Monday, December 31, 2007

It's Just Another New Year's Eve . . .

Anyone but me even remember that Barry Manilow song? Eeeek! My secret is out - I'm the only Barry Manilow fan who openly admits to it :-D Although I did see him on the telly last week, for some "what would Brian Boitano do?" ice show, and he looked very . . . um . . . young . . . if you get my drift. Just not an attractive look . . . for anyone.

Anyway - here are the final socks of 2007. In my first year of knitting socks I knit 10 pairs. Wow! These were made for one of the "church ladies" in my prayer shawl knitting group. I modified the basic sock pattern I have been using - this time ribbing the leg for maximum stretch and deepening the gusset to accommodate her feet and ankles, which have a tendency to swell. She picked this yarn from my stash.

One more day of my great long weekend! I have watched movies, knit stuff, spun stuff and just generally had a great time. I watched Notes on a Scandal, which is very good. I also watched a Bollywood film called Salaam-E-Ishq, and it was really really good - sort of an Indian Love Actually, except that it was three hours long. :-D I have no idea how I ended up liking Bollywood films, but I do. I think it's the music and the dancing - maybe the hottie guys? Whatever :-D anyway, if you want to try out a Bollywood film, I would recommend Salaam-E-Ishq. I also watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend and just sobbed throughout the entire last 45 minutes. It was really good, too.

Next up - as mentioned, I have joined a sock KAL - here is the sock yarn that got wound the other morning. Clockwise from the yellow: JWray sock yarn; Lorna's Laces, Shibui Knits, Claudia Hand Painted, and Yarn Love. In the middle is Seacoast Handpainted Panda. Some of the purples will likely go to an auction for the African Violet Society of America - some will be for me, and we'll see about the rest - I have one cousin who LOVES that I knit her some socks :-)

Happy New Year!
p.s. I have no idea why Blogger things that spaces between paragraphs are no longer a good thing . . . Sorry.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On The Fiber Front!

I'm on the first day of a 4-day weekend! Wheeeeeeeee! :-) And now that Christmas has come and gone, here are a few finished objects that had to remain on the QT.

I spun this yarn for my friend, Linda, aka The Chicken Lady :-D Her mission to keep chickens in the city is garnering national attention!! Sorry, I digress . . . You might recall that at Stitches Midwest, she gave me a braid of fiber. It was the first wool that my spinning teacher, PatsyZ had me spin. It's Targhee, and I absolutely loved spinning it - in fact, I would very much like to get some more (after June 30th, I know :-D). I spun it worsted weight, and although there is a little bit of thick/thin going on, on the whole it was pretty consistent for where I was at the time. I plied it as it was spun - I very much like the "barber pole" effect, and when it is knitted up, it will have a very "tweedy" sort of look in all the colors that really are Linda :-) One of the properties of Targhee is that it is really, really stretchy as well as being very soft (next to the skin soft).
One of my non-knitting friends grows beautiful African violets, and (book plug, coming up --> ) in fact, you can pick up her new book, You CAN Grow African Violets: The Official Guide Authorized by the African Violet Society of America, Inc., at iUniverse.
Anyway, she visited me this summer and I dragged her to the Midwest Fiber & Folk Fair, in Crystal Lake, Illinois, where she saw some Trekking XXL, pointed to it and said, "that's beautiful." Since it was the only sock yarn she showed any interest in all day, I figured I had better nab it. Getting it into the bag and paying for it, and then hiding it from her the rest of the weekend was challenging :-D
I did not share her assessment of this yarn - until I starting knitting it up. In the skein, it bore an unfortunate resemblance to . . . um . . . clown barf. Really, it did. But as I started to knit it, it turned into the stunners you see on the right. Clearly, in addition to having a thumb greener than my own, she's a color visionary! So, here are Joyce's socks, modelled on my spiffy new sock blockers from The Loopy Ewe. I love these things!
Here's one last pair of socks to show you. Made of Sockina cotton. I liked how they knitted up - I swear, I had a dress back in the 70's that was that pinky/coral shade, with cream colored lace and dark brown bits of trim. :-D I like how these came out, and I like that I was able to get them to match, unlike the Trekking, above, which I later learned never matches up for anyone.
As part of my personal stash busting challenge, I have joined a knit-along! It's called the Sock a Month 5 KAL. The goal is to knit one pair of socks each month, from January to June. Apparently this is the fifth time time the organizers have done this - hence the "5" in the name. This should be fun!
Point Five Raglan is done but for the sleeve seams and the wonky buttons . . . if anyone knows of a tutorial for those yarn buttons, please point me in the right direction!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas is Different This Year . . .

It's quiet here this morning chez A, which is a marked contrast from last night at my Aunt's. I think that I have the loudest family in the entire universe. Prolly everyone thinks that, don't they?

Christmas is different this year . . . and I am glad that I have this quiet time this morning, because I find that I am far sadder than I thought I might be. I have been doing my best to be merry and bright this season, and I was doing pretty well (I didn't get a degree in theatre for nothing) until the past few days; but, as Christmas became imminent, so did an underlying feeling of sadness.

Christmas is different this year . . . This afternoon I will go to my cousin's house, and we will remember her brother, my cousin Jimmy. There will be a healing ceremony of candles, and new Christmas traditions will be started, and it will be good - good for us all.

Christmas is different this year . . . because of last year. Last year we were having a really great Christmas - until about 3 o'clock, when we found Jimmy on the floor of his home. Back in June, when his ashes were laid to rest, I wrote this:

I truly believe that when we go, it's our time - it means that our work here is done, but I've had a difficult time reconciling that this time for a 41-year-old. I think, how could his work be done? And yet, it must have been. We (as in my large extended family) all miss his wry sense of humor, his flashing grin - he was a brother, a son, a cousin, a nephew, and an uncle. We all miss him every day and we wonder why he's gone, and we hold his light in our hearts so he will not be forgotten - it's there, in a safe place, in each of us. In the time between his passing and tomorrow, a baby has been born who was named after him, and my family bought a star. I like to think it's the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning . . .

Christmas is different this year . . . I am thinking of him today and how it is a year since he has been gone - and how his death has changed us all. I've written this before, but it bears repeating: I believe that the old custom of a year of mourning has merit - you run the gauntlet getting through that year of "firsts" without a loved one. After that, in my experience, if you allow it, time (which truly is the great healer) begins to soothe somehow and you are able to make a place in your heart to put all the emotions that surround a loss of this magnitude. You don't forget, you don't "get over it." What you do, is you make that place in your heart so you can live again, because you cannot stay in the darkness forever. Just as Samhain moves toward Imbolc, winter moves toward spring - you have to move into the light.

Christmas is different this year . . . it is bittersweet, but it is not without hope. Yes, we miss him - very much - but we have honored his memory this year by making charitable donations instead of giving each other gifts - there are people all over the world who woke up to hope today because of donations made in his memory.

I encourage you to say "I love you" every day, to start doing all the things you've "always wanted to do," and to dance like nobody's watching, because Christmas is different this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Things

I saw this on Sheri's Blog and I love how things go in threes. Things do go in threes. I wonder if that's a law of nature. Anywho . . .

Three Things
1. Snowblowers totally rock.

2. Knitting parlance should be consistent everywhere, all the time :-S Case in point ---> Point Five Raglan . . . You tell me: "Work in St st, dec 1 st each end of needle every 9 rows 3 times - 35 sts rem. Work even for a total of 34 rows or to desired sleeve length." I did that . . . on both sleeves . . . all the time wondering why on earth the sleeves were so long and thinking well, maybe somehow this is going to work out since I've never done a top down raglan before and maybe the sleeves are just supposed to be King Kong length and after all I have pretty long arms and maybe it's going to get taken up somehow in the finish work . . . JesusMaryandJoseph.

