Sunday, October 30, 2016

One Fiber, Two yarns - Spinning the Rainbow

You guys really liked my first spinning video, so I thought that I would give it another shot!

I started with the rainbow speckled roving I dyed with dry KoolAid.  I want to spin this yarn for a particular design, something I haven't really done before.  I've designed with yarn I've spun and I've spun yarn for a particular pattern, but I've never developed the yarn AND the pattern together.

I want to do a big N-ply gradient for most of the yarn... but I also want to have some shorter striped section for a separate piece of my design.  I started out dividing a bit of the fiber into three thin sections to spin.

For the stripy section, I spun the singles pretty thin.  This is going to be a single ply yarn and I like to have an S twist at the end to be consistent with the rest of the yarn.  Therefore, I spun the wheel counter clockwise for an S twist.

Of course after I started doing this I began to regret my decision and wonder if I should make this N-ply too.  Nonono, let's not change midstream...  Although it could be fun to compare Z and S n-ply out of the same fiber but I did the singles completely differently.

I had enough yardage when I finished these singles that I did end up N-plying them.  I wanted the color repeats to be even shorter so plying the yarn helped with that.

When I was filming this video, I realized (once again) how hard it is to spin and talk.  Since it is a vlog I didn't want there to be too much time where I wasn't sharing my thought process but this resulted in me making mistakes sometimes.

Bulky Rainbow Gradient

I took a break in the middle of the spinning project.  The summer was hot and dry and snuggling up with fiber wasn't that appealing.  Once the weather started to cool I picked the project back up and quickly finished the rainbow gradient bulky Z singles (spinning the wheel clockwise).

I think these bulkier singles are about as thick as the thinner, N-ply yarn.  Time to start plying!

After N-plying the thicker yarn (with difficulty as I didn't switch to my bulky yarn orifice and the yarn keep getting stuck during uptake on the wheel), I wound both yarns at the same time around my niddy noddy.  I didn't do the propper niddy noddy twist but instead made the center shaft 2 feet long so I could still have two 4 foot skeins.

I can't get over how stunning the rainbow gradient came out!  

Here is a rundown of the final yarns:
Chunky Rainbow Gradient - Z singles, S N-ply yarn. 17 wraps ~ 22 yards.  9 wraps/2" - Super bulky weight
Thinner Small repeats of color - S singles, Z N-ply yarn.  16 wraps ~22 yards.  22 wraps/2" = worsted weight.

I can't believe that the two yarns have approximately the same yardage!  There is always a +/- when I count wraps because there can be partial wraps in there, which is why I approximated both yarns to be ~22 yards.

It is easy to say that you can get many completely different yarns out of the same fiber, but it was really fun to show you how you can get drastic differences.  I can't wait to show you what I knit with these yarns.  (Stay tuned for a brand new free knitting pattern by ChemKnits!) 

I had so much content that I split this story into two videos.  In Part 1, I spin the singles and N-ply the thinner yarn with shorter color repeats.  In Part 2, I spin the chunky singles for the long rainbow gradient and N-ply this yarn.  Finally, while I was backing up some of the videos, I quickly created an "Auto Awesome" from the files to give my followers a little sneak peek.  It has been a while since I've been able to finish a new video so hopefully this will make people happy.  Enjoy!

Spinning started 6.6.2016.  Finished 9.20.2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Duckie Woobie

Remember when I could finish a woobie in a week? (Maybe not, but if you pay really close attention to my Ravelry projects then you might!) When I look back to my knitting projects of 2012 and 2013 I get a little jealous because I just had so much time with my yarn and needles.  I've been good about not adding too much yarn to my stash except for a very specific project, but my queue of specific projects is growing and I just haven't had time to finish everything.

For example, I finished the Puppy Woobie after the baby had been born when I started it with PLENTY of lead time.  The problem is that I cast on after Rowdy was born and it is hard to knit with a 4 month old in my lap who is interested in "helping" by poking himself with my needles.  I had almost finished the Puppy woobie within a week of Buddy Once's birth.  Instead of finishing it straight up I decided to cast on for Baby R2's woobie.  I figure it is a bit of a win if I can cast on before he/she is born sometime in May.  (Who knows, maybe he/she is being born RIGHT NOW!  It is baby watch time, after all!)

The Duck Woobie pattern is part of the Woobie Pattern Collection - Series 2.  Thus far I've only completed the Woobie Unicorn from this set so I'm excited to add another finished object to my project archive.

