Monday, July 14, 2014

Slogging away (or technically, blogging away...)

Today I am at a different campus from my normal one. This means I don't have an office, but I have managed to set myself up pretty nicely in the library with all of my favourite things.

As you can see, I have started a new sock, which means I finished the World Cup socks before the final, as planned. For me, I'd have to flip a coin to decide whether knitting the same pair of green socks for a month was more boring than entire soccer match, but now they are both over and I don't need to think about them for FOUR MORE YEARS. That deserves a yippee!!

The other day I bought Lucy some flea and worming stuff from Aussie Vet Products. To my delight, it was $25 cheaper than it is from my local vet. So, I used the money to buy myself something I did not know existed until last Friday - a beginner's fountain pen.

Apparently fountain pens are something you built up to, which makes sense given that the good ones cost hundreds of dollars. I can imagine you'd want to make sure you really like a product before dropping that kind of coin. I can safely say, now, I love them! Since it arrived yesterday afternoon I've been reading pen blogs (who knew they were a thing even?) and investigating different types of ink to fill my new toy with. Apparently there are wet inks and dry inks and all sorts of fun fun things. I can feel a new expensive hobby coming on...

Friday, July 4, 2014

FO Friday: Here's something I prepared earlier (2014 FO #11)

Ever year, on the 1 June I get a bit sad. It's the first day of winter and a fairly predictable indicator that at least the next three months will be cold, grey and wet. To cheer myself up, I cast on a pair of woollen socks for me in the brightest wool in my stash.

The yarn is Stitchjones Supersock 100% Superwash Merino in Casual Friday. The colours are lovely and bright. The yarn itself is a little bit thinner than what I'm used to working with but still nice and soft.

I did a slip stitch heel because I hoped that would work well with the variation of the hand-dyed yarn.

They are comfy and warm and they really did brighten my day. Plus, I only used 60g to make these socks, so with a contrast colour for heel and toe, I should have enough yarn to make another pair. I love it when I use all of the yarn in a skein!

Of course it wouldn't be a photoshoot if Lucy didn't try to get in on the action. She also hates winter and (apparently) also loves brightly coloured socks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WIP Wednesday: The World Cup's Almost Over Edition

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I am in a fantastic mood today because I just had another chapter of my thesis okayed by my supervisor, which means I am halfway done with the writing up of my loooooooooong ongoing research project. THIS IS FANTASTIC NEWS!! The thing with long-term research projects is that you work and work and work and work and work and work but often don't see any result from your work except for pages of notes and increased knowledge. Both of these are vital for writing the thesis yet (unfortunately) neither are submittable in their original form. To have not only words on the page but words on the page that are of a good and convincing quality feels fantastic and like one day I might actually get this thesis done.

Of course, in order to get the chapter done I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk. A lot of time, like ten hours a day. When I put on my jeans to go to the footy on Saturday, I noticed a definite difficulty in getting the zip up. I have worked too hard on maintaining my fitness since breaking my leg to lose muscle tone just to get a mere postgraduate qualification, so yesterday I started working at a standing desk.

The kitchen bench is the perfect height for me to work at standing. This is how I work, with Word open on my laptop and my notes and reference materials on my iPad. As I have said here before, I held off on getting an iPad because it felt so unnecessary and decadent. An iPad is unnecessary and decadent but it makes nearly every part of my life easier. I imagine I feel the same way as my grandmother did when she got a washing machine and no longer had to run clothes through a mangle - pure unadulterated joy. My iPad is now my my fourth most loved item, behind Lucy, Sam and my football team. If St Kilda lose again this weekend, it's moving into third place.

My World Cup socks are slowly progressing, much (it feels) like the World Cup itself. Surely it has to finish soon. I swear it has been going on forever and is possibly never going to stop. That said, I am knitting awfully slowly at the moment! Hopefully by the time I finish the foot and find my darning needle, the soccer will have finally stopped. Fingers crossed :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WIP Wednesday: 12 bubbles and counting

In non-knitting WIP news, this is my starter as of 9am today.

Day 5 Starter: 12 Bubbles

Peter Reinhart said it should start bubbling furiously by now. There are a few bubbles but not many, and certainly not enough to make me think this starter is working. I "fed" it to 100% hydration (equal parts starter, water and flour) and transferred it into a jar. Fingers crossed that I get some sort of bubble action tomorrow.

The World Cup socks are zooming along! I am past the gusset and onto the foot now, which is unbelievably fast for me and a pair of men's socks.

It turns out I knit awfully fast when I am trying to avoid watching any soccer. Who knew a sport could have that kind of effect on my fingers?

Now, I'm off for a mid-winter swim. Brrr!!!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Viva Australia! And a non-starter on the sourdough far

Happy Monday, y'all.

I was super excited to get to my sourdough starter this morning because Peter Reinhart said there could be some bubble action happening...

..but no - it looks just the same as last time. I also found out yesterday that most people do their starters in jars rather than containers. This is about the point where I'd normally give up, but this time I'm sticking with it. I "fed" the starter some more flour and water (does anyone else find it oddly cannibalistic that the starter is fed on what it is - like it just keeps eating itself. No, just me? Okay then.) and I've sourced an appropriate jar, which I will sterilise tonight and have ready to use by tomorrow. I am determined to end up with some sourdough after all of this work!!