I'd like to suggest that this would have been better written thus: "Work in St st, dec 1 st each end of needle every 9 rows 3 times - 35 sts rem. Work even for 5 rows for a total of 34 rows or to desired sleeve length."

I had to fit two photos together to show you the Amazon left sleeve. The right sleeve has been frogged back to just before the cuff should actually start . . . I checked the errata - I read it a thousand times. I remain exceptionally irritated by this because "Work even for a total of 34 rows" means WORK EVEN FOR 34 ROWS.
=====:-O <-- div="" end.="" hair="" me="" my="" on="" standing="" with="">

3. It's good to have blooming plants around you. Plants are in bloom all over my house! Here are three of the four Christmas Cacti that live in my sunroom. I treated them to the occasional drink of African violet food from late September on, and they went hog wild. Nearly all the violets are in bloom right now, too. They bloomed in spite of me and I let them go, but they've all reminded me recently that they need some TLC, and definitely some repotting!
Did I mention that snowblowers rock totally hard?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sleighbells Ring . . .

It's a Winter Wonderland here in Chicagoland this morning. I'm just waiting another 15 minutes or so before going out and firing up the snow blower. The official snowfall is 9.8 inches. That's a lot of snow, folks. I don't think I got quite that much, but here's the view out my back deck.

It's similar out the front. I need to sing this morning, so normally I would be out shoveling like mad to get the car out of the garage - this will be a whole new experience.

Every year I say I'm going to get one . . . I said it as recently as last week, when it took me an hour and half to shovel the driveway and the sidewalk at 5:30 in the morning. It's a big driveway. So, last Saturday, in the midst of final party prep, I had stopped at the Ace Hardware at Cherry Creek to get some coolers for pop and beer, and there it was. All put together - the last one they had that looked to be a manageable size for me. Not that I'm a teensy person, but the others looked like you might need a license to operate them. It has an electric starter, and that's always the hardest part of using the weed whacker . . . I hesitated, but not for long. Sold!

I had a momentary hour and half of panic on Friday morning - I put the bag with all the instructions, the key, and the starter cable away . . . and couldn't find it. All was saved when I found it on the floor of the hall linen closet along with another small bag of cosmetic stuff. Guess that was the closest hidey hole when the first guests rang the bell last weekend ;-D

Anyway - I've read the directions multiple times, stopped yesterday and got gas for it (thankfully - or I would be shoveling now), mixed in the oil, and am about to clear my driveway.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Knitting from the Stash

Well, I cast on for a sweater tonight! It's the "Point Five Raglan Jacket," from Knitter's Stash, and I've had my eye on it ever since I got the book. I pulled out some of the Moda Dea Cartwheel that I bought half price at the JoAnne's that closed near me not too long ago (OK - so I bought ALL of it that they had in three colors . . . you see why I'm knitting from my stash for awhile?! :-D).

The Cartwheel is not bulky enough on its own, so I'm carrying a thread of Maggi's Mohair Loop along with it which I actually thought I would make a shawl with, but it's a super huge pain to work with the loopy mohair all on its lonesome. I picked up the Maggi at the My Sister's Knits sale in July. I think the two stranded together for this jacket are going to be pretty interesting! I cast on and did about 2/3rds of the yoke tonight, and I like the way the colors are going together.

AND it's going to use up two big hunks of yarn currently residing in the stash! Even better - if I happen to run low on the Raspberry Cartwheel, I'm going to make the bottom, sleeve cuffs, collar and buttons out of this Cartwheel with the Maggi, which would be THREE hunks of yarn gone from the stash! Wheeeeee!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Right This Way, Hon . . .

When you go to the doctor, does the x-ray tech call you "Hon" in an exceptionally condescending tone of voice?

Or is it just me???

Geez, that bothers me. I suppose it's because my German last name is difficult to pronounce, but really, I'd rather they give it a shot than call me "Hon." I stayed home today and used my last vacation day of the year to have my foot looked at . . . since I woke up and it looked about twice its normal size and was pretty painful to walk on. This means I'll be working on Christmas Eve, so you know it had to hurt pretty bad for me to miss work and go to the clinic (without an appointment).

And all I got was tests, an x-ray, called "Hon," and told to come back on Thursday. Which means an afternoon off without pay.

I'm such a whiner :-S So, here's the good news: while waiting, first for the doctor, then the lab, and finally the x-ray tech who called me "Hon," I kitchener'd the toe of the most recent sock on my needles, and cast on and knit at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches on the leg of its mate. I'm pretty happy about that, actually :-)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Got Stash?

There has been no spinning, and nearly no knitting this week. I hosted a holiday open house last night, and all available free time was spent in the last bits of party planning. Today has been spent recovering from close to 50 family and friends here. :-D You can't have a party this large without a lot of help, and I had plenty in the form of my cousin. Without her, I could not have gotten everything ready!

My wheel is back up now that I don't have to keep the house perfect, and I will be spinning in the coming days. I've actually knitted a bit - finished a sock and will start its mate this week - but it's been a fight between knitting and reading on the train lately. Current book is: Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Anyway - Lately I've been thinking about stash. Yarn stash and fiber stash, both. When I cataloged my stash for Ravelry, I was truly surprised to see it go into the three figures (!) Then, shortly after my weekend in Missouri, my friend, Judi, sent me an enticing email for a "designer fiber of the month club" sort of deal. The two of us have so much fiber between us already . . . so I said, "Resist! Let's make a pact to spin only from our stashes until June 30, 2008." In a moment of weakness, I decided that this was such a good idea that I would extend it to my yarn stash as well and would also knit only from my stash through June 30, 2008.

What was I thinking?? :-D Seriously, though, I'm going for it. I seem to have acquired a really substantial amount of fiber and yarn in a very short time. A lot of the yarn comes from my recent fascination with all the seductive sock yarn at The Loopy Ewe, and I know what you're thinking - sock yarn doesn't count as stash. Sorry - it's taking up an entire shelf in the closet (the middle one) - that counts. I mean, if that's not stash, what is? Some of the fiber came from getting ready for the recent Anne Field workshop, but still - there is too much here already to keep buying more (and there is an armoire in the guest room full of yarn, too . . . ).

So, it's time to burn through some fiber and thin the yarn stockpile. Anyone else out there need to clear some space in their closet? Care to join me?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VIb: Worsted v. Woolen

Sunday. The last day of the workshop. Anne devoted this day to the differences between worsted and woolen spinning. I was particularly interested in this section of the workshop, because I have been confused by the difference - particularly since worsted spinning is not the same as what we in the U.S. call worsted yarn (here it has to do with the weight of the yarn).

I know for myself that, at this time, I prefer to spin worsted yarn. This is because yarn that pills and fuzzes irritates me no end. As the discussion continued, we learned about Worsted, Semi-Worsted, Semi-Woolen, and Woolen.

It's a little tough to see in the photo, but each of the four test skeins is a wee bit fatter and a wee bit longer than the next. They go in that order, from left to right.

So, what's the difference? It's mostly in the prep work. Really! Combed fiber - with all the short bits removed, and all the fibers going in the same direction, when spun "worsted," yields a more lustrous (usually), sturdy yarn that doesn't pill! It's not an exceptionally soft yarn, but it's particularly great for cable work (I do a lot of that). I love it!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, is woolen (it has the grey mixed in with it in the photo). Carded fiber (with everything carded, short bits and all), rolled into very loose (loose is KEY) rolags and spun "woolen," yields a light, lofty, (often not so lustrous) yarn . . . that pills and fuzzes like mad. I do not like it Sam I Am.

