Thursday, July 31, 2008

This and That

Tomorrow my friend, Connie and I are heading out to Shipshewana, Indiana to go to the big Antique Market. Not looking for anything in particular, just going to check out the edge of Amish country and see what there might be at the Antique Market. It's true that I have a substantial collection of an American Art Pottery called Hull. It takes up a lot of space here Chez A, and I did pick up a couple of pieces last weekend in Wisconsin, but I need more pottery like I need more yarn. Need I say more?

So, we're going to go and have some fun and barter if something catches our eyes, hang out at the Inn and just generally have a good time. This is my last little weekend jaunt for the summer. I don't have any more days scheduled off until after Labor Day.

Can you believe that it's August tomorrow??? No, neither can I.

Here are my my first "boy" socks. They were for my friend's husband, and he tried them on and they fit. I think he likes them :-D These are made of my old standby, Opal self striping yarn. I was able to get the pair out of one skein. Great yardage in Opal.

In other fiber-related news - the Sanguine Gryphon Standing Stones is still on the wheel. I have spun one 4 oz. braid of it, and started on the second (of four). Slow going, but I'm getting some spinning in most every day, which will be good for me when I start spinning the yarn for the Iona sweater.

Here is my cousin and her husband. They came over a couple of weekends ago and helped me in the yard. Clearly they did most of the hard stuff. It's not that I don't know what to do - I do - but having asthma makes you just not want to be outside in the yard in this weather (it's really really hot/humid here in Chicagoland right now), plus, they are both Master Gardeners - which totally rocks. And it goes a LOT faster with three people instead of one. :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Wisconsin!

Family legend has it that my late dad, who was a graduate of UW at Madison, taught me to say "Go Badgers!" at a very early age :-) Maybe that's why Wisconsin has always held such allure for me. Maybe not, but whatever, Wisconsin is so, so beautiful - so green, so lush. I like it there very much - maybe I lived there in another life . . .

Growing in up in Chicago, most families took vacations to the Wisconsin Dells when I was a kid. My dad died when I was very young and somehow we just never did get to the Dells although years later my mom and I talked alot about going just before she passed away. When I was a kid we occasionally went up to Lake Meta (now called Meta Lake) near Eagle River, where my great grandmother lived, but never to the Dells.

I finally got my chance to visit the Dells this weekend - the brother of a friend of mine has a farm that encompasses Louis' Bluff, and they were there for vacation and invited me up for a couple of days.

There is a big part of me that thinks I could very easily live in a small town - and then the other part of me usually smacks me awake - but I seriously could have laid in a supply of Cutter and just stayed there. There is a great peace and serenity along the water of the Wisconsin River, and Louis' Bluff is up at the North end of the Dells.

This is the real Wisconsin Dells - not the waterpark, tourist haven that it has become - you can almost imagine that you're all alone in the forest, and although I didn't see any, it's quite likely that deer and other wild animals would cross your path here. We had planned to hike up the Bluff, but poison ivy is rampant there - I mean everywhere, and there are no cut trails. I decided not to take the chance, particularly since my neighbor just had it from her yard, and a work colleague had it from petting a dog . . . I contented myself with rides around the property in the Gator. It's a pretty wild ride, but other than narrowly escaping contact with a tree once, it was really fun :-D

If you've only ever been to the commercial part of Wisconsin Dells, you haven't really seen the Dells at all. We took the Upper Dells boat tour, and it was great. You can see the landscape and its many amazing features better from the water.

I'm in the process of making a photo book similar to the one I made for Iona, and will link it here soon to share some of what we experienced - in the mean time, I'll leave you with this . . . Yes, it's really that beautiful. :-) This is the North side of Louis' Bluff - It was like a step back in time . . .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where to Start?

Can I just say: "What a Great Day!"

Yesterday's trip to the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair was full of wonderful fun, and it started early! I got a message from Kris on Friday evening asking could she ride up to the fair with me and I readily agreed. We headed out around 7:15 a.m. and with one stop for gas (oh it just hurts to buy gas anymore . . . $4.33/gallon :-( ) we were at the fair pretty much when things jumped off around 9 a.m.

There is a certain scent that seems to permeate a room (or tent :-) ) full of hand-dyed wool. To me it's a vinegar-like smell, probably from the vinegar most dyers use to set their colors. The humidity seemed to bring it out, and as we browsed the vendors in the large outdoor tent, I found that it was quite a comforting scent somehow.

Kris and I caught up with Sheri and Janice within about 15 minutes of our arrival (just as I was thinking I should ring Janice on her cell!) and thus began a day of shopping, eating and just generally having a blast! Linda, Jamie and Rachel were not far behind and the fair was set up such that we could group together, then shop on our own, then find each other again. We continued this way pretty much all day long, with a lunch break where we all sat down together and played show and tell.

