Archive for March, 2010

sprung

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

oh gosh, WHAT a day. such a brilliant sky, such a fresh breeze, such beautiful, clear light—these are the days i’ve been waiting for. this is why we keep our hopes up during those gray months of winter, right?. sigh. spring is here . . .

this morning, everything was popping up and showing off—crocuses, daffodils, hellebores (barb, it’s blooming!!), tulips

so determined they pierced right through the ivy leaves that were covering them
(i didn’t know tulip leaves could cut like this, did you?)

and my favorite, the hostas, are emerging like turtle heads from the mud out back. i’m very excited, can you tell?

speaking of plants growing, i want to mention a really special effort that teachers and students at hudson junior high school are taking up this year, at no cost to the district—the henry hudson discovery gardens.

knitspot readers who live in the hudson, NY region and are familiar with the school will know what a great resource this will be for the community. my cousin lynn (on the right; frequent commentor and a wonderful gardener herself) teaches at this school and is a leader for the project.

the goals for this inaugural year are to:

  • teach students about the lives of various plants and a better understanding of where food comes from and how to grow their own food
  • provide produce to the school cafeteria; students will eat what they grow
  • possibly develop a farm stand; money made on the sale of produce and/or plants will be used to sustain the garden
  • begin a composting program to provide nutrition to garden soil and reduce monies spent on waste removal

even the small amount of funding needed for a project like this is hard to come by, however—though participants and leaders are working to secure grant money, several responses will remain up in the air until after planting time has passed. SO, they are seeking donations for a list of desired plants and tools and are gratefully accepting tax-deductible cash donations to purchase supplies.

if you have a few bucks to share and love the idea of kids getting involved in gardening, please visit the garden blog and send your tax-deductibe donation to the address listed on the left.

if you live in the hudson area and are growing starts that you can share or have some tools that you don’t use any more, please use the same contact info to make yourself known; your generosity is greatly appreciated.

we’ll be sure to direct you to blog updates as the spring and summer passes; i’m hoping that students will fill it with wonderful photos and accounts of their garden adventure. and possibly, i’ll get to visit the garden myself for a tour on one of my trips east; that would be amazing.

this afternoon when i got back from my bike ride, the same buds i photographed this morning were open as wide as could be. a welcoming smile, for sure.

so yeah, i know this is a knitting blog and i do have fibery news to share as well—actually, i have news going all the way back to sunday’s spinning class.

anne marie arrived in her completed highlander sweater, knit in briar rose glory days BFL

it looks like a dress stewart plaid, i love it (great buttons too, from joann). she is thrilled with the fit and the color; let’s face it, there’s no feeling like that of a really successful project.

i’m working my way through some beautiful, dark shetland, produced by my friend beckie’s former flock of sheep. this is from angus; i’m spinning it into a lofty, chunky weight yarn.

susan is spinning a nearly-identical batch of shetland that she picked up at our local fiber show last may. we are having a dueling shetland event.

some of you may wonder if susan is a real person or just our imaginary friend, since she is so rarely included in blog photos. she IS real, though she doesn’t make it to class as often as everyone else does (which gives us plenty of time to talk about her, haha!)

anyway, there is she is, real as can be, spinning her shetland and getting ahead of me.

have i mentioned how happy i am to be home ALL month long? i love seeing my spinning and knitting classes and it’s so productive to be in one place. i’m trying to enjoy every minute of it before i head out again in april for several more teaching dates.

i’ll be at stitches with style in delaware (spots available; please contact the shop for more info) and loop in philly over the weekend of april 9 and 10.
then it’s on to sock camp from april 15-20 and the loopy ewe spring fling from april 22-25 (both of these events are sold out).

so while i’m home, i’m focusing on getting some patterns out, starting new projects and writing new patterns for those, as well as working away on a bigger, behind-the-scenes project.

i blocked my newest pine and ivy rendition this morning—this is the one i’ve been waiting for; the one that inspired the whole design, knit in my precious skein of handspun silk/cashmere (fiber from chasing rainbows dyeworks). i’m SO happy with the result

the pine-cone browns and spruce blue/green colors in it are lovely. the color changes in the hand-dyed fiber translated into subtle, shifting bands of winter forest shades throughout the yarn and stretching the fabric made them even more mysterious.

