Warning. This is a picture heavy post and if you have zero interest in homebrewing you might get a little bored.

What started with this.

Eventually became this.

I am lucky enough to have a good friend Jenny from my culinary school days who has been delving into the homebrew experiments for quite a while now and she graciously agreed to be my guide during my first attempt at hard cider.

We went to Cellar Homebrew in Greenwood (conveniently quite close to my house) to pick up all the necessary equipment and we were off.

Check out that highly unexciting carboy full of fresh apple cider and yeast. Doesn’t look like much does it.

Here it is after 2 days. Hmmm am I sure I want to drink that in the end?

I will spare you a day by day collage of the cider as it brewed/fermented/whatever it is called.

Needless to say I had no idea watching CO2 bubble out of an airlock could be so fascinating. More than once or twice I caught myself muttering “It’s ALIVE!!!”

Of course the hard part wasn’t santizing a big 5 gallon glass carboy without dropping it, nor was it racking and bottling of the freshly made cider. Nope the hard part has just arrived.

The waiting.

See turns out hard cider isn’t all that tasty right after brewing. Really good hard cider requires time to age and mellow and essentially be all it can be. The earliest I’m going to start tasting the cider will be Christmas and I don’t expect it to start being ‘good’ until March 2010.  Based on the very young cider I tasted today I can expect this batch to get very dry once it’s aged properly.

I hate waiting.

Ah what a difference a month can make.

First I took another look at my stash and focused on a few yarns that I liked but didn’t love. After a little debating I decided to offer them up for destash on Rav. I’m still counting them in my ‘stash’ for now until I get to sell them but mentally I’ve set them aside. I have 7 skeins of Malabrigo in Pagoda that I planned on making my FLS out of but since I picked and knitted another yarn those 7 skeins have languished in the stash. The more I thought about it the less I wanted a sweater out of the yarn…so if you are in the market for a malabrigo sweater in reds you know where to find the yarn 🙂

Nov 1st stats:

Miles: 30

lbs: 35

Skeins: 224

How did I do it?

The Neverending Garter Blanket is done (insert imaginary happy dance here). I cast off the i-cord border at 11.40pm October 31st. I had finished the body of the blanket the night before (thank god for my backlog of Tivo recordings that made it bearable). I decided to weave in the ends that night because it is a task I hate. I finally finished that around 1am because I had to keep stopping to move a cat off the blanket in order to work on another section. The good thing is I know Nicki will migrate to the blanket whenever it is out.

I spent all of the 31st working on 4000+ stitches of i-cord bindoff. I hauled it with me to Sat knitting and made it through 1 short side before giving up. Once home again it was more random tv watching and since I had rented The Proposal for mom this week I decided to pop that in to watch too. It reminded me why I tend to not like that genre of movies.

Around 10pm I realized I still had an entire long section to work on and I started to panic I wouldn’t finish in time. Yes I realize it was an arbitrary deadline and really my goal for the year was to get it done by Dec 31st not Oct 31st. However after realizing how badly I was doing at my own Stashdown I NEEDED a win.

In hindsight I should have done the i-cord in a larger needle to compensate for the stretch of the garter stitch but I’m still happy with it. It might have taken 20 months to knit from beginning to end but it sure is comfy.

Now if you don’t mind…I’m going to browse Rav for a complicated lace or cable pattern, all that mindless garter stitch has made my brain cells fall asleep so they need a little kickstart.

Math is not my strong suit. Not by a long shot. In fact I would say my ability to do accurate math is really quite laughable.

You may remember this blanket.

I was motoring along with the mindless garter stitch trying to decide how much yarn I had left and how to rework the last 2 sections so I could have enough for an i-cord edging. The problem is when I bought the yarn I got enough for the blanket and didn’t think to add extra for edging. I figured I wouldn’t do one. Only problem is when I picked up the blanket again this October after it lay hibernating for 6 months I realized it really needed one. An edging would take it from looking ‘ok’ to ‘finished’.

I got it in my head I REALLY wanted to do the edging in the chocolate truffle color and spent a ridiculous amount of time figuring out how much yarn would be needed for an i-cord edging. It seemed so easy. Just pick a finished section and count the rows that an entire ball of yarn used up and multiply that by the number of stitches per row. I counted a section of garter ridges and dutifully multiplied it by the number of stitches per row and voila I had my number.

