Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival: at least I didn't come home with a goat...

There is a reason to go to Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby with only a limited amount of cash in one's wallet. And this is it:

So many wonderful vendors occupying several buildings and a large space outdoors, all with amazing yarn, fiber, tools, toys, books, and more that if they'd all taken plastic I would have seriously risked bankruptcy. I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head, but, well, start looking for the holes in my head because guess what I came home with?

Jean, Janita, Nanci, and I drove up Saturday afternoon to have a look-see at the festival.

I didn't get many photos because I had a project bag on one wrist and kept my hands occupied with a sock, which kept my hands out of my wallet overmuch, but kinda kept my hands away from my camera, too. I did get a few shots in the barns, like the one above with everyone looking at the angora goats and admiring the mohair that they produced.

Here's an angora getting a haircut. PETA people, do note how pleased the goat looks with itself and please stop the silly rumors that beloved, valuable animals like this are killed for their fleece:

Chinchillas like this, though, used to be raised and slain for their incredibly soft, silky pelts, but these days they're more likely to be pets than pelts. Like hamsters they're nocturnal and apt to bore small children, but they're oh, so lovely to pet. They can also be combed for their downy fur.

There were many angora bunnies like this one, some for show and some for sale. Oh, boy, it's like petting a cloud. I wants me an angora bunny now! Someday. When we don't have seven cats, a guinea pig, two birds, and various strays to take care of. These guys are plucked or shorn for their soft, soft woolly hair. I saw one sitting patiently in a spinners lap while she plucked and spun his wool.

So what was I tempted into buying? Two skeins of fingering-weight natural alpaca from Klamath River Alpacas, which may end up being a narrow Henry scarf:
A skein of Cashmara sock yarn with 10% cashmere, from Fly Designs (it's not quite that dark, but my camera has trouble accurately photographing purples):

And a complete and utterly decadent indulgence: a skein of pure American-grown cashmere from Breezy Meadows Cashmere Farm up near Bellingham, Washington. Oh, my stars, this is what real cashmere is supposed to be like, not the scratchy cheap stuff coming out of China these days:It's destined to be a soft, soft, soft cowl for me and one for my sweet mother-in-law.

And finally, four bags of tea from Tea Time Garden in Kelso, Washington. I got Three Wishes (black tea with rose, grenadine, and vanilla), Lyrical Lemon (green tea with lemon), Jasmine Pear (a black tea), and Rose Cream (also a black tea):
I tried them at work this week and oh, are they ever smooooth! No bitterness, and lovely, lovely flavors and fragrance.

Mind you, I came to the festival with an idea of buying some pygora fiber, and by the time I actually found some, I was out of cash. Piffle. Well, there will be more opportunities to buy pygora.

Monday, September 21, 2009

FO: Sink me!

Odds fish, why, it's lace! Pretty purple and fuchsia lace! Sink me, but that's fine lace, is it not?

The pattern is the Blue Jeans Lace Leaf shawl, so why the archaic talk?


It started out as a lovely skein of handspun silk that I wrote about back in August, which measured about 126 yards after plying:

Using the lace leaf pattern and a pair of US size 1 needles, I knit up the yarn until reached the very end of the skein. The very end, mind you. When I did the last bind off stitch, I had no more than three inches left!

As I was knitting, I thought of what to call the resulting scarf. Berry colors suggested Summer Berries, and that was okay for a while, but last week after working all week to try to get ahead of preparing this term's lectures, I took Friday afternoon off because my brain was exhausted. Going home to knit and watch movies for an afternoon sounded like a terrific idea. What to watch, what to watch... I browsed through the streaming videos on Netflix and settled on The Scarlet Pimpernel, the version with Richard Grant as Sir Percy Blakeney and Martin Shaw as a very... robust Chauvelin. Yum. Knitting silk lace and watching the Scarlet Pimpernel was, I think, an afternoon well spent.

By the time I got through all three episodes, this scarf was forever associated with the Pimpernel. It's now my Scarlet Pimpernel lace scarf.

Now, because before-and-after blocking pictures are always amusing, here's before:

And here's after:
The blocking boards are from KnitPicks, by the way, and they work splendidly. Finished size is 16 inches on the two shorter edges, and I'll have to consult Pythagoras on third side because I forgot to measure it.

My first finished lace project. Sink me!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Free Pattern: Garter Stripe Afghan

Some time ago I knitted two afghans for and Afghans for Afghans project when they had a big call for baby blankets for a hospital in Kabul. The blog I was contributing to at the time has faded into the aether of the internet, and my pattern page along with it. But I was smart enough to save the html from the post, so here the pattern is again!

