Dove Knits

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No fun!

Do you ever get to a point when knitting is just no fun? I just have. I mean, I enjoy the process, and the finished product, but I can't stand deadlines. Hate them. Unfortunately, right now, everything is deadline knitting.

And I realize, when I knit like this rather than for pleasure, just how LITTLE I know about knitting. I mean, there is more than one cast on? What? Color knitting? How does that work? (I suck at Fair Isle, by the way. How much Fair Isle have you seen on here? Exactly.)

And when knitting like this, it begins to really, really bother me that I don't know everything. It makes me feel like I am just no good. And I'm by no means a great knitter, but I do ok, I think -- my sweaters haven't fallen apart yet, and the hats and scarves I've made keep people warm, and what else is there?

And it doesn't matter, here, how good I am -- just whether or not I enjoy it. And I do. I can be as bad at knitting as I want. I can knit garter stitch lopsided washcloths and nothing else for the rest of my life, and that's ok, as long as I enjoy it. Or I can learn everything there is, and become a great designer, and as long as I love it, that's fine too, but I never, ever HAVE to. (But oh, wouldn't I like to.)

But, of course, right now? I'm not really realizing just how little all this matters, because it's just not as fun as it used to be. Now, the fact that I can't design, or know the proper fix for everything, seems like an isurmountable obstacle, and a sign that I should never, ever pick up needles again. And that...well, that's just dumb. It just means that knitting won't get boring for me for a long time, because there's still so much to learn.

This happened with beading, and I actually dropped it. But with beading, there is quite a bit more pressure to design, and alot of pressure to SELL. I don't want to sell; I just want to do what I love. You know?

And then there is the fact that knitting is physically hard on me. For some reason, I scrunch my shoulders up so much when I knit that I give myself tension headaches. And those morph into rather severe migraines. Of course, that only happens when I knit for now!

I am getting things done, though. The pieces for the cream-colored cabled thingie from the last post are all done. A sock out of a pair is done, completed in one day (thank you, worsted-weight, ankle-length socks!) and another is cast on.

In happy news, though, I am an aunt -- again! My second niece was born yesterday, and mom and baby are doing well. Tomorrow, I'm flying home to see them.

Anyway, friends, have a happy Thanksgiving. I'm not sure I'll be on on Thursday to wish it to you then, so I'll wish it now!


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lather, rinse, repeat

For some reason, I'm just not getting much done lately. I think I'm a bit tired of knitting, see, because I have so many knitting deadlines right now. And what's the fun in deadlines?

Anyway, just wanted to post the things I have done:

First off, the Robin Hood hoodie is almost finished. I have to sew the pieces together, knit the hood, sew on the buttons, and weave in the ends. A few more evenings' worth of work here.

Secondly, I'm frantically knitting L's baby's sweater, because I may see her next week. It's the cabled sweater from Adorable Knits for Tots, and it would have gone alot faster had the author PROOFREAD the pattern. The cabling pattern instructions are completely messed up. I had to rip everything out and rework them several times. I'll have to post the corrections I made later. I'm also modifying the pattern so that it has buttons at the shoulder, to make it easier to put on.

Thirdly, the soaping:

The bar on the left is the newest batch of CP soap, made with ye olde standby oils: olive, coconut, and palm, with olive predominating. Having learned from my experience with the previous batch, which had too much lye despite my following someone's recipe, I ran this batch through a lye calculator first and used enough lye to give me a 5-7% superfat (5-7% depending on which calculator I used).

It, erm, was an interesting soap-making experience. First, everything went well, except I think I mixed while everything was still a bit too hot. It traced quickly, but not overly so. In a word, it was going well.

Then I added the essential oils (sweet orange, close, cinnamon leaf, and a touch of rosemary...I really wish I had a scratch'n'sniff blog so you could smell it! It's divine.), mixed them in, and dumped the soap in my mold. While smoothing it, though, I discovered that the soap had a layer of soap on top, and oozy orange filling in the middle. That's great for cookies, but not for soap. So I dumped it back into my mixing bowl and mixed the crap out of it with my hand blender. Then it got all thick and lumpy, like cold mashed potatoes. So I glopped it into the mold.

