8) Sourdough Sunday

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I was given a wee bit of Carl's sourdough starter at New Year's.  It's been sitting patiently in the fridge ever since, maintained but unused, until a discussion on Ravelry inspired me to get it out and build up the volume to use

My first loaf was made thusly:

  • 1.5 cups of rather wet starter;
  • 0.25 cups water;
  • 2.5 cups of white bread flour;
  • 1.5 tsp sugar;
  •  a scant 1.5 tsp salt.

I shoved the lot in the bread maker and switched to the dough cycle.  I left it in the bucket to prove, and it doubled in about 10 hours.  I knocked it back and put it into a colander containing a cotton cloth, well dusted with spelt flour, where it stayed overnight.

Preheated the oven and a pizza stone to somewhere over 200 deg.C (the thermostat is bust), and turned out the loaf onto the stone, where it promptly deflated.  I slashed the top, and baked it in our thermally random oven for about 40 mins, after which time it was somewhat re-risen, and had the classic 'sounds hollow' thing going on.

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The crust is chewy and crunchy, the crumb springy and just a touch on the moist side.  It's delicious, and a big slice was exactly what I wanted for breakfast.  Will definitely do again.

7) What I’ve been up to

I've been unspeakably busy this month.  Work has been intense, which I was expecting, and which was, quite frankly, good.  I like my work with a bit of urgency.

In addition, every evening, every weekend of the year has been overwhelmed with prep for Textiles in Focus.  Winding, scouring, dyeing, washing, rewinding yarn.  And roving.

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Bluefaced Leicester roving,  chocolate cherry

Planning stall layouts, and ordering display helpers (eeek!  Expensive!)


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Bunnylace (wool and angora), bramble vine

Inventing colourways, and calculating the dye mixes.

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Bluefaced Leicester roving,  peachy

Swearing because *something* has run out and now I need to mix up (or worse, buy) some more.

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Flow (wool/silk laceweight),  meadow

On the other hand, I think things are starting to come together nicely.

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Wensleydale roving, florentine 

(These photos were all taken *quickly* last night, to see how J's photo setup deals with yarny things.  Pretty awesomely, I'd say!  Thanks, babe!)

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Bunnylace (wool and angora), dusk

6) Sunshine on a rainy day!

I heard a few days ago that Steph at Six Skeins Under had nominated me for the 'sunshine award', for bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blogging world.  Thank you so much, Steph, it definitely brought sunshine into a long, grey working week!

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To accept this award, I must:

  • Put the logo on my blog or within a post (check);
  • Pass the award onto 12 bloggers (see below);
  • Link the nominees within your post (also see below);
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog (will do!);
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award!  (Steph! Thanks!)

So.  Twelve is quite a big number.  Let's see…

  • First, we have to honour Toni.  Anyone who can commit to a year of no processed foods, or to finishing 100 projects in a year is a *lot* of fun.  This is a woman who is on her third year of 'cold sheeping' (no new yarn), and still can't get the yarn closet door closed.  And let's not forget cat hydrotherapy, or dehydrating bacon.  In short, it doesn't matter whether you choose her 'everyday' blog (linked above) or her knitting one, inspiration and hilarity are sure to be the results.
  • Secondly, Mary at Knitting on the Cam.  Mary is one of the relatively few bloggers that I have the privilege to know in 'real' life.  Sometimes, it seems that just about everyone in American knit-blogging circles knows each other, but the UK just isn't like that.  I love Mary's joyful approach to colour, life and the universe, and though it isn't the same as seeing her every Friday for lunch and a beer or two, I always look forwards to her blog posts.
  • Speaking of folks I know in real life, there's Sarah at Carpe Diem!  I think I am in danger of becoming a Sarah-stalker, but I love spending time at her blog, and in her company.  Her enthusiasm is both legendary and infectious, for spinning, knitting (lace!) and life in general.  I don't think I know anyone who can talk to her without coming away uplifted.
  • Tien.  I'm not sure there's much more I can say here: the woman is weaving, designing and sewing her own wedding dress, complete with coat.  By 'designing', I include the fabric design.  Yes.
  • Leigh!  Not just fantastic fibre-works, but her five-acre dream.  One day, I too will have a dream that big.  With chickens.  And goats.
  • Sustainability/self sufficiency are increasing concerns for me of late.  So, it's no surprise that as well as Leigh's blog, I love Geodyne's blog on the same subject.  Of course, she's also a spinner and weaver (and a nascent knitter, too).
  • Monty leads the kind of life I would like to live if I lived in London.  She is so busy, so involved with the whole knitting/making scene, it makes me just a little bit jealous.  Not to mention her glorious designs!
  • And Dawn…  What can I say except… productivity!  I rest my case.
  • Janet, I'm afraid, hasn't been around for a while (she's very busy).  But I love her posts, especially the scarf-a-day blog!

Well, that brings me to bedtime – and thirteen blogs.  Which might be cheating, because a few folks there have more than one.  But it's bedtime, and I haven't finished my wine yet.  I might have to finish sending out the emails tomorrow.

The Yarnscape Blog!

