Friday, December 31, 2010

Putting the House in Order

There is an old tradition -- that I've only recently come to know -- of putting one's house in order on the day of New Year's Eve to ensure that the new year will be a good one. So I spent the morning doing just that. We'd spent the week before Christmas giving the house a pretty good overhaul, so there was mostly just touch up: wiping down the bathrooms, dusting, picking up, doing dishes, wiping down the kitchen, scooping cat boxes, taking out the trash. Knowing that the house is in order -- well, orderly compared with the usual mayhem -- on the last day of the year, in preparation for the incoming year, feels pretty good, and I feel quite at ease sitting down to knit away the afternoon.

Now, if I had my way and could be Omnipotent Goddess of All Things, there'd be quite a few other things about the House of Humanity that I'd put in order. F'rinstance...

  • Wall Street bankers, when handed taxpayer's money to bail out the banks that they'd tanked, would not feel the slightest compulsion to accept bloated bonuses. In fact, they'd be putting their banking houses in apple-pie order order to prevent another collapse and bail-out. 
  • Everyone would consider health care a necessity, not a luxury available only to those who can afford it, and would thoughtfully craft a way to make that happen.
  • As everyone would recognize that only an educated populace can be truly free, a high-quality public education for all citizens would be a top priority.
  • Everyone would recognize the long-term price to be paid for cheap, sweatshop-made products.
  • There would be no doubt in anyone's mind that if we don't have a healthy ecosystem, we can't have a healthy economy, either.
  • The sight of poverty would arouse such compassion in the hearts of those observing that it would spur them to thoughtful action, bringing about the eventual end of poverty.
Actually, I think the last one is key. I think we really need is wave of a magic Omnipotent Goddess hand to give everyone in the world and everyone to come a full measure of compassion for all living, sentient beings on this planet. Imagine how many of the world's problems could be cured with that divine hand-wave.

All together now... ::wave wave wave::

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

FO: Elijah Loves Elinor

He's done! The mystery project is revealed, and it's Elijah!

He's knitted up in Plymouth Baby Bunny, a washable cotton/angora blend, listed as worsted weight but it knits up at DK gauge. He's a present... not exactly a Christmas present, even though he insisted on posing in the Christmas tree.

He's going to be a boon companion for this bonny lass, born shortly before Christmas.

 Hello, Ellie, our newest future knitter!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Nap and Eat Leftovers Day!

Yeeeeaaah, that's pretty much how it's been around here today. Other than taking James home to Portland in the morning because he had to work today, it's been pretty quiet around here. And no wonder. I was getting ready for Christmas all week, which was a lot of work and several nights of too little sleep (it's the cats making me sit up too late at night, I'm sure of it, they're such slave drivers). Today consisted of the aforesaid trip to Portland, followed by a three hour nap, then some leftovers for lunch (and in case you didn't know, a dab of leftover mashed potatoes + milk + cheese = cheesy potato soup), then sitting and knitting and poking around on the internet and generally being a laze-about.

Ah, but it was all worth it. Stockings and presents in the morning (I got a carrying bag for my spinning wheel and a whole stack of knitting and spinning books). Christmas dinner was at our house, and it came off well. Lots of food, family, and good conversation. Then a quiet evening of eating leftovers and watching movies. Christmas was what it ought to be -- friends and family.

Post-Christmas shopping? Bah. My family did that once when I was a kid. Just not my cuppa.

So today I started a mystery sock KAL, beginning work on Isaz, a sock that a member of our knitting group designed (stariel on Ravelry) to showcase Stephania's (moirae on Ravelry) Three Fates Yarn. I'm using a skein of Platinum BFL that I bought at Sock Summit. So far I've got a cast-on and a couple of rows:

And as for that mystery project I started earlier? Here's another clue:

Now can y'all guess what it is?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

To all who celebrate, Merry Christmas! And best wishes for a happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FO catch-up: Fleurette and Sneaky Socks

Fall term is over (thank Bob), most of my Christmas preparation is done (except for... well... what gets done is what gets done), and now to catch up from being behindhand on pictures of finished objects.

The Lilac f*$@&!! Fleurette Jacket is done, in spite of having to improvise most of the pattern:

And a back view:

I actually had this finished in time to wear to the conference in Florida last month, but it took a while to get photos posted. In retrospect, I think I should have let the waistband be a higher midriff band as the original picture showed, but it's wearable anyhow.

My Sneaky Socks, in Plymouth Sockotta (cotton/wool blend) are finally finished. They've been traveling around in a little wrist bag since last March, being my "knitting in the spare moments" knitting -- when held up by a train, while riding in the car, while waiting in the restaurant. A row here, a row there, and the waiting time was well spent.

People look at that pattern and think I'm terribly clever. Then I show them the yarn, with the pre-printed design, and strangely enough they're even more impressed. "So how do you get it to come out exactly like that?" Um... I'm just that good. Yeah. That's it.

