Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

I haven't a clue how it got to be after Christmas already. Surely some sort of quantum weirdness--a freak wormhole, perhaps--is responsible, because there is no way that 2008 could possibly have passed this quickly and shuffled us all into the tiny space between Christmas Day and the dawn of a new year.

I understand that some people like New Year's. I don't. When it comes to a new year, that "brand new start", I am not a glass-is-half-full sort of person. I am a "how the hell did the old year go so fast, and how did I do such massive amounts of nothing?" sort of person. I think part of the problem is that it's a human tendency to look at other people's accomplishments and measure our own against them. This is, of course, one of the greatest follies of humankind, since what we accomplish is unique to each of us, but I think a great many of us do it anyway.

Maybe that's why we take stock at the end of the year. The advice to count our blessings may not be as cliché as it sounds.

In lieu of any sort of "this was the year, this was what happened, wasn't it grand?" sort of blogging...let's move on to the knitting.

The cardigan is finally, finally done!

I checked my Ravelry queue...that thing had been on the needles since July. July! I knew I'd taken a few little breaks here and there, but I had no idea that it had been quite that long. But it was worth the wait. The yarn is great, the adaptations I made to the pattern worked out just fine, and it looked perfect as it was sitting there, blocking.

After blocking, it fits like a dream. It's rare that a women's pattern has the proper armhole and sleeve sizes for me, but between the pattern and the cooperative nature of the yarn once it was wet, everything worked out great!

Modifications: only one, which is the obvious hood! I was using this yarn for another pattern at one point and, due to a miscalculation of gauge, ran out before I finished. I was afraid of the same thing happening with this, so instead of adding the hood to the left and right fronts, I bound off, then added cabled edging around the neck, picking up stitches as I went. It was the first time I've ever knitted an edging onto a finished piece that way, and I think it worked out well!

All I have left on the needles is the second Trystero sock, and then I'll be ready to pursue new and exciting patterns! And also make a pair of Broadstreet mittens for my mom, because she loves mine and thinks it's a great idea.

For those of you who can manage it better than I can...Happy New Year. :)

Mood: disappointed
Music: Savage Garden - Promises

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Personal accomplishments

Holy foop, I can't believe that I haven't posted since Rhinebeck! I guess I haven't been in a bloggy mood. That, and my body has been demanding more sleep than I feel is strictly necessary, so my usual online night-owl activities have been kind of lacking.

But I'm back now! I am here, I am alive, and I have been knitting!

First, though, one other reason that I haven't blogged much: this year, I once again participated in the insanity that is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. And I wrote about...wait for it...knitters! Well, knitters and quantum physics, but knitting was a big part of the story. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with it, but I am proud to say that I worked hard enough to be able to display this here:

I feel strangely less accomplished than I did last year, maybe because I wrote a great majority of my novel in bizarre chunks using Write Or Die, an online application that gives you a variable grace period after you stop typing before it starts playing annoying sounds at you. Yep, annoying sounds like squeaking violin practice, noisy goats, and Hanson singing "MmBop". It's amazing. If you suffer from writer's block at all, I highly recommend giving it a try. It gets you typing, and I found that I was more inclined to roll with my crazy ideas rather than spend inordinate amounts of time debating about whether or not they would work.

Now for the yarny stuff. Remember that multicolored merino I got at Rhinebeck?

The blue stuff is yarn now.

I think I've mentioned that I love spinning merino. I'm a compulsive predrafter, so once I'm done with that, the roving practically spins itself. This spun up into a beautiful blue-purple two-ply with occasional slubs of yellow.

And, due to a silly incident that wasn't comical at all and which left me with only one glove, that yarn became these:

Broad Street, from the young days of Knitty.

I gave them a test run last night, and I have to admit that I don't miss my old gloves at all.

(They're less purple and more blue in real life.) I'm still not sure if I'll sew on a button to keep the mitten flap down when they're open, or just skip it. For now, they seem to work well without one.

Other things that have been giving me those little moments of joy lately: the Twilight soundtrack, hot cinnamon spice tea, and Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. Plus I'm knitting another sample for the local shop, and finishing the mittens gave me a big boost of energy with which to attack my other WIPs. All in all, knitting and life are good right now.

Mood: decaffeinated
Music: Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Defying (financial) gravity

Remember how I said something about probably not being able to go to the Sheep & Wool Festival because of budget?

Well, I was industrious. I spent weeks not buying anything that I didn't need, and letting things that could wait, wait. And today I brought home a nice haul from Rhinebeck (for a relatively small amount of money)! I rode out with the lovely Stephanie and her friend, Tomi, and we had a wonderful day.

First, the non-fiber stuff:

Eucalyptus, chai tea, and choco-mint soaps from Merriweather's handmade soaps. Holy cow, do these smell good! I love natural, hand-made soaps.

