Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sad Days

I have taken an emergency trip to the US, and though I love to visit my native land, I am sad to be here this time. My grandfather is in his last days after a sudden massive heart attack this week, so I have come to be with my family. So, excuse any lengthy silence on my part. I will write when and if I find the time. What's certain, though, is that I will continue to knit, for it brings me such comfort to do so.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Basket o' Plenty

Basket o' Plenty
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Finally, at long last, my batteries are charged, and I was able to upload the stash picture I had taken several days ago just before the batteries died.

In the back, you see the Peruvian wool from Knit Picks. Closer up, in the middle, you see Knit Picks Andean Silk (very soft, but I have yet to try either of these). There is also a self-striping sock yarn from Knit Picks there in the middle (Daffodil is the color - greens, oranges and, I believe, yellows). In the front, you see a couple of balls of the 100% silk from Phildar that I was justifying the purchase of the other day (I'm sure you can see why I was so eager to purchase it). They are already on my needles, and a tank top is almost half-done. There's also a lone ball of Phildar's lambswool/cashmere blend over on the left (the grey one) which is very soft if not colorful.

So, there you have it. My new stash members, all begging to be worked with when I finally get a project or two finished (I'm really trying to avoid starting yet another new one before finishing an old one - or two).

Letters for Soldiers

I noticed a website link on the Knit List digest mail I have only barely been scanning this week (at times, it overwhelms me with its enormity, so I merely scan or even skip it). I don't know what made me notice the link, because it was probably the only thing I did see on that digest. It's a site formed by a soldier and his family to facilitate contacting soldiers who might not usually receive mail. Whatever your misgivings about the war itself, and I'm sure many have them, I'm certain we can all appreciate the idea of being at war (or even abroad, for that matter) far from home with no word from anyone who cares. Depressing, at the very least.

I know there are soldiers who joined the Armed Forces as a way of avoiding the thought of a future without hope in a ghetto or some other dismal situation. Others truly had the desire to protect their country and its way of life. Whatever their original reason for joining up, they now find themselves in a dangerous (and to my mind, terrifying) position. In such a situation, off-duty hours could easily become a time to reflect upon this danger. Yikes! Better to occupy their minds reading or with some other actvitiy (maybe you could unload a few of the used books piled on your kitchen table or a few of those old Cosmos or Vogues you've been meaning through out). So, I've been to this site, and I believe, when I get a moment, I will write a letter and send it with a picture of this lovely area or perhaps a bit of French candy. I find it funny to think I could make someone else's day with such little effort. In fact, I could probably make my own day with the high I get out of doing good deeds for others. Maybe you could do the same.

On the site, they stress that letters are the most essential gift we can give, but there are other items needed, if you feel the desire. I, for one, have shipped a bit of yarn to a fellow knitter, because who can live without a bit of stash? And, just a hint, if you're wondering about cost - it's like sending a letter or package to another part of the US, not a foreign country. So go to the site below. Read around a bit and be touched by another human being's need for companionship and support. I was.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Holding My Head High In Shame

I know people usually hang their heads low in shame, but I just can't bring myself to feel the shame I think I'm supposed to feel for what I have done. Maybe there's an ounce or two of shame, but there certainly wasn't enough to stop me from doing it. Doing what? Well, what else? Buying more yarn, of course. I know, you're thinking I just got a @$#%load of yarn from my mother's visit. And, you're right, but the LYS sent me coupons for 20% off. And, I started thinking about the yarns they sell that I have been wanting to try. Why not get them now, instead of when I actually need yarn, and, of course, the coupon's are no longer valid?

My husband rightly tried to convince me that the stores do this INTENTIONALLY to make you come buy stuff when there's a lull in their sales (and, he almost succeeded). They wouldn't do this, would they? Not to me, right? Okay, yes, I understand the coupons aren't really for me because they like me, and they've seen how deserving I am, because I'm truly a very nice person. But I really have been wanting to try a few of their yarns (lambswool/cashmere and 100% silk, for example) to check out the quality, and this coupon at least saved me from paying the sales tax, which is really high here. I know, there is always the argument that there will be other coupons in the future, and that may be true, but I've received their coupons for the past two years, at least, and this is the first time I've seen one for their yarn. They usually send me coupons for their ready-to-wear, which I find hideous.

