feet back on the ground

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects, spinning and fiber

with the hope of finally finishing the singles i’ve been spinning from this AVFKW baby camel/silk top (colorway taboo), i was busy at the wheel by 9 am, a full hour before my class was due to arrive. i worked continuously for the next three hours, but alas, at the end there was a handful of the stuff still in the bag.

excruciating, isn’t it?
is it me, or does it feel like i’ve been working through this two-ounce packet of fiber forEVUH? (looks like i started spinning it on october 5th, so yeah, it has been a few months. oh, the shame of it)

any sane person would look at that last little bit of top and spend part of the afternoon finishing it up. but it will have to be plied, too and if i go down that path, it will be 7 pm before i know it, with nothing else accomplished today. so for the moment, the spinning will stay in its sunday morning time slot—there’s always next week. and with so little spinning left to do, i should be able to ply it up during that class as well.

like i said yesterday, this weekend is really about organizing myself to pick up where i left off on my WIPS. i feel as if all my prechristmas knitting is foreign to me, like a family of cousins i’ve been out of touch with—what should be familiar about them feels so very far in the distant past . . .

thanks to that low-key post holiday feeling all around the blog and store (and a week’s worth of yummy leftovers in the fridge), we were able to eat a leisurely meal and clean up before 7 pm last night.

after supper, i put on my current book and started back in on my henley sweater. i’m on a john irving jag right now, rereading (well, listening to) everything i read in high school and college, plus anything i hadn’t read in recent years (i missed a few during my 30s); i’m just sorry that my library doesn’t have more of his work in audiobook format. long, long books are great for sweater knitting—i’ve noticed that when i work on the pattern later, i remember details about the knitting and the writing more clearly because the two are paired together in my mind.

anyway, the last time i worked on this project was december 14th, when i had just started the fourth version of this piece—the first three tries resulted in lots of knitting with serious gauge issues that ended up being caused by a yarn flaw.

i’m happy to report that the fourth time seems to be the charm—everything is working out as it should and so far, i’ve not made any grave errors that require ripping back yet again. i think i’m over the hump. i should be able to get this piece knit to the underarms today and maybe even further (but i do have to start another secret project, so maybe i’ll pause at the underarms). i could very well have this sweater done before i leave for california, which would be awesome; david and i could do a couple of photo shoots on the beach (we still have to photograph sprössling, too).

later last night, i worked on my gansey sock while we watched a swedish movie i liked a lot. i got through the heel and into the foot, which means it will be done in no time. now that i’m past that point, i can put the final touches on the pattern and send it for proofreading.

i promised the other day to continue the yarn parade and today’s featured dyer is beata, of hedgehog fibres in ireland.

beata and i got to chatting on ravelry one day—i had been drooling over the examples of her dyeing i’d seen and she offered to send me some yarn. when i went to take a look in her shop, i was blown away by her colors and her fiber selection. laughingly, i told her to just pick something and surprise me—i was pretty sure anything would be gorgeous and perfect for any knitspot project.

well last week, just before christmas, a rather large packet arrived in the mail, which, upon opening, revealed a wondrous selection of splendiferous yarn and fiber. i’ve been drooling over it ever since (it’s sitting on the stairs so i can flash appreciate it every time i walk by; i can’t bear to put it away yet). and of course, i’m dying to show it to you.

fair warning though—you might want to lean back and loosen a few buttons before scrolling further . . . are you ready?

first up, her silk lace in the hurricane colorway. this is the color that originally sucked me in when i saw urkigurki knitting it into an autumn arbor stole. those beautiful rainy-day grays and bruised plums will always be a favorite with me.

and if a hurricane doesn’t rock your boat, how about this silk/merino lace in thunder? can you see a dilemma developing already?

oh, but that’s not all . . . hang on to your seat, because next, there is pure cashmere lace in colorway opaline

honestly, i did not imagine it could get better after the merino/silk, but opals are my favorite gem and cashmere is pret-ty, pret-ty high on my list of favorite fibers. these three skeins are simply ethereal.

