Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Projects!

Here's what's been on my wheel: My first Cormo. It came out a lot better than I thought it might - a little fulling when setting the twist seemed to help it settle. What a challenge it was so spin. Kept sticking to itself, had VM in it (the sunroom floor looks like a little cadre of brown ants have moved in!), and was just as full of neps as could be :-( Neps, BTW are those little blobs that you can't actually draft out and they make slubs and bumps in the singles. Even so, it's springy like Targhee, and it's really bright white. I love it! And I have enough roving for at least one more skein - maybe one and a half. There is about 300 yards there! Woo Hoo! Here's a closeup.

Next we have the 70/30 Merino/silk in the Standing Stones colorway from The Sanguine Gryphon, purchased from The Loopy Ewe. I'm loving this stuff. This is 8 oz. of fiber (two of her braids worth), and I have more than 400 yards. And I have two more braids! Yippy!!

And finally - here are the socks I wanted to be done with. They came out nicely, but they were knit from something called Flat Feet. The concept is intriguing, which is why I picked up the "flat" at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair. It's a flat of knitted yarn that is then hand dyed. You unravel the yarn and knit is as it comes . . . I suppose this works pretty good if you don't make a mistake and have to frog your sock (twice :-S).

I was trying to copy Knitterary's beautiful twisted cable sock . . . and I forgot to allow for how much stretch I would lose with the little cables all the way down the calf . . . it's a sad story. I won't bore you with the details, but I was left with a pile of wormy yarn that broke twice and was the most splitty yarn I've ever worked with. I cast on the second sock on my way home from the Michigan Fiber Festival, which was Saturday the 16th, and it was done by Tuesday, at which point I tossed it aside to recover. I kitchener'd the toe today and wove in the ends. They are going to my cousin, K, who loves everything I knit for her (really!). :-) She saw them and did her customary, "are those for me?!" question - and I was happy to let her have them.

They are superwash - but of course, they have to be blocked because I knit them with wormy yarn. I will NOT do this again. . . what a pain they were.

I cast on on Thursday night for the St. Patrick sweater from A Fine Fleece. I'm using Queensland Kathmandu Aran in the most perfect shade of green. I think it's going to be a beautiful sweater - hope it fits me . . . I'm making it one size smaller than I should for a couple of reasons: (1) I'm hopeful it will be great encouragement to get back on the treadmill and make better food choices, and (2) I understand that this yarn can stretch. I got gauge with it, but I didn't wet block my swatch . . . I know, it's a chance.

Oh - and once again, I have fallen off the stash busting wagon and I only lasted a week and a half . . . but that's another story ;-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Idling in Neutral

We're heading into my favorite time of the year. Actually, I feel like we're sprinting into it. I mean, we're closer to September than we are to July. Where does the time go? I feel like time is compressing - and I'm not the only one. A dear friend of mine was in from Colorado last week and we got to have lunch together. She feels the same way.

There is just a hint of the fall days to come in these dog days of summer. It's still hot, but it's cooling off appreciably in the evening, which is really quite welcome. School supplies line the aisles at Walgreens (my favorite store), and some kids are already back at school - which seems a little unfair to me.

School should start the day after Labor Day. Just like church should be at 11 and not 10 (like it is during the summer months). I'm a creature of habit, I guess, and like most folks I like things the way I like them. Hmmmm, perhaps I'm not the most adaptable of humans . . . ;-)

It's that time of year - in the Celtic calendar it's Lughnasa, the time of the harvest, and it's the time of my own annual paradox. Most years at this time, I find myself in this place - hurtling forward and feeling like I'm marking time at the same time. Heading toward autumn and what, for me, is the new year. Taking stock of where I am and where I was and where I want to be. Feeling like my own skin doesn't quite fit somehow. Sort of holding my breath. Not accomplishing too much in any area, but laying groundwork. And this year working on being a little more gentle with myself (that's a new concept for me - it's interesting . . . ).

Labor Day will be here in short order, and alot of things will fall back into their normal pattern - including me, I think. The last weeks of being a little out of sync with everything will ease. It's like finally dropping into gear. Exhaling. The gears catch as I let the clutch out and everything starts moving forward. And suddenly my own skin is exactly where I belong again.

I'm looking forward to it . . . :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Michigan Fiber Festival

Taking the bus chartered by The Windy City Knitting Guild was BRILLIANT! Thank you so very much to Worna who seemed to be the woman who put it all together. Well Done!

