Sarah Jane Humke

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

Finished! January 31, 2012

I have been working on Althea by Dutch Knitting Design otherwise known as my friend Marleen Van der Vorst.  I started this at Woolfest on either the 24th or the 25th of June.  Well, that’s not exactly correct as I started this yarn as a different pattern but quickly decided to use Marleen‘s pattern instead.  I hauled this shawlette to Knit Nation with me where very little got done on it.  However, I felt that I needed to show Marleen the progress that I was making on one of her patterns.  Then I am pretty sure that I didn’t show it to her at all.

This project rode in my checked baggage on the airplane home, only to be ignored for weeks on end in favor of Christmas projects and spinning.  I packed it into the big white van and it rode to Florida with me to deal with the house and not one stitch was added to it.  Finally (finally!) it got packed to go to Sticks and String this past weekend with me which is where we made a connection.

I know everyone always says this, but it’s amazing how fast a project goes when you actually work on it!

At the beginning of the weekend, it still looked more or less like this:

By the end of last night it looked like this:

The finish was exciting on this one.  I had this tiny ball of only 3 grams left over and that was after deciding to not do the last row of patterned knitting!

I gave it a bath in Soak last night and pinned it out early this morning.  My blocking board is packed somewhere in the storage unit along with my pins so I sort of had to improvise.  That’s ok, I’m pretty good at improvising!  This is a cedar chest that is under about 10 layers of blankets with a non-slip rug pad under them all.  This princess and the pea set-up is to keep Malcolm and the rest of the crew from scratching the top as they look out the window.  On top of all these blankets is a massive towel that my mom sewed out of 3 smaller towels way back in the day to put on the seat of a couch (which we no longer have).  I usually use it as a dog towel, but it was pressed into service as a pinning base today.   There was no way I was getting a picture of this shawl today without Sweetie Pie in the picture in all of her adolescent glory.  She’s actually waiting for me to throw her toy so that she can go fetch it.  For real, this cat plays fetch.

I didn’t have my fancy quilting pins (in storage as well) so I used a random pack of safety pins.  They worked ok!  The little gold ones were the best for pinning out the points.  When I have all of my blocking supplies together I will give this puppy a much stricter blocking, but this works for now!

And here is what it looks like now, blocked and fully finished!  It turned out much larger than I expected.  I knit and knit and knit on this and it took 97 grams out of 100 in the skein and I, for some crazy reason, thought that it was going to be a lot smaller than it turned out to be.  You would think that by now I would have a goodly grasp on the idea that more yarn (usually)=More knitted item.  I’m actually quite pleased with how large it is.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one aspect of Marleen’s patterns that I just love!  She makes them in these little booklets that fit perfectly inside the plastic bags that they come in.  This means that you can just turn to the proper page in the pattern and pop it back into the bag.  My patterns usually end-up looking (quite frankly) like a hot mess by the time that I am done knitting the project.  They’ve been folded and refolded and stuffed into a bag so the ends are all curly, you get the idea!  This particular pattern has more than a few miles on it.  It’s been stuffed into my purse for weeks on end (never a good thing!), packed into suitcases and carry-on bags, the works.  It still looks wonderful all protected by the plastic bag even after a LOT of abuse.  The pattern contains both charted and fully written-out directions as well as multiple color pictures of various aspects of the garment.  How many times have you knit something and wished that you could see how it was put together, not just on a super skinny model?  Well, Marleen’s patterns have them!  I know I sound all gushy about a pattern, but really, when you see something like this done the way it should be done it’s hard not to get a little verklempt!

So here, with no more ado, are the glamor shots of the finished and blocked shawl!

Obviously no pictures of me wearing it as it is difficult (to say the least) to take a flattering shot of yourself by yourself from behind.  However, it goes all the way down my back to the top of my jeans.

Pattern: Althea by Dutch Knitting Design

Yarn: Supreme Sock by Yarn Addict in Earth.  50% Merino, 50% Silk. 97 grams used.


Thirty-Four Today

I’ve been listening to a lot of Aimee Mann lately and there is one song of hers that hits me in the gut every time that I hear it.  It’s called Thirty One Today and it’s on her @#%&*! Smilers album.  That’s the actual name of her album I didn’t do that to save your innocent eyes or anything.  Like I would do that!  Anyway, there are a lot of lines in it that strike cords, but the strongest would have to be one of the main lines of the song.  “I thought my life would be different somehow. I thought my life would be better by now.”

