Monday, July 28, 2014

Randomly on a Monday

Do you ever have one of those days were you want to blog, but you don't really have anything new (or much brainpower) to blog about something? Well, today is just one of those days. Even worse, today doesn't seem to want to be a list day either. So today's special "randomly" posts will be rather...well...random.

Don't eat bad avacados. You can tell that they are bad when you cut into them and the fruit is brown and yucky looking. Even if you think you can salvage the fruit inside, it is probably better not to do it anyway. On the opposite side, avocado milkshakes are perfectly yummy and delicious and will fill you up for hours!


If you are dehydrated, water will make it worse. Drink some Gatorade instead because it has electrolytes that will help you feel better faster. Orange Gatorade is my favorite flavor.

If you are reading a history book on knitting, then prepared to be tempted to knit something practical for yourself like the way your knitting foremothers did. Just don't be surprised if you suddenly want to knit laceweight yarn on super tiny needles to make an elegant business jacket that will probably take a half a year to make. Then get distracted by thoughts of argyle socks because that seems less crazy.


When you set yourself a deadline, make sure it is a reasonable one that can be managed. Avoid those ideas that you have that you are pretty sure you can do and then realize that deadline is only three days away.


I might have found a deep love for if only I can figure out how to use it effectively for knitting and spinning without it having getting into fights with Ravelry.


 Finally, I have set myself a book challenge for the rest of the year because I thought I wasn't reading enough books. I have committed to finishing five books by the end of the year and I have already finished one book. Since I normally get stuck reading the same thing over and over and over, I decided that it would be smart to ask you lovely readers with your wide and varied interests: what are your recommended reading books? Please comment below so I can find my next book!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quick Shawl Update

This project is hanging on my needles for way too long. I didn't get my friend's wedding shawl done in time to give it to her in person and that did put a damper on my knitting for a little bit. I actually put it aside to finish two pairs of socks and then I fell down the spinning hole for a while.

Now I have a goal to finish her shawl before the end of the month so I can get it washed, blocked, and photographed before I send it off to her before the weather starts getting cooler. Because, really, that is when she would be most likely to throw this shawl on to get warm and cozy.

I have decided that I am going to start reading more books. My finished book count has declined rapidly since finishing school and I do miss reading. I feel like it keeps my mind flexible, but I don't feel like buying more and more books for myself. Enter the local library: perfect source for free books.

My most recent book is called No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L Macdonald. It is such a fascinating read for a knitter. The book starts with the women knitting during the American Colonies before the Revolutinary War. I feel like such a lazy person when I read about everything women did back in the older days. They did everything from taking care of the house and the farm and the children as well as doing the wash, mending clothes, spinning yarn and thread, knitting, embroidering, canning, and quilting. I feel like I don't get nearly as much accomplished.

I have gotten up to the 1920s, so the book is quickly approaching the end. The chapters are getting a little shorter and there are more pictures. I know I am getting close to the time period where knitting dies out and falls out of the mainstream, but it will be interesting to see if there is a revival during WWII or not. I will be surprised if it doesn't.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Leek & Potato Sadness

Today's supper was such a dismal failure that I just have to write about it. After all, it wasn't that big of a failure. The chicken salad with lime cilantro dressing was fairly good as was the iced tea.

The leek and potato soup was the sad failure of the meal. And it was the highlight of the meal.

This isn't the first time I have made leek and potato soup. I first made it during the winter and I did follow the instructions out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (courtesy of my fantastic local library) It was wonderful! Light to taste, but hearty and filling all at the same time. It was also green instead of being the not-quite-white soup pictured.

This time the potato and leek soup came out watery and nearly flavorless. It was obvious that I did something wrong over here, but I think I figured it out.

1. I didn't put in enough potatoes. I only found four potatoes in the fridge and I didn't see the additional bag on the counter when I was prepping my potatoes before work. For the amount of water I used, I really needed at least six or seven or even eight potatoes.