Now I've got Sneaky Socks, the Sequel, on the needles using the KnitPicks sock blank that I dyed myself.


... a mystery project! Here's what it looks like now:

Any guesses what it is?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Farewell, Pinkerton

Five years ago last fall, I was driving down a country road on my way home, when I saw something small and white running alongside the road. "Um, that's not natural," I thought. Now, anyone who knows me knows I couldn't possibly keep on driving at that point. I turned the car around, went back, and stopped where I'd seen the critter.

Turned out to be a baby pink-eyed white Guinea pig, no bigger than a hamster. Some yahoo must have tossed it out of a car, but not before snipping the poor baby's eartips off. I hope karma has something special in mind for the perpetrator.

I looked around for any other babies, but the white one was all that I saw. As I happened to have a box in the back of the car, I put the baby piggie in the box and took it home.

Pink eyes, li'l pink ears, li'l pink nose -- Pinky would have been a good name if it had been a girl, but as it turned out to be a boy, he was named Pinkerton.

I knew nothing about Guinea pig care, but quickly found the Guinea Lynx site, which has terrific advice on diet and medical care. I bought the largest cage I could find at PetCo, which was fine when Pinkerton was a baby, but I then found the site for Cavy Cages and used their plans to build a cage twice that size at half the cost.

A steady diet of Oxbow hay and Guinea pig pellets, plus fresh veggies daily and crushed Vitamin C tabs on his food, kept him healthy and happy. His only ailment was an infected foot, that the vet treated with antibiotics. For a while he had a companion, a piggie we adopted from a shelter and named Webster, but poor Webster passed away after just a couple of years.

A couple of months ago I noticed Pinkerton was slowing down. He was still eating his food, but not running around his cage as much. Then in the last couple of weeks he was getting fussy about his food.

Finally, last weekend, he stopped eating. On Sunday, Pinkterton passed over the Rainbow Bridge.

He's now laid to rest under the pear tree that he could see from his window. Farewell, Pinkerton. You'll be missed. I hope you're happily wheeking in the heavenly clover right now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is this a hint about Christmas knitting?'s LOLCat on I Can Has Cheeseburger:

Of course, making the kitty sweater is the easy part. Getting kitty into the sweater -- good time to check your health insurance policy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Knitters -- they are everywhere.

So yesterday I flew from Oregon to Fort Myers, Florida -- about as far from home as I can go in the continental US -- for a research conference. I had knitting with me, among other amusements, and on the second leg of the flight, after catching a little nap, I turned on an audibook on my iPod and pulled out my knitting.

The woman in the window seat pulled out her knitting.

After the drinks cart came by, the woman on the aisle seat asked, "What kind of wool are you using?" and pulled out her knitting, which happened to be some of my handspun (edit: I mean -- I was using my handspun, wow, that's what happens when I blog late at night), we got into a conversation about knitting and spinning.

So what were the odds that all three women seated together would be knitters? We're everywhere, I'm tellin' ya! Knitters RULE!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The quiet desperation of autumn, with FOs

Hello, fall term. Goodbye spare time -- or energy to accomplish anything if I had such a thing as spare time. Evening classes to teach, 12-hour days, a conference to prepare for... is it too late to take up spot welding?

It's on cold, damp mornings when I'm throwing lunch together and tripping over the cats who are all demanding, "Feed us, pet us, don't leeeeeave, meowmy!" that I have these fantasies about how I'll just spin and knit and pet the cats all day and somehow the money to buy the cat food and pay the mortgage and the vet bills will just appear. A little fairy with a kitten's face and carrying yarn will wave her magic knitting needles and a winning lottery ticket will flutter out of the air... then reality sets in and I'm on the road with all the other grumpy people. Thank goodness for audiobooks. I can listen to knitting-related books even if I can't knit at the moment.

Still, I recently finished and plied about 550 yards of approximately laceweight, from two hanks of Cormo wool roving with little nubs of silk in it.

This would have been splendid spun up as a fluffy woolen-spun worsted as well. As it is, it's a soft, nubby yarn with just a hint of the lanolin still in it. It will probably end up as a lace scarf, stole, or shawl.

Stephania had a quiet little spindle spinning party where we watched part of the Respect the Spindle DVD, and I picked up my finished hand-painted sock blank:

I think it came out very well indeed. Now to pick out a pattern that will go well with the wide stripes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This is the cat...

This is the cat

Who is not fat

Who sat on the mat

And that was that.

No matter what we put on the floor around here, a cat will come and sit on it. Soft blocking mats were irresistible. It took some persuasion to get Belle off of them and the item to be blocked onto them -- pix of that item coming soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Wool and Dyeing

Elizabeth Kuebler Ross, stand aside. We're gonna make dyeing -- dyeing with an E mind you -- into a very good time. Stephania of Three Fates Knitting invited some of us to her basement studio in her new house for a sock blank and yarn dyeing class.

