Well. 2012. It’s over. It was a whirlwind.  At some points it seemed like it would never end and at others the time was just flying by. You’ve seen our new addition. He’s 11 months old today and almost walking. I can’t believe I’m a mother. It still doesn’t seem real.

I’m trying to decide if I want to continue a blog. Seems like people are going off blogs in the knitting world now that Ravelry is around. I am doing a lot of neat stuff outside of knitting but the idea of spending a lot of time editing photos really doesn’t appeal.

I’ll be starting back to work as a PostDoc in a month, so I need to figure this all out. I’ll leave you with some random photos from my last few months.

Here’s a shot from a family photoshoot we did in last September. Little B was so sick that day. He wasn’t himself.


This is the best photo of D and me that I have seen in ages.Image

Little B has discovered snow.


He waves at fish.


OK, the new wordpress photo adding tool is much easier. Maybe I’ll post more soon.

Plying Yarn

I know. I’ve been gone for 8 months and I start with a title like that. I was asked to show how I plyed some laceweight yarn into thicker yarn so it got me off my butt to post.

I have a cone of Colourmart laceweight cashmere and I wanted to play it into a thicker yarn to knit a hat for my sister’s baby-to-be.  I did math and decided I needed to ply 9 strands together.  I asked for advice on Ravelry and got somewhere, then I did what I always do – I looked around and figured out what I had in my house that I could use RIGHT THEN to ply yarn (at 9:30 at night on a Friday).

So here’s what I did.

First I weighed off balls of laceweight to be about the length I needed (note I forgot to account for the fact that twisted yarn is not straight, so I needed more than 200m of laceweight to end up with 200m of plyed yarn!).  This was easy with my lee valley scale, which is apparently no longer available. This scale is known as the drug balance in our house because it measures to a tenth of a gram with batteries you can buy at the dollar store. I know there are more accurate balances out there, but this works!

There is a thing called a lazy kate. From what I can see, it hold spindles of yarn and lets them spin freely.  Who needs a lazy kate when you have a ball winder, some boxboard from a case of pop and a niddy noddy in a toy basket?

I wound balls of the laceweight, inserted cores made of coiled pieces of boxboard and put three balls of laceweight on the niddy noddy rod. I could have used any rod, The niddy noddy was handy.  I made sure all 3 strands were coming off the ball in the same direction, so if the cores contacted each other there would be less friction. Decide if you are an over or under toilet paper person and use the same convention.  D added the toy basket because he got tired of holding the niddy noddy and wanted to go to bed. It is a convenient way to hold the niddy noddy off the floor so the balls can spin freely. (An aside, I keep typing niddle noddy. What is a niddle?).


Now I had three strands of yarn coming off freely. Someone on Rav suggested using the shaker top from a spice bottle to keep the strands from tangling. Off to the kitchen. Who sprinkles cumin? I’ll sacrifice that shaker top to the cause. I had to hold it in the air, so I found a stiff piece of L shaped cardboard in the basement and cut a notch in it and then used a binder clip to hold it in place. Our heavy atlas held the piece of cardboard in place off the end of the coffee table. I threaded the three strands of laceweight through three holes of the spice lid. Check.


Next is the twisting. I don’t have a spinning wheel (yet – we are in discussions about using an old wheelset of D’s to make one). Nor do I have a spindle. I do however have several drills in the house. I quickly rejected the single speed, high RPM model. No finesse in there. I used the battery powered one that can be slow or fast.

I used a pencil in the chuck, then taped the ends of the three strands of laceweight to the pencil near the chuck. I then made sure that the drill would twist the yarn in the opposite direction of the twist in the laceweight.  This is important according to the ‘net, so I did it. I then walked across the room, pulling the yarn off the balls and through the spice holder while twisting the yarn by pointing the drill/pencil back at the spice lid. When I decided I’d twisted enough, I turned the drill so the yarn would wind onto the pencil and walked back to the spice lid. I then put a half hitch at the end of the pencil so I wouldn’t unwind the yarn I’d just put on the pencil and walked across the room again. I repeated this until I’d spun all the yarn onto the pencil. I then wound it into a ball on the ball winder from the pencil.


Repeating this winding process two more times gave me three balls of three ply yarn. I then plyed the 3 three-ply balls into one nine-ply ball. For this twisting, I had to reverse the direction of the twist on the drill. Again, the ‘net said this was important and I don’t want to go against the ‘net.

