Green Eggs and… Music

We’ve started collecting green eggs from our new Easter Egger hens! Our first egg was found on Good Friday, the second on Easter, and we’ve had about 5 more since. My best guess is that Alma Raspberry has been laying them, since her comb is the reddest, but I can’t be entirely sure, because I’ve yet to catch one of them in the nesting box. She must be quick! Here’s a couple of snaps of Mae with the first egg we found:

green-egg-from-easter-egger-hens

green-egg-from-easter-egger-hen

Also, I’ve been trying to find ways to combine my favorite creative outlets in a stress-relieving way, and most recently I’ve been combining music writing and recording with nature visuals / videography. So far I’ve created and posted 3 relaxing music videos featuring some piano compositions I recorded awhile ago. I thought I’d embed them here for those of you who haven’t seen them yet on my other social media channels. Hopefully they will help you to feel relaxed and refreshed as much as I was by creating them. I’m also working on a bigger project involving animation (with drawings from my daughter) and a more complex song that includes vocals… so hopefully I’ll be posting that soon!

Weaving Wonderment

I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to yet another fiber art adventure. Mae and I bought a Zoom Loom today to give it a go. We both found it fun, quick and easy… And sure to become a new addiction. Mae’s planning to make a blanket for her Pixie doll:



And I wonder what I should do with my first handspun square?



The possibilities are endless…

Christmas : Part Two : Little toys and a Pillow cover pattern

Happy New Year!!!

Since 2/3 of my Christmas celebrations are over and these gifts have been given, I can now share them with the world. I will go in order from smallest to biggest, with a pattern to share at the end.

First, these tiny needle-felted sheep were sent with Lupo the Lamb to the generous givers of my lamb fleeces. I thought they would make cute Christmas ornaments. I meant to post them earlier, but time flies when you’re knitting against the clock:

tiny needle felted sheep ornaments

My kids think they look more like puppies… I guess I need more needle-felting practice. 😦

Next, a tiny record player for my daughter… at her request:

tiny-mochi-mochi-record-player

I made it so the record can be placed on and off the turn-table, and I got the pattern from this fabulous book by Anna Hrachovec.

Next, a little knitted baby penguin for my nephew. He wanted a baby to go with this one I made for him, so I modified the original pattern by Amy Gaines a bit, and used smaller yarn and needles:

knitted-baby-penguin-hat-scarf

knitted-baby-penguin-scarf

knitted-baby-penguin

And finally, I knitted 2 pillow covers for my Sister-in-law and Mother-in-law. I used 4-skeins each of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn, and 20″ down-alternative pillow inserts and they are super soft and squishy and cozy.

knitted-pillow-cover-pink-front

knitted-pillow-cover-pink-back

I think Mae wants one too. 😉

knitted-cabled-pillow-cover-blue

I saw a similar pattern online, but I thought it looked pretty simple, and I wanted to use a chunky weight yarn for a faster knit, so I wrote my own. Here it is, if anyone is interested. They are a pretty quick knit, and you can take the covers off for washing:

Cabled knitted pillow cover pattern : 20” x 20”

Materials:
4 skeins (108 yards each) Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky (Hot Rod pink and Monterey Bay blue)
Size 10 (US) knitting needles (straight or long-cabled circular)
1 cable needle (or double point) of similar size as your knitting needles
Size G (4.0mm) Crochet hook
20″ x 20″ pillow insert of your choice (I chose a down alternative filling for squishy coziness)

Gauge:
Mine matched that listed on the yarn (4 stitches = 1″) so you can swatch and use different needles if you want, but I think it shouldn’t matter too much as it will stretch to fit the pillow.

Back panel bottom:
CO 70 stitches
knit 10” stockinette (about 46 rows) then knit 8 rows in 1×1 rib for the overlap.

Back panel top:
CO 70 stitches
knit 10” stockinette (about 46 rows) then knit 12 rows in 1×1 rib for the overlap.

Front:
Basics (Since I like a big picture overview): You will have 3 cable columns of 8 stitches each, 4 purl stitches in between each, 15 stitches stockinette on each side, and you will cable by holding the 1st 4 stitches of each cable section to the front of your work, then knitting 4 stitches, then knitting the stitches held to the front every 12 rows, starting on 11th row. You will also slip the first stitch of every row for a smoother, easier to crochet edge.

