Archive for April, 2009

it’s a mashup today

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

it’s that time of year when you could just sit and watch the plants grow—last week’s rain coupled with the weekend heat instigated a explosion of growth and bloom out there. now it’s raining again and cooler—good thing too, because i’ve had a lot of catching up to do this week.

we even have live plants springing from cracks between the rocks. awesome.
david spent the whole weekend reconfiguring our vegetable plot so it would be ready for planting in a couple of weeks. last year he dug trenches in our very hard and compacted soil (that area used to be a gravel parking lot, if that gives you any idea of the soil conditions) to make rows for planting

we filled them with friable soil and that worked pretty well. but this year when it was time to start tilling some amending compounds into the soil, he realized that we had a LOT of wasted space and that the old system restricted us to planting in rows.

so he decided to dig the whole plot up (no small feat; our in-between dirt is like soft concrete and fraught with stones and roots) so that now, it looks like this

and consists of 100% plantable earth. we can have so many more things now. and watering will be easier, too. we need to let it settle, but i’m already collecting plants—my friend kris gave me some tomatoes already that are hardening on the sun porch. i do have leeks and celeriac planted in one of the lettuce boxes. there will be squash, peppers, eggplant, herbs, beets—and the asparagus is coming up (we kept that bed as it was).

we really can’t plant til at least mother’s day, when the danger of frost is mostly past. til then though, plenty of other offerings are on show

the hostas have tripled in size during the last week—that rock in the center is the “boulder” you can see in earlier photos

soon it’ll be completely obscured. nearby is my all-time spring favorite—the much-anticipated emergence of the fiddleheads is underway

like fuzzy little chicks popping up from the nest—i just love them.

david’s double tulips are about to pop; it was very hot over the weekend but has cooled down to normal temps (50°) so the blooming is slowed enough to get some beautiful shots of semi-open flowers

which reminds me—this is a knitting blog, heh. and i have a tulip-y sock underway so maybe this is a good time to talk about it. i finished up the first sock the other day

i think i should have made it a tad longer though; i may have to fix that. this knit up so fast i can’t help but be pleased and that’s not the only thing i like about it. the yarn and pattern together make a good marriage, i think—the springy, peachy-pink colors with a dash of bright green make me think of sweet peas, tulips, and all those wonderful blooms of the season.

i’m torn about the name; i’ve got two great suggestions from readers that i like equally-well:
cynthis A suggested laleh, the persian word for tulip (and so feminine)—which would honor the flower’s origins in the persian empire.

and claire offered Keukenhof, which refers to a large public garden in lisse, netherlands that features vast tulip displays. this appealed to me because the stitch pattern sort of looks like row upon row of tulips—so much so that i was even thinking at first of naming it tulip ribbons or something similar.

which one do you like?

while i’m thinking that over, i have the second sock to knit; it’s already on the needles, ready to go wherever i go (more on that later).

have i mentioned how yummy this woolen rabbit bambino yarn is?? gosh, this stuff is just perfect for transitioning weather—it’s comfortably squishy without having any weight whatsoever. the fabric is dense and silky at the same time. and it slides right into my shoe without bunching or snagging at all. nice.

the climbing hydrangea is just covered with buds this year—hopefully we’ll see plump white flowers all over it before long. last year for the first time, we had three “blooms” on it that really looked more like dillweed flowers; i don’t know what’s normal for this plant so i’m anxious to find out if the flowers get better as time goes on.

the apple tree is blooming too, but not as effusively as last year; i wonder what’s up with that? usually it’s completely covered with flowers, but not so this spring, hmm. it sems healthy otherwise; maybe i’m just missing something.

that reminds me of an FO that actually came off my needles a week ago, just before i left for spring fling. i finally got around to blocking it tuesday morning

i love the shadowing in the stitch pattern—it’s made even more apparent by the glow of the yarn itself.

several people have written me over the last few months, asking how i thread blocking wires at the edges. the answer is, very patiently (i love blocking tasks; i don’t mind this).

if the piece has a garter edge, even just one stitch, i can pick up the ladder that lays on top of the fabric. i like to pick up every other ladder. this gives me a nice straight edge. my garter is sorta tight at the row ends so it holds pretty firm, but if yours is loose, you can pick up a couple of sts from the edge, where it’s more stable.