I ended up with a lovely skein of 9 ply cashmere yarn. Unfortunately It is WAY too thick to make the hat. My calculations were off. I did have a fever all weekend and I blame that.

Would I do this again? Yes, for small amounts of yarn. The drill got heavy, getting the twist consistent was an issue, and the cats really liked having yarn twirling all over the room.  I’m happy I figured this out and I feel like I’m getting some of my mojo back.

February 2012

February 2012 blew past me. I finished a contract on Friday the 3rd. Had a busy weekend. Monday the 6th I ran errands.  Then I took my last pregnant picture.  I’m somewhere in my 39th week of pregnancy here.


I was in labour at this point. What you can’t see in the picture is that I had my ipod touch in my right hand timing contractions.  This was about 8:30 PM. 12 hours later, a little boy joined our family.


Bennett was 8 lbs, 4oz at birth. When I have time, I’ll write out the story of his birth, but suffice to say we’re all well, healthy, happy, and tired.

Where does the time go?

I thought I had posted since November! I guess not. Time is flying by.

The basement reno is nearly done. D just has the last few pieces of trim to put up. The furniture is moved in and we’re in that state of deciding what goes where and how to work things out.  The office used to be on the main floor so it was easy to drop off a piece of paper in a file, but now it’s downstairs and the files haven’t been unpacked yet. Maybe I should get to that. Once we have the stuff sorted out, I’ll post pictures.  We also have a baby room now. All we need is a baby!

The belly is growing and getting in the way. I’m just over 37 weeks, due in just over 2 weeks and I’m starting to get clumsy and bumpy. I run into people with my belly all the time!  It’s almost dangerous for me to be cooking.  Here’s a picture of me from christmas. The tree is crooked, so am I, and the camera does not like the colour of my dress.  This was a month ago – you can imagine how much bigger I am now.

I’ve taken a part time contracting  job at the university where I did my Ph.D. that started on January 2nd. It’s taking a lot of time, but is using my brain more. I hope I can finish the project before baby comes, but I also want some time off as I’m completely drained at this point.  I can’t say anything more about the job (confidentiality agreements are in place), but it’s really interesting and useful.

OK, off to get more pictures of knitted stuff to post.


eta: I found a picture of my belly as of 36W.

Getting there. Wasn’t feeling all that hot that day…



OK, it’s been another month. A busy month, but a whole month. I had good intentions of posting more often but life happened.

I opened my etsy store – SPALC Designs.  So far I’ve posted a few scarves and hats that I made on my knitting machine. I hope to get up some baby hats soon.  The hardest part of putting up a store was getting good pictures of the product, not actually making the stuff. I didn’t expect that.

Basement renovations are ongoing. We’re up to drywall. Hopefully that will be done in the next 2 weeks. Then paint, floor, ceiling, trim…. Christmas???? I hope.

Baby preparations are coming along. I’m accumulating some stuff. We have a car seat, some clothes and a crib in the house and a stroller on the way. Baby is also growing inside.

24 weeks – Thanksgiving weekend.



24 weeks – about to burst out of my bibs. If we get out again, I bet I’ll be in D’s shorts.




26 weeks – dirty window and allAnd it’s all belly – from the back at 24 weeks.

OK, back to baking.

The Dinner Plan

I had a few comments from people that they liked reading my meal plans back when I was working. I’m a little more fluid with the plan now that I’m at home, but I still try to shop once in a week and make things last.

Last week I shopped on Friday. I had a list, but it included such inspiring options as “meat” and “veggies”. Luckily the store and market came through.

I found a lovely sirloin steak on sale for 30% off the $8 tag. It was great grilled on Friday night with cauliflower from the market doused in cheese sauce. Probably not the most healthy meal, but baby wanted it!

The leftover steak became fajitas on Saturday. The store I’ve recently started shopping at sells corn tortillas in a bag of 30 for $1.69. That’s way less than flour tortillas and they taste so much yummier. They do need heating, but I don’t mind. Fajitas are a fallback in our house. We always have sour cream, tomatoes, salsa and red pepper in the fridge and, worst case,  we can thaw a chicken breast and make fajitas with some fajita seasoning that we keep in stock in the cupboard.