It has unavoidably come to my attention that there is currently a soccer World Cup happening. For some reason, people who I had previously considered sane and normal have turned into the type of people who get up at 4am to watch a game which doesn't even have their team in it! I do love footy and I watch footy all the time but only the Aussie version. I'm a bit of a bogan liket that. I'm used to lots of scoring and amazing feats of physical prowess and watching games at reasonable hours (although the AFL is doing its very best to change the reasonable hour thing). European football contradictorily makes me incredibly tense (Will they score! Maybe this time! Maybe this time! Maybe THIS time?) and puts me to sleep (Nil-all draw, anyone?). So, to deal with the fact I'm going to lose hours of my life that I will never get back to this contest, I thought I'd celebrate the event instead of complaining about it. It may be too early to start drinking at 6am but it's never too early to knit socks.

I thought it the colours would be appropriate because of green in the Aussie's green and I just bought the yarn and I really wanted to use it.

Viva Australia! And (fingers crossed) viva my sourdough starter...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rewarding positive behaviours: stash and sourdough starters

I was reading an academic article yesterday on reward systems in the workplace. It said that employers and management should reward the behaviours they deem as positive because without reward and recognition, people tend to stop doing certain behaviours. This makes perfect sense to me - I'm definitely a fan of the carrot rather than the stick approach. Now the connection between knitting and workplace behaviour may seem a little  bit tenuous, but I think it really applies here. Over the last few years, I've made a real effort to knit from the stash. I made an epic effort to use up all of my 5-ply crepe last year and, although I bought 1.2kgs of wool last year, I have knitted all of it up already so none of it got added to the stash. This year I have bought ZERO wool, so when I had a hankering for something new and shiny this week I decided to reward my positive stashdown behaviours over the past six months by buying myself some new wool.

Okay, so I admit the logic is a bit faulty but look at my lovely new wool:

It's my favourite Opal Rainforest sock yarn. The one on the left is Veronica die Wilde (a butterfly, 2037) and the right is Hummel (bee, 1613). I bought it in a destash from another Raveller. Buying destashed wool is one of my favourite ways of acquiring new yarn - I like the idea of wool that would otherwise languish being used and loved. Plus, destashing gives me access to a much broader range of wool that I have at my LYS.

I took the picture on an azalea that has been dormant in the garden for the three years I've lived here but then a few weeks ago suddenly started growing the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen on an azalea. They're remarkable - like strawberries and cream. I didn't even know flowers could do shading like this. If I were a dyer, I'd make a series of sock yarns based on the colour of different azalea flowers. These colours would make seriously the most gorgeous socks.

I have also decided to try and make a sourdough starter (again...). I was inspired by an advanced copy of Peter Reinhart's Bread Revolution I have been reading. His passion for bread is so contagious and he breaks down really difficult (to me) things like sourdough starters into small, manageable steps.

Sourdough Starter: Day 1
What Reinhart's recipe does differently from the last one I tried was to use smaller quantities of flour and water (only about a quarter cup of each) and to add some lemon juice in with the water, with the idea that the acidity will encourage the starter to develop. I love sourdough bread but at $6 a loaf I don't get it very often. If I can make this work both my stomach and wallet will thank me.

I like to think that the fact that the photo I took with the flash on transformed the starter into a love heart is a good sign... Fingers crossed :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Meet Buzzy (2014 FOs #9 & #10)

On this cold and chilly winter morning, I'd like to introduce the bright and cheery face of the newest member of my household: Buzzy the Bee!

A few months ago Sam and I drove down to Morning Peninsula for a seaside picnic and stopped at the Pure Peninsula Honey Farm on the way back. I do like honey but the real motivation for my visit was because I love going to the places that make this kind of thing. They have a room with a glass beehive in it where you could see the bees coming in from outside, depositing their pollen and then going back out again. There was a honey tasting station that I think put me into a brief sugar coma and lots of lovely ancillary honey products like beeswax candles and honey-based moisturisers and honey beer and icecream. Did you know there's a low GI honey that's suitable for many diabetics? Honey is a fabulous versatile product.

The farm also had a section of kids stuff - tiny clothes, blankets and toys. We picked up a bee toy as a present for a baby that is arriving shortly (literally very shortly - the mother went into labour yesterday morning). We brought him home and popped him on the kitchen bench so Sam wouldn't forget to take it with him when he left. But (and this is so ridiculous from two grown adults) he looked really cute there! He's such a happy bee and provides just the right amount of cheer for when you get up in the morning and the thermostat says that the temperature inside the house is three degrees. So I decided to keep him and make the baby a hat and booties set instead. 

The booties are the famous Christine's Stay-on Booties. They are designed so that the baby can't kick off their shoes, as they are apparently known to do. The pattern is really quick to knit and requires like 20m of yarn (I don't know if that is correct, but it felt like a teeny tiny amount. Next time I make a pair I'll weigh them).

The only modification I left out was knitting a row of YOs at the ankle for a ribbon or knitted icord to be threaded through. It seemed a bit fiddly plus I kind of thought they looked like space booties without it and I like the idea of kitting out little girls in outfits that look like they could be on astronauts. Better than giving them any of the myriad pink plastic crap that we force on young girls from birth that reinforce rigid gender stereotypes. DEATH TO ALL PINK PLASTIC REPLICAS OF CLEANING AND COOKING IMPLEMENTS GIVEN TO LITTLE GIRLS!! 

The hat was pretty easy - I cast on 88 stitches, knit till it was long enough, decreased at eight points until there were four stitches left and then knitted an icord until it was long enough to tie into a knot.

It was a little too big for Buzzy though! The poor little bee toppled over under the weight of the giant newborn baby hat.

The yarn I used was the Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette left over from my stepmother's birthday socks. The colour is more accurate in the outside shots. I didn't weigh them but I'd guesstimate the set used about one 50g ball. The yarn is super soft and deluxe and I hope this cute little set keeps the baby warm and toasty on these cold cold mornings.

Much better than a stuffed bee would, really!