From the Puppy Woobie I made note to save at least 3.5 arm spans to have enough of a long tail for the 300 stitches cast on.  

Welcome to the world, Baby E!  You were born within 36 hours of my starting this project and I found out you had entered the outside world when I was knitting on your blankie.  Welcome to the world happy baby!

Lucky has gotten really into playing with his Zebra Woobie lately, and giving Rowdy his unicorn to "play" with, too.  The picot edge of these woobies take the longest amount of time but it is so snugly and gives the edges such weight that it is absolutely worth it.

Like the other woobies I've knit in these collections, I slipped the first stitch of decrease rounds and did a center double decrease (CDD) with the last two stitches and the slipped stitch.  When I hit the round to add extra decreases, I followed what I did with the unicorn woobie - S1, K 15, CDD, K14, CDD around.

I was wrong when I said that there were no fiddly bits.  Turns out the beak is knit separately.  However it is an easy small piece to knit and not super fiddly so I'm not too upset about this discovery.  I should have read the pattern closer before jumping to conclusions!  

For all of the fiddly bits I've done on these woobies, the beak is my favorite.  It was super easy to attach and looks great.  

The embroidered eyes were more complex than most of the other embroidery.  I'm going to start with just white eyes and then see what I think from that.  

I finished this project just in time for baby E's christening.  Wahoo!  

The duckie had one evening to snuggle with Lucky's zebra and Rowdy's unicorn before heading off to his new home.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lucky's Brown Bear Birthday T-shirt

Lucky is 3 years old!  How did this happen?  I can't believe that I have been a mom for almost 3 years now.  Since Lucky had two huge birthday parties in a row (Under the Sea Birthday Party and Halloween Themed Birthday Party) I wanted to do something lower key for him this year.  When I got my Oriental Trading Company catalog, I saw a set up for a Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? party and knew that this is what I wanted to do.  Especially when I saw that some of the themed favors (puzzles, slap bracelets and bubbles) are Lucky's favorite things.  Lucas LOVES Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see? and other books in the series (especially Panda Bear, Panda Bear what do you see? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear what do you hear?)

I thought I would keep do it yourself (DIY) things to a minimum, get a permit for a playground structure and have a simple easy party.  I did think I would DIY the party bags but the Brown Bear bags for sale were so much cheaper than anything I could make I bought those, too!

I had to DIY SOMETHING for Lucky's birthday.  For the last two birthdays I purchased his birthday shirts from the Etsy store Lil Threadz Clothing.  There are TONS of Eric Carle themed shirts you can purchase on Etsy, but I knew that I wanted to try to make the appliqued shirts myself this time.  There are many Eric Carle fabrics on and other retailers, but I stuck with the Brown Bear fabric and Caterpillar dots to make the number.

I purchased some Jumping Beans shirts from Kohls.  I wanted to find some non-white plain T-shirts and had a really hard time finding something in toddler size.  In the end, I found some raglan long sleeved T-shirts and onesies that I could make work for the boys.  With an early October birthday party, long sleeves shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Lucky really loves the brown bear fabric.  I would catch him pulling it out of the box to lay out on the floor or to show Daddy.  He assigned Keith the white dog, me the purple cat and Rowdy the blue horse. (This later changed to a Red Bird!) Lucky is, of course, the brown bear.  I hope that I can find a way to incorporate the other animals into the party attire for the rest of us!

My plan is to applique a large "3" to the front of the shirt and then the brown bear to the back of the shirt.  I spent a lot of time looking at different fonts for 3's.  I eventually decided on a simple 3 and drew it on two sided iron on transfer interfacing.  I would also like to applique on text that reads "Brown Bear" because Lucky's last name is Brown and because he is the little Brown Bear at this party.  We'll see how things go with space.  I have never stitched on to a knit fabric before, so this is going to be a new experience for me.

The long bear is just over 7" across.  The shirt (flat) is 11" wide.  I know this will stretch some.  It SHOULD work.

Maybe I should put the bear on the front of the shirt.  Applique on both sides could be too much.  I'll see how my 3 looks on top of the bear.

I do not think the 3 stands out enough on top of the bear.  I'll go back to the original plan to have the bear on the back of the shirt.  (I also realized that I could incorporate a Brown Bear into Lucky's birthday look through a hat, but that is something for another post.)  

