Sarah Jane Humke

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

Two For the Price of One July 3, 2013

Today you get what would normally be two blog posts only in one, compact edition. Yay! It’s like a 4th of July sale at Menards!

Your first lovely blog post is called: I Shall Swim in the Pool of Victory

I finished the socks for Joel finally. The knitting was done this morning (I just couldn’t go on anymore last night) and I worked-in the ends and Soaked them and put them on the sock blockers to dry tonight.


I had plenty of the multicolored yarn leftover, so the grey toes were unnecessary, but you and I both know that had I not done that, I would have run out of yarn!



So, details. These were knit with Sheepish Creationssock yarn, in an unnamed colorway.  Merino/nylon, 440 yards / 4.0 oz (407 m / 118 g). The grey toe yarn was a little over 10 grams of Pingouin Machine Washable 4 ply Sock Wool that I bought at The Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands (God, I adore Ravelry for this reason. This yarn was from a pair of partially knit socks from way back. However, I’d put all the info into Ravelry [as of course the tags are long gone for the yarn] and all I had to do was look it up!). The pattern is called Basket Weave Rib Socks (free pattern) and they are designed by Sarah Ronchetti.  I would make this pattern again, but only to do it with a solid colored yarn with good stitch definition. I feel like the pattern got a little lost in these…

These will be going off to Joel once they are dry and packaged up. Because, everyone needs wool socks when it’s over 100 degrees outside:-)

My second blog post is titled: Call Me the Grill Master!

Yes, I bought a very little, very cute little grill.


I’ve not done a whole lot of grilling these past few years.  Really, it didn’t make sense when the hubby was a vegetarian!  But now I am alone and most definitely a omnivore so I splurged and got a grill.

First thing I grilled on it?


Why Brats of course!



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.


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!



Travel Tips and Hints March 27, 2011

So, I travel a fair amount.  More than some, less than others.  I almost always travel for leisure, in fact I think that I have only ever been on one business trip ever!  Anyway, I’ve decided to compile this list of tips and tricks that I have learned so that you don’t have to!  If you have a great travel tip, please let everyone know about it in the comments section!

Things to Pack

*Travel Panties (and socks):  When you have worn-out panties (or socks) that have holes in them, or worn-out elastic, or whatever, set them aside.  I quite often toss them in the empty suitcase.  When you travel the next time, just throw them away after you have worn them.  It’s not a lot of weight or space, but it does keep you from having to haul back dirty underwear (and socks).

*Thrift store clothes:  Buy some clothes at a local thrift store in your size (and that you would actually wear).  When you are done wearing them, leave them at the hotel on the bed, preferably with a note saying (in the local language) that whoever would like these clothes can have them.  This saves a LOT of space on the way back if you are a big shopper.  It is especially good for jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, bulky items that take up a lot of space in a suitcase.

*Soak sample packs:  This is a great rinse-less delicates wash that can be really useful when on the go.  It’s sold in little sample packs that are great for one or two loads if you don’t do the whole “travel panties” thing.

*Shout travel wipes or tide pen: Cause it’s easier to treat stains now rather than later.

*Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets:  My mom found these before our big Alaska trip and they work great. If you are going to be on a longer trip where you are going to be doing laundry, these are the ticket!  You just toss one of the sheets in and it has the detergent, fabric softener and anti-static for the load already embedded in sheet.  Genius!  No more detergent getting spilled and making a mess of the car!

*No Whites:  This one I got from my friend Malin at KC last year.  Don’t pack any whites, then you don’t have to do a load of whites!  So simple yet so easily not thought of!

*You get what you pay for:  If you are going to be doing a LOT of traveling, invest in a good bag for goodness sake!  The Hubby’s folks bought him a good TravelPro roll-aboard a few years before we were married.  If that bag got frequent flier miles, it would be in the pilots seat!  It’s still in really good shape, you couldn’t tell that it’s over 6 years old at this point (and used to get lived out-of for probably 45 weeks of the year for years!).  I also have a TravelPro and am really pleased with it.  Another bag that I have that has stood the test of time really well is a Boyt bag that my mother gave me when I was 12.  You read that right, 12.  It still looks really new.  If you are going to travel any significant amount, just get a good bag.  If nothing else, it’s better than shleping a busted bag around a foreign city! (Ask me how I know that one:-))  Another bag company that we’ve really liked is Reisenthel.

