on the needles

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chicks and Socks

The third egg finally hatched today! I've had a look at all three babies and they look great. Minerva and Godric are being great parents. Feeding the babies and keeping them warm.

I got so excited about the baby finches today that I entered all of the birdie milestones into my calendar so that I'd know ahead of time what to expect & when. The next step in this process is banding the babies. Sometime around next Friday I will have to take the chicks out of the nest and slip id bands onto their legs. One band is my National Finch and Softbill Society membership band. It has my identification/membership number, the year and a number which will indicate how many finches were born in my flock that year. So I will be using numbers 1 - 3. :) The bands must be slipped onto the legs before the bones harden so it is crucial to get it done within the correct time period or it will be too late. The band never comes off after the leg bones have hardened. I'm putting this band on the bird's right leg.

On the left leg I will put another band that will just be a solid color. This is mostly for personal record keeping and tracking bloodline within a flock. I will probably use yellow bands for these chicks because that will be an easy way for me to tell at a glance that these are Godric's babies. He is my only yellow boy.

I'm a bit nervous about handling the chicks. When you consider that they are only about the size of a cap from a toothpaste tube, and the bands are teeny tiny - you can see why! I will try to get a picture of the babies soon.

In knitting news - I have gone sock crazy. Probably because I recently went a bit wild on Ebay and got about fifteen skeins of sock yarn. Now - I really, really need to make some socks!! Plus - it's finally hot out here so socks is about what I can stand to knit. The portability is really key during the summer too. Today I actually knit outside for awhile while the kids ran under the sprinkler with some of the neighborhood kids. So far I have finished one sock and cast on for it's mate. To prevent boredom I also cast on for another sock in a totally different colorway. I plan to keep this system going - knitting on alternate socks. I know alot of other bloggers do this also - supposedly keeps SSS away. :) I think the main thing that sparked this sock revolution is the realization that I like simple socks - plain old 2x2 ribbing. I have cast on and ripped out at least five "fancy" socks. I just didn't enjoy knitting them. I'll save that kind of detail and concentration for my lace knitting. As for socks - it's all about the process, the busy hands, the endlessly changing color and the different steps that go into the construction. Maybe someday I'll want to get fancy - but for now I'm happy with my plain old socks.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

We have babies!!!

As of right now - two of the eggs have successfully hatched. I only got a quick look at the babies because I didn't want to disturb the parents too much but they look good so far. The other egg will probably hatch later today as well so I will check again in the morning when I hope to also see that the parents have been feeding the babies. Cross your fingers for full crops!

The bad news is that there doesn't seem to be any further activity in the other nest. But Sirius is doing his studly dance to Rowena quite often so I think if I can get the Society Finches into another cage and free up the second nest they will probably hop right in and use it.

Hope everyone else is having a happy weekend too!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Aww shucks!

You guys are making me blush!

Thanks for all the sweet comments about the shawl and even sweeter ones about the model. :) It's nice to have a little confidence boost because I had a tough time the day before yesterday. You see, I finally cleared out my closet and got rid of the clothes that no longer fit me. For "doesn't fit" read "too small". Yep, I finally faced up to the fact that I'm never going to fit into those clothes again. I had easily managed to get back to my original size after baby number one but after baby number two...well, things are just not in the same place anymore! It's not just a matter of losing weight either. (Although I could stand to shave off some pounds!) No - I'm talking about structural changes. These baby bearing hips are just never going to be a size six again - no matter how much weight I lose. And I thought that breast feeding was supposed to make the old chest smaller - nope, opposite reaction for me. :( So it was nice to get some encouraging compliments about my appearance.

But I do have some exciting eggs news: we have nest number two in progress!! Today when I did my daily flock maintenance I noticed Rowena inside the other nestbox with Sirius on the outside perch as if he was guarding her. I was really excited about this because up until now the Gouldians hadn't shown any interest in the second nest. In fact, all four Society Finches cram themselves in there every night to sleep - so I pretty much thought that the Gouldians wouldn't be able to use the nest even if they wanted to.

But on Sunday I tried something new. I replaced the pre-fab nest (like the one Minerva and Godric are using) with some loose sisal I had bought. I thought that it would provide the birds with some fun nest building activities and might possibly get the other Gouldians at least thinking about using the second nestbox. It must have worked!

