Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I've Been Busy

Being busy is a good thing, prevents boredom, but I don't seem to be getting anything actually finished! I did finish my Small Talk shawl though and it came out much better and bigger than I expected. I've really got to take a couple finish photos to show it off. I got to the edging of the Catkins shawl but discovered the beads I had, 4 mm were too small and looked dumb and were hard to attach to yarn of that thickness. I didn't have enough 8 mm beads so went to Joann Fabrics in Alpena to get more but, of course, being a small store they didn't have much so I got a mix of 6 mm and 8 mm in dark and light purple and hope it will look okay.

I'm also attempting my first crocheted clothing, a summer sweater by designer Doris Chan called the Bell Sleeve Pullover. I was having trouble figuring out the test swatch because I had to make a foundation chain of single crochet instead of a chain then a second row of single crochet. Between You Tube and some gals at ravelry.com. I've been really pushing working on the crochet until a couple days ago. Sort of burned myself out. Plus I did have other things I really had to do.

One of those things is gardening. I've got 3 vegetable garden spaces now, two nicely dug up and mostly weed free, the third, the one across the driveway that Hal dug out of the swamp last year is a mess. Weeds and tree roots and really wet. I'm going to plant only cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins over there this year. The tomatoes which I bought as plants and only have 4 so far will go where the chicken "hutch coop" used to be. I need to get them planted as well the strawberry plants I got today. Other things I've planted are my snow peas which went in a couple weeks ago and are about 3 inches tall and some Katahdin potatoes.

Tomorrow I pick up 10 Cornish rock chicks from the local feed store. They're miserable to deal with but it is only for 8 weeks and make such tasty roasters.

And on a final note it turns out the holes in the light purple 6 mm beads are too small. I can't even get the smallest steel hook through it. I may have to add black beads to the shawl to finish this off.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A New Shawl

I joined this group called Crochet Shoulder Wrappers over on ravelry.com back in February. They live and breathe shawls over there, and cowls, scarves, anything that essentially can wrap the shoulders without sleeves. I'd already made a couple shawls this year but nothing too exciting looking or that difficult but I wanted to get better and eventually be able to create nicer lacier shawls using more advanced patterns.

Every month they have crochet-a-longs (there are other groups for knitting, this one is pure crochet) usually one with a free pattern and a couple other with paid for patterns. I've been doing the free ones simply because I don't want to pay for something I'm not skilled enough to tackle, some of them look quite difficult to a mere advanced beginner. In these groups we post photos of our progress, ask questions, provide advice and support, it's really amazing how friendly and helpful everyone is. It's quite inspiring to see the shawls people create, everyone is different merely because of yarn and size of hook chosen.

This month's pattern I am doing is called Catkins and is an abstract depiction of the catkins (fuzzy end) of the pussy willow. I've chosen to use some variegated purple acrylic yarn called Crocus from the Premier Yarn Deborah Norville Serenity Garden line. It was suggested I make a few test swatches using different sized hooks because this yarn doesn't stretch as much as some and a larger hook might get a better "drape" (the way it falls/hangs). Excellent advice, I ended up testing 4 hooks, the H (5 mm), I(5.5 mm), K(6.5 mm) and the J(6 mm). Note I listed the J last, it was actually the order I tried them in, jumping fro I to K because it just didn't feel right. I took photos of my swatches and asked for advice. so right. I am finding this pattern much easier not to screw up than my last as yet unfinished shawl.
Clockwise from top left, H, K, I hook swatches
Here is the actual shawl 8 rows in. It feels great, looks great and is so easy!
8 rows of pattern using J hook
The designer, a gal using the handle "yarnpumpkin" even provided some very helpful tips even to the point of trying the same yarn with a J hook. We both seemed to come to the same conclusion quickly, the J hook was the way to go. K made the fabric too loose H and I too tight, but J was perfect. She even suggested dropping the cluster size from 5 DCs (double crochet, it's a type of stitch for the uninitiated) to 4 DCs because of the thickness of the yarn. She was so right! So this is what I am spending much of my time doing now when I'm not blogging, reading posts at ravelry or walking dogs.

My other shawl, the Small Talk languishes. I did manage to get half way through row 7 of the 8 on the edging, but just am not motivated to get it done. I had so many problems and screw ups that I ripped out enough rows to have made a second one. I don't think I'll have enough yarn for row 8 so I actually altered row 7 in case it's as far as I can get. For me, because of my height I think it will be too short, but I won't know till it's finished and blocked. Hopefully, that will happen this month. But probably not until after I get a few more rows done in my wonderful Catkins!

Small Talk around row 6 of the edging
(ETA: link)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hot Today

Unexpectedly, the temperature rose to 85.2 degrees f today! A bit hot for May 1st but we usually have a couple of those earlier than this. Still, it was too hot to really do anything outside, or inside once the house temp matched it. No air conditioning yet because the boxes are still wrapped in plastic.

Yesterday I took Luna and Ziggy to the vet, he needed shots and Luna's left foreleg was injured when Ziggy yanked on it a month ago. Met the new vet and I really liked her and she was great with my pups. She said it's Luna's shoulder and since it gets better and worse, and then better again figures it's muscular. And x-rays would require anesthesia because they would need to bend the leg all around to check on cartilage tears. So she's got 2 weeks of anti-inflammatories and rest. She is not happy, she wants her walks but I must be strong and ignore those woeful looks she gives me.

Ziggy yelped every time he got an injection in the scruff of his neck. Most dogs don't have such a bad time with it, but he tried to escape every time. When we got home (it's about an hour drive) he was listless and looked miserable, head hanging down, tail limp. I had to help him up stairs and onto the sofa. He obviously had a reaction to the vaccines. I was worried about him all evening (appointment was at 2 pm), got him to eat some raw eggs around 8 pm. By 11 pm he actually wanted outside and even barked a few times. He was much better by this morning, and when we walked over to Ms Judy's he heard Princess and suddenly flew past me, all back to normal. I'm hoping there are different formulations we can try next year.

Two days ago I finally got the veggie garden tilled up enough (by hand with a shovel) to plant a double 12 ft row of snow peas; dwarf grey sugar. Bought them in bulk from the Lincoln hardware store. Today I also finally got around to ordering my green beans, potatoes and a few other seeds from Pinetree Seeds in Maine. I also ordered a 5 pack of hardy blueberry bushes from Miller Nurseries in NY. I bought blueberries from them when we lived in Virginia. Almost bought something called a honeyberry, aka haskap, a sort of edible honeysuckle from Russia, but decided I need to think about where to plant them first.

I still have 10 elderberry saplings to plant and 8 strawberry plants which should have been 10 that I paid for through the Alcona Conservation District. I doubt there is anything they can do about it, but I did email the wholesaler that provided them. It's a little annoying, especially when I only ordered 10. If I'd ordered 50 and was missing 2 it wouldn't be as big a deal. Eight plants won't provide many berries.

The outside temp is down to 59.5 now but it's still 75.5 indoors even with all the windows open. Still feels pretty miserable but it's time to head to bed to read my book.