And, though I missed Franklin's book signing because I couldn't go yesterday, this

miraculously turned up in the hands of someone I met while futzing around the author building. He was just browsing, and kindly handed the book off to me to buy. Dude, I owe you one! This book is a gas.

Now, for fiber! Yes, fiber. I tried to stay away from yarn this year mainly because I still have yarn from last year that I haven't gotten around to, and my stash is fast outgrowing its plastic tubs. I figured that I couldn't go wrong by procuring some stuff to spin, since I don't spin a ton but get a great amount of enjoyment out of it when I do.

I wish I could remember which vendors all of this came from, but alas, I don't have cards from all of them. So here it is, in all it's fibery glory. And to all you fiber dyers/sellers out there, you rock!

Six ounces of pretty, solid-color merino. I'm not sure exactly how I'll handle it when I spin it, but I thought the colors would go nicely together.

Multi-colored merino! I looked at a lot of this stuff today, but finally decided on these two. Blue and blue-themed colorways are usually what I go for (in case you couldn't tell), so I added the brownish one instead of another blue one I was eyeing. I thought it'd be fun to mix things up a bit and spin something in a color I don't already have tons of in other projects.

The "I bought this, want to touch it? You know you want to touch it," item of the day: bamboo! I was too afraid of messing it up to buy more than a couple of ounces, but it is so, so soft. You know how kids imagine clouds should feel? Yeah. That's what this stuff feels like. It might be destined for the drop spindle, after it's served some time in the stash, being petted at random intervals.

And yes, I did buy yarn. I'll admit it. But the yarn I bought is all...drumroll please...sock yarn! Yes! Yarn I might actually use up before next year's festival, yarn that won't sit in the stash until I'm 105 because I couldn't find the time or the right project or the stamina to use it up!

I treated myself to some Socks That Rock in lightweight (Basan) and medium weight (a nice dark colorway, one of their Rare Gems):

And I picked up the Poseidon sock kit by Tsarina:

It took a while of looking at display socks to decide on this one. I was initially drawn by the Vintage kit, but this caught my eye even more. I love the dolphin pattern on the leg!

I also picked up three patters by the astoundingly talented Cookie A.: Trystero, Stricken, and Twisted Flower. I've been eyeing the Twisted Flower one for ages, and snapped it up when I saw it. I have a feeling that I'll be having a lot of fun with these!

And last, but certainly not least, the social stuff! Because there most definitely is a lot of that going on wherever knitters and lovers of fiber gather.

I waited in line to get a book signed and say hello to the ever-amusing Yarn Harlot again this year:

and was privileged to meet and hang out with geniuses of Ravelry at the Ravelry meetup.

I met and hung out with a bunch of other fun people, Ravelers and non, and had a wonderfully relaxing day. It never ceases to amaze me that, despite my hatred of big crowds and being around tons of people for long periods of time, there is always a certain peace to being in a place where everyone loves the same thing. There is always a common ground, always something to talk about, and always something to learn about each other and people in general. It's a great way to disconnect from all the craziness that goes on in the world every day, and reconnect with the way the world ought to be.

So that was my day at Rhinebeck. If I met you there, hi! If not, hi anyway, and I hope you had at least as much fun as I did.

Mood: fibery
Music: The Frames - Denounced

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Comfort food

It seems that, like on a real diet, a knitter on a yarn diet craves "comfort food".

I'm on both, and it sucks.

I've been on the food diet for 10 days, and it's going okay, except that counting calories is driving me nuts. Due to lactose intolerance and other various factors, I'm having a hell of a time 1) getting enough calories every day, and 2) getting the right balance of calories. Adding healthy fats without being able to consume much dairy has been an interesting challenge.

I've been on the yarn diet (mostly) since June, when I bought that KnitPicks lace sampler. I've bought a bit of sock yarn here and there since then, but have made no significant yarn purchases and have been knitting solely from stash or working on UFOs. And now...I'm sick of it.

I want to buy a bunch of nice, comforting worsted weight--since all I've been working with is lace, fingering, and sport--along with a nice, comforting pattern, sit my ass down, and just knit all day long. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, I can't afford to do any of these things, so it's back to the UFOs while startitis stalks my brain.

In this quest to tackle knitting without actually buying yarn, I did finish the socks Glen Hansard lent his awesomeness to:

Glen socks

I love the colorway (Berocco Sox 1426) and would have no problem knitting with it again in the future. I've already made some very tiny socks from the leftovers as a dangler for my key chain. 18 stitches on size US1 needles makes for one adorable little accessory.