How lucky I am to have such great friends! If you read this blog regularly, you know that Linda, Jamie, Rachel and I are the regular Gang of Four ;-D; Kris is a friend from my SnB, and Sheri and Janice are bestest friends, and are my friends from the Spring Fling (the knitting retreat) I attended in St. Louis back in April! They all seemed to enjoy meeting each other, and we all came home with some yarny goodness. I also got to see some more folks from SnB, and finally got to meet Tzurris' beautiful baby, Miriam! What a pleasant and happy surprise that was!

Here's everyone at lunch - a fine-looking crew, don't you agree? :-) We did not eat healthily I'm afraid, but it was mostly because none of us noticed the one booth that actually had some healthy fare. We were bummed about that, but we all really did enjoy the Polish food and bratwursts we had :-D

The fair was set up differently this year. I have to say I enjoyed last year's setting better, and I think there were more vendors last year - but with the weather we had yesterday, many of the vendors were probably glad to be inside rather than outside in the tents. There were still some outside, though, and it was really a nice mix. Plus there were some different vendors this year, so that was pretty great, and really if you missed it this year, you might want to consider it for you calendar next year!

It was pretty humid, even inside, and I seemed to feel this more than my partners in crime, as evidenced by my sweaty looking hair and the fact that all my makeup is gone . . . here I am with Little Loopy, and there he is again with Sheri. Little Loopy asked me where Cedric was (you may recall that Cedric, my travel gnome, and Little Loopy got pretty friendly with each other during The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling in April :-D ). Since Cedric generally only travels with me on overnight trips, he was at home - and let me tell you that he was royally irritated with me when he found out that Little Loopy was at the fair!

After regrouping at lunch, I decided that I really did want some yarn from Briar Rose, because really, who doesn't want yarn from Briar Rose?? :-) And we all wanted yarn from the Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool Co., as evidenced by the photo at right.

So - what did I come home with? Well, I didn't do as much damage as I could have . . . but that pile of loot looks pretty substantial, doesn't it? Clockwise from the top: Some really nice Blue-Faced Leicester roving from Miss Babs - I got a pound of the Blue View colorway - it's really pretty. Kris came home with some in the Harvest shade. Next is 1,600 yards of single-ply variegated wool in the Autumn Leaves colorway, from Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool Co (that link is to a 2005 Knitter's Review column that mentions the company, about 2/3rds of the way down the page). I confess I copied one of my pals on this - she had a skein of it with her at lunch, and I loved it. I realized yesterday that there is a very fine line between an absolutely stunning colorway and clown barf. I saw my share of clown barf, but this Autumn Leaves colorway - in fact, ALL the colorways at Plain & Fancy were just amazingly done. I really really like this yarn.

Then, while Sheri and Janice were completely engrossed in a sock knitting machine from 1910 or so, I got sucked into something called Flat Feet. I probably paid too much for it, but it was really quite intriguing, and so I thought I would try it out. Also there, but not readily visible is the pair of Addi Turbo circulars I bought so I could cast on ;-D Next are some Bergschultz buttons for the "sweater that no one likes but me." It has graduated to this status because before only Linda didn't like it, and now, Kris doesn't like it either. Oh well. It's a jacket, people, not a high-fashion statement. It's for tossing on when you have to run out and grab the newspaper for crying out loud! Or for sitting in my gazebo this fall when it's getting a little nippy out. So it makes me look a little tubby and it's really pink - it's a jacket.

Moving on, is a darling little Gita Maria sheep pin that I picked up from Janet Wray at JWrayco. Next to that, two skeins of Handmaiden Mini-Maiden to make the Waves in the Square shawl, the pattern for which I picked up last year. There's a little group of four mini batts of roving from the Illinois Collective that will be used to felt onto soap bars, and last but certainly not least, two skeins of Briar Rose's Glory Days Blue-Faced Leicester - enough to make a sweater from A Fine Fleece. Yay!

We saw it all, I think :-) and then Kris and I headed back with Sheri and Janice for a relaxing afternoon of knitting and spinning. The ride to the hotel was eventful . . . a big green bottle fly snuck into the car with us and landed on my right shoulder, on my white shirt! Kris say it at the same time I did, and it flew off my shoulder, right into her face - much flinging of hands and hair and windows opening and closing - but we think we got it :-D

Janice is a newer spinner, and I got the chance to try spinning on her Schacht wheel - a lot more complicated than my Lendrum, but a lovely wheel. I felt sort of clueless with the wheel because it's a double drive - and a double treadle, but I really enjoyed it, and enjoyed even more helping Janice as she spun and plied some of her yarn! I'm not a highly experienced spinner, but I've had some of the best teachers in the world (seriously), and I really enjoy sharing some of what I've learned with others - and um, hello, spinning is really fun!

