Archive for January, 2010

buggin’ out on spinning

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

while we were hoping that maybe there was a good explanation for the presence of these guys in linda’s spinning fiber (like maybe they were cochineal bugs or something), turns out—no. just a couple of grain beetles who thought that the presence of a little hayseed constituted a drive-in fast food joint. they stopped in for a meal and ended up getting their gooses cooked, heh.

i think there was one moment of squeamishness on linda’s part, but she got over it and passed the roving around so we could all get a closer look. that’s what passes for local interest when we get together to spin on sunday.

i changed things up today for myself, spinning with fiber of a completely different character than i have in recent months—i was ready for something fast and dirty after all that lace yarn i made in the second half of 2009.

i bought this blue border leicester fiber at rhinebeck in october in the same booth where i purchased my beautiful blue patterned rug from marilyn magnus. i’m spinning a chunky yarn that will become part of a project for the guest room where we are using the rug. i had 10 ounces of fiber and have spun almost all of it already—next week i’ll ply that up and start on the complementary brown/black shetland wool that also needs to be spun for the project (i have a big batch of chunky gray wool already spun, too).

the dye color of this fiber is gorgeous—rich, intense, but not bright; it’s really nice and matches some color or other in that rug, just perfectly. i can’t wait to get everything spun so i can get going on the project.

you never know, this could end up being my olympics project—it would be a good traveler. part of my reluctance to commit to a big olympics project is that i’ll be traveling almost the entire time the games are on, and i’m worried i won’t have enough consistent knitting time.

we all know barb is an overachiever, but can you believe she finished another sweater already?? this is her third ondule, knit this time in skacel noblesse, a merino/silk blend (colorway slate). just look how she’s matched those stripes.

she noticed though, that in the merino/silk blend, the sweater fabric is more relaxed and fits a little looser; if she had known ahead of time, she would have made the shoulders a bit narrower.

to be honest, she had started this before christmas, but put it aside to knit a few other sweaters, but still . . . not only that, she’s already got the sleeves knit for her third aztec mazes sweater, a sample she’s knitting for the briar rose upcoming show season.

i thinks she’s knitting like a demon now because she is about to get very busy with her plant business—dragonfly aquatics—in spring, her store is her main priority (her blog is awesome, too) and knitting is almost out of the question between march and july. she has to burn through whatever she really wants to finish now.

i’ve been knitting up a storm myself, but there is very little i can show you, wail. yesterday i went to visit with susie and debby and reknit most of the high peaks hat while i was there. the first one would have fit the recipient just fine, but maybe crushed her hair more than she would like.

i wanted to keep the earband the same tightness, but loosen up the top part a little, so here’s what i did: i cast on the next size up and knit the earband on a smaller needle than the pattern says, to keep it tight and dense against the wind (so, three sizes smaller than the body needle). then i knit the top part as usual. presto—a warmer hat for someone with fluffy hair.

the sundara merino worsted in colorway crushed cherries is delish—cozy and lightweight with color you could, indeed, eat with a spoon.

i finished that up last night (i had to cannibalize the first hat, sadly, to complete this one), then i finished off the coordinating neckwarmer. the neckwarmer is also dense, but not as heavy as the hat—it’s knit in briar rose fourth of july (leftovers from jackie, in colorway black cherries)—more of a light worsted or DK weight.

i love the way the two piece work together, even though they don’t match. i have some FOJ left over that i’m trying to squeeze a pair of mitts out of—not sure if i can do it, but we’ll see.

other than that, it’s all secret knitting for me—i did put a couple of inches onto the longjohn socks while going to appointments on friday, but i’m holding off on showing those until there is a little more body fabric to show.

i feel like i’m going to crack from all the hidden knitting i want to show you. frustrating to say the least, but, i guess it makes us stronger, right?

it’s a sunny day, oh yeah

Friday, January 29th, 2010

it’s gotten super cold here again, but we’ve had three or four days of full sun and blue skies in the last week (not all in a row, but you can’t have everything).

even the [ETA] amaryllis is finally responding. it sat there for a few weeks after i planted it and i was beginning to think nothing would come of it, when suddenly this week, it started growing—a couple of inches every day, if i’m not mistaken. it warms my heart to have something coming to life before my eyes.

maybe next year, i’ll do some more of these—all different varieties. i really like the results that other people have had with brightening up their homes this way (and i never really thought of doing it for us—duh—i’m a gardener; why wouldn’t this work for me? it’s not even very much trouble to take care.).

i haven’t started drooling over seed catalogs yet and am not thinking too much of the garden either, right now, though i’m sure i will be soon—i feel a lot more energetic once we start having sunny days again.