As far as comfort knitting goes, I'm in the mood for something big, warm, and cabled. Something like the Dickinson Pullover, or the Must-Have Cardigan. (I'll admit to being in love with that cardigan ever since the Yarn Harlot blogged her way through knitting it a while back.) Even Camden is looking pretty good right now. I just want something that feels comfortable to knit, looks great to wear, and is just plain fun. The macaroni-and-cheese, or mashed potatoes, or big-bowl-of-ice-cream of the knitting world. (I haven't had any of these foods recently, either. Mac & cheese makes me sadly ill, mashed potatoes are a bit out of season, and even with a calorie count leaning toward "not enough", I haven't managed to sneak any ice cream in.)

Alas, I crave all these things without the current budget to support them. I'm still wondering how I'm going to manage the Sheep & Wool Festival this year (hint: it's looking like I won't be able to). Although I suppose it's all for the greater good. Ending a diet with a binge isn't that great of an idea, right? Even a yarn diet.

Right, I'll try to justify it that way.

In the meantime, Anne Shirley is looking promising as something that could be satisfactorily knit from yarn I have on hand.

Mood: decaffeinated
Music: Gillian Welch - By the Mark

Saturday, September 13, 2008


In pondering life, I occasionally come up against something that seems impossible to resolve without causing a paradox when its principles are applied on a broad scale. No matter what angle I look at some things from, it seems that there's no way to settle on an agreeable explanation that makes sense in every situation. So often is the case with important matters.

In the midst of this, I've come to one definite conclusion: there is only so much that each individual person in this world can care about. And yet, in realizing this, it's also important to remember that, just because we don't all care about the same things, the things other people care about are not less or beneath the things we care about. Everyone cares about a different subset of things because there has to be a balance. If we all tried to care about everything that needed attention, the world would come to a screeching halt.

The point of saying all of this is to declare that I'm going to try my hardest to stop feeling guilty about the things I care about. I'm going to try and appreciate the time and energy that goes into and is required by the things that are important to me. I'm going to stop minimizing myself.

And one of the things I care about greatly is (big surprise) knitting. And yarn.

My first attempt at using Jacquard acid dyes! I was going for more balance between the yellow and green, but I'm still quite happy with the way it came out. It reminds me of early-to-late spring when the new leaves have just come, and everything is getting green again.

I dyed this at my grandmother's house, which is in much more of a city setting than I'm used to. I'm a country girl at heart; I grew up and still live in a place where it takes ten minutes to get to the post office and longer than that to hit a grocery store. My grandmother, on the other hand, lives a hop, skip, and a jump away from just about everything, from banks and grocery stories to soft-serve ice cream and Chinese takeout. It's interesting to spend any length of time down there. It's a really different world for me.

Her house also has a couple of things mine doesn't that make yarn dyeing that much easier: 1) a full basement with surfaces on which to lay out yarn and other materials, surfaces that have never and will never be used for food prep; and 2) a giant, two-sided metal sink with its own taps, perfect for wetting out and rinsing out yarn, and also for hanging yarn to do its initial drip-drying. I had a great time dyeing this yarn and hope I can do some more in the near future.

Because of the colors and where I dyed it, I've dubbed the colorway "Springtime in the City". It's for sale over at my Etsy shop if anyone's interested!

Now that I've waxed personally philosophical, and rambled about yarn in true knitblogger fashion, I'm off to play with the new Sims 2 expansion. And knit. 'Cause Sims is awesome like that.

Mood: depressed
Music: Michael Nesmith - Back Porch and a Fruit Jar Full of Iced Tea

Monday, August 18, 2008

I've done some blog-worthy things over the past few weeks.

I made a hat:

(An important hat. More on that later.)

I made a pie:

(An unusual pie. More later.)

But I'd say the most amazing thing that happened (possibly in the whole of the summer) was this:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Glen Hansard.



Needless to say, knitting socks at the Saratoga Music Fest was a very, very good idea. Glen's music, with the Frames and with Marketa, has had such a huge impact on me over the last year...meeting him was wonderful. I can only hope I didn't make too much of a fool of myself.

I am now eternally indebted to the Yarn Harlot for starting the "hold my sock" thing. I suppose you can only hope that the person you ask to hold your sock is a good sport--and Glen was. He didn't even ask why a sock, or "You want me to do what?" He just held the thing. And, as a friend pointed out, it kinda matches his eyes.

This picture is now 8x10 and is on my wall. Framed. Is that silly? Because if it is, I'm silly and proud of it.

I really hope I can find some audio or video from the performance yesterday. Technical and sound issues were, regrettably, cutting into people's set time, none more so than Glen and Marketa's, and it really upset Glen. But then he covered Van Morrison, which he does so well that he actually manages to be better than the original recordings, and just rocked the house. He made more noise with just himself and that wonderful guitar with the extra hole in it than the entire, full band that had played before. It was truly a moment that captured the essence of Glen and what he means to me musically.

Onward to knitting!

