Archive for April, 2012

Knitting Mojo Is Back!

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

This week Baby Knitspot is the size of a spaghetti squash! The baby weighs over a pound and is kicking like crazy, plus I have lots more energy, and I’m happy to announce that my knitting mojo is back!

The MSU Lorna’s Laces for my School Sock

swatched up like this!

I got pretty close to gauge on US #1s, so I rolled with it. I loved the fabric and after plugging all my measurements into the SPEASP worksheet, I related my findings to the School Sock pattern. I discovered I should knit a 63-stitch sock for Matt. I knew his foot was long and narrow, but I never would have guessed this was the size for him! Even Anne was shocked and asked if I measured right. I told her I followed my dad’s building advice of “measure twice, cut once.”

Just to be sure, I knit three inches of the pattern and slid it onto Matt’s leg. It fit his foot and leg great, but it was snug sliding over his heel. Anne suggested I add a little length in the heel flap to ensure that he could get his foot inside the finished sock.

My math success made me so happy I was ADDICTED to seeing these socks progress. I couldn’t put them down. I’m in love with this pattern. Plus, I can’t get over the cool effect I’m getting with the marriage of handpaint and stitch pattern!

I’ve been dragging these socks everywhere through this busy week. Feeling good means I finally got out of the house!

Sunday Matt and I, along with my parents, saw Melissa Etheridge at Sound Board, a small venue with fab acoustics.

Her thundering voice and mad guitar playing filled the space. She was incredible! Half way through the set she told the crowd about her battle with cancer and how it gave her a more positive outlook on life. She announced she has been cancer-free for eight years and then sang I Run For Life. Tears ran down my face and dripped onto my shirt. Powerful.

Somehow this week I was lucky enough to have two date nights! We were able to squeeze in one dining experience of Detroit Restaurant Week by scoring a table mid week at Iridescence.

First course: Roasted Beet Salad

I absolutely despise beets, but I was willing to be adventurous. They were prepared with elderflower white balsamic vinaigrette, raspberry, toasted pistachio, grapefruit, pink peppercorn, and citrus goat cheese panna cotta. Delish!

Second course:  Corn Ravioli

Prepared with peas, corn, asparagus, fiddlehead fern, and herb butter. Also delish.

Third course: Layered Mousse with Raspberry Sorbet

Prepared with raspberries, chocolate, crushed walnuts, and chocolate torte.

Just as this meal couldn’t get any better, french press decaf was served.

Perfection.

I’m sad we only had time this week for one of the restaurants, but I’m thinking we picked the right one. The food was to die for and the view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge at night was breathtaking.

This week I’ve also been stash diving to come up with a project for the Ravelympics Training KAL for Team Knitspot. Did you know Knitspot has a team for Ravelympics? There’s plenty of time to join, but if you really want to be in good shape for the events Training begins May 1. There’s also a Torch Relay KAL. David even created a ravatar for us, for team unity.

My School Socks are starting to whip me into shape

and I’m looking forward to getting some more  projects on the needles. Speaking of looking forward to something…I bet you’re all dying to know who won TWO FREE SOCK PATTERNS. Congrats to Zoe, she can start searching the archives for two of her faves!

Thank you all for sharing your sock knitting escapades for the contest. They were a treat to read.

green renovation

Friday, April 27th, 2012

once again this year, i’m spending most of the month of april away from home. it’s a time of great change in the yard and garden, though still too early and cold to plant or to work outside for very long, most days.

i found this picture in the camera while downloading the photos from our sticks and stones shoot—david must have gotten up on a box inside the entry hall to aim the camera out the window at the robin’s nest.
it’s adorable . . .

and that reminded me that i wanted to check on the dove’s nest as well—i wondered how her hatching was progressing.

she’s still at it, dead center of the photo, though the greenery has grown up all around her to provide even better camouflage.