anyhoo, here we are and it’s friday already, can you believe it? it’s already been a week since i flew away to denver and i haven’t even shown you some of the beautiful things i took home from there.

christie, from tin cup arts, purveyors of lotion bars and sticks, gave me a lotion bar and a stick in two different fragrances to try on my very dry hands. these are smooth, very fragrant blends of the best oils and butters. she doesn’t sell online, but you can find tin cup products at local shops—see a full list of retailers here.

and you know there was some yarn to succumb to as well . . .

i just love these two skeins of red rocks aspen sock yarn given to me by mary kay, the dyer behind the label—she has many more awesomely beautiful yarns and spinning fibers in her online shop (and take a look at her wonderful photo shoot from the workshops last weekend—much better than i did).

i’m not sure what colorway this is, but i just adore it—i can practically smell the peat, the pines, and fresh mountain air when i look at it. the colors are rich and complex—a little more brown than the photo shows—just the kind of yarn i like, thanks mary kay!

another couple of gorgeous yarns came to me from debbie o’neill, who, along with kristi geraci (who i missed seeing last weekend, pout), has started a little dye business called pink dendelion yarns along with the myriad other wonderful things they do (they design, they write, they blog, they are moms—they are superwomen!).

yeah, yeah, so what about the yarn, you ask?
well, it’s lovely—the fingering sock, shown above in colorway tequila sunrise, is deep, juicy, complex semi-solid with a springy, plumpness that will surely show off stitch patterns to great advantage.

they also gave me a couple of skeins of their merino lace in the color purple—another winning yarn for sheer lace projects.

debbie has also announced that her new book, the stitch collection, is at the printer and in the works for a may release (hopefully we will get a closer look at it, once it’s ready—you know how i love stitch dictionaries).

back at home, there were a couple of yarn deliveries waiting for me, too—i am very excited to show you something new from craig at great northern yarns

new spring colors for the cashmere/mink collection. just the thing for late-winter knitting, when it’s still plenty cold enough for mink and cashmere, but you need something to perk up your spirit.

from left to right we have coral, apple green, terra cotta, lavender, and marigold. these will put a bright touch of accent color to those brown and gray coats, to let everyone know that you know that spring is coming.

and chris has sent some yarn to help me get ready for the knitting olympics

a batch of grandma’s blessing and a big batch of sea pearl (which didn’t photograph well enough to show you, sigh).
she has also stocked her online shop to the gills in preparation for the games over the last few weeks, including items that have been out of stock for a while, PLUS—a listing for her cashmere special

(this gorgeous stuff i showed you a little while back, YUM).
AND she is offering knitspot readers a 10% discount on all orders between now and february 6—simply use the code “knitspot” when you check out and your order will be discounted.

she is rooting for me to knit along with her for the duration. i have to admit that i haven’t given the olympics much thought (oh, the shame of it), but since the first olympics was a feature of my earliest blog posts four years ago, i feel it would only be right to make something.

so i have two possibilities: i need to knit david a hat (i know, i still haven’t done that!) and by coincidence, he chose a yummy, dark, chunky merino that chris sent about a month ago

which i despair of photographing well.

OR, i can finish his blue fatigue sweater, which has only about half a sleeve to its name (i haven’t worked on it since before christmas, if i remember correctly). it would be a big push to get that done, but i might be able to do it (my secret knitting is going well at this point).

ooops, i gotta run now—we have a doctor’s appt and i have to get my license renewed today—o good opportunity to take my longjohn socks out for a ride and to add a little length to them . . . yup, i don’t even have time to proofread this til later, sorry.

next time, more knitting to show, i promise.

getting my ducks in a row

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

now that i’ve mostly unpacked from the weekend trip (still have to put away the pieces from the trunk show, oy), opened the mail that came, and answered most of the weekend email, i’m trying now to prioritize my works in progress—not the easiest job on the list; i have too many things on the needles, or somewhat complete, but needing revision.

one project i can finalize now is my henley sweater—as you see, the buttons arrived from jennie the potter and they are beautiful. now i just have to decide which ones look best—they each have different qualities. i think the lighter ones (top row and bottom row) can be saved for another project. the two middle sets are the most similar and the best match for the fabric, so it will be one of those. they are very close—i think one might be a bit bluer than the other and that will probably be the final choice. hopefully, i’ll have those sewn on by tonight.