That was Saturday dinner. Sunday was supposed to be a pork loin roast, but we got in late from visiting friends (and playing bridge, but that makes us sound 70 instead of in our 30’s!) so we changed up the plan and made blackened tilapia with corn and tomato salsa from a Cooking Light cookbook we have on the shelf.  It was fast and easy – make up a spice mix, rub into fish fillets (was supposed to be catfish, but we have tilapia), fry in a pan.  The salsa was as easy – fry corn and tomatoes in garlic oil, then add some green onions, thyme and wine vinegar. Rice on the side, good dinner.

Tonight was the roast pork loin. The store had half loins on sale for cheap, so I got one and cut it up into roasts and chops. One roast into the fridge, the others into the freezer. A sprinkle of Fines Herbs my mom made a few years back and into the over for 80 minutes. First 10 at 450, then down to 250 until an internal temperature of 165.  I no longer roast without a thermometer. This has saved me so much money in not overcooking meat.  Sides were mashed potatoes and braised cabbage with bacon, apples and balsamic vinegar from Jamie Oliver. The cabbage is really yummy, but it takes way longer than the recipe says and I always forget that. This time I wrote right in the book to remind me next time!

Later this week we have addictive sweet potato burritos planned and perhaps Alton Brown’s chicken piccata (I bought lemons, everything else is already in the house).  That should get us through till Wednesday when I will shop again. I have to get snacks for Thursday because I’m working for 13.5 hours straight as a poll clerk in the provincial election. Apparently, no really meals get eaten, but lots of snacks do so I need to stock up.

Muffins have been off the plan for sheer laziness. Maybe now that I’m getting my energy back I’ll do some again soon.

Once again, it’s a post without pictures. Maybe next time? We’re behind on the belly shots.


We Dyed

That’s a “Y” dyed, not an “I” died.

For the third time, my knitting gang descended on my house and we dyed yarn. This year we purchased undyed yarn from a more local company called Acme Fibres.  The yarn was lovely. I did have to wash it before my friends came to get rid of the spinning oils which was a bit of fun as we had 18 skeins of yarn total, but we had 7 types of yarn total.  Keeping them separate, untangled, and knowing which skein was which proved a challenge, but in the end, we all ended up with what we wanted.

Once again, we sed the jacqurad acid dyes from Knitpicks. We have a setup of squirt bottles, a steamer, tongs, spray bottle of vinegar, plastic wrap and lots of plastic gloves. All of this other stuff besides the dyes was purchases at a thrift store (roasting pan for steaming) or dollar store (everything else). I think we’re going to upgrade the squirt bottles next time as the dollar store ones started leaking and that’s really frustrating.

I dyed two skeins. One was the Bamberino Superwash sock. For it I used an extra squirt bottle and diluted a few colours. At first it was a pastel clown barf, but then I overdyed it all with diluted silver grey and the end result is lovely.

The second skein was a thank you to D for letting us take over the house with dyes and yarn. This will be socks for him. It’s the Cashmerino superwash sock. So soft after washing. Again, lots of grey and black with a hit of red and green.

The past week has been a writeoff. There’s a back to school cold going around and I’ve been on the couch since I caught it on Tuesday. I had no idea my body could use so many tissues. Garbage pails full. Boxes empty. I moved on to the lotion ones because my poor nose was raw.  Hopefully I’ll get better soon, but the combo of smaller lungs from baby taking up my torso and inability to breath from the cold has me on the disabled list.

Speaking of baby, we’re taking donations for orthodontics. Both D and I had braces growing up and according to our latest ultrasound baby is a thumbsucker. We opted out of knowing the sex so you (and we!) will have to wait.

(psst. if you don’t like ultrasound pictures, go somewhere else now!)





20 weeks down, 20 ish to go!


I’m back

It’s been a while. Where was I. Oh yes, Chilton Pullover knit-a-long.  That’s not going so well. I had to back out. I have no idea what size I’ll be by next summer. I’m already up a few sizes…

Apparently it’s not just food, it’s a baby.  Due early February, we will not find out the sex and we’re excited yet shocked in a good way – is this really happening?

Knitting wise it’s been an OK summer. I finished a Rock Island Shawl and it’s gorgeous. I used a small part of a skein of Auntie Boo Laceweight (I have nieces and nephews that call me Auntie Boo, so it’s weird to have that be the name of Claire’s company!).  The colourway is Clockwork Orange and it’s GORGEOUS yarn. Not solid, but not too variegated.