(excuse the square photos; i inadvertently moved the aspect setting on the camera without realizing it and got a series of square pictures instead of rectangular ones. variety is the spice of life, right?)

my times at home between trips are often filled with catching up on desk work, but i took a few breaks this week to get outside and shoot some photos. i like to have a photo record of each year’s progress to remind me when the plants emerged, bloomed, and died back.

the exciting news as i write this is that the lily of the valley is opening up—by the time you read this, they will all be open and a heavenly scent will fill the back yard, where whole swaths of them are growing. it is totally better than grass . . . i thought the event deserved a slightly bigger size photo, haha.

next to the LOV, the variegated solomon’s seal is blooming—we have lots of this too; it loves living and propagating in our yard.

the fiddleheads that were so tightly wound the last time i checked have begun to open and raise their little heads up—they remind me of baby chicks at this stage.

or snails on a stick??
(ok, just pretend i didn’t say that)

i have some beautiful ferns in the back garden and i wouldn’t mind collecting some of the more unusual types. for instance these autumn ferns

they look like a swamp creature, don’t they?
but actually, they change rapidly once they emerge and those black, papery shells dry up or fall off

they are quite beautiful, almost reptilian. when they open they are orangey-red, having the opposite color cycle of a green fern. in spring and early summer they flame as brightly as a maple tree. then toward fall, they begin to fade to green and they retain a bright green color most of the winter, finally dying back completely in early spring.

i often miss this stage of their emergence, because they blend so well with rotting leaves and dirt. i’m glad i got some nice photos this time . . .

the painted ferns are the early birds of the bunch, having opened a couple of weeks back. i love their veriegated colors; each stem is slightly different and each plant as well.

in my absence, david has taken up the spade to get the dirt turned in the existing vegetable patch and to work on turning yet another section of our lawn into planting space.

we’re charting new territory on the other side of the path, where i had begun a small patch for greens and herbs. if we had our druthers, we’d dig up the whole yard to dispense with the grass entirely in favor of more space for vegetables and flowers.

but since we don’t have enough topsoil for that yet, we’re doing it one piece at a time (this is also a good way to find out what our limit will be for taking care of it all). you can see where david marked out the perimeter of the new planting area—it will extend from the back door all the way to the garage.

he’s scraping the sod off the top first. this gets carted off to the compost pit, which takes up a very large area behind our garage.

taking care of the compost pit is one of david’s ongoing projects; it was there when we moved in but hadn’t been attended to in years. when we saw how many bags of leaves we filled each spring and fall (over forty, each season), we decided to invest in a shredder in order not to send all that to the dump. now, he piles up all the shredded yard debris over the course of the year and turns the whole shebang maybe once or twice.

the older stuff gets buried under newly added stuff (see the height of that back pile?), where it begins to cook from being trapped and heated by the sun. the cooking produces gaseous emissions, which encourages faster rotting and breakdown of the material. also, it’s a worm magnet, so there are droves of them in there, churning away and adding worm manure. if you dig into the mountain, you can feel and measure the heat of the cooking plant matter; it’s pretty impressive—david quickly learned to save the turning work for chilly spring and fall days.

eventually, this is what comes out the bottom of the pile—black gold. we work this into our soil whenever we create a new planting area or when an older bed needs topping off. we also share with our neighbors and some of them are kind enough to pitch in on helping david turn the compost (we’ve probably got fifteen or twenty yards of it at any one time).

i haven’t decided yet what to put in the new planting bed—i’m not sure if one type of crop is better than another for a new area, but i have about two more weeks to think about it before planting time. i was thinking that root vegetables might be good there—they’d provide pretty vines on the street side. but chard is pretty, too . . .

well, i’m done for now—you have a good weekend and i’ll be back probably tuesday. i heard that erica has an update on her sock  project which she’ll be posting between now and then.

oh, it’s good to be home

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

haha, if this doesn’t look like trouble, i dunno what does . . .

wait—i take that back . . .

this really looks like trouble.
hmm, two guys just standing around in a couple of slöfocks, asking to model for the blog??

sorry, that doesn’t sound right, does it? maybe i’m overly suspicious . . .

and with that . . . badda bing, badda boom.

waddaya know, they’re clowning around in the very next frame.
but how can we not love ‘em?

once it got started, last weekend went by in a flash with three solid days of teaching and the travel between. we arrived in frederick, MD on thursday evening and had a wonderful sweater fitness class out at the shalimar yarns farm on friday.

it was a gorgeous spring day, warm and sunny, not yet hot and hazy—a really fine one. our class was full and everyone came ready to work and enjoy the company. i even got to visit with our friend anne marie, who we miss terribly each week in spinning class. i should have taken lots of photos, but i got so wrapped up in teaching the class that i forgot. i didn’t even visit the donkey can you believe it?