So, all that to tell you that I've bought some yarn. I got what will hopefully end up being enough silk for a tank top, though I'm doubtful (and, I don't mean a tank top for my 3-year-old - that much I'm sure I've got). I like the colors. There's the natural color of the silk, which I have always found to be pretty, and I got another color called paprika (no explanation needed as to what color this is) that I'll use for borders. I also got some grey lambswool/cashmere to make a scarf for my hubbie (though if he doesn't get more excited about it, it may end up being mine!). I just need to swatch this stuff to see how far it'll take me.

Now all that's left is to assemble all the new stash members for a nice photo op to show them all off to you. I guess I could try to get around to that today.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Shimmer Feather and Fan Shawl

Shimmer Feather and Fan Shawl
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Tada! I, of course, didn't have the yarn used in the pattern (Do I ever?). Hadn't ever even heard of it, actually. And, though I'm sure it's pretty, I'm knitting this with Knit Picks "Shimmer" yarn instead (70% baby alpaca, 30% silk/colorway: stained glass). It is unbelievably soft and drapes beautifully. The colors are gorgeous. The picture doesn't really do them justice on my screen. They're a bit darker in real life, I guess. The actual pattern had a striping of two different greys, but I really like the way this colorway looks.

As a little side note: Do you see the charm on the stitch marker up on the right? It's actually not a stitch marker at all. It's a wine glass charm from a cute little set that my brother and sister-in-law made for us. They somehow always get forgotten when the wine gets served, but they've found their true calling now. They work great as stitch markers. I've marked each time the 18-stitch repeat starts and ends, because I don't want to get into a mess of trying to figure out where I screwed up. So far, it's working out well, except for the slight gap in stitches in that spot (Design detail, you say? Why, of course it is!). I've also been using some twisty-ties (or whatever you call them). Make a little loop out of one, and you've got a perfect stitch marker (Genius you say? Why, of course I am.... not).

Sick as DogS

I know I wrote the other day that I was as sick as a dog, but now I must restate that. It has become plural in more than one sense. Not only am I not the only sick dog in the family, but there are actually two viruses (or would that be viri?? tee hee) floating around at once in the same house! My poor daughter is the unlucky soul to have gotten them both at once. She's had an ear infection/cold for the past couple of days and has just this morning added on the stomach bug the rest of us have been enjoying for the past few days. She's just lying around pathetically moaning about one pain or another, completely zapped of energy by the fever. Poor thing. These are the times parents hate to be parents. It's so sad to feel helpless to do anything for a sick child. I guess I can feel lucky that my kids are not frequently sick.

All this hanging around with sick kids has given me plenty of knitting time, though. So, I should have advanced quite a bit on that cable baby blanket, right? Not right. Not that I needed another unfinished project lying around, but after all the new members of my stash came in, I had an itch to try out some of the that Knit Picks yarn. There were also some lovely shawl patterns in the Folk Shawls book my mom brought. What's a girl to do when faced with all this yummy new yarn and some nice new projects to try? Cast on, my dear, cast on. So, that's exactly what I did, and it's been worth it.

For the past couple of days, I've been slowly (or at least it seems slowly) working my way through the feather and fan shawl in the Folk Shawls book. There are actually two versions of this shawl - one triangular and the other rectangular. I'm working on the rectangular one, because I just can't see myself with a triangular shawl. Incidentally, it is not sheer chance that I should try to make a shawl just after having been sick. My wonderful, usually toasty alpaca sweater wasn't even enough to ward off the feverish chills I had, and being currently without shawl, I had to fold a cotton quilt (a beautiful one made by my very own mommy, by the way) into a triangle to warm myself. Convinced that I now need at least one, if not several shawls around the house, I've cast on for the feather and fan one. It's actually got a simple 18-stitch repeat that is foolproof since it's the same backwards and forwards (none of that mirror image stuff to trip me up). Those rectangular shawls are long suckers, aren't they? You never think about that until you cast on 390 stitches and continue to work that many row after endless row. I'm not too swift at knitting laceweight yarn, either, so I've only gotten an inch or two of the width of shawl knit so far. I just have to keep telling me that at almot 90 inches in length, I really have knit quite a bit. It just doesn't look like it.

So, which Knit Picks yarn did I select for this beauty? Well, I'll leave that tidbit for the next post, or there will be nothing to say in the picture's caption.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Once a Hooker, Always a Hooker

I have a really great excuse for not blogging much this week. I wish it were because my mother is in town, but sadly, it's because I'm a wee bit under the weather. I've spent most of the past two days in bed sleeping. I haven't even had much energy for knitting, though I did get some done. So, the stash pictures will have to wait for now. I'm just not up for it.