once it was dry, i played dress up with it on the form and took some photos—i’ll give you a couple of teasers

lean in close and rub your cheek—maybe you can feel it??

just look at how the light washes over that fabric—breathtaking, right? i so wish you could touch it. the cashmere laceweight from fearless fibers is amazing. it bloomed during the soak to offer up an ethereal halo—just enough to gather up and reflect more light. sigh.

i keep detouring to the table where the scarf is sitting, just for an excuse to stroke it.

this pattern will be released in my shop after the club kits go out at the end of may. i was thinking too, that this would be a great pattern for summery silk yarns—the twisted rib makes a nice stable fabric that would encourage stitch definition even in fibers that normally offer little that way.

lilac is blooming—much as we love looking at it, this is one flower that both of us react strongly to. so we’re not exactly gathering armloads of it to bring in the house (been there, done that, heh).

because i need to beef up the fall supply of man socks, i’ve been working away at a new one for david (or whoever). i’ve shown bits and pieces of it but it was hard to get the overall picture from those photos

i’m working on the heel flap now, which i’m knitting in the same rib pattern as the cuff. once again i’m using grandma’s blessing—this one is headed for sock summit in august for sure. i love the colorway—it’s so david. i’m not sure which one it is—maybe this or this.

while i’m somewhat caught up, i still have lots to do—i’m trying to get ahead on pattern writing and trafficking the various stages of the sweater test knitting. lots of people involved means lots of emailing; it’s hectic. and i still need to knit.

in fact, i think today i will try to start knitting in the afternoon because i’ve fallen behind a bit. i have to get a scarf on the needles (or two). and i need to make headway on the next sweater

this is the re-knit of the gray maze sweater (which isn’t finished, but i need to start the new one so i can write a pattern). i cast on last night in this gold briar rose legend—a beautiful yarn i haven’t knit with before that i’m falling in love with. and this color—wow; this is an old favorite for me and one i haven’t used in ages. i knit a gansey in a similar gold-green yarn in the early 90s that i wear still, but i could use an update (the old one has the giant sleeves that were so popular back then).

i’ve also started the pattern for david’s woolrich jacket that i knit for his christmas gift

but just barely—next week i’ll need to concentrate on pulling that together for tana to tech edit and start the search for a test knitter. it’s an easy knit in heavier yarn that’s definitely jacket-weight

all the handsome guys want one.
that’s my nephew james who you might remember from previous posts. he’s graduating later this month and i’m very excited to report that he already landed a great job in his field (graphic design and communications)—in fact he started work on monday and he likes it a lot so far.

it’s incredibly encouraging to hear about graduates that get jobs they like—forecasts of gloom and doom for them are rampant and it can dampen the spirit of the job search. it’s demoralizing when people leave school thinking that four years of hard work is not marketable toward a satisfying job.

it sounds like he has a boss who is generous with encouraging feedback, as well. i’m very impressed by that—it means she is happy in her position, too.
why, she deserves some flowers

ok, well, one flower; it’s all i have left. but it’s so special—the lone checkered fritillaria in my little shade bed.

anyway, because he can’t score enough tickets for all of us to go to the graduation ceremony, david and i are heading off to see him this weekend for just a couple of days. coincidentally, he lives just a stone’s throw from the howard county fairgrounds—site of the maryland sheep and wool festival. imagine that.

he remembered that i talked about coming out for that a few times before, so he invited us to visit now, instead of at graduation, when he will only have about a half day off from work. so, i guess we’re going to be there; if you see me please say hi—i hope i see you first.

i’ll try to post something before i go tomorrow, especially if i have new knitting for you to look at. i feel bad that my posts have been sporadic the last week or so and then i bombard you will all manner of wool and flowers.

oh well, we could do worse than wool and flowers, right?

far flung

Monday, April 27th, 2009

whew, the loopy ewe spring fling made for quite a weekend. sorry i didn’t blog—honestly there was great internet access in the convention center but absolutely no time. i was able to read a few emails late at night, but that’s about it for this jam-packed weekend. i brought home plenty of yarn (which i didn’t expect to do, don’t ask me what i was thinking), pictures, memories, and that adorable limited-edition loopy. she finds my garden a nice place to do yoga.

