Sunday, May 30, 2010

No end to the slump in sight

Still nothing fibery going on here. I am designing a scarf so maybe that will get me out of the slump. So far it is only imagi-knitting though. I thought, instead, that I would share what I have been up to.

I have spent the past few weekends planting. Here is my rear vegetable garden. There is basil and tomatoes and thyme and rosemary in the back along with salvia, begonias and a pot of bee balm that I need to plant in the ground. I had planned to plant it last year but the rabbits were nibbling on it. To protect it, I stuck it in a bigger pot and kept it on the patio. I'm hoping that it is strong enough this year to resist the wildlife attacks.

I had pretty good luck with tomatoes in pots last year so I am amping up the volume this year. Better quality seedlings and better cages. I put compost in each pot and added new soil along with some timed release fertilizer pellets. Tomatoes are heavy feeders so one has to make sure the soil is in good shape.This is one half of the front vegetable garden. More tomatoes and a chili pepper with the begonias for color. I also have begonias in the front by the mailbox. The bottles are my watering system. They have an Aquaspike on the end. I fill the bottle with water and invert it into the pot after inserting the Aquaspike. The water flows to the roots. I wish the flow was slower but it works. It is faster to water the plants this way.

Chili peppers are very successful in the front. It faces west so they get the nice hot sun all afternoon. I used to plant 3-4 plants but always ended up with way too many peppers. This year I am trying just two cayenne pepper plants. I hope I get enough. My goal is to grow enough to last me through to the next harvest. I chop and freeze them for use.
The second half of the front garden. Tomatoes, another chili pepper and oregano with the ubiquitous begonia. The oregano has come back every year for a few years now.
By the garage I planted dahlias for color. Also in a pot.
This is the first year in a long time that it hasn't rained as soon as the peonies bloomed. The tree peonies, lilacs and crab apples came and went really fast but the herbaceous peonies are hanging around for me to enjoy. They are by the driveway so I can see them coming and going.
This is an interesting plant. I got it from my daughter's violin teacher. It has pretty blue flowers which last one day each. It spreads quite readily and I am pulling out volunteers. If anyone wants some, just ask.
The mock oranges are also blooming and flooding the air with their perfume. This shrub produces a double flower but I also have a single mock orange shrub.
Last year I added irises. The bearded iris only put up one stalk of blooms but the Siberian iris is blooming profusely. I love the color.
Another peony. Close-ups of flowers seem to look best. From further away, you don't get the impact of the form and the color.
A very pretty lilac rose.
This was another acquisition from last year. Lamb's ears. I love the fuzzy softness of the leaves. I'm not hot on the flowers but the flower spikes are interesting. I had some in my previous house but hadn't planted any here.

I have some hydrangeas and grasses on order for the back. We got rid of our deck and built a patio last year and are planting around it. If my knitting slump doesn't end, you'll see more garden pictures.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Deep in a slump

I didn't post anything last week as I had nothing fiber related to report. The same is true this week but I didn't want to just disappear without posting anything. I am just not in the mood to knit or spin or do anything fiber-related.

I am busy with getting the garden planted and then I'll have to tackle the weeds that have been building up. I hope that once that is done, the knitting mojo will come back.

I bought the Featherweight Cardigan pattern yesterday and it may become a good summer knit. A cardigan in laceweight is definitely useful and I have lots of laceweight to choose from.

Let's hope I have something interesting to post about next week because it will mean that my slump is over.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A little o' this, a little o' that

I don't know if I mentioned this on the blog or not, but I bought a new wheel in March. Here is a picture of Tina. She is birds' eye maple with walnut accents. I love her. This is a picture from the vendor who sold her to me. My photos are more detailed and don't show the entire wheel as well.
I have been struggling with mastering spinning. Mostly because I have very little patience. I kept getting frustrated. I watched a video, read a few books and still nothing. The theory seemed simple enough and I am doing OK with the spindle spinning, so what was going on here?

I took a lesson a couple of weeks ago and the first thing the teacher noticed was that the wheel wasn't spinning the way it ought to. It turned out that my band was too tight and it was a huge part of the problem. I spun a bit in the class and also switched hands. I am right-handed so I had been trying right hand forward. I found that spinning left hand forward was much more comfortable and natural. I made this sample skein in class. By the way, I flunked winding skeins. This has a few figure 8's in it but it works. It is a single that has been washed to let the twist set.
So I came home and tried some more. But of course, first I had to change the band and that took a few tries to get right. Then I kept forgetting to make sure the brake band was on the bobbin. sigh

Finally, I got all that fixed up and then came the practice. I didn't look forward to it but I kept forcing myself to sit down and try. It was an exercise in frustration. I knew I had to stop treadling when I got caught up in drafting so I didn't add too much twist. But I would forget. I let the twist run down into the fiber and since I had a long piece of roving, all pre-drafted, it made a mess. I had to stop and untwist it all the time. I would get caught up in drafting and forget to let the spun yarn wind on. I didn't like the orifice hook that came with the wheel as it kept bending. Since I frequently broke the yarn, I was using it a lot to fish the end out through the orifice. bigger sigh

I broke my fiber spending diet and bought an orifice hook. It isn't the greatest but it works. Then yesterday, suddenly it all came together. I spent about 45 mins spinning and spun not only all the roving I had pre-drafted but also the bits that had become all tangled up due to the twist thing above. I untwisted them, combed them out with my fingers and spun them up. I joined lots of bits without losing the end in the bobbin. I stopped treadling when I needed to and started up without going in the wrong direction. I drafted and let the yarn wind on. Here is the result of that 45 mins. Can you see the difference in the bottom part of the bobbin?
I have also been knitting up the Skew sock. I am up to the ankle now. It is looking really good. I have to measure it on my foot and put the ankle markers in. I like the more subtle stripes in this than in the one on Knitty.

As they said on Looney Tunes, 'The-the-that's all folks!" At least for this week...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More little things

I finished the cafe au lait mitts with some help from Maggie, who gave me the yarn to finish. I was short yarn for the top of the second mitt and thankfully, she had some leftovers in the same natural color. They are wonderfully warm and comfortable. The pattern is very well written and is a great choice for leftover yarn.
Unfortunately, even putting them on to photograph made my hand warm. I will be looking forward to the fall to get use out of them.
I started the Skew socks from Knitty in a Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn that I had on hand. I think this will create subtle swirls of color rather than the more graphic swirls that are in the original pattern. The color is called Irving Park.
As you can see, I am still on a small things kick. Next I need to start something more substantial, I think.