Saturday, 22 September 2007

saturday sky (not) and some photos

At 6:00 am, just after sunrise here, I went to take some photos in the early morning light. The battery on my camera was completely flat. I have an enormous memory card in the camera and can take several thousand photos on it. I forget to check the battery. It took several hours to recharge, it must have meant it when it said the battery was completely flat, and by that time the light had changed dramatically. No soft early morning glow. Heavy, thick, very dark grey clouds covered the sky and I just could not make myself take another Saturday sky looking like that.
These two photos are the alpaca socks which I did. I love these soft, muted tones, but unfortunately, they don't love me. Make me look like death warmed up, as my mother would say. However, I don't think I'll worry about the colour down on my feet. I bought the alpaca to make my brother a scarf after the death of my sister-in-law three years ago. I think I could see it would take forever to finish, so I frogged it and have had the yarn ever since. I used something else for him. I had both it and the remainder of one of the colours of Wildfoote side by side on the coffee table, when I realised how well they matched. So alpaca for legs and feet, and Wildfoote for ribbing, heels and toes as it is sock wool and more durable than alpaca by itself.

I think I said earlier that I used five dpns to knit these. Each of the moss stitch sections down the inside and outside of the legs went by itself on a needle. No accidental missing to purl! The moss stitch does not show up fantastically well, but that's the nature of the alpaca. It made the socks a bit more interesting to knit than if they had been all stocking stitch. These will be handwash only but that's OK, they're for me. I'd rather not use five needles, but four, but would do it again in similar circumstances. The alpaca makes the socks exceptionally soft and cosy.

Here's some more alpaca. It's the second ball of the 8 ply I bought at Berrima a couple of weeks ago. This matches the hat shown a few posts down. I wondered what to do with a second ball which I had expected to use on the hat. I cast on a couple of stitches, used garter stitch throughout, increased evenly to eighteen stitches and knit from there. I had estimated how much I would need to do the decreases at the other end, but overestimated, so turned the remainder into tassels. I pulled out the innards of the skein and measured it off, tied a loose slip knot and shoved the rest back inside the ball. Unfortunately too much came out at first, so I had to wind it up and this made a small ball which kept falling out. being 8 ply, it didn't take long to knit and it feels beautiful, very soft and cosy. It really should have been blocked before being photographed. I might even keep it for myself. It's not particularly long, but will be long enough for me. I don't wear scarves a lot and certainly don't use them to make a fashion statement as some of the girls at college do. I've seen some of them lately wearing spaghetti strap tops and then a huge scarf to keep warm. Comfort first is the way I feel! I must be getting old.

Yet another scarf. This will go in the present box. It's the 8 ply Kmart Homemaker brand, pure wool, unidentified. Cast on forty (I think), stitches. Knit in stocking stitch. On every plain row, increase one in the first stitch and knit the last two stitches of the row together. Eyelets are knitted straight across, but the increases and decreases make it appear as if they are knit on the bias. Colour shown here is reasonably accurate. I prefer my purples to be more like the alpaca scarf, sort of purple/cranberry. Quite a different tone to this. This is the dye I had in the house, so I used it as an experiment.

Finally, yet another scarf. This is made in Anny Blatt kid merino with again, forty stitches. There are well over two hundred metres in the ball and I have another one, bought a couple of years ago at a Tapestry Craft sale. I'm using 8 mm needles, the Knitpicks again. I started out doing a cat's paw stitch, but it didn't show too well in the mohair,so out it came and this was done instead.

The colour is a bit washed out here. It's a rich red/brown/orange. A bit like the colour Burnt Sienna in the old fashioned sort of paintset watercolours I had in primary school. The yarn is lovely to use, not much thicker than a spider web. It's really windy outside, even on my sheltered deck and I had trouble with the scarf fluttering in the wind. Even with the mohair, the scarf is supersoft with no sign of a prickle.

