Saturday, February 28, 2009

Knitting: Past Projects - My First Knit Project

I was never one to start out with easy projects. I guess I enjoy a challenge.

My absolute very first knitting project was a red sweater that I knit for a teddy bear. We were living in Melbourne, Australia at the time on a one year teacher's exchange program.

I was in school, grade nine, and my father had arranged for our family to exchange our home, car, and his job for one year with an Australian family.

Knitting in Australia is big business and almost all women at least knew how to knit even if they didn't. I had learned to knit some time earlier from my father and had not really taken off with it in Canada. Young girls and teens are generally not taught to knit. In fact, I think they only learn it if they happen to connect with someone who shows them, maybe a family member or friend, or if they take classes (and God bless those people who pass on this craft to others).

I was inspired to pick up knitting needles because of the others around me that would be knitting. I had no pattern, but used my knowledge of sewing to create the pattern myself. Of course nothing was on paper, the whole pattern being in my head (actually made up as I went along would be more accurate). It didn't turn out too bad .... I can be certain of this because the bear never complained ;)

After that my Mom bought me some brown and gold wool and asked me to knit her a hat. She had a pattern and it was pretty basic and easy. I finished that project, our wonderful year in Australia came to an end and my parents forced me on the plane back to Canada.

Years passed and I finished school and got a job, but I would always remember Australia. It was a life-changing experience for me and I longed to return. Ten years later I took a leave of absence from my job and took a year off to go back to Australia. My brother had returned many years before and had made it his home. I planned to stay with him. I had a work visa so I could work a bit and take time off to travel and visit with my school friends.

Of course, once back in Australia I was reintroduced to wool and knitting.

Many women knit on the subway or train on their way into the city to work. My brother's girlfriend had many hand knit sweaters and patterns. It didn't take me long to pick out a sweater that I liked. I decided I would make it.

The wool is mohair and the pattern used the seed stitch. I believe it was rated as easy and the pattern certainly didn't give me any trouble. The only mistake I made was I forgot to change needles after the ribbing to the larger size (like I don't STILL do that all the time now!!!!). Being a perfectionist, I painstakingly ripped out the rows of mohair and restarted on the right size needles.

The white trim is cotton. I wore this sweater with a white blouse and white skirt in the cooler summer evenings. I'm glad I kept this project from so long ago.

My second sweater was also mohair. Going with my success on the first project I opted for another pattern that really appealed to me.
This one was a little more complex, incorporating stripes, so a change in yarn colour, and the use of intarsia, using bobbins to knit with different colours in patches.
I carefully followed all the instructions. Thank God for the great illustrators of knitting books. I was able to figure everything out all on my own, by reading the books and looking at the illustrations. Of course I sometimes experimented and if it wasn't right I was willing to rip it back and start again.

I was quite happy with this cat sweater, both front and back. I liked it so much that I knit the same sweater again for my sister in pink and white mohair. She still has the sweater too.
I wore this sweater a fair bit in winter but I must admit I did find the mohair to be very warm.
These sweaters have stood the test of time and I still enjoy them today.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Knitting: Hat Projects - My first Handspun Hats

I created three skeins of my own handspun and dyed it a purple/blue colour. This fibre was made from Francis the sheep's wool.

I bought the whole fleece, smelling like a barn and washed it, carded it by hand, spun it and then dyed it using blue and purple Kool Aid (see my earlier blogs for 'how to' details).

I wanted a really warm hat that would not let me down on cold and blustery days while standing at the bus stop.
I'm a real wash and go person so I'm always leaving the house with wet hair. I needed a hat that would keep my head warm despite the wet head.

I also wanted something to cover my ears like a head band and I wanted extra room at the top so that I could have my long hair up in a comb and not have to remove it to put the hat on. This hat pattern from Tahki-Charles fit the bill perfectly.
Being a beginner spinner my fibre was pretty bumpy and woobly. I didn't mind that, knowing these would be my early works and that in time my spinning would even out and improve.

