Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sock Yarn Stashdown: May Update

In April I mentioned my goal of ending 2011 with less sock-weight yarn in my possession than I had at the beginning of the year. Since it's the end of the month, I figured I'd better take stock of the situation.  The results were not encouraging.

Score at the end of April: -1
New skeins acquired in May: 4
Skeins used up: 0
Skeins destashed: 0

Score at the end of May: +3

Uh, that score is going in the wrong direction.
The good news is that last night I finished a sock.

Pattern is Knotty or Knice by Chrissy Gardiner
And I cast on the second one immediately.  It's not much, but it's progress.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I do when I'm not knitting

Most of the time, this is a knitting (and now spinning) blog, but occasionally there is just too much awesome in the non-yarn part of my life that I have to share.  This past weekend was the Columbia Triathlon.

This race was the first time I attempted an olympic/international distance tri (.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run), which is twice the length of some the shorter sprints I've been doing.  Not only is it a longer race, Columbia is known for being challenging (read hilly, really hilly), but there I was bright and early around 6am walking into Centennial Park to join this mass of people and set up my transition area.

Even though my swim wave wasn't scheduled to start the race until 7:40, the morning flew by and before I knew it, I was seeing Mike off, squeezing into my wetsuit, and hustling down to wade into the lake.  The swim went pretty smoothly.  It took me about half the distance to feel warmed up, but I didn't get shoved around too much or kicked in the head--always have to be happy about that.

I was a little disoriented coming out of the water but recovered pretty quickly, got to my bike (easy to spot with my new bright yellow handlebar tape), and was off.

The bike portion of the course is where I was the most nervous.  I'm not a strong cyclist, and even though I'd ridden the course several times, it has some tough spots, and I wasn't sure how tired I might feel after the swim.  The course was crowded which stressed me out a little here and there, but I felt surprisingly good.  Being familiar with the course was a huge help, and I rode it faster than in any of my training rides.  As I turned back into the park, my chin quivered for a few seconds, and I almost had to fight back a few tears since I knew with the bike leg behind me I would be crossing the finish line even if I had to walk the entire run. 

I had another good transition and was soon jogging along with just six miles between me and finishing my first olympic tri.  The run didn't go terribly well but not terribly bad either.  The heat started to wear me down, and although I tried to fight up the hills, my legs just didn't have the strength.  I ended up walking parts of just about every hill.  By the time I hit the top of the last hill, I was too tired even to be relieved. 

I trudged on and felt a surge of relief as I heard volunteers shouting "last mile".  As I neared the end, I tried as hard as I could to enjoy the experience and my first oly finish, but I was too tired to think anything other than "just keep running".

Mike had started well before me, so he was at the finish line to cheer me on.  When I caught sight of him, I threw my arms in the air for a second and powered to the finish with everything I had left. 

It was over.  I had done it.  My first olympic triathlon.  My first finish on the daunting Columbia course.

The race took me 3 hours, 12 minutes.  Not speedy compared to the superstars that participate in this race, but I was thrilled.

I cooled off in the grass and listened to everyone's stories, then headed home for a shower and a long nap.

If you think it looks like I barely have the strength to hold up that cup, you'd be correct.  But it was worth it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Crystal Vest

Two posts in two days?  Wow, I think that’s a record for me.  And I'm not even posting at 4am.  Bonus!

So, despite my attachment to my new spinning wheel, I did find time in the last few weeks to finish a knitting project.

Pattern:  Crystal
Needles: 7 US

This project had a slow start.  First there was the website problem when I tried to buy the pattern.  Then the ten knots in the first skein of yarn I wound (thankfully, the second skein only had one).  Next I got stuck on the lace pattern instructions.  When that was finally worked out, I swatched.  Swatch was big to begin with and blocked even larger.  Being too impatient to swatch again, I simply went down two needle sizes and cast on.  I knit up to the v-neck divide and got stuck again on pattern instructions.  This one required designer-consultation, but the designer got back to me super quickly and cleared up the mistake.  The vest was pretty smooth sailing from there.  The knitting went quickly, the lace pattern was easy to memorize, and I didn’t run into any lace shaping problems.  I ended up needing to knit the neckline twice, but that was the only stumbling spot.  