i was a little nervous about teaching but quickly relaxed with these fun (and funny) knitters

see what i mean? everyone made me feel comfortable right away and we had some great class time together (why oh why did i spend so much energy last week being so anxious??).

the lounge buzzed all weekend with the voices of 100+ knitters, all happy to be there. there were lots of gorgeous knits and yarns including this beautiful rivolo that lisa knit

from her own handspun (it’s that briar rose BFL again, doncha know . . .). wow. you can’t see it in this photo but on her ravelry project page, you can see the colors shift from one end of the scarf to the other in the most beautiful way.

and then there was kathy who brought along her stonewall wrap.

i love it in pastels, don’t you?
but kathy didn’t stop there—she was rockin’ it with no less than three different shawls to show off. kathy told me i didn’t need to show the pictures on my blog but she sooo doesn’t know me . . .

who can resist talking about such an obviously happy knitter?? that’s her wing-o-the-moth shawl just above, and below, another wrap—this time obastacles

which we all agree looks amazing in DIC Smooshy, colorway petal shower. you go, kathy.

sadly i was separated from my camera too much of the time, or i’d have more photos of knitspots in the wild. i’m really kicking myself that i didn’t get a picture of wendy, who it was my pleasure to meet for the first time; i have long admired wendy’s work and was thrilled to get to know her a little (oh look, she has her special loopy topping her blog today, too).

i was however, lucky enough to score this gem of a picture

that’s samantha—yes, that samantha, designer of the wildly popular shawl that jazz AND she’s wrapped together here with dye diva allen, whose numma numma yarns are all the rage (and always sold out, which is why i don’t have any). they are posing with the shawl that jazz which allen knit in her hand-dyed yarn.

one of the nicest aspects of the weekend was seeing cookie A. again and seeing everyone fawn over her aMAZing new book, sock innovation. we got to spend lots of time talking and laughing by staying up way too late for two nights. oh well, i really, really like her, so why not?

it was also a treat to meet long-time readers in person like ronni (on the left there with cookie), who some of you might recognize from comments and julie, below

who i know a little because they write to me periodically. it was great to spend time with the real women and get to know them better. julie is holding the project we worked on in the advanced lace knitting class, a doll-sized baby bee shawl.

in between classes, there was time to get plenty of sock knitting done, since that goes well with socializing and talking shop

that little bit of sock i showed you the other day in woolen rabbit bambino (colorway mama mia) grew quite a bit on the flight out and then back again—here it is first thing this morning

and i finished it off in class this afternoon. i just love the feel of this yarn—it’s fine and silky enough to be a great weight for warmer weather, but has plenty of heft to make for nice knitting—a real pleasure to work with.

it knits up so fast, too—i need to start thinking about a name. the motif looks a bit like tulips but there are so many items with tulip names that i might need to explore another avenue.

another sock i have nearly finished is the mate for my design that went out with the woolgirl sock club kits this month. i sent the first one winging off to jennifer a while back and have been working on the second one rather lazily since then.

knowing that the first one would be waiting when when i got home, i decided i needed to finish this one off, so i toted it along to the fling. i managed to get it all the way to the toe and just have a few more decrease rounds to go.

this sock is club-exclusive for six months but will eventually be offered in my shop. it is designed for fine sock yarn and knit on small needles for a nice, dense fabric that will still slide easily into shoes. i love the colorway—it will be elegant with dressier trousers. the yarn is curious creek wasonga and the colorway is head of kinsale.

and as long as i was catching up on sock knitting, of course i put some inches on the poor traveling sock that sits in my tote bag most days without receiving even a glance

holidazed has a complete leg now and i’m halfway through the heel flap. this one will see more activity this weekend when we head out for a short but exciting car trip that i’ll tell you about later in the week. i hope i have enough yarn to finish—right now my supply looks ok, though it’s probably going to be close.

because i really need to increase the number of man socks i get completed in the coming months, i started a new one for david in briar rose grandma’s blessing

for a change of pace, i put a deeper-than-usual cuff on this one with a little ridge to set off the top section. the pattern is a sort of tilted checkerboard with some holes—just enough for manLace. david is already eyeing it, so i think we’re good. i just love the colors—blue/greens and brown gold together??—mmmm.