Neither did I want to leave my early works in skeins which I knew would eventually find their way to the back of a closet, forgotten and never used. They needed to be made into a garment of some sort so they would be put to use.

I used a double strand of the two ply yarn and to make it even bulkier I added one strand of the Rowan Plaid yarn. For the top of the hat I just used the Rowan Plaid (a three ply of purple, gray and white).

I've been wearing it for a few months now so it's certainly been given the test of time. Now to point out some features that wouldn't be obvious on first glance. You may see some spots that are a little more rouge/purple than mauve. The dye took that fibre a little differently than the sheep's wool. That's because those spots are a different fibre.... but what fibre you ask?

It's Tigger's hair. Tigger, my orange tabby cat. I have been saving his fur from when I comb him and when I was carding the sheep's wool I carded in some of Tigger's fur. Although his fur is naturally orange, it took the dye amazingly well.

I plan to do more experiments in future with Tigger's combings. He's a very willing contributor and lines up with the other cats each night for his brushing. I can't use the carders with him around because if he hears the "scritch" sound of the carder he comes running. He thinks they're giant cat brushes made just for him.

I liked this hat so much that I decided to make another in the white alpaca roving. I needed a white hat to go with my white scarf. I used up the last of my larger spun (WPI 8 Very Bulky) Alpaca yarn that I made my scarf with.
I wore it today for the first time and I found it very warm. It's interesting how the fibre is warmed up by body heat.
I notice that when putting on the alpaca hat it is warm instantly, even though the fibre is much lighter than the wool. The wool hat takes a little longer to warm up.
Wool is warm even when wet, so I'll have to wait and see how warm the alpaca is with wet hair.
I suspect that since alpaca is supposed to be considerably warmer than wool that it's probably still warm when wet.
Currently I'm knitting the Razor shell scarf for a second time, this one for my sister. My spinning is very different this time and the yarn is much finer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Knitting: Mmmm Just Like a Dessert, it Tastes Like More!

I visited the the Ziraldo's Alpaca farm( again today to bulk up my stash of alpaca roving.

I always enjoy the drive out to Thorndale. For most of my life we would drive through Thorndale on our way to my grandparents farm in Lakeside. We don't own the farm now so I appreciate the excuse to drive out that familiar route again. It sure brings back lots of happy memories.

I was already taking orders for more knitted garments from the family. Word was out that there was really nice alpaca roving available!

These rovings are soft and very yummy. The chocolate, caramel and vanilla swirl is a delicious mix that looks like a dessert--and who can eat only one dessert? That's why I had to get more of this roving after I spun this skein. Who needs chocolate and caramel to eat when there are these flavours available to spin?
This blend of rovings spins very well. I try to draft all three pieces as I spin, otherwise I just let the yarn create itself as it will.

I am thinking I will make a wrap or shawl with the fibre. I might experiment with knitting a few swatches to see what it looks like with different stitches.

The Alpaca Lace Scarf is nearly complete.
All I have left to do is sew in the loose ends and then block it (now that I'm a near professional knit blocker having done it once before!)
Actually I think I'm inventing my old technique again and that is, wear the garment immediately and keep wearing it until it blocks itself into place...

I totally enjoyed this project from the relaxing time spinning the roving into yarn while listening to classical music to the actual knitting of the scarf.
If you asked me what I loved about it other than it's warm, I'd have to say it's the little imperfections in my spinning - parts of the roving where the size adjusts a little. These are all records of my journey to becoming a better spinner. It reminds me of my early art works when I carved and decorated egg shells (I'll blog on that for Easter - stay tuned!). It's the little imperfections of those early works that I look back on now endearingly. It's those very things that stand out now as important and meaningful, not the perfectness which isn't that memorable!

My sister has tested the scarf and has claimed one for herself so I'll start spinning again tonight - any excuse to have to spin something will do for me.
The stitch is the razor shell stitch and I quite liked how quickly it would work up.

