Sarah Jane Humke

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

Shopping List August 7, 2009

Here is my shopping list for the US so far*:

Kool-Aid Believe it or not they don’t sell this paragon of sugary virtue here at all.  However, I don’t want it to drink, I want it to dye with as apparently it makes an excellent wool acid dye that doesn’t smell bad and it pretty non-toxic.  It is also something that is good to trade with other fiber freaks (sort of like smokes in the “big house”, ya know?).

Fritos They don’t have Fritos here.  This makes it rather difficult to have the chili-with-cheese-and-sour-cream-eaten-with-Fritos meal.

Jeans Everything is sized so differently here.  I swear, given the sizing of the jeans, no one has an ass here.  They are just sitting on the back of their legs.

Orchid Basket I need this for one of the orchids that they have.  I guess maybe I just got used to being in Florida where these are sold at Home Depot.  Then again, orchids grow like weeds in the trees there too….

Beads, Buttons and Fabric  JoAnn’s, here I come!!!!

IKEA Cat Scratchers I guess that cats here don’t scratch, much like they don’t pee or poop either as evidenced by the lack of clumping cat litter.

Underwear See “Jeans” above.

Yarn/Fiber Duh.  I’m going to Rhinebeck dudes.

Lysol  I guess that they don’t have germs here either.

Charmin On-The-Go  This is a little roll of Charmin that has a hard plastic case.  It’s great for traveling.  I carried on of these in my purse for a year and it saved my ass many times!  Alas, the version that they sell here has a plastic bag type of covering for it and I fear that when the roll gets a little smaller it will be less sturdy and in need of the protection.

Plastic Baggies  The baggie culture here isn’t nearly as sophisticated as in the US.

Pepto-Bismol  This stuff costs a small treasury here.  Seriously, it is mucho expensivo.  For what folks living in the States (I’ve become more sensitive to saying “Americans” since I got here.  I mean, there are lots and lots of Americans and only some of them come from the US) would consider a “travel sized” bottle you pay something like $20.  Dude, this is on the list for Costco!!!!

A Cheap DVD Player  Our US DVD player bit the dust a few weeks after we got here.  So we got one that would play UK DVDs (yes, they are different, doesn’t that suck on so many levels???) and Tech Support thought that he would be able to break  I mean hack it so that it would play all the different DVDs no problem.  Alas and alack, it has proven more difficult than that and I have not been able to watch any of my favorite DVDs except on my computer.  Doh, suck.

Black Beans  There is also not a whole lot of Mexican cooking here.  Go figure.

 

I know this sounds like a hell of a shopping list, but I have 2 large suitcases that are going to be filled mostly with things that are not coming back with me.  I’ll give you a hint, there are 2 afghans, a throw blanket, 4 small travel pillows and a passel of large books that aren’t coming back with me.  I’m not taking a lot of clothes with me (see “jeans” and “underwear” above) as it is obvious by the length of this trip that I am going to need to hunt down a laundromat at some point in the trip.

*List is subject to change.  Change may occur because the writer saw something that she did not think of in the UK or merely because it was “way cool” or “so fraking cheap!”  

 

Flags and Flotillas July 11, 2009

  This past weekend was our first annual 4th of July party.  Attending it were 2 Zimbabweans, a couple of Americans, a family of Indians an Italian and, oh yeah, a few Brits!  I don’t know about you but to me that was about as American of a party as we could have had.  It was a lot of fun.  We grilled burgers and burnt “hot dogs” (they were really sausages but they were the closest that I could find) and had the hubby’s homemade cole slaw and mixed berry crumble with Cornish cream ice cream on the side.  There was lots of drinking of wine and beer and tequila and great conversation out in the courtyard and not a single damn picture of it all.  You know that Bridget Jones’s Diary entry where she writes about how a party seems like a great idea until you actually do all of the cooking and cleaning and whatnot for it and by the time you are done you just want to tell all of your guests to fuck off!!??!  I had a minor case of that right before everyone started showing up.  Once everyone was there I was fine but right before people actually showed up I was thinking something along the lines of, “What the FUCK were we thinking???”!  Anyway, totally not something that we did but our village puts up an American Flag on the flagpole across the street from us.  How cool is that?  (I personally think that they may just be a little envious of us Yanks, but hey, you know how it is…)  Anyway, I do have some pictures of that…