i’ve had some time to knit and catch up with pattern writing (oh yeah, that!) since i got back. i have a not-so-little backlog of patterns to pull together, both for secret knitting and for public projects. there is nothing i love more than immersing myself in working out a pattern—i love the feeling of being so focused, figuring out the best way to put the parts together and choosing the language that works best, then working with ronnie and tana to perfect it.
it’s impossible to get enough of it done when i’m on the road, though. so now i have a queue. haha, i might have to retreat to my attic to get caught up.

and i know that as soon as i do, there are a few submissions and new things i need to think about and work on right away. gotta keep moving . . .

monday, i hit the ground running and managed to get through half of my email pile and do a blog post before i met with my knitting class in the afternoon. there were lots of new FOs to share (i’m not sure what was going on with my camera, but the following pics just aren’t the greatest, feh):

anne C finished her highlander sweater (size medium, no mods), knit up in briar rose wistful, a colorway close to 313—it is to DIE for, so soft and pretty. and she is thrilled with it (so are we).

she put lots of work into swatching and checked her gauge carefully once she got going and you can see that the result is a beautiful fit, which she is happy to point out to us.

janet (who really needs to get some pictures up on her ravelry page!!) also showed up with a finished jackie jacket, sans pockets—she worked on applying those in class and hopefully, we’ll get to see the final-final sweater next monday.

(we had a lot of trouble getting a good photo of this one, i’m afraid; it looks much prettier in person).
i was hoping to find out what yarn janet used from her ravelry page (it was a commercial brand, but i can’t remember which), however, keeping her project page up to date isn’t a high priority. janet, you can text now and everything—there’s no excuse for that, haha. (we tease each other a lot in that class)

oooh, ooh, i keep meaning to mention that david finally joined ravelry a few weeks ago—wouldn’t it be hilarious if he was bombarded with “friend” requests out of the blue? (i think i might be his only friend at the moment). while we’re at it, we should pressure him to put up a ravatar and a photo of his one completed knitting project. just sayin’
(he did join the knitspot group)

debbie s brought a finished project too, just to let everyone know she’s right there with them, makin’ sweaters

ok, it’s a dog sweater, but it’s nice, right? and it fits that 2-liter water bottle like it was made for it. i think it’s adorable and i bet the recipient (who lives in north carolina) will like it a whole bunch—we still have to get through february . . .

i worked on a secret project during class that is nearly done. i’m at the end of my yarn though, and waiting for another skein from the dyer.
i have two other SPs on the needles that i’m working away on—they are small, but time-consuming. one is almost done and i’m very pleased with it. the other took a little time to get the design just right, but now it should go quickly.

meanwhile, i started a couple of socks that i CAN show you—these are both projects that i’m aiming to release during the last two weeks of february, to celebrate events that the dyers are participating in.

the first is a fun, easy-to-knit/easy-to-wear sock in a knit/purl pattern that resembles thermal fabric—longjohn socks, if you will. this will be a great traveling project because the pattern can be memorized almost instantly.

i’m knitting this up in two colors of david’s new favorite sock yarn, shalimar yarns zoe—catalina and cayenne. the catalina multi is a skein i’ve had for over a year, just waiting for the right project to come along and i’ve always loved the cheery colors in it.

then i’m knitting a pair for david in cayenne, because well, every guy needs a pair of red longjohns, right?

i gave him a pair of holidazed socks knit in zoe (colorway newsprint), for our anniversary in november and he’s mentioned several times that these are his favorites

he loves the feel of the yarn. and it is really yummy—plump, but not too much; still soft and pliable and easy to work on the needles, with great stitch definition.

the new longjohn socks will be released just prior to the indie artist celebration, organized by kristi and paul at eleganza yarns (kristi is also the dyer of shalimar yarns), taking place in frederick, MD on feb 20th. i will be bringing a trunk show (as well as david, haha) and teaching classes during the event and the following day; click here for more information and signups. this promises to be a lively event with vendors, demos, door prizes and more—if you are local to the area, mark your calendar and plan to attend.

now that i have these on the needles, they can go anywhere with me and i’ll get them done quickly, working a few rows at a time.

i also finally managed to settle on a design for the woolen rabbit kashmir yarn i have in the hanky panky colorway.

i had it on the needles last week and became disillusioned with my original design idea once i got into the body of the sock. drat
i’ve been poring over stitch dictionaries ever since, looking for some new inspiration. i did like the way the cuff of that first one looked, with its twisted ribs and little mock cables.

the silky sheen of the yarn and the depth of its color are shown to great advantage here, i think. so i ripped that first draft out and concentrated on looking at textures that are a little more exaggerated—since the yarn is pretty fine and has a relaxed twist, it can be knit in a heavily-textured pattern without feeling bulky.