Speaking of spider webs...I really don't mind spiders at all and rarely kill them. However, it was a bit much when I was up in the dark at 4:30 this morning and a spider web caught in my hair in the hall outside the bathroom. I could still feel bits some hours later, even after pulling at it and brushing my hair a couple of times. I live in a very old house and it's just about impossible to eliminate spiders and insects from every nook and cranny of the building. I wonder if this was a hint that it's spring time down here and I need to spend my week's holiday spring cleaning? I hope not, because I will do some, but don't intend to let it monopolise my week.

Mum is home from the hospital and feeling better. She has to see her GP on Monday and my sister has been trying to make her an appointment with the specialist. She has now been told she has lymphatic leukemia. She actually does not really sound worried, and I don't think she's kidding herself. I think that she felt so absolutely dreadful while she was sick and then again while she was still in hospital, that anything seems like an anticlimax. I'm sure she thought she was about to die on the spot. She doesn't want to die while her youngest grandson is still in the USA on an exchange visit. He won't be back till the beginning of November, so while she knows the disease is incurable, she feels better. Strange ways our minds work sometimes! Her other grandchildren are adults and she has great grandchildren. This boy was born to my brother and his wife after eighteen years of marriage, so is much younger than the rest of them. My sister-in-law died three years ago when my nephew was on the point of turning eleven.

Friday, 21 September 2007

right, so who hid my pins?

My day off today. Actually, it's the start of a whole week off, mid-semester break. I managed to sleep in and now I can't wake up! I still wasn't dressed at 9:30 when I usually leave the house at 6:50 am.

I found some dye in a purple colour. Now I like purple, but have done a lot of it lately. As I haven't done much dyeing, I decided to use it instead of buying more. I found a new stockpot which I bought last year for the canteen but couldn't use there. The bottom is not really flat and I use electric hotplates there. Soup would just not heat.

However I have a good gas stove here. I set everything up and slowly added scarf which had been soaking all night. I left it barely simmering for an hour. Success! A pleasant even colour, even if it was purple.

Then I went to block it. I cannot find my pins anywhere. I daresay they will turn up when I least expect them, but cannot work out where they have been put.

I set up a big towel on the table on the deck and have carefully arranged the scarf on the towel. I've pulled it as straight as possible and will see what the finished result is. if I have to, I'll buy some more pins and do it again.

Then I remembered my husband's grandmother. She knitted all her life, even when all she could do at the end was misshapen squares for a rug. Her mother had lived with her till Nana was forty. Nana never did housework and when her own mother died, housework passed to Nana's daughter. I don't think she ever cooked anything beyond rice custard and frankfurts. She certainly didn't know how to use an iron. Oh, I forgot. She used to grill cheese slices on Sao biscuits for morning tea. One day when slices came individually wrapped in plastic, she grilled a slice, plastic and all. Didn't know any better.

Her blocking was to stretch out garment and then put it under the mattress. She spent a lot of time in bed from age forty on. At first it was just what she wanted to do, then she became incapacitated with a broken hip and knee and was confined there. Her knitting always looked OK, so a week in bed must have worked for the blocking. LOL. Actually, she would be horrified to see how busy my life is. Somehow I prefer it busy to constant bed.

later...
When I was shopping this afternoon, I decided to get more pins. Of course, the ones I have will turn up in a few days, but that's life. I was in Coles and had a look. Hmm..$2.87 for a pinwheel of forty glassheaded pins. I went upstairs to KMart and bought two plastic containers from Birch, one hundred pins, $2.49 per container for 100 pins. OK, So the ones I had were a bit different, but what a difference in price.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Blogger Play

Here's a neat site showing the photos as they are uploaded to BLOGGER. You can click to pause and then click to go the the blog displaying a particular photo.

finished objects

Three lots of finished objects. All very simple stuff. My brain seems to have turned to mush (see post below for causes). I have been working on easy stuff which I can pick up and drop at a minute's notice at work. Nothing which involves much counting or calculation or thought.

Hopefully, there wil be some pictures on Friday. That's my usual day off and I have a break till October 2 after that. I am really looking forward to that.

