Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Off My Needles May 27, 2011

Holy crap, that knitting just FLEW by!  I love it when a pattern (in this case Simple Things by Mary-Heather Cogar) and a yarn (Skein Queen‘s Entwist in A Christmas Carol from the Knit magazine sock club) come together so very perfectly.  At least in my opinion.  The shawlete is a tad on the colorful side, but it will match pretty much everything that way!

This is the shawlete hot off the needles, not even blocked yet.

I had to run outside to take pictures of it because A.) no one would believe me that I finished something so fast otherwise and B.) the sun is going down and it is difficult to take pictures in the dark.

The amount of yarn worked out perfectly after I did 2 more repeats of the garter eyelet ridge than called for in the pattern.  I had exactly 10 grams left over, perfect for my sock yarn blanket!

I plan on making this pattern again as it is lovely for watching TV or traveling.  Really it’s almost stupid-proof.  And it makes variegated sock yarns look great.  Since there’s not a lot of lace to get lost, it could handle the deeply colorful nature of this yarn.

I will try to post blocking photos tomorrow (because y’all are just on edge for some hot blocking shots!).

 

On My Needles May 25, 2011

I’ve had the strongest urge to start a new project for the past few days and I’ve kept stuffing it back down saying, “When I get done with this project…”.  Well, that project had to go take an emergency bath and I allowed myself to cast-on a new project.  I’ve really wanted to do something with the skein of yarn that I got from the Knit Sock Club first shipment which was dyed by Skein Queen if you don’t remember.  However, I really didn’t want to do socks with it.  I have come to this realization that I A.) Love sock yarn, B.) Don’t really like making socks that much and C.) Really enjoy looking at sock construction.  Funny huh, at least 2 of the 3 needed ingredients are there but that middle one is sort-of a doozie to get over.  I mean, I love (and I mean passionately love) making tubes.  If I could reasonably make tube socks, I’d be a happy camper.  But it’s the turning the heel and toe shaping that make me put down the socks.  It’s not that I can’t do them.  I can!  I’ve completed 2 pairs of socks at this time with little or no help from others.  It’s just that at that point I always put them down.  I think that I’m not that big on thinking about what I am knitting, much preferring to just knit.  To say that I am a process knitter is a great big DUH!!!

Anyway, put all this together and you have me trolling Ravelry for a pattern that I like for a little shawl or scarf that only uses one precious skein of sock yarn.  And I found it.  Even the name appealed to me for the mood I was in: Simple Things by Mary-Heather Cogar.  I needed a really simple design for the amount of color in this skein of yarn and looking at the pictures of FO’s, I thought that this pattern could handle it.

Here is 2 evenings worth of work on it:

I am enjoying this pattern so much, don’t be surprised if everybody gets one of these for Christmas!

 

What My Afternoon Looked Like May 12, 2011

Yesterday I got the word that it was time to go get some fleeces that I have been watching for the past two years (at very high speeds as I drove by!).  I thought that they were Hebridean sheep but I found out that they were Black Welch Mountain sheep instead.  I think I can be forgiven the mistake:-)  Anyway, I get there and this is what I first see… Lots of freshly shorn Black Welch Mountain sheep grazing.

This is what I saw (and smelled) next.  A jumbled pile of fleeces.

And a friendly horse keeping an eye on me.

Then I saw this, the back of my car filled with fleeces (and more fleeces in that bag!).

Then I came home and walked some dogs.  Not just mine, but the next door neighbor’s and their neighbor’s as well.  This meant 2 Golden Retrievers, a Lurcher and a Miniature Long-Haired Chihuahua (who doesn’t need her lead for this walk).  There is a lot more dog power there than it looks like, and if they were all a little more well-trained, I would probably strap skates on and mush them around the neighborhood!

As I was walking over the stile to get into the field, I got a great shot of my new shoes that got their inaugural trip to a farm today!  All you sock knitter take note, stiles are a great place to take pictures of your feet!  Action shots!  In the countryside!

Then I cut some roses.  Normally I am a big fan of leaving the flowers on the plants naturally, but this particular rose bush tends to get beaten by the wind and eaten by the bugs terribly.  So, I’ve been cutting some flowers…

And I made a sort of impromptu arrangement…

I put a bunch of roses in small glass vases (of which I am quite fond and have a fairly sizable collection) and lined them up across the mantlepiece of our fireplace.

It looks pretty and was super easy to do.

So that was my afternoon.  How was yours?

 

Walking the dogs May 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:25 pm
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We live in a lovely place that gives us the opportunity to take our dogs for a walk every day in wonderful field up the road.  Every day I see things that I wish I were a better photographer to be able to capture.  Today was the swallows.  They may have been back for a while, but I’ve not noticed them in the field before today.  Mal likes to try to chase them as they fly low, skimming over the top of the grass in their search for insects.

While I didn’t get any photos of the swallows, I did get some of the slower moving dogs.  First is Meara, lagging behind probably looking for something stinky to roll in.