I reworked the final size of the last 2 sections based on my numbers and boom I was on my way. Then the voice of reason spoke up (aka Sewcrafty). We are both working on the same blanket and are now in fact in a friendly race to see who finishes first (I’m currently barely in the lead). When she asked for how I did my math for deciding how much yarn was needed in the i-cord she pointed out I missed a crucial step.

Turns out I multiplied stitches per row by garter stitch ridges…and forgot to multiple that by 2 in order to get the actual stitch count. I was thinking each ball of yarn got me 2300 stitches instead of 4600. Sigh.

Armed now with my new CORRECT math I revisited my pattern and well wouldn’t you know it….I could make it almost the full size AND still have enough leftover for my edging. The blanket is working out to be wider than I had wanted so shaving a few inches off the width gives me plenty of yarn to make my chocolate truffle i-cord edging.

Of course the downside to all this is now I have a lot left of the blanket to knit than I did a week ago.

Now that I have my end goal in sight I’ve been powering through the mindless knitting. So much so that despite making the blanket almost fullsize again (10 rows shorter than originally planned) I’m down to my last 10% to knit.

In fact in a fit of obsession I even reworked my progress chart in Excel to include the icord edging because before that was ‘extra’.

That 10% I have left to knit?

That INCLUDES the icord edging! (I see the light at the end of the blanket)

It’s been quiet around here lately. I wish I could show off the exciting new knits I’ve been working on, dazzle you with my awe-inspiring spinning or make you salivate with pictures of my baking. Sadly very little of any of those tasks have been happening.

It all started when I did my monthly Stashdown 2009 update at the beginning of October (I forgot to do Sept). I started off the year pretty well and I was motoring along to hit that 20% reduction just fine. Then Sock Summit happened, followed by OFFF (plus I got 2 wonderfully large gifts of yarn for my birthday) and once you add those to my typical yarn buying habits…well lets just say it wasn’t good.

As of October I am up 15% over what I had on January 1st.

UP!

Not down.

Sigh.

So work was started anew on the Neverending Garter Blanket. It’s mindnumbing knitting but excellent for tv watching sessions plus it uses up a whopping 32 skeins of yarn. I sat down and did the math and worked out how many stitches I needed to knit each day for the rest of the year in order to finish on time. I cringed when I realized it was 650 stitches per day every day but oddly enough that has been relatively easy to keep up with so far.

The October Bus Sock suffered several false starts before I could really get going. I had finally managed to get past the toe after 3 failed attempts to get it looking right, the yarn is plied with a metallic thread and doesn’t have as much bounce as my usual preferences for sock yarn so I struggled getting the first few rounds knocked out. It had about as much bounce as cotton sock yarns that I just hate working with.

Got about 2 inches into the sock before all hell broke loose. The yarn ball barfed on me, BIGTIME. I have never had so many headaches with yarn barf. I don’t know if the yarn was wound up poorly at the factory or if gremlins crawled inside mine and made little knots all over the place. I had to pull out half the yarn from the center and frog the sock in progress just to undo all the knots. Even know as I begin sock 2 I am still pulling mini yarn barfs out of the ball that require me to sit down and undo a series of tangles.

It’s pretty but ugh it is a lot of work to get it just to what you see. All this effort for a basic stockinette sock. At times I wonder if making such simple socks on the bus is my lazy side rearing it’s head. Should I be challenging myself to knit something less boring while commuting?

Hopefully next time I will have some fun knitting/spinning/baking to show off. My next non-fiber project is making my own hard cider this coming weekend. I have a good friend who has been making beer and wine at home for a while now so she has agreed to be my guide in the homebrewing venture. I finally stocked up on enough butter to make some batches of croissant and puff pastry to store in the freezer. Plus my Damson liquer is only weeks away from being ready to bottle up.

I can’t recall ever having to write or give speeches about what I did during the summer as a kid so this seems a little odd to me. FYI for the summers we didn’t spend living out of suitcases for 6+ weeks I spent a lot of time bored out of my mind. Kids where  I grew up didn’t get summer jobs, we didn’t have camp and the English TV stations didn’t miraculously start programming earlier than their usual 4pm (Sesame Street).

