Sunday, January 29, 2006

Soap

My soap making supplies finally came on Friday. I was so excited, I made my first batch on Friday night and my second on Saturday. With all the cautions about working with lye, I made the lye solution in the basement (didn't want to endanger the cats). Hubby was a little concerned when he saw me with the goggles, smock and rubber gloves. Thought maybe soap making might be too dangerous. Later I explained the whole soapmaking process (I'm sure he was just thrilled to get that education) and how the base in lye reacts with the acid in oil to neutralize into soap. The end product is perfectly safe, but plain lye can cause a chemical burn. I didn't find it too hard to work with especially with the small 1 pound batches I was making. So here are the first fruits of my labors.

First is the "If you only make 1 batch of soap" recipe with almond fragrance and the other is the "Olive & Palm soap" with China Rain fragrance, both from Everything Soapmaking. Now I have to wait a day or so for it to setup, then I can cut it into bars to cure. That will take about 4 weeks. I've never been the most patient person, so this is going to be hard. But there's no cutting it short. Apparently it takes that long to be sure all of the lye has neutralized and for the bars to harden enough that they won't just dissolve away when they get in water.

At least I have plenty of knitting to keep me busy. I'm almost finished with the gusset on the Opal sock (I did take this one off the needles and tried it on to make sure it fits, it does and I love it!) I'm about 5 inches in on the CC Tunic. The Elann Siearra Aran is really wonderful to work with, so soft and the colors are gorgeous. I have a goal to finish the right side of the baby jacket by the end of the week. I got my letter from the library and the auction is March 25. Although I have plenty of time, I don't want to let this get away from me since I'm so easily distracted by other projects. Mom helped me pick out buttons at JoAnn's yesterday. She found some really cute little purple hippos. I also got some fabric to make new pillowcases while we were there so I'll be sewing this afternoon.

I purchased the pattern to make Eris from Girl from Auntie. Is this not an awesome sweater? Everyone talks about her other pattern, Rogue, and I agree, that one is pretty cool too. But hoodies just aren't my style. I am making myself finish the CC tunic before I even think about starting Eris, though. I've got too many big projects going already and really can't start another. Plus, there's that huge decision of what yarn to use. Suggestions?

And here's one of the newest visitors to our yard. Isn't he pretty?
You'll have to pardon the frying pan feeder. Something knocked the terracotta one off and broke it. Had to improvise. The birds don't seem to mind. Although, it's been so warm this month, they are hardly going through the feed. I guess they must be finding plenty of food in the wild.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Decision made

Sometimes when choices come along, fate makes the decision for you. As predicted, I finished the Pines sock on Friday.
Looks pretty good. As soon as the last end was woven in I slipped it on my foot. Ugh, it's HUGE! I did a gauge swatch before I started, 7 st/inch. I followed the pattern, 64 stitches. What I didn't do was the math. 64 stitches at 7 stitches per inch is a bit over 9 inches. My foot is 8. Bummer. Many nice ladies over on the Sockknitters group offered words of encouragement. Some suggested frogging and reknitting. One suggested knitting the second sock and entering them into a sock swap (there's bound to be someone with a larger foot that can use them.) My solution was to stick the sock and it's partner's yarn back in the stash box and start this...
Opal heals all wounds. This time I did a gauge swatch AND did my own math. I didn't want to risk messing up this expensive yarn! The $3 Woolease is no great loss, but $18 worth of wool is too much to mess around with! The patterning is really cool. The wool is soft and not at all scratchy.


I also cast on the Cottage Creations Tunic.
This is going to be a lot of knitting. The body is knit in the round, all in one piece, then the sleeves are picked up and knit down from the shoulders. The yarn is gorgeous. It's the wool/alpaca blend from Elann. The color is a rich, evergreen with flecks of blue. I bought a ball of tan for a contrasting collar, but I'm not sure if I'll do it or not. I'm pretty scared of color knitting unless someone else has thought it all out. Don't trust my own tastes here. I'm forever away from the collar, though, so I won't have to think about it for weeks.

Finally, some kitty goodness.

Here's Stuart supervising while I take the blog pictures. He and Quinn love to sit in this window. It's south facing so always sunny and warm.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Opal

Here we go again.

Beautiful, lovely, sock yarn. Yes, yes, I know what you are saying. What about all the sock yarn you bought last fall. What about the Sockotta sock sitting half knit in the cabinet drawer. But, oh, this is different, me laddo. This is Opal 6-ply! It is nice and fat, no fear this one won't get knit. In fact, I'm decreasing the toe on the Pines sock and with any luck will have it completed tomorrow (I won't set the bar so high as to expect myself to Kitchener the toe shut at 10 o'clock at night.) I am sorely tempted to be very naughty and not knit the second Pines sock (hey, I've got really good notes how I knit the first) and instead cast on the Opal. I really shouldn't. I've got the Library cardi to finish. Although, I have made very good progress on it, better than half finished, and I've still got a good month, month and a half to finish it. Then there's Port Orford which hasn't had a stitch knit on it in at least a week. Then, of course, there's the Cottage Creations pattern whose yarn should arrive by Saturday. One theory, I could just keep starting projects as long as I have a suitable bag to house the project (two cats = can't leave knitting laying around unprotected). Seeing how my tote bag collection rivals many women's shoe collections, I think I'm golden. By the way, the Opal came from this seller on eBay. She has lots more, go buy some!