i finally settled on a twisted stitch pattern i like, one that has larger-scale intertwined shapes i can use at the top of the sock. i’ll repeat a smaller segment of this pattern down the leg and over the foot. i think the only improvement i need to make now is to go down a needle size—it looks like the pattern could benefit from being knit a bit tighter; i’m still trying to decide. otherwise, this one is now officially on the needles.

kim will be having a booth at SPA again this year, during the weekend of february 27 and 28 in freeport maine, and will be offering this design as a kit, with her gorgeous kashmir yarn. look ofr her at the retreat.

i now officially am overrun with sock projects, heh. i have five on the needles right now, not counting all the second socks i started before the holidays (i think there are 4 or 5 of those, too) and haven’t completed (and i never do that—it’s really unusual for me to have second socks languishing around. we need those . . .)

once i get caught up, i’m taking a vacation from socks.

i still have to restart the hat i showed you the other day and finish the coordinating neckwarmer—both projects are in exactly the same spot they were the last time you saw them, sigh. i’m hoping to get to my knitting chair a little earlier this evening and fix that situation (fingers crossed).

my little rose shawl is also waiting patiently for me to spend some quality time with and you’ll be the first to know when we’ve had a chance to bond again. so far it’s going well, but i still have to have my chart handy as i work to take notes and make tweaks (it’s weird stitch pattern that works completely differently on paper than it does on the needles, heh)

yesterday, i unpacked a bunch of yarn and other goodies brought to me by workshop participants over the weekend and photographed it this morning. i think though, that it will be a good idea to save that for another post, dedicated to yarn goods—it’s time for me to get some other work done so i can, indeed, make knitting progress this evening.

unpacking

Monday, January 25th, 2010

i may be old-fashioned, but it still confounds me that i can leave home on friday for a city that is a couple of thousand miles away, teach two days of classes, visit with family and friends, dip into the local culture a bit, then be home at at my desk by
9 am on monday as usual, not even feeling particularly tired—almost as if it never happened. we do live in amazing times.

i’m reminded of how much things have changed because i had a chance to visit with family while in denver—cousins i had not seen in years (you might recognize the famous hanson hair color on my cousin karen, heh).

we reminisced about how, as kids, they would travel east to new york by car every couple of summers; we felt then as if we lived in completely different worlds, so far apart and exotic. and now we are separated by a mere 2.5-hour plane ride (but we’ve seen each other less often lately).

we had a great visit, catching up over dinner (john’s delicious grilled salmon, the best i’ve ever eaten), hearing about their life in denver and my uncle’s renewed travels to far off places. i felt so warmed by the way they opened their home and life to me; it was an especially memorable addition to what would otherwise be mostly a working weekend.

it’s good that we now have the ability to be more connected and to see each other once in a while without planning a three-week trip.

chipotle, the dog, can’t even fathom the prospect of such a thing.

i left home very early friday morning and was one of the few passengers with a light on in the dark cabin (i made headway on more secret knitting) as we traveled all the way west in the dark. then, just when we were circling to descend over the denver airport, the plane banked around to reveal

the beginning of the dawn symphony.

the low-hanging clouds made a beautiful backdrop for it

and in just a few minutes the day arrived

the pilot tilted the plane just so i could get a nice shot for you of the city’s outlying plains

before diving toward the runway and ground fog so thick, you couldn’t see anything else.

i was met at the airport by judy, who organizes the fiber experiences programs, which include easy-going retreats, events, and weekend workshop events for fiber lovers throughout the year.

by then i had been up for about seven hours and was feeling hungry, so we headed for breakfast and got acquainted. judy is dear and lovable and has the best sense of humor, along with a sense of calm that makes everyone feel comfortable (all the best qualities and organizer an have, i think).

since it was too early to check in at the hotel, we went to judy’s place to hang out and knit for the day, which i loved. i was so comfortable there that i forgot to take photos of her “knitting spot”, which was so charmingly homey.

i made a high peaks hat—yes, a complete hat— while we talked and worked. with no email or other outside distractions, it’s amazing what you can do in a few hours (i even wove in the ends, heh)

i’m still trying to decide if it will fit its intended recipient—it fits me, but i do have the tiniest head. i may knit another, one size larger, just to be sure. i used a delicious skein of sundara worsted merino, colorway crushed cherries. the yarn was divine to knit with and i think i might have enough left to knit that second hat without cannibalizing the first (i hope so, because that means i can keep the first one).

in the afternoon i got checked into the hotel and went to the workshop space at TACtile arts, right next door.

we set up tables and chairs for the participants and i unpacked the trunk show and figured out a way to display everything i brought.

