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!!