Hi! And welcome to Yarnscape!

This is me, just starting out with making my hand-dyed yarns and fibres available to the public. And hand-carded batts, too. I love playing with colour almost as much as I love playing with fibre, and though I can spin faster than I can knit, I can dye even faster than I can spin! So I’m looking forwards to sharing my overabundant creativity with the rest of the world, and hopefully spreading a little joy as I go.

To start with, I will be trading on Etsy and Folksy, though I hope to have my own shop set up here in the near future. There’s nothing to buy yet, because I find taking good photographs to be the hardest part of the whole business (the one of the ‘chocolate cherries’ roving up there is courtesy of my lovely and long-suffering other half), but I hope that there will be listings up soon!

I will be introducing my yarns over the next few weeks, and listing as I go. Please come back often to find out more about my products, or even better, follow me here or on twitter, or subscribe to my rss feed!

Oh, and comments are always, always welcome. Please, come and talk to me!


5) New energy

It's glorious weather here in Cambridge today.

I had to go out at lunchtime, to post a letter, run a few errands, so I was glad to see the sun shining after the frost and fog of early morning.  I wrapped up, and set out.

After five minutes, I took my gloves off.  Two minutes later, my scarf was being carried.  After a total of about 12 minutes, I took my coat off.

The air is cold, but soft and fresh, rather than harsh and bitter.  The warmth of the sun is very obvious.  It's a turning day; a day of new energies, and the promise of spring.  It's not that winter is over yet, but you can feel the shift, the certainty that the cold is heading away from us again.  And as I was walking down King's Hedges Road, and back up through the
Science Park, I could smell wet earth and creosote.  Smells of a new
year, and new growth.

4) Winter warmers

My last project of 2009, making a late appearance on the blog:

Flaming mitts, using Anne's lovely zig-zag mitts pattern, and some yarn I bought almost two years ago now; the dye job is by Knitting on the Green, and I picked two skeins up at Textiles in Focus, 2008!

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This was a lovely, quick project.  I started and finished whilst I was visiting my family over Christmas, and I wasn't even there for a week!  Given the distractions of presents, sledging and eating which go along with the seasonal visits, that's a pretty quick project.

When I bought the yarn, I was on a mission, assigned by the life coach I was seeing at the time, to go out and play.  Pick up stuff that appealed to me, without over-thinking it, and just have fun with colour.  I bought lots of little odds and ends that trip, some of which are still turning up in my famously-messy studio, even now.  I always intended for these skeins to become fingerless gloves; it's just taken me about 20 months to get round to it!

The pattern was always going to be somewhat obscured by the high-contrast nature of the yarn colours, but I wanted something with a bit of texture and depth (for improved fit and extra warmth), so I decided I wasn't going to worry about that too much, and just go for it, already.

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Indeed, they are squishy, warm and comfortable.  If I was going to make a criticism, it's that the yarn isn't very compatible with the velcro at the cuff of my winter coat!  Or that the weather recently has been demanding gloves *with* fingers, rather than without – neither of which are very reasonable complaints, if I'm being honest.

My other winter warmers are these beauties:

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Aren't they gorgeous??  They are a Christmas pressie from the wonderful Scarlet, and are made from recycled sweaters!  They are felted and embellished with lace and vintage buttons.  They make me feel so glamorous and elegant, with the plush fabric and the rich, wine-y colour.  In fact, they've had almost no wear!  My life recently has been one long round of dyeing, dog-walking and snow-shovelling, and I can't bring myself to risk them on any of those activities (although felted fabric is probably more velcro-resistant than unfelted!)

I am *assured* that Scarlet will be making her recycled and other treasures available to the general public at some point this year, so you may be able to snag a similar pair for yourself.

3) Zzzz…

It's the end of my first week back at work, and I am so, so tired!  I feel like I could sleep the whole weekend away, but that wouldn't be any fun, now, would it??

Speaking of sleeping, these guys are the experts:

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And very versatile, too, it seems.  They can sleep with noses covered:

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Or uncovered:

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Curled up tight:

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Or… not:

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Woody has even mastered the very tricky tongue-out technique:

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(though the flash has been known to wake him up):

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As well as tail-over-the-nose:

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And even, amazingly, hind-paw-over-the-nose (yess, well done Woody, but why??):

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Gravity holds no fears for these brave hounds:

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And, indeed, can help contribute to a free-draining position for those with sinus difficulties:

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Though sometimes it is nice to prop your head up for a while:

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Pillows are generally approved of in the house:

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Blankets will do, if nothing els
e is available:

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but most hounds will always head for the biggest, softest pile of squishness they can find:

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It's safe to say, though, that everyone's favourite pillow is human-shaped!

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…and so, with this snooze-themed post, we come to the end of my self-imposed alphabet challenge.  And I'm glad.