When I finished and tried it on, I was pretty happy with the fit, except it was a little shorter than I wanted. I knew it would stretch when blocked, and oh, did it stretch.  I pulled a dress out of the water instead of a vest! I was initially rather frustrated and swore off using yarn with silk for anymore garments, but once it dried and I tried it on, the loose style and waist tie made it all okay.  I happily wore it all day Monday. 

I’m still totally over silk though.

My modifications were pretty minor:  three-needle bind off at the shoulders, reduced the armhole depth and took out a few short rows on the armhole edging, and I did an i-cord for the waist tie instead of a crochet chain.  

Even though it might be a tad bigger than intended, I’m loving the loose fit.  The relaxed style is a nice change after years of knitting super-fitted sweaters. 

So a finished project (yay!) and one more stash project down.  This brings me up to four.  I’m a little behind the goal of twelve, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decrease the stash when I’m constantly adding to it with handspun. Might need to start working on a better storage solution rather than trying to just knit faster.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May what?

I looked at the calendar today and realized it is May 17th.  May is already over half over?  I have no idea where the time is going.  Oh wait, yes, yes, I do.   

May 7-8 was the 38th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I spent a fantastic Sunday afternoon wandering around the fairgrounds and visiting adorable sheepies.  This was my fifth year attending MDSW, and I’m fairly certain I can point to this festival as my downfall in all fiber-related obsessions.  After this year’s festival, I thought back to previous years, and it was fascinating to me how much has changed in those five years.  My first year, I had only been knitting a few months.  I remember coming home with bunches of Tilli Tomas silk and my first Malabrigo skeins.  I had no concept of hand-painted yarn or indie dyers, and I don’t even remember seeing fiber or spinning instruments.  It just didn’t register. The next couple years were all about the sock yarn, and even though last year I brought home a spindle and some fiber, I still went mainly for the yarn.

This year was different.  I saw yarn and even picked up and inspected a few skeins, but this year was not about yarn.  In fact, the only yarn I came home with was yarn I produced myself.

On a spur-of-the-moment impulse, I sent in that colorful skein of yarn that I wrote about in my last post.  I entered it in the novice spinning class.  Seeing that first place ribbon was a really nice start to my day.  At the end of the judges’ comments was the note:  “keep spinning”.  That might have been more encouragement than I needed.  I may not have purchased yarn, but I did come home fully prepared to make lots of my own.  The fiber haul:

You can see I was so eager to start spinning my new fiber that I finished a skein even before I gathered the purchases together for the picture.  Why so eager?  Well, I also brought home this:

Oops.  Okay, not really. This was a completely planned purchase.  I’m terrible about making decisions.  Terrible.  Especially big decisions that cost a lot of money, but I headed to the festival with my main purpose being to shop for a spinning wheel.  After trying a few, I was struck with the overwhelming urge to slow down, not rush into anything, and do more research.  I sighed to myself, disappointed that I was going to let my indecision get the best of me.   As I continued to hem and haw over a wheel purchase, I did start making fiber purchases.  By mid-afternoon, I decided I had more fiber than I was going to want to spin on spindles.  So I told myself the wheel was practically a necessity.  And of course, the judges had said to "keep spinning".  I browsed some more and eavesdropped on wheel conversations and finally settled on the Lendrum double-treadle that I had been testing at Carolina Homespun.  It wasn’t long before I was lugging a big box out to my car.

I’m happy to say, I’m thrilled with the purchase.  The wheel assembled in five minutes and within another five, I was spinning.  I’ve barely stopped since.  That would be where May has gone.  Well, spinning and a good bit of swim, bike, run training.  The Columbia Triathlon is this weekend!

And just because no MDSW post is complete without animal pictures, here's a really cute alpaca. 

I already can't wait until next year.