The cute little red hat is the Emily Hat, a pattern I found via Ravelry's pattern browser. I made it for the one-year-old daughter of a friend of the family as a sort of cheering-up present. The poor girl is having absent seizures, and her family hasn't been able to get a concrete reason as to why yet. I wanted her, and them, to have a little bit of comfort, and I'm no good with verbal condolences, so I dug through the stash for some cotton yarn and made this.

As for the pie, guess what's in it. Go on, guess. I'll give you a hint: it's not fruit.

Give up?

Zucchini. For serious.

Now, I like zucchini in things like quesadillas, and as a side dish with pasta, but I had no idea it was possible to make a pie out of it. No idea, that is, until I bought this cookbook. I had flipped through it before, and decided to pick it up the last time I was at Borders.

I'm so glad I did! It has some amazing recipes for most of the vegetables my family grows in our garden, as well as things that are easily available at area farm stands. Zucchini is one thing that we always end up with far too much of, no matter how little we plant, so I was glad to find that the book has a large section devoted to zucchini-based recipes. Apparently, if you cook chopped zucchini in lemon juice and season it like apples for a pie, it makes a very apple-like pie.

Guess what? It really does. It's nearly impossible to tell that the pie isn't an apple pie. If you love produce, I highly recommend this book.

I am now off to try another amazing recipe: seasoned sweet potato fries, baked in the oven!

Mood: ecstatic
Music: The Frames - Your Face

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's not about that, is it; it's about you and me

I'm not particularly happy about anything right now, which is a dreary state to be in at the start of what's left of the summer. But I suppose I--and many people--hit this point at some time during whatever season they find most promising. To me, late spring and early summer hold great promise, the promise of long days to come, of productivity and fun with friends. And it's not that I've done nothing this summer. I've done a great deal of things that have been a lot of fun. I just haven't done as much as I was hoping, and that always leaves me feeling somewhat depressed.

My knitting hasn't been at all cooperative or helpful on this front.

This will be the back of A Cardigan For Arwen. It's perfect mindless knitting for watching movies, knitting by the light of the monitor while RPing, or reading long books, but as a "sit down and knit happily away" project, this part is lacking.

As for the North Star scarf...

I'm rather tempted to dub it an impolite seven-letter word with the way it's been going. It was moving right along for a while at a pace I was happy with, and that was reasonable for the amount of concentration it takes. Now suddenly, as I'm approaching the halfway point, it has decided to rebel on me. Things aren't lining up, stitches are disappearing, and I often wind up undoing most of the progress I've made, trying to find where things went wrong. I'm beginning to doubt my decision to knit lots and lots of lace in the coming months.

These circumstances have conspired to start up the startitis again, and even as I knit these things, my mind is casting about for what to cast on next. I have some sock yarn that I bought at Knitting Needles in Newport last week, but that needs to be saved for the big awesome concert I'm going to on the 17th. (After much deliberation, I decided that, yes, the best thing to knit while basking in the awesome that is The Swell Season is, indeed, socks.)

Another unfortunate aspect of my current discontent is health. Mine isn't necessarily bad, more that I'm rather bad at managing it. I have trouble sticking to an exercise plan, because I just plain don't like structured exercise. I find it boring. And I love food. This, as you can imagine, leads to arguments with the scale over what it should say I weigh vs. what it actually says, which never end well. So it's back on the diet and exercise train for me, a train that I always wind up getting off of before my scheduled stop. Maybe it's time to start considering knitting as therapy?

Music: They Might Be Giants - Contrecoup
Mood: blah

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Moving right along

After being kept up until 4:30 in the morning by an RP thread that was far too interesting to abandon, today has been a decidedly lazy day. Pretty much all I've done is eat, poke around on the internet, and read through another life of Captain Bluebear. Knitting will no doubt figure into the day somewhere, but silly me, being away from home this week, only brought lace. Nothing mindless at all. Which means I watched a great deal of Teen Titans yesterday without having anything for my hands to do. A dangerous endeavor, indeed!

Remember how I said that I needed to have a talk with the stash? Well, that's begun.

The stash used to have a free reign of the closet, and of the corner of my bedroom that houses my book collection (which is another growing "stash" in and of itself). This was unacceptable, especially since the closet stash was beginning to cause my laundry hamper to launch itself out of the closet whenever the door got opened.

So the stash and I had a little chat, as part of my ongoing summer project to tame the mess in my bedroom.

Yep, this is the same stash. Same stash, same yarn, tamed and organized into a lot of Ziploc bags, grocery bags, and two clear plastic storage tubs, which are now stored in the closet and have made stash diving a whole lot easier.

The circus sweater is in there, too, albeit no longer as a sweater. I was finally forced to admit to myself that I couldn't live with finishing it, and into the frog pond it went. Which leaves me with a lot of dark blue DK weight and several single skeins in very, er, vivid colors. Kaffe Fasset, anyone?