It's taken me two months, one week to work my way through, averaging one post every 2.5 days.  That's better than my 2009-year-average of one post every 3.45 days, but most of the extra posts were in November.  Once I gave up trying to finish it in a month, it made things harder instead of easier, and I stalled.  It's going to be nice just to be able to post what's on my mind again, without having to fit it around the next letter…

2) Year-goals vs. month-goals

I wanted the 'Y' of my alphabet challenge to be Yarnscape.  I am itching to get a website put together and a proper launch made, but really (in keeping with my resolution of keeping up with existing obligations), I need to realise that this isn't going to happen this week, or probably next week, and just blog already.

I mentioned earlier that I don't want to set many year-long goals for 2010.  Long term plans tend to set me up for failure, especially if they are the detailed, hard-and-fast kind.  Unexpected inspiration pops up all the time, leading to wandering little byway-projects and occasionally whole new hobbies; my focus drifts from one area to another, but usually in circles.  Following my inspiration is an important part of the way I work and learn, and I don't want to stifle that.

I do, however, need to rein in my expectations occasionally.  So I'm going to set a few goals, at or near the beginning of every month, a la Dawn.  She sets, I think, seven goals per month, and has to be one of the most productive knitters I know!

Anyway, January is slipping past us already, and I haven't set any goals for this month yet.  So, this month I hope to:

  1. Spend at least 15 minutes per day working towards my Yarnscape obligations;
  2. Finish my Moor sweater;
  3. Start fixing Dad's Christmas sweater from 2007.  The body needs to be longer and narrower, and the sleeves need to be made longer, too.  Basically, the shape is too boxy for the heavy, stiff fabric;
  4. Make significant progress on the maze scarf (I'd like to finish this one in February);
  5. Finish spinning the shetland roving from the SweetGeorgia club (looks like I haven't blogged this at all yet.  ooops!);
  6. Plan my veg garden for the year;
  7. Start making sourdough on a regular basis!

Let's see how we manage, eh?

1) X-over

Let's admit it: I stalled on 'X'.  I have strenuously avoided 'Xmas' because I hate the Xpression.  So I'm stuck with the X-over between the new year and the old, which is, if anything, even lamer.

From last year's first post, I see that I felt over-burdened with yarn and fabric, and rather guilt-ridden about all the stuff I had, but was not really taking advantage of.  I made the following resolutions:

  • Knit daily – no, but probably close
  • Blog three times per week – no; I averaged twice, with 105 posts in the year, not 156.
  • Spin weeklyI don't think so, but I spun more last year than the year before
  • Learn 1 weaving technique per month – definitely not!
  • Sew more.  Some.  At all. – no…
  • Detash some – yes!
  • Practise recorders – no…
  • Grow food for J and I (the dogs will eat pretty much anything out of the garden; that's not a challenge). – yes!
  • Increase my flexibility, strength and cardio fitness – maybe a bit.
  • Decrease my weight, hopefully to pre-shingles levels – yes! Though there has been a slight relapse over hte festive season…
  • Learn to sing – no…
  • Spend more quality time with J and the hounds – yes!
  • Follow my inspiration – no…
  • Allow time to breathe. – no…

There's a lot of 'no' on that list, but actually, I'm happy with it.  This year, I want to:

  • Appreciate what I have;
  • Release what I don't need;
  • Keep up with the obligations I have taken on;
  • Be more aware of what I am achieving.

That's a rather looser list than last year, definitely, but I think I will try and set a concrete goal in each area for each month.  I'm also going to number my posts again this year, just because it's fun.

January's list:
This month, I am going to:

  • Make a project list for the year.  This has worked awesomely for me in the past, even if I don't stick to it, and it would be fun to appreciate the stash I have rather than wishing for more.
  • Destash more fabric and yarn.  There's always more that I don't need.
  • Work hard.  There is a big deadline at the end of the month, and I need to concentrate on it to ensure I hit it, rather than allowing it to hit me.  I also need to dye/blend more yarn and fibre in preparation for TIF.
  • Try and put together a project round-up for last year.  Both my Ravelry and Weavolution records are sadly out of date, and I'm not sure even I can remember what I've been doing in recent months.

More on the X-theme…
I had an Xcellent festive season with my Xceptional family.  I think this was the first time in almost a decade that both my brothers were able to get to my parents' house on Christmas Eve and stay well past boXing Day.  I think it's safe to say that there are few families who will go sledging -twice!- when the youngest member is 30 and the eldest more than twice that:

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The best – and fastest – of the family sledges are at least 15 years old, and technically broken.  Large cracks have been mended with various kinds of tape, but we've found no replacements to beat them, so they stay.

My Dad had the most spectacular wipe-out.  I managed to catch this shot with light visible between the sledge and the ground, and between the sledge and Dad.  No light is visible between Dad and the ground, though his feet are *definitely* well above his head:

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Andy was specialising in coming down face-first, with a sh – err, snow-eating grin, which you can't really see.  Steering was by means of his toes:

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Mum was perfecting a no-hands technique:

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Whilst Stu was holding on tight and giggling like a loon:

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Me?  I'm behind the camera.  There is no evidence of my waterproof yellow fisherman's waders.  Though, I will say, I am happy to wear them with no shame at all.  I like winter clothing which pretty much does away with the need for the sledge – wearing these, you keep going, even if you come off…

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