College summers were spent working and going to school, about the same as the rest of the school year only more work, less school. Highly exciting stuff. Then you graduate and summers off are a thing of the past.

This summer was different.

See that big pile of fiber filled totes? That is what I spent my summer doing (well ok technically it was only about 5-6 weeks of work there). I spent 4 solid weeks living and breathing handpainted fiber whenever I wasn’t at work. I then spent 2 weeks slapping labels on those suckers and cursing while I tried to learn a new piece of software.

Why all that fiber?

Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival 2009.

Other than realizing that what looked like an INSANE amount of fiber in my house/car really looks like so little in a booth I had a great time. Whether the friends who were so wonderful to come with me as moral support are still speaking to me remains to be seen. I “may” have been a “little” stressed in the week leading up to it and especially over the weekend.

I had a wonderful time the first time I went to OFFF in 2007 and it was only fitting it was the first festival I got a booth at. There were so many things I learned about what I wanted to do and what I wouldn’t do again. Seeing all the other booths from a different perspective as a another vendor rather than customer was a new experience for me. I saw displays and setups I loved and others I knew wouldn’t work for me.

I got to meet great people and even entered the bunny section of the barn for a few minutes (I made sure I had my inhaler close at hand). I found 2 shetland sheep that I need to email about their fleeces, got to see how scratching one of them under his chin made his tail wag vigorously plus I watched a couple sheep get a little nekkid in what seemed like seconds.

I fondled a skein of white alpaca and silk yarn that inspired me to make plans for my silver alpaca fleece and perhaps even the 2 llama ones as well. I bought a few skeins of STR for a shawl and a couple braids of merino/tencel roving from a booth I had seen at Sock Summit. I managed to NOT buy an electric Duncan drumcarder which was a huge temptation.

Oh and when I got back….I launched the new Dragonfibers shop here. The Etsy shop will not be going away but the majority of my shop updates will be at the new store. It allows me so much more flexibility and control so despite the seriously steep learning curve for a person who would really rather not learn that stuff it will all be worth it in the end.

It’s been quiet both here on the blog and in the shop lately but I swear I haven’t been goofing off (too much).

Want to know what has been consuming my every waking moment?

Fiber.

LOTS and LOTS of fiber.

68lbs of assorted fiber in fact, 9 different fiber blends, over 20 colors.

I’m a little tired but oh so impressed that I not only dyed all this up in 4 weeks but that the original schedule gave me 5 weeks to do it…and that was when I wasn’t working fulltime at the new day job.

I have one other major project in the works that prevents me from completely relaxing and as each day counts down to OFFF I’m probably going to need more talks down from the ledge from friends and hopefully those friends know me well enough to come armed with hard cider.

I can’t stop looking at all the pretty colors.

Everyone seems to have Damson (Rav link) on their minds lately but the ones I’ve been thinking of are of the fruit persuasion.

One of my new coworkers (incidentally an old boss of mine…yes sometimes this city is very small) invited me over to come pick some of her damson plums. The tree is apparently prolific and there was only so much jam she could make. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for some free fruit, especially ones I’ve never tried before.

I headed over this morning with Jenny and we proceeded to pick to our hearts content. If we were more adventurous/taller we could have harvested more but I think we picked well over 30lbs between the two of us. She has plans to make some damson wine (which I’m very excited about) and I had two recipes in mind for my harvest.

Recipe 1. Damson Liqueur.

I found plenty of recipes online and in the process found a new blog I had to immediately add to my reader but eventually decided to go with a 1lb damson/8oz sugar/250ml alcohol version. Not only is that easy to remember but it filled my quart canning jars perfectly.

Now all I have to do is remember to shake the jars once a week for 8 weeks (some recipes recommend longer) before decanting and bottling. I used up the last of my vodka and made one jar of gin just to see the difference. I have no clue how it’s going to turn out but all it cost me was 2lbs of sugar and a bottle of vodka that I wasn’t drinking anyway.

The rest of the plums are waiting to become jam but that will have to wait till tomorrow. Right now I have a giant pile of undyed roving that is demanding my attention.

The aftermath of Sock Summit and the realization that Stashdown 2009 is a beyond laughable concept right now is still pretty fresh in my mind. Perhaps that is why I motored through my SS09 socks with relative speed (compared to say the Viper Pilot socks).