but wait, speaking of cashmere, there’s still more

merino/cashmere—a four-ply fingering yarn. with a generous 350 yards per skein, this could be knit into the most decadent socks ever, if one was so inclined.

ok, deep breath—let’s take a break for a sec (but just a sec).

because, well, beata does spinning fiber too, and since this is spinning sunday

here we have three packets of her silk merino spinning fiber in tulips (front), gemstone (back left), and old song (back right).

how about that, eh? can i get you a glass of water or a fan??
BTW, i’ve used mostly ravelry links because beata’s etsy shop is a little low at the moment (understandably), though i’m sure it gets updated pretty frequently.

i have yet more yarn to show you next time and a sock to release this week AND we have a special fun promotion for you to participate in—check the next post, coming right up . . .

(david seems to have found a further use for his first knitted christmas sweater, which he literally wore to death—he’s recycled it now into a draft dodger for the door of the TV room, hee-hee!)

where do i start?

Posted on 31 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

wow, i knew i was minimalizing in blog posts this last week in order to fit in more urgent tasks, but i had no idea until i gathered today’s photos that such an overabundance of material has collected. between the food, the culmination of holiday knitting, and the to-be-continued yarn parade, i have way more than i can fit in today’s post.

i think what we’ll do is look at all the yummy holiday food and gifting today, before it becomes stale news. and tomorrow, we’ll commence with the yarn parade, ok?

i didn’t get to tell you about our little spinning class get-together on wednesday night. no spinning—just knitting, talking, laughing,wining, and noshing. we decided beforehand that savory snacks would be great; we already have a tradition within this group not to do elaborate gifts—”tacky wonderful” is more our speed (though the gifts the other night were just wonderful and not tacky at all).

anne marie made macramé snowflakes for each of us from an instruction kit circa 1978. linda got everyone coffee cups printed with knit fabric patterns. barb handed out bags of her hand made hard candy. and i gave each person a jar of woolen rabbit hand cream.

we drank wine and laughed and relaxed—just what we all needed. i worked on my secret project both during and after the party and by the time late night TV knitting commenced that night, it was done, with all the ends woven in and everything

halfway through the party, i realized i hadn’t given a thought to buttons for it. sigh.
i steam-blocked it on christmas eve and wrapped it up with a note that we could pick out buttons together.

this a really quick and cozy cardigan for david, knit with briar rose sonoma, a lofty, light, bulky weight yarn. i had never knit with it before, but i gotta tell ya, i wish i had . . . the wonderful lightness of the yarn is perfect for oversized sweater projects—and all that air between the fibers will surely provide the coziest kind of warmth without weighing itself down. this sweater was knit top-down, in one piece. with about 24 ounces of yarn (approximately 1200 yards). it weighs nothing.

and still, i hope i have the good sense never to do a one-piece man sweater again . . . every time i finish one, i swear it is my last, but then, next time i realize i have just six days before christmas to knit a sweater, it seems like the best option and i do it again. yet, my shoulders hate me for it and some day, they will not recover.

i wasn’t all that sure about the colors, which are not nearly as red-and-green looking as they appear in the photo (i think they look that way especially because it’s christmas—in january it will be a different story completely)—the colorway is actually a beautiful blend of dark brown, rust, and pine green. i’ve had it for about a year and showed it to david a few times before starting to make sure they are colors he likes. everyone who saw it assured me it would look good on him. and now that it’s all knit up and the finishing done, i like it.

except the sweater just felt like it needed something more, but i’ll tell you about that later.

with the responsibility of that gift off my shoulders, i spent my remaining free time working on an extra gift for beckie that i thought up a couple of days before christmas (she was getting the purple mink beret i knit in november). i noticed last sunday that she was wearing the spiralucious neckwarmer i gave her last christmas and she told me she wears it all the time.