I started with the Easiest Baby Blanket pattern from Knitting Pattern Central, which has a garter edging and a stockinette middle, but I was concerned that since the length and width of individual stitches is different, it would come out weirdly. I also needed the blanket to be a little bigger than the original pattern. The minimum size they need for a newborn blanket is 30 inches by 40 inches — it has to last for a while. So here’s what I came up with:

Garter Stripe Baby Afghan


* 8 to 10 balls Lion Wool Prints (I used Mountain colorway) or any woolly worsted-weight yarn, 3.5-4 oz per skein (MUST be wool or other animal fiber for Afghans for Afghans — acrylic does not insulate well enough).
* Size 15 circular needles

Gauge: whatever. It’ll come out to about 34-36 inches wide.

Holding two strands of wool together, cast on 87 stitches.

Beginning and ending with stripe pattern 1, alternate these two stripe patterns throughout:

Stripe pattern 1:
Knit every row for 8 rows.

Stripe pattern 2:
Row 1: Knit across
Row 2: Knit the first five stitches, Purl up to the last five stitches, Knit the last five stitches.
Repeat until 8 rows have been made.
Repeat the two stripe patterns alternating until the piece measures about 42 inches. Bind off.

For colors, dark or bright colors are best. Pastels and light colors look dirty too quickly. Green is significant to the people of Islam, so consider incorporating green into the design. The “Mountain” colorway that I used has purple, green, blue, and brown.

Monday, September 14, 2009

For the wheat-free

When Jenny in our Ravelry group threw a potluck for her birthday, some of us who knew she (and others in the group) had wheat issues endeavored to bring wheat-free, gluten-free goodies.

A good birthday party needs a good birthday cake, right? Jean supplied the "cake" in the form of a Pavlova, a delicious concoction of baked meringue, fruit, and whipped cream. There are many recipes for Pavolva, such as this one, these, this one, and this simple one.

My contribution was chocolate-mint rice cookies. I had a bag of brown rice flour on the shelf and figured I could put it to good use. Here's the recipe:

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl:
1 1/2 cups of brown rice flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

In another bowl, cream together:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1 or 2 ounces melted baker's chocolate (depending on how chocolaty you want the cookies)
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

Mix the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture about 1/2 cup at a time until blended. Roll the dough out on a surface sprinkled with rice flour. Roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, I mixed powdered sugar with water to make a thin goop. I dipped the top of each cookie into the goop and sprinkled with colored sugar, then let the icing dry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Did anyone ask the cats for their opinion?

Silly. Someone has attempted to declare today "no cats on the internet" day.

Here's what Edison thinks of that idea:

I think they'd have more success with a "no porn on the internet day." Which is to say none at all, minus fifty gazillion.

Odin says, "Yield to my furry cuteness!"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What makes a state fair a great state fair

Ah, the State Fair! An American phenomenon, its roots lie deep medieval fairs which were primarily about selling livestock and goods. But the State Fair and its smaller sibling, the County Fair, has its own rural American stamp on it. Where the medieval fair was about commerce (like the farmer's markets and art fairs of today), the American State Fairs were more about exhibition. Back in the 19th century, when State Fairs first started up, they were primarily displays of agricultural progress: the latest machines, the latest hybrid crops, the best breeds of cattle, as well as a place to trade in livestock. But it wasn't all seriousness. There were the shows, whether wild west extravaganzas or today's Monster Truck rallies. The Ferris Wheel debuted at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, starting a tradition of nausea-inducing mechanical rides that go around and around, and the midway, with its silly games and sillier prizes, has always been a hallmark of the fair.

But the contests! Contests made the fair as Aunt Sally took a ribbon for her peach preserves, Grandma took a prize for her hand-knitted lace, Uncle Henry won first place for growing the biggest turnip or pumpkin, and Cousin Luke's best Jersey cow won a trophy. Contests made the fair a personal event, and fairgoers eagerly flocked to the exhibition halls to see who won what and natter about how the judges must have been terribly biased or blind as a bat if they chose that awful Mrs. Whatsit's butter over Mother's!

So of course when we went to the Oregon State Fair yesterday we headed to the Jackman-Long building (alas, renamed recently for a brand of cookware that is hawked there every year) to check out the home arts entries. There, after a good deal of hunting, I found my blue ribbon socks and with some finagling (like holding the program to shade the glare on the glass) I got a photo of them in situ:

The cabinets were arranged in artful groups, some around themes (like fish-themed quilts displayed with bathing suits) rather than by entry categories, so finding things took some hunting. I can see why the fair officials might want to make pretty displays, but really, I'd like to see items in the same category displayed alongside one another so that it's easy to compare the prize winners in each category.

After some more hunting, I found the Fair Isle vest that Helen in our Ravelry group entered and took a blue ribbon for:

And she took another blue ribbon for this cardigan, knit from yarn her husband Kelly spun himself. (I didn't get a usable picture of the shawl he wove from more of his own handspun, that also took a Best of Class ribbon.)

Of course there were so many beautiful knitted, embroidered, woven, crocheted, quilted, tatted, beaded, etc. etc. etc. that I could have photographed, not to mention the decorated cakes, table arrangements, woodcarving, hobby displays, collections, and more, that I'd need a gallery to show off all the skillful winners. Here are just a couple of interesting things I found in the quilt displays. First, have a look at this interesting design. Nice colors, interesting graphics, right?