First: I wondered what to do with the second ball of alpaca from Berrima. I started a scarf with a couple of stitches and increased evenly till there were eighteen. I used 8 mm needles, the Knitpicks Options. Just garter stitch. As I said, I needed mindless knitting. I roughly measured out how much yarn there had been in the increase section and pulled that from the centre of the ball. Far too much came out and I had to wind it into a small ball and poke it back inside after I had measured off the amount for decreases at the other end, plus a bit to make sure. Decreased, cast off and found I had a few metres left. So I made a tassel for each pointy end. It's very soft and cosy and adequate in length but by no means long.

Then yesterday I finished the socks with the Wildfoote toes and heels and the alpaca for legs and foot. These too are very soft with a band of 8 stitches of moss stitch running up both sides of leg. I used five needles although I much prefer using four. The knitting is more stable with stitches on three needles and a fourth to knit with, rather than using five altogether. They need a bit of blocking to look their best for a photo.

The last is a bias diagonal scarf from 8 ply Kmart Homemaker brand. I's very similar to this one, but longer. I think I paid well under $3 for 100 gm and I had a choice of colour.For some reason I chose white. I suppose I must have had my reasons, but cannot recall any of them now. I'm going to dye it, possibly dark blue or green.

I'm feeling a bit better now so I'll have to consider what's next. Possibly another scarf, but something lacy.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

a week I'd rather had never happened


Last weekend started brilliantly. In fact the whole weekend was a great gift. I was away with friends, new and old. Lots of time talking, listening, eating, socialising. Then, as the saying goes, everything blew up. Home as I have known it for some many years is no more. I'm past my use-by date and will be traded in on a new, younger model. Not that she's the first younger model tested at all, but this one has led to my trade in.

Scarcely had that shock registered than my sister rang. Mum, who is 87, very independent and intellectually strong and full of vigour, had had a stomach upset which left her severely dehydrated. The dehydration caused symptoms of incoherence and garbled speech, similar to a stroke, so my sister called an ambulance and Mum was taken to hopsital.

They dealt with the dehydration with a drip and some drugs to stop the vomiting and started many tests including a lumbar puncture which greatly distressed her. It was possible she had meningitis. Blood tests results which came back on Tuesday morning after being done late Monday revealed something much worse. She has leukemia. As yet we have no prognosis, although she has been started on some chemotherapy. An oncology nurse friend says there is some gentle stuff for elderly patients. While she is no longer incoherent, some things do seem to be passing her by. She does not recognise the seriousness of her condition and thinks she can go home today. On the other hand, she can recite all the family birthdays in September and can say what she bought for each. She's worried that she has not yet bought anything for my granddaughter, her great granddaughter, who turns three at the end of the month.
I've been grateful for my knitting in these circumstances. It's all been small stuff which has not taken much thought but which has been calming to knit.
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The second photo shows Wesley modelling an alpaca hat I did through the week. Fortunately my head is not the same shape as Wesley's and the hat looks better on me than on him! The yarn is gorgeously soft. It was bought at the Alpaca Centre at Berrima on the NSW Southern Highlands. I paid extra to buy the all Australian alpaca yarn, rather than the import from Peru. The Peruvian yarn had suggested needle size and tension on the ball band. It also had a yardage shown of 100 yards. Now, as it came in both 5 ply and 8 ply and both said 100 yards for 50 grams, that seemed a bit strange. However, it was an attempt. Other than a name, Coolaroo Alpaca 8 ply, the Australian product had nothing like that on the label. No needles, no tension and no yardage. I mentioned this to the people in the alpaca centre and although one seemed to be a boss of some sort, it meant nothing and they could not see why I asked about it. Because of the lack of information, I bought two balls. The hat has quite a bit of stocking stitch rolled for an edge, a panel of moss stitch and then stocking stitch for the decreases. I finished it in one ball with about 8" left over. So what do I do with one ball of leftover alpaca of uncertain yardage? I could do another hat as a gift but would have to make sure I gave it to someone who would treat it carefully and not felt it.

Top picture is Saturday sky today, a beautiful spring day. It looks more cheerful than I feel at the moment.