i knew i had some of that yarn left, and decided she needed the matching mitts. i only managed to get one done before christmas eve and had to confess my disorganization when she came over on thursday to cook with me—my gift for her this year was all over the place, heh.

i spent christmas afternoon finishing the second one and now there is a pair. they match last year’s gift, but not this year’s hat . . . maybe we are starting a tradition of carrying over matching accessories from one holiday to the next.

christmas eve was a lot of fun. i stayed in bed longer for that last hour of sleep i always miss and then headed to the kitchen to make coffee and get the sauce started for dinner.

after some email and photo prep for the blog, it was already time for beckie to come over to cook (that’s the thing about sleeping late—you don’t get much of a morning out of it). this year we turned our foods around—normally for christmas eve we cook a feast of seven fishes in the (mostly) traditional manner and then have a pasta/cheese dish for christmas day. but this year we made vegetarian lasagne for christmas eve and i cooked fish for christmas day.

we got out our pasta sheets, which survived beautifully wrapped up in the fridge. we diced fresh mozzarella, grated cheese, and mixed a ricotta filling. we also sauteed some fresh mushrooms and chopped swiss chard (from the garden) for an addition to the filling.

everything got layered in the pan with sauce and into the oven it went.
after that we made our composed antipasto (again, we made the one that my family would normally eat on christmas, minus the meats).

the meal was maybe a little heavy on cheeses, but we do this only once a year, right?

while the salad marinated and the sauced cooked a little more, we knit and had a couple of beers. the house was warm and cozy and we had good company.

after a bit, beckie went to get mark while david set the table

everything was perfect—so much so that i forgot to take any more pictures for the rest of the evening; i never got a photo of our masterpiece. but i can assure you it was delicious.

we finished the meal with beckie’s gingerbread, topped with lemon sauce and whipped cream, yum. i could only eat a small piece.

david and i cleaned up and watched a movie to end the evening.
christmas morning dawned an absolutely miserable gray and rainy affair, but i was feeling good.

i could not get the gift sweater off my mind and decided that what it really needed was a couple of pockets added. i checked the clock and saw i had at least five hours before david would be up and about—could i get two pockets knit and sewn on in that time?

the answer is “yes—but just barely”. i was stitching on the last pocket edge when i heard him emerge from the bedroom. by then i was hiding in my workroom and trying not to make a sound—david usually comes looking for me when he gets up to say good morning. i heard him go downstairs and run the coffee grinder, then the water, . . . good, good; every minute counts.

then i heard him walk from one room to another looking for me, then i heard the stairs creak as he came back to the second floor—my jig was about to be up. i ran out to the hall and said brightly, “i’m winding yarn, i’ll be down in a few minutes!”

i gave everything a quick press and wrapped it back up, then snuck the gift down the stairs while he was looking at email. i don’t think he noticed, but i told him about it later, anyway.

and it fits, phew. this will be a nice cozy warm sweater to wear around the house—i’ve noticed that he’s been wearing his heaviest one almost constantly, so another is a good idea. we’ll get some buttons for it in the next couple of days and then it will be all set. yay.
he also got a pair of ralph lauren braces (suspenders) that he wanted.

(ps: i did not forget about the white sweater with the giant cables that he really wants, he IS getting it, but i’ll need to spin some yarn for that—maybe for his birthday in october 2010).

i got some great gifts this year and one of them was NOT a weather station

i asked for the julia child cook book and all the rest were david’s own ideas. i love the DVDs—those old french chef cooking shows are hilarious. and the cashmere socks? OMG—just what i need, really; that was a great idea. they are thin enough to wear with shoes but still have the density you need in winter. the thumb drive is for taking on the road—i need a place to store some things when i travel and to share documents with other people. it’s the tiniest thing, so cute.

beckie gave me this handmade basket tote from imojean’s baskets (a local producer who doesn’t seem to have a website) that is a great shape for carrying about and a good size for bringing extra bobbins plus fiber for spinning classes.

