Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So Much, Sew Much, Sow Much... To Do!

I'm not sure how this happens, and it seems counter-intuitive to me, but the more work I do in our yard and garden, the more work there is to be done... The first summer we lived here, all we did was mow the yard. Now, only a few years later, it seems every time I turn around, there's more added to my "to-do list," and fewer hours "to-do" it.

Thanks to a lovely gift from a dear friend, we were heaped up with flower bulbs - I spent days and days planting bulbs before the weather got too warm. Hopefully I'll see some shoots this year, even if the blooms don't happen until next spring. What a wonderful explosion of color that will be - we have tulips, daffodils, glads, crocuses, and several other flowers, all in a huge variety of colors, planted all over our property.

Thanks to a lovely gift from the Arbor Day Foundation, I also found myself the owner to ten baby trees this spring. By baby trees, I mean, little twigs with some hairy roots on them. They came in my mailbox, and I guess we'll see how they do! I don't know anything about them yet, except that I have two purple, one blue, two white... You get the idea.
Garden season is upon me, and I'm trying to get an earlier start than I did last year. I've planted a bunch of seeds over the past two weeks, and right now I have broccoli, tomato, and eggplant seedlings growing big and strong in my studio/grow room.

The garden, of course, has to be expanded this year. In addition to all the veggies I grew last year, I'm adding some melons, eggplant, and who knows what else. I've decided everything needs a little more elbow room. And to continue with the garden improvements, I'm removing all the red rock I put in as paths last year. This red rock (sort of like lava rock, but not as fancy) has been the bane of my existence since we moved into this lovely little house. I detest it, but also didn't want to throw it away, so I've been moving it around and around, trying to find a use for it. Now, I've found a great place to move it - MIL's house! Along with buckets and buckets of red rock, she's also taken several other things off my hands - a few red hot poker plants (which I also detest), and a fair amount of the flower bulbs I couldn't find any room for!

In addition to all the outdoor work I've been doing recently, I decided yesterday that we desperately need house plants, so I went out today to the Big Greenhouse at the local nursing home and picked up some great plants - a devil's backbone, a foxtail fern, and a dragon tree. If I can succeed in keeping them alive, they will be a great addition to the house.

I've been at the knitting needles quite a bit lately as well. I finished a great pair of sock/stockings for St. Patrick's Day, though I don't have a great picture of them yet.

Also, I made a second (so much more successful) attempt at Skew Socks. I spun the yarn for this project - my very first handspun socks. I know they don't match -at all- but I don't really care. Fraternal twins deserve just as much love.

I've been at the sewing machine at least a few times a week lately, though I'm sad to report I have no new pictures to post quite yet. I'm working on a few new projects - some gifts for friends, and a really big project I'm quite excited about. But more on that later. For now, it's back outside I go - there's far too many chores to be done to sit at the computer one second longer!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Success and Disappointment...

Are both a learning experience, I've found. Often, when I'm exercising my crafting muscle, I run into problems I didn't anticipate. Recently, I decided to make a wall plaque for a friend's young daughter as a birthday gift - this child is extremely creative, and her parents haven't dampened it a bit, which I admire. She is always trying out new mediums (she colored on paper with chalk for an hour one day) and cutting and pasting paper together. I found materials that match her bedroom decor, and started sewing several hours before the party. What I didn't anticipate, however, was the amount of time it would take me to embroider... I was literally putting the finishing touches on the plaque moments before walking out the door. But what a success - it turned out beautifully, and may have reenforced the lesson (which I've learned numerous times) not to wait until the last minute to get a great, crafty gift idea. But it seems my creative mind works best under pressure.

My next crafty lesson this week was this - never trust a dye job you didn't do yourself. I've had this great little sock yarn in my stash for a while now - a friend who stopped knitting gave it to me. I haven't worked it into socks yet because the dye pattern features very short color repeats, which nearly always results in "pooling" of the colors on my sock - a yarn trick I detest. But I found a pattern I wanted to try, and decided to use this yarn as the guinea pig.
The pattern is a neat construction that features knitting on the bias (the stitches move diagonally across the knitted plane, not horizontally), and the heel is "oragamied" together in a neat little swirl.
It took me less than a week to knit these cute little socks, and less than two minutes to have them ruined! Of course, I didn't take any pictures of the socks before I washed them (I always wash my newly finished knits - to get out any oils and dirt, and to shape them). I plunged them into the bathroom sink, and they immediately turned the water to mud...
What we have here, folks, is a failure (on the yarn dyers part) to exhaust the dyes. Black dyes, and other dark colors, tend to leave excess color on your fiber, which must be washed out thoroughly or it will bleed into the lighter parts of the yarn. Many people experience this with dark colored clothes, or the whole "red sock in the white laundry" dilemma. But for me, it came in the form of destroying a week's worth of knitting in two seconds. Of course, when I showed the socks to POSSLQ, he admired them and didn't seem to notice the dull, darkened colors of my previously bright socks. Bless that man, he is good to me. But here's some pictures of the unused portion of yarn, and the mucky socks for comparison.

A little lift to my spirits this weekend (especially after the sock disaster) was eating dinner with POSSLQ at my brand new dining room table! Here's the dining room, all ready for table...

And here's the dining room all full of new dining table!!! Thanks, Leigh Ann!