In addition to taming the stash, I've done something that it seems most knitters vow to do, but never quite get around to: I've begun knitting from it. Well over a year ago, I started knitting Jarrett with some Schachenmayr nomotta Extra that I'd gotten on sale at Wool 'n' Word. Problem being, I didn't think hard enough on the fact that changing the gauge would also change the amount of yarn I would need for the project.

Feel free to laugh.


Okay, you can stop now.

Anyway, that sat and sat and sat, unfinished, one lonely skein in the bag with the project, waiting for partners to finish the sweater with. Partners I could never find, at least not in the color I needed. So Jarrett, too, eventually hit the frog pond.

Then I discovered A Cardigan For Arwen. Again, not something that's supposed to be knit in sport weight, but I have a couple plans for modifying the pattern which ought to mean I'll wind up having enough yarn to finish. Until I get to the bits with cables, this will be my mindless knitting. 18.75" of stockinette for the back! That'll get me through a lot of summer DVDs (Monk, anyone?) and summer reading! I'm sure it'll also prove extremely useful when my mom and I go on vacation next week. Yey oceanside knitting!

Off I go to track down some food and read more about the lives of Captain Bluebear. If you're looking for some interesting summer reading, Walter Moers rocks!

Mood: hungry
Music: Almost Awake - Third Street

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The future of the blog...and socks

It occurs to me that I ought to get more involved in this blog. I read plenty of other knitting blogs, and they're full of neat stories, amusing witticisms, and useful information. What do I do? Post pictures of knitting. Woo-hoo.

Now the core purpose of a knitting blog is, of course, knitting. Pictures of knitting, discussions of knitting, that cool things found on Ravelry, etc. But I've also discovered that, through knitting blogs, I've begun to get to "know" people in the online knitting community, great people whose existence I might never have known about otherwise. I see their knitting, but their blogs also offer little windows into their lives. What's up with their families, what cool things they've been doing and attending, what sort of knitting/spinning/dyeing techniques they prefer or have been trying...I learn it all through their blogs, and I'm happy to have those glimpses.

What do I post? Pictures of knitting.

I think it's time that changed. It has been changing at bit over the past few posts, what with my waxing lyrical about Elizabeth Zimmermann and talking about what books I've been reading to teach myself things. But I'm not sure that I've posted anything here that allows a potential reader to really "know" me. (Do I even have any readers? I wonder this at times!)

So, I vow to post more interesting non-knitting things along with the knitting things. I shall strive to babble occasionally about things that are happening in my life.

But, for's a picture of knitting:

The Monkey socks are done! I steam blocked them today and the lace opened up a bit and stopped trying to fold the socks into a 4-cornered flower shape. Great pattern. I'd definitely knit these again!

Mood: introspective & caffeinated
Music: The Frames - Finally

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just about everything from the past few weeks

I've finally read my first Elizabeth Zimmermann book. I know, I know what all you seasoned knitters are thinking. "You've been knitting since 2004, and you're just now trying Zimmermann?"

I'll admit it, I'm Miss Modern, who started with the Yarn Harlot and am working my way back as far as humorous, opinionated knitting books go, but I do have a slight defense. Only slight. About a year ago, I got another EZ book out of the library, and was simply too overwhelmed by my schedule to have time to read it. (Okay, for all I remember, I could have been wasting time making Desmond icons, but the point is, I did get my hands on an EZ book before now.)

The book is Knitting Without Tears, and I find the iconic EZ to be rather astounding. It seems to me that the casual way she approached knitting, and the problems that may arise while working on a knitted piece, would scare the heck out of a lot of modern knitters, and possibly modern knitting book authors. There are so many books out there on new techniques, old techniques, traditional techniques, and what to do when they all fail you; but Zimmermann simply took it all in stride. Not enough yarn? Do a little stash diving and add a border. Completely genius, something you'd think we would occur to all of us, and yet...well, I know I don't approach knitting that way. Clearly, in EZ terms, I am far too much of a perfectionist.

The Phoebe Pullover is based on the seamless saddle shoulder sweater that EZ presents in this particular book. After having worked on the pattern for a while, seeing the casual way the construction is presented is extremely liberating. I'm finding myself dreaming up the beginnings of designs for yarns that have been sitting in the stash, just waiting to be used.

Speaking of, after venturing into my closet to grab a few things, I came to the conclusion that the stash and I need to have a little talk. A serious talk. A "this gigantic bag of yarn needs to become a much smaller bag of yarn before any more yarn is purchased" kind of talk. The irony of this is that I just bought more yarn in the form of a KnitPicks lace sampler. (I have a feeling that all knitters experience this irony at some point, or perhaps constantly.) But now I think it's time to reign it in, both for the sake of my budget and the sake of my closet.

Yes, it's time for...the dreaded yarn diet. We'll see how well that works.