of course there was a nice trip to loopy central in the mix of the weekend, too, when cookie, wendy, and i had the store to ourselves for roaming and dreaming on. i didn’t really think about what i’d buy ahead of time, just let the spirit guide me, so to speak. sheri has so many gorgeous indie yarns—it was a struggle to pass on some of them. i decided to narrow down my choices to yarns with adequate yardage for man socks and blends with strong fibers like nylon and bamboo. i purchased four skeins in all

this sheepaints silkbamboo is a luxurious blend of wool/silk/bamboo in an unusual straw/gold-and-gray mix—colorway berenjena—that completely captured my heart (i love grays and yellows together). this skein is so luxurious that i can only think it will become anniversary socks for david.

enchanted knoll farm yarns are new to me, but i can tell i will love them—for one thing, they were heartily endorsed by wendy and cookie, heh. i bought the skein of fresh greens (athenos) at sheri’s store for david and then was gifted the skein of lavenders and browns (hot mama) by the lovely josette herself, who attended the retreat (thank you josette; i was coveting this colorway but trying to be good). the lavender-brown skein signed by the artist will be mine, all mine.

a third skein that came home with me from the shop was this bright olive semi-solid artisan sock from hazel knits. wendee and i worked on a sock club project together last year with wonderful results and i very much enjoyed knitting with her yarn; i think david will love this color and it will work with almost any stitch pattern.

the fourth skein that found its way into my bag was this soft, quirky-wonderful fannie’s fingering from farmhouse yarns, colorway rhapsody

oh, too ba-a-ad, the yardage isn’t enough for man socks, shucks. sigh—i guess i’ll just have to make myself something with it (hum-de-dum-de-dum . . . sorry guys, i was helpless in the face of it). this will be great for a simple traveling sock—i don’t know if it will be too much coloring for a pattern, but if it is, i’ll just go with ribs or stockinette, or maybe apply of the interesting alternate sock architectures floating around out there.

another special person who i was honored to meet this weekend was claudia, the incomparable wollmeise herself. now, i have not knit with claudia’s yarns because truthfully, i have so little spare time that stalking the site for yarn releases is pretty much out of the question.

however, a new ravelry friend, dani, has doctored that situation right up for me (which i deeply appreciate dani, thank you!). recently, i saw her awesome green socks while browsing projects and commented that i thought the color was smashing. she replied that she had another skein of the yarn and would i like to trade for it? i said sure, not realizing right away that it was the famous wollmeise sock yarn.

it was even better in person—i do love me some greens. then dani suggested that i really did need to get some laceweight too for a shawl project and set about finding some of that for me to trade for as well. lo and behold, when i opened the mailbox this morning

there it was—a big fat skein of the most gorgeous spice market colorway. oh my.

(insert reverant pause)

isn’t that something?
in fact, i think we should end today’s post there.

so much happened around here since i was away—david totally reconfigured the vegetable plot and the yard positively came alive and got tall. there’s so much to show but plenty of time tomorrow—for now, let’s go knit.

migrating

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

i was so completely consumed with getting my sweater finished over last weekend that by monday, when i finished it, i felt as if i’d been dumped off the back of a truck in the middle of nowhere, in dire need of getting my ducks in a row.
landing back in the here and now after traveling in its spell, i realized that i had a trip to get ready for and almost no small projects on the needles to take along.

more on that later—wanna have a peek at the sweater? david took a few snapshots of me wearing it yesterday

the waist height is now much more what i originally intended it to be; it even looks a tad high at the moment, but i haven’t washed the sweater yet and i’m almost certain it will grow a little in length once it gets wet.

the neckline is exactly what i wanted, yay. i have a troubled relationship with v-necks—i love the open feel of them, but don’t have a nice broad chest shelf to support them beautifully. too long or narrow and they make me look scrawny; too high and they look childish; too wide and they de-stabilize the shoulders. i love this one though; i could wear this sweater with or without a top underneath or add a scarf instead.