Of course I had to get a peek in there so I hung up some spray millet to tempt Rowena out and as soon as she left I lifted up the lid and - bingo! - one little egg!!! I'm really excited about this because Rowena and Sirius are an established pair. They have parented before so I have great hopes for their success. I just have to keep the Society Finches out of there now and that might mean putting them all into their own cage. Gouldians lay somewhere between 4 - 7 eggs at the rate of one per day. They begin to sit on the nest usually after the fourth egg is laid. So I have a few days to figure out what to do. If there is another egg tomorrow then I know this isn't a fluke and that Rowena and Sirius want to use that nest. I can hardly wait!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Shadow Shawl

Ta Da!

I finished it on Sunday - ends all woven in and everything - although I haven't trimmed them yet because I haven't blocked the shawl yet. I'm not sure the shawl really needs blocking. I think the only thing blocking would do is make the picots stand out a bit more. But illusion knitting sometimes flattens out a bit too much when blocked - so I'm thinking I probably won't block the shawl at all.

The action shot:

The colors don't show up well in these photos at all. The light was waning outside but I was excited to get some pictures taken so I grabbed hubby and we gave it a try. I will take some better ones later. But you get the general idea from these - just add richer color in your imagination. :)

The Stats:

The Pattern: Shadow Shawl by Maureen Mason-Jamieson

The Yarn: 4 and a half skeins of Silky Wool #08 and almost 5 skeins of Koigu P301

The Needles; Addi Turbo Circs size 7

Time to knit: About two weeks.

What I learned: How to picot! I'd never done it before and it was a bit scary at first. But I'm a picotin' pro now. The decorative chain stitch edging was a first as well. It looks really good - I'm definitely using this effect again!

The knot patrol found two knots - in one skein each of the Silky Wool and the Koigu. The knots were in the first two skeins I wound up. I was like - "Oh COME ON!" because I've used tons of Silky Wool without finding one knot and didn't expect to find one in a skein of Koigu either. Fortunately, the beginning wasn't a pre-view of how the whole project was going to turn out!

I thought the pattern was a little confusing as I read through it but not as I was knitting it. Does that make sense? The beginning of the shawl was very fiddly. I had to rip out and start again three times to get it going to my satisfaction. I think it was because there is just so much going on in such a small space! But after the shawl was started it was smooth sailing. It is very easy to "read" the knitting as you go along so you don't need to consult the pattern after a little while.

In eggy news:

I tried twice over the last week to get a look at the eggs in the evening so that I could candle them again. But neither Godric or Minerva would budge off the nest to let me have a look. It was so cute! I have access to their nest through the top of the nesting box. I opened up the lid and they just looked at me. I even gave them a gentle nudge but nothin doin'. I guess they are too used to me to be frightened off of their precious eggs.

Finally Sunday was cage cleaning day. I do all the daily maintenance over the week but the weekly total overhaul usually happens on the weekend days. It takes me at least half an hour to scrub down everything and replace it. So it's a fairly major upset for the birds. Usually they are pretty calm through cleaning day but ever since the eggs arrived everyone has been a bit more jumpy. And it only takes one nervous birdie to get the whole flock riled up. I decided to take advantage of the situation and candle the eggs - even though it was daylight and I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to see. So I got out my little flashlight and - wow! - three of the eggs were bright pink! No doubt about it - they are live ones. I took the rest of the eggs out and into the bathroom so I could double check them in the dark. Sadly it was clear that none of those were developing into babies. :( So now the parents-to-be are sitting on their three live eggs quite happily. It may work to their advantage to have a small clutch of babies for their first parenting experience. At least I hope so! I'm still living in fear of the dreaded chick tossing.

This coming Friday should be hatching day - so keep your fingers crossed! I think hatching and the first few days after are the hardest on chicks and parents. Some finch wisdom says that Gouldians are terrible parents and others dismiss that as nonsense. I guess we will see. I'm glad the whole process doesn't take too long because the anticipation would kill me! :)

Shadow Shawl - Done!

I finished the Shadow Shawl yesterday! Hooray!