Most of the scarf was knit while I rode the bus to and from work.
I did struggle at first to remember the pattern first thing in the morning. I'm usually a little bleary eyed at first. After all, I'm a night hawk and I don't have my first coffee until after I get to work. After a few dozen rows I was doing the pattern by rote.
It took me a minute to practise so that I could do the Yarn Forward manoeuvre properly.
I didn't know how to do yarn forward with a left hand movement at first. Whenever I do a pattern that requires a fancier stitch I would revert from Continental to English knitting so I could do things right-handed. But this time I took just a moment to figure it out and it's quite simple once I trained my hands and brain on the stitch while knitting Continental.
I've learned to knit with the Continental style so I use my left hand more. It's amazing how much faster and less awkward knitting Continental is. I wish I had learned it much sooner! Originally I knit the English style where the right hand would be in play more than the left.
When I was a child, it was my father who taught me to knit and pearl. When he attended school during WWII, all the children were given the project to learn to knit so they could knit granny squares. All the squares were then sewn together to make a blanket and the blankets were then shipped overseas for our soldiers during the War.

The scarf is 5' 2" long. I wanted it long enough to wrap around twice so I just kept knitting and trying it on until I felt it was long enough. That way if I get caught without a hat again I'll have enough extra that I can cover my head.
I've looked up yarn weights and gauges in my Spinners Magazine. The Alpaca Lace Scarf took approximately 4 "bumps" of alpaca (8 oz) and it looks like my Wraps Per Inch (WPI) is 8. That would mean my yarn is a "Very Bulky" weighted yarn, which is what I was aiming to spin.
Here's a little chart on Wraps per inch to figure out the weight of your homespun yarn:
WPI 18+ Lace
WPI 16 Fingering
WPI 14 Sport
WPI 12 Worsted
WPI 10 Bulky
WPI 8 or fewer Very Bulky

If you've lived in Canada for any length of time you know what it's like to find yourself hatless in a bone-cold chilling wind-chill. It's not a pleasant experience. That's when you turn up your collar, wishing it was bigger and fluffier, and you lament that you opted to buy the more fashionable winter coat that didn't come with a hood.

Tonight I'll start spinning more of Miss Muffet's roving so that I can knit the same scarf for my sister--as a teacher she has to do yard duty. Talk about bone-chilling... and then there's the cold weather to deal with ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Comes in Many Different Ways - Happy Valentines

After the tragedy of losing my beloved cat Sweet Pea I was devastated. I was very fond of her and she had come along at a particular time in my life when I needed a friend.

Somehow she knew what my need was and Sweet Pea brought her own special gift of love that helped me through a difficult time.

(photo of Sweet Pea - she was a short-haired tortoiseshell)

Losing her fueled an ambition to pay back cats in kind and I opened my home to foster cats. At the same time, I visited the local Animal Care & Control to see about getting a cat for myself. It was a very difficult thing to do, seeing all these cats in cages. All of them begging to come home with me. There were so many cats there and they were ALL very nice.

When I arrived I wasn't thinking of getting a kitten. I had a more mature, but fun aged cat in mind, say a cat around 2 or 3 years old.

The little gray kitten sat in her cage watching us. She was completely quiet and unmoving.
She wasn't afraid, I could tell from looking at her that she was just curious. The other cats were jumping around and very excited and they had drawn my attention first.
But when her eyes met mine it's like something happened. She was beautiful with gray fur and once I took her out of the cage I could feel how plush and thick her coat was. She felt like a GUND stuffed toy, soft and huggable.

(photo - baby Gracie with Tigger)
I named her Gracie.
Gracie - Gray because of her colour, Grace because of grace's importance in our lives, Grace because it's my niece's middle name and "ie" because that includes part of my nephew Codie's name too.
We brought her home and let her tour the living room. She snooped into everything and then later settled to my bedroom (under the bed).

I let her stay under the bed and moved some of her food and litter close by. I knew she'd need to den for a few days to adjust from the stress.

She'd been at Animal Control for five days, which isn't very long but it must have been a stressful eternity to her.