I will admit there was some non-commuting time knitting but mostly because I don’t have another project on the needles right now that is easy and mindless knitting. The Gull Wing socks are both those things yet fun to knit.

I cast on with my Zen Yarn Garden Art Walk in “Almonds Branches in Bloom” the night I got my Toe-Up book from Chrissy. I actually knit very little while in Portland but really made some progress in the last week.

In the last week between having an hour of bus knitting every day plus the little bit of time I’ve pulled myself away from the dye table I have finished the cuff of the first sock and then sped my way through the entire second sock. It’s Wednesday and I finished casting off the last stitch just as the bus pulled into the Park & Ride.

Check them out! Sorry for the corkboard and plastic sheeting in the background. I wove in the ends after dinner and by then all natural light was gone. You get to see the tiny part of the dye table that is clean.

I loved every part of these socks.

I decided to try the shaped round toe for a change and I’m cursing not trying it out sooner. I put these socks on and I no longer have toe ‘ears’ from the usual toe I do. Why did it never occur to me until reading Chrissy’s book about how I should make a rounder toe because my feet are wide with short toes (known in my family as “Emma’s Stumpy Feet”)

It shouldn’t surprise me that the yarn does pool on the foot but because of the slipped stitches on the instep that effect is all but obliterated. It has a similar effect as my Jester Leyburns I knit a few months ago but after knitting both the Gull Wing is by far my favorite.

Plus my second attempt at a hybrid heel (first were stockingnette socks that are quite roomy) worked out perfectly. I think the pattern called for a different heel and bindoff but I went with the hybrid and YO cast off. Super stretchy for the cuff and the stranding of the pattern prevents the gusset from getting too baggy for my low arches.

All in all…a great pair of socks from a great pattern and in a wonderful yarn. I’m thrilled with the socks on so many levels.

Last week started off strong despite the frantic last minute cleaning before Sobeknofret showed up so we could make the trek down to Sock Summit. Once I got her to promise not to open any closets or drawers the ‘cleaning’ went surprisingly fast 🙂

I took her to my favorite ID dim sum place (Jade Garden) and then showed her the wonderful cheese case at Big John’s PFI. I seriously have dreams about that cheese case.

We settled in for the evening with some cider and steak and tried to go to sleep despite our excitement over Sock Summit. After picking up the spiffy rental car with the GPS who hated me we were off. I just have to say I LOVE the whole push button car start thing. I’ve never driven one before and while it seems silly to love it that much I found it far too entertaining.

Classes were of course excellent, Chrissy Gardiner is as always a great teacher and after my sock spinning class with Judith Mackensie-McCuin on Sunday I have vowed to take her Wheel Mechanics class sometime soon.

The marketplace was an overload of colors and fibers. Everywhere you looked there was something pretty to touch. I was a little neurotic and marked on my map the booths I HAD to visit that first night and managed to do all but a little of my shopping in those 2 hours.

My first purchase was Size 2 and 3 Knitpro interchangeble tips that fit the Knitpicks cords. I have no clue why we can’t get these sizes in the US so I picked them up at YarnWorkshop. They are based in Hong Kong and were wonderful to talk to, I even noticed from their street address that I used to just live down the street from them but figured that might come across as a little stalkerish to mention that fact.

Before I knew it I had hit the Miss Babs booth (damn it was hard to chose just one yarn), the Holiday Yarns booth (where I got sucked in by a beautiful color and silly name), Three Irish Girls where I pawed my way through a box before changing my mind while waiting in line to pay because of what the woman in front of me was buying (I have her rav and etsy info somewhere in my bag). I made my way to the BMFA booth to check out their millends…you know…just in case… Finally I hit up the Ms Gusset booth where I picked up some wonderful Polworth/Silk roving and on the second day it was on to the Unique Sheep where I found their Verve Gradient yarn in their special Sock Summit Descent colorway.

I spent all but about 50 cents of my yarn budget and I love everything I got. There were so many other vendors I wanted to shop at but all I could do was look and make notes for later.

The trip was wonderful, the friends were great (especially J & L for opening up their home for 5 days) and as always the food was amazing.