The next morning, it was still very soft and pliable, and had a thin film of oil on all exposed sides. It was also ugly, because rather than being poured into the mold, it was glopped, so it had all kinds of air pockets and creases. Now, about 4 days afterwards, it's hardening and is no longer oily since I wiped it down. It's still soft, but I think that's just because it's more highly superfatted than the other soaps I've made. On the bright side, it has no unreacted lye, and hadn't since day 1. I'm pretty sure that it will come out ok and just be a bit fatty. I'm intending this as shaving soap, though, so fatty is not too bad a thing.

And it smells SO GOOD.

Moving right along. The middle bar, the greenish one, is the result of my rebatching a failed CP batch, the one I posted a couple entries ago, with peppermint and tea tree. Anyway, it had lots of unreacted lye, because I blindly followed a recipe rather than calculating. Thankfully, Twig suggested that I can rebatch it, if I want, adding more oil to superfat it. So even though I hadn't had much luck with rebatching (I exploded a Pyrex cup, remember?), I decided to give it a shot. I calculated how much oil I would need (1.5 oz olive oil), grated the soap, and added the oil and about 3 oz of water (to almost 2 lb of soap). I mixed in the oil and water, which was juuuuust enough to dampen the soap shavings. I covered the bowl up with foil and let it sit until the next day.

The following day, I preheated my oven to 200F and put the covered bowl of soap in. I checked it every 30 minutes or so. For an hour, nothing at all happened. Then, some of the shavings started turning deep brown and translucent, like caramelized onions. I upped the heat to 225F. An hour after that, almost all the shavings had melted. They weren't watery or liquidy, just brown and translucent, and the consistency of store-bought frosting. A few shavings never melted, but I just stirred them in with the rest of the glop and gave the soap about 15 more minutes. Then I glopped it into my mold (a cardboard box lined with a grocery bag). It immediately formed a skin as it cooled, and it really doesn't look too pretty because it has creases and stuff on the top, but I banged the air pockets out of it.

Also, because the soap originally had crushed mint in it, it turned a dirty green while cooking. I added just a few drops of peppermint EO and a few of lemon, but that was it. This morning, the bars are definitely solid, though still a bit pliable. They look ugly, but smell nice, and no longer zap me with lye -- yay!

I really need to figure out how to make my soap pretty. For now, I'll cut off the uneven, ugly sirfaces.

Finally, there are two soap balls from my previous rebatching attempt. I added alot of water, so they're just now hardening. But it looks like they may work out.

Also, I remember someone told me once that s/he adds EOs to soaps by stacking soap between layers of mueslin wetted with some of the EOs, and stores them that way for a few weeks in an airtight container. I'm trying to add EOs to my soap by saturating a paper towel with EOs and stacking my first, unescented but very very nice batch of soap, on those. We'll see.

Oh, I also made more lipbalm, beccause it's the easiest thing to make, ever. I made it in tubes this time, and it's just chocolate scented from cocoa butter, like last time. I also made another batch in tubs, with alot less beeswax to make it more spreadable, and added raspberry flavor oil to it -- yum.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fish lips!

Knitting is stressing me out. I planned too many knitted gifts! Really, I should just go and make lip balm and be done with it. Voila -- 15 minutes gives gifts to 8 people!

In terms of what I have planned:
now that I've finished the fish for L's baby, I still need to make him/her a Trellis, and finish the hoodie for J's baby. Although maybe I won't, since they already have toys. I also need to make L warm socks, which will take two evenings.

I also decided I wanted to make socks for my husband's parents and grandparents. Now, these are all Thuja-type worsted-yarn ankle socks, so they won't take much time. Plus I can knit them in the car on the way home for Christmas.

Then there's my dad's vest. That's the biggie. I really would like it done for Christmas so that he can wear it during the winter, but I can give it to him for his birthday (late March), as well. He lives in Atlanta, so it won't be cold enough for a wool vest there, then, but the building he works in is pretty cold. And he can always save it for a colder day, I guess. I did get him an alternate present, just in case :)

Since my mom loves knitted toys, I wanted to make her a big Santa from Jean Greenhowe's Christmas special, and another ornament to go with the one I already made. Those will take time, but I won't see my parents till after Christmas, so I have a few extra days.