*Personal Med Kit:  Take a zippered bag and put in it a selection of OTC drugs for sicknesses that you get.  I get sinus infections, thus I have a sheet of Sudafed pills in mine.  Also, antacids, sleeping pills, ibuprofen, etc.  I also throw in a little tiny sewing kit for good measure.  It sucks to get sick when you are traveling.  It really sucks if you can’t get any meds.  A few packs of pills are light and will save your bacon if you do get ill!

*A light wrap: I usually carry a light pashmina-type wrap with me on the airplane.  It can be used as a scarf sure, but it is great as a little blanket if you get chilly.  Plus they are usually really light.

*Underwear, Socks and toothpaste:  Put a pair of socks a pair of underwear and your toothbrush and paste in your carry-on.  If your bag gets lost, you’ll thank me!

*Print-outs:  Print out the details of hotels, flights, etc that you have booked prior to your trip.  You may not be able to easily get to the info on your computer or smartphone once you get in the cab from the airport…  Also, a copy of the front page of your passport is a good thing to have on hand in case it gets stolen or lost.

*TP: I always carry a little plastic clam-shell that contains a mini-roll of TP.  It’s Charmin to go, but other companies do similar things.   It’s saved my ass many a time! (Yes, pun intended!)

*Plastic Baggies: Just throw a few extra Ziplocs in the suitcase when you leave.  I really love the Jumbo Hefty zipper bags (2.5 gallon!!).  They are good for putting that bottle of exotic booze, perfume, or whatever it is that you want into.  I’ve saved myself a damaged suitcase and clothes many, many times by doing this.  They don’t take any space, and when you get home, just leave them in the suitcase for the next trip!

*A flashlight:  This one I’m a little OCD about.  I usually have 2 or 3 of them in my purse on a normal day (including a headlamp, yes I know I am a serious dork!).  As good as the LED technology is now, there is no excuse not to have at least a little key chain light in your bag.  This is more for safety than anything, dark streets, dark hotel rooms are all a great way to trip and fall.  In a power outage, you’ll be the most popular person around!

*A Collapsible shopping bag:  Handy to have when you hit the markets in a new city.  Carrying a crappy, ripping plastic bag with something breakable in it as you are sightseeing around a city is NO FUN.

*Scale: If you are staying at a hotel while you are traveling, a luggage scale can save you a lot of money at the airport.  Especially if you like to shop:-)

*Earplugs: Screaming baby + 6 hour flight.  You’ll thank me!

(I know that this sounds like a ton of stuff, but most of it is quite small and a lot of it you wouldn’t take on every trip.)


*Hotel: Take a matchbook, business card, whatever with you when you leave the hotel.  If the crap hits the fan and you cannot, for whatever reason, remember where you are staying (believe it or not, it’s easy to happen) you have a name and address.  However, do not keep it in the same place as your room key in case of pick-pockets.

*Carry-on packing: Remember to pack for how long you are going to be traveling for.  A flight of a couple of hours doesn’t need as much stuff to keep you entertained as an over-seas flight.  Don’t pack 3 books, a 2 knitting projects and a selection of magazines for a 2 hour flight!!!

*Allergies: If you have an allergy, make sure that your travel companions know about it.  If you are unconscious in a foreign hospital, you want someone other than you knowing that you are allergic to morphine.

*Sleep:  If you don’t sleep well on planes (I don’t) , don’t try to force yourself with sleeping pills unless you absolutely have a serious meeting the next morning.  Otherwise you will end-up cranky and feeling unwell.

*Sleep Part II: Take a 3 hour nap after a red-eye flight then get up and have a full day.  Your clock will be pretty much reset.

*Driving: Don’t drive in the UK if you’ve taken the red-eye and have never driven here before.  It’s dangerous.  Trust me.  I would be wary of driving in Europe in general (cannot say for anywhere other than N. America and Europe) as the laws are quite a bit different from the US.  Spend a day on foot or public transit before hitting the road.

Tips for Knitters

*Needles on Airplanes:  You can, you can’t…. who the heck knows?!?!?  Here in the UK it is different from airport to airport and even airline to airline in the same airport.  So, take your knitting, but don’t take your favorite needles, don’t take metal needles and don’t make a big deal of it.