Now the details of the cable pattern:

row 1: sl 1, k14, p4, k8, p4, k8, p4, k8, p4, k15
row 2: sl 1, p14, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p15
(5x)

row 11: sl 1, k14, p4, * slip 4 st on cable needle and hold to front, k4, knit 4 st from cable needle (3x from *), p4, k15

row 12: sl 1, p14, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p15
row 13: sl 1, k14, p4, k8, p4, k8, p4, k8, p4, k15
(5x)

row 22: sl 1, p14, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p8, k4, p15
row 23: sl 1, k14, p4, * slip 4 st on cable needle and hold to front, k4, knit 4 st from cable needle (3x from *), p4, k15

Repeat row 12-23 5 more times, then row 12-13 5 times, then row 12 1 time, then bind off loosely.

Finished size should be about 20″ tall and wide.

Finish by pinning the back panels together with the ribbed stitched rows overlapping, then pin the back to the front so all the edges line up.

Single crochet (or sew if you prefer) around all of the edges and fasten off.

Stuff your pillow insert inside and let the cuddling begin!

Let me know if you find any errors in this pattern (I am definitely an amateur and this hasn’t been tested) and I will correct this post.

🙂

Now I shall return to spinning, spinning, and more spinning for Christmas Part 3 at the end of the month!

 

Lupo the Lamb

My first ever “straight-from-the-lamb” project is done! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

Seems a little silly that I did all that wool processing only to turn it back into a lamb. 😉 I ran out of white yarn toward the end, and had to make some more… learning from that process that I overplied the first batch. The second was much softer and lighter. The brown wool seemed easier and more consistent to spin over all. Not quite as fine, but still very soft, and I adore the color variations, with bits of red and grey highlights. And since my hand-spinning is nowhere near as consistent in weight as commercial yarn, he’s not completely symmetrical, ie. the arms and feet are slightly different sizes. But I think that lends him a bit of extra hand-made charm (I think). I also stuffed him with the wool (each color matching) which helped with show-through issues, and he’s delightfully huggable as a result.

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

I’m definitely in love with Lalylala designs even more now. It took longer than other crochet animals I’ve made, with its smaller, tighter gauge, but that also gives it a smoother look, and there are little subtle touches that made the pattern very special, especially the shaping of the hands and feet.

He also turned out a little bigger than the pattern’s specified 10″. He’s around 14″, since my yarn was a little heavier than sock weight. I also used a bigger hook (2.5mm), and bigger eyes (9mm instead of 6mm).

The kids and I really want to keep him, but I’m going to send him back “home” as a thank you to the people who gave me the fleeces. I’ll probably have to make another one to live with us eventually. Lord knows I have enough wool left over. 🙂 But first I need to take a break from crochet. I’m dying to knit something, and also to see how this wool spins up woolen, and into something wearable. Stay tuned…

A Surprise, A Sleepover and A Separation

The Surprise:

My finished secret project: A crochet Gromit for my Sweet Prince as an Anniversary gift (15 years married last Thursday!).

crochet gromit

He said he wanted it life-size (still not sure if he was joking) so I used super-bulky yarn and I think it turned out pretty close (used almost a full bag of stuffing!). He’s definitely bigger than our cats.

I got the free pattern here: http://amiamour.com/2010/05/gromit-amigurumi-pattern/ but I followed this Ravelry project notes to make the spherical eyes and longer nose and ears: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Clelixedda/gromit-amigurumi

The Sleepover:

Our Chicken Integration Project is officially a success! Gloria wanted to go into the coop with Alberta and Frances the other night, and they didn’t seem too freaked out about it (they’ve been hanging out in very close proximity all week, and the rainy nights have been leaking into her little coop), so I thought we’d give it another try. Of course, once she realized she was locked in, she tried her best to get out, and paced around until almost dark, but I thought, hey, she is a chicken, let’s see if those roosting instincts kick in. And lo and behold, just before complete nightfall, she went up into the house and settled into the largest nesting box (the same size as her current one). Hooray! Then, the next day, I left her old coop closed up, hoping that she’d follow her habit she developed after Cleo’s passing (however annoying) of laying her egg where she’s been sleeping. And she did! Yay!

first-egg-new-coop

The next night, while the girls were all slightly mystified that this sleepover thing is turning into a permanent roommate situation, there were no serious complaints, and Gloria went right up into the house when it started to get dark.

all-chickens-in-coop

Life is going to be so much simpler for all of us now, and so much better for Gloria. 🙂

all-chickens2

The Separation:

Don’t worry, it’s a good one, if a little bitter sweet. While the chickens were moving in together, my kids were officially moving into their own bedrooms. They’ve been using the same room since Mae was born, and 7 years later, even though they are closer than ever, they have finally decided they would like their own spaces. So, our house has been in upheaval moving furniture around, building new furniture, reorganizing closets, etc… I’m very happy for them, and proud of their little independent spirits, but also a little sad that they are growing up so fast! The question now is… what are we going to do with all their door/hall decorations we’ve accumulated over the years?

