Sarah Jane Humke

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

Chugging along January 6, 2015

I know, I’ve not been on here much of late.  Alas, there hasn’t been a lot for me to write about lately.  Winter is a time to hunker down, stay warm,  and plan for spring here.

Christmas was nice.  Lots of lovely and thoughtful presents.  I got a lot of books that will hopefully help me prepare for the coming year (I would like to get a few sheep and some laying hens).  I spent a lot of time with both my family and my boyfriend’s family.

New Year’s brought specken dicken at the Ackley Civic Center and colder weather.  No big parties or fancy nights out. That’s not really how I roll:-)

This past week I’ve been doing a big cleaning and rearranging.  Trying to make my space more useable and pleasing to be in.

I did, in fact, finish a bunch of knitted items before Christmas.  One, in particular, I am especially proud of.  I finished a pair of socks for the boyfriend made from hand-spun, 4-ply sock yarn.

Joel's Socks
This is a 80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, & 10% Nylon blend that was custom dyed for me by Diane Pals of Bugsnugger.  It’s a lovely blend that I took my time spinning.  I have more yarn like this and I will probably be knitting another pair of socks from it but they will hopefully go to the Iowa State Fair before going to their final home.

I also knit a pair of “normal” socks out of Kroy and Opal.Joel's Socks 2  I used the red Opal to finish off the socks as there wasn’t enough of the Kroy in the 100 grams for a pair of size 12 mens socks.

Here are the socks together:

Joel's Socks 3

There was also a scarf for my mother made from some of the ruffle yarns as well as an infinity scarf from Debbie Bliss Angel for my sister-in-law.  There were also another pair of socks for my boyfriend’s mother.  So, I was fairly busy in the days leading up to Christmas!

 

 

8 seconds January 16, 2014

There are days that I feel like I’m on a treadmill and then there are days that feel as though I am on an elliptical machine. In my universe, an elliptical machine is the devil.  Probably invented sometime during the Spanish inquisition by the same man who invented panty hose, SPSS, and stiletto heels.  I cannot use these machines at all.  I have tried two times and the second time I was asked to please leave the gym I was trial membershiping and not come back. I somehow fell off the elliptical  backwards and nearly took out a woman on a machine behind me. This is what happens when I am on one.  It’s like my feet and hands and the machine all work really effectively against one another in order to get me off of it as quickly as possible.  Seriously, I think I would have better luck bull riding than I do exercising on one of these machines (bull riding you only need to stay on for eight seconds!).  Anyway, that is a long winded way of saying that it’s been a little nutso of late and sometimes I feel as though I’ve gotten thrown on my ass in gym full of people.

First off, I finally finished some socks that I started over a year ago.  I worked on these socks in my Psych 230 class (that I thoroughly enjoyed despite myself) but messed-up the toes and had afterthought heels planned that I never got done.  Since I was already ripping them back, I took them all the way back to the heel spots, put in traditional heels and reknit the feet and toes(correctly).  I realized how many socks I had under my belt from the time that I started knitting this particular pair until I (ahem) finished knitting them.  It’s interesting to me how things like Kitchener stitching the toes and turning the heels has really become something kinda second nature to me now.  Anyway, these turned out really nicely and very nearly identical despite, well, everything!

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I also mailed off some (very late) Christmas packages.  I know that this might sound odd, but I honestly prefer to get packages late as it extends the surprise and the number of days that you get to open packages!  I LOVE opening packages!!!!  Anyway, I thought I would share with you how I apply postage to the USPS flat rate boxes.  These two boxes are both the medium size and currently cost $12.35 to mail anywhere in the Continental United States.  I usually start off with a few higher denomination stamps, but the rest are generally valued at around $.05.  I have some as low as $.005 (yes, one-half of a cent of postage. Even the postal workers stopped at that one.) and a few in the $.30 range.   But a lot (and I mean a LOT) are in the $.03, $.04, and $.05 range.  The reason for this is simple.    There used to be a lot more stamp collectors than there are currently.  Many of them are dying or no longer collecting and their collections aren’t worth any more than the postage that the stamps are worth.  However, most people don’t want to fool around with six stamps just to mail one letter, so when sold on ebay or other websites, go for less than full face value for perfectly good postage.  Some of the stamps that I am using are from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Most are newer, a lot from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Still, the bulk of the stamps on these packages are older than I am.  Both of them have the same general theme; Old, dead, (mostly) white men.  One went to Alabama, so it got some Civil War stamps thrown into the mix (I thought that it still fit the overall theme!).  When I was mailing off Christmas boxes that were going to be reasonably on time I used a general theme of Christmas Stamps.  It was very festive in a USPS kind of way (which, really, is kind of an awesome kind of way!).

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I received an early birthday present from my roommate Elise this week.  I have been eyeing these sheets for months and when I finally made up my mind to buy them at the store, they were out.  She was there and they had them back in stock and she got them and gave them to me right away because it’s bloody freezing in my room and they seem like a good idea in January.