Sheri finished a sock, Janice finished her spinning, Kris worked on another Windmill Beret, and I eventually cast on for those Flat Feet socks. Dinner at Chili's capped off a truly great day, and Kris and I headed South for the drive home during which I forced Kris to listen to Bollywood tunes. She was humming along after not too long :-D They really are catchy, even when you don't know what anyone's saying! We made it back to my house by around 9:45 p.m. A full day of fiber fun. :-)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Heading to the Fair!

OK - it's really early, and Knifty Red will be here in an hour, and we're heading North to Crystal Lake to catch up with Linda, Jamie, Rachel, Sheri, Janice and whoever else we find!

It's raining today - so how great is it that the majority of the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair is inside this year? Really great!!

More later . . . !

Oh - and p.s., I have NO idea why the comments wouldn't come up on my last post - maybe something to do with the video? No clue.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hot Town, Summer in the City . . .

I'm trying to figure out if it's me, or if it's the postal workers at one of the post offices downtown. I have been in the post office that's closest to my office twice in the last two weeks, and both times I was treated with disrespect and rudeness. Today, the jerk - and I confess, I actually called him a jerk - behind the counter was rude and ignorant, and I didn't care to waste money getting docked to take the time to request that his supervisor or the postmaster come to the counter. I'm not going there again. Anything that has to get mailed is going to have to wait until the weekend when I can go to my local post office, where everyone is friendly and happy to see me.

Geez - is it the heat? Or is it that some people just cannot be bothered to have good manners anymore? You know, there's really just no excuse for bad manners, and I'm a little ashamed that I lost my cool enough to actually call that guy a jerk. For all I know he's got a miserable life. Still, my taxes help pay his federal salary - I don't deserve to be told "you clearly don't know what you're doing" because I pointed out that the automated machine gave me one rate of postage and refused to print a stamp while he gave me a different rate and his snotty attitude.

Oh well - so it goes. As my Iona sister, Tori is wont to say: "Next!"

It is finally summer in Chicagoland, and it was a hot one today - on my walk to the train today I was reminded that yes, I do have asthma. I'm fine, and I didn't need to use my inhaler, but I could feel my lungs complaining by the time I made it to the station.

Hot Town, Summer in the City - I'm going to have John Sebastian's voice in my head all night long now.

:-) Keep cool.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stuff that's Done

I have finally figured out how to get the photos uploaded from my camera again - the high speed USB port still isn't working, but the old ones in the back of the laptop are, so although it's only one photo at a time, I still got them uploaded. I also updated my Ravelry pages today - both stash and projects, so I'm feeling a little righteous ;-)

Here's a look at what's been going on this summer! Yes, my sock mojo is back! I attribute this to Knifty Red's Cable Lagoon socks. No, I haven't made them yet, but I want to, so these Yukon Leaves socks had to get finished. They are made with Yarn Love's Scarlet O'Hara, which is a bamboo blend, purchased at The Loopy Ewe. I learned that I don't care for bamboo as a fiber to knit with, which is probably why, subconsciously I never cast on for the Country Girl Socks in my DIY Sock Club. That yarn was Bamboolaine. I'm skipping that pattern and the Bamboolaine is going in my Trade/Sell stuff on Ravelry. These socks are a gift for one of my friends, and I have socks on the needles now for her husband - they have graciously invited me for a weekend in Wisconsin at the end of the month, and I thought socks would make a good hostess present :-) Once those are done, Cable Lagoon, here I come!

Next is a Diamond Beaded Bracelet that I made at the Lucy Neatby workshop I attended in June through the Windy City Knitting Guild. I like it alot and it looks good on my wrist! This bracelet was made with Perle Cotton #8 and green seed beads on 0000 needles. Yes, you read that correctly: 0000. And Hot Dog! thanks to my SnB buddy B, I actually had a set of 0000 Addi Turbo double points! I got them in the Holiday gift exchange at SnB. I was happy to not have get them special for the workshop.

Next up is the Lucy Bag! I was looking for ways to use up some Cascade 220 that I bought on a whim for sweater and then thought better of it . . . this took 2 skeins (I cut the long strap a couple rows short) and it knit up very quickly. It also felted very well with only two times through the washer, and did not release tons of lint/fuzz into the pillowcase. This is likely destined to be a holiday present ;-)

I thought it might be interesting to see a project from start to finish. I started with roving from JWrayco in the Thai Lantern colorway, about 7 or 8 ounces of it. I spun it up into what I had planned to be worsted weight, but what came out more like bulky weight. I made a modified Irish Hiking Scarf (shown blocking in the photo), and with the leftovers, I made thumbless Fetching mitts (which are quite dark because they are wet still). The color on the scarf is quite true. The scarf was done on size 10 needles to get a fabric with some drape, and the mitts were done on 6's to make them quite dense. I like both the finished results!