i worked this one as a regular triangle shape so that i could use it as a scarf or shawl—it’s soft and light enough to make multiple soft folds up near the neck if i want it that way.

i know some of you are very anxious for the release of this pattern and we will deliver it as soon as the test knitters give me the go-ahead. i don’t want to pressure them though, so hang in there; it won’t be long!

now that i see the green and brown one blocked out, i’ve decided to work my brown/plum mini version as a straight triangle as well. i didn’t work on this over the last couple of nights, but tonight i’ll add some rows; i think i’ll probably finish it by the weekend. tomorrow we do a photo shoot at my friend’s farm; i think we might end up with some excellent photos. and then that’s that for pine and ivy
(at least, that’s what i’m telling everyone, haha).

because really, i need to design some new things; almost all the knitting i had on the needles last week is done.

i have just a few hours work left to do on this french quarter sock and another pair will be completed. i got two new cuffs underway for the mates to the longjohn socks; those will be my take-along projects for a while.

so now what?
we-e-ell, i’ve been thinking quite a bit about baby blankets lately—don’t ask me why; i have no idea, haha. i just think they are fun to knit, i guess. i enjoyed knitting the honey baby blanket so much last summer that it was done and gone away before i could blink, really.

i have this beautiful blue winter sky yarn from knitting notions in my stash which i’ve been drooling over for a while. it’s catherine’s soft, squishy classic merino sport yarn and it’s just begging to be a little blanket, i think. i’m working on swatches now—this one is a stitch i’ve been eyeing all winter that is just the kind i like—it’s got rich texture and depth, but is easy to work and has good rhythm; a great stitch for a traveling project.

funny thing though—it hasn’t worked in most of the yarns i tried. so many yarns are too busy or too relaxed or too colorful and don’t play well with the motif. but i think it just might work here.

i washed it to see if the texture got lost once it was wet and it didn’t; i think i like it a lot (never mind about the seeming color change; that’s a mechanical issue, heh. the color of the dry swatch in the photo above is the real deal).
i’m may try another couple of motifs, just to see if there’s one i like better (but why??).

so that’s one thing i’m playing with. i’m also obsessed with the idea of a laceweight mitt and beret set. something really lightweight with a bit of a period feeling. that one is still in the imagination stage, but i do have a yarn and color picked out (is that weird?).

i brought this skein of miss babs merino/silk laceweight home from sock summit, already thinking of the mitts and beret set—it has really stood the test of time. i think then, that this yarn should be knit into mitts and a beret . . . just for fun, babs is also sending me a skein of sport weight in the same outback colorway so i can work the set in two weights.

and now for something completely different

can you believe it? i never buy yarn in these colors, though i always admire a really good neon psychedelic mix when i see one and am envious of those who are visionary enough to use them freely. my friend gail though—well, she’s an absolute master at recognizing good ones and it was she who found this rare gem at the blue moon barn sale on new year’s eve and snatched it up for me. we call these colorways “chiclets” colors.

i’m working on finding just the right stitch pattern to bend your mind with it, baby.

i actually have more pictures and stuff to tell you, too (i’m a real chatty cathy today, aren’t i?), but it’s after 10 pm, i’m running on way too long, and i had planned to have this post up by like, ten hours ago.

so i’m gonna sign off now, but i’ll try to get back tomorrow to tell the rest (we have a big day tomorrow though, so it might be friday instead . . )

a little adventure

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

like i said the other day, i’ve been a little busy with blocking as well as obsessed with finishing my last two pine and ivy shawls (and really, i think should stop after that—four of them is probably enough . . .).

the white shawl that arrived in the mail from karolyn got its final stretch and pin on thursday. i just love how delicate it is, translated in fibre isle porcelaine (colorway ivory)

a bamboo, merino, and seacell blend. this is a new yarn from fibre isle that i believe will be offered for sale starting in june at TNNA.

i’m really happy with the shoulder area—the opacity and texture of the garter stitch yoke makes the shoulder detail stand out and provides a nice contrast for the delicacy of the body stitch.