Linda and I got up at 5 (no real problem there since I do that all the time anyway) and headed out around 6 to get to the library to get on the bus. After a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts (OK - I was just going to link to their site, but geez, Rachael Ray, she of the really irritating voice started talking out of the screen and I'm just not going to subject you guys to that, OK? I know you're thanking me :-) ).

Sorry - I digressed. After our stop so Linda could get some caffeine and we could pick up some donuts to share, (OMG you flipped the donuts over, Linda! :-D) we arrived at the library to find . . . no one. In our anxiousness to not be late, we got there about 6:30, pretty much before anyone else :-D The bus arrived and it was gigantic - and very comfy and just perfect for our jaunt to the Michigan Fiber Festival, and it did leave promptly at 7 a.m. :-)

It was so great to not be driving! The bus was not full, but that just made it easier to relax and for me to meet some of the Guild members. Linda and I both had a great time (Jamie and Rachael, you were missed :-) ).

In fact, I'm going out on a limb here, but this event is WAY better than Stitches. At least it was for me. Most of the vendors at this event will be at Stitches this coming weekend, but they were also here in this slightly smaller venue. In addition there were a lot of small, independent farms and dyers, etc., stuff you won't find at Stitches. The fairgrounds were not majorly crowded - some vendors were outside, some inside - and there were animals of the fiber sort as well as Border Collies and tractors and music and lunch from the Guild (yummy and again thank you so very much!). OK - it was hot in the buildings where the vendors were, but I had what my cousin calls my "party fan" with me which made things much more bearable (and more than one person was eye-ing me for it. One even came up and asked had I gotten it at the fair!). We really had a great time!!

So - where shall I start? How about here, with Linda scritching a little Shetland ewe! There were a LOT of Shetlands, plenty of Romneys - and even some huge Lincolns! Wow I mean they were gigantic! Llamas and bunnies and sheep! Oh My! ;-)

We saw a lot of sheep and goats and alpacas, too. I'm not sure what kind of sheep this one is, but isn't it gorgeous? :-) There were shearing demonstrations and herding demonstrations and food and music, and the time to enjoy it all. There was time for shopping, and time for kicking back in the shade and chatting and knitting - really relaxing and this event is definitely on my list for next year!

This is truly a fiber festival, not just a shopping trip, and we had the perfect day for it. The sky was blue, the breeze was perfect (and welcome after being in the vendor buildings), and there are a lot of trees on the fairgrounds, which make for excellent shade - as usual, I was covered in sunscreen, but I didn't have to take my big floppy hat - just a baseball hat this time, which was a lot easier to deal with.

The herding demonstration was very educational. Here are the sheep taking off as Jake, the dog, did his thing. As soon as the "shepherd" said, "that'll do, Jake" I had a Babe the Pig flashback (It's one of my favorite movies, OK? And come on, you can't tell me you didn't just hear Babe singing Jinglebells in your head whether or not you just watched the trailer - and what about that little mouse trio? How cute were they?! Yes, clearly I'm going to be watching it again soon, and - sorry, I keep digressing).

Anywho - Jake was a great dog - he reminded me so much of my old dog, Teddy . . . I really miss having a dog around the house. Oh well - it's not in the cards at the moment. But check that boy out - he's a handsome one, that's for sure. Here are some of the Guild girls enjoying the show.

This event was also exciting for me because this is where the Iona Sweater story picks back up - with a 6 lb. fleece from a sheep named Javanne . . . she lives on Moonshadow Farm in Minnesota. Her fleece is really beautiful - take a look. Javanne is a Corriedale (who knew they put fleeces in lawn and leaf bags, but what a great idea!). I met PatsyZ after her class was finished and she went with me to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers and helped me get everything set up to have this fleece cleaned and blended with some other Corriedale I had, and of course with the Iona Wool. The whiter fleece on top is the Iona wool. It will all look quite similar in color once everything is cleaned and blended, and I will have a LOT of spinning to do this winter :-)

The wool is on its way to the mill - see that lawn and leaf bag in trailer, over on the right next to the blue-ish bucket? That's my fiber! Linda laughed at me, but it's possible to GO to the mill and watch them run my actual fiber. They will call me once it's been washed and give me the option of driving over. I might really do this because (1) it sounds fascinating to me, and (2) I have never been in a mill before, and (3) I would get my fiber sooner than three months if I go and get it :-D Sardinia is about 5 hours away from where I live . . . I'm thinking there might a little road trip in my future around the end of October :-)

I also got a chance to catch up with Toni from The Fold, and I'm hoping to get out there right after Labor Day to spend the day relaxing and spinning in the shop, which is always a pleasure!