i was really lucky that this venue is devoted to promoting textile arts—pat, who works there, unearthed all sorts of mannequins and props to make the display more attractive (one of the best i’ve been able to put up).

marilyn, who owns black water abbey yarns, joined us to help out and to create a display of her unique, irish wool yarn and samples in it knit from my patterns—she had ondule, trevi, gnarled oakwoods, the zigzag set, gust, and several others sampled in naturals

and beautiful heather colorways, fiber dyed and spun for her at a small, family-owned mill in ireland.

it was awesome to see them in this interesting yarn, which knits up similarly to a shetland yarn—a bit scratchy in the skein, but with a beautiful sheen. it softens up when washed and over time, develops the patina and hand of the best kind of sweater—one that you will own for life, which will wear like iron.

sadly, i have no photos of her booth (bad blogger)—a recurring theme for part of the weekend. but i do have this nice picture of judy and marilyn, sitting at the back of the room during class, keeping an eye on everything and enjoying a visit.

(they are both so terrific)

once we finished up at the space we headed for an early dinner at the fresh fish company. this was definitely a good move—this hopping restaurant had the feel of the kind of “swank seafood joint” that couples used to head for at caesar’s bay on a weekend night—kinda 70s, kinda lounge-y with low lighting and lots live fish tanks, but very very good eating—much to recommend there.

by the end of dinner, i could hardly keep my head up—between the early alarm, too little sleep the night before, and the altitude change, i was barely coherent. you won’t believe this, but i was in bed by 7:30 or so and slept pretty much nonstop til 5 am the next day. i can’t even remember the last time i did that, but it felt fantastic.

throughout the beginning lace workshop on saturday, i took nary a picture; i was so busy talking and working around the room that i just forgot about the camera (sorry).

sunday, however, was a different story—i remembered to put the camera on the table where it would remind me of it’s uses.

this was a hardworking group—we tackled a triangle shawl sampler that was challenging for many of the participants, but they worked hard and had lots to show for it at the end (it’s not easy making lace, after all). some of the beginners from the previous day took the advanced class as well, which impressed me a lot—i think it’s really courageous to try new challenges in a group of other knitters, some of them very experienced.

mid afternoon, we changed things up with a little blocking demo

i showed everyone how i thread blocking wires and how to use a ruler to stretch and pin out a shawl. BTW, judy introduced us to a supplier of blocking wires who offers a very attractively-sized set (at a very reasonable price) in her etsy shop, which includes a PVC case.

i always include some quiet work time in between “lecture” periods in my classes so that students can practice the skills we talk about while i’m there. if i’m not answering a question during this time, i’ll work on a little project.

early saturday morning, i cast on a neckwarmer while having coffee in my room, using my little ball of handspun fibre isle blend. between class on saturday and the pane ride home last night i finished it up

however—i don’t care for it. it just isn’t as great as i thought it would be in my head (plus, it’s too big for me), and i want something really special from this yarn. so i’ll rip it out today and find something else to do with it.

on sunday morning, i cast on another neckwarmer to go with the red hat i knit on saturday. i worked on it through sunday’s classes (and again on the plane last night) and i would have bound it off, but i didn’t want to try it on during landing time, haha.

this one worked out much better—it’s exactly what i wanted it to be; fairly dense and warm, with textural interest that moves the colors in the yarn around nicely. i love it.
i still haven’t tried it on to see if it’s done, but i will after i finish this post.

so that makes two neckwarmers and a hat off the needles over the weekend, plus a heap of secret knitting—not bad for a working weekend. it’s incredible what i can accomplish when i’m not accessing email . . .

sunday’s group was as much fun as saturday’s and the day passed quickly. before i knew it we were packed up again and heading for the airport. i brought home a few lovely yarns from participants to show you, but i need to sort out that jumble of stuff in the top photo and take pictures—you’ll get to see it tomorrow or wednesday.

when i arrived back that house, i dropped my bags and settled in with david to talk and watch TV while i worked on some socks and tried to feel ready to sleep.

this morning when i got into the office to turn on the computer again, i saw this

where david’s dumpsite “desk area” used to be. and this

where his disaster “storage” area used to be—someone has been cleaning my house!

this sight made me unreasonably happy—not that i’m in any way a perfectionist about the house being clean or anything, but that area of the room was, ahem, getting a little cluttery; the kind that’s bad enough to make me nervous if i look at it for long.

i’m sure the new laptop had something to do with the urge to straighten up, but i don’t care—i’m glad it looks nice again.

ok, wow, it’s already time for my monday afternoon class to arrive. i’ll be back!