jonah-mae-door-hall

Secret Christmas Projects Revealed

Happy New Year!!! For all of you who thought my whole crafting world revolves around spinning yarn right now… well… you’re not completely wrong, but I have been actually making some things out of some of that yarn as well, so it’s time to share with you the Christmas presents I’ve been working on:

First, here is what the handspun “imperfect” suri baby alpaca yarn turned into: an infinity scarf for my lovely bestest friend since elementary school. I used a free pattern from Ravelry, but I can’t find the link anymore, so here are the basics:

size 13 (US) circular needles w/40″ cable
CO 108 stitches, join in the round, add a stitch marker
odd rows: *YO, k2tog* repeat to the end of that round
even rows: knit to the end of the round
the pattern calls for 200 yards bulky weight yarn, which will give you about 35 rows but I only had about 150 yards, and I got 25 rows. So I think you can just keep going to make it as wide as you want…. just make sure you have enough yarn leftover to bind off.
Bind off VERY loosely. I did *k2tog through the back loops, slip the right needle stitch back to the left needle*, repeat to the end.

It was a very quick, fun knitting project, and I think it looks gorgeous on her (or maybe it’s her that makes it look gorgeous?):

handspun suri baby alpaca infinity scarf

Next, another crochet pokemon character, Umbreon and Ultraball (pattern adapted from this one) for my niece who loves all things Pokemon as much as my kids. I’m especially proud of these because I handspun all of the yarn out of merino, dyed the yellow and red wool myself with food colors (not the black… I had an Anne of Green Gables moment trying to dye black… it turned out green!), and needle-felted the eyes and yellow details… a new experience for me… so fun and easy! And I love how it makes the detailing look like it was “painted” on with thick fuzzy paint. Lola decided to photo bomb this one:

crochet-pokemon-umbreon-ultraball

And finally, here is my third Pixie doll I’ve made for another of my nieces… who has been coveting her sister’s. I made her hair a bit more layered, and used “shimmery” Suncatcher green eyes. She has a pink leotard peeking out under her dress, so she can dance a ballet at a moment’s notice!

knitted-pixie-doll-green-eyes

And now back to my current spinning endeavors: I’m learning to spin long-draw woolen yarn! After my experiment with “messy” spinning on the baby suri alpaca, I wanted to explore the best method for the softest, lightest yarn possible, in order to bring out the best of this 50/50 superfine merino and angora handpainted roving that I bought from The Fiber Imp on Etsy. My Sweet Prince gave me some hand carders for Christmas, so I’ve been learning to make rolags, which are really the only way to achieve a true woolen long-draw. I’m definitely still a beginner, but I’m finding it SO fun, and very quick to spin this way. And the results are so soft and light and airy. Since I’m learning to embrace the whole imperfect process of spinning, I’m feeling much braver, and having a lot more fun! Here are my first attempts. Maybe I should treat myself to my own infinity scarf now?

handspun woolen long draw merino and angora yarn

Embracing Imperfection

This is a tough one for me. I’m pretty sure I was born a perfectionist… born first, of course. I can spend hours, even days, lamenting the smallest of mistakes I’ve made. And even when I’ve been able to adopt a wider perspective and accept that life is full of both good and bad, joy and heartache, it’s still the hope of things becoming better, or more perfect, that gets me through the tough times. But what if sometimes what is imperfect, full of “mistakes,” is really the very best thing? I’m currently having this epiphany because of a spinning project I’m working on. I’ve been experimenting off and on with the undyed suri baby alpaca I bought from Woolgatherings when I first started learning to spin, but now that I want to use the rest for a secret Christmas project, it hasn’t been cooperating. Or maybe it has, but I haven’t been happy with the results. I tried spinning it worsted with pre-drafting, like I’ve been doing with the merino, and it looks good, maybe even close to “perfection,” but it feels pretty dense and tight, and doesn’t at all do justice to the wonderfully silky, soft raw fiber. So I started to play with it, open it up, muss it up in my hands, spin it this way and that to see how to best achieve the maximum amount of softness. I settled on spinning it from the fold, to acheive a bouncier, semi-worsted density, and I just mussed the heck out of it, before and during spinning. I let it go pretty much wherever it wanted, with lots of slubs and thicker and thinner parts. I tried to channel my daughter by delighting in the “fuzzy” parts. I then tried several dyeing experiments with it, wanting to find the “perfect” color for my project, but none of them seemed quite right, so I guess it just wants to stay its own “perfectly” natural creamy white.