(How I wish people would realize how important it is to spay and neuter their animals to prevent the overcrowding at humane societies).
The next day I woke up and went into the kitchen. I took her little dish and put a small amount of dry kibble in along with some warm water. This would make a mash that kittens like to eat.
A little while later I came back to the kitchen and looked down at her dish. I couldn't believe what I saw.
(See the photo - I have recreated what I saw because at the time I didn't take a picture, I only sketched what I had seen):

I don't think Gracie could have left a message any more clear than that. It said it all.

Happy Valentines everyone :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Keeping Indoor Cats Happy

If you're like most of us, you're a cat lover with at least one cat and probably a full time job as well. That means there's a great deal of time each day when you're away and your cat is left to entertain itself.

Let's face it, being indoors every day, day after day, can get a little tedious. Even the most lazy cat can find it boring.

Since I'm a foster Mom for stray and abandoned cats, I've got lots of experience with dealing with a clan of cats and keeping them stimulated and entertained. Below are some tips and ticks that I've learned over the years:

1. The best and cheapest cat toy is a cardboard box. You can cut holes in it that the cat can paw through. They'll play and sleep in this box for hours. A paper bag can be used but I suggest you cut any handles so it doesn't entangle your cat. Never use plastic bags.

2. Cat nip. You can grow cat nip in your garden (I believe it's a member of the mint family). Cats love to eat and play with the leaves of fresh cut cat nip. All pet stores offer cat nip toys which can help enliven your cat's day. Cat nip has an analgesic affect on your cat (pain killing) so it can help them if they're suffering any pain or stress.

3. Cat beds are really great for cats to have their own place to sleep, groom themselves, and relax. Cats absolutely love having a perch or cat bed in front of a window.

Cat beds can be purchased at pet stores, or made by folding a towel, blanket, or old sweater and placing in a quiet area. Pet stores even sell perch beds that easily attach to the sash of your window.

4. Cats do enjoy TV and some cats will actually sit in front of the TV and watch, pawing the screen on occasion. There are even bird videos available that you can play on your VCR or DVD when you're not at home. But you can go even better by providing a window space with a perch. Cats watching out the window is the best kind of cat TV and it provides endless amounts of entertainment for them.

5. Switch it up - you'd think that rearranging furniture or their environment would scare or frighten your cats but I find it has the opposite affect. It creates something new and fresh out of the same old boring place and can re-engineer their excitement. Once I left a mattress on it's side in the hall for a few days (I was rearranging furniture). I left it a few days longer just to give them something to play on. They climbed on it and ran behind it and had lots of fun with it.

6. Close off one room or an area during the day. I discovered this by accident and it works wonders for the cats. I close off the basement all day long. During the day they only have access to the main floor. When I get home from work I open the basement door. It's like a fur pile to the basement. They play and run around down there for hours on end. It's like it's new for them every day and because it's "forbidden" during the day, it makes it more exciting for them. In some ways it's like getting to go outside.

7. Offer cat scratching equipment. I have the usual cat brushes and the cats will actually line up for their turn being brushed each night - it's funny to watch the kittens try to butt the line.

In winter, their skin gets so dry that they want extra brushing. I provide a bottle brush toy that I bought at a pet shop. They rub themselves on the bottle brush bristles and they and love it. I love that it's self-serve.

8. Free and cheap toys - paper balls thrown around make great light toys they can bat with their paws. String is good but DO NOT tie it to anything. I have seen a cat get a tied up string wrapped around it's neck and then it panicked - something I plan never to see again (I rescued the cat and it was fine). A really good toy are the soft covered hair elastics. They're cheap and cats love to carry them around in their mouths and bat around with their paws.

9. Cat scratchers - the cardboard cat scratchers that you can buy in pet stores are very popular. What is also very popular for cats to scratch is a tree stump or a piece of wood.

10. Kibble hunt - each night before bed I call out "TREATS" and they all come running. This is an absolute favourite. They know what Treats means. There's a good reason to have this habit. Sometimes you will need your cats to come to you and this is a very effective way to get your cats to come to you right away. I purchase Whiskas (which is really like junk food for cats) and I throw handfuls of it here and there around the room. The cats hunt around to find the pieces. By morning all the bits of food are completely gone.