Looking out the front door
Looking out the front door
The view from the studio
The view from the studio
The Chapel as seen from the field
The Chapel as seen from the field

The very next morning we were invited to go to Henley to view the regatta.  From a boat.  With food and alcohol.  All that was asked of us was to bring a berry crumble.  Ok!!!  We are so there!  There were 3 boats in our little flotilla, 2 electric motorized crafts with tops on them and one large rowboat (ok, so I am not sure that it is technically called a rowboat as it had 4 oars).  To say that it was a lot of fun would be a serious understatement!!!  

The boat houses
The boat houses
The boats that we weren't on
The boats that we weren’t on
Yummy boys in boats
Yummy boys in boats
There were even gondolas there
There were even gondolas there!
The boats go really fast!
The boats go really fast!
There were judges all over the place in these booths
There were judges all over the place in these booths
There were tons of all sorts of boats on the Thames
There were tons of all sorts of boats on the Thames
This is so damn British
This is so damn British

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These are the folks who actually came to watch the races, not just party.
These are the folks who actually came to watch the races, not just party.

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Our intrepid rowers!
Our intrepid rowers!

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There was even a flower garden afloat!
There was even a flower garden afloat!
The cups that everyone was rowing for
The cups that everyone was rowing for

 I was quite pleased with myself as I managed to not get sunburned (thank you boat with a top!) nor fall into the Thames.  The second was all the more amazing given that it was my first introduction to Pimm’s, which is rather stronger than it tastes!  

This week has been sort of boring in comparison.  I went to the Click and Clack knitting group at the Borders in Milton Keynes that is held by The Knitting Hut.  It was during the day so I got to meet lots of new folks.  I’ve also been doing a lot of spinning.  I’ve been spinning up the Romney/Rambouillet fleece that I got at Rhinebeck last year and washed right before we moved.  I finally am, uh, “catching up” on my fleece spinning now that I have an Ashford drum carder.  I will have pictures in the next post.

 

Navajos and Dog Farts June 29, 2009

So, last night I got a bug up my butt and decided to learn how to Navajo ply my spun singles.  For those of you not into spinning, Navajo plying is a technique that is essentially like making the base chain for crochet except with a spinning wheel that keeps trying to twist your chain shut on you.  It looks kinda difficult but all it really is is sort of awkward to start.  I finally figured it out after looking it up on YouTube (of course).  What this means is that you can make a 3 ply yarn out of only one bobbin full of single.  It is also a good technique if you are trying to keep color changes consistent and not have that multi-colored, multi-stranded thing going on.  Anyway, I had a small part of a bobbin left over last night when I had finished spinning and plying the roving that I had started shortly after Rhinebeck (Oh my God has it really been that long? [It is, I looked it up on the blog. I started this bag of roving in November, but in my defence there was an international move in the middle of all of that!]).  Currently it is sitting in the shower drying and setting it’s twist.  I also spun the entire batt of this

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one of the Fyberspates batts from the UK Ravelry day in Coventry.  I was sort of surprised that the sparkles in it didn’t show up more in the yarn than they did.  However, it did spin-up into a pretty lustrous yarn though not too terribly much of it so I’m not sure what I will use it for in the end.  (I will have pictures of all of the yarns once they have dried.)

I have been starting to get ready for my very big trip.  I’ve been trying to figure out which bags to use and things like that was well as to search down everything that I will need for the trip.  But first, I have a trip of another kind to pack for and that is Woolfest this weekend!  I’m really looking forward to this trip since it is my first trip to the Lakes District.

 

Coventry Calling June 8, 2009

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Saturday the hubby and I went to Coventry for the UK Ravelry Day.  On the way there, we stopped in Leighton Buzzard and picked-up a lady whom I had met on a UK Ravelry Day forum offering and looking for rides.  Her name is Tini and we honestly could not have had a better car guest for the trip.  Tini was visiting friends in Leighton Buzzard from her home in Germany and it just “happened” to coincide with the Ravelry Day.  I had been sort of worried prior to meeting her that she would be, oh, I don’t know, someone you felt uncomfortable in a car with for a few hours.  It quickly became obvious that she would have felt right at home and would have even given David a run for his money at a Hookers night!  Bilingually!  All the way there we chatted easily and enjoyed the scenery of the M1.  