I have a few moments right now to write, since I'm cooking something that needs to be watched over, and there's nothing else I feel like doing in the kitchen (plus my sweet mommy worked hard cleaning it earlier - ain't I a lucky girl). So, here we are.

Now, I know you're wondering about the post title, and what on earth I could have been thinking. No, I'm not delirious from fever. I'm talking about my mother. What!?!?! For those not up on the current knitting/crochet slang, a hooker is a person who does crochet. What did you think it was? Get your mind out of the gutter, please. So, my mom taught herself how to crochet many moons ago and hasn't done much since learning (I vaguely remember seeing a crochet bag she made in the late 70's or early 80's and some little angels of hers always dressed up our Christmas tree). Seeing all my yarn around must have inspired her to see if she still had the touch. She can't throw herself into it the way I have done with knitting, because she's got carpal tunnel problems in her wrists (darn office job!). But, apparently, it's like riding a bike. You never forget how. She rather quickly crocheted up a little swatch. I was throroughly impressed, I must say.

Also, my 3 1/2-year-old daughter has come up with a new hobby. You'll be happy to hear that she, too, has taken up knitting - sort of. She has confiscated Grandma's crochet, and grabbed up a pair of tiny knitting needles given to her by her other (knitting) grandmother. She wraps the yarn around her left index finger just like Mommy (that's my girl!), sticks her needles into the middle of Grandma's swatch and twists and twirls till her heart's content. She's made her knitting mommy very proud. Hey, at least she's got the right motion down, even if she doesn't really know how to do it. Brings tears to my eyes, but that could be the fever talking....

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Stash, Sweet Stash

Mom has arrived bearing my long-awaited stash enhancement package. Oh, the beauty of it all. You may remember me mentioning loading up on LOTS of yarn from You never realize how much yarn it really is when you get it online. You don't think about the space it takes up. This is beautiful yarn, by the way, so who really cares about all the space it takes up? I had a full handled-grocery bag of it when I got it unloaded from her suitcase. So, this being my largest stash enhancement to date, it prompted some much needed organization of my yarns and knitting supplies.

We had a trip to take to the home improvement store anyway, so we loaded up on moth repellent products and a great plastic drawer tower. It fits almost all of my yarns in it. Only those I had inherited (and not my favorites) were left out. I also got a tool box to organize my knitting tools. My husband was definitely jealous of that one, as I knew he would be. Ooh, ooh, and I found some dowel rods I plan to make into a couple sets of double-pointed needles. I can't find any sets of 6mm dpns, so I was happy to find a dowel in just that size (as well as some other sizes, too). They're made of ash, which I know is better than pine, but will it be good for knitting needles? Only time will tell, I guess. I think they'll be pretty, anyway. They seem flexible, but I'm not sure they won't be too flexible. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, though. And, at a bit over a euro per dowel, I didn't really venture too much, anyway. You would pay 6 or 7 times that price for as many sets of dpns as I can get out of these dowels.

So, my knitting supplies are officially the most organized part of our family's life, though, at least for the moment, the kids' toys come in at a close second, since I thoroughly cleaned the livingroom/playroom for Mom to actually be able to make it to her bed without the risk of severe injury.

I'm so excited, because along with some great yarns in a wonderful array of colors, I also got a few books for inspiration (and even patterns, in some cases). I guess I'm going to have to put a little link in the sidebar to tell you all the knitting books that now decorate my shelf.

Stay tuned (or at least come back later) for a picture of the yarns I got.

Cable Baby Blanket

Cable Baby Blanket
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So far, so good on the cable baby blanket. This is the right half. The other side is a mirror image of this one. It will end up being about the length of a crib (or as long as the amount of yarn I've got lets me go - whichever comes first). I like the way it's turning out, aside from the fact that it curls up, but I'm hoping to fix that with some blocking when it's all done. Now that I've got the stitch patterns down, it's going faster. Hopefully the kid won't be in college when I get it done!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Drop Spindle Spun Yarn (a.k.a. homemade mop)

Well, here it is, folks. The mop you've all been anxiously waiting to see. I mean, doesn't it really look like something you'd want to clean your kitchen floor with? I think so, and I'm its mommy. So, the kinky, curly-cue one on the right is the first skein I did. The one on the left is my better shot at this new hobbie. I was just starting to get the hang of it on that skein. The little sheep is there to spice up the picture a bit (and it's got a story behind it, too).