Here, Stephania gets seriously down to business, gloving up and putting on the apron in the middle of her alchemical lab.

First, some deep pondering. Which to use, which to use...

For us rank beginners, a set of the primary colors that we can mix to make what we want will suffice.

Once the solutions were ready, Stephania also had some KnitPicks sock blanks soaking, as well as some yarn for one of the party who wanted to hand paint yarn.

Once we had our dyes mixed in cups, with some vinegar added, we laid our blanks out over plastic wrap in paint trays and set to with sponge brushes. Eloise is poised and ready.

I went for stripes in shades of purple, with blue, green, and chestnut brown.

Patch shares my preferred colorways. She did her stripes in blue, purple, and green, and carefully painted both back and front for complete coverage.

Eloise went for an autumn theme in oranges and browns,

while Snarfy went totally autumn on a skein of aran yarn.

Mia did a monochrome dye job on a skein of laceweight.

Heck yeah, this is fun!

Once everything was painted up, it was wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the steamer to steam. I'll get my results when we all meet for knitting this afternoon. Now we're hoping this is just the first class of many, 'cause once you get your hands into the dye, you're already thinking, "Now for the next project..." Hmm, hand painted roving, fleece, hmmm...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oregon Flock and Fiber 2010

And so the fiber festival season comes to a close with the second of the two BIG fiber shows in the area: Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby.

There were vendors indoors:

There were vendors outdoors:

There was the usual dazzling selection of eye candy from Dicentra Designs:

Including the amazing Great Balls of Fiber:

There was lots of equipment, including this teeny weeny portable wheel that I coveted (but darn it, didn't get a chance to ask what kind of wheel it was):

There were fiber-fan slogans everywhere:

And in addition to fiber, there were the flocks that make the fiber. There was bunny shearing going on:

There were alpacas admiring their own pictures:

There were llamas, which always look like they think they're cool:

There were rare breeds of sheep, like Jacob sheep:

There were goats, like this cashmere goat, as well as pygoras and mohair on the hoof:

But the best part was lunch on the lawn with good friends followed by spinning and knitting the afternoon away, pausing to wander off to look around, then coming back to watch the equipment while others wander off.

Out of the fistful of bucks I got from selling off old textbooks to the book buyer, I bought:

On the bottom: an ounce of quiviut roving, a skein of BFL roving from Dicentra Designs, two ounces of dyed pygora fiber in midnight blue. On the top, a pound of charcoal grey merino (which I might dye a deeper black for a sweater I have in mind, maybe after spinning it) and... if it can be believed... an entire shetland fleece that only set me back $20! Not per pound, either, but for the whole fleece! It's only a little dirty in spots and should spin up sweetly.

I also came looking for shawl pins and found this one in sterling with amethyst cabochons. 

If I'd had unlimited funds I'd have come back with a lot more, but considering the time that it will take to work my way through this haul, perhaps that's for the best.

Friday, September 24, 2010

veni, knitti, vici

The knitting is done, the weaving in of ends is done, the blocking is done:

198 yds of H*#!! is done!

Would I do it again? Um... given one lonesome skein of something luscious... probably!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well spun! World Wide Spin in Public Day at the Ike Box

Yesterday was World Wide Spin in Public Day!

Inspired, no doubt, by World Wide Knit in Public Day, World Wide Spin in Public Day is a day to... well... spin in public! That is, take spinning out of wherever the spinning wheels are lurking indoors and get them outdoors so that people can see, hey, people still spin!

Our knitting group organized a WWSIP Day event at the Ike Box in Salem, the community center/coffee shop/concert venue where we meet. The building is owned by the YMCA, but the organization running the Ike Box is Isaac's Room, a non-profit that provides terrific services to at-risk kids. So to give them a hand and say "Thank you!" for hosting our group, we used our WWSIP Day event as a fundraiser and held a raffle to benefit Isaac's Room.

And there I was all afternoon and didn't even think to get my camera out until nearly the end! Trying to get non-flash pictures in the low light -- well, they all turned out craptastically blurry, but I have a couple to share that were less craptastic than others.

We had a good group of spinners, with three or four wheels and several drop spindles going at any one time, as well as two beautiful antique wheels, one from Lithuania, on display. Both will soon be in working order, as their owners got info on our local antique wheel expert, Ron Antoine (contact info in this resource list).

Over the afternoon, two women who had never spun before but were determined to learn came, saw, tried, and were indoctrinated, and one woman who stayed much of the afternoon went home with an armload of raffle prizes. Score!

We also had lots of knitting and general hanging-out going on. Stephania of Three Fates Knitting, our beloved local yarn pusher supplier came with a box of gorgeous temptation.