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Anytime you can snuggle down in a bed made-up in flannel sheets covered in dogs wearing clothing and a heated mattress pad, you know that you are on the right side of any battle that the world may throw at you the next day.  Plus, bonus cute knitting project bag that the sheets came in!

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Speaking of birthday presents, I made one for Elise’s birthday on Monday.  Since she saw me knitting it and had requested it specifically (and it’s cold outside) I gave it to her a few days early.  It is a “Jayne Hat” inspired by the one worn on the short-lived Sci-Fi show Firefly by one of the characters.  I used three shades of Vanna’s Choice that seemed to be there best representation of the colors on our TV screen.  The exact colors used are here in my Ravelry page as well as the actual pattern I used.  It was an easy knit and fast.  I’ve gotten used to making things out of fingering weight yarns so knitting something out of worsted felt as though it was just falling off the needles!

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Another knitting project I made was a pair of thrummed mittens.  These were made in response to the news of the impending polar vortex to descend upon our little piece of heaven here in Iowa.  I actually managed to get them finished prior to the big chill actually getting here, so that was actually a new feeling for me!  Once again, knitted in worsted weight wool, these just flew.  They are far from perfect and if I made them again I would make them a little bigger (like one more completion of the thrumming round) but they work and work well at keeping my hands warm which was the whole purpose.  Details of the pattern and materials are here on my Ravelry page.  I’ve had so much fun showing them to people and then turning them inside out and explaining that they are like Uggs for your hands:-)  I know, I’m easily amused.

This was my whole outfit to take the dogs out during the worst of the polar vortex.

If I had been a good girl and updating like I should be, these would have all been a separate post.  But I am naughty and haven’t been.  Though I really need to write more here.  I am doing a lot of academic writing which I sometimes feel as though it is killing my natural writing voice.  Academic writing is extremely dry and formulaic.  I feel that it was designed for people who are not very good writers to be able to get information about their study (or whatever they want to talk about) out without exposing that they suck at writing.  I’m not saying that I am a Neil Gaiman of blogging or anything like that, but I can at least (generally) communicate what I am trying to say.  Often in academic writing, the language is very dense and obscure and there is a ham-fisted approach to using big words in order to camouflage the fact that there is little or no real results from the study (or whatever) that the author is writing about.  It seems to be elitist and it’s no wonder that people who are not in academia often misinterpret what these papers mean.  There’s a whole ethical discussion that I could get into about this (we are supposed to be doing research for the good of the state/nation/world but we often don’t put our results in a language that a lay person could read and understand) but in short it hurts my brain to write too much of it at one go.  I understand that results need to be in a format of sorts, but does is really need to be this????

Also, I start saying things like, “My personal self-efficacy belief as to my ability to maintain ownership of my animal-based fiber headcovering has quickly plummeted.”  That was in response to losing my wool hat.  Seriously.

 

Easier in the Rearview January 6, 2014

A true-ism that has been forcing it’s way to the front of my mind a lot lately is that things always seem easier after you’ve done them. Especially if you’ve done them a few times.  Often, it is the thought of something more than the actual thing that keeps us from doing it.  It may be the idea of failing or just plain nervousness about doing something unfamiliar, but still, it is the thought of doing it more than the actual doing it.

Take, for example, pressure canning.  The first time that you do it it is a scary, scary thing.  You are sure that you are going to blow up your house or kill everyone with your canned green beans.  Then, after you’ve done it a few times, it quickly becomes easy. Commonplace even.  Still, to the outsider, it looks scary and intimidating and they are amazed that you do it and survive.

Making jams and jellies was kind of fun by comparison.  I mean, nothing is going to blow up.  The worst things that can happen are (in a rough order of worst to least worst) you get burned by bubbling sugar laden jam/jelly/marmalade/fruit butter (hurts like a sonofabitch, but it’s not blowing a hole in your  upstairs neighbor’s floor), scorching the bottom of your pot or pan (total pita to clean and if stainless, possibly ruining a pan if not), over-boiling your pot by having a seemingly volcano-like eruption of sugar and fruit all over your stove top with burners all a blazing making it smell like a orchard burning in August, and what seems like the worst thing at the time, your preserve not setting making what you just made to be pear vanilla sauce rather than the pear vanilla jam it was supposed to be.

Knitting can be like that too.  For a long time I resisted becoming a sock knitter.  I knit lace by the yard like a  less literate Charlotte saving my own personal Wilbur.  This was all fine until you needed to travel with these projects.  Most of the time it was ok, but there were times where needles came out and caused all kinds of havoc to my gossamer webs.  There are few things more disheartening than to pull your knitting out on the plane/train/automobile only to find the needles in one area of the project bag and the knitting in another.

In the past year or so, I’ve started knitting socks with a seriousness.  Since a lot of my time is spent on the bus, small projects are a must.  Since I have the Monkey pattern memorized now, that tends to be my go-to pattern if it isn’t a self-striping yarn.  Then it’s just a type of vanilla pattern similar to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s (You can tell the kind of evolution taking place here as I no longer say that it is, in fact, her pattern as I have changed things as needed to suit my sock making needs. EZ would be proud.).  I now have the Kitchener stitch memorized (who’d have thought that would happen!) and turning heels no longer makes me stuff the poor little sock in the project bag and leave it to be moth bait for a good long time before I garner the fortitude to finish it.  I’m not saying that I am a socky guru or anything, but I do now consider myself a sock knitter.