chris sent me this beautiful piece by jennie the potter, whose leafy motifs are my favorite of her designs. this is a yarn pot with a lid (which i don’t see on her site), but i’m sure her assortment of available items changes constantly.

after all the presents were opened, i fixed our dinner of baccala (dried cod) simmered in the oven with tomatoes, olives, garlic, hot pepper, and oil

which we ate over a bed of homemade pasta with a glass of red wine—nice. it was a quiet, lovely day, just the two of us.

i knit for a while after dinner at a leisurely pace on a cité neckwarmer in cashmere laceweight that i started a couple of weeks ago (can it really be that far back?).

i had thought it would be gift for my mom, but then she talked about wanting the lavender one i worked on last february while visiting her (it had to be hoarfrost). and she did like it; she told me last night she’s been wearing it out to walk from place to place and “it’s really warm—better than a scarf!”
now that i know she likes it so much, i’ll probably make another one or two in that weight.

later that night, we watched a movie and i got back to my regularly-scheduled knitting. i need to finish up this gansey sock in dye dreams classy sox so the pattern can go out with the four seasons club kits in january.

it’s getting there. i love, love, love the color—it’s makes me feel cheerful every time i look at it. in fact, stay tuned—this week we are going to run a little contest concerning the color of this yarn; don’t miss it.

i’m most of the way through the heel now so i can put the finishing touches on the pattern and send it to proofing tomorrow.

i love these ribbed heels, but sometimes they end up a little long without the usual slip-stitch included. so i tried slipping just the single purl st in the rib to see if i like that and i think it’s successful—it gives that little extra density without disturbing the continuity of the rib very much at all.

this sock is designed to be a little longer in the leg to keep away those chills that plague my lower legs in winter. because of the length, i started at the top cuff with some extra stitches to shape the sock around the calves a bit. the decrease, combined with the drastic change in stitch pattern makes the sock look like a golf club cover, i think, heh.

this is part of my goal for the rest of today—get out all the projects that were stalled for christmas knitting, prioritize the ones needing the most urgent attention, and then get busy finishing them up. i also have to organize travel knitting for my january trips. there are quit a few sock projects (some of them secret) and several other disparate items laying around in various stages of doneness.

and i’m not even counting the lace shawl i promised myself i would start—i don’t want to put that off too long.

what is your after-holiday knitting like? what do you want to knit, now that you are free to make anything?

merry, merry!

Posted on 35 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

here’s a little stroll down candy cane lane to cheer your holiday—from our neighborhood to yours. this is the view from our front porch across the street to our neighbor bret’s house.

bret always puts in a standout performance as “best decorator” on our block

this year’s display is truly fairy-tale quality, from frosty the snowman

with a bower of lights and christmas balls overhead

to mr and mrs santa claus snow people

to a magical candy-cane lane

gaze upward from there past the tree and presents toward the house

garlanded with all manner of lights and santa claus himself (who will dance if you talk to him!)

trellises of lights bow over the walkway and steps to the front door

and this is the view from our office window—as cheerful and bright as can be; we’re lucky to have bret as a neighbor.

by comparison, this is the view he gets from across the street to our house

slightly less exuberant, i’ll admit, but we try (and we wouldn’t want to take away his thunder).

happy holidays!

(ps: i finished the big secret project last night, yay!)

oh, the last-minuteness of it all

Posted on 26 CommentsPosted in projects, spinning and fiber, yarn and dyeing

the pressure is on now—there are multiple gifts under the tree intended for me, but just one with david’s name on it so far. ouch.

actually, i do have a couple ready, but i haven’t wrapped them yet. i’m a procrastinator about it—i like to wrap everything in big batches and put it all under the tree at the last minute, while david wraps each item as it arrives, then sets it under the tree, marked “mon amour” or “por mon amour” (that’s me) in big letters with a sharpie.