2. I didn't prepare the leeks correctly. When I first made the soup, I cut the roots off of the leek and then peeled, rinsed, and cut the entire leek. Including the not really that tender dark green top. What I did this time was use almost only the white part of the leek and I didn't even cut into the light-green part that wasn't the dark green leaves. So the soup tasted watery and had very little leek-y flavor. The parts of the leek you are supposed to use is the white part up to the very very dark green tips. (Simply Recipes has an excellent post about how to clean leeks since I have no leek pictures to show you guys)

3. I didn't use any salt or pepper during the cooking process of the soup. I let people add it on the side. Normally that would be fine, but this time it made for a bland soup since I didn't even try to flavor it at all. This is a big culinary no-no that I should have realized. Always ( and I do mean ALWAYS) taste what you are cooking along the way. If I had, I would have realized something was off in my soup and fixed it.

The good news is that I can save all of my leftover soup! I have at least two servings left which is plenty enough to get it back to the flavors I fell in love with. Since I found the potatoes, I get to add another peeled and diced potato or two. I am out of leeks, but I can substitute in some onions for my fix to get a similar flavor (and the cookbook backs me up on it). I just need to re-heat the whole thing with the extra ingreedients and let that simmer until tender. From there I can either use my immersion blender to make it all creamy and consistent or just leave it chunkier since it is already blended. The extra water should evaporate out to make the base thicker. If it doesn't then I can add some cream or just mash up some of the new potatoes in the soup.

I think I will also make a variation of the soup while I am fixing it by adding some watercress to the mix. That will make it tasty and be enough of a change in the flavor profile to make me happy by not having the same soup two days in a row. I will let you guys know how that turns out.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Andean Inspired

When I first started spinning, I didn't want to spin two different singles and ply them together to make a two ply. I was afraid they would be different lengths and I would have waste. So I learned how to make a plying bracelet and Andean ply. Similar to chain plying (one single into three) it takes one single and lets you ply it against itself to make a two ply.

I wanted to do something similar with the last (and oldest) of my cotton singles. But with the plying bracelet, your project is stuck on your wrist and you are generally committed to spinning the entire thing in one go. I didn't want to do that. So I took my nostepinne and wound a center pull ball on it with my singles.

It was fantastic! The cotton didn't collapse onto itself when I was spinning and I was getting a nice two ply out of the tiny singles. Everything was going just fine for a while until I put it down and came back to it two nights later. The center of the ball had collapsed the next time I sat down to work on it and I didn't notice it until I was getting massive tangles.

Well, after the third tangle I was annoyed and decided to jam the center pull ball on my finger. I found the middle (where one end was feeding out) and popped my finger in there. I started out on my pinky, but eventually decided that my pointer finger gave me the best control of the yarn.

It worked.

Having a temper tantrum and deciding that it wasn't worth struggling anymore actually worked. I was able to control the inner and outer yarns better and got the rest of the yarn plied up onto my spindle. And best of all, I had no more breaking problems with either of the singles (they came before my cotton practice).

The tangle of singles beside my spindle was the only bit of cotton I lost from that batch. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that much yardage. I would have been more annoyed if I had just given up and thrown the rest of the ball away.

Now I have three skeins of cotton all spun up and waiting for me to finish spinning my cotton/denim blend. Then they will be going to the boiling pot so I can try my hand at actually finishing cotton properly. Since all of the cotton I have spun is naturally white, it won't be changing colors like colored cotton, but it will get all the wax off so it will be absorbent. And I will see if my artist ink is colorfast or not. Then I will have four little skeins of cotton ready to be knit with.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fifteen Minutes

Fifteen minutes is not a large portion of time to take out of your day, but it is really important in learning how to do a new skill. Especially if that skill involves nothing more than gaining muscle memory. Adults have the hardest time learning new skills simply because they can't remember having a difficult time learning how to do many things that we take for granted today. Such as learning how to walk or learning how to eat solid food. We simply can't remember what it took to learn how to do those things because of how our brains work, but because we have been doing them for so long we expect that everything should come as easily to us.