The colour is more accurate in the first picture. Must go back and tweak the second photo to get the colour right.

I also did some SISC (Self Imposed Sock Club) knitting, but the socks turned into armwarmers. They just wouldn’t go over my ankle and I’d been knitting for so long!  I need pictures for them and a few other projects.

What else. Been to France, been camping, been cottaging, avoiding storms at cottages and camping… a typical summer.

We have been biking, but the midwife allows only 1 hour of exercise at a stretch – 15 minutes warm up, 30 minutes at 140 bpm max then 15 minute cool down.  Not the 2-3 hours averaging 175 to 185 bpm that I’m used to. We’ve found a few short flat loops for me, then D does some rides on his own or bikes home while I drive over the hills. The interesting thing is that these short slow rides are really improving his fitness. He’s noticed a big change in his harder rides from the slow rides. We’ve been reading that low heartrate training really helps for years, but it was really hard to do. This was a hard lesson to learn, but we’ve learned it. Definately a slow and steady wins the race kind of thing.

I have no kitten pictures, but I might have to start referring to them as cats now – they are 5 after all. They both seemed to know I was pregnant before I did. Fred has become uber-snuggly and Ginger is fascinated with my belly. I can’t wait for the day my belly punches her back!  Fred has let us try swaddling him in blankets we were given. He’s so mellow!


The Chiton Pullover KAL

When I saw Knitscene’s winter 2011 issue, I really liked the cover sweater. It doesn’t really scream “WINTER IN CANADA!”, but summer maybe!  Then I read about the suggested yarn – a cotton alpaca blend. That’s not a happy blend for my wrists.  That stopped me in my tracks.

A few months later, I was at the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto and one of my knitting group friend (H) mentioned that she has never knit a sweater and liked the same sweater. It actually took us a while to figure out that it was the same sweater as we were pronouncing the name (Chiton) in very different ways. We all read it with an l in the middle, when in fact it doesn’t have an l at all.

H doesn’t have wrist problems and we found the suggested yarn at the frolic for a good price. She bought that and I bought 2 skeins of Viola Merino Fingering in the Sea Storm colourway.
AS H has never knit a sweater before, I told her we could do this as a knit-a-long (KAL) and I realised this is a good chance to show what I do when I knit a sweater and to have other suggest ways I can improving my knitting.

First I wound balls of my skeins.

Next was gauge swatches. For a sweater, I always knit a gauge swatch AND WASH IT!

These are two gauge swatches, knit on US5 and US6 of my Denise interchangeable needle set. Sorry W, no metric on here.

I measured them before washing – US 5 was 26 st to 4″ and 17 rows to 2″ and the US 6 was 25″ to 4″ and 17 rows to 2″.  After washing the US 5 was 24.5 st to 4″ and 19 rows to 2″ and the US6 was 23.5 st to 4″ and 18 rows to 4″.  That slight change in gauge doesn’t look like much, but that means the fabric GREW when it was washed – so if I knit the sweater to fit, the first time I washed it it would grow – for each 24 inches around, it would grow an inch – that is enough to really change the fit of the garment. Also, now I know that if the pattern asks me to knit for 2″ I should knit 18 rows instead of the 17 rows that the unblocked gauge gives.

I hope that makes sense.

The gauge swatch not only ensures I get the gauge the pattern wants after washing, but that I like the fabric that I’m knitting. Initially I thought the US6 was too loose – it was like netting, but after it was washed it filled in and had a really nice hand. The sweater needs a drapey fabric and the US5 fabric was too stiff. It would be great for something cabled as the cables would really pop, but the US6 is much better for this pattern.

Now, I get to start the many many inches of garter belt. Well, I’m going to wait for H to catch up and do her gauge swatches. I have 3 other projects on the go (well, more like 4, but one is on timeout!).

More cottage pictures

I swear, I only write blog posts after cottage trips.

This post is because I’m really proud of some pictures I took.

As I mentioned previously, I bought D a new DSLR camera for his birthday. I haven’t played with it much yet, but I did get some good pictures!

These are D and my aunt AJ at the cottage. We’d gone up to help AJ open up, then we got to relax. The cottage has no electricity, so we read by the windows until we need to get the lamps out.

Thanks to D and AJ for continuing on with their reading and conversation while I futzed around with the camera!