This hasn’t been limited to my personal life either.  There are a number of things I never thought that I would be able to say or do that now are pretty natural to me.  For example, I got an A in a Statistics class this pass semester.  Never in a million years thought that I would say that, nor that I would admit to feeling reasonably comfortable using a piece of software for it that is, well, not the most user friendly piece of work I’ve encountered.

So tell me, what things have been easier in the rearview for you?

 

My Christmas Letter December 31, 2013

I know that this is a little late. Like most things this year, I’ve been behind on doing this. It’s been that kind of a year, you know? I realized around Christmas eve that there was no way I was going to get my Christmas cards out (again) this year let alone write a letter in each one (in my defense, I didn’t realize it was Christmas eve until that day!).

I don’t have any pictures of gap toothed children grinning up at the camera to share.  Still just me and the dogs. Everybody is doing fine.  Nothing new to report.

This spring my brother got married and I went to the Caribbean with my family.  It was nice to get away for a week to a beach with pina coladas on it. Lots of pina coladas!

The last semester has been my roughest so far this year.  Classes that conflicted with each other in my mind and a whole lot of stress made it so that I was nearly always ready to start getting crabby (which is unusual for me). I know that grad school isn’t meant to be fun, but this last semester still really, really sucked for me.

I’ve still been knitting. Since I moved to a place on a bus route, I’ve become a very public sock knitter.  So much so that I have now memorized the Kitchener stitch!  I can also nearly turn a heel without instructions too! (Tini, your assimilation is nearly complete!) I’ve gone from an avowed non-sock knitter to a decidedly sock-knitterly knitter.

I’ve also started cooking.  Well, to be more precise, canning.  I finally have a spacious kitchen that’s air conditioned and have decided to take advantage of it by making salsa’s and canned green beans, jellies, jams, and marmalades (I’m really digging on the marmalades right now).  I have canned probably 100 pints of applesauce and 30 half-pints of applebutter (it was a really good year for apples around here). Canning has been another escape for me as well as a way to make healthy(ish) food for me and my family.  Plus, once people find out that you can USE 25 pounds of apples, all of a sudden it starts showing up:-)

I promise I am still alive and doing ok.  Just really busy.  I will try to post here a little more regularly but I make no promises.  This next semester promises to be quite busy for me as well.

I hope that all of you are doing well. Leave a comment telling me your favorite moment of the year 2013. Mine would be the impromptu pickle party we had this fall before everything got nuts.  Imagine, half a dozen people with hundreds of cucumbers and gallon after gallon of vinegar.  It was a lot of fun in a really kind of old-fashioned way!

 

 

 

Make do With What’s on Hand July 12, 2013

So, today I nearly finished my most recent monkeys, but I had left my sewing-up needle at home.  However, I really wanted to get the almost completed monkeys off the needles so I could cast on another pair.  What to do?

So, I thought about what I had around me.  I was at the ISU agricultural mechanics shop out at the 450 farm.  So, I procured a couple of little pieces of leftover  mig  welding wire, transferred the stitches onto them, and voila! Rough and ready stitch holders!

Make 1

The rest of the sock isn’t visible as this pair will be a future gift for someone who might actually read this.  Yes, I am working on the Christmas presents already! 🙂  If you want to see them, pictures are available on my Ravelry page.

However, I have started on another pair, this time for me, thus I can show them to you!

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And this is one day later!

And this is one day later!

 

I’m totally adoring that green, grey and teal together. Can’t wait to wear these!!!

 

Labeling Handknits July 4, 2013

One of the things that I have come up against when giving handknits as a gift is how to express the care and feeding of the item to the recipient without making the birthday or baby card sound like a do’s and don’ts list.  Given that often cards quickly get separated from the gift, this is one way that I use to make sure that the knits that I give receive the care that they require.

Some people sew fabric care tags into their garments, but I find these itchy and often expensive.  My solution is also easily customized for whatever the handmade item is.

I found these shipping tags a while ago at an office supply store. They are durable and large enough to contain all the information I need to put on them.

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The last time I was in Staples, I checked and they are about $6 for a package of 100 tags.  So not pricy.

I also have this lovely stamp that says, “Original  Handmade With Care” on it.  I got it a while ago at Michael’s on clearance.  You don’t even need to use one like this. If you see a stamp that you think is nice and it fits, go for it!  I also snagged the black ink pad for $1.  I’ve seen stamps like this before, in fact I think I have one that even says “Handmade by:” on it somewhere in my storage unit.

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The rest is pretty intuitive. Stamp the tags, leaving enough space to write something below (there’s always the back too).

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Attach the tags to the handmade object and voila! No more boring cards!

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(I could see a pretty cool version of this using up-cycled old Christmas cards for the front for Christmas gifts.:-))

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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Why Brats of course!