Don’t we all come to that point, usually several times in our lives, when we think, “I should have gotten this, this and this done by now!  What am I doing?!?!?”  Now I don’t want anyone to think that I am complaining right now.  I know how profoundly lucky I am to have been born when and where I was.  I have a family and lots of friends who love me despite myself sometimes.  I have a job, I have a place to live, I have more yarn than I can probably use in my life! (Though I am not calling S.A.B.L.E. yet! I’m only thirty-four!)  But there is no getting around the fact that the last few months have been, by far, the toughest of my life.  There was the move which was rushed ahead due to the health issues of a family member. I have been sick more in the past four months than I have in the past five or ten years combined.  It has been a time of massive adjustments, loneliness and generally relearning how to stand on my own again.  Even as I go through all of this, I can look at everything in my life and say, “This isn’t who I am now, it’s just a rough patch in my life that will pass with time.”  I thank God that I’m not going through all of this in my early twenties when it seemed that my favorite thing to do was to beat myself up over what I hadn’t accomplished with my life:-)

It would be easier, of course, if it didn’t seem like all the women my age suddenly decided to have babies.  Or get married.  Or both.  It just makes for some awkward conversations.  Here they are talking about their seventeen days of labor with no drugs and I reply with, “I held a goat upside down while the vet battled her uterus back into her body. He had big hands. It looked painful.”  Talk about an awkward pause!  I would like to have a child at some point, but I am grateful that it hasn’t yet happened.  If I had a human being that I was fully responsible for I don’t think that I could have done what I did, which I know is for the best in the long-run.

As I write this, birthday greetings from 5 different time zones are piling up on my Facebook page and in my email inbox.  I know how lucky I am.

Still…I’m thirty-four today.



Sticks and String 2012 January 29, 2012

This weekend I had the great fortune of going to the Des Moines Metro Knitters group annual retreat called Sticks and Strings.  It was held at the Country Inn and Suites in Clive, which was the perfect venue as it had such a laid-back atmosphere.  None of the hotel staff looked too freaked-out by a bunch of knitters wearing brightly colored socks with a few spinning wheels invading the premises:-)

On Friday night there was registration and sort of a getting to know you knitting area.  There was also a goodie bag with lots of goodies in it!

The bag itself is the green zippered wallet looking thing on the lower right.  It unfolds into a nice-sized tote!  There is also a water bottle, a needle sizer from one of my favorite knitting supply companies Succaplokki, a little notebook and pen, a set of stitch markers made from recycled aluminum by Plover Designs, a Soak sample and a cute little zippered pouch that says “Knit Happy”.  There was also a passel of papers in there with various knitting patterns as well as coupons for various vendors.  We were also given a monster sized Lion Brand tote bag, but I’ve already put it away and I’m too lazy to get it back out:-)  However, it is large enough to easily carry around a full-sized blanket in progress!

On Friday night there was a shopping market  with some area knitting stores as well as some local crafts people selling their wares.  Bug Snugger’s Diane was very popular that night and no wonder why.  Her yarns and fibers are really yummy and cheerfully colorful and well made.  There was also a lovely woman running a stand called Darnit! Sew What? which was selling cute, well-made, hand-sewn project and accessories bags.  I didn’t take any pictures of the vendors market because I simply didn’t think of it.  Sorry.

The rest of the night a bunch of knitters hung-out in the breakfast room of the hotel and did what a bunch of knitters will do.  We knitted and chatted and it was really nice and relaxed.

The next morning, we all met in the big conference room area.  There were a lot more knitters this time around as we pretty much filled-up the room.  We had a “getting to know you” bingo game which was fun.  There were talks about all sorts of things going on in the breakfast room next door including charity knitting, how to tame your yarn and tips on how to repurpose old sweaters.  In the main conference room, there was sitting and knitting and spinning (I didn’t spin too much as I felt like I was ignoring my table mates by doing so!).  It looked about like this:

In the afternoon they drew door prizes.  I won a book that I had been thinking about getting for a long time (score!) and a cute bar of soap in the shape of a sheep (double score!).

I already put away the soap. It's soap and it's shaped like a sheep. Use your imagination.

There were lots of yummies to nibble on after lunch (and before it too if we are being really honest here!).  Some were healthy, I promise!

There was also a charity knitting area in the back.  Folks brought bits and bobs of acrylic yarns that they had around the house and worked on some scarves that were started.  At the end of the weekend, these scarves are going to be donated to a local shelter.

Sticks and String actually went on through today, but I really couldn’t justify being away from home (and thus the animals) that long so I came home last night.  However, I’m really glad that I went to this event as I had a chance to meet a lot of great knitters from all over the state of Iowa!



The Surprise January 26, 2012

After having a pretty rough week today I got the nicest surprise in the world.  It was a Christmas/Birthday package from my friend Barbro in Finland with all sorts of lovely goodies in it for me!

There were these awesome wrist warmers (which I put to use as soon as I took the picture of them!).