Now let's see. As far as catch-up goes, I think I'll start with the spinning. A couple of weeks ago, I finally pulled out the BFL roving:

(Rufus Lupus colorway, from SakinaNeedles)

I wanted to try doing some low-twist singles, something I've been a bit too chicken to try in the past. So, I did a little Google-fu and scared up a decent tutorial. Despite clear instruction, though, I found that the technique involved was a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. The differences in speed between treadling and feeding the fiber in are going to take some time to master.

Nevertheless, I'm not unhappy with the results.

I had a hat in mind for these, but I'm not sure there's enough. I'll get to swatching eventually to see if it's even appropriate yarn for the project.

As for knitting...a while back, I told myself that I had to clean up my small collection of UFOs. For someone who started out knitting only one thing at a time, diligently finishing each project before casting on another, having four unfinished projects on the needles was starting to feel a bit overwhelming. I promised myself that startitis wouldn't take over until all my needles were empty.

That went well, at first. I finished the socks with the Trekking XXL I got in PA. I finished the socks with the Kool-Aid dyed handspun. Then, I happily attacked the Phoebe Pullover once again.

And encountered the cruelest irony ever.

That sad sight is a sweater one ball short of being finished. That is a sweater for which I, the knitter who always has an extra ball of yarn left over, somehow managed to under-buy. That is a sweater that is laughing to itself as it sits stowed under the futon, awaiting one last ball of navy Andean Silk. It has blown a big raspberry at both my yarn diet and my spirited attempt to whiz through my UFOs. Oddly...I don't resent it. I'm more annoyed at the USPS for taking so long with one itty-bitty package. (Of course, I didn't just order one ball of yarn. I tossed the Yarn Harlot's latest book in the cart, too, to make it worth my while.)

There is, of course, only one thing to do while waiting, and that is succumb to startitis.

First in a pair of Monkey socks. I've had my eye on this pattern for a while, and it didn't take me long to see why so many people knit it. It has enough variation to be interesting, but is quick and easy enough to suspend with any lace-related frustration. The repeat is short enough to be jotted in a small notebook and carried anywhere. I whipped through an entire repeat during a car ride back from the bookstore yesterday.

The yarn is Plymoth Happy Feet that I picked up at Stephanie's a few weeks ago. The picture I snapped of the swatch gives a better representation of the colors:

I really like the subtle variation. It adds visual interest without detracting from the lace pattern.

That's it for now! I'm all caught up. Remember that tomorrow is WWKIP (World-Wide Knit In Public) Day! I'm heading over to Stephanie's to sit, knit, and enjoy the gorgeous lack of humidity. Perhaps there will be pictures, if I can remember my camera.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I like colors. My wardrobe may offer examples to the contrary, as it is predominantly black, but there are several things I like colors in:

-- Socks. I'm a sucker for self-striping sock yarn (in case this wasn't obvious).
-- Nature. I've lived in a rural area all my life, and every year I am struck by how vibrant spring and summer can be. Trees, flowers, birds, fresh's all beautiful, and I look forward to all of it no matter how many times I've seen it before.
-- Guitars, particularly Gibson. 'Nuff said.

Despite this, I've never been very enthusiastic about experimenting or playing with color. I always felt that I didn't have an eye for it, a belief that the Circus Sweater drove home rather painfully. Lately, though, my thoughts have been turning to serious dye projects. Experimenting with Kool-Aid is great, but I want to be able to have more control over my dyes. I want more vibrant colors, in something that isn't going to leave my yarn smelling like lemonade and fruit punch. I want...a dye studio.

I know a have a lot to learn before a studio setting could pay off for me, so I've been doing the logical thing: reading up on dyeing and color! I recently perused several such books, including Deb Menz's Color In Spinning, Linda Labelle's The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing, and, most recently, Elaine Eskesen's Dyeing to Knit. I found the latter two especially to be great sources of inspiration. I've learned a lot about the color wheel that I never managed to pick up on before, and tonight I did some experimenting:

I had to darken the image a bit to make the colors stand out properly. It's still not exact, but it's close to the way the design looks in real life. It's in a book of black-and-white, color-them-yourself line designs I got when I was much younger, and I colored it in while referencing a small color wheel in Dyeing to Knit. I even laid the crayon colors out to correspond to the wheel, so the right colors would be easily within reach. I tried some work with complementary colors, color triads, and color harmonies. I think it came out good! I'd like to do a few more, both referencing the color wheel and freehand.

I'm finding some of the information hard to retain, probably because I've never been artsy in that sort of way, but I'm liking what I'm learning. It's fulfilling to feel like I'm finally getting in touch with a side of my creativity that was previously closed off. I'm beginning to feel a little more adventurous where color is concerned, and I think that's the first step towards being able to do the dyeing that I want to do in the near future. I have colorways in my head, inspired by everything from movies to books to RPG characters. I want to continue learning as much as I can in regards to color and dye techniques so that I can make these ideas a reality.