Speaking of eBay, check out my other auction acquisition
.
Bond, James Bond. I am obsessed with trying to get the first 5 from the series. So far, I've got Dr. No and now From Russia With Love. They are apparently out of print so I'm reduced to scouring eBay and Half.com to try to come up with reasonably priced copies. Some people are way more obsessed than I and run the prices into outrageous levels, so this may take awhile. I owe my James Bond fascination to dad. I remember he would always watch the movies when they were on TV. Usually the Sunday Night movie. They always let us stay up to watch at least part of the movie. I read the books when I was a kid, too, but I think the movies made a bigger impression. Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan are just about tied in my eyes as the ultimate Bond. I don't hold much hope for the new guy. But, better to bring some new blood in than run the actors past their prime in the role (look at Roger Moore in View to a Kill or Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again!)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bummer

My soap supplies didn't make it for this weekend, bummer. But, I made the most of the free weekend. I made some melt & pour soap, a yummy sandalwood & frankincense blend with just a touch of vanilla and clove. I make these (generally) one bar at a time so I can experiment with scents and colors. I'm a complete fragrance fiend. I've been pouring over the different supply catalogs and websites for new scents to order. I've got a few on hand, some that I love, some that I hate and a few that are almost empty and need replacing. The choices are endless and after awhile my head starts to spin and I have to stop looking. I've narrowed it down a bit. But I'm trying to keep my resolve and not order any other soap stuff until I've made at least a batch or two.

My resolve on purchasing knitting stuff is not as strong. I've got some patterns on order for a cardigan and a pullover. Last week I won a ball of Opal 6ply on eBay (it's coming from Canada, though, so will probably take awhile to get here.) And today I discovered Elann has added a worsted weight wool/alpaca yarn to it's Peruvian line so I ordered enough in Jasper to make the Cottage Creations tunic. I'm leaning towards KnitPicks Andean Silk for the cardigan, but haven't actually placed that order yet. I have no idea why I'm ordering more patterns and yarn. I've got 3 active projects on the needles and 2 in holding. Somehow, my brain thinks I'm a much faster knitter than I'll probably ever actually be. Oh well, much like my fabric stash, if nothing else, it's good insulation for the house!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Progress pictures

As promised, progress pictures of my current knitting...

The wee baby sweater. It's about midway up the sleeves. This part is making me nuts,
juggling four balls of yarn (I'm double stranding the purple because it's a little finer than the worsted weight called for in the pattern) and using separate balls of green at each sleeve cuff. I'm tempted to wind a bobbin for the cuff, but I'm so afraid I'll cut it too short and have to join on for the last 2 rows! When I made this sweater before, I knit both sides of the front at the same time. The pattern calls for knitting them separate. I think I'll follow the pattern this time to save juggling what will end up being 6 balls of yarn!

Wasn't able to get a very good picture of the Pine sock for some reason.
The color is much less blue, a deep rich green with only a little blue mixed in. Even though the gauge ended up being a good bit finer than the other Woolease socks, I'm really liking it. Haven't knit more than a row or two the last several days though, spending most of my time working on the baby sweater and reading my soap books.









I'm anxiously awaiting my soap supplies to arrive. I've still got my fingers crossed for making my first batch this weekend. Especially since I've just found that it takes up to 4 weeks for the soap to "cure" before it can be used. This will be quite an exercise in patience for me, I'm sure. But, the books all assure me, it will be worth the wait. And I'm sure they are right. I've purchased tons of handmade soap at craft fairs and off the Internet. It's all been wonderful. Hope springs eternal that my efforts will prove as good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mild

You'd never know it was Farm Show week in Pennsylvania. Historically, the week of the Pennsylvania Farm Show general brings out the nastiest of weather. Generally at least one big snowstorm. This year, however, we appear to have been transported to some alternate universe and the weather is mostly fair and mild. Yesterday the mercury kissed 60. In JANUARY! Today it's supposed to be near 50. Very strange. Not that I'm complaining. Any winter day without snow is a good day to me.