the issue with the yoke is that once the shoulder shaping is begun, the area remaining is not large enough to lay out the body stitch for a pretty effect in all the sizes. in the mini size, especially, a lot of patterning gets lost and there are large “blotches” of stockinette as those triangles get smaller. not only does it not look neat, but it becomes confusing to the eye and the pine cone panels lose their crispness. nor are the stitch counts compatible for sensible pattern writing—with a choice between offering three sizes OR having lace that runs all the way to the neck, i went in favor of sizing (i know you like that).

besides, i love how the garter stitch adds a “period” detail and some contrast at the top; it’s very much in keeping with my vision of how it should look.

here’s a peek at the red one in size tall, knit in woolen rabbit tranquilo, colorway black velvet—isn’t it rich? i believe kim will offer a kit for this piece—we’ll let you know.

while those were drying, i worked away at my green/brown/blue version.

since i now own two finished ones with shoulder shaping (the rose and the red), i decided i would try to make my handspun yarn stretch to make this one a regular triangle shawl, without the shoulder shaping (eliminating the shoulder shaping requires more yarn, since the body section is now extended to the neck).

i put a lifeline in where the shoulder shaping should have begun and repeated the body section two more times to the neck. unfortunately, on thursday night i was stopped dead in my tracks

when i ran out of yarn. naturally, at that point, i did not want to go back to the lifeline after all—i was so close!

i thought of all sorts of possibilities for a fix—i could put it aside, order more fiber, and spin some additional yarn. but that would take a lot of time and i only needed about 40 yards to finish.

i could look through my stash and see what else i had that might work—yeah right. like i actually have another handspun laceweight in a nearly-correct color, HA. but i took a stab at it anyway—denial has no bounds.

there wasn’t anything even close. however, i did come across this

remember this? it’s a sample skein i spun in my luxury fiber class at rhinebeck. i plied one strand of pure fawn cashmere with one strand of white cashmere/silk and the resulting yarn is very similar in construction to the handspun i’m using in the shawl (they were spun within a close timespan last fall).

i thought i might be able to dye this little skein to blend in with what i had going on the needles. my thinking was that the two-tone yarn would take dye in a varied way that might mimic (somewhat) the barber-poled sections of the handspun. and i knew i could live with it if it wasn’t perfect, since the finishing section is small and up near the neck, where it will likely get folded under often enough.

mind you, this was at approximately 1 am—the witching hour, indeed; the time when anything seems possible, or at least, not at all crazy. i grabbed the skein and put it in a bowl to soak, so that when i woke up in the morning, i’d be all set to start.

and i knit on my french quarter sock til it was time for bed (no sense wasting good knitting time).

in the morning, i got my dye supplies out from the mud room pantry, where they’ve been languishing for a while (i haven’t had time to spend on dyeing in the last year or two).

now, i want to preface this by saying that what i was about to do is in NO WAY related to the fine artistry of people like kim and deb and chris and tina and roxanne and all those other expert dyers we love who probably cringe whenever they hear about us dyeing our own yarn at home (sorry friends . . . if you are reading this, please just cover your eyes and scroll past)

i’m merely a hack with a painting background, but obsessed, and in the deep of the night, i thought i could make a passable effort at creating a color that came close to blending (since the shawl yarn is so varied).

i mixed up a few colors that i thought would work together to get a tonal variegated yarn. i didn’t want anything with too much color change; i thought this should resemble something that might exist as part of the series of long color runs throughout the “real” shawl yarn.

i laid the presoaked yarn in a bucket of hot water and poured the dye colors in at different spots around the perimeter, so they spread from the outside in toward the center, hoping this would create areas of blue, green, and brown that mingled at the edges, but had some distinctness, too.

i covered the bucket with plastic wrap and cut a small slit in the film, then microwaved it for two minutes. the water was still dark and murky with dye and the white strand with the silk content had not taken up much dye yet. so i gave it a rest, then cooked it for another two minutes.

as you can see above, that still wasn’t enough time for all the dye to strike. i let it cool for a bit, then cooked it once more for 2 minutes.