Here is the result… completely imperfect, and incredibly soft, warm, light and silky. It’s been a joy to knit with.

handspun baby suri alpaca yarn

So here are my thoughts about how this relates to my life, and the Christmas holidays in general: So many of us long for perfection in this season. We all want the perfect presents for everyone, perfect decorations, perfect family dynamics, perfect peace for all. But in reality, this season is always VERY imperfect. It can have its magical, joyful, loving moments, but it can also be melancholy, stressful, lonely, and full of pain and longing for those we have lost. In my experience, there have been many Christmases surrounded by loss, and many people I know have been surrounded by sadness and loss this season as well. Our family is not immune. This morning, I sat wrapping Christmas presents next to the cage of our remaining guinea pig, Tornado, as I watched her life slip away. She has been sick, but I wonder if her immune system was also weakened by loneliness after the loss of her sister a couple of months ago.

It seems appropriate that today is the shortest day, the longest night of the year. But, as my Mom reminded me this morning, there is also hope in knowing that the days will start to get longer from here on out. My favorite Christmas songs are those that capture that feeling… of sadness, longing, hope and joy… all in one. My favorite band, Over the Rhine, put out a Christmas album several years back called “The Darkest Night of the Year”, and this year they are giving away a digital version of their latest Christmas album, also full of this kind of music (possibly my favorite Christmas album ever), “Snow Angels” to their supporters and friends, so I wanted to share the download link with you, my dear readers and friends, in the hope that their music can help you embrace whatever you may be feeling and experiencing this season… both the darkness and the light… and in so doing, your hearts might be warmer, more imperfectly perfect, and filled with peace.

Merry Christmas to all.

christmas tree angel

Winter Penguin

Not that I’m ready for Winter (although it’s threatening to come early here with crazy rain and wind storms the last few days), but I made this super cute knitted penguin for my nephew’s birthday this past weekend. He’s a big fan of penguins, and they tend to go with snow, so why not knit him a hat and scarf to keep him warm? The pattern is by Amy Gaines and I think it turned out pretty well, except the hat is too big. It’s supposed to be oversized, but I think it’s my own fault that it won’t stay on, because I used two different types of yarn. I added a magnet at the top of his head, and under the brim of his hat to help keep it on… it sorta helped, I think. Oh well, I guess he looks pretty cute without it also.

Knitted penguin : pattern by Amy Gaines knitted penguin : pattern by Amy Gaines knitted penguin : pattern by Amy Gaines uin : pattern by Amy Gaines

touchet crochet! … and a death in the family

I was able to finish the Glaceon toy entirely in crochet! The craft gloves I purchased seemed to help my wrists, and I also gave up some of the tightness of the gauge to help my hands relax more. It’s not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty well, and Jonah is happy with it. (except for the curling of the ear flaps, but we are fixing that with blocking tonight.)

crochet glaceon

I also crocheted Mae’s Pokemon this weekend: Mew (pattern here). It went much faster, mostly because it’s all one color, and had less pieces to assemble. I think it turned out pretty cute, and the Suncatcher eyes I used really brought the face to life.

mew crochet

My biggest motivation for finishing these toys this weekend was as a comfort and distraction for my kids, because on Friday we discovered that one of our guinea pigs (Alice, the red and black one) was very sick. We took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with some sort of mass in her abdomen (possibly an ovarian cyst or a tumor). They couldn’t tell for sure without x-rays, but either case would require an operation, and guinea pigs don’t do well under anesthetic in general. The kids were very sad, Mae especially, since it’s her guinea pig, but she wasn’t ready to put her to sleep right away, so we brought her home to see how she would do. Guinea pigs can hide their illness for a long time, but once they start showing symptoms, and not eating, they deteriorate very quickly, so we hoped she wouldn’t suffer much longer, but pass away in peace at home. During the last couple of days it was hard to watch her grow weaker, but it seemed like a very sweet time for her and her sister, cuddling almost constantly, with Tornado grooming her and comforting her, so I’m not regretting the decision. She wasn’t acting like she was in pain, so I believe that this was the best, most natural process for them, and that it might also help Tornado understand the loss of her sister. Today, Alice left our lives in peace, laying down quietly most of the morning, and eventually slipping into to her final sleep. Tornado left her alone at the end, interestingly enough, as if she knew her time was close and she was ready to let her go, and now that Alice is gone, she seems much more active, wandering around and eating and drinking more normally than she had been the last couple of days as she spent most of her time with Alice. It’s as if she feels some relief after this watching and waiting time, or maybe I’m just projecting my own emotions on her. The kids, in their turn, were amazingly sweet and brave. Before, they had not wanted to talk about her dying, and said that they didn’t want to bury her, as they have sad memories of helping to bury our dog 2 years ago and sharing stories around her grave, so I wasn’t sure if I should wait until they got home to do it, but decided that I wanted to give them one last chance to say goodbye. So I put her body in a sweet little shoe box of Mae’s, and wrote her name in gold sharpie on it, and told the kids they could write things on it for her if they wanted to. I tried to tell them that they didn’t have to do any of this, but part of what it means to be a pet owner is being brave enough to talk about and think about what you’re going to do when they die. And they really rallied, even through their tears. They got excited about decorating her shoe box, and also a rock to put on top of her grave, and put all the effort they could into helping to bury her. I wasn’t going to push them to say anything after we buried her, but Jonah asked if they could, so we all talked about what we remembered about her. Once again, Mae got teary talking about Alice and Tornado playing tug-of-war with carrots, but she was so very brave to do it anyway.