we did however, get a very nice photo shoot squeezed in at the end of the day—lara wore her sticks and stones cardigan test knit and david brought his pullover.

david is even kind of smiling here, wow; lara must have worked a magic spell on him.
actually, we have lots of nice, smiley photos from that day—you’ll be amazed.

our time in frederick was too short, for sure, but i’m almost certain i’ll be going back in september to teach at least one more workshop (probably the finishing series—stay posted).

afterward, we all grabbed a nice seafood dinner to relax and then david and i headed out to alexandria where i would teach at fibre space yarn shop for the next two days.

in their pretty upstairs teaching space we first had an all-day shawl project class, where participants cast on for and got fairly far along on the ice fantasia faroese shawl. lots of knitting time is built into the workshop, interspersed with instructional segments and skill practice.

the purpose of the class is to give students the time and skills to begin a project that is a bit complex for them—one that they may not find the time or quietude to begin at home. for instance, the trickiest part of this shawl is the setup and shoulder shaping; one needs a block of quiet time to sort out all the components and put them together, then get the rhythm set.

this class is a chance to do that without the distractions one can run into at home. plus, it’s a relaxing environment where you can work in the company of fellow knitters—what more could you want? the class can be extended into a shop KAL to keep participants motivated, too.

it was an excellent class day; i’m so glad i had a chance to do this one.

that morning i left david in charge of figuring out a date night for that evening. i though it would be fun to get out into old town alexandria to eat and do something fun—we are city people who don’t live in the city any more, so i like to take advantage of chances like this one.

unfortunately, fate would intervene—after the short walk back to the hotel and a little nap, i woke up to see that the trees were bent sideways in the wind and the sky was ominously dark—a big storm was descending. no night out for us.

instead, we ordered in some yummy chinese from shanghai peking—seriously grateful that they delivered in such a bad storm—and watched a fun movie provided via david’s awesome tech skills.

it turned out to be just what i was hoping our date night would be.

the next day i taught a sock design class that equaled the one on saturday, but i did something wrong when i took pictures and they all turned out really dark (ack, it’s far too easy to move camera settings without realizing it . . .). or possibly, it was the weather—dark and rainy ALL day long. and being in our sweet bird’s nest of a classroom, i also forgot to document the shop downstairs so you could get an inside look. bad blogger . . .

trust me, it’s super cute and very complete with everything a knitter could desire, including comfortable knitting space. danielle, the owner, already invited me to come back, so i promise i’ll make it a priority to do the place justice on my next visit.

when 5 o’clock rolled around, david picked me up and we immediately set out for home. it’s a long drive to start at that hour, but we wanted to wake up in our own bed on monday morning, ready to work (hence the urgency to have date night when we had the chance!). since i go away again on friday to teach at yarnover in minneapolis, i have lots on this week’s to-do list.

david graciously did the driving and while it was still light, i worked on finishing up basketweave sock #2. i had a chance to add some inches during our sock design class and i was on a roll. it’s just beautiful in zen yarn garden squooshy, isn’t it?

and ta-da—it’s now complete. i was quite concerned that i would run out of yarn—back at the heel i was already worrying about it.

but i managed to finish with what i had. well, yeah, i do have to weave in that yarn end.
don’t laugh—i left it like that for a reason

yes, it was very close indeed.
thankfully, i made the executive decision to leave out one row of plain stockinette before starting the toe shaping and apparently, that saved the day. if i hadn’t, the last four or five shaping rnds would not have been possible.

since i’ve been home, i’ve been focusing on myriad secret projects—i have about half a dozen on the needles right now. a couple of them will be done soon and i’ll be able to work on more public items—i can’t wait.

i haven’t worked on my holda sweater since returning, but with another trip right around the corner, and this being just about the only item i can knit in public, it’s going to have a whole weekend in the sun.

i’m about halfway to the armhole bindoff on this second front piece. while i had the camera upstairs yesterday, i put the first front on the dress form to snap a few photos and see if the fit is to my liking.

it IS—very much so.
of course, it will look much sleeker and more elegant once the fabric is blocked but i can see already that it has the fit i was hoping for—comfy, but not so voluminous it makes one look like a tank. and it has a nice verticality to draw the eye up.

it would be nice to work on this today and forget about the pile of stuff on my desk that needs attention. but friday, this is what i’m curling up with on the plane . . .

and speaking of being back to work, i bet you all wnat to know who won the giveaway copy of carol feller’s book, scrumptious knits??

that would be frances e; congratulations frances!

there is much more to talk about, but i’m going to stop now—i’m preparing a garden post for friday that you can read while i travel. so many things are waking up and we are renovating again out there—wait til you see.

there’s nothing that says welcome home like a package from a friend—today we were the lucky recipient’s of a box of baked goods, sent to us by candyO (erica’s mom). she’s so sweet, i can’t stand it!