Meanwhile, the cats have been on a hunger strike. After some long consideration, we decided it was time to change their diet and get them onto some better cat food. I say "long consideration" because I have what may be the world's 2 finickiest cats. They eat almost nothing but their regular cat food. I've given countless bags of treats away because they just turn their noses up. Their favorite treat is simply their cat food, doled out from a different box! Regardless, switching food seemed to be the right course so we decided to start the process on Friday. I mixed in just a little (maybe a few tablespoons) of the new cat food into their current food. Saturday, the food remained untouched. By Saturday night, it looked as if a few pieces may have been eaten, but they certainly hadn't cleared their plate like normal. Quinn finally caved on Sunday and we saw her eating a little. Stuart held out all the way until Monday night when he finally ate some. They don't seem any worse for wear from their little hunger strike, but we knew all along they'd eat when they got hungry enough.

Temptation got the better of me and I cast on the baby sweater over the weekend. I love knitting wee little clothes. This cardi is turning out so cute. It's knit all in one piece, starting at the bottom of the back, up over the shoulders and down the front. I'm using a violet colored cotton/acrylic yarn I got from eBay with the hem and cuffs in a pale green. I'll try to get some progress pictures up in the next day or two.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Podcasts

I've added two new podcasts to my list. Cast-on is my absolute favorite. I'm actually listening to Brenda Dayne as I write this. She has a "good voice for radio". She includes music and lots of thoughts on knitting in each podcast in a conversational manner. The Knitting News Cast is another new podcast I recently discovered. Rhonda Bell provides book, yarn and pattern reviews in her podcasts. I'm still downloading and listening to the back casts from both ladies (dial up is a definite disadvantage to podcast downloading!)

I'm nearly finished reading the third soap book (Soap: Making it, Enjoying it). This put me over the edge. I broke down and ordered supplies to make a few small batches of soap. Found a website, Creation Farm Soap, which offered really good prices and free shipping so it seemed like a good place to start. The order should arrive next week, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed I won't have to work next weekend and I can try to make some soap. The whole chemistry of soap making has me intrigued, how you can take something lovely like olive oil and something horrid like caustic lye and combine them to make a completely different creation that gets you clean and makes you smell good, fascinating. I want to read Everything Soapmaking yet before I do this. It has the actual recipes I intend to try. Most of the other book's recipes make rather large batches (20-40 bars). This book includes starter recipes that only make a few bars. This book is out of print, but highly recommended. I was lucky enough to come across a copy on Half.com and am very glad I did.

As for this weekend, no plans as such. We've been on the go every weekend for the last month. It'll be so nice to stay in and relax. The first sock in my second Wool-ease pair is into the gusset now. The color is really pretty, greens and blues. With any luck and a good movie, I should be able to finish this sock up before Monday. I realized yesterday, I need to get started on a project to donate to the local library spring auction. I have yarn to make a little baby cardigan (I made one for my cousin's baby last year and it went over really well). But with busy time at work coming up, I better get cracking. May start that before even doing sock 2 of this pair. We'll see. If I at least get the cardi on the needles, I think I'll feel better.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sock report

Here, the red Wool-ease socks after a day of wear.

















They are so comfortable. Nice and thick, but not too warm. They make my ankles look like tree trunks though. They fuzzed up ever so slightly at the heel, nothing major. I've started my next pair already. This time with a single strand of Wool-ease in Pines Print. I had to go all the way down to a US 3 needle! The red ones were knit on US 7. I think the final gauge came out to 7/inch to get a fabric that felt sturdy enough for socks. This is much finer than I had anticipated, but I decided since I'm on a sock roll, I might as well keep going. Still not as bad as the sock-yarn socks.

Here are some progress pictures of the Port Orford pullover.














I love the look of this fabric. I wish I could post a swatch that you could see and touch. The yarn itself if pretty fine so I'm double stranding it. The fabric has a wonderful drape and will be a nice warm weather sweater, I think. I've had a sort of love hate relationship with cotton so far. Love the look, hate knitting with it. This, however, seems to be the perfect blend of wool, cotton and silk. Too bad it was a no-name eBay find.

I spent the weekend pretty much as I thought I would, parked in my new chair knitting. Watched Star Wars Episode 1 (got the first 3, the NEW first 3 for Christmas). Being a child of the 70's & 80's, the old first 3 still hold a special place in my heart, but the new first 3 are so cool with the special effects and stuff. The old ones now seems kind of dated when we watch them. I watched a bit of the Knitting Glossary. Much to my delight, there is an interview at the end with Meg interviewing her mom. What a treat! Elizabeth is so funny and easy going. She must have been a wonderful teacher. I believe some of her old PBS shows are available on tape. Will have to check that out and work on adding them to my collection.

I've read two of the soapmaking books (one of the ones I bought and one I checked out from the library). It is absolutely fascinating. I've been doing some research online too, trying to find good prices for supplies. I found a few places that actually sell a soapmaking kit. This will probably be how I end up starting since buying all the ingredients will be pretty costly. I want to finish reading the other two books as some of the information is different in the first two, need to find a consensus. I also need to find a manageable batch size. The Natural Soap Book has only 40 bar batches, hardly how I want to experiment! And what would a family of 2 do with 40 bars of soap?! We'd be REALLY clean, that's for sure.