Archive for July, 2008

in the pink

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

this is a new variety of tomato for us, earnie’s plump. really, doesn’t it look more like it should be named earnie’s gut??

i’ve been buried in blocking and paperwork the last couple of days (trying to get the two lacewing patterns completed for the test knitters; poor nan has yarn and no pattern yet, but it’s coming nan!), so actual knitting time has been sporadic at best.

and secret projects are beginning again—i spent about three hours last night swatching for one, and looking longingly at my shawl once in a while . . .
these new secret projects are smaller though, so hopefully won’t garner all my time.

still, i knit a few shawl rows anyway (i am only a few more away from beginning the insect band), and finalized the shape, size and details of the lacewing bug for the insertion above the hem.

it took about nine tries to get it to this point (and then get it charted correctly) but i like it a lot now and the size is in proportion with the rest of the shawl. when i did the swatches i thought i would like a smaller version better, but as the real shawl grows, i see we need the original, larger size. i’m psyched to get it onto the shawl now, and tonight is the night, come hell or high water (oops, better be careful what i say about weather . . .).

i also put in a little quality time the other night with the pink kite socks (here’s one for ya: is a pink kite like a red balloon? just wondering what your take on it is . . . and how about that great sweater the kid has, eh? it is, hands down, my favorite film ever i think).

anyhow, here they are—moving along at a nice brisk pace.

i just love it when inches and inches of sock comes off the needles in the space of practically no time . . . don’t you? totally addictive pattern, totally great TV knitting; i don’t even have to look at anything while working it. i need this in my life right now. thank you david (and—how does he know these things?).

my spinning however, moves along much more slowly. i did not spin ten minutes a day, not even during tour de fleece. i did not meet either goal i set for the tour weeks. i spin on sundays though, and i plan to continue. i’m on my second batch of the merino alpaca top, and must be happy with progress at a slower pace. but progress is something, anyway . . . better than two months ago.

now tomorrow there are two new online ventures with grand openings, so make a note to visit and take a peek (you might see something you like!)

first of all, our friend heather is opening a wonderful online shop, shivaya naturals, where she will sell her naturally dyed fibers (they’re gorgeous!).

click on her name there to go to her blog, or the shop name to do a little drooling—the list of fibers she’s going to carry is astounding. as an added bonus, heather is offering a 10% discount to you if you make a purchase on august 1st or 2nd; simply use the discount code “Shivaya” at checkout.

and as if that weren’t enough, tomorrow is the big, splashy opening day for twist collective—be there or be square.

it promises to be visually terrific, with lots of favorite designers represented—even me.
for now you can still click the link above to play with the interactive teaser page . . .

back to the shawl for a minute . . . i have been working on the rectangle stole version and thought about how many of you liked the name melanzana when i jokingly mentioned it the other day. i really do love my eggplant flowers and leaves

the shapes of which i can totally see in the shawl motifs
then there is the generous fruiting of the plants

we have so many kinds—besides the usual long, dark purple, we have variegated ones

and some cream ones in a different shape

(and i don’t even know what the bangladeshi long ones will look like yet).

i thought i’d celebrate by giving the stole that name. actually, i was thinking of foglio di melanzana (eggplant leaf) or fiore di melanzana (eggplant flower). too long? do we like it better as simply melanzana? what do you think? maybe theresa can even offer a suggestion that rolls off the tongue better?

ok, enough babbling . . i have to get my patterns in shape; nan is waiting (ever so patiently and excitedly, but waiting, still).

disappearing days

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

these are one of david’s favorite flowers; we have bunches of them.

whoa. this week is already disappearing on me. i can’t believe two days have passed since i posted; it feels like hours. i’ve sorta got a million things happening at once: patterns finalizing, patterns in progress, a blocking queue (blocking queue?? yup; three shawls all need blocking at once and darn it i can’t show you any of ‘em . . . yet . . ), works in progress, and of course the garden needs much attention right now.

today is my lovely niece susan’s birthday—she turned 13 today and will start high school in a few weeks. i just got off the phone with her and she’s very excited about her drawing and other activities. she’s SUCH a lovely person . . so warm and nice, so intelligent, and so great to talk with, and really good with her brothers and sisters, too (she is the second in a family of seven children, to put that in perspective). we are exceptionally lucky to have her in our family. and, she knits; what more could you want in a niece? we wish her the best and brightest birthday today!

so let’s see . . . what’s going on with projects?

i am barreling along on the shawl—it is so fun to knit that i’m afraid i have been giving most of my knitting hours to it, instead of spreading that time around as i normally might.