There was an awesome pair of socks which fit perfectly!

There were yarns!

There were even BUGS!!!!!

There was a beautiful project bag.

And a scarf knit from handspun yarn, with a skein of the same yarn!

There was a tiny mitten keychain so little it barely fits on my thumb!

There was 2 different chocolate bars along with a package of tiny dog themed buttons, a hand painted heart ornament, a ceramic fox button and a little tractor themed pot watcher!

This one is white chocolate and blueberries!

Near the bottom of the box there was an amazing kit from Riihivilla yarns.  This is a Finnish yarn company that specializes in using Finn sheep wool and using only natural dyes to dye it.  I bought a skein of their sock yarn when I was in Helsinki with Malin a couple of years ago and it is lovely, lovely yarn.  (BTW, the instructions are both in English and in Finnish in case you were wondering!)

And the thing that my mom tried to claim for her own (but I didn’t let her) is an amazing shawl.  The pattern is the Red Dragon Shawl by Tuulia Salmela.  You can find more information about it on Barbro’s Ravelry page about it.

I already want to make one.  Mom really wants me to make one!

Thank you Barbro.  It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed!


They grow up so fast… January 21, 2012

I was in South Carolina for a week for training for work.  While I was gone, Red got her first ride in a car and trip to the vet.  My mom and dad took her in a pet carrier which I really wish that I had pictures of.  But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.  She got a shot and some more meds and took it all totally in stride.  In fact, she didn’t even let out a baa when he gave her a shot in her rump!

So, I was in SC for a week.  Not a whole lot to say about it except that somehow I ended-up mere feet away from Rick Santorum who was at a Fudrucker’s down the hill from my hotel.

Also, since I had a little bit of downtime in a Hilton hotel room to myself with no dogs or cats wanting cuddling nor baby goats to be fed I had a little bit of a girly party and painted my nails with some fun nail polish that I snagged at Target while watching the SyFy channel on cable.  I also took a bath each and every night!

There are 2 polishes going on here.  The darker one is called “Give Me Moor!” and it’s from OPI. The silver crackly coat is part of the Nicole Texture line by OPI in Silver.  It was fun to paint on as it crackled nearly immediately.  It’s lasted quite well considering how hard I usually am on my nails.  Only today have a couple of chips formed on the tips of the nails.  I’m going to have to take it off this weekend as I am going to have some important meetings over the next couple of days and need a more (cough) neutral, professional look for them.

I arrived back in Iowa right before the first real humdinger of a snow storm that we’ve had this season.  I was pleased that my car started right away in the airport parking lot despite an outside temperature of about 0 degrees Fahrenheit (about -18 Celsius).  I got back to the farm around midnight and there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground by the time I got up in the morning to feed Red.

I started-out suffering through snow in my shoes and wet socks but then remembered that I had hiking boots that are a little taller than my regular shoes.  However, if we get much more snow I’m going to have to get actual snow boots.

Red missed me I think.

I think you need to see this shot a little closer-up.

God I love that little goat!


However, she has grown even in just the week that I was gone.  Her lead over the other 4 babies is remarkable.  She is getting big fast!  Red has gotten so big that it’s getting hard to pick her up anymore.  Definitely no putting her in my coat!


A good day for laundry January 12, 2012

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Early yesterday the sun disappeared, the temperatures started to drop and the wind picked-up considerably.  About the time that it got dark, it also started snowing.  We didn’t get a lot of snow, but what fell has been blowing around all day.  It’s reasonably cold out (it was around 8 degrees Fahrenheit [-13 Celsius] when I fed Red this morning) so the snow isn’t sticking to itself at all.  It just gets blown around again and again, usually down the back of my coat for some reason!  (Suppose I should put on a scarf! I am a knitter after all!)

This is not snow falling. This is snow failing to stay put!

Because it is so cold and windy outside, it is a tad more brisk than it normally is inside.  This is an old (by American standards) house and it is reasonably good about staying warm, but no house is perfect especially when facing a full-on Arctic attack from the North-West.

Thus, it’s time to do laundry!  The washer and dryer in this house are in the kitchen (it’s a pretty big kitchen [it was designed to be able to fit a bunch of LARGE hungry men in from the fields for lunch]) and the kitchen is right below my room.  Are you seeing a pattern here? 🙂  Since the dryer is downstairs and heat rises… well, let’s just say that clean clothes aren’t the only benefit that I get from this today!



A Day January 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:54 pm
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Moon over Iowa farmland

Meara says, "I'm cuter than that stinky goat!".

Mama Cat in full squirted milk action

Half the pictures don't show her tongue! It's amazing how little milk she usually gets on her face with this method of consumption!