And in between, are the semi's: Semi-Worsted, where fiber is prepared worsted (combed) and spun woolen; and Semi-Woolen, where fibuer is prepared woolen (carded), and spun worsted. Important spinning note -> Here's what I think is the greatest reason to learn the long draw (what you use to spin "woolen"): When you make Semi-worsted yarn, you are spinning combed fiber woolen, and you get the best of both worlds: sturdy more lustrous yarn spun loftier (softer), but because the fiber was combed, all the short bits have been combed out - there are no short bits to pill and fuzz!! That totally rocks! You know I'm working on this technique ;-)

All too soon it was time to pack it up, but before we headed our separate ways, I gathered our gang together. I look rather short in this photo . . . that's because I was taking the photo and, thanks to the digital magic of photoshop, I've popped my head into an available space. I'm really a lot taller, but that was the best space for my head :-)

I am so lucky. I've said it before, but I really am the luckiest woman in the world. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This has happened for me so many times - and I'm talking opportunities to study with world-class teachers in a number of disciplines. I'm so grateful - and lucky - to add Anne Field to that list! (Horrid photo of me . . . great of Anne!)

And so, it was hard to say goodbye, but I headed back to the hotel to get packed and ready to head out on Monday early. I actually woke up at 3 a.m., and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up and headed out - it seemed like a good idea at the time, but within an hour, I was wishing I had tried a little harder to sleep a little longer . . . it was a very long drive home.

I saw at least three huge deer that had been hit in the early morning hours. BIG deer. By the time the sun was up, I was doing better, but I spent the last hour or so of my drive singing real loud and smacking my right hand on my leg in time to the music to keep myself awake. Note to Self: In the future, do NOT try to drive 600 miles on 5 hours of sleep. ===:-O

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

If I hear Burl Ives' Have a Holly Jolly Christmas one more time, my head is going to explode - like that guy in Scanners. I'm not kidding.

Here in Chicagoland, one of the local radio stations, WLIT, goes "all Christmas all the time" from around the beginning of November through the holidays. I love WLIT - I listen to Melissa Foreman every morning (and I really missed her when they canned her last year for Whoopi Goldberg (no offense Ms. Goldberg, but I want to hear the news and events from Chicago, not New York)) , and I love Christmas. I love everything about it - the decorations, the parties, the food, the giving, the singing, and the music. My ex-husband used to get exceptionally irritated if I wanted to put up any decorations until after Thanksgiving (all hell would break loose if he heard Christmas music in November . . . ). Of course, I have been known to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer. I have a vivid memory of sitting on Linda's back porch with a group of SnB friends last summer, with my iPod in shuffle mode on the speakers. Jamie's head suddenly snapped up and she said, "is this CHRISTMAS MUSIC????" I forgot that shuffle would pull from all playlists :-D

Sorry - I've digressed. Anyway, WLIT is playing the Burl Ives classic in heavy rotation. And I mean heavy. Now, there's nothing wrong with this song, I like it just fine, and Ives had a great, great voice - and admittedly, the holiday playlist is somewhat limited, but JesusMaryandJoseph, do they have to play this song every 40 minutes?????

Poor Burl - does anyone even remember that he was an Oscar winning actor? Or that he originated the role of "Big Daddy" in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway and played him in the film? Prolly not. It's far more likely that they remember him as the voice of the narrator, "Sam the Snowman," in the Rankin Bass classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas was featured in this holiday special, and it's been with us ever since.

I'm listening to my own Christmas mix today. No holly, but still quite jolly - and if I get a hankering to hear Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, I just have run an errand. I never have to worry, because every time I get in the car (I'm not kidding), Burl is there, on the radio, singing me out of the garage and on my way :-D

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VIa: As The Wheel Turns

Friday evening was spent at the home - no, farm - of one of the organizers of the workshop. Darlene had us all over for dessert and to have some social time with Anne. OK - so there are no streetlights to speak of in the village where I live, but there are no streetlights West of the Super 8. I'm driving . . . and driving . . . and praying that I don't miss the gravel road that leads to the dirt road that leads to Darlene's house . . . We made it! It's not often that you get to see so many stars - there was virtually no ambient light!

Saturday came early, but both Judi and I were up and ready to go. We got to Memorial Hall early enough that we could take a walk around the town square - after sitting all day on Friday, it seemed like a good idea. Lamar was sort of like stepping into another time . . . the courthouse in the middle of the square, and surrounding it shops, the post office and the local movie theater. Saturday night was to be the start of the holiday season in Lamar - the town Christmas parade was scheduled for 6:05 p.m., and all the shops around the square would be open . . . ;-)

We headed back to Memorial Hall and settled in for what would prove to be a full day of spinning. Wow! Friday afternoon we had worked on the Corriedale. Saturday morning was spent on our coarser wools, my Cotswold. Anne saved the most challenging for last: the Rambouillet was really a fight. It didn't help that my fast flyer was defective. However, once I figured that out and switched back to my regular flyer, things went a little better.

Late in the afternoon, we all sat down again for some lecture time. We'd been working (sometimes fighting) with crimps and twists, doing piles of math and calculations, all to gain a better understanding of what could be the best choices for whatever fiber we found ourselves with. I could not imagine spinning and counting treadles for the rest of my spinning career (I did try this once before the workshop and it didn't go very well . . . ), so imagine my relief when Anne sat us down and said, "you don't spin like this." Everyone exhaled.

No, you don't spin like this - but it's like learning addition and subtraction so that you can balance your checkbook: because I learned these fundamentals that start with crimps per inch, I can apply that knowledge as I choose fleece for specific projects and have more options and choices open to me about how I might want to spin a fleece to gain a desired end result.

I also learned not to be afraid. To whit: I have had a mountain of fleece sitting here that I was afraid to spin because, being a beginner, I didn't want to "ick it up." After spinning Cotswold into a silky rope, and Rambouillet into sewing thread, I have no fear. There is always more fiber :-)

At lunch, Janet Wray, a local independent dyer brought some of her Shetland Isle Collection sock yarns and roving in for some shopping!! Wheee!!!! (Note: her site is up but still under construction.) I got three skeins of some of the prettiest sock yarn I've seen. If you're on Ravelry, you can see it in my stash.

When class was over for the day, Judi and I convinced a few of our classmates to go to the Christmas parade with us. First we took a trip to The Java Mule (Lamar does NOT have a Starbucks :-D), which is a really cool place and if I lived in Lamar, I would go there every day. Then, we took a walk around the square because all the shops were open! And then we walked off the square to the local florist, where one of the guild members works. I did a little shopping here, and added to the water fowl group that lives around my fireplace.
The parade in the square was small - a few floats, the junior high school and high school bands , the local Christmas Queen, a couple of horse-drawn coaches, the local Harley riders, and of course, Santa on the fire truck at the end! It was wonderful!! And it was 65 degrees out! I couldn't believe it.
One more day . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part VI: A Field in Missouri

Friday arrived and I reloaded the car. It's amazing how much stuff I had to bring with me - my wheel, a basket of fiber (that's another story), my chair. That pretty much took up the entire back of the bullet car. Anyway, Judi and I got over to Memorial Hall around 8:15 a.m., and started to unload and set up. Luckily, once we were set up (Cedric and Lambchop helped), we were able to leave our wheels and everything in place for all three days. This was a great time-saver.

Tables were moved. Chairs were shifted, and I started to meet the women of Fiber Folks of Southwest Missouri, the guild that had sponsored this workshop. What an interesting bunch of women! Many of them live on working farms - a concept that is totally foreign to this city girl - and some of them have day-jobs in addition to getting up early for chores! All of them share a great love of fiber in all its forms. And all of them made both me and my friend, Judi, feel welcome and included in their group. This was shaping up to be a great time!