The grass is already getting deep, to the point that we are starting to worry about losing Weezy in it.  She doesn’t fret about it but we do when we suddenly can’t see her anywhere.  Here she is in some grass that is just about as tall as she is.

Malcolm doesn’t really mind the grass getting taller, though it does tend to make his run more bouncy as he leaps through it.

Here’s hoping that your day was as beautiful as ours was!

 

Still washing…. May 6, 2011

I finally finished washing a very large Jacob fleece that I got a couple of years ago (hangs head knowing that I should have washed them when I got them).  It wasn’t that difficult to wash, just that there was a LOT of it.  Most of the Jacob sheep that I have “met” have been pretty good-sized animals.  There are more than a few of them around here even, though I think that they are more pets and lawn mowers than normal sheep as they are fun to see with their coats of many colors and multiple horns.  I’ve moved onto a moorit Shetland that was purchased in the same batch as the rest of the British wool group.  It’s not nearly as nice as the fleeces that I picked-up in Lerwick from the special room at J&S.  Then again, the special room in J&S is a result of Oliver and his 60+ years experience working with Shetland fleeces.  When he sees a particularly interesting one, or a really, really nice one he pops it in there for the handspinners.  This Shetland of unknown provenance is nice, though seems quite dusty.  The water is less tea-like and more mud-like than I’ve seen to this point.  It also smells dusty.  Not like a barn like some of them have smelled but more like a shed where harvesting equipment is stored.  I know that is really splitting hairs (and that the majority of people in the world aren’t going to have a clue as to what the hell I’m talking about) but it is interesting.  It doesn’t smell particularly sheepy to tell you the truth.  Some of the Shetland fleeces that I got in Shetland had a lot of peat in them which made them “fun” to wash (more like I was dunking giant tea bags with wool in them over and over and over) but none of them smelled anything like this.  In fact, it makes me think that this fleece may have been from a Shetland sheep that isn’t located on the islands.  I have nothing to back this up unless I want to get all CSI on its ass (I could sample the “mud” that I am getting out of it and see what it’s composed of and then compare that to soil surveys taken of the islands…. Ok, wow, just geeked myself out there for a little bit!).

Anyway, I am glad to see the back of the Jacob as I was starting to get a tad on the bored side with it.  After the Shetland of unknown provenance I have 3 colored fleeces that were sold as simply “Fine Wool Coloured £2.75” and a “Cheviot £4.50”.  Just to stave off the question that I know is going to be coming, the huge Jacob fleece was £3, the Coloured BFL was £5.25 and the Shetland of unknown provenance £3.75.  Now, for those of you in the US that are beginning to hyperventilate over those prices for fleece, let me explain something.  This is an island covered in sheep.  In some areas farmers burn or mulch the fleeces that they get from sheep because they aren’t worth enough to pay for the shipping to the market (though, hopefully this won’t be the case this year as fleece prices have gone up significantly there).  I also didn’t get to choose the fleeces that I got for those prices.  But (hopefully I don’t have folks after me with wool combs after posting this!) the total price for the 7 fleeces that I got from the British Wool Marketing Board in 2009 was £33.70 and that included shipping to my house.  This isn’t tooooo uncommon of a price to tell you the truth.  Last year I got a Leicester Longwool at Woolfest for around £9 and the year before that I got a really nice Herdwick for £5.  All of my Shetland fleeces from Shetland were between £5 and £10 (they were priced per kilo) and they were really really nice, like they would have possibly gone for triple digits at Rhinebeck…  Some of the more canny farmers are starting to mark their fleeces up a bit for things like Woolfest, but most of them don’t too much yet as it is just too easy for most spinners here to get fleeces for very cheap or for free still.

So, you might be wondering what brought about this wool washing extravaganza all of a sudden.  One word: Moths.  I found a few in the downstairs part of the house on yarn that had been left out for ornamental purposes.  It’s not too surprising to find them given that A.) the house has no screens on its windows so every Tom, Dick and Harry Moth can fly in when it gets warm out if they want to and B.) there are sheep (and wool) all around us.  When I go for walks this time of the year, it’s not uncommon to find bits of wool in places that I know no sheep has been around and lining the sides of the roads after the wool truck has come.  So there is plenty of food for the insidious destroyers of goodness just laying about.  Anyway, I had all of these unwashed fleeces in the attic which (thankfully) hasn’t yet seen a single winged harbinger of destruction, but I was just waiting for it to happen.  That many unwashed fleeces could just draw them like the One Ring drew power seekers to Frodo (sorry, been watching the LOTR trilogy the last few nights).