the stitch pattern is a bit unusual in that half of the vertical repeat has purl rest rows, and half has lace knitting on both sides. and that creates this interesting shift in the side-to-side “pull” of the stitches where it becomes a bit more active. it’s very very cool to work and watch it unfold. i thought that possibly this was just the geeky me responding to it, but jocelyn started her test knit the other day and she has become equally smitten with it. she claims she can’t put it down. and that’s a good sign i think.

the other project that gets quite a bit of air time is the scarf i’m knitting from briar rose grace

sharon suggested calling the scarf “tudor grace” and i instantly knew that name hit the right note, yay. oh this yarn is lovely too; i know i’ve talked about it before, but the more i knit with it, the more i love it. chris has added some skeins of grace to her site; you can find them here.

it has so many beautiful color transitions, sigh. it’s squishy and strong—no snagging or pilling or limpness. mmm. i’m about halfway through the scarf—i’ve just been working on it in class and in waiting room situations but it feels like it’s knitting itself.

i also finally got a new sock started; feels like a long time since i did a sock, even though i know it hasn’t really been. so, kites it is—i think this pattern works up great in catherine’s yarn and colorway . . .

very, very summery. it’ll also look like ribbons blowing around and around the leg once i get a little further along. this is another great bamboo merino blend yarn—a little more high-twist (but not too), but silky and strong at the same time. it’s knitting into a lovely fabric. i can’t wait to see this sock against david’s skin.

one of the things keeping me really busy the last few days is keeping up with what’s coming in from the garden. we are eating well alright these days, but it takes time to make that happen (and totally worth it). the other day i had these

and a drawer full of eggplant, squash and peppers

so i roasted the peppers, eggplant and tomatoes with olive oil and garlic, and sautéed some onions with the squash, then put it all together with handfuls of fresh basil and oregano to make this

ratatouille from the garden, david’s favorite. a dish like that takes some time but it can be done in stages of a few minutes her and a few there if need be. while i was preparing that i also put up some more greens for the freezer

and a large bag of green beans brought over from a neighbors garden.
some of our fresh meals are not so complicated at all

now this one is easy and it has all the food groups, so it’s not a compromise at all. and sometimes we go for medium difficulty

a quick stir-fry of asian greens in brown sauce, and a fillet of cod smothered in fresh tomatoes and garlic, then broiled, with rice. and it has the added bonus of looking like a flag.

we try to keep it easy and still get good nutrition. it’s worth the trouble too; we rarely get sick, if at all. i’ve been known to go for years without even a cold.

remember the gorgeous yarn that became alhambra? well lisa milliman, the dyer (AKA dicentra designs) has been busy with her color alchemy again and came up with a whole new array of colorways for her rich, buttery alpaca laceweight (it gleams when it catches the sun, it does)

do you know how many of these i love??
she sells her yarn in her etsy shop (where you can also contact her) and through crown mountain farms here, she will also be at the oregon flock and fiber show in september i think, where she will have plenty of these if you so desire.

ok, now i’m going to show you something that could be perceived as totally indulgent, if it wasn’t such a good investment. you know i am a total book ho, right? particularly when it comes to knitting books. but you may have noticed that i have not been buying books willy-nilly this year. for one thing i have been pretty busy, so i haven’t had time to look at them much. and for another, i have been saving instead so i can make a big book purchase all at once, because i had a wishlist that was sticking.

and last week, i finally found everything i wanted in one shop, so i took the plunge and made an order

i have coveted and desired these japanese stitch dictionaries for several years, but each time i got serious about ordering them i thought that i should instead divert the monies elsewhere (believe me, when you own an old home there is always an elsewhere . . .).

so a couple of weeks ago i was scrolling through some sites looking at them again, and talking myself out of it again since i never see them all in one place. then i went to marsha white’s needle arts bookshop, and there they ALL were.

well. the devil on one shoulder tossed the gauntlet down in front of the angel on the other shoulder and said, “what’s your excuse going to be now??” and the angel didn’t have one.
in fact the angel was feeling quite devilish indeed that day and quickly filled her cart with every wishlist item. she then took her birthday, christmas, and other windfall money and blew the whole wad on the accumulated books. and it felt so good.

of course i will pore over the stitch books obsessively, getting to know them over time, but i also found a book i did not actually have on my list, but had seen and coveted on lene’s blog before it was available in translation.

this is a wonderful exploration of knitting history; just the kind of thing i can get lost in. annemor sundbø is one of my favorite knitting historians, and her book, setesdal sweaters is another favorite read, so i snatched this one up.