Also, I have discovered the work of Kaffe Fassett. Talk about delightfully insane...

Mood: tired & distracted
Music: Left Bank - Just Walk Away, Renee

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The computer and the blog both need attention

Here I am, playing catch-up again. I was doing so well for a while there! I definitely need to get back into the blog groove.

My laptop has started sneezing on me every time I try to scroll through a large amount of files that are also of large size. Read: Explorer crashes. This is decidedly annoying, especially since I don't know what's causing it. It's making it quite hard to transfer large files between the desktop and the laptop. For now, I'm defragging the hard drive and letting Avast AntiVirus do its thing to make sure all's well on the software front. I'd forgotten just how long defragging takes.

While all of that is going on, and Pandora serenading me in the background, I'm going to bring this blog up to speed!

First off, the spinning:

This is one skein (approximately half) of the merino I spun a while back. Before I started some socks with it, I decided to do a little dyeing experiment. No pictures from that, but it involved five jars, some Kool-Aid, and a bit of steam! The colors didn't turn out as vivid as I wanted, but the result was a yarn with a somewhat tie-dyed appearance, so overall it was a good result.

The first sock, done toe-up to maximize yarn usage:

The ball of yarn next to my foot recently became the start of sock #2.

The yarn has more variation in thickness than I thought, and far too much twist in places, but it's knitting up fairly well. I may have to block the socks when all's said and done. It's a learning experience. As I knit, I find myself thinking about things I've read regarding spinning, and considering how to apply them in future spinning ventures. In my experience, this sort of learning takes a little longer and incorporates more trial-and-error than being taught in, say, a class setting, but it works just as well. I'm really enjoying learning new techniques and how to improve what I'm already doing.

Remember the Eastside Weavers roving? Here's what it became:

Thick-thin yarn, predominantly purple, of all things. I didn't realize just how much purple was in the color scheme until I started predrafting and spinning the roving. This led me to think (don't laugh) of Barney, of all things. Which, in turn, led me to think of the Garfield & Friends parody of Barney, Sidney the Pink Dinosaur (Season 7, "The Beast From Beyond"). Which is why this yarn is called "Sidney".

Okay, now you can laugh.

This yarn is available for purchase at my Etsy shop, The Casimir Sheep (formerly Northeast Knits).

Now, the knitting! Excuse the crappy webcam pics; I don't currently have my good camera on me.

I knit the majority of this pair while watching Lost and House, and got a bit more work in while reading extremely long discussion board threads on Ravelry and fighting the Morphing Bacterial Infection of Doom.

The yarn is Trekking XXL that I picked up on that road trip to Pennsylvania, colorway 312. As you can see, I made no attempt to make them match.

First picture of the elusive Phoebe Pullover! This is sleeve #1, attempt #3. The pattern isn't difficult, but it requires more concentration than a lot of what I've been knitting recently (read: socks). My brain keeps trying to convince me that it's mindless, really it is, and I believe it until I find myself three-quarters of the way through a round and realize that I have no idea what stitch I just did, or if it was the right one. I'll have to keep re-training myself to pay attention, I guess!

With the exception of what's on the drop spindle at the moment, that's it! Catching up has been achieved. I can only imagine the chaos that's going to bloom around here when I start on my next endeavor: stash reduction...

Mood: cold
Music: Jim Croce - Dreamin' Again

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Twisty tales

Oh hai, I've been spinning again.

I can tell you're not surprised.

On Saturday, my mom and I ventured to a small fiber arts/craft fair and sale in Clifton Park. The main thing I had my eye out for was a drop spindle, and sure enough

that's what I walked away with. The spindle is from Millpoint Emporium, and the fiber I'm spinning was from the table Eastside Weavers had set up. I also got this

from their table, and can't wait to spin it. I'm not usually one for purple, but I thought the overall effect of the colorway was very earthy and pretty. As you can see, I've already isolated the color repeats and am storing the fiber like that so it'll be ready when I am.

I really enjoyed the Millpoint Emporium table. I wish I'd been able to afford more! Among their other beautiful products, they had hand-turned nostpindes, as well as some lovely niddy-noddies. I could easily have bought half the contents of the table!

As it is, I'm loving the drop spindle. It's done its share of dropping, due to my being rather clumsy with the process, but I'm getting better! I've spun a fair amount of the black/red/blue fiber these past few days, mostly while watching the 50th Anniversary Collection of Perry Mason. (Incidentally, I thought I'd take a look yesterday and see if anyone writes Perry Mason fanfiction. Apparently so! Most of it is Perry/Della. How cute is that?)'s starting. I barely have room for my yarn stash, and yet I've begun to amass a fiber stash.