I'm not sure about making applique letters this small.  I considered looking for some iron on letters but in the end decided to just leave it plain.

This is the first year that Lucky is really aware of what a Birthday Party means.   He will tell strangers that he will be 3 at his birthday party and even invited our neighbors little girl to the party before I had a chance to email her parents!  (We went to a lot of parties in September so this was helping pump him up.)  He is very excited about his party and Brown Bear shirt.  I hope it still fits in a month!

It is time to applique!  I'm nervous, why am I so nervous?  Oh yeah, if I stretch the shirt too much while I'm sewing it could pucker weird.  Deep breath and here we go.

I used the zig zag stitch (stitch #8 on my machine) with a stitch width of 1.5 for both appliques but a stitch length of 4 for the brown bear and of 3 for the numeral.  (Brown bear settings - [8, 4, 1.5], #3 settings [8, 3, 1.5])

It worked!  The shirt came out better than I expected, or really just as I had hoped it would be.  I would have loved to come up with something that was very different from what I could buy on etsy, but nevertheless I'm proud of myself for completing this project myself.  

And it doesn't hurt that Lucky absolutely loves his birthday shirt!

Just like he loves his baby brother!  

Someday Lucky is going to want to pick the theme of his birthday, but as soon as I told him that we were going to do Brown Bear he was SO excited.  I hope that he is always this excited about his parties!  

Stay tuned, I'll talk more about Rowdy's shirt, the really cool DIY party hats and what we did for the actual party in future posts!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sweet & Spicy Pickles

My first batch of pickle relish was a success!  I found the brine to be a little sweet and it definitely could use some kick.  I don't have much spice tolerance myself but Keith and the rest of his family loves spicy food.  I decided to take the same recipe I did before up a notch with some jalepenos and red pepper flakes.

Some of the stem ends of my cucumber are bitter tasting.  Apparently this could be due to the near drout conditions the fruit has seen this summer.  I water my garden every morning, but sometimes by evening the pots have completely dried out.  Cutting a few inches off of the end (and taste testing) removes the bitterness and left me with enough cucumbers to make my pickles.  Only a couple of the pickles were affected this time.

I promise that I won't share every single canning batch I ever attempt with you, but since this blog is my lab notebook of sorts I want to keep track of what I did so I can try to replicate it in the future.

  • ~2 quarts sliced cucumbers 
  • 2 cups sliced yellow onions (about 2 small onions)
  • ~1 cup sliced jalapenos (4 peppers)
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt 
  • 3.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1.5 T celery seed
  • 1.5 T mustard seed
  • 1.5 T red pepper flakes
  • pickle crisps - one pinch per jar (yes I have a measuring spoon for this - it is 1/16 of a tsp)
I am very nervous to slice the jalapenos.  Many years ago, my roommate was slicing jalapenos and then touched her eye.  She was in severe pain for hours and I don't want this to happen to me or my kids.  Therefore, I decided to wear gloves when slicing these peppers.  

I increased the volume of vinegar and decreased the amount of sugar.  I hope to have some left over brine to make some more refrigerator pickles, even if that means that I have to purchase some cucumbers! Other than the proportions, I followed the instructions from the sweet pickle relish recipe I used before.  

I had Keith taste one of the cucumber slices after the 2 hours of soaking and he said that he could already taste some spice!  I hope that I didn't go overboard with the amount of heat... I ate an onion and could handle it.  This may not be the best indication about how spicy these pickles are but at least it might not be totally overpowering.  

I'm a lot less stressed with this batch than I was with the last one.  Of course, I'm worried about giving someone food poisoning.  Or I'm worried about making a jar of mush.  This is why I have a small jar with only a few pickles in it so we can test it in a month or so.  I boiled the jars for 10 minutes in pre-sterilized jars. 

I ended up with 4 pints of pickles plus a few slices in another jar for tasting in a month or so.  All of the jars sealed perfectly.  I also had enough brine left over to make some refrigerator pickles!  I cut a cucumber into spears and then let it soak in the cool brine overnight before tasting them.  Sweet and spicy, but low enough spice that I could handle it.  (When Lucky tasted the pickle he said that it made his mouth hurt - but he didn't cry or seem unhappy.)  They definitely have a kick but something with a low spice tolerance can handle them.  However, Keith said that the cooked pickles were MUCH spicier.  We'll have to see what happens after they've had time to cure.  

Pickles finished 8/25/16