A Field in Missouri - I couldn't help myself! No, we weren't in a field, but Anne Field was there, in Missouri, on what was her last teaching stop before returning to New Zealand. The morning was spent on lecture and discussion about crimp. Anne also checked on the wool that some of us had brought with us to be sure it met the requirements for the workshop (it did). This particular workshop is based on Anne's book, Spinning Wool - Beyond the Basics, and if you are able to score a copy of it, it is a very great reference! The morning flew by with talk of crimp and twists per inch - pretty technical, and I was worried . . . I was the "youngest" spinner in the room, having only been at the wheel since June of this year, and I was worried that I might not be able to keep up and might not understand what she was wanting us to do . . .

After a couple of visits from the hotty bald fireman (!) to regulate the temperature in the hall, lunch was ready and we all sat down together to a spread of sandwiches and homemade soup, and of course, my favorite: chips! :-D Anyone who knows me knows I love potatoes, in all their forms. Must be my Irish heritage . . .
Soon enough, lunch was over and we did some spinning. We had three wools to work with, a coarse (mine was Cotswold, everyone else had Lincoln), a medium (Corriedale) and a fine (Rambouillet).

At the end of the day, Anne said that it had been the hardest day. She lied. :-D Saturday proved to be the hardest, as evidenced by how completely wiped we all were on Sunday!

Here are the fruits of our spinning to the crimp exercises. Coarse, Medium and Fine. Blogger wouldn't let me set them straight across, so they are vertical.

First in line is my Cotswold (actually spun on Saturday). These locks were actually like hair. Shiny, lustrous curls! You can't see the raw lock in this photo, but it had about 2 crimps to the inch. this is most coarse wool I have spun yet, and getting it to 2 twists to match the crimp was an exercise in stuffing it through the orifice as fast as I could :-D This was the second wool we worked on - first was the Corriedale.

Here is the first attempt, done on Friday afternoon. A medium crimp wool similar to what many of us spin most of the time. Corriedale. I felt pretty comfortable with this wool - it was really much more in my comfort zone (experience zone) than either of the other two we worked with. On the sheet - in case you're wondering - is the singles, then at the bottom is the plied yarn before washing and then more after washing. We calculated crimp and loft and used that information to calculate how many twists per inch were needed, and how many wraps per inch we should get. It was fascinating!

And last, but certainly not least, this is the Rambouillet. All of Saturday afternoon. A millions crimps to the inch and the finest yarn I have spun to date. OK - I'm exaggerating. This had 16 crimps to the inch and Anne told us it was the finest she had ever attempted with one of her classes! She gave us all high marks for it :-) I used my fast flyer for the first time - and discovered that it was ROUGH. No wonder it was on eBay . . . :-( Thankfully, Karen, one of the guild ladies is a collector of spinning wheels (she has 38!) and her husband fixes stuff . . . and to make a long story short, he took my fast flyer home and ground it out and fixed it!!! Yay!!!!! Thank you, Gene!!!!! I had to use my regular flyer to spin this - I never treadled so hard in my life ;-D
More to come . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part V: Road Trip!!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to participate in a 3-day spinning workshop taught by New Zealand spinner and weaver, Ann Field. She is an amazing woman - so talented and so willing and able to share her knowledge. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity - and I feel like my spinning took a quantum leap during the intense study. The workshop was held in Lamar, Missouri (very hightech website for this little country town! :-) ), and sponsored by Fiber Folks of Southwest Missouri and the University of Missouri Extension.

I headed South at 0 dark 30. I was glad that I had packed most of the car the night before! Before I got to Lamar (birthplace of President Truman!), I made a stop about half way, at The Loopy Ewe, in St. Louis, and got to meet the owner, Sheri! that's her, looking very excited to be spinning! Since I was passing through, I picked up an order that I had placed a couple of days before, and Sheri got to try out my Lendrum spinning wheel. Please be kind. I had been on the road since 5:30 a.m. that morning . . . I'm looking quite a bit the worse for wear, I'm afraid :-D On my way out, I could not resist taking this photo of the red hutch / sideboard. Cedric, my travel gnome, was quite irritated that he had been left in the car, particularly after he found out about the elves sign (gnomes, elves - cousins? I don't know). At any rate, to appease him, he's been digitally inserted, which is why he's looking a little tippy ;-)

After a lovely visit with Sheri and, of course - some shopping, I got back on the road, and headed West on I44 and it was like greeting an old friend. I have driven across the country a number of times, and in the late 1990s, I drove all of Old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. In Missouri, I44 parallels the Mother Road pretty much all the way across the state.

I am always amazed at how the geography changes as you cross a state line. Illinois is flat. In fact, there is an old joke about Illinois being the only state where you can sit on your front porch and watch your dog run away. For 20 miles. Yes, it's really that flat :-D But once you cross the Mighty Mississippi, you are pretty much instantly into the rolling hills of Southern Missouri. It was enough warmer there than in Chicagoland, that I got to see some really beautiful fall colors along the road.

The afternoon sped by, and I made it to Lamar by 5:10 p.m., got into my room at the Super 8 and unpacked. I met my friend, Judi (she was the reason I went to this workshop! She talked me into it), and then took a quick drive to the town square to scope out where we would be meeting the next day. Lamar is truly a small town - this city girl felt like she was really out in farm country! Nine hours behind the wheel was enough to ensure that I hit the hay very early - plus, I wanted to be well-rested for Friday . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Show-Me State

There is so much to tell that I don't know where to start with the story of Anne Field's workshop in Lamar, Missouri. I will start, but not today - I'm wiped after the 9 1/2-hour drive home.

In the meantime, I'm apparently making the rounds of knitting blogs . . . I had so much fun visiting Sheri at The Loopy Ewe on Thursday (on my way to Lamar). I picked up my latest order, and now I'm a Loopy Groupie. I also had my photo taken there (first Franklin and now Sheri). :-D

Sheri - I'm sorry you didn't go for the Lendrum, but I'm thrilled that you are going to be spinning!! Yay!!!

Watch this space - more to come!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I'm sitting here, in my workout clothes - missing my workout - trying to get my Palm LifeDrive to sync . . . and it won't . . . and, thinking that I was doing the SAFE sync (which equates, of course, to me as the safest way to get my data onto the laptop), it would appear that I have just completely erased and reset my device, thus losing EVERYTHING that I wanted to sync to my laptop.

This is irritating. Oh, who am I kidding? My HAIR IS STANDING ON END and it's not from bedhead.

I keep trying to use these stupid devices and invariably they become nothing more than an expensive electronic phonebook - and now I've lost even that. I switched from PocketPC to Palm because I really wanted to be able to use the WeightWatchers software. Of course - and they DON'T TELL YOU THIS UPFRONT - with the device I got, you have to have a wireless connection to be able to use the WW software. I don't have a wireless connection. I don't want a wireless connection. No Wireless = No WW software.

JesusMaryandJoseph I just wanted to get my updated contact list into the computer. Stupid LifeDrive. It's sitting there, just looking at me with the reset screen still on . . . and it's not doing anything. It should have done something by now . . . Great. It's frozen.


Why is it when you think you're getting something great, it often turns out to be virtually unusable???? The same thing just happened to me with my Ravelry T-Shirt. They were selling these T-shirts, and they had that cute "women's cut" available in addition to the general Beefy-T from Hanes. I was very excited to see MY SIZE in the cute cut - I was so happy to see it that I ordered it!!! No more Beefy-T's for me!!!! Wheeee!!! A cute tee in MY SIZE!!!!!!

You see where this is going, don't you? I know you do if you got one of the limited edition Ravelry shirts in the "AA" style. My cute t-shirt came. And it would fit a toddler. I'm not joking. OK - so, I shouldn't have gotten all excited without reading the fine print. Except I never saw any fine print - I was blinded by the light of seeing something cute in my size. Who knew that there is a company who made up their own sizing with no regard whatsoever to general sizing standards and principles. Live and learn.