You're wondering if I came home with yarn, aren't you? Well, I did - since my stash busting challenge is back in place as of today, I figured I might should get a couple of things I've been wanting. Some Socks that Rock from Toni, and some Oak Grove sock yarn - really gorgeous color saturation! But that's it. I'm going to make my best effort (with possibly one dispensation - OK, maybe two, depending on what 2009 holds) to spin and knit from my stash until the Michigan Fiber Festival next year. Wish me luck :-)

We all piled back onto the bus at 6 o'clock Michigan time, and got home in pretty short order. I dropped Linda at home and picked up my overnight bag, and hopped into the car and was on the way home by 8:30. The price of gas must really be keeping a lot of people off the road - I hit the Edens to the Kennedy to the Dan Ryan to I-57, and I was home in 45 minutes. Let me tell you that this is not normal on a Saturday night in Chicagoland. Oh - and as I was driving down the Kennedy, I swear I saw our bus!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Too Excited to Sleep . . .

More than once this summer, I have felt like this little kid and his sister:

Every time I saw this silly commercial, I thought this little guy and his funny voice were hilarious - I felt this way right before my trip to Wisconsin Dells, and now I feel it again.

On Saturday I'm going to the Michigan Fiber Festival! Linda is going with me - we're actually riding the bus there that the Windy City Knitting Guild has chartered. I am so excited I can hardly believe the day is nearly here.

I'm actually getting things in order around here tonight - laundry's going, I'm attempting to pick all the crap up off the floor so Irena and her crew can actually clean my house, and I'm charging my camera battery and getting an overnight bag in order. I'm going to drive to work tomorrow (never my favorite thing to do . . . ) and then go up to Linda's to spend the night - then Saturday a.m. we get up bright and early and jump on the bus, Gus!

We'll have a whole day at the fair - and I will be picking up the fleece that is destined to be the "Iona Sweater." Now I'm really too excited to sleep :-D

Thought I'd take a moment to catch you up on a few things - I haven't forgotten about my DIY Sock Club, but the second bag I opened contained the Country Girl Socks and Bamboolaine yarn. This, right after I discovered that I really do not care to knit with bamboo blends. So it languished . . . and then I put the yarn in my trade/sell on Ravelry, and it was gone in an hour. So. I thought, well, I'll grab another bag . . . and got the Rainbow Socks, which I really do want to make, but I think I'm going to have to really pay attention, and I'm just not in that place right now.

And what about my Stash Challenge? Yeah. Well, um. . . . . . how embarrassing is it that I rarely deny myself stuff I really really want? But I have looked at the fiber armoire . . . and it's pretty full . . . and I have recently gotten a book (A Fine Fleece) with patterns I'm actually foaming at the mouth to cast on. So, I'm going to take up the standard again - after the fiber festival on Saturday, and see about knitting some stuff up here and getting through some of this ridiculous stash - I'm afraid I'm approaching SABLE (for those of you not in the know, that's Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy), and I don't really like that feeling - I've divested and divested in so many areas of my life that I no longer like having a lot of "stuff" around, and all that yarn is beginning to look suspiciously like "stuff."

So - there you have it - a quick update from The Third Coast. I return to you now to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress :-)

Edited to add: Again - there's something about embedding video in my posts that seems to turn off the ability to leave comments. I don't know what I might be doing wrong . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Increased Vocabulary

My new Olympic vocabulary words of the weekend are:

Repechage: from the French, meaning second chance. a trial heat (as in rowing) in which first-round losers are given another chance to qualify for the semi-finals.


Peloton: again from the French, referring to the large main group in a road bicycle race.

I love the Olympics!!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Fever

I am so enamored of the Olympics. I like watching every single event. So my day today has been spent watching . . . and watching :-D I could be knitting while watching, but really, sometimes you just have to watch.

Assorted breaks today (thank goodness for TiVo!) saw me at the hairdresser getting a much-needed haircut, and at the fresh market, and at my wheel, and potting up some plants. I don't really have alot of time with my plants, and I often try to do too much in one go. But today I repotted a group of plants that will hopefully go to show in October. It's short on on the timing for a pre-show schedule, but it's been hot here, so I'm going to chance it that I can still force them into bloom in time for the show. I made a total mess in the kitchen since the potting bench is now living in the basement - it just seemed easier to not schlep plants up and down the steps, so the kitchen got full of dirt :-D