I'll have photos as soon as I get a chance to get them up and an egg update as well.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Still knitting on the Shadow Shawl but I've got no pictures for you since it has been gloomy and overcast for most of the last few days. My colorway just won't show up well without some nice natural light.

So instead we have an egg update:

Godric and Minerva sitting on the eggs together. I was right! They did choose each other which is what I had hoped for. Supposedly they will have a good chance of having lots of yellow backed babies. Some people try to force birds to pair up based on their genetics and what kinds of babies they want. I'm taking the approach that nature works best and that the couple that chooses each other will be happier and better parents.

And the eggs:

There were nine in there but I took one out after taking this photo. It was clearly not a live egg. At this point in the whole cycle you can candle the eggs to see if they are viable. Candling means to shine a bright light through the egg so you can see what is inside. I have a special flashlight that allows me to do this without touching the eggs or distubing the nest. A live egg at this point shines pink due to the network of veins inside. There are two eggs which are for sure pink, two more which look like they could be and the rest probably are duds. I'm pretty sure the duds are the four eggs the Society Finches laid prior to the nest being taken over by the Gouldians. The Society eggs didn't get sat on in time so they aren't going to turn into babies. You can see two of the duds in the photo on each side of the middle row - see how they have a yellow cast? But I'm going to give it a few more days before I remove any of the suspected duds - just to be totally sure.

I'm so excited! In less than two weeks they should start hatching. Then I will have to worry about the parents - will they feed the babies? Will they toss any of the chicks out of the nest? Supposedly Gouldians do this fairly regularly. :( I so do not want that to happen!!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Shawl, Still No Fair Isle, & More Eggs

Well on the kniting front all is well. I have about 8 rows left until I get to the midpoint of the shawl and then - hooray - decreasing begins. I've already planned out another shawl with a different color pattern - and unlike what happened when I knit the Clapotis - I'm keeping one for myself this time!

STILL no word from Virtual Yarns. At this point, forget them, I'm ordering from someone else. Either that or I will have to convince the Tudor Roses KAL that I can knit some other fair Isle pattern and still qualify for the KAL as long as I think about the Tudors the whole time I'm knitting. Believe me - it's possible. :) Sometimes I only appear to be existing in the real world while in my head I am pondering history, a world away... :)

We have 8 eggs now. I'm convinced that the Society Finches laid four of them and then abandoned the nest to move into cushy new digs when I put in the other nestbox (you should see it at night, all four of them pile in, with their little heads peeping out at you, so sweet) and then the Gouldians - possibly Minerva - have laid the other four. I think this because of who I see hanging around the nest and because there was a pause of a few days between laying the first four and the second set. I'm also pretty sure that at least two of the first eggs are duds. I candled them and they don't look right. I'm going to give it another three days or so before I remove them because if it is the Gouldians laying then they should be finished by then and have started sitting on the eggs to hatch them - they usually lay 4 - 7 eggs in a clutch and don't start brooding until all the eggs have been laid. There's no point in having them sit on bad eggs that won't hatch so I will have to toss any that are bad. :(

Monday, May 08, 2006

Shawl Knitting, Fair Isle and Eggs

No progress pictures in this post - sorry, no time lately for taking any. But at this rate I will be done with the Shadow Shawl by the end of the week anyway, so I may never take any progress pictures. This is a FAST knit folks. Despite the super fiddly start which I had to rip and restart three times - after that it's all been a breeze. The shawl is knit from end to end and I think I will get to the midpoint tonight! After that it's all downhill as the stitch count starts to reduce. I've only been knitting on this for three days. Fast, fast. fast!

I love the way it's looking so far and I already started thinking of other color combinations which would look good. That's a fair sign that I am enjoying this knit. I think my prior experience with illusion knitting has helped - it's always easier when you can visualize what is going on as you are working. But this is my first picot experience (wow! I never imaginged it was so easy - why did I avoid picots for so long?) and the first time I have done a chainstitched edge this way. I like the look of that so much I'm totally going to try to use it in a future shawl. How is everyone else getting along? I know there are acouple of other people knittig this shawl right now.