Oh - OH!!!!!! OHMYGOD!!!!!! My Palm!!!!!! It worked!!!! Thank you thank you thank you, God!!!! This is one of my luckier lucky days. I have no idea what just happened, but my Palm just reset itself and did not lose any data AT ALL. Wheeeeee!!! I take it back - I take it all back!!! Well, not the part about the toddler-sized t-shirt.

OK, I'm not so cranky about missing my workout after all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adventures in Spinning, Part IV

Time for another episode of . . . Adventures in Spinning!

I haven't added to this saga since August - but I've been a busy little spinner. I found a teacher here - PatsyZ - and I must tell you that learning to spin is way easier if you have a live person next to you rather than a book. Not that there aren't very good reference manuals for spinning - check out Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning, by Judith MacKenzie McCuin - but having a true expert sitting next to you - teaching you, demonstrating exactly what drafting is, explaining the difference between worsted and woolen in a way that makes the lightbulb go on for you - well, you just can't beat that with a stick. :-D

PatsyZ is a great teacher - if she's teaching a workshop or class near you, don't hesitate to sign up. I am getting more and more consistent in my spinning, and learning more every lesson.

So - what have I been spinning, you ask? All sorts of stuff! Right now I'm working with locks of Blue-Faced Leicester and learning to comb and card correctly. Lots of practice with my own new handcards, and my Forsythe mini combs - I should have two full bobbins of woolen and worsted very shortly, and will ply that yarn up and see what I get.

I've also been spinning the Colonial wool I mentioned awhile back. I'm nearly finished with the green and will start on the blue shortly. These will be plied together to make a sort of "Black Watch" yarn. I hope to have enough to make some socks.

Most of my spinning has been at approximately DK weight. I've been working on being able to spin finer singles. One of my homework assignments is to spin the 4 oz of combed Merino superwash top that I got at YarnCon. I'm to spin it as fine as I can, with an eye toward 3-ply, fingering weight yarn. Wish me Luck! :-)

And what of the Iona sweater?? Well, that project has been put on hold for a little while longer. Why?, you ask. Because, the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. So far, I've learned that I want the fiber I use to be combed top so that I can spin a strong worsted yarn. I hope to make it 3-ply, which means finer spinning. I know that I want to be able to spin consistently enough and finely enough to get good, sturdy 3-ply worsted for this project. And I'm going to need a LOT of it. Cables take up a lot of yarn. I'm getting closer all the time!

This week holds an exciting adventure - a 3-day workshop taught by Anne Field! I'm so excited about this - and nervous, too!

Check back later for the next installment of Adventures in Spinning! I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress ;-)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I am One in 1,000

It was a Dark and Stormy Night. . . Literally. On Friday night, October 26th, I got off my usual train, freshened up my makeup, hopped in the auto, and made my way to My Sister's Knits, my favorite local yarn store, to have my picture taken by Franklin Habit for his 1,000 Knitters project. I had had the chance to do this a couple of weeks earlier at the YarnCon event, but I knew that he would be coming down to the Southland, and I really wanted to support the shoot locally.

I made it to the expressway, and just as I was heading up the ramp, the heavens opened. I mean it was like an upside down gusher. I made it to Beverly and was worried that I wouldn't get a parking spot close to the store. I have an umbrella in the auto, but it was raining so hard that the water seemed to be bouncing back up off the sidewalk! Luck! The Parking Goddess was with me, however, and I got a spot practically in front of the store :-) I passed a very enjoyable hour or so - meeting Franklin again, chatting some, and getting my photo made, and then sitting talking with Jan and store owner, Carol - and of course, opening my wallet. Some very nice Noro Kureyon and some Artyarns Regal Silk jumped in my bag, along with a few new books! And I went home with some very good ideas for very stretchy socks!

OK, actually, I'm 0221 in 1,000. I'm the one in the middle!!! For all that I just do not like to have my picture taken, I really wanted to participate in this project . . . and I'm absurdly thrilled that mine is featured on his blog. :-D Thank you Franklin.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Once again, the store formerly known as Marshall Field's is throwing good money after bad with their latest advertising campaign designed to bring people back to the State Street store . . .

Hello??? Anyone??? Bueller??? This is JUST NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. No one wants to shop at the M store in Chicagoland. We want to shop at Marshall Field's. Period.

I mean, REALLY - how long is it going to take before they publicly acknowledge the worst marketing mistake since "New Coke?" Every day I walk down Randolph Street, and for the most part, the windows are "in process." And when they are occasionally unveiled, they hold the most godawful excuses for fashion I've ever seen . . . OK, the recent St. John windows actually had clothes that looked like someone in Chicago would actually wear them, so of course those windows were up for like, a week, tops.

I have continued to have the courage of my convictions - I don't shop there. I don't even go inside. I'm taking my money elsewhere - to places that appreciate me as a consumer, but I sure do miss me my Walnut Room, and Field Gear, and the Benefit makeup counter, and Field Days and the Christmas tree, and the Tiffany ceiling.

I wrote one of my better letters to Federated CEO, Terry Lundgren, when all this went down. But, according to their surveys, no one really cared if they changed the name of the most beloved store in Chicago. WHO DID THEY ASK??? Clearly not anyone who actually shopped there. I see the main floor everyday through the doors when I walk by, and it's a ghost town.

I'm voting with my pocket book. I, personally, have not set foot in the store since the name change. I have waited outside for others (in the rain, I might add) who wanted to spend the free gift cards they received. I toss out the gift cards they send to me.

Come on, Federated - give us back our Field's. Please. Dump the gaudy, cheap red stars and give us back our dark green bags. Take a cue from Marshall Field . . . give the lady what she wants. How can you not have figured it out yet that all we want is our Field's back?

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Another very fun, all-day trip to The Fold yesterday. Linda, Jamie, Rachael and I headed out early (after one of Linda's world-class frittatas, made with eggs from her own chickens) and made it to Marengo shortly after 10 a.m. Toni is always so welcoming and was very happy to see us! Both Jamie and I brought our wheels, and we passed a very enjoyable morning in the cozy spinning space in Toni's store. Here's the gang.

Lunch in town - this time at a place called Dino's. We tried going to a Cafe place, but as we walked in the door, it was like walking into a horror movie for me - every single person in the place was smoking. I have asthma, and cigarette smoke is one of my triggers. I panicked (cue the Psycho shower music). Literally. And we went across the street - where every table also had an ashtray on it, but there was only one person in the place with a smoke, and he actually went next door to the bar. The food was pretty good! But, I think we'll likely stick with Flatlander in the future.

A stop at Marengo Feed and Seed (Linda's chickens . . . ;-D) and we headed back to Toni's.

In two weeks I am attending a 3-day spinning workshop, taught by Anne Field, in Lamar, Missouri. It's called Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics. For this workshop, I needed fine, medium and coarse wool, and some carded sliver. For a variety of reasons that I'll skip (you'd thank me), I needed to have my fiber already washed. Who ya gonna call? Who else?

When I spoke to Toni at the beginning of October about this, she said she didn't have any fleece, BUT that she was going to Rhinebeck (I keep hearing about this Rhinebeck . . . ) and would get me what I needed there and would wash it, saving me a raw lock of each, as requested, for the workshop. So - yesterday was the day for me to pick up my fiber - hence the road trip to Marengo.