that seemed to work well—the water was much more clear to the naked eye. i decided a color check might be in order so i ran to get the shawl. i spooned some yarn out of the bucket and compared it o the dry, knitted piece, trying to compensate visually for the wetness

it seemed like a fairly good result—the color doesn’t match, but it definitely looks like it belongs in the same family as the yarn in the shawl.

i let it cool completely, then rinsed and was glad to see that no color ran from the yarn. phew—nothing is worse than neverending dye runoff, which can happen with silk fiber; it often needs more cooking or steeping time to absorb dye fully.

once i was able to squeeze the rinse water out in a towel, i had a much better idea of whether my yarn would work for my project. i traipsed all over the house at that point, trying to get accurate color photos of the shawl and the new yarn—the light was dim that morning and did not want its picture taken. here’s one from downatairs

and here’s one from upstairs just a few minutes later. the yarn is still wet in these photos, but not sopping.

the new yarn actually matches one of the color runs in the old yarn almost exactly—the green one that spreads across the hem. i like the idea that the colors at the hem and the neck are almost the same, but does it blend with the spot where i left off?

not too bad. the color of the new yarn is more clear and brilliant than the shawl yarn, probably because the shawl yarn had some natural undyed cashmere content. and i’m just not a good enough dyer to make a subtle handpaint that would transition perfectly.

the new yarn will make a line in the work where i join it on and start knitting, but hopefully not too much more noticeable than the other color changes throughout the shawl.

i would tink back and alternate the skeins, but i don’t want to “carry” yarn up the side of the edging, with its points that need to be blocked out. as i said earlier, i was prepared at the outset to embrace anything that came close.

last night i finished up the knitting and looked at it under artificial light, i wasn’t so sure about that embracing part—where i changed yarns, it appeared to have a very hard line and a harsh color, worse than i expected. after binding off and weaving in my ends, i balled it up and moved on to another project.

but then today, after linda left for the afternoon, i unfolded it to take some pictures for this post and you know what?

i’m not at all unhappy now. seeing it in daylight and then through the camera’s eye at some distance was a good change in point of view. i photographed it upstairs in the same spot i did on friday and then

i took it outside to photograph it in natural light. i could really see better how the new part works in context along with the other color runs throughout the shawl—some of which also have distinct lines of change.

and once it’s stretched during blocking, all the colors will disperse and blend even more as the stretched stitches move them about. i’m hoping to block it sometime tomorrow, if i can fit it in.

well, that was an adventure for sure. i was very glad to get back to my regular knitting, for which i have plenty of commercial yarn, haha.

one last P&I in fibre isle magique, then i’m quitting—i swear.

spring forward

Friday, March 12th, 2010

hostas are pushing their noses up out of the dirt in the back yard.
from here on, it’ll be like watching a movie out there—something new every time i look around.

in an unusual show of athletic strength, the daffodils are catapulting past the crocuses with a growth spurt i haven’t seen in past years. to be fair though, the area where most of the crocuses grow has been under deep cover of snow that did not melt as fast and only in the last two days has the sun touched actual earth there.

i’ve been very busy the last couple of days, blocking pine and ivy shawls and dealing with a little setback on my handspun one. i’ll tell you all about my interesting morning later though—right now, beckie is here to pick me up for some shopping.
have a good friday night!

Frederick Revisited by misterknitspot

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Greetings Knitspot aficionados, some thoughts on our sojourn to Frederick, MD.