I didn't finish everything, but I learned a valuable lesson from my cousin, Mary Ellen - pick a project that's manageable. I'm known for biting off more than I can chew, and then generally paying the price in pain and irritability the next day ;-) So, this time, even though I didn't get everything potted, I stopped when I finished one large bowl of potting mix. Hopefully I'll have some prize-winning plants to show you in October :-)

Here's "The Sweater that No One Likes but Me," formerly known as "The Sweater that Linda Doesn't Like," and also known as the Point Five Raglan . It's made out of Maggi Loopy Mohair and Moda Dea. It's been done for months but for the buttons that Knifty Red helped me pick out when we went to the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair. Linda the Chicken Lady was really quite pleased when Knifty Red didn't like it either. And really, no one likes it except me. And I can't tell you why I do - the colors are not my normal colors, and it's not particularly flattering - I just like it and I can see myself out in my yard, in my screened gazebo this fall when the air is just getting crisp, cuddled up in this sweater. :-)

And speaking of my yard - I think these are crabapples. I have two entire trees of them, and I have no idea what to do with them . . . I've let them just fall off for the past four years, but I think since we had so much rain this year, they have a huge crop of apples. Does anyone have any ideas what might be done with them? Or know if they are even edible (like for jam maybe?) And if you do, and you live in the area and you want them, please come over. :-D

Here's a silly little hat - it's Wendy Johnson's simple pattern from her book - made from some of my handspun. This was from some Lorna's Laces wool top that I picked up at the mill end sale earlier this year. It spun up quite nicely, but really, the colors are not me. I have enough still to make some matching fingerless mitts I think - and the set will likely be gifted at some point. It's pretty fun making things out of yarn that I've spun myself. I like the feeling :-)

Thanks to all of you who left such beautiful comments for me. Yes, yesterday was an anniversary of a sad event - and I do remember sad days as well as joyous ones, but as I've said before, I don't think you can know great joy unless you have known great sorrow. I also believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason - there are things we're supposed to learn from every situation and person in our paths. I am the person I am today because of the sum of my experiences - and I like who I am - dancing like nobody's watching, and changing and growing - forever unfinished. :-)

Oh - and Michelle, I discovered that whenever I upload centered photos, they won't biggify, and so just for you, here are my shoes again - this version should biggify just fine :-D

Back to the Olympics!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dance Like No One is Watching . . .

Five years ago today my life was altered forever. Radically changed. My now ex-husband came home and out of nowhere blasted our lives out of the water. Turns out he wasn't the person I thought he was . . . he wasn't the person anyone thought he was. It was the beginning of a 10-month stretch of events that would leave me shell-shocked and wondering if I would ever be OK again.

The divorce was brutal - how do you just stop loving someone? Do you? Can you? Just stop? It took me a long time to heal. I used to wonder about the women you would see on telly or read about who said they had no idea their spouses were . . . um . . . not totally committed to the marriage. I used to think to myself, "what, are they stupid? How could you not know?" I'm here to tell you - I didn't know. I had no idea - probably because my life continued on in its fashion - plans were made for the future, etc. It was like being blind-sided by a Mac truck.

I reflect on this annually - I probably always will. It's an anniversary - a life marker, like a birthday. It's a time to take stock, particularly coming as it does so close to what for me is the new year (still stuck in that old "school year calendar" :-) ). Last year was the first year I started to feel remotely human again. And this year - well, it's hard to believe it's been five years. Another time. Another life.

And so I dance like no one's watching. Wildly. With abandon! Because life is too short not to enjoy every second of it. I believe we're meant to be happy, to find what makes the heart sing. So what about it? Put some old disco music on the stereo or your iPod, and dance. Dance for your heart. Dance for your spirit. Dance until you laugh - because you will :-) Who cares if you look like you're doing the funky scarecrow - No one's watching :-)

A's favorite dance tunes (in case you need some inspiration):

Rock Steady - The Whispers
Dancing Queen - ABBA
Love's Theme - Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra
Stomp - The Brothers Johnson
Fantasy - Earth Wind and Fire
And the Beat Goes On - The Whispers
Burn Rubber - The Gap Band
Let's Get Serious - Jermaine Jackson
I Love You - Donna Summer
Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel - Tavares

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dish Rag Tag

OK - I know it sounds a little silly, but I really like making dish rags. I often use them for beginning projects when I teach people how to knit. I found this over at LaurieB's Knitting Garden (she was a Spring Flinger!) and it intrigued me enough that I signed up. I don't like to have too many projects going at the same time, but by the same token, I like to be able to blast through a quick project.

