Still going strong...

took a much needed break from the craft lab to do absolutely nothing.

then became bored of that and decided to do some good old fashioned manual labor in the yard. hello spring! and here is the flat of cheerful plants that inspired it all. hearty ice plant!


weekly wrap-up/finished object(s) current projects:

on/off the needles
after gathering my materials to start a new sock... i ended up staring at it for about a week after the initial cast-on, and then on friday, i finally did the ribbing. i am just now starting the pattern. 

Child's First Sock; Finally started!

and for the details: these socks are from the knitting vintage socks book by nancy bush. the pattern is the "child's first sock" which has a beautiful, textured shell pattern over the entire sock (a 10 row pattern), a french heel, and a flat toe. don't ask me what those last two are... you know i'll explain them when i get there! the yarn i am using is madelinetosh sock in the colorway "maple leaf" and they are working up nicely (despite me not checking gauge *gasp*) on kollage square dpn's, US 1 [2.25 mm] needles.

if you are wondering how i'm liking these lovely coppery aluminum needles... hmm... i'm still on the fence with them. i purchased these to help alleviate some of the discomfort i was starting to feel after marathon knitting sessions on toys. my hands were achy even after taking many breaks and doing lots of stretching. the square shape on these needles is believed to be more ergonomic making them more comfortable on your hands and creating less stress. don't ask me how, but this is what i've read on many forums and on the kollage website.

these needles have been slowing me down quite a bit (sharper tips end up puncturing and splitting my yarn, so i'm knitting much more carefully/slowly) and i feel like it's mostly due to their shape. i can't seem to position them steady in my hands and this make them feel a little uncomfortable and awkward. can't explain it other than they feel hard and are irritating on my skin. when they are laying right in my hands, they are a little better, but i think it will just take a little getting used to. i'm used to the hiya hiya stainless dpn's which are my standard, and you know how it can be when you try something new.

Child's First Sock; Finally started!

one thing i'd like to note in the above photo, is the new cast-on that i tried. can you see it? the edge looks braided. it's cute, right? anyway... i was searching high and low for a more stretchy and maybe even more decorative cast-on. as mentioned in the past, i'm attempting to try new techniques with each project. after scouring many threads on ravelry, there was a suggestion to try the "estonian" cast-on which was made popular by nancy bush. let me just say, thank goodness this cast-on is simple! it was very easy for me to memorize (unlike tubular). some other suggestions i came across were to hold your yarn double as you are casting on, and this also helps to make it stretchier. time will tell on that. bush also mentioned this in her tutorial. my cast-on is modified to suit the 2x1 ribbing for the pattern. don't worry, links are below for both. the latter kind of being a no brainer ;)

on/off the spinning wheel
notice how "on" and "off" are both bold. so clever, right? lol!

FO: sweetgeorgia bfl+silk
 fo: this is going to be a 3-ply, using navajo plying

so the bfl/silk fiber from the february sweetgeorgia fiber club is all spun up! i really like how the bobbin on the right looks. it shows off the colors really well. i'm not at that point where i can say my spinning is a "true" anything other than usable one it is completed. i attempted to spin this worsted, where you spin from fibers that are lined up parallel to each other, but occasionally my fiber management was lacking and other colors got caught in the mix! also, spinning worsted is more than just fiber management. it's also proper fiber preparation. it's all good. it will be yarn which will be turned into well-loved socks and that's all that matters to me. 

anywho, my next step is to ply, and i'm going to try navajo plying to preserve the colors and to make a striped sock yarn. at least that is the plan. per usual, i'm a little nervous (navajo looks awkward!), but i've already got a few youtube tutorials at the ready to assist me, and hopefully, i will have plied yarn to share by the end of the week. that is of course, if i'm not gardening!

FatCatKnits/Falkland in Abigail
 fiber from fatcatknits. falkland in "abigail"

now i'm ready to start spinning something else! the falkland is tempting. i still find it strange that there is not much information out there about this breed. and here's the thing, from what i've been reading/researching, many don't believe it to even be a breed, but more of sheep associated with the region. some believe falkland is actually corriedale. some believe it is polwarth. others believe it may be a mix of both. at any rate, those who have spun it seem to have nothing but good words to say about it (some have even listed it in their top 5 favorite  fibers to spin with), many even suggesting it as a great beginner spinning fiber due to its longer staple length and it's "tooth" (or crimp) which makes the fiber less slippery. i've read that falkland is not necessarily "next-to-skin" soft like merino (if you want merino, then spin merino, right?), but if it is spun relatively loose then it will retain soft enough qualities and a bit of luster. spun too tight and it might be rough. all of this is so subjective. what's soft to one, may not be soft to another, right? *sigh* last, it's also been suggested as a great fiber for handspun tough socks, again as long as you spin loose, and ply not so tight. so anyway... i'll report back and let you know how it works out.