But going to Sock Summit was just the icing on the wonderful cake that was last week. After 8 long months of being one of the unemployed/partly employed I was offered a contract job the day before I left for Portland. It’s with a company I have long wanted to work for and it’s back doing what I used to do. The timing and the opportunity made going away to Sock Summit even more enjoyable. Sadly it does mean my time at the LYS has come to an end but that is probably better for my stash anyway 🙂 Tomorrow I once again join the ranks of the employed if only for a short while.

I think things are looking up.

I finally made and finished my first cowl. I’ve always liked the look of them but never really saw myself as much of a ‘cowl’ person. However I got in a small batch of a new yarn I’m thinking of adding to Dragonfibers so I needed a good project for it.

I looked up and down on Ravelry trying to find just the right one without success so I pulled out my Barbara Walker Treasury #1 and went looking for a stitch pattern. I wanted something simple yet lacy, a stitch that would show off the kettledyed reds and browns I picked out for my test skein. I decided on the Openwork Leaf Pattern. Since I prefer charts I downloaded the knitting font and made a quick and dirty Excel chart to read off of.

I would model it but the abnormally warm weather here makes that more than a little unpleasant. The yarn in case you’re interested is 50% superwash merino and 50% tussah silk, a nice medium fingering weight and is tentatively called Empress.  The test knit went really well and I’m waiting on feedback from another test knitter on her thoughts.

In other knitting news…

Another test yarn. This is a heavy laceweight/light fingering superwash BFL yarn that I just got in. I’ve been wanting to make a nice lacy shawl and this is a perfect reason to cast on. After much indecision and waffling I finally settled on Waves of Grain from Fall Knitty 2008. The patterns on Ravelry that kept calling my name were all heavily beaded shawls and since I’ve never done beaded knitting I decided to go with baby steps. It would have really sucked to get 50 beads into the 6000 bead shawl before I realized that I hated beaded knitting 🙂

The sad progress so far. I cast on at Saturday knitting and was happily knitting along until I got 10 rows in and realized I had made 2 mistakes on the first row that I then continued up through all 10 rows. Sigh. It was frogged and started over again.

This project is going with me to Sock Summit though. I’m going to try and get tickets to the world record attempt event and since you can only knit on straights for it to count I have these on some bamboo straights. It’s been so long since I’ve worked with anything but circulars or DPN’s that I almost took out my eye the other day when turning my work.

Speaking of Sock Summit, I decided somewhat belatedly to make up some stitch markers for the swap that seems to be going on at the event. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but it looks like some folks will be walking around with markers on their bags/jackets etc and you can offer to trade with them so you get new ones. Kind of a cool way to meet people and bring home little mementos of the trip.

I of course found some very cute coffee bean beads at Fusion Beads. I highly recommend them, not only do they have a great selection but they are some of the friendliest people there. When I explained what I was making I got lots of help finding the right kind of jump rings and they loved the idea of a sock knitting summit.

I’m now off to finish cleaning the house before Sobe arrives tomorrow and then it is off to Sock Summit. I’ve planned ahead and already gone to the bank to get cash for the marketplace…the last thing I need is to use my credit card there.

PS. For anyone keeping track of my continued lack of fulltime employment…think lots of happy thoughts for me this week. I have two very good potential prospects and I’m trying not to get too excited yet am secretly thrilled at the sudden interest.

Flickr Photos

Dragonfibers

On the needles

February Fitted Pullover

Sapphire Waves of Grain

On the Bedside Table

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (ok not really since I can't find the book anymore)

on the wheel

Absolutely Nothing.

Stashdown 2009

January 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 233 Total Weight:33.13lbs Total Miles: 27

February 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 213 Total Weight:30.09lbs Total Miles: 26

March 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 218 Total Weight:31.95lbs Total Miles: 27

April 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 217 Total Weight:31.45lbs Total Miles: 26.5

May 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 229 Total Weight: 33.8 Total Miles: 28.4

June 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 210 Total Weight: 31.9 Total Miles: 27.7

July 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 201 Total Weight: 30.5 Total Miles: 26.5

August 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 228 Total Weight: 34.0 Total Miles: 28.8

October 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 254 Total Weight: 38.2 Total Miles: 31.8

November1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 224 Total Weight: 34.9 Total Miles: 29.9

December 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 206 Total Weight: 31.9 Total Miles: 27.1

KAL

World Bread Day '07

July 2020
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