i feel greedy alright but totally satisfied too. there are a few times when i spend a considerable sum on something fiber related and have no qualms or guilt at all about it. for instance, when i purchased my schacht wheel (used) i felt a twinge of nervousness at spending the money (we were pretty broke that year) but once i had it in my house i never gave the money another thought. it is a perfect thing in so many ways; a great value for the amount i spent on it. in fact this is true of all my wheels . . . i am very satisfied with what i got for the money in each one, to the point where the money is beside the point (and believe me, in our life, money is never beside the point; we have to save for things we want, and pass on other expenses to do it).

anyway, back to marsha and her shop—you should totally consider buying your books from her, and at the very least, you should look through her shop if you are seeking something unusual or special. marsha has a first-class shop full of books you can’t get just anywhere. and her shipping rates to the US are completely reasonable; it’s definitely worth comparing with other booksellers. and she is just a wonderful retailer with an avid interest in the best knitting books. period.

and, when my order came, it had this beautiful poem included

how can you not love someone who loves knitting and needlework this much?

favorite rows

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

last evening when i finally settled in to knit after a day of working outside and preparing food, i listened to the rain while getting into my knitting zone, and thought about favorite rows. it started because i was on one of my favorite rows of the flower and fern motif i’m knitting at the moment

i always try to leave off my knitting just after a favorite row if possible (either that or a purl rest row), so that when i come back to it i can settle in and work toward that row again. i know—it’s weird, but it’s my knitting and as far as i know it doesn’t hurt anyone else if i play a game with it to psyche myself up/calm myself down.

so, anyway, i almost always end up having a favorite row (or even a whole section, like the “swarm” in bee fields), don’t you? favorite rows are the ones i look forward to, that keep me rooted to the chair as i draw near to working them. they are knitting high points; in my own personal knitting opera, the rest of the motif crescendos up to the point of that row, then i work that row as if i completed a difficult climb and am standing poised at the edge of a glorious vista (ok, maybe not exactly, but it does feel rewarding and satisfying to work that favorite row . . .).

then i can sit back and look at what i’ve done, take a break if i need to, adjust the volume on my book or . . . whatever.

don’t laugh . . . i bet lots of us do this. it makes sense—it’s a way of breaking down the task of completing a piece into little bits over which we can get excited. regularly getting re-excited is good for one’s motivation (you ask me how i get so much knitting done? well, this is how).

i have lots of favorite rows in fact, and not just in knitting. my favorite row at the movies is the last row in back (and thankfully david is complicit in this), my favorite row in school was near the window (the better to daydream),

this row of gorgeous eggplant bushes is my favorite garden row. i work the whole garden and then i do this row last every time, just when i feel my energy flagging. it makes me happy, this row—just look at those beautiful leaves, how majestically the plants stand, how tall they are getting. wow. they even kind of remind me of that stitch motif with their uplifted broad leaves and little purple flowers (but no worries; we won’t be naming the shawl eggplant or even melanzana).

(i just reread all that and decided i’ve learned to delay gratification to the point where it could be an art form—if it wasn’t so crazy-twisted. i hope it’s not getting in my way somehow . . .)

speaking of the garden, it all looked so good yesterday when i headed out to work in the early morning. happy greens, now that they’ve got lime in their soil

healthy, happy eggplant of all kinds (more on that tomorrow), ecstatically happy herbs, squash looking good—even the spinach is doing ok, now that i have a variety in that likes summer weather.

we have fairly-happy tomatoes; they are producing well but the plants look like hell, all yellow and spotty underneath, and a few tomatoes have blossom end rot. still working on that, with norma’s help. apparently, my soil needed lots more calcium and magnesium—so i applied her suggested combination of epsom salts, bone meal, and coffee grounds. we are slowly achieving better-looking plants. the eggplant responded right away to this food, growing about a foot in one week, but the tomatoes, though growing, still look pale and wan.

everything is doing much better in-ground than when i had the raised beds. the plants are sturdier and producing more fruit, as i’d hoped. and good thing too, because soon after i finished an afternoon of cooking and putting stuff up from that morning’s garden haul,

we got absolutely battered by a hail storm. oy! they were coming down like rocks getting dumped. zinging every which way, like a hail tornado, and some of them were big. i was transfixed by the pounding noise and the number of rocks falling. by the time i thought to run for the camera—and i did think of it . . . gotta blog!—they had started to melt a bit, but you can see here

how big some of those in the foreground are. literally like golf balls.
i was afraid to look at the garden afterward, so i left it til today. the hostas are pretty shredded, but the vegetable patch isn’t too bad. most of the damage seems to have come from tree pieces getting whipped around.

the chard . . . not so happy anymore, but still alive

i don’t know if they’ll make it (and damn, i almost pulled them all out yesterday, but decided to give them a few more days). if not, the seedling chard is fine . . most of it was covered by flopping leaves and did not get scarred.