odds & ends
what i love this week: yard work


the explanation for not so much going on in the hobby world is that i was outside doing backyard rehab. my husband and i have worked out who is responsible for which household duties. the problem here is that he likes to play mr. oblivious and i'm ms. impatient so i usually end up gearing up and handling most of the duties. including the outdoor ones! *side eye* no worries. i love it. in moderation, of course! ;)

so as i've mentioned before, the weather has been chilly (for southern california) and unpredictable, and overall, it has not been indicative of much productivity happening outdoors. remember, i'm solar-powered! but this week... cool enough (early-mid 60's) and sunny! the perfect blend. i was able to pull up "weeds" (there is no such thing as a weed by the way... it's just a plant that is out of place and often a pain in the arse to eradicate!), organize a zillion few pots, and plant some much needed splashes of color outside on the patio area. i intend to spend many, many, many hours on the patio accompanied by lots of fiber and spinning, yarn and knitting, books, daydreaming, birdwatching, pointing and laughing at the dogs because they are not allowed in my private space, and empty bottles of wine once the weather decides it wants to be more consistent (and warm).

dog barrier!
 new fence with a gate, and to the left a cleared out planter!

when the hubster saw how much progress i made, i guess it inspired him to get off his ass chip in, and on saturday he managed to remove an eye sore of a plant for me (it was in that now vacant space in the planter), and installed a fence around the patio area to keep the dogs out of my planting! quick side bar - to the majority of you that don't know, when i am working (absolute emphasis on when), i claim to be am a landscape designer, so try to keep the gag reflex at a minimum when i refer to some plants as "eye sores." i'm just a strong believer in "right plant, right place" which essentially means selecting the right specimen for the location that you intend to plant it in. that's all.

below is the summary of "before" and "after" shots:

planter before (after a couple hours of cleaning)

the patio is enclosed (and private) from the natural hillside that is located behind our house thanks to a massive, lush wall of Waxleaf Privet - Ligustrum japonicum texanum that is in the right location ;) this hedge wall makes me happy as it stays green and dense all year, and shows up before spring to show off tiny white flowers which entice all the birds, bees and hummingbirds one's heart could desire. on the flipside, if you have the space to let it do what it wants to do (read that as grow to its full potential) then you will reap the benefits of the blooms. if you like a hedge that is more controlled/manicured, you can do that to it too. it just grows relatively fast, so more than likely, you will be out there monthly trying to control it.

anyway... in the soil there was a lot of gunk left behind by previous occupants - bottles, plastic wrappers, old plant containers... everything but the kitchen sink. it took a while to clean it, but i got it as under control as my achy, tired body could manage.

planter after (a couple hours of planting)
[note: does not include the "in pain" achy muscle photos which followed the next day ;) ha!]

after all the work, instead of taking a break, i continued and started planting my flat of ice plant. these groundcovers grow quickly, are hearty, relatively drought-tolerant once established, low maintenance and spread nicely, so it's usually suggested to space them around 15"-18" on center. but i had way more plants than i needed, so i planted them a bit closer (around 12" o.c.) width-wise, closer length-wise. i still have 1/3 of the flat remaining, so more than likely i'll pass these off to my dad who will happily fill in his planters.

the plant that i called an eye sore in this case, the Japanese Aralia - Fatsia japonica. not a bad plant in and of itself (and in the right context), actually quite attractive if it is maintained properly, but this particular plant was not maintained well and it was butchered (spindly and top-heavy) throughout the years and starting to decline. in addition to its failing health, it was placed directly alongside the walkway. not a good idea considering it drops small fruit like it's nobody's business. the walkway always looks like it is under attack by a paintball gun filled with blueberries! *splat* eugh. and of course... with many plants, if a dog decides they want it for a snack, all bets are off! interesting enough, this plant's fruits were not riley's preference. she prefers the seeds that drop off the neighbor's California Fan Palm - Washingtonia robusta. so annoying. yet another reason for the dog fence! yup... she was one-upped. she's a smart little bugger, and i know, as the fence was being installed, she was watching how we were latching it. i'll give her a week until she figures out how to get back to her seed eating ways.

ha! you've just been one-upped!
 the satisfaction of getting the last "one-up"

yeah, i know, it seems a little mean to find total satisfaction in the fact that i have banned the dogs from a portion of the backyard that they have had free reign of for the past 4 yrs, but... yeah, so what! part of it is safety, and the other part is because dammit, i want some plants back here! the dogs also have the tendency to hang out at the fence harassing the neighbor's dogs making a lot of ruckus (because they want to play) and that is really irritating. so the gate will solve many problems that we've been having. probably going to be the best $150 spent.

the finished project

there is still a bit more that i'd like to work on in the yard, but for now, i'm happy with all the progress that has happened. i do have 2 tomatoes that need to go into their pots a.s.a.p. and i plan on doing that this week as well, but the rest of the yard work will be a cake walk compared to what has already been done.

helpful links youtube
estonian cast-on
"modified" estonian cast-on (for 2x1 ribbing)

until next time!

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