evening and got it on the woolly board for blocking.  This sweater was a great learning experience.  I have decided that I'm a big fan of doing sweaters in this gansey style.  What I really like is picking up the sleeve stitches around the arm hole and working it to the cuff.  It really allows you to get the length of the sleeve to what is comfortable for you.

Putting it on the woolly board was also interesting.  Maybe I should have read the directions....