I signed up for Dish Rag Tag: The Sequel, I don't know how it's going to work, and I can't quite figure out how to get the cute icon to post over on my sidebar, but I can knit a dish rag like nobody's business :-D There's a day or two left to sign up if you want to join the fun! You sign up here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Almost Forgot . . .

The treadmill is FIXED!!!!!!!!!

Rainy Days and Mondays . . . (and Shoes)

I'm dating myself with that title :-) But really, it's raining and it's Monday and I stayed home today to head off an asthma event, and I can just hear Karen Carpenter's voice in my head . . . but unlike the late Ms. Carpenter, rainy days don't get me down at all. I'm happy to see everything getting watered outside.

Today I was going to do a Three Things post - with thanks and a nod to Sheri, which is where I got the idea, but I have shoes on the brain.

When I was in Wisconsin a week ago, I bought nine pairs of shoes. No, I'm not kidding. I actually bought NINE pairs of shoes. This is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds. First of all, unlike many women, I don't have a lot of shoes. I have a pair to walk to work in, a pair for walking on the treadmill, and pair of sandals that I love but the heels are now too high, and a few pairs of dress shoes, all of which are so old that they either don't fit anymore (yes, I used to wear an 8 1/2 and now I wear a 9 - go figure) or they hurt my feet. So, when my friends took me to Black Earth, Wisconsin to The Shoe Box, I flipped out. I have never seen so many shoes in one place in my life :-D I really wanted another pair of walking shoes, like the black New Balance I walk to work in only in white, but I must have a very popular shoe size because they didn't have my size. At all. Not in pretty much any athletic shoe.

I did manage to find a nice pair of Nikes in the SALE ROOM, though, which was a plus, and I will be able to use them to switch off on the treadmill. (I mean, you're supposed to have more than one pair anyway so your feet don't weird out.) Since I was in Wisconsin, I really wanted a pair of Minnetonka moccasins - the ones we all had as kids with the beaded thunderbirds on the toes . . . they did have those in my size. :-) And I got a really cute pair of Dansko Mary Janes that I have been wanting for a really long time. So I left with three. . . OK three is not six . . .

The Shoe Box has a branch in Baraboo, which was on my way home on Saturday, and even though Joyce and Kent said it wasn't as good as the big store in Baraboo, I swung the car in in the hopes that they might have the original white New Balance shoes, in my size, that I wanted to begin with, which is where the other six pairs come in. Score!!! Yes, they did have the shoes I originally wanted! And while I was there, I figured I would look at dress shoes because, like I said, all the ones I have are old (really old) and they hurt my feet.

OK - so do you know how hard it is to find low-heeled work shoes? I've already dated myself with the Karen Carpenter reference (in for a penny, in for a pound). Gone are the days of wearing 2-1/2" or 3" heels. I'm 5' 8" tall, and have been since high school - I actually always wished I was about 5' 10" so I always wore platforms and higher heels. Now I wear a lot of Danskos because I get the height without the pain. Anyway - I digress. I found a pair of black pumps (Trotters) with 1-1/4" heels. Hot Dog!!! So I got them in black and in brown, which covers me for work and pretty much any occasion for the next four or five years or so. Then I found a really nice pair of dressy black trouser shoes, also very low-heeled Trotters. They will get a lot of wear, mostly at work.

And then, all hell broke loose. . . There weren't very many people in the store on Saturday morning, and the girl had a lot of time to help me, and she didn't seem to mind at all that I wanted to try on pretty much every shoe in the store . . . I found the cutest woven leather loafers, perfect little flats - also Trotters (clearly my new footwear of choice!), and they are red. Yes. RED. Not burgundy, not cordovan, RED. Little Red Radio Flyer Wagon RED!!! Wheeeeee!!!!!

And then, I saw these cowboy boots. Real, honest to goodness Durango cowboy boots with the Cuban heels and stitching on the toes and everything, that only come up to your ankle . . . and I tried them on and they looked so hot with my jeans that looking in that stupid mirror that only shows you from the knees down, I could actually imagine that I was a cowgirl, not the um . . . mature (ahem) woman who lives in the suburbs and works in the city that I am . . . Hell yes, they came home with me too.

So, for a week I have had six pairs of shoes that need to be treated with Venetian Cream before I can wear them. My mom always said you had to use Venetian Cream to guard against the leather cracking. Don't know if that's true, but it's a habit I've never broken. :-) So, today, on this rainy Monday, I have a date with my shoes and the Venetian Cream in the sunroom (kinda sounds like Clue - no harm no foul Clue: A, in the sunroom, with the Venetian Cream :-D ).

I hope your Monday is full of gentle surprises. :-)