Last but certainly not least - I don't think I posted about this before, but if I did, please forgive me. This is a scarf that I wove for my friend, Linda's (the Chicken Lady!) birthday. I made this on my rectangular continuous strand loom. Black yarn is worsted weight Lamb's Pride variegated, and the stripe is something that Judith McKenzie McCuin calls "Wolf Yarn." It's a mohair boucle that I made in class with her earlier this year at the Missouri Fiber Retreat in Jefferson City, Missouri. It is edged in single crochet because the rectangles are woven on the bias and it helps keep them a little more stable. I enjoyed this project - and Linda seems to like it :-)

I think that about catches me up. I'm looking forward to next weekend and Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair. I highly recommend this fair, and if you're anywhere within a couplethree hours of Crystal Lake, Illinois next weekend it's well worth the drive and I really encourage you to attend on one of the days. As I've mentioned before, we really don't have a lot of fiber events in Illinois, so show your support, people!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adventures in Spinning, Part VII

Have a quick look at what's on my wheel: It's a 70/30 Merino/Silk blend from The Sanguine Gryphon in the Standing Stones colorway. I got a pound of it from The Loopy Ewe and am spinning it up kinda skinny in practice for spinning the wool for the Iona Sweater.

I love this fiber, and it's a new project for me - to be spinning something with silk in it. I'm using the largest whorl on my fast flyer, and it's getting enough twist to hold the silk together - pretty easy though, for it to fly apart if I'm not paying good attention at the wheel.

I haven't talked about the Iona Sweater recently - that project has been sort of on the back burner while I got to be a better spinner but it's actually how this entire spinning adventure got started. And now, I'm feeling like I'm ready to spin what's going to be 3+ pounds of finished wool. With PatsyZ's help I found a fleece from Moon Shadow Farm - a beautiful while Corriedale - that I will pick up at the Michigan Fiber Festival next month and the Iona wool will be blended with the fleece and processed by Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. And then, this fall, I will start spinning. And spinning ;-D

I've been spinning for just over a year now, and having things fall into place to actually make this sweater is really exciting to me. I picked up a great new book with some late birthday money from my Iona sister, Tori. It's called A Fine Fleece. It's chock full of Arans, shown in both commercial yarn and handspun. It's perfect for me, and I could (and probably will) happily make pretty much every single pattern in there. Don't you love it when you find a book like that? :-) The pattern I thought would become the Iona Sweater, won't, because I found another this past weekend in that book! I switched from a pullover (Celtic Dreams) to a cardigan (October Frost). Celtic Dreams will still get made, just not likely out of handspun.

It's going to be an exciting ride :-)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Sunday Afternoon

It's been an absolutely wonderful holiday here. I've taken a few days off around it and one of my Iona sisters is here visiting. We went to the Cirque du Soleil on Thursday, watched the fireworks at the country club from my backyard (Yay!) and have been enjoying a lot of time in my new gazebo. OMG - this project was so worth what it cost. It's my new summer home! Forgive the stain cans - I've moved them. :-)

Took a ride up to the Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin yesterday, which was the first day of the fair. Always a lot of fun, and we got free tickets at Borders. Even better! I got a beautiful henna tattoo from an Indian woman - she remembered me and our conversation about Bollywood from last year! I think she gave me an especially beautiful tattoo because I know who Shah Rukh Khan is and love Adnan Sami's music :-) I love getting a henna tattoo - it will last about 2 weeks.

Today will be spent relaxing and doing some knitting - and some teaching. My friend want's to learn to make the Montego Bay Scarf! I finished my first one awhile ago - here it is. Made with the yarn actually called for, Handmaiden Sea Silk. I loved working with it and will make another one to wear in the fall. This green one is the Spring colorway. Fall's scarf is the Paris colorway. Both purchased at The Loopy Ewe while I was there for Spring Fling. The fringe really makes this scarf. I'm not usually a fringe person, but braiding it really was the finishing touch.

Now that I figured out how to actually get photos uploaded again, I will post a few more finished objects shortly. I finally finished the second pair of Yukon Leaves socks - they languished since early May. I was right - Knifty Red's Cable Lagoon socks have started my sock mojo up again. They are not yet on the needles because I have one pair ahead of them, but I'm so anxious to knit them that I'm blasting through a simple pair of men's socks made with my favorite Opal self-striping yarn. Stay tuned, film at 11 :-D

Happy Fourth of July!