11. Cat Grass - you can grow oats either purchased from the pet shop or bought at a grain store. This provides cats with a healthy greenery that they will especially enjoy during the winter season.

12. And finally, get your cat a cat. Two cats are much better than one, especially if you're busy. If you are your cat's only companion then he or she expects a lot from you and will be wanting all your attention. If your cat has a buddy, he has someone to keep him company when you're at work or too busy and someone to share life's events with.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bunny's First Hair Cut

Lexi was getting pretty fluffy. She is nine months old and her moulting time would soon be approaching. Her hair was growing quite long and so I watched her food intake and poops carefully to make sure she wasn't developing wool block.

Wool block is caused by too much fur in the tummy. The rabbit can feel full and then stop eating.
They can't throw up like a cat with a fur ball so you feed them well, giving them hay, etc., to help keep the system moving.
But Lexi had stopped pooping and wasn't eating so much. So I started fretting. I flurry of emails later with Shannon a
(God Bless that woman!) and I realized it was time for bunny's first hair cut.

If you visit the Farfelu web site, you'll see Lexi's mom Crystal a white French Angora and her father Cadbury a gray/brown Angora.

I used a pair of safety scissors and trimmed Lexi's fur. It was my first time too and I'm not sure which of us was more nervous--I think it was me! I brushed her when I was done and she gratefully hopped around the room.

I'm sorry to say that she did look groomed by a screaming amateur. She looked more like a fluffy stuffed Gund toy rabbit in need of a wash by the time I was done. Thankfully after she groomed herself her fur smoothed out more.

The day after the grooming, Lexi started acting really hyper. She'd run around the room and do a little hop kick-flip with her back feet, and then she started chewing on her hay and running around the room with hay in her mouth.

She looked like a dog with a bone it didn't want to let go of.

She even grabbed the cuff of my shirt and tugged on it and kept her teeth on it and shook it like a dog.

I thought she was mad at me for trimming off her beautiful hair. At least I thought that until later when I discovered she had pulled some of her hair on her tummy and was building a nest.

All I could think was BABY BUNNIES BABY BUNNIES!!! After another flurry of emails I learned that Lexi was feeling the spring weather and the call of nature.

By the next day she had relaxed and was her normal self.

Tonight I went into the rabbit room and found her ON TOP of the rabbit hutch. She had climbed onto the chair next to the hutch and from there climbed to the roof of the hutch.

This is one mischievous bunny! She's back safely in her cage now, eating carrots, and the chair has been moved away from the hutch.

The pile of hair is soooo soft, soooo fluffy.

It feels like what I think a cloud should feel like. Lexi must have gotten excited to have it removed because now she won't be so hot.

I'm looking forward to spinning this fibre into yarn. I've read that the first coat from a baby is better for felting, so I'll have to experiment with it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spinning: The Long Dog Days of Winter

Sammy was the first dog that was my very own. He was a Border Collie. When I moved out of my parents' home into my own place many years ago I bought him from a farmer just outside of London. He was a plump tubby butter ball of a puppy. And he was my very own dog.

Anyone that has owned Border Collies knows the saying, "On the seventh day, God created Border Collies."

Sammy was a wonderful, energetic and highly intelligent pet, my fur baby, my friend. He learned all the words related to the things that mattered to him. When we switched to spelling O-U-T, etc., the dog learned that too. Then we went to sign language and he learned that too. We gave up trying to outsmart him.

I discovered one day that he also was listening in to phone conversations to find out what was happening in the home. When I mentioned to someone that "Grandpa was coming over", the dog would go into a frenzy, rushing to the front door to wait for Grandpa.

He LOVED Grandpa who took him for walks along with his own dog Boots (picture - Sammy on the left and Boots on the right). Sammy quickly progressed to using the telephone. When Grandpa would call we'd put him on speaker phone and he'd tell Sammy himself that he was "Coming over". This would cause Sammy to bark like crazy into the telephone and then when we hung up he'd run to the door, wondering why Grandpa wasn't there instantaneously.