The Story Behind the Sheep:
Here in France, January brings bakeries full of King's Cakes. If you live anywhere near New Orleans, you may be familiar with these. Inside these cakes there is a little ceramic trinket. In New Orleans, I believe it's always a baby (not certain on that, though), and the tradition is that the person whose slice of cake contains the little doodad has to buy the next one. Not so around here.

In France, all King's Cakes come with a cardboard crown similar to what I vaguely remember once being offered by Burger King. The recipient of the trinket is also the recipient of the crown. This is much more of an honor than having to buy the next one, I'd say (and, kids fight over the crown, of course). This last cake we had, I won the prize. I was excited to see that, along with the crown, I got a little sheep. Now, is that appropriate, or what? It must be a sign. I just know it. But, a sign of what? Probably that I'm a very baaaaaa baaaad girl, right?

Don't Arrest Me!

Okay, so if you were arrested at this very moment, and asked to empty your pockets, what would Officer Niceguy see? In my case it would be two swatches - one in each pocket. Odd, yes, but, at least I'm wearing clean undies in case of a strip search. On a tip from my personal knitting guru, Louise, I am wearing these swatches around for a couple of days to test them for pilling. I've heard after purchasing (ain't that always how it is) that La Droguerie's "surnaturel" yarn pills like crazy. I've bought some for use in a sweater I have yet to start. It's not going to be on large portions of the sweater, so maybe it won't cause too much trouble, but I'm testing the swatch to see. Great tip, anway, so I thought I'd share.

I said before that my first attempt at spinning was none too pretty, but I've given it another go, and the results were much improved. I've now got two, albeit small, skeins. They're currently drying in the shower. I'll take a shot of the two of them side-by-side to illustrate the learning process a bit later. There was actually an enormous difference in the two before, but I replyed the first, and it looks much better. It was too loosely plyed the first time. They are far from professional looking, but I'm learning and enjoying doing it.

My last bit of news for now is that I've been inspired by a few other knit bloggers (I don't remember which, at the moment) to recycle an old sweater that I never wear. It's store-bought, and really not too bad looking. The only problem is that it was attacked by moths at some point in its existence, as well as not being particularly flattering to my figure (oh, and there's a huge itch issue with the turtleneck collar). So, when I get up the guts to frog this sucker, I'll let you know. I find it hard to just take a pair of scissors to an expensive sweater like that. I rarely wear it anyway, so I may as well attempt a revamping. There will, of course, be some before and after pictures.

Sinnin' and Spinnin'

Naughty Blogger!

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It's been several days since my last blog posting. Forget the Hail Mary's though, my penance will be some knitting and some spinning, which I learned yesterday under the patient tutiledge of Louise from Lou Knits (see sidebar if you want to see her blog). I'm almost too ashamed to take pictures of my efforts, but it'll serve as a wonderful illustration of what you don't want your homespun yarn to look like. I'm going to work on it, though. It's very addictive, so, how could I not? I'm not wealthy enough to purchase a spinning wheel without first knowing that spinning is something I'll stick with, so I got a little drop spindle. It takes some practice to get used to the technique, but it's really fun trying. In case you've ever wondered why they call it a drop spindle, it's not really because of the motion of spinning and dropping the spindle to make it spin the yarn. You probably thought it was, and if you've never done it, that would seem logical. The real reason, though, is that when you're learning, you frequently drop the spindle on the floor, beating the heck out of the tip of the stick. Ay, how painful it is to thrash a brand new toy, err, I mean tool. There is a certain almost meditative feel to the repetive action of spinning with a drop spindle, though, and I love it. Hurts your arm a bit, though.

Anyway, as a bit of a sneak preview to the picture of my homespun, I'll describe it a bit. It was some roving that still has some guard hairs (not the soft ones) in it that Louise was willing to part with (thank you, by the way, Louise, you have provided me with hours of fun). So, the wool has a bit of a grey color to it, and with my shoddy workmanship, it looks remarkably mop-like, hanging in a skein. My thought is that I'll continue on my merry way and dye it all when done. I've got a couple hundred grams of it, which should make a little felted bag. I figure felting it will make its flaws stand out a lot less. I could call it the First-Timer's Bag.

I've also gotten a bit of work done on the baby blanket I recently started. It's not looking too bad, if I do say so myself. I know, I know, modesty is a virtue, and I'm not saying it's without flaws, but I like the way the stitch patterns I've chosen go together. There's not a lot to show yet, because I've gotten only two repeats done, but when I get a few more done, I'll post a picture of part of it (it's too wide to get any detail on a picture of the whole thing). So, you'll have to wait for that - patience is a virtue too, you know.