*Don’t take big, long, straight needles.  They freak people out.  Take dpn’s or circulars.

*Leave the knitting in the bag during take-off and landing.  That sometimes freaks out the flight attendants.  I think that they are afraid that you will stab yourself if there is an accident during take-off.

*Have knitting on the needles when you go through security.  That makes them freak out less:-)

*If you are really worried about having needles taken away, put them in with a bunch of pens and pencils.  They look more or less the same.

*Only carry-on the needles that you need for the project.  Put the rest of them in your checked-baggage.

*If you’re still really nervous about knitting on the plane, take up crochet!


Please feel free to add your favorite travel tips and hints in the comments!  I’ll hopefully blog tomorrow about Amsterdam…..


I am the master of the universe!!!! December 14, 2010

Ok, so maybe not, but I sure feel like it after the epic battle that I had blocking my finished Finnish shawl.  Say that five times fast, I dare you.  Actually, it really wasn’t that tough.  I know, you are just about ready to gouge my eyes out right about now aren’t you?  After checking-out the options that there are for blocking shawls I decided on one that I heard about while on the Shetland trip.  I’m not sure who or where exactly I heard it, I just remember hearing it there.

What I did wasn’t the standard 50-bajillion-pins-in-the-guest-bed version of blocking.  Since this design has very straight edges and the many-pins blocking usually leaves you with a bit of a scallop no matter how many pins you stick in the mattress I decided to thread a piece of fishing line down the 3 edges with a needle and then use those to pin.

I have to admit, this sounds like much more of a pain-in-the-ass than it really was.  I did it before I washed it, since the fishing line isn’t going to absorb any water or dye, and it took me maybe half an hour, forty minutes tops, to sneak the fishing wire through the purl bump of every other row of garter stitch on the edges and though the cast-off stitches of the top.

So, here is another photo of the shawl unblocked just laid out on the bed it is going to be blocked on.

This is what the threading of the fishing line looked like.

Then the shawl went for a little soak in Soak!

Unfortunately, the Wollmeise dye came out quite a bit, so much so it looked like my shawl was sitting in a sink full of cat pee.  (I don’t know why I gravitate to cat pee rather than human, dog or other pees.  Perhaps it is because I’ve had to deal with so much of it due to the lovely Jjij!)  You can see the fishing line sticking out of the water in this photo.

I rinsed it five or six times before I finally gave up and pour a couple of glugs of white vinegar in the mix.  That seemed to do the trick.

I gave it another final rinse just to get rid of some of the vinegar smell and then rolled it up in a towel to get rid of some of the water.  I didn’t take a picture of this, you’ll just have to imagine a piece of wet knitting rolled up in towel.  After I had gotten rid of most of the water, I started pinning it out.  I first did the top line and then the two side lines by making knots in the ends of the fishing line and pinning them to the bed.  Then, because of the pull down from the two side lines, I added a few extra pins to the top line.

To give you some perspective on the size of this thing, it is on a full bed lengthwise.  And both tips of the shawl are just at the edge of the bed.  I’m rather glad that I didn’t decide on that “one more repeat” of the pattern!

Some things that I learned with this pattern:

>The pattern doesn’t need to be in English, you just need to know what language it is to get it translated.

>It is also good to have friends that happen to speak the language it is in.

>Wollmeise bleeds dye. Apparently this is common knowledge.  I guess I’m uncommon:-)  (Though it does make sense given how RICH the colors are!)

>I would probably try for a heavier fishing line next time.

>Lace done on a non-cobweb weight of yarn goes a lot faster. (I know, big duh there, but damn! It’s a LOT faster!!)

>A skein of Wollmeise lace garn goes a LONG way.  I still have a little under half of the 300 gram skein left.

>For whatever reason, my iPhone takes much better pictures of reds than my Nikon does.  This is good to know since red is my favorite color.

>The iPhone also takes better photos of pee water in a sink.  I hope to never need that knowledge again (though suspect I will).

>I learned how to drop stitches down to fix a mistake made in the previous row rather than tinking back.  To say that I was pretty pleased with myself when I got that one would be an understatement.  I mean, I knew theoretically that it was possible, but I was never ballsy enough to do it until I was looking at a LOT of tinks to get back to the mistake.  Amazing how being lazy can make you a better knitter!