He was a great dog. He lived 16 1/2 years--a very long time for a dog.

Years ago I had read in the newspaper about sweaters knitted from a dog owner's fur combings. Intrigued, I started a bag saving Sammy's combings back when he was little. And I had saved his combings for most of those years.

He had long hair and he would shed like crazy in the spring so he contributed a lot. I knew that at some point I would have to ask someone to spin his fur. I was not a spinner yet, and would not be for many years but I saved his fur anyway.

This long and cold winter has truly been too cold for a dog to stay outside, let alone any other domestic animal. I keep myself busy indoors with my hobbies, spinning and knitting most lately.

On the weekend while ploughing through the back of the closet for something kniting related I came across the bag of Sammy's combings.

It looked the same as the day I combed it off him. I took it to the wheel and tried spinning it right away. The experience was very surreal. As I spun and felt his fibre slide through my fingers I remembered him, happy moments, ecstatic moments, extremely sad and unhappy moments. We had weathered through them together. He had remained a constant friend and I loved him very much.

I don't know what I will do with the fibre once spun. What I do know for sure is that I needed those moments to reconnect with Sammy, with our past together. I know he's in dog heaven right now and one day I'll cross that rainbow bridge and we'll meet again.

Read about the Rainbow Bridge:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

- Author unknown

Monday, February 9, 2009

Knitting: Confessions of a Blocking Virgin

I had a date on the weekend and I kept it. No procrastinating or getting out of it. I had made a commitment.

I first confessed that I was a blocking knits virgin. I took Dr. Phil's advice that I couldn't change what I didn't acknowledge.

So I confessed. Never mind my hiatus from knitting for over 10 years (that's another story). I had been an obsessive and passionate knitter for years and yet I had never blocked.

(Photos of the Eliott Bunny Vest in progress).

I'm particular about my knitting. I'm patient and I want it to be right. I don't fuss over it, and I've never ever cried over my mistakes--my theory on that is how can you cry over something that can be fixed???
I'd rip back row after row if necessary and in one case when I didn't want to rip back, I bought more wool and started again. But that piece didn't have an error. I just didn't like the colour combinations. That piece is now in use as a cat bed so nothing gets wasted.

Knitting is so forgiving. You CAN start again. You CAN fix it. It's not like a bad hair cut or fabric cut the wrong way. Now those are things that can be very challenging to fix.

I admit that I had gotten away without blocking. My garments always turned out the way they should and although (another confession) I'd never done a tension guage/swatch, all my knits fit me fine.

But now I'm making my own wool from rovings and I'm substituting other wools in patterns that appeal to me.
This has brought me face to face with the two things I had avoided to help resolve disasters - tension swatches and blocking.

I got out my Knitters' Companion book (LOVE that book by Vicki Square) and I looked up what to do.

I'd read about it before numerous times over the years but I always mentally glossed over the thought that I should actually do it myself.

You see, I'd gotten away without doing it. I did notice though that my knitted garments always hung and looked better after a wash. The washing seemed to settle the fabric - so I knew that blocking wasn't some extra task dreamed up to occupy more of my time.

(Pictured - Taos Chunky Vest in progress).

I used this puzzle like soft flooring material that I use to sit on when doing floor exercise (like that happens often--NOT!) I found it worked really well as a nice flat soft pin cusion.

I put my knits inside a wet towel and set the whole thing in water to get them nice and damp and then did the pinning out.

I will confess that I didn't get too busy with the tape measure. I focussed mostly on making sure the two sides were close to being the same... so I think my first forage into blocking was pretty light.

Now I'm thinking since I'm really out of the closet I should seriously consider a tension guage, especially since I had to reknit a garment twice because I was too lax about doing one.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dreaming and Counting Sheep

Have you ever thought about something so much that you just see it everywhere you go?

Currently I'm seeing sheep absolutely everywhere that they are not. I see them in the mosiac pattern of marble in the bathroom. I see them in the drifts of snow in the yard. I see them in the dirt marks on the floor. And I see them in the frozen ice on the window.