I also decided, in my brilliance, to make an Anthropologie-inspired shrug for a kid I used to babysit (she's now 14, and would love it, I think). But if it doesn't happen, frankly, it doesn't happen.

There's something else I'm forgetting.

Anyway, the fish is from McTague's Knitted Toys, and the directions to knit it were awful, but we managed :) Simply Soft, of course.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Dove Makes Soap

You know how marijuana is a "gateway" drug? It, relatively innocuous on its own, leads you to bad, scary drugs, like heroin and cocaine.

Well, it all started with beading, for me. Pretty, shiny, harmless-looking beads. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I battled my beading addiction for three years, and finally won...because I got addicted to knitting. Y'all can see how well that's been going.

Now, I found a concurrent addiction. To making soap. Rather than cocaine, give me cocoa butter. Forget heroin -- I want hemp oil.

Sunday night somehow became soap-making nights. The Husband is off grocery shopping (did I tell you he's the one that grocery shops in our house?), or working on his stuff for the coming week. I'm running laundry, thinking about lunches, and making up soap.

Y'all remember the successful batch of soap a few weeks back. The following week, I made this nice peppermint and tea-tree oil soap. It had coconut and palm oil, in addition to the olive, and has flecks of dried, crushed mint and poppyseeds.
It hasn't fully cured yet (as was evidenced by the lye burn I got on my tongue when I tried to test for unreacted lye -- yep, still unreacted), so I don't know how it lathers. I've been using my other soap (the creamy bars at the right of the picture), and it works beautifully. Nice, hard, lathery bars. Yum.

Things were not quite so good for trying to rebatch soap. First, I blew up a Pyrex cup by adding cold water to it while it was heating on the stove. For a scientist, I sure pull dumb stunts sometimes. So that batch of soap, rebatched from the creamy first batch I'm singing praises for, has shards of glass -- wonderfully exfoliant.

The second batch went better in that it didn't explode, but it's been a week and the soap has not hardened. I can still poke it. Although it's getting harder by the day, so I have hope. It's so nicely scented -- rosemary, with real cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, as well as cornmeal for extra scrubby-ness.

Last night, though, I felt like doing something different. Lye soap isn't difficult, but clean-up and worrying about lye in the house gets old. a miserable failure thus far! So instead, I decided to play with the shea butter I ordered from Whole Sale Supplies. So I made whipped shea butter, which is alot of fun! (I used this recipe.) Besides the shea, I used coconut butter (giving it a rich chocolate smell), soybean oil, and grape seed oil. I put in a pinch of citric acid as a preservative, and added a few drops of sweet orange and clove essential oils, so it smells like delicious eggnog. It's very rich and greasy, and great for chapped winter hands (although I'd never use it as an all-over body lotion).

I also made lip balm! And it turned out PERFECT. I followed this recipe, using soybean oil as my "other" oil. I grated in a bit of baker's chocolate, to give it that nice color and extra chocolatey scent, and a drop of honey for sweetness. It's perfect, I tell you. Light and non-sticky, but very mild and effective. My lips haven't felt this good since...probably never! I can't usually use store-bought lip balms, because they're either too drying or too irritating, but this stuff...yes. It's great. Although since it's in a pot and not a tube, I can do with less wax next time.

I made four pots of the balm (one for myself), and 2.5 of the shea butter. The two tubs of shea are going to my two expecting momma friends, and they're getting some lip balm, too. I'll probably make more balm for gifts.

Speaking of, I finished the turtle for J's baby. Now all I need to finish for her family is the baby's sweater! The turtle is from Fiona McTague's Knitted Toys. My friend L's babe is getting a fish from the same book.

And on an unrelated note: on Saturday, The Husband and I had a lovely outing to the aquarium and the planetarium. We haven't had a day to ourselves in forever, and it was wonderful. And I have to say...I love my city (and, of course, my husband!).