>I need to find an old stone wall.  Near here.

So, no glamor shots of the shawl on an old stone wall (not a lot of those around here) or on me (is hard to photograph yourself, even harder to photograph your backside.) The neighbor whom I would normally enlist on this sort of insanity wasn’t home most of the day and, to be honest, the light is pretty crap today anyway.  So, it may just have to wait until the weekend. And then the hubby can follow me around with the iPhone.  Taking pictures of my backside.  I don’t think that he will complain too much.


Pattern: Lehmus-huivi by Sari Astrom

Yarn: 155 grams of Wollmeise Lace Garn in Orient.

Needles: 2.75mm Knit Picks circulars in a variety if lengths.


Block(ing) party March 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 12:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

So, I finished knitting the clapotis some time ago and have yet to block it.  I know, I know… what am I waiting for???  Well, to be truthful, I was waiting for today.  Simply put, the weather outside is wretched and it’s nice and warm inside and, well, I don’t have anywhere else to be or anything else to do.  All in all, a perfect day for blocking an enormous scarf on the floor somewhere and trying to keep the cats from eating the pins holding it in place.  Seriously, Milo thinks that my blocking pins are positively scrummy from some reason!

So, here are some photos of my action packed clapotis blocking.  Try not to get too excited or I may have to restrain you.

First I gave the Clap a little bath in the sink with my Soak fine fiber wash.  I was really pleased that there was almost no dye bleeding at all because, lets face it, bleeding generally just sucks!

Then I unplugged the sink and let it drain nicely so that the wet knitting sat in there like a very brightly colored pile of over-cooked ramen noodles.  I let it sit there for a bit like this and then gently smooshed some excess water out of it.

(See what I said about super exciting?!?!  Aren’t you on the edge of your damn seats?)

Then I took it into my office/studio/study/playroom to block on the floor.  I put down towels as we are a fuzzy family and no amount of vacuuming is going to change that.  I mean, we have 2 long hairs, 6 short hairs and one who doesn’t know exactly what he is living in this house.  We are a house of fuzz.  Period.  Anyway, I put two clean towels on the floor and sort of set-up a frame with the blocking blocks that I use (actually pieces from a giant foam checkers set that I picked-up for a song this summer) and pinned the clapotis in place.  I didn’t do a hard blocking with it as I know that it tends to curl as part of its design.  I just didn’t want it to look like a big pile of multicolored hot mess anymore!

I didn’t use a ton of pins like I would if I were pinning lace because I want to avoid an emergency vet office trip with Milo.  Also, I just didn’t really feel like it needed it all that much.

Here’s another photo to give you some perspective on the size of this thing.  It’s easily longer than the loveseat that I am sitting on writing this!

(Yes, that is a bag of clean wool awaiting carding beside the clapotis.  Malcolm got into it the other night (he likes to snack on wool when he can) and thus the little tufts sticking out.  What?  You don’t have bags of wool sitting around your house?)

Ok, I’m now off to bake some cookies.  I will hopefully be able to show y’all a picture of the clap dry and worn in a few days…


Block(ing) Party! August 12, 2009

I finished knitting the Feza scarf and immediately decided to block it a bit so that it didn’t look quite so much like a red, green and orange rope around my neck.

Here it is in it’s Soak bath.


Here it is about halfway blocked.


Here it is all pinned up.  I didn’t go totally nuts blocking this as soon enough it is going to be wrapped around my neck and, let’s face it, will probably get stuff spilled on it or snotted.



And here it is all done with the coat that it is going to be worn with!


I also finished the Flower Power blanket last week and promised pictures so here it is!!!!


Also, I turned the heel (not very gracefully, but it’s done and done!) of my first sock yesterday so I have to include a picture of it as well.  Alas, this sock is not going to fit on either of my feet (and yes, I did try it on both in the vain hope that one of my feet had significantly swelled-up and I had just failed to notice it) so I am going to have to either A.) use them as very boring stockings for the cats or B.) find someone with little feet to give them to.    Oh well, I’m just glad that they look reasonably foot shaped!  Just so that y’all know, it’s hard to take a picture of a sock!!


Today I worked in the conservatory, trying to get it straightened up and looking good.  This also means a rather lot of potting up and dirty work.  However, it is going to look great in the end!  No pictures yet as it doesn’t look great as of now:-)