Tell me I'm crazy, or do you see it too? This sheep is special because it's even inside a pen.

I hope this is a sign. A good sign. I'd love to have sheep :)

Otherwise, just call me crazy.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Let it snow!!! Let is snow!!! Let it snow!!!! So we can knit!!!

If you live in the northern part of North America then you're already aware that Canada and some parts of the USA have had tons of snow. Even England had lots of snow.

This time of year I rely on the Weather Channel to keep me up to date on road conditions. I felt some relief when the weather man announced that we're finally in the time of longer days of sunshine. He reminded us of the warming effect of this extra sunshine.

The cats certainly understand this. A long afternoon of very bright sunshine through the window the room is much warmer and the cats all gather to bask in this sunshine. This same effect thankfully will melt the snow or ice off my car if I leave it in the sun.

My nephew Ben from Australia was here all last year. He was using the truck that I currently have. I discovered why the truck's washer fluid wouldn't come out. It was because someone had put just plain old water in the washer fluid tank. Now, no one raised in Canada would do that!!! My Dad was gracious and said that Ben probably bought washer fluid without antifreeze, but I had to add the comment that in Canada they don't sell the washer fluid without the antifreeze. Ben probably did what all Australians do. He grabbed the garden hose and topped up the tank when it was low. Imagine living in a part of the world that doesn't use antifreeze. How strange :) Now I'm trying to think how I'm going to get it to defrost......

At the same time that I keep thinking I'm so tired of winter, enough already I'm reminded that cold weather means wearing the woollies and that means knitting and making more and more woollies because it's so cold. I've got my drop spindle at the office and I've been spinning Margarite's angora fibre.
After all, it's very uncomfortable to knit with super warm fibres in the middle of summer! By then, all you want to deal with are silks, cottons or maybe (just maybe) acrylic.

The Ziraldo Alpaca Farms white roving from Miss Muppet the alpaca is spinning up like a dream. I'm loading my spindle with as much as I can fit. Right now it's one ply, but I'm hoping by week's end I'll have made it into a 2 play. After that I'll happily be knitting on the bus to work and during lunch.

Now for my knitting confession. I have never blocked a knit in my life. I do lay out my knitted garment once it's washed and put it into shape, but I've never done a proper blocking. But I guess you can call it a New Years Resolution or just that I've finally had a sincere knitting ah hah moment. I have decided I will join the ranks of people that block after knitting.

Unfortunately, at the moment that new decision is slowing me down. I have two garments on the go that both require blocking before I can finish them.... so they'll have to wait for the weekend when I can give this whole blocking thing the proper time it deserves (and probably a little Internet research so that I can be sure to do it properly).

Tigger curls up on the mostly completed Taos chunky vest (waiting blocking before finalizing). I'm not certain if he's lying there as a fashion statement because the colours look so good next to his fur or if it's because it's warm--probably both reasons.

This is a blue "Elliott Bunny Vest" from Stacy-Charles. I have a free pattern for this vest. If you want a copy emailed, just leave me a comment with your email and I'll send it to you (I couldn't find a link to it on their site).

I've substituted Rowan Plaid and Tufty yarns instead because I had them on hand and I've been looking for a project to put these two yarns together.

This garment too is awaiting an infamous blocking session with me this weekend.

The angora bunnies have really settled in and now are both housed in bigger cages. I couldn't stand the thought of them being in a small cage all day without much room to move--how incredibly boring. I do try my best to create some entertainment and excitement for them, along with a regular routine and periods of time out of the cage to hop around. I do similar tricks with the cats to help keep them from getting bored (I'll blog on this very soon sharing my tips and tricks for indoor cats).

The rabbits LOVE attention and being groomed and they quickly become jealous of each other if one is getting more attention than the other. I'm certain they can keep count of the time so they know when the other one is getting more attention.

I wonder if it'll snow tomorrow? Mostly likely. Yeah!!!! Knit--knit--knit.