When we got there an hour early (the hubby drove really fast [naughty hubby!]) and found a place to get a hot drink and a place to sit down.  It was raining, which sort of portended the type of day that it was going to become.  The whole event started at 10am and my first class started at 10:30 so I didn’t have much time to peruse the stalls that were set-up with all sorts of independent shops and hand dyers selling thousands of kinds of yarn before I had to run off and find where my class was being held.  

My introduction to lace knitting was pretty low stress.  The lady that taught it, Kate Tetlow, was pretty low key and didn’t get at all flustered by the various speeds of learning, or knitting that the group exhibited.  There were a few in the class who were super fast and a few who weren’t (I was included in that last category) but she kept all of us busy and never got irritated at all.  It was in this lace knitting class that I learned that the way that I was knitting was, well, not exactly wrong but, well, wrong.  I was twisting every stitch, which I think it part of the reason that the sample of lace that I made in the class was so tight that folks were joking about how I could start knitting miniature lace for dollhouses.  Even though my lace sample didn’t turn-out exactly as it should have I still accomplished my main goal for the class which was to learn how to read a lace chart.

My miniature sample on the right, my ticket to the class and the project that I was working on at the end.  The yarn is Jamieson and Smith 2-ply laceweight that they thoughtfully supplied for the class

My miniature sample on the right, my ticket to the class and the project that I was working on at the end. The yarn is Jamieson and Smith 2-ply laceweight that they thoughtfully supplied for the class

After I got out of class at 1:30pm the hubby kindly had fish and chips awaiting me for some needed lunch.  Then Tini and I went upstairs to listen to Meg Swansen speak about her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman.  It was interesting as Meg read some passages from her mother’s journal about at camping trip that she and Meg’s father had taken in the Canadian wilderness with their cat.  She also had a great Q & A session where she answered questions about both her mother’s works as well as her own.  Meg now runs Schoolhouse Press an independent publisher of knitting books and supplies so she had lots of great insight into the trends of fiberarts as well as great new designers on their way.  Her stories were fun and some of the questions that she got were just great.

It was sitting next to Tini prior to the talk by Meg where I learned how to knit continentally without twisting my stitches.  After the first row it made it soooooo much easier to do.  The sock that I had been working on was making me nervous by how tight it seemed, now it is knitting up totally normal.  If I can, I will take a picture of the sock so that you can see the difference in the stitches.

After the talk I had some time to run around and look at all the different vendors wares.  There was a surprising amount of alpaca fiber there including two very sorry looking young alpacas who had been recently shorn and had to stand out in the rain for the bulk of the day.  I’m sure that they were fine, but they just looked, well, wet.  I got several nice things including an entire set of the Knit pro (Knit Picks in the US) interchangeable needles as well as lots of yummy yarn and batts to spin.

A lady in period dress and wheel looking REALLY uncomfortable the entire time I saw her

A lady in period dress and wheel looking REALLY uncomfortable the entire time I saw her

The bedraggled looking Alpaca.

The bedraggled looking Alpaca.

The Fyberspates Stall with Sarah going a little nutty when she found out that those batts were for SALE!!!

The Fyberspates Stall with Sarah going a little nutty when she found out that those batts were for SALE!!!

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Fyberspates Faery Lace in Moss

Fyberspates British Dream Sock Yarn in Mosses

Fyberspates British Dream Sock Yarn in Mosses

Lovely Batts

Lovely Batts

More lovely batts from Fyberspates

More lovely batts from Fyberspates

You can't really see it in the photos but these all had sparkly in them

You can't really see it in the photos but these all had sparkly in them

A really big crochet hook by Rachel John

A really big crochet hook by Rachel John

About 5200 yards of laceweight alpaca from John Arbon textiles

About 5200 yards of laceweight alpaca from John Arbon textiles

A pretty pile of natural alpaca mill ends from John Arbon as well

A pretty pile of natural alpaca mill ends from John Arbon as well

My Knit Pro needles, it came with more but it's difficult to photograph it all

My Knit Pro needles, it came with more but it's difficult to photograph it all

While in Coventry Tech Support found a stall in the market selling all American “foodstuffs”.  I put foodstuffs in parenthesis as it was full of Nerds, Twinkies, Beef Jerky, Lucky Charms and (oh blessed neon yellow manna from heaven) Mountain Dew.  However, everything in it was outrageously expensive.  A 12-pack of cans of MD cost 14 pounds!  That’s like $22.50.  So obviously we didn’t get anything but we now know that it is there if we ever become really desperate.