I have found that in the spinning community, beginners are discouraged from learning how to spin on "more challenging" fibers such as cotton and bamboo. When I first read about this as a beginner, it made me have the opposite knee-jerk reaction that many teenagers have. The "I can do anything that you tell me not to do" syndrome. I won't lie. I had a really hard time learning how to spin cotton and even gave it up for a while in favor of spinning wool. After all, I had just gotten a spinning wheel and I wanted to play with that instead of struggling with a little spindle and a bunch of raw cotton.

I came back to spinning cotton for the simple reason that I have eight ounces of the stuff plus some expensive hand carders that I haven't been using and four ounces of recycled sari silk and recycled denim waste. I have a lot of stuff for spinning cotton and I want to be able to use it.

So I decided to take to heart some advice that I read a long time ago: spin for fifteen minutes a day.

That fifteen minutes has become one of the most important parts of my day. Since I try to make my spinning time first thing in the morning right after I get out of bed, it has helped to focus me and relax me at the same time. I found that it helps me get into the same place that meditation or yoga would so I feel mentally stimulated and mentally relaxed at the same time.

And since I am getting lots of practice in, that fifteen minutes a day is also helping me even out my spinning. I find it so much easier to spin now that I have been working on my fiber preparation and my long draw for cotton. I even spun my first ever cotton single that didn't break when I wound it into a ball to get it off of my spindle. The only bad thing about spinning more cotton is that now it is the only thing I want to be spinning!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Monty!

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories and for years one of my favorite characters was the Cheshire Cat. I am not alone in my love of the quirky little kitty and when I started getting into ball jointed dolls (BJDs) I wondered if there was a sculpt based off of the critters in Alice in Wonderland. Pipos came to the rescue and one year ago they offered a special choose your own resin color of their cheshire cat. All of their basic sets were also out of stock and I didn't know if they would be coming back or not since anthro sculpts aren't as popular as human doll sculpts.

Introducing Monty: Little Cat, Big Personality

I always imagined getting a big human doll for my introduction into the world of BJDs. I have only seen a couple in real life thanks to one of my college buddies, but she owned a teeny tiny that was just about as big as your thumb. I knew I didn't want one that small, but before Monty got to me, I didn't realize how small he actually was.

Monty is a yo-sd sized doll which means that while he is bigger than the tinies, he is still pretty small and compact. He is about half the size of my old 18 inch American Girl sized doll (which just happens to be about half a standard size coffee mug). At first, I was expecting him to be a little bigger, but since I have been actively fiddling with him more, I am getting more used to the tiny size.

I haven't changed anything about him for the past year. He came naked and with no face-up. Pipos sent him out with 16 mm purple glass eyes that don't really show up well, but I have come to love him just the same. The reason why I haven't done much with him was because of guilt with buying a BJD without telling my parents (whose house I live in) and being busy with trying to make a living.

It turns out that while I am still busy with real life issues, my parents didn't really care about me getting a BJD as long as I was financially stable. They think it is a little strange, but then the cheshire cats have that effect on people even in the BJD community.

While Monty's first year with me was pretty uneventful, I have high hopes for the second year. I have been saving up to get some face up supplies and a new set of eyes a size smaller so I can change the way he looks. I am also hoping to teach myself how to sew clothing and make Monty some clothes as well as put my knitting to the test and knit tiny little sweaters and things of that nature. But most of all, I am hoping to just have him out more because I love the way he looks. Happy Birthday, Monty!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Exciting News from Volks USA & Baby the Stars Shine Bright

Baby the Stars Shine Bright (BtSSB) is one of my absolute favorite stores for Lolita fashion. It was the very first brand store I was introduced to so it has a special place in my heart. It was announced on Wednesday that they are now opening up a brick and mortar branch in New York right next to the re-opening of the Tokyo Rebel store.

This is a big deal for all of the American Lolitas who are into and are just getting into Lolita fashion. Now it will be easier to get brand items in the United States without having to go through the trouble of getting a Japanese proxy or deciphering Japanese websites. In all, it will be easier to get into the fashion. And with the new official store front, it might mean a growth in popularity. Either way, for me, it would mean having the chance to save up and actually visit a BtSSB store in my lifetime.