19 Feb 2010 – Traveling for me is often irksome, particularly by car being the worst. Firstly I’m exhausted even before embarking upon such a endeavor. My sleep regiment is the reverse of most, preferring a nocturnal existence. Arriving at said destination, it all changes for the better, my disposition gradually improving. We arrived in Frederick, Maryland in good time, promptly meeting with Kristi and Paul of Eleganza along with some of their helpers at the shop. Eleganza Yarn shop is housed in an incredible antique log building, exuding history and charm, really quite lovely. Initially meet Paul and Kristi at TNNA (Long Beach, CA) in January, I chatted with Paul for some time, intrigued by the conversation. Those of you who know me, know that talking is not my best attribute, a word or two will often suffice. I got along with Paul straight away, befriending him has been rather wonderful. As it happens, Paul is quite the renaissance man, several successful entrepreneurial ventures, presently works for a Neural institute, pilot, knitter and Elvis impersonator. As many of you know the knitting community is largely composed of women, consequently I get to meet a l lot of women, some times their husbands. Sadly I have not felt a connection with many of my male counterparts, it has been a rare treat to know another man in this industry, let alone someone that I’ve become fond of, good to know you Paul. Hopefully will have an opportunity to get know Kristi better on subsequent occasions. On this trip to Maryland I meet one other person of interest, RoseAnn – a customer and sometimes helps with the shop. Had occasion to speak with her for a moment or two, hails from Ohio originally. Has only been knitting for three years, seems rather enthusiastic about it all, she attended Anne’s design class, looking forward to seeing what comes fourth from her creations. After the quick greet and meet, we are off to have dinner with our eldest nephew James and his girl friend. I love James, he has indulged us in countless hours of entertainment, such a great joy to have him in our lives.

20 Feb 2010 – A new day, we depart from the hotel for Anne’s workshop, of which is held in an older warehouse building (the Loft Antique Imports), currently used for the display of antique and new furnishing. I tag along to take photos and try to catch up on some ongoings projects. One of which is creating a personal photo book of knitspot.com for 2009, a project that has consumed some 25 hours and counting, have not yet finished collating photos, not to mention some judicious editing, then the eventual layout of images for the book and uploading of files for printing, perhaps another 25 hours. After the class, Anne and I begin to install the trunk show. How Anne manages to teach all day and then present the trunk show, I know not, a super woman if you will. During the presentation I wonder to and fro taking pictures, listening to the participates acknowledge Anne’s mastery of design and the ease of use of her patterns. I concur with all of their accolades of Anne and add that she truly a remarkable talented person. Not only am I the beneficiary of numerous knitwears, but I’m married to the incomparable, beautiful Anne Hanson, what more could one want in life. By all accounts the class and trunk show were a success. After the conclusion of the days events, six of us (Anne, Kristi, Paul, Paul’s mother, RoseAnn) take a leisurely stroll down Frederick’s picturesque main st. (Patrick St.) and indulge in a shared dinner via communal plate at a local Ethiopian restaurant, the food was good, the company was better and the Ethiopian beer was really good.

21 Feb 2010 – Another teaching day for Anne, as for myself, an opportunity to discover downtown Frederick in search of photos and coffee. Some aspects of the city do harken back to days of old, only missing element are the cobbled streets, which have been paved over. I understand that once a year, owners of these antique homes, open their doors to the public, affording views of the interiors, I should like to see this. There has been some new develop surrounding Frederick’s canal, nice integration of old and new. Admittedly this is one of my favorite activities, roaming about a city/town at a very leisurely pace, earphones in, taking in the ambiance of a community. Paul recommended Nola for for coffee, a cafe/restaurant, did not disappoint, here is a hint, like coffee made with espresso. Typical large cappuccino comes with two shots, add additional two shot for a proper undiluted cappuccino – a very good thing.

A bit later I got an impromptu invitation to visit DC with Paul. First stop the National Gallery, what can one say about art, well it does nourish the soul. Always good to see familiar favorites, Gauguin, Degas, etc. After the gallery, we seek out the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln, WWII memorials. We walked all over this city, good fun. On the way back to Frederick, Paul relates a rather harried flying story, the essence of which is to trust instinct when not fly and to do otherwise may very well result in disaster. Anne’s design workshop has ended and are off to visit our nephew James for a Korean dinner.

Paul at Lincoln Memorial

Dinner with James

22- Feb 2010 – Last day Frederick, Monday morning in search of birthday gift for a friend we will visit later today. We find many of the shops are closed on Monday, Kristi to the rescue, she suggest some options, we find a lovely hand crafted bowl at a shop across from Eleganza. Next stop a small town in NY to visit/stay overnight with Chris and Melanie, some old friends

Really enjoyed our visit to Frederick, looking forward to returning.

Stay tuned to Knitspot.com, will be added some new features to the website in the coming month.