i wore it all afternoon and evening yesterday and i’m taking it on my trip this weekend. it has a nice hourglass shape without being tight—i think this would flatter many figures. grandma’s blessing yarn knits up in a wonderful weight for fall and spring, or for wearing with dressier outfits.

i’ll wash it when i get back to get a final beat on the fit—i expect a tiny bit of lengthening but i don’t think the width will change. and now i also have a pattern to prepare for the test knitters so this one is off to the races.

before i get started on today’s knitting news, i want to mention that my friend teyani, the intrepid fiber wizard, is raising money for a special cause and throwing in a raffle of lovely prizes at her blog to spur donations. if you feel the urge to do commit a random act of kindness in the next little while, please click here for more info and consider her fundraiser as a recipient.

like i said earlier, i had been focusing so intently on the sweater that i was a little unmoored when i finished; i needed to migrate to a new head space and get organized. i had no new socks on the needles and only one lace project that is almost complete

i’m working on the last repeat of my fernfrost scarf now. the pattern is all set to go and just waiting for a nice photo. i may decide to add one more repeat just to use up the yarn i have—this cashmere is too wonderful to leave as leftovers. this pattern will be released in may after the fearless fibers club kits have gone out.

what to do about a lack of small, portable projects?? nothing for it but to cast on a couple of socks and maybe a scarf. which works out perfectly with my need to stock the guys’ side of the sock shelf with footwear for next fall.

a swatch of this fun, somewhat-open pattern convinced me that in the right yarn, a new manLace sock should be in the works. the garter accents and moving geometry of the pattern make the colors in the yarn jump, and give the fabric the hefty feeling that i like in a man sock. in sturdy briar rose grandma’s blessing, this is one that david will love (but he might have to fight my brother for it, heh). there’ll be much more of this to see in a few days’ time.

i also cast on for a girly sock with some woolen rabbit bambino, colorway mama mia, to celebrate spring. you can’t tell yet what the pattern will be, but i think what i’ve chosen really marries well with the yarn and colors.

i don’t have any bamboo socks yet and i’m dying to for a pair. this is a fine merino/bamboo blend that will make a wonderful three-season sock. it has a nice twist that offers beautiful stitch definition and isn’t at all snaggy or splitty. love that. it also makes beautiful mitts—though i haven’t used it myself for that, kim has done so and they are lovely.

i’m also trying like crazy to get another scarf on the needles with this creamy, soft singles from valerie and karen at mountain meadow wool mill. i told them i’d design something with their yarn before TNNA in june. better get moving, eh? this is really lovely yarn—soft and not overly processed, it has that wonderful feel of fresh-picked goods—but clean, ya know? and isn’t there something so purely wonderful about this natural cream?

working with this yarn right now coordinates very nicely with a new offering from briar rose—chris has starting dyeing this very same yarn base in her own color palette, so you can get it in full, deep color as well if you like.

this is her harmony merino fingering weight yarn (that’s a back door link; you won’t see it on her home page yet, but it’s coming soon). this yarn reminds me very much of the yarn i used for cluaranach, which i just loved. it has just enough lofty fuzziness to feel super-cozy, against-the-skin soft, but not so much that it obscures the stitch definition. we’ll be knitting it up into something special very soon.

whaddaya think—do i have enough planned to take on my trip, eh? two socks (plus the holidazed mate i have in my tote already), a secret small project to knit in my room, a scarf, . . . . yes, that might be enough (because you know i’ll throw in one last thing as i’m leaving).

with all those projects, how do i get them from here to there and back again safely?? well, my friend michele has solved that one for me. she sent me the cutest set of project bags

how’s that for a knockout color combo? i just love these organizers—the large bag is big enough to fit a scarf project or a couple of socks, but lightweight and compact enough to fit in a tote or overnight bag easily. it also has elastic straps inside to secure needles and hooks. the small pouch holds tools, scissors, and all manner of ephemera safely, to protect your project fabric and keep things tidy. she stitches them up in a variety of attractive fabrics with coordinated linings, zippers, and handles. the cherry on top are the artisan glass beaded zipper pulls.

you can browse michele’s selection in her etsy shop, 3 bags full; she also sells them at her LYS and local gallery in brooklin, maine.

the best thing of all?? they are the perfect accessory for my favorite knitting tote