Meet Ex-Parrot (100% Corriedale), and Rufus Lupus (100% Bluefaced Leicester), both from SakinaNeedles. I ordered these for two reasons. One, I like the colors, especially in Ex-Parrot. Two, both of them have, either in the name of the colorway or in the product description, references to British humor.

"For some reason, all the "weird" kids in my grade at school took Latin instead of Spanish or French. While we were all sitting around one day before class, we realized that with everyone having memorized their favorite scene, and everyone having different favorite scenes, our Latin class could collectively quote our way through the entire script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Rufus Lupus (this is from the merino version of the colorway, which I looked at first):
"My mom claims that I'm turning away customers with names like this because not everyone reads Latin. But I have faith in you. Most of you might not read Latin, and most of you may not have even read Thomas Hobbes, but I have noticed a distinct tendency among spinners to like Terry Pratchett."

If Rufus Lupus is still available in 2009, I'm totally bringing some to the North American Discworld Convention and spinning it while walking around. Stop looking at me like that; the idea wasn't the only reason I had for buying a drop spindle.

Seriously, it wasn't. Stop staring.

In addition to all this fiber acquisition, I've been reading up on hand-dyeing, both yarn and roving, in books like Deb Menz's Color In Spinning. Plus, I'm still working on the Phoebe Pullover, and have cast on a new sock to knit while watching things like Lost and House. How one pair of socks is going to last me until the end of the season for both shows is beyond me. I may have to cast on another before finale time rolls around!

No wonder I want to spend all my time doing fiber-arts-y things rather than working. I need to put some more thought into how badly I want to pursue the possibility of making fiber arts a paying gig.

Is that nuts? >.>

Mood: full o' ennui
Music: CCR - Who'll Stop the Rain

Friday, April 25, 2008

Patience has her perfect work

Yep, more spinning talk!

These are singles spun from just shy of 5 oz. of merino that I picked up on a recent road trip to Pennsylvania. My mom and I were driving along 202 on our way to Blue Bell, and came upon Twist Knitting & Spinning. Seeing as we haven't ventured into PA since I was extremely young, and I'm a sucker for any LYS wherever we happen to be, we stopped and took a look around.

It's a really cute shop. They have a lot of well-known names in yarn, including hand-dyed/handpainted, as well as a diverse selection of fiber. I had the pleasure of sticking my hand in a bag of 100% cashmere, which was, unfortunately, far beyond my budget. There was also merino, angora, camel, and all manner of blends! I settled on the merino, it being both reasonably priced and amazingly soft.

It took me nine days of diligent spinning to get it all done. I spun the singles very thin, with sock yarn in mind, and Navajo plied them.

Then, with the help of a postal scale, I split the yarn into two skeins, roughly 2.5 oz/each.

I haven't swatched yet, but I think I managed to get sock yarn, or very close! I don't know how much it amounts to, yardage-wise. I really need to invest in a yardage counter, or something of the like.

Though it's very pretty as is, I'd like to dye both skeins at some point. Problem is, I've put so much work into them, that the blue and yellow Kool-Aid I bought yesterday somehow doesn't seem like it will do them justice. I'm pondering making concentrated dyes and hand-painting the yarn blue, yellow, and green, but I'm not sure. Having spent 30+ hours spinning and plying this, I don't want to ruin it with a bad or substandard dye job.

I have, however, been practicing dyeing techniques!

I had some KnitPicks' Bare Peruvian wool left over from making Inishmore, so I skeined it up yesterday and goofed off a bit with Kool-Aid and food coloring.

My original intention was to make a colorway with blue, black, red, yellow, and orange. A shortage of red food coloring and a miscalculation in color mixing had me end up with the blue, rose-pink, yellow, and brown in the picture. Despite the difference from what I was picturing, I like it! It's kind of psychedelic. I don't know what I'll do with it, but I'm thinking it'll become a hat for a baby and/or small child.

In case you're wondering, I hand-painted using concentrated Kool-Aid/food coloring dyes mixed up with water and a teeny bit of food coloring. Being unable to locate the sponge brushes I know I have, I ended up cutting a bit off an old sponge, cutting the end at an angle, and using that to dab the dye on. It worked quite well! Then I wrapped the whole thing up and steamed it for about 45 minutes in a strainer suspended over a stainless-steel pot. One thing I learned during the whole process is that I definitely need to hit the discount and thrift stores and get myself a full set of dyeing equipment.

In the near future, I would like to embark on adventures in dyeing with something like Jacquard acid dyes. Perhaps I'll get some practice in with that before I try to dye the merino. I know I want to do some more reading on the subject, especially on making self-striping yarn!

Tomorrow, I'm off to a local fiber arts and crafts fair. I think the world of fiber arts has truly eaten my brain, and I'm not upset about that in the least.

Mood: tired
Music: Michael Nesmith - Rio