He found these goodies waiting for us in a shop there as well:

 

The complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer Boxed Set

The complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer Boxed Set

The complete series of Angel

The complete series of Angel

On Sunday we had some friends out from the city.  We had good food and good drinks and it was a really relaxing afternoon.  That is, until the time came to take them to the train station.  The hubby was driving them to the Tring train station when the car suddenly would no move any more.  The engine didn’t stop, just the car.  We have breakdown coverage through, oddly enough, our bank so Hubby had me call them for a tow.  Luckily, they were close enough to the station by that time that it wasn’t all that big of a deal for our friends to get there.  So now our lovely shaggin wagon has it’s fate up in the air.  It is at a mechanics shop in the next town over.  We are pretty sure that the transmission went on it.  It is just a matter of if they can fix it for less than the ceiling that we placed on it or if the shaggin wagon is going to be recycled.

 

Goodies in the mail! May 12, 2009

I finally got some stuff in the mail that I had been waiting for.  One of the things came in these boxes:

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For those of you with sharp eyes, you might notice that the tape on the boxes matches that of a box I recieved prior to settting off for the States.  Here’s another picture to give you some better size perspective.

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They are some BIG boxes from the folks at the British Wool Board.   

And inside these boxes…

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were some really big paper bags full of…

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greasy fleecies!  Yep, it was two large boxes full of unwashed sheep’s fleeces.  To say that the dogs were interested would be a slight understatement:-)  Most of what I got were colored fleeces.  And, considering that I still haven’t spun the fleeces from Rhinebeck, well, Houston, we may have a problem here!

I also got the box that I mailed back here from the US as I was having space/time issues (namely I ran out of space in my suitcases this time).  In it were some yarns that I picked-up at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I got one 4oz. skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock yarn in Bark and a mill-end skein that weighed in at 6.4 oz in the pink.

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I also got a great hank of yarn from Seacolors Yarns in a soft greenish blue.  This farm/yarnery was featured in the book Shear Spirit which I wrote about right after I came back from Rhinebeck as I had gotten a copy signed by the author and photographer there.  The yarn that is produced is dyed in seawater and is specifically done in order to exhaust the dye bath as well as be as friendly to the environment as possible.  Plus, the yarn is just so super cushy it makes you want to bounce on it!

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I also got some more rovings.  These are rather rambunctiously dyed and were named Alabama Winter II and Color 09-02.  They were from the Little Barn folks who had some really fun rovings for sale.

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So, you can see that the postman has had a time of it of late bringing me packages.  I’m pretty sure that he’s sick of my face at this point.  Can you really blame him?  Those big boxes are heavy as hell!  Now I just need to find a decent priced drum carder……

 

I’ll Spin You Right Round Baby January 17, 2009

What a fun day.  Today I went to the S.O.C.K.S. (South Orlando Crocheters, Knitters and Spinners) 5th annual Distaff day.  It was a blast and the first time that I have ever gotten a chance to spin with other people.  It is also the first time a photo of me spinning has been taken.

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The folks to the left of me in the picture came all the way from Gainesville for the day.  There were a lot of spinning wheels there and even a loom!

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I do wish that more of the Hookers had come.  I was the only person there that listed crocheting as my primary rather than knitting.  I just wish that we were out there more declaring are hooking independence.  This might be why the industry tends to give us sort of short shrift as we aren’t out there showing off our stuff like the knitters!  Hookers!!!  Get your asses out there and make yourselves known damnit!!!  Ok, end of lecture.

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There were items that had been made that were for sale as well as yarns that folks were ready to part with for sale and I was, well, pretty good.