(a gift from susan, who scored hers at the lancome counter in macy’s—susan i use it ALL the time). it’s hard to get lost in a fiber fair when you’re sporting colors like this.

yesterday’s mail also brought some new-to-me yarns from dani at sunshine yarns.

that classic sock yarn (top ) is going to be so great for a guy sock that i can’t be selfish and keep it for my own (even though i want to). another one they’ll fight over. the sunsilk laceweight is incredible—a little heavier and toothier than some other silk laceweights i’ve used, i am very much looking forward to knitting with this. i’m on a strict schedule right now so it will be a while before i can test drive it, but believe me, the wheels are already turning. is that mustardy gold not aMAZing? thank you dani!

well, i’m off tomorrow for the wild blue yonder. i’m hoping i’ll be able to blog from the spring fling headquarters (and i know i’ll want to). it’s really a matter of how well i’ll be able to navigate getting online there.

see you in st louis, then.

it’s growing

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

the skies are intent on sending rain today—the tension is in the air, and the light is extremely flat out there, but it hasn’t started yet. the bleeding hearts are poised to receive a shower.

each hosta point has a droplet of water, but i’m not sure if it’s condensation or if it comes from the plant itself. i sorta wanted to taste it but then i forgot.

and seemingly overnight, the astilbe have poked out from underground, looking as if they’ll be lush and full this year.

inside, we had our spinning class this morning. i began working with this gray alpaca from island alpaca company of martha’s vineyard last week

this is a gorgeously-prepared superfine alpaca top. it would be perfect for laceweight yarn if i was in the mood to spin that, but having just come off a long-term spinning project, i’m more inclined to spin something at a heavier weight. i think this will make a nice, fuzzy DK weight yarn for a super-soft hat or scarf.

i’ve been completely monogamous in my knitting for the last few days, addicted to the ondulé sweater project. i finished the back section on friday night and joined the shoulders with a 3-needle bindoff. on saturday i set out to block the body pieces so i could proceed with the collar and have everything ready for sewing the sleeves in later on.

so far everything has worked up exactly to the sizes i estimated in the pattern i wrote—big sigh of relief there. so i proceeded to pin out the back to the measurements in my schematic

then i overlaid that with a wet towel, touched it with a hot iron to produce steam, and allowed the piece to air dry. i don’t use any pressure with the iron—we don’t want flattened texture, just generate a good amount of steam and let that do the work.

blocking the sections after they are already joined at the shoulders is slightly awkward, but not too bad. having them joined gives me the opportunity to press those seams while i have the iron on and my wet towels handy.

i just love the way the fabric is transformed by steaming; all the lumpy-bumpy, unironed look is gone and the pieces drape beautifully without clinging or buckling. the curling at the edges is tamed a bit too, which will help the seaming go more smoothly.

here you can see the drastic difference a little blocking can make; the texture of the right-hand, blocked piece, is still quite defined, but the “background” has smoothed and receded, while the “foreground” stands proud of the surface.

i block the front pieces the same way i block the back. once i have one front done, i pin out the second one the same, but before i steam it i overlay it with the blocked piece to make sure all the edges match, making any adjustments as needed. i’ll do the sleeves the same way when they are ready.

now that the body was done, i moved on to the next steps.
i picked up around the neck edge for my collar and found i had to make a couple of corrections to the stitch count in the pattern i wrote, but the construction steps worked out just right as written. by late afternoon, i had a collar.

it’s not pressed yet; i’ll do that when i have the sleeve seams sewn and press all at once before i join the side seams.

the depth of the neckline was one of the things i wanted to adjust from the original red cardi i knit a while back—it was a little deeper than i first envisioned for this sweater. this one is just what i wanted and the waist length is more to my liking as well.

i’m so excited that i’ve gotten this far that i decided to set a goal of having it done to wear to the loopy spring fling later this week. what’s life without a little pressure?

but really, i think i can do it. and it’s so compelling i don’t think i could not try for it. i started the first sleeve yesterday and i’m almost done with it—just about halfway through the cap.

if i start the second sleeve this afternoon, i might finish it by bedtime. i might be seaming by tomorrow. i might then have time to start a new sock and/or scarf project to take on my trip.

we might be eating sandwiches for dinner today.