FIFC, A Club for Fall

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Fall In Full Color, a knitspot club, is an exploration of a variety of gorgeous fibers and colors through a series of intermediate fall and winter accessory projects. Each project is designed by Anne specifically for a custom yarn, to be portable and fun to knit, appropriate for gifting or keeping as a treat to oneself.

Yarns will include a selection of six hand dyed choices from familiar knitspot favorites as well as new collaborating artists. A range of yarn weights and luxury fiber blends (mostly animal fibers) will be represented. Signups for this club begin May 1 (current club members can signup now. check your email for a discount coupon). Members will have the opportunity to purchase a full membership, a full membership plus extra yarn, or the ebook only option.

The full membership includes a monthly shipment of exclusive yarn, starting in August, plus a chapter of the ebook. The extra yarn option is basically the full membership plus a “double dip” of yarn. This way you can knit the project for you AND a friend. The ebook only option is a great way to be part of the fun by knitting all the patterns using your stash. Peruse choices here.

This is the third offering of Knitspot clubs. Anne launched her first Fall In Full Color club in August 2011, followed by Bare Naked Knitspot in February 2012. Bare Naked is currently in its third month and explores a variety of fibers in their natural, undyed state to learn about and appreciate the unique characteristics of each. Yarns include a range of animal and/or vegetable fibers (sheep, goat, camelids, yak, silk, and cotton are some possibilities) in shades from cream to khaki to gray to chocolate—”sheepy” yarns if you will. Some will be soft, some will be lustrous, some will have stout, sturdy character that softens over time with long use (like vintage blue jeans). Yarn weights will vary; projects will focus on accessories, scarves, and shawls (possibly including a sock or baby item) that feature lace and openwork stitch patterns.

Though this club is sold out, you can still purchase the ebook and keep up with club by choosing your own yarns. Plus each club has an amazing clubhouse on ravelry for members to share info, WIPS, FOs and gain a little encouragement as they work through each month’s projects. Check out FIFC clubhouse here and Bare Naked clubhouse here.

Do you still need a little enticing to join the club this year? Check out the deliciousness of FIFC 2011…

AUGUST

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona,

for

Longshadows – a wide lace scarf or stole strung with leaf motifs that are highlighted all around in yarnovers, like moonlight peeking between garden vines.

SEPTEMBER

Shalimar Yarns Breathless,

for

Hazeline – a striking triangle shawlette where cozy garter stitch accents the slender hazel leaf motifs that line the hem, in contrast with the eyelet fabric of the body above. The silvery-green base color of the yarn is shot with bright yellow, signaling the change of seasons when the hazel tree turns to a blaze of gold, seemingly overnight.

OCTOBER

Briar Rose Fibers Fourth of July,

for

Oktober Zest - cozy quick knit accessories to fit older children and adults featuring an appealingly tweedy rib-and-cable texture.

NOVEMBER

String Theory Hand Dyed Yarn Merino DK

for

Hasselnusse - neckwarmer with a ring of hazelnuts dusted with gold encircling the hem. The piece features a buttoned closure and knits up in a hurry from a surprisingly small amount of yarn.

DECEMBER

Great Northern Yarns 70% Mink 30% Cashmere DK

for

Echo of Bells - criss cross scarf and wristlet set with softly-sculpted overlapping curves that create warm depth.

JANUARY

New Hue Handspuns Lace BamHuey,

for

Squall – a flirty, half-hexagon shawl featuring openwork motifs that mimic the textured patterns in ice crystals and snowflakes.

Along the way, Anne might surprise members with goodies – fiber wash, a project bag, candy or even some bonus patterns for the yarn you’ve received.

Mark your calendar! Signups start May 1!