Wheeee! It's all wonderful!!! And ALL stuff that I have have not had the opportunity to spin before. I have Cotswold, I have have Rambouillet, I have Corriedale!!! And the sliver is Cormo!! This is very exciting!! I have my own hand cards! Schacht (which I found much easier to use than Ashford). I have my own flick carder (Ashford)! Oh, and I broke down and got a ball winder! !!! :-D

Here is the back of the car . . . it's not quite as bad at it actually appears, because there is 50 pounds of chicken grit, and 75 pounds of chicken food for Linda's chickens in there, and it takes up a really lot of room; however, you can see why we always take my car on these excursions. :-D

On the way home - we made a stop at a brand new place: Grace Farm Studios where I got some more fiber I have not tried before: Icelandic wool roving (Holliberry Icelandics - from a sheep named Firethorn! That's not him, that's Aragorn, but he's about the same color). Jamie and Rachael each made smaller purchases. It's a very nice place, and worth the stop if you're in the Woodstock/Marengo area.

One more stop - at a DunkinDonuts for Jamie and Linda to get coffee - I swear, I never heard such a palaver over coffee - McDonald's wouldn't do, gas station coffee wouldn't do. I was ready to put them both out of the car! But, they got their coffee and all was calm - and we headed back to the City.

A lovely end to a lovely day - as Rachael and Jamie went on their respective ways, Linda and I spend a great evening looking at knitting books (a never-ending source of entertainment, it seems ;-D) and enjoying a great dinner together.

This has been a real week of prep for this workshop. After my last lesson with PatsyZ, she loaned me her Forsythe mini wool combs. This is one of those things where you just sort of KNOW that something is right for you. As I knew with my Lendrum wheel, I knew - without trying any others - that the Forsythe combs are the combs for me. I decided to go ahead and get a pair, and discovered the guy who makes them is on sabbatical! Mad calling around the country to find some . . . no luck, until I got to The Shuttleworks, in Canada. Forsythe Mini Viking Wool combs w/clamp are on their way to me - along with the 4-pitch combs (I'm a complete maniac).
I'm ready to go - and a little anxious. I am a beginner, and I've discovered that I'm more intuitive than technical with my spinning thus far. Anne Field appears to me to be just the opposite, so this will be a real learning experience, I'm sure :-)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance . . .

I am not sleeping. This is bothersome. I have not slept much at all during the past week. It's no wonder I was exhausted last night. I watched some telly, but couldn't muster the energy to knit anything, and finally I conked out and hit the hay REALLY early - around 8:30. I tried to read, but was out by 9 only to wake up multiple times. I woke up at least three times last night - laid awake from 3 a.m. until 4, and finally just got up at 4 a.m. and put my clothes on. I'm sorry, but six interrupted hours of sleep is just not enough.

So far the laundry is done, I've had breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, uploaded an old finished project to Ravelry, finished my speech about the knitting group for church tomorrow, finished editing an article about the knitting group for the church newsletter, cleaned up the kitchen, and I'm blogging. It's only 7 a.m. - the clock radio just went off in the other room - and now I'm sleepy . . .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You Blockhead!

Ok. So did I really need to know that Charles Schulz was likely not the happy, personable image he set forward to the public during his life? NO! I just did NOT need to know that, thank you very much. I don't need to know about any hidden meanings in any of his comic strips. Leave me my Snoopy Dance and childhood memories of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Please. I don't need to know the inner workings and foibles of the man who created so much joy and laughter for me and so many others. Charles Shulz's characters and Vince Guaraldi's music are an indelible part of my childhood.

I confess, until this cell phone, for years my ring tone was "Linus and Lucy," and the only reason it's not on this new phone, is that they don't have the right version available for me to download. I cannot tell you how much I miss it. Every single time my phone rang, it made me smile - and it made anyone around me who heard it smile as well - people asked me about it - while they were smiling - or they'd hear it, look at me and raise an eyebrow, as if to say, "is that . . .?," and I would smile and nod, and they would go on their way - smiling. I've done that silly dance any number of times in the Jewel while digging through my purse to answer the phone, causing all manner of smiles :-)

Smiling is good - don't you think that Charles Schulz knew that? I do. Smiling is good for the soul.

I've had this new phone for six weeks. Every time it rings it plays Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." Which makes me laugh, but it doesn't make me smile. The search is on.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Fiber Weekend

I got to go to YarnCon! The guys blasted through the ceiling fan-ectomy and the wonky soffit and I was out of here by 9:30 on Saturday! I hit the dry cleaners and the jeweler and was on the expressway to get to Wicker Park. I made a stop first to take a photo of a building where a friend's mom had grown up. Unfortunately it had been gentrified out of existence by two new condo buildings. Wicker Park is really really crowded!

I made my way over to the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, which, if you're in to architecture is well worth seeing. So beautiful. I met Linda and Rachael there! YarnCon was set up in the main auditorium and it was a nice gathering of independent fiber artists and a couple of shops. Franklin, of Panopticon fame, was there taking photos for his 1,000 Knitters project, and there were demonstrations, hot dogs and pretty good shopping!

I have banned myself from buying sock yarn (OMG, while putting my stash on Ravelry I realized I have an obscene amount of sock yarn - 15 skeins of Opal . . . and that's JUST the Opal), but I did get 4 oz. of some hand-dyed, superwash merino roving to spin up :-) It's dark blues / purples / greens. Very lovely.

In addition, I like to live dangerously (sorta), so I participated in the grab bag - someone was destashing . . . and Rachael said, no, she wouldn't get one because what if it was bright orange? How rotten would that be? So, I shelled out 10 bucks for a bag that said it had 8 skeins all of one color and 5 bucks for a bag that said 2 skeins + miscellaneous.

To Rachael's credit, she did not scream or laugh hysterically when I opened the second bag to find 8 skeins of NEON ORANGE Bucilla mohair / acrylic blend that had to have been from 1967. Craptastic. The other bag was not much better with two very small skeins (another one of mohair and one I can't even remember) and partial bits of old skeins of acrylic and little balls of bits and pieces of yarn . . . I thought that was pretty much a gyp for 5 bucks. :-( I actually thought I might do something with the orange neon, but by the time I made it home, I had thought better of it, particularly when I discovered that one of the skeins was seriously stained (that was a nasty surprise).

Both bags. In the bin. Live and learn :-S

I made a stop on the way home, at My Sister's Knits, in Beverly. I love this joint! I haven't been in since the re-model in July, and it is so open and airy now inside yet still has its cozy neighborhood feel. I came home with two Lantern Moon Raw Silk Needle Cases- one for my knitting needles in the jade w/chocolate panel, and one for my hooks and double points, in blue w/jade panel. Very yummy!!

Today was a spinning day - I plied up some singles that I have been working on for awhile. I just finished setting the twist. One is looking to me like it's a little underplied - I may run it through the wheel again. We'll see. But the other two skeins look pretty good to me! I'm getting better at this spinning stuff! :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I had to break down and cut the furnace on this a.m. When I woke up, it was was 59 degrees in the house. Even for me, that's chilly. I pulled out my favorite fleecy last night - it looks like a pj top, but I love it the best - so soft and comfy.

It's been A's B&B all summer long here - my most recent visitor left yesterday after a nice long visit. And now, the weekend is here. Been having a boatload of fun on Ravelry. OMG I have SO much yarn. Not so much as Linda - her house is, after all, home of the Kegerator (where she stashes her yarn) - but plenty nonetheless.
I have been knitting - here are the latest socks: On the left, Opal Hundertwasser and on the right, Lana Grossa. There is a prayer shawl on the needles at home, and I have also been spinning.
My next lesson with PatsyZ is next Sunday.
I have to say, it really helps to have a live person teaching you instead of just a book. Sometimes you just need to see someone do something rather than read about it :-)
Last week I visited the local SnB group and I had such a good time!! They all made me feel very welcome, and what an interesting group of women they are - I'm looking forward to going back on the Wednesdays when I'm not teaching the church ladies to knit. There is truly something to be said for "community" in our often busy lives.
I have been up since 5 a.m. today, and in 20 minutes the tradesmen - ACK! They're here now! They've arrived to remove the whole house fan so I will have attic access again - whatever's been living up there had better run for its life. Literally. They are also fixing a saggy soffit on the North side of the house.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Wax On . . . Wax Off . . .