the eggplant is ok . . . leaves looking a little worse for wear, but fruits were all protected and remain unblemished. the worst damage was in the tomatoes (crap!)

many, many green ones lay about at the base of the plants this morning, both big and small. fortunately, we did not plant determinate tomatoes so as long as the plants recover alright, we should be able to get more fruit to replace the loss.

of course, after this ferocious 15-minute storm, the sun came out brilliant as could be. it didn’t even rain enough to really wet things down—til later, just about the time we wanted to head out for a bike ride. it rained then—and how.

nothing to do for it but knit.
i got lots done on my shawl last night and the first half of the pattern to jocelyn who is test knitting. right now i’m trying to decide how long it should be. i’m leaning toward something slightly shorter; it seems like it’s time for something more dainty. not a shoulder shawl or anything, just and inch or two shorter than say, irtfa’a. to keep the insect band at a nice level and in proportion with the field pattern.

i’ve been swatching for socks while watching TV late at night. david requested a pair from the tea rose yarn that catherine sent me, and hence set up a new challenge: let’s make pink socks that look manly (and still appeal to a woman). jeesh.

i’m looking at knit/purl patterns because that was part of the request, though i’m not beyond going with some openwork if i need to.

i might need to—though i love me a good knit/purl motif, i’m not sure there is enough contrast to pull it off (though i said that about tesserae, too, and those were fine).

i like this one a lot; it looks like a string of kites flying across the fabric. i like them all. but of course, i’ll ask david before i decide . . . .

knitting nature

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

the other day in knitting class our friend anne C. told us about visiting an area garden that had hundreds of lilies and hostas, and that there was a whole section of scented hostas. none of us had heard of scented hostas but it made me curious, so while i was watering this morning i smelled mine for the heck of it. and i found one! this purple one is a little darker-colored than the rest and variegated as well, and has a gentle scent something like lilac. how about that? ya learn something new every day.

oooh, i just noticed how well that flower matches the sock yarn i’ve been using

if it looks like the sock shrank since you last saw it, you’re right. i decided i didn’t like the stitch pattern i chose at this scale, nor the 1-by-1 ribbing i used, so i ripped it back. i’ll use that stitch for something else i have cooking, cuz it really is pretty; it just needs to be bigger i think. as you can see i started over again in my favorite 2-by-2 rib and i have another motif to try. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose . . .

speaking of knitting class, i worked on my new scarf last night while i was teaching and got almost a third of the way through it.

it’s going so fast—and i love working the pattern. plus, have i mentioned in the last five minutes how much i like this yarn? (briar rose grace) it is so well-suited to the motif . . . see the washes of beautiful dark lavender and rose against the background of varied, herbal greens? lovely, like stained glass. i just need to think of a name. tudor rose comes to mind immediately, but that’s taken. i want something tudor-ish (tudor-esque? . . . whatever.). hehehe. i dunno why, it just hooked me when i first saw it knitted and i can’t let go. maybe it’s the twining part of the motif’s center or maybe the colors.

i have this one eggplant bush that has so many flowers on it right now, that if they all actually make fruit, it is sure to fall over dead. i mean, they almost look threatening

if they weren’t so pretty. it’s true that too often these natural color combinations are what i gravitate to in yarn. i love this one with the green and purply-pinks, interrupted by that vivid marigold color here and there . . . how great would that be in a sock yarn?? we could call it tudor eggplant. yah—just kidding.

speaking of sock yarn, i got a nice envelope last week from mona and stephanie at dye dreams with their beautiful Luster BFL Sock yarn in it, and a skein of Twinkle merino/tencel

while you can shop their dye dreams site any time, you might also run into them at a show . . . i know they have a few on the schedule for this year.

they sent me several man-friendly colors and i’m very impressed with how rich and deep the saturation is on these skeins. i’m absolutely lovin’ that deep dark blue (you can see i already wound it) and that one on the far left is sooo tree-scummy; i might have to write a pattern for that sock after all, just to use this yarn.

catherine at knitting notions is introducing a new yarn this week

a yummy bamboo/merino blend that i know you will love. i’ve got tea rose on the left that david wants socks from, and aubergine on the right that is destined for a scarf. mmm.

she also sent along the yarn for the lacewing rectangle stole

again it is her classic merino lace yarn in colorway thyme. this will get handed off to nan, our super-great test knitter who is going to work on that piece when the pattern is ready.

oh gosh, i just looked at the clock and it’s after 5 pm already . . . where did the day get to?? this might be why i am up all night knitting—there’s just not enough day to cover everything.
ok, i have more photos i’d hoped to cover, but i’ll write about them tomorrow . . i gotta run!