I joined the Tudor Roses KAL (see sidebar for link) and I think I would like to knit the Catherine Parr sweater. Problem is I emailed a few questions to Virtual Yarns several days ago and haven't heard back yet. So I am starting to question buying the kit from them. I try to keep an open mind but I have heard so many negative things about She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (but it rhymes with Palace Farmore), I'm starting to wonder if the lack of customer service is just another symptom of a larger problem. :( Anyhow, I will probably give it a few more days and then go to one of the other sources.

My frustration with getting a response from Virtual Yarns is probably what led me to buy this:

Well, the 15% off sale didn't hurt either. ;) It's called Luckenbooth Broach and is by Ron Schweitzer. I love the colors, shaping and overall pattern on this one. It is listed as being for the experienced knitter because the pattern repeats are so large. Sometimes I wonder if I'm plum crazy and this is one of them. The only colorwork I have ever done is a small headband for Princess Ariel. I guess I have faith I will be able to do the more advanced stuff. I hope so, because I have bunches of great fair isle kits waiting to be knit!

In other news, the finches have five eggs now. They laid four and then left them for several days. I was about to give up on them when another egg appeared today. So now we are back to wait and see mode. I'm thinking they don't like the nest set up that they have now so I've ordered them some sisal to make things more cozy in their little boxes. Godric especially looks frustrated that he has a ready made nest. He really wants to do some building I can tell.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yeah Baby, Yeah!

It's an Austen Powers scarf, baby! Isn't slip stich knitting groovy? Isn't it all retro and fab? Doesn't this scarf make you feel randy? Do you feel all tingly in your naughty bits? Well that's just the Austen Powers mojo, baby, all knitted up into this crazy funkadelic scarf. Yeah baby!


I know I'm supposed to be knitting the Shadow Shawl but sometimes you've just got to follow your mojo. But I will probably start the shawl soon because I am going to run out of yarn for the scarf and my new yarn won't arrive for at least two weeks.

Harry Potter Scarf

And Harry Potter, the scarf.

Here it is, finally fringed:

The Stats:

The Pattern: Harry Potter scarf in Gryffindor colors from Knit Atypically

The Yarn: Reynolds Utopia 187 (Maroon) & 176 (Maize), can't remember how much I needed but it was more than the pattern suggested

The Needles: Addi Turbo circs size 5

What I Learned: Fringing takes forever but for some reason I don't mind doing it. I added one fringe per end more than what the pattern suggested. It just worked out looking best that way on my scarf. This scarf was ginormous! It took forever to knit and my hands started to hate going around and around on size 5 needles but this was great vacation knitting (I did this on Christmas vacation) because it required no concentration and left my mind free to chat with my family while my hands kept right on knitting.

I occasionally look at this scarf & think I would like to knit another, possibly the Azkaban pattern but then I remember how long it took and my courage fails me. I think I will modify the pattern to child size and make a couple for the kiddos but the friggin huge adult size will have to wait!

In other Harry Potter news - Nimbus and Myrtle have four eggs! I will try to get a photo. I don't know if they eggs are hatchable or not and they haven't started brooding them yet so it looks like they plan to lay a few more. Godric has plans for the other nestbox and I think Minerva is his lady of choice so all is well in the little birdie kingdom. :)

Skull Illusion Scarf

I finally took some photos, so now it's time for some FO's!

The Skull Illusion Scarf, all finished except for the fringe:

The Stats:

The Pattern: from Ysolda.me.uk

The Yarn: exactly one skein each of Brown Sheep Nature Spun in "Pepper" #601W and "Snow" #740

The Needles: because the pattern is only something like 30 stitches I decided to knit this one on something called "straight needles". Have you heard of these? They don't have a flexible cable between them! Weird, huh? ;) Seriously, it has been so long since I have knit on anything except my Addit Turbo circs - it was a totally different experience knitting this on Crystal Palace Bamboo needles size 6.

What I learned: I love Crystal Palace Bamboo needles but I was surprised at how much the change of needles affected the tension in my knitting. I found that my knitting was even looser than before! I did the Alien Illusion Scarf on size 7's and thought that for the Skulls I should go down yet another needle size in order to get a slightly tighter fabric. But I think that the change of needle type may have defeated this experiment. :(

Skulls hiding.

The action shot.

Illusion knitting = super easy and fun. There will definately be more in my future. In fact I'm supposed to be casting on for the Shadow Shawl today but we will see if that actually happens...