For those of you too young to get that reference, I'm channelling The Karate Kid.

Sock On . . . my next sock project went on the needles this a.m. They are gift socks for someone I know with very narrow, very long feet, so I went down a needle size. And got a fair bit accomplished during two train rides and an episode of "Cane." I'm looking at this as a rather large swatch ;-) Trekking XXL is just smaller/thinner yarn than Opal or Lana Grossa. There's narrow, and then there's Narrow, and when you can't get the leg of the sock over your heel very well, that's Narrow . . . Sock Off.

Sock On . . . on the needles I normally use. The sock will be narrow enough because the yarn is smaller. The yarn itself is not one I would have ever chosen myself, and once again I am surprised at the difference between how something appears in the skein, and how it actually looks knitted up. It's a good thing and actually quite pretty. Yay!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Where Does the Time Go . . .

I cannot believe that tomorrow it will be October (!) Really.

This is my favorite time of year - I have always remained stuck in the "new school year" calendar, so September / October seems more like the New Year than January. Now always seems to be the time to reflect on the past year, and this one has been a watershed in so many ways.

A number of years ago, my life changed dramatically through circumstances over which I had no control. In a 10-month period of time, the rug was yanked out from under me on virtually every level of my life. Talk about the universe clearing the decks . . . I took one of those stress tests, where they ask you a series of questions about "have you experienced this event in the past year." You tally up your score and if you have more than 400 points, they say you are in critical stress - I think my score was around 800 . . . So, what do you do when you're standing in the smoking rubble of what once was your life?

At first, you do what you know. You put one foot in front of the other and you keep moving forward. Sometimes it is as simple - and as difficult - as just getting out of bed. Every morning. and then the path appears and you begin to let go - because when you hold on to the past, you cannot remain in the present, and you certainly cannot move forward into the future. You learn, and you heal, and you love, and you laugh and eventually the future becomes now :-)

And now as always, I am truly the luckiest woman in the world. So much laughter and love and learning in my life! Thank you one and all! In this year: an amazing trip to the Isle of Iona, learning to spin (fiber, not a bike!), blogging, wonderful friends and family - when I count my blessings (and I do!), I realize anew just how lucky I am. Life just keeps getting more interesting and more fun the more I move forward. As I look back from this vantage point, I see how far I have come on the path to myself.

I believe that you cannot know great joy unless you have known great sorrow. I mean, really - how could you truly know one from the other unless you have experienced them both?

I am lucky to know the difference.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

All Sorts of Fun!

What a great day! Not only was the weather stunning, I had the honor of judging a local African violet show, there are fewer than 5,000 ahead of me in the Ravelry line, AND I got to go to The Fold!

I left early this morning, got gas for the bullet car (it's shaped like a bullet - really :-D) and got on the Tollway and headed North. The Chicago Botanic Garden is really one of a kind. So very beautiful, at all times of the year. Lake Shore African Violet Society has their annual show there, and this is the third year they have invited me to judge. Although small, the show really was very nice and well put together. This club just has a way with staging, and they had a nice variety of plants. Plus, they are lovely people and I'm always just so happy to see them! :-)

I currently have around 40 varieties of African violet, this is down from about twice that number. I made a concerted effort earlier this year to downsize the collection. I have learned that when there are more than 50 plants to take care of, nothing and no one is happy. Lake Shore often has show plants that are varieties that you don't see everywhere - and one of their members was kind enough to give me a leaf of a very interesting cultivar, called Hearts Aglow. I think it has the potential to be pretty spectacular - it has to for me to bring home a leaf!

From there, my Mapquest directions took me the "scenic route" out to Marengo for my visit to Toni at The Fold. As usual, I opened my wallet. I'm reasonably certain that Toni could go to Bermuda for a couple of weeks on what I have spent there just since June . . . I'm not complaining, however - today I got a beautiful Bag Lady carry bag for my Lendrum spinning wheel, some bits and spare pieces for the wheel in case something breaks, some Aran/worsted weight wool for my practice Celtic Dreams sweater (the practice before the Iona wool :-) ), and some fiber.

My spinning teacher, PatsyZ, gave me license to buy a small amount (2 oz. was recommended) of some fiber that intrigued me . . . OK, that's pretty much like telling me that I can buy sock yarn willy nilly . . . You'll be happy to know that I actually managed to restrain myself from buying ANY more sock yarn - this was difficult. However, I did get 4 oz. of fiber. In my defense, I got 2 oz. of two colors of Colonial that I thought would look pretty awesome plied together . . . and if I can spin it thin enough, I think 4 oz. should prolly be enough for a pair of socks . . . don't you? ;-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Holiday Spirit . . . a little early ;-)

I bought my Christmas tree tonight!! Truth be told, I have been secretly playing the odd Christmas song now and then for the last month or so - current favorites include "The Little Saint Nick" and "Hey Santa." I love those Beach Boy harmonies (and the Wilson Philips girls carried on the tradition).

Anyway - I had purchased a very nice pre-lit tree two years ago and it totally rocked. My last tree lasted for a decade, and I figured the new one would too . . . and the following spring the storm sewers backed up . . . into my basement. Yes, raw sewage. The ONLY thing that was not up off the basement floor was the new tree, used only one Christmas, lying quietly in its packing crate . . . the restoration folks (for the water issue) couldn't disinfect it, so out it had to go :-( right out in the trash. I was crushed.

By the time I got around to thinking about trees last year, it was too late to get one, but not this year!!! Ooo - ooo - ooo - oooooo Merry Christmas (Christmas comes this time each year :-) ) OK - now it's in my head - I'm going to be humming it all weekend long :-D

Monday, September 10, 2007

What About Those Socks?!

Well, I said I had been knitting mostly socks, and then only shared my very first pair. So, here some of the others. Been having a BLAST with all sorts of self-striping sock yarn! So far I enjoy making top-down socks. My knitted cast on is very stretchy, and I'm a crack Kitchener Stitch-er! Here's my second pair, made from Opal (I LOVE that stuff!) Rainforest II, Toucan.

My cousin, Kathyrn saw these and really fell for them. So, I made her a pair for her birthday from Opal's Acapulco. No photo - she's happily wearing them already!

Ooo! I like these here on the left! My first attempt at making the socks match, although since these were made with Opal's Hundertwasser, "Wartende Hauser," #1434, I suppose that really wasn't necessary :-) I love these colors - I think the socks look like candy :-)

OK - talk about candy. Could these on the right be ANY cuter? I love them!! Lana Grossa, Fantasy, #4833.

See - it's been Sock-O-Rama around here!

And guess what came in the mail today? SOCK YARN from The Loopy Ewe. What a great place THAT is. Let's see, L to R, Sockina, Panda Cotton, Panda (from Seacoast Handpainted Yarn in Pheasant colorway), and Fiesta's Boomerang (in Rhubarb colorway). I invite you to click on the photo to enlarge it, because that Pheasant is really, really beautiful.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Finished Objects

Time for a knitting update! I have been knitting more than spinning, lately, and knitting a LOT of socks!

I am left-handed, but I knit right-handed, like pretty much everyone does. Actually I don't think it much matters which of your hands is dominant when you're knitting (that's what I tell folks I'm teaching), because both hands are working throughout the process anyway. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, I have always attributed my early inability to knit on three needles to my having to brace the working needle on my leg - just not a great choice with short, pointy double-points. So, I never learned how to knit socks until early this year. (!) Really.