So last weekend the hubby and I made fleece bags (large, pillowcase-like bags to hold [in my case] clean fleeces) out of some old sheets that we had from Florida for covering plants when it froze there.   He did the sewing and I did the cutting and we busted out a about a dozen in a little over an hour.  Into these bags I put a small notecard with all the information I have about a particular fleece covered with a plastic baggie.  I also put any original paperwork that may have come with the fleece into this baggie if I can.  The plastic baggie keeps the paper from getting funky and makes it a little easier to find.  After I put the fleeces into the fleece bags I will then put a couple of fleeces in their individual bags into a large, IKEA Dimpa bag and zip it closed.  That way I have a couple of layers of defense between the fleeces and the dusty-winged bringers of doom (layers of defense: Clean fleece [moths like it dirty], cotton bag [not much of a defense, but it is a layer] plastic breathable bag [more of a defense {I do not believe the stories about moths eating through plastic bags, much more likely in my opinion that there was a small hole in the bag to begin with or that (and I know that no-one wants to believe this of themselves) they put the woolen product away with moths or their eggs already on it and they then had a feast inside the sealed plastic bag} though still not perfect], in the attic [have lots of the new type moth balls up there {not the nasty ones we remember from when we were young, these are sort of greasy and actually smell nice}]).  I’m glad to finally have these washed as I’ve worried over the past few years that I was going to go up to the attic and find big paper bags (that’s what the fleeces came in) full of little squirmy moth larvae with their parents fluttering towards the heavens.  Also, at least in this house, clean fleeces take up less space than the dirty ones do.  This is mostly (I think) from the rather intense skirting that I give to some of them.  I’m not going to try to scrub caked-in manure from a fleece unless it is made from freaking gold.  Life is too short, fleeces are too cheap and it’s just plain icky.  The manky bits that I don’t use go to a neighbor to either compost or use as mulch on her allotment.

I do plan on getting some more fleeces at Woolfest this year if I can.  I live in a place where some pretty rare breed fleeces can be had for a really reasonable price.  Even if I don’t spin them for a while, I am going to wash them ASAP this time so I don’t stay awake at night having visions of Tineola bisselliella chowing down on them.

In completely unrelated news, I had good luck (in my opinion, not so much in my husbands) at the Tring auction.  Since I was busy last Saturday I bid on-line, which is really quite easy, though I’m not completely sure that you will get the absolute best price you could for it.  One of the things that I won was a set of Gardening Dictonary from the 1890’s which is in excellent condition with all sorts of clippings and even a proper letter inside one!  I love books with extra bits of emphera in them.

I also got the rockingest little set of tables.  We currently have a big, long sectional couch that has no end tables or coffee table for visitors to set their drinks on when they are chatting with us.  This solves that problem with little tables that slide out and can be used for each person!  Score!  Also it is the perfect size for our printer downstairs.  Double Score!!

I also signed-up for classes at Knit Nation again this summer.  I nearly forgot about the registration opening despite receiving multiple e-mails reminding me about it.  I did get 2 out of the 3 classes I wanted and am on a waiting list for the 3rd.  The two classes I’ll be taking (for sure) are both by Judith McKenzie and are Spinning a Fine Thread and The Gentle Art of Spinning for Socks.  The 3rd class that I wanted was Franklin Habit‘s Photographing your Fiber which, if I read things right, sold out in about 5 minutes after registration opened.  (Me thinks he might want to offer more of that class in the future!)  So, I would never ever wish ill on someone (who wasn’t cutting me off in traffic [and lets face it, that doesn’t technically count as it would be physically impossible for them to actually do that]) so I’m wishing for really really fantastic things to happen to everyone in my way of taking that class.  Winning trips to Tahiti, getting married, having a baby (that they really wanted of course!), moving to Australia, whatever floats their boat so that I can take their mooring space when they leave.  It’s not bad for your karma if you wish good things for people so that something good can happen to you is it??

I’m also getting ready for 2 Finns and a Yank hit the road Part II.  Barbro and Malin are coming back over for (hopefully) a more laid back visit (for all of us!) again this summer.  We are driving up to the Lakes District to go to Woolfest as well as to check out the area.  We’re going to be spending 3 nights up there.  This will be the most time that I have spent up there and I am looking forward to having a leisurely look around for once.  They will be staying with us for about a week and we are all really looking forward to it.  Well, except for Kali, Malcolm’s girlfriend next door.  Malcolm gets so wrapped-up in Malin that he frequently forgets about his other blond!  We’re driving up the day before so that we can get there bright and early and I at least, plan on hitting the fleece tables early and often!  (I can hear the husband keening as he reads this tonight… Sorry honey!)

So that takes care of June and July and as of right now I don’t have any concrete plans for August.  There might be something there, but it is with the hubby so am keeping it under wraps for the moment.

On other unrelated news, I’ve had very good mail this week.  I got my first installment of Knit magazine’s sock club that was dyed by Skein Queen.  It’s a lovely yarn with a nice twist and colors that I like.  She named all of the colorways that she did for the sock club after books.  Mine is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It’s a great start to the club and I am very pleased with it!

 

May Day May 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 11:35 am
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On the first we went to nearby Aldbury for their May Day celebration.  It seemed that a lot of the things going on in it were to support the local primary school, so there were lots and lots of small children around, thus we didn’t stay very long.  It’s not that I have anything against children, I really don’t, but if I want to get my face painted I’ll do it at home with chocolate:-)  Anyway, here are a few photos that are mostly of the village that we caught before we left (it was too crowded in the celebrations to get any good photos).

 

Everyone Who Knows How To Read Should Read This May 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:41 pm

Read This