guinea pig funeral

guinea pig funerl

I really have some pretty amazing kids, who are learning some tough things about life. Pets are really great to have around, but eventually you have to say goodbye. But they are still worth it for all the joy they bring to our lives and what they can teach us about life. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, Alice, including the true merit of a dandelion, and how to die gracefully with your loved ones. Rest in peace in fields of dandelions forever, sweet little guinea pig.

alice-tornado-guinea-pigs

crochet… eh?

I haven’t really done very many crochet projects, even though I learned the basics when I was young… long before I learned to knit. I think the farthest I got then was half a scarf, because when I ran out of yarn, I gave up. The concept of pulling loops through other loops to make the stitches helped me learn to knit though, and since I’ve been knitting, I sometimes use crochet to add a border, or make the curls for my pixie dolls. But lately my kids have become absolutely obsessed with all things Pokemon, and have been begging me to make them Pokemon characters. Unfortunately, almost all of the patterns out there that I could find are done with crochet, which is the norm for amigurumi characters in general. This blogger is exceptionally prolific with giving out free patterns for Pokemon and other characters, and their creations are amazing: http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/ so I decided to start there. I thought it would be a good experience for me to learn to crochet toys, after all they are pretty darn cute, and any abbreviations I didn’t understand, I could Google.

I started with a simple one, a PokeBall, (pattern here) and I think it went pretty well. I really like how easy it is to make nice neat circles and globes with single crochet stitches:

crochet pokeball - pattern by wolfdreamer

I then started on something more complicated. Jonah’s character he really wants is called Glaceon:

Glaceon illustration

Yeah, that looks pretty easy… not! Fortunately, I happened to have just the right colors in my stash though. Wolfdreamer doesn’t have a Glaceon pattern, but they have a similar pattern for another character, Umbreon, and I then found another blogger that made a Glaceon pattern modified from Umbreon, so I’ve been going back and forth between the two patterns. I finished the body and the head, and then somewhere in the middle of the first leg I got totally lost trying to make the diamond shapes. Also, the Glaceon patten for the shoulders didn’t work out right, and the diamonds looked pretty messy, so I asked Jonah if it was OK if I just made them half dark teal, and half light teal. He agreed.

crochet glaceon half done

Then I discovered a bigger problem. Crocheting these tight stitches on these tiny parts has been causing me to grip with my fingers very tightly, and with all of the twisting of the hook, my wrists started Killing Me. I already have carpal tunnel syndrome that comes and goes, and now it feels like it’s moving to the top of my wrists as well… tendonitis??? Yuck! I tried taking a break for a few days from any crochet or knitting, then I tried knitting again, which didn’t seem to bother my wrists as much, probably because I’m more used to keeping them relaxed, and there’s not as much twisting… as long as I’m using good posture and wearing my glasses. Then, a few days later I picked up the Glaceon leg again. It only took a few rounds for my wrists to start screaming at me. So now I feel stuck. I’ve been crocheting about 1/2 a leg every other day, (only a few rounds!) and it’s all I can stand. I have one leg left, but then I still have the ears, and the tail, and the earflaps and hair and diamond accents!  Jonah doesn’t want me to continue if it hurts too much, but I hate to quit now, when I’m halfway done! I’m considering toughing out the final leg, and then trying to make up the other parts knitted instead… perhaps in garter stitch, so the stitches aren’t too different looking, but I’m thinking that it still might look odd to combine the two. Thoughts? And for you crocheters out there, any tips on how to keep my fingers/wrists relaxed while still keeping a firm tension?