Othr projects have been a simple diagonal drape scarf. Stocking stitch. Every plain row increase one stitch at the beginning of the row and knit last two stitches together. It's done in white homebrand wool from Kmart which was some ridiculous price for 100 grams. But white? Whatever was I thinking of. I'll probably dye it, but no idea yet of the colour to choose. I've also nearly finished the alpaca socks with heels and toes of the Wildfoote.

So all simple stuff which has allowed me to knit meditatively without having to pay much attention to a pattern. I find knitting very calming and that effect has certainly been needed this week. The family has closed ranks around mum and particularly around me as I try to deal with this double blow. My sons have been amazing and and my DILs have been caring and gone out of their way to be helpful and compassionate. I know they are all hurting too as things have come to light which show a great deal of hypocrisy towards them. Enough said.

I'm a christian and pray regularly. Knitting has helped in meditation. I also at times use Anglican prayer beads as an aid to prayer. Touching each beads helps me concentrate. I pray both set things like the Lord's prayer and the Creed and Psalms as well as my own words. This is a difference to a rosary. While I was knitting this hat, I found myself using the stitches like the beads to help me concentrate on my prayer. I'd really appreciate it if those of you who pray could pray for both me and my mum and our family at this time. I have a strong sense of peace and calm for myself. I do not know particulars of where I will live etc but strangely am not worried. Mum has had a long, full life but leukemia is horrid.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

wildfoote socks and saturday sky with spring flowers

First, a couple of photos of Saturday sky. These were taken out both the front and back of my house. We face northeast at the back and the light and sky are often totally different to out the front.

I'll probably be moving soon, so am taking photos of all sorts of bits and pieces. This is more sky and the flowering star jasmine. It's actually intertwined with a beautiful creamy briar rose which has grown enormously in a few years. Photo looks south east. The last week has been beautiful, although far too warm for the time of year. Today there is a change on the way and the clouds are probably the first sign of that.

One more photo before knitting content. I have several tubs of freesias, a long time favourite flower. I also like sweet peas but haven't planted any this year and remember fondly the enormous deep purple violets from the neighbour's house where my parents lived at Lawson. All flowers with a beautiful perfume. When I come downstairs in the morning, I can smell the perfume from the freesias which wafts in th kitchen window. This week it has been joined by a bowl of hyacinths which were a birthday present to me from my brother. Sadly, those flowers are now almost dead and the perfume is faint. Just a lingering trace. Sad, but life and somewhat typical of my own life at the moment.

I've actually done a few hats but have given them away before I took photos.
Here are the wildfoote socks finished. A strong contrast with the white legs which haven't seen the sun all winter! This is a very simple pattern which was done on a five stitch repeat around the sixty stitches each round. I was concerned that it seemed to have begun to spiral on the bias as I knitted them, but it can't be seen when wearing so it was probably the way I had the stitches and needles placed. I did have one pattern with a lot of lacy knit 2 together patterns begin to spiral. The pattern reminds me of ladders.

I used a heel flap with these, 28 stitches for the flap and 28 rows. The extra two stitches became a purl edge to the pattern down the instep.

Some years ago, I bought some alpaca to make my brother a scarf after his wife died. I was having a lot of trouble with the arthritis in my hands at the time, and they did not like the alpaca which has little elasticity, if any. I've tried a few things and frogged each time. I have quite a bit of both the green and red Wildfoote left after socks for me, even with longish cuffs. I realised the alpaca and the green Wildfoote are a perfect match, so I've started some more socks. Wildfoote for ribbing, heels and toes. The alpaca is blissfully soft, so I've used sockwool for the toes and heels, hoping it will wear well. Handwash only for these, I think. I started them on Strathfield station yesterday while waiting for a train to Woy Woy to see son and DIL who cuts my hair for me. It was long overdue yesterday and I'm sure I could have made a pair of socks from the clippings on the floor! Well, perhaps, not quite, but it felt like that. I've now done a short row heel and am just about to start the foot on the first sock.