Sunday, March 1, 2015

A couple of challenges

I find as I get to the end of one year, sometimes I have the brain space to think about the year to come and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I have absolutely no choice and have to think about it because there is something going on that has to be planned and organised.  This year is that third kind of year.

This year, in December, we will be hosting my family's Christmas lunch at our house.  It's been 12 years since I last hosted, when my oldest was 4 months old and I had a massive dose of tonsilitis.   This time round we will have 12, 10 and 8 year olds to "help out" with the proceedings.  Such a difference!  I also hope I don't have the tonsilitis, that would be good.

I was talking to Mum this past Christmas and mentioned I needed to get moving on sorting out the garden, she said that I had 12 months, I would be fine.  I commented that I should have started 12 months ago, how little did I know how prophetic my words were.

To give you a base idea, we live in a small 3 bedroom house with one open living space and a kitchen with three doors off it and not a lot of bench space and a small oven.  We are likely to be catering for between 23 and 28 people all up.   The more we can have preorganised and the more we can transfer to outside the better off we will be.  We have a large back yard that has been at the mercy of our three boys for the past 11 years.  It needs some work, no that's an understatement, it needs a lot of work!  Work we have planned numerous times, but have never gotten around to carrying out.

Our garden at the beginning of the year looked like this.

(Not sure if that video is working so I have made a still picture version)

By the end of the year each of the side garden beds should be weeded, dug up, fertilised, replanted and growing nicely.

We want the back corner to be paved, we debated upon having decking but our reality is that we don't have the time, energy or inclination to look after it properly so some sort of paving it will be.

It's a lovely protected corner that gets late afernoon sunlight and has been in our targets for at least 5 years now as a "parent space".  This year it will happen.

The first order of the year was to remove three tree stumps.  Two are Magnolia's that died a couple of years ago.  Being a soft wood tree they have rotted quite a lot so their removal was relatively easy, dig out around the base, hack through a few soft and squishy roots and out they come.  The third stump is taking some more work.

The tree is still live and it's quite a determined one.  It's a Lilly Pilly in tree form and the roots are very strong still.  J is working on it steadily and it will eventually succumb.

That all sounds pretty easy doesn't it?  Well, it was, but removal of the first Magnolia revealed a problem.  It had been planted on and in or around what must have been a broken bottle pile from when the house was built, either that or we've had some really bad owners here at one point. In a patch 1.5 metres long by 80 cm  wide by 30 cm deep we have recovered this much glass.

And I haven't finished sifting all the dirt from this hole yet.  We are hoping that this is an isolated spot, that once we start moving further along the garden bed there will be less glass.  I really hope so, because my gardening plans have had a real slow down!  There's no way I can leave all that glass in there, the kids dig in the gardens and I garden without gloves regularly.  So I sit and sift dirt while listening to podcasts and I slowly see the results of my efforts.

I have two other challenges for the year, these are both of the craft variety.

I have been working on a quilt for my bedroom and I am up to the quilting on it.  Neither my skills or my sewing machine are up to the quilting so I am doing it by hand.  There are 25 sets of 4 squares to sew around in white thread and then a bigger coloured square about an inch out from the the 4 squares to make a bigger square.  I have completed 4 out of 25 of these squares and still have  along way to go.  This is another task that I do while listening to podcasts.  With 25 squares and 52 weeks in the year, if I can get 1 set of squares with their outside border done a fortnight I should make it by the end of the year.  So far I am on target.

The last challenge for the year is sock knitting.  I have all of these lovely yarns and patterns and ideas and so this year my target is to knit 20 pairs.  I have completed 4 pairs thus far and have started the fifth.  To make my target for the year I need about 2 pairs a month so I am currently on track.

So there you go, a whole pile of things to keep me busy for the year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Variegated yarn

Variegated yarn poses a set of challenges when you are using it.  Sometimes it plays nicely and other times it doesn't.  Everyone seems to have a slightly different attitude towards it as well.  Some people like pooling and others find it frustrating.  Some do everything they can to see pooling and others do everything they can to prevent it.
I sit in the second camp.  I find pooling frustrating and try to avoid it if I can.

I have been knitting a jumper for myself.  It's a top down raglan using a variegated yarn and while working on the top portion of the jumper, the yarn behaved beautifully.  No pooling, lovely variation through it all.  Once I put the sleeve stitches on hold and started working on just the body however, things changed.  

Pooling started to appear.  It was spiraling thickly one way and then took a sharp turn and went the other.  There were big blocks of single colours.  As I knit I tried to convince myself that this was ok, it's the nature of the beast. I persevered.  After a couple of inches work, I couldn't do it anymore so I pulled it back and alternated yarn from both ends of the ball to see if that would break it up.  The same thing happened, this time with alternating rows of light and dark as you can see in the photo above, but still big patches of single colours.  I reached the end of the straight portion of the body and started the hip increases for the A-line shape and all of a sudden, the patches of colour were spreading out.  The pooling was getting broken up!  My problem had been the number of stitches in each round and by changing it up by as little as 8 stitches, this had completely changed the fabric that was being knit.  So this afternoon, knowing it would be well worth the effort, I pulled it all the way back to the armholes again, rewinding the two strands of yarn as I went.  This time instead of having 11 stitches under each arm I cast on 15.  Such a small thing to do to make such an important difference.

I have been knitting on my jumper this evening, and it is such a different fabric now, so very much more pleasing than before.  After a very small section of thicker pooling at the underarm height, it is pooling below that in a set of very narrow spirals around the body, it is essentially striping.  The colours are spread evenly, there are no big blocks of colour and most importantly I'm not wondering whether I'm going to want to wear it once it is done.  This will definitely get worn! 

I will have to remember this next time I am playing with variegated yarn, the difference between a pleasing outcome and one that really isn't, can be the difference of just a few stitches.