Now take a closer look:

See what those are? Those are the selvages from cut fabric! Someone found beauty and interest in the parts of the fabric that everyone else throws away, and pieced these little works of art into one big work of art. Which won a ribbon in its category, by the way.

This little quilt gave me a little nostalgic feeling. I embroidered when I was a kid, and remember day-of-the-week tea towel iron-on transfer embroidery patterns like these little Scotty dogs:

The quilt not only has the vintage embroidery designs, it also has vintage (or replica vintage) fabric:

The stitching on this floral quilt was stunning. Something like that would take me decades, I swear.

Here it is in close-up:

And then there's the "let's get everyone's attention" kind of quilting:

Which is exactly its purpose. It's a rolling quilting display, Have Quilt Will Travel, by a local quilting guild, to promote quilting:

My other favorite part of the fair is the animal barns. I didn't collect lots of pictures of cows and piggies and chickens and bunnies and llamas and goats and all, but here are some sheep looking like they're done with it all and ready to go home:

Next year, I'm hoping our group will have a whole lot more entered and totally sweep the county and state fairs in the knitting department.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An interlude: Hysteria, hype, and health care

::pant, pant, pant::

Wow, what a ride. I was asked to be a peer reviewer on Ravelry to help moderate a thread about the current public health care issue in the U.S. Yeah, it got a little hot. But there was a lot of good information that I gleaned from it.

About 80% of the posts fell into these categories:
  • U.S. citizens with heartbreaking stories about life without health insurance: people who had insurance but lost their jobs, and when they got a new job with new insurance, were told that their issues that were covered by their previous insurance were now "pre-existing conditions" and would not be covered; adopted children who had been exposed to HIV prior to birth who were refused coverage because their HIV was a "pre-existing condition"; people working long hours at jobs that don't supply health insurance -- nor time off for sick leave -- who had to put off going to the doctor until it became absolutely necessary; people who became disabled and could not work, and so lost their employer-provided insurance; people going back to school to better their lives who, consequently, lost their employer provided insurance; people forced to choose between racking up debt and risking bankruptcy to get a life-threatening condition treated, or going without treatment and risking death. The stories went on and on and on. I had one in there, too. Yeah, I had the joy of living without health insurance for a while.
  • Citizens of the UK, Canada, Netherlands, and other nations with national health coverage who said that while there are always problems, for the most part they were glad they had a national health plan, enjoyed low-cost or sometimes no-cost medical care, and in some nations even had home visits from a health nurse for weeks after the birth of a baby. Many of them shuddered at the thought of having to get medical care in the U.S., or had lived in the U.S. and far preferred the system they were under in Europe or the U.K. Many were also appalled at the way their national health care has been misrepresented in the U.S. media.
Another 10% or so came from U.S. citizens who either
  • crabbed about having to support all those "lazy people who don't work" and who "abuse the system" and therefore aren't worthy in their eyes of health care, or
  • reiterated emails they'd received that listed all the evils of H.R. 3200, the current health plan under consideration in Congress.
And another 10% or so was other stuff: off-topic stuff, rants, and alas, some personal attacks that had to be deleted.


I know there's a lot -- a LOT -- of stuff flying around the internet about H.R. 3200. I know there are floods of emails full of all the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad things that will happen if it passes. I also discovered that most of the claims in these emails are terribly misleading or entirely untrue. Now, I could direct you to FactCheck.org and their article titled Twenty-six Lies about H.R. 3200. But even though FactCheck is a non-partisan site and well-researched, I'd still be saying, "Don't believe that email/blog/web article. Believe this web article!"

And that wouldn't help the debate at all, would it?

So instead I'm going to refer everyone to (gasp!) the actual bill itself. Because you know what? Just like all those people out there who rant about Darwin who have never actually read Darwin, there are a lot of people ranting about the bill who have never read the bill. Sadly, some of them seem to be our own representatives who are voting on the bill. Maybe they should be forced to sit down and take a test on it. No Senator Left Behind, anyone?

The bill is huge. It's about 1000 pages. You're not going to be able to sit down and read this like a novel from start to finish. What you can do, though, is look up the passages in the bill that the propaganda emails refer to. Read the actual passages. See what they really say. See if they even exist. (Hint: Death panels? Not in there. Mandatory enrollment in five years? Not in there, either. Health care rationing? Nope, not there. Feds going to dip directly into your bank account to fund this? Government will pay ACORN to sign people up? Employers forced to sign employees up for the public option? Nope, nope, and nope.)

You can download H.R. 3200 as a PDF.

Or you can read the text of H.R. 3200 on OpenCongress.org.

End the hysteria. Go to the source. Get the facts. Then, U.S. readers, write to your representatives and tell them what you want.

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