My late mother, Maureen, knew how to knit (I think if you grow up in an Irish household, you pretty much learn to do handwork - I could be wrong, but I don't think so), but she didn't really enjoy it much and she was pretty pokey at it.

Case in point #1: When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than a pink, pullover sweater. My Grandmother had made me sweaters, socks, hats, mittens, etc., my entire life, but my Mom was going to knit me this pullover. When she finally finished it, it fit my cousin, Kathryn, who is four years younger than I . . . no photo of this sweater exists, that I know of, but it lives on in my memory.

Case in point #2: in 1974, Redbook published a pattern for shawl-neck, cabled wrapped, belted cardigan that reminded my mom of a sweater she had had as a girl. She promptly ordered the pattern and went out to buy the yarn. By the mid-1980's she had gotten up to where she had to split for the armholes . . . she boxed the entire thing up and sent it to me in Colorado with a note that said, "could you finish this for me?" :-D (I did, and sent it back to her :-) ). That's it, made of the Red Heart yarn called for back in 1974 - a little worse for wear and years on a hanger (and needing a good wash) - but still here :-)

That my Mom could easily knit on three needles and I couldn't was surprising - even more surprising, when asked about it, she said, "that's EASY!" ====:-O

Fast Forward to more recent times - there is a pattern for Pedicure Socks on, and I really, really wanted to make them. I decided that it just could not be rocket science to knit on three needles, and so I took a trip to My Sister's Knits, and came home with a set of #7 double points and some Mission Falls 1824 Wool, in the Macaw color (and two balls of Lana Grossa Inca in case by some miracle I was actually able to knit on three needles). It all sat for awhile, but I was home sick for a week (a whole week), and after having watched the entire second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I decided it was time to tackle knitting on three needles for real. It wasn't my best effort, but I finished them, and heard from Linda shortly thereafter about knitting socks on two circulars.

Thank you, Cat Bordhi!!! Her book, Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles led to my becoming a sock knitter for real.

I cast on my very first pair of socks on two circulars and haven't looked back :-D Here they are - already worn a number of times. Finished in March 2007, on the Isle of Iona, in Scotland, made from Lana Grossa Mielenweit, Inca #1524.

I have plans to revisit the Pedicure Socks - this time on two circulars. I also have plans to revisit the shawl-collar wrap sweater at some point, but for now, I think the original deserves a wash on "delicate" and a quick go-round in the tumble dryer. :-)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lincoln Wool Doesn't Felt Very Well . . .

I finally figured out what I wanted to try with some of my first homespun: A felted bowl!

This was an interesting experiment. Lincoln wool only gets about 3 diamonds on the felting scale (I think 5 is the highest). I pretty much knew this . . . but I wanted to try it anyway. The goal was a low, wide console bowl, similar to the Japanese Celadon bowl that lives on the sideboard in my dining room.

The ingredients were:
  • The 3-ply Lincoln from my first spinning efforts
  • A skein of recycled sari silk
  • Two pair of size 15 Addi Turbos
  • A variation (my own) of the Deb Gray Felted Bowl Pattern (scroll way down - it's there)
  • A zippered pillow cover

OK - just so you know, the sari silk yarn is just as dirty as I'd heard it could be. I did not use a "bathed" skein. The washing machine water was dark grey on the first round. It's still really pretty yarn, though.

It took FOUR washes in HOT water to get it felted enough that I thought it might work . . . And it did. Sorta. (Although it left me with a pink pillow cover . . .) I dried it over the aforementioned bowl.

It is pretty and colorful - the sari silk and the dark brown made it really pretty, actually. But it's floppy. That's it there, flopped over the side of the Celadon bowl. It does hold its shape if it's sitting on a flat surface, thought (you can see that in the first photo, above).

I did get what I was going for, shape-wise, so it was a good experiment - and I discovered that either a different wool or a different size bowl would likely have been better choices.

My friend, Tori discovered that it exactly fits the bar stools in my kitchen :-D Oh well, if you don't experiment, you never learn anything, right? I will likely keep it around - at least for a while, anyway - It's the first thing I have made with yarn that I spun myself :-)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

No, I Didn't Drown in all the Paper

It just took me a while to get back to tell the tale! I've actually made significant progress with the paper in the office. In fact, I got so carried away that I reorganized the office closet and now have three more shelves for yarn! Wheeee!

What a beautiful holiday weekend it was! My "Iona Sister," Tori, was here for a visit. We met and became friends on the trip I took to the Isle of Iona earlier this year. We packed a LOT into the long weekend, including a trip to the Renaissance Faire with Linda, Jamie, Rachel and Brooke; into the city to see Wicked; tea at The Drake; a cruise on the River; and a lot of sleeping late and relaxing! The weather really cooperated - the perfect end of summer weekend. Big Fun!!!

More to come!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's With All the PAPER?!?!?!?!?!?

OK - I think I'm turning into my mother - the woman had paper all over the house, and now I have stacks of paper all over my office . . . Where is all this paper coming from???

I mean - REALLY - I have just spent the last TWO HOURS trying to actually find the (insert your curse word of choice) cushions on the sofa in my office, and now that I'm down to just stuff (as opposed to paper) left on the cushions, I now have piles of paper all over the FLOOR.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - I'm in some Kafka-esque nightmare of paper.

It's ridiculous - I don't understand how I could be so completely disorganized. I cannot understand how there could be this many pieces of paper on one sofa - Oh, let's be real - all over the HOUSE.

I swear that they are mating and making more paper.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Adventures in Spinning - Part III

When last we left our heroine (me!), she had just spun her beginner's skein.

OK - I don't like writing about myself in the third person . . . :-D

After I arrived home from The Fold, I started spinning. If you are an accomplished, experienced spinner, I invite you think back to your first lesson - to the excitement you felt knowing that you were learning a skill that has existed for centuries.

It's SO EXCITING to have that fiber in your hands and watch as it, literally, becomes functional (albeit a little lumpy) yarn through your fingers. I am fascinated by this - and by the fact that I am doing it!

Here is a photo of my second effort taken in natural light (on an overcast day) out on my deck. This is the New Zealand wool that came with my wheel - It was also the fiber from which my beginner skein was spun. I had no idea I would get this much yardage out of that bag of fiber - I didn't get anywhere near this much in the skeins of Lincoln that I made.

To my surprise, once I pulled this off the niddy noddy and counted the wraps, I have 800 yards here. ====:-O (that's me, with my hair standing on end).

I keep thinking about the differences between 2-ply and 3-ply, always with an eye toward my Iona wool and an Aran sweater. I was interested to discover that the Black Water Abbey yarns are 2-ply. So, this time, I decided to spin all the fiber and go with 2-ply. It was much different than spinning the Lincoln (my first effort) and, as mentioned I I got a lot more usable yardage. I clearly still have some lumpy areas, but, by and large, I was able to get these singles more consistently even. I think my skills are improving, and I'm thinking that if I slow down a little more, my fingers will have more time to draft the slubs and pick out the bits of vegetable matter more efficiently. This yarn is not quite worsted weight (well, it is in spots ;-) ), but more like tubby DK.

I believe that skills can be learned, but art comes from the soul. Many can learn to play the piano and be technically proficient, but you know the difference when you hear an artist play. I believe we each have our own art and it's up to us to find out what that means for ourselves - for some it's painting or drawing, for others, it's the written word, and others, music. For some it's knitting, crocheting, spinning - and for yet others, it's raising a family, making a home, cooking - It can be one thing or many. It's a beautiful circle - Our art is what we create from our souls out of love. Making our art feeds our souls, which in turn - well, you get the picture :-)