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This photo really doesn’t do it justice.  It is, however, 4oz of Seawool pencil rovings dyed by Celena Crews of Rocket Yarn.  You can find her stuff on ETSY here.

I also got this little cutie:

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She’s a little polymer clay bead that one of the organizers of the event makes.

I took a large bag of yarn for the free table (as well as two boxes of slightly cold injured violets) so I didn’t feel bad about taking this very little bag of yarn home with me.  It contained 4 teeny-tiny balls of Lightweight DK wool yarn from Rowan in shades of grey.

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Definitely not a stashbuster (at least not in my house!).

We also got to make shawl pins by choosing our own beads.  Here’s mine.  Not exciting except maybe in how unexciting it looks.  But it is red, my favorite….

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It was a LOT of fun and I would totally suggest to anyone that can go to this next year to do so.  I got to meet a lot of great folks and SPIN IN PUBLIC!

On my way there I stopped at a Wal-Mart.  Now normally I do not like to shop at Wal-Mart.  I don’t like a lot of their practices and well, then one in my area is NASTY.  But, I needed something pronto and I didn’t have time to go to Target which was way out of my way.  So, I ran in and ended-up running out with this:

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It is a new set of drawers for my sticker collection (which had recently overflowed into two of the normal sized plastic drawers and was being a real pain-in-the-ass).  It is 3’4″ tall and about 29″ wide.  It is a beast and I love it.  It is exactly the right size for my stickers with a little room to grow…

All in all, a most fun and pretty productive day as I actually got some spinning done!!  However, the super-fucking-secret pain-in-the-ass is still there, awaiting me.  I am also still washing that big-ass Romney fleece.  It is, thankfully, nearly done….

(MSW-103 Birthday spa day 14)

 

Keepin’ Busy November 14, 2008

This is what I did last night after the Happy Hookers meet-up.

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I started spinning up some of the rovings that I bought at Rhinebeck.

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The name of this colorway is “Sage” and I only have half a pound of it.  It is (I believe) 100% merino wool.  I am not sure that I like spinning merino.  I am sure that this is some sort of sacrilege to say, but it just doesn’t flow like some of the other wools.  I now understand why I had so much trouble maintaining a single when I was learning to spin as this is what I was learning on.  However, the single already feels like silk….

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It is interesting to spin because it isn’t just green.  It also has bits of pink in it, even some yellow.

Coming from reading Amy O’Neill Houck’s blog The Hook and I, I may have found the pattern that pushes me over the edge.  The one that will make me want to try knitting yet again.  She has just had a pattern put put by Twist Collective and I took a look around.  That is where I came upon sylvi.

Oh my God.  I am totally in LOVE with this sweater.  I feel like such a slutty traitor for desperately wanting to make this design.  One of the limitations of crochet, in my opinion, is that this type of design always comes out looking sort of, well, odd.  Cables and crochet are like geese and tequila (well, for that matter, most anything and tequila except maybe strawberries) not a great mix.   I am going to hold off until I go to the UK to try the whole knitting thing.  The last thing I need on my plate at this time is yet another thing that baffles and frustrates me:-)

In some totally unrelated new.  I was just told by my mother that my little brother will begin his second deployment in 2010 (I know it sounds like a long way off, but it is way less than 2 years away).  His first deployment was to Iraq and he was gone for about 15 months.  This time is will be to Kosovo for peacekeeping.  As a big sister, I like this assignment a lot better!  However, it is hard on my family as my brother helps out with the farm a lot now that my dad is getting older.  It also means that he will miss a lot of time from his job, which is super supportive of it’s National Guard members.  At least by that time the hubby and I will be in the UK, so we will be able to go visit him pretty easily and he will be able to come hang with us during his breaks if he wants to.  So that will be pretty cool.  At least, thank God, he isn’t going back to Iraq or Afghanistan.  I hope that very soon no ones little brother, or son, or husband will have to go back to either of these places.

So, I have a timer set so that I can tune to the local NPR station to listen and watch the space shuttle take off tonight.  They are carrying stuff to do a little fixing up in the International Space Station.  Night launches are always the coolest since they are the easiest to see this far out.  Godspeed astronauts, y’all have bigger ones than I ever will….