Another exciting announcement has to deal with the Volks Ball Jointed Doll store (specifically the US branch of the Volks store). Volks is one of the oldest dealers of ball jointed dolls as be know them and they have been in business for ten years now. Recently, they closed their storefront in San Fransisco and temporarily closed their Volks USA website. There was rumor and speculation all over the BJD community if Volks was closing their doors to the US market or if there was going to be something big coming.

Volks is going to be releasing the Full Choice System (FCS) on their US website in August. This means that Volks is trying to expand their market and they will be competing with the other companies that have been offering that feature online.

As far as I can find, the details have not been fully announced, so I'm not sure if the FCS will allow us to receive a doll with eyes, wig, clothes, and a face-up like it would if you were to get one in the physical store, but this is a huge step forward for people who have been wanting a Volks doll from the system (or really a new Volks in general). I am looking forward to seeing what this online system will have to offer and will start saving up in anticipation of getting one before the end of the year.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Neglected Spindles

I have been neglecting my poor half-finished projects on my spindles ever since I've really started spinning on my wheel. Yes, the wheel is a whole lot faster than my spindles, but I feel like I have gotten more spinning done in two days than I did using my wheel. (Which is wrong considering I just did a wheel plying session in two days, but if I used my spindles consistently, I might be getting more done.)

This is a lovely Chameleon Colorways BFL roving that my friend got me in 2012. If my Ravelry page is to be believed, I have been spinning on this since 2012 as well with big breaks in between steps. The colorway name is called Briar Rose. It has red, magenta, a yellow, and brown in the mix. Since I am chain plying it, the colors will probably be mostly separated from each other, but I'm letting them marl as they come up. This will hopefully provide some depth in the color transitions. Especially in the ones from red to magenta to the yellow.

The singles in my plying ball are at least a year old so the twist is long set in them. This is making plying interesting since I'm not really sure how much twist is supposed to go in as I am plying. I do know that I like a nice hard ply in most of my fingering weight yarns, so I am plying this pretty hard. Hopefully, this won't be like the laceweight I just plied that turned out underplied in spots and has to go through to get more twist in again.

I still have two-thirds of the roving she gave me. I was going to spin for a true three-ply, but then I got my wheel and I really want to spin the rest of it on my wheel. Some people defend spindles with all their might and I do love my spindles, but my spinning time is at a premium at the moment, so I'm going with the speed of my wheel instead of the portability of my spindles.

My goal is to get all of my SIPs (spinning in progress) done by the end of August. That leaves me with one skein to re-run through my wheel, this batch of singles to finish plying, and the rest of my silk hankie to spin up and ply. I think that is a reasonable goal.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Project Monogamy

In case you haven't noticed, I have turned into a monogamous knitter over here. One little project at a time and stick with it until it is done. This does seem to be having a rather pleasant side effect though. I am finishing my projects quicker than I had been.

Yarn: KnitPicks Stroll Handpainted in Juice Box
As an example, my Wishing for Spring Felici socks about four months while the Juice Box Travel socks took me about two months. Granted, I did start a shawl in between the two sock projects that I haven't finished yet, but it is still a rather drastic amount of time to have cut down on.

Luckily, these were travel socks so there isn't a standard pattern that I had to follow for them. It is just a plain vanilla sock with a one inch cuff. They are really comfy and-while not as soft as my Felici socks-feel like they will be very durable.

Somehow, the yarn cooperated quite nicely and didn't do any strange pooling on the socks as I had hoped for. True, there is a little pooling on the cuffs and on the narrowing of the gusset, but other than that the colors settled down into little stripes that mimicked the skein rather nicely. At first that annoyed me to bits, but it does make for a good looking pair of socks.

Now it is time to finish the wedding shawl that I've been making for my friend. Hopefully, I'll be able to get it finished and get the pattern put up within the next month since I've been making good time on my projects.