it makes me knit faster . . .
i’m pretty sure that the big secret project is going to be done in time—i cut it awfully close this year, but it’s going swimmingly; as long as i don’t get comfortable with the gobs of time i have to finish it, i should be good. i got a LOT done in class yesterday; thanks to susie’s knee surgery and recovery at home, i have lots of knitting time away from our house, haha.

i’m not so confident about the other gifts (which i absolutely cannot show even a hint of til after the holiday), but you never know. one is something i thought up to knit only two days ago and it’s a little slow going. the other is something i’ve been procrastinating on.

and i’m not even mentioning the mittens and scarf i had hoped to get done for a special little fella i adore—he won’t go ungifted (we sent something he’ll love), but his knits will have to be a new year’s gift.

of course, if i didn’t spend the whole morning shilly-shallying around on the blog, things might be further along. but we need that too.

and then there is the other stuff—like the fish

i almost forgot that i have to soak it for a couple of days before we can cook it. it’s in the big pot now and i have my iCal set to go off every few hours today to remind me to change the water. ancient food preservation technique meets 21st century technology—i love it.

so anyway, as soon as i’m done here, i plan to knit furiously for the rest of the day, with a short break to put a curry on for dinner (i have a strong hankering for curry that won’t leave me alone, in spite of being surrounded by traditional holiday foods).

i feel at a loss without lots of knitting to show you, so i thought a yarn parade of recent arrivals might be a good substitute—in case any of us end up with a little gift money burning a hole in our pockets.

first up, my absolute favorite hand cream, made by my friend kim at the woolen rabbit—trust me, it really works. i have the driest hands ever and this non-greasy cream is my go-to, year-round formula. it’s simply lovely—rich with lanolin, infused with the soothing scents of garden-fresh lavender and rosemary, it leaves skin soft and last for hours. i especially like its healing properties after a day spent with my hands in water or dirt.
and now that david has discovered its magical powers, we’re going through it twice as fast (he works a lot with plaster—enough said). it has a very reasonable price tag though, so stocking up didn’t break the bank.

did i say yarn parade? well, there was yarn in the box too . . .

kim and i have been discussing an upcoming sock project to be released for SPA in february. she has a special new yarn that she loves—kashmir—and i had a couple of photos from the garden that i wished could be made into colorways, so i sent them along.

i captured this image under the squash plants in late summer and fell in love with the mix of acid yellows and greens, toned by the darker gold of the fading background leaves. and kim, wondrous dyer that she is, came up with

hanky panky. ha! a great name for a color inspired under the bushes.
i have a stitch pattern all picked out for this color—i just need to swatch and make sure the yarn will work (i think it will). this is a soft-spun merino/cashmere/nylon blend that kim has been crowing about for months and i’m anxious to make some socks for myself from it. but i also think it will make a great yarn for other accessories (like cité, for instance, or spiralucious, or some pretty mitts).

the other photo i sent is something a little different

as my hostas laid down their leaves to die in the fall, they made the most beautiful overlapping swirly patterns in the back beds. and for whatever reason, climate conditions made it so that they faded very slowly into these sort-of gray/brown sculptural forms, like something on a city building or an old ruin. i just love them.

and kim—she is so brilliant—captured them perfectly in this next skein . . . are you ready??

how beautiful is that?? it’s a triumph.
i could make it into socks, but i think it really must become something else.

kim has been chatting up her new oasis camel/silk blend to anyone who will listen and we’ve been tossing about the idea of a sweater and i’m thinking—that colorway would be gorgeous in a tone-on-tone damask motif, in a classic sleek sweater shape, wouldn’t it? i’ve gotta test it of course, but i’m drooling over the thought already . . .
and if that didn’t work, the color would make a really great vintage-style sweater, too.

you know, i have more yarn to show you from another special dyer, but i think i need to stop now and save that for tomorrow. i have knitting and cooking that i really gotta get done this afternoon, so i’m going to say goodbye, but just for now.