Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Knitty ABC Along - B is for........


I collect Buddhas. Here are a few from the collection

Thinking about it, yesterday's post would have counted for my B entry too. As in B is for Birth ;)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Look what arrived this morning!

Umtata & Lily are pleased to announce the birth of their son and daughter at 7 this morning.

Mum and babies are doing just fine.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Yarn pRon

Last weekend I got the most wonderful surprise package in the post. Iris had sent me some yarn she had spun from some of our fleece.

The first skein was spun from pure Jacob fleece

I realise now that Jacob wool is the not the softest in the world, and this probably isn't something you would want to wear next to your skin, but I love the texture of the yarn. I think it would make a lovely "rugged" sweater.

The second skein is 80% kid mohair, 15% Jacob and 5% silk

This is beautifully soft, and even though it is predominantly mohair, it doesn't appear to be a yarn that would shed horribly over everything.

I can't tell you how surprisingly overwhelmed I felt when I opened this package. I guess it's because we have spent so much time raising the animals, actually seeing their fleece transformed into yarn seems like such a huge "validation" of it all.

I intend to dye the skeins (but first I will practice on the yarn I bought at Ally Pally for Kool Aid dyeing - I'd hate to make a mess of dyeing them!)

It's given me a great sense of what can be done with the fleece, and has really spurred me on to getting the fleece processed into yarn.

It was so kind of Iris to send them - honestly I can't thank her enough. And hasn't she done a really great job, they are beautifully spun!

Finally, no yarn pRon entry would be complete without a couple of gratuitous shots of Noro Korchoran

All about knitting

Lots to update on the knitting front. Firstly, I realised recently that I hadn't posted pics of the wonderful books I received for Christmas

The Vogue Knitting is an absolutely wonderful resource - incredibly comprehensive, and I think I will be referring to it a lot!
Scarf Style has some wonderful patterns (I am less impressed with the Knitters magazine Shawls & Scarves, which didn't really have much in it to inspire me). Socks Soar on 2 Circular Needles is (hopefully) going to help me learn this technique this year, and the Sweater Workshop will help me master knitting in the round. Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears is full of commonsense advice, and is like listening to an old friend - really so well written.

Over Christmas I knit up a scarf in the ball of Louisa Harding Impressions which I bought at Ally Pally

The yarn is 16% mohair and 84% acrylic, but so beautifully soft. This is quite a dressy scarf - good for an evening out. The pattern is just a simple K1 YO - repeat until fed up.

I'm currently working on Glampyre's Easy V neck Raglan - my first top down, in the round sweater

This second version in a bigger size is coming along nicely. Thanks to Highland Annie, I managed to get some 6" DPNs, from PM Woolcraft, and I'm finding these much easier to use than the 20cm DPNs. Nevertheless, knitting something this big is still a bit of a pain with DPNs - I'm constantly having to untwist the knitting as the sleeve grows, and the weight of the body is making it a bit unwieldy - it's not like knitting socks!

I also have a couple of small issues: firstly the cast off on the body

See the "jog"? I'm assuming this is a feature of knitting in the round, and will be something I can fix when I weave in the loose end.

Then there's the neck. This is the neck, knit according to the pattern, which includes nothing about "finishing off" the neck in any way

It looks kind of naff doesn't it? I think I'll have to pick up stitches round the neck and do a bit of ribbing to match the body and cuffs. Hmm, that will be a bit of a challenge, as I have no real idea how many stitches to pick up. Trial and error I guess.

I'm hoping to have this finished in the next week or so - having no seaming to do is a definite advantage, but I really haven't enjoyed knitting the sleeves. I think I'll wait and see how the final product turns out before passing final judgement on whether I prefer knitting in the round to straight knitting.

Plenty more waiting in the wings to keep me busy. I plan to knit a small item in between each big one, so I have scarves to knit in some of the beautiful yarn my Secret Pal sent me (now revealed to be Metamomo - hi Hanna!). Next big item will be another top down sweater pattern from Knitting Pure & Simple, with the wondeful Noro Korchoran I got in The Knit Tin's sale. I think I'll take some pics of the yarn for the Yarn Pron thread on Knitty - it's so beautiful!

Monday, January 16, 2006

The kindness of strangers..... and a moral dilemma

So, I think we can safely say that yesterday was a BAD day. Thanks SO much to everyone who left a comment - they were really touching to read, and they have helped a lot.

One of the upsides of having a lot of animals is that you don't get the chance to wallow in self pity for very long ;). Everyone still needs feeding and watering, Granny needs her cuddles, and the pygmy goats can always be relied upon to do something so ridiculously comical you find yourself laughing out loud, in spite of how you're feeling.

And then of course there was the very practical problem - what do you do with 60-70kg of dead goat? She was too heavy for me to move on my own so I rang our neighbouring farmer, Will, and thankfully he came over straight away and helped me move her out of the pen and out of sight of the rest of the goats. But that was only half the job done.

Since the outbreak of Foot & Mouth in 2001 it has been illegal to bury fallen stock on your own land (quick point here, you'd think dead animals would be referred to as dead stock - as opposed to livestock - right? Well, no. In farming terms, dead stock means anything that isn't an animal - feed troughs, gates, fence posts, tractors. So that's dead stock, and dead animals are fallen stock. Confused? Stay with me.)

So, there are now only 2 options:

Option 1 - DEFRA operate a Fallen Stock Scheme, whereby they provide you with a list of knackermen in your "local" area (for Bedfordshire this means our nearest is in Birmingham), who will collect the animal, and charge you - for this area - about £100. It's not the money that's the problem (though I do balk at paying what seems like a hell of a lot). The main problem is that it can take up to a week to 10 days for the animal to be collected.

Option 2 - you can take the animal to the local hunt kennels, or they will come and collect it, and charge about £15 - £25. They generally come straightaway.

Now, here comes the moral dilemma. I have always been EXTREMELY anti hunting with hounds. I mean REALLY anti. So the thought of having anything to do with the local hunt is a complete anathema to me.

But the alternative is to try and bear having the poor thing lying covered up in the barn, and knowing she's there, for maybe a week or more. During Foot & Mouth I saw at first hand what a ruminant looks like when it's been dead a few days and that wasn't the final image of her I wanted in my memory.

I really wrestled with the problem all last night. I felt that going down the hunt option would be selfish, and totally against my personal beliefs, and yet I so desperately wanted her to be dignified in death. A restless night was had.

First thing this morning I rang the local hunt. The guy was here within an hour. He was kind and sympathetic, and treated her with dignity and respect. He made the whole thing as painless as it possibly could be.

In the back of my mind I really feel I've compromised my personal code of ethics. But I'd do the same thing again. I honestly never thought I would live to see the day when I was GLAD there was a local hunt. But today I was.

Now look, I promise normal service will be resumed shortly and I WILL do a knitting related post later in the week - promise ;)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A sad day

Big Ron died this morning.

She was one of the original does from our starter flock of 9. Her registered name was Karina, but we called her Big Ron after Big Ron Atkinson because she was a rather, ahem, substantial lady, and she shared his penchant for tacky chunky gold jewellery. She would have been 9 in February.

Ron was heavily pregnant, and about a week ago went off her food. Nothing we tried could tempt her. This is always worrying when they are in kid because the babies can take an awful lot out of the doe. Our fears were confirmed a couple of days later when she went down with Pregnancy Toxaemia, also known as Twin Lamb disease. Basically, the strain of her growing kids took so much out of her it caused her blood sugar levels to drop, leaving her weak. Although we had been treating her with a liquid glucose solution, she was still not eating very much and spending most of her time lying down.

In spite of this, right up until yesterday evening she seemed bright and alert. We had been helping her to get up and move around as much as possible, and she had been drinking and nibbling on hay. Last night Eddie left for Dunfermline, and he will be away working until Thursday night.

This morning when I went out to the barn she was lying down, and not looking too good. I tried to help her to get up, but she just didn’t have any energy to take her own weight. She cried out, and I looked in her eyes and I knew this was it. She had lost her fight. I sat down beside her, cradled her head in my arms and gently stroked her face. She died in my arms a couple of minutes later. Soon after she died, I watched her stomach twitch and knew that her babies had died too. I hugged her and wept. For our beloved Big Ron, and for her poor unborn babies. I don’t think I have ever felt quite so alone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What a difference a year makes

I am currently knitting Glampyre's Easy V Neck Raglan - my first effort at a top down sweater. I'm knitting it in Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, which is a dream to knit.

The pattern is pretty easy to follow, and I knit the body without any mishaps. Tried it on and thought it was a bit figure hugging (I'd been imagining a "sloppy joe" kind of sweater), but fine. I'm knitting the size 32"-34".

Then I started on the first sleeve. My 16" circular was too long to knit it on circs, so I've been knitting it on DPNs. Now, whilst I love knitting socks on my dinky little 2.5mm bamboo DPNs I find my 20cm long 5mm DPNs really annoying to knit with. I don't know why, it just seems like the needles all get in the way. So far I've been unable to find any 5mm DPNs shorter than 20cm.

Anyway, last night I got to the end of the decreases and tried it on to check the sleeve length. The sleeves were just a tiny bit too tight. Damn. I think it's maybe because I'm knitting much tighter on the DPNs. Whatever, I figured even with blocking the sleeves would still be too tight.

So, I decided the only thing was to frog the whole thing, and start again knitting the next size up. That should a) make it more of the sloppy joe I'd originally planned, and b) hopefully solve the sleeve problem, particularly if I'm also aware of what knitting with the DPNs is doing to my tension, and try and loosen up a bit.

Twenty minutes later and the whole thing was frogged back into balls (the Alpaca Silk frogs really easily, thank goodness).

Eddie said to me "Aren't you really upset you've had to undo all that work?". I thought about it and said, "No. It took me 9 days to get this far. If I carry on as it is, I'll never wear it because I won't be happy with it. I'd rather undo 9 days work, get it right and get years of wear out of it, than finish it and never wear it."

A year ago, as an extremely novice knitter I'd have been devastated. So much so, I probably wouldn't have even frogged it - I would have just thrown it in the bag and chalked it up as just another disaster.

I think I'm making progress.....

A B C Along

I've just joined the A B C Along on Knitty. One of my resolutions this year is to take more photos and really try and improve my photography, so this seems an ideal way to do it!

For the letter A I'm raiding my photo library, and this being Kids & Knits, A would have to be for......

Angora! Goats, that is....

Astounded Angora

Adorable Angoras

A very Smiley Angora

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to reality

Back to work tomorrow.

It has been a lovely break, and I feel very relaxed and refreshed. Ready to face the new year and anything it might have to throw at me! As a "glass half full" type of person I always view the new year with a sense of optimistic wonder at what the future might hold. Sometimes the future turns out to be not quite so nice as I'd hoped, but hey, that's what makes life interesting, right?

Got loads of knitting done over the break. Anniversary Sweater is off the needles, and just needs to be blocked and seamed. Followed this with an instant gratification drop stitch scarf using the ball of Louisa Harding Impressions I bought at Ally Pally. Have now cast on for the Easy V Neck sweater from Glampyre, which I'm knitting in Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk. Yes, I am making inroads into the stash at last!

Knitterly goals for 2006:

1. Reduce stash
2. Learn to knit socks on two circs
3. Knit something which involves more than one colour that is not stripes or knit with variegated yarn
4. Post more knitting related pictures on the blog
5. Knit Birch

I'm sure there are loads more, but these are my top 5. Of course number 1 will be hardest to do ;)

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