(If you're wondering about the pastel paintings of cupids and flowers and puffy clouds -- the building was a mortuary for years and years. Eh, it adds character.)

Thanks to several generous donors, the raffle was a success. Some gorgeous roving like this went home to lucky winners:

Along with craft books, yarn baskets, and a gift card for the Ike Box. We raised $158 for Isaac's Room, which, considering how late we got started organizing this thing and how little publicity we had this first year, was pretty darn good. Just wait until next year when we've got a whole year's head start on the project!

Many thanks to the following donors: Blue Moon Fiber Arts for two huge 8 oz hanks of dyed top, Rose and Ram Knit shop for a big 8 oz bump of Shetland roving from their own sheep, Tangled Purls for two hanks of beautiful dyed roving, Teaselwick Wools for Felt Frenzy, Dogeared Books (can't find a link to the shop!) for a big box of used craft books, and our own Betsey for angora fluff from her own rabbits, our Stephania for hand-dyed merino roving, our Laurie for a basket of yarn, and I donated the Ike Box gift card. And a round of applause to Helen for being the main organizer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

198 yds of H#!! reboot

So, after the whole 198 yds of Heaven fiasco, I did what any sensible knitter would do. I frogged the whole thing, skeined the yarn, washed it and...

...went wild and crazy and dumped the whole thing the dye pot.

Well, the original color was kind of dull, a grayish beige with faint tweedy bits of pale blue and lilac. It's a blend of silk and cotton, so I knew that both fibers would react to the dye differently, enhancing the tweedy look. After soaking in vinegar and water, I dyed it with a little bit of blue at a time, and drizzled some dilute purple onto the yarn in the bowl, making subtle purple variegation here and there.

The results: a pale gray-blue tweed with lilac highlights.

Now, with a new dye job, the yarn's karma should be sufficiently re-set to tackle this pattern again. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

198 yds of H#!! re-examined

So, after ripping out the 198 yds of dubious Heaven, untangling the yarn, skeining it on the niddy-noddy, taking it off because it was wound cock-eyed, de-tangling it again, re-skeining it, and setting it to soak, I re-examined the pattern in the cold, sober light of dawn, comparing written instructions, charted instructions, and photographs...

Oh, #*&#*!!! On an entirely separate page from the chart, it says that the entire chart -- which divided up so that it looks like right-hand edge, repeated stitches, left-hand edge, and waaaaay out on the far side of the chart, the center stitches -- is all the right-hand side of the chart!

::headdesk headdesk headdesk::

Now I'm having an even worse time trying to reconcile the chart with the written directions, which are about to be consigned to the shredder anyway. It probably does scan but I've run out of patience trying to follow both because the way they're written requires a entirely different mode of thinking from the charted bit.

And the written bit still doesn't say, "Here's the center stitch, dum-dum. This is the center stitch right here."

Garter stitch squares, anyone? That's about all I feel capable of this morning. I may be bouncing around in a padded cell before this is done.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Heaven to H#!!

That 198 yds of Heaven that I started? And have been merrily knitting along on? And am 3/4 of the way done with? That triangular kerchief?


It would be triangular the correct direction, if, it turns out, there were YOs on each side of the center stitch.

Which are not indicated on the chart. Anywhere.

And only kinda in the written directions, if you carefully follow stitch-by-stitch, but not explicitly as, "do this, this, and this up to center stitch, YO, knit center stitch, YO..." I only inferred it from comparing the written instructions to the charts stitch-by-stitch and examining the one photo that shows the finished kerchief laid out flat.

The instructions do say that one has to be experienced in knitting triangular shawls to tackle this pattern, that it's not meant to be a tutorial of shawl construction. I didn't expect "experienced" and "not a tutorial" to mean "knitter must be able to infer or psychically receive missing chart directions."

So now my squareish/triangular the wrong direction scarf is heading straight back to the frog pond for a re-do. Damn. And I was this close to finishing. I was gonna have it done tomorrow!

So if anyone else is planning to knit the thing -- and really, except for that detail, this pattern isn't that hard -- let me make one thing perfectly clear: THERE SHOULD BE A YO ON EITHER SIDE OF THE CENTER STITCH. 'Kay, then.

Dagnabit, I conquered Ishbel. This shouldn't be that hard.

Note to self: When finally getting around to writing down and distributing designs currently under production, it would be a really, really good idea to include complete instructions. It's no use leaving out bits and thinking, "Well, EVERYONE knows to do THAT, so no need to put it in the directions," 'cause someone is sure to get pissed and blog about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fleurette re-fleur-ified

I came, I frogged, I re-knit. The Fleurette jacket, the one that would have fit me back in the days when my cousin called me "Beanpole," is now starting to resemble a wearable garment.

By increasing stitches just before doing the lace panel, it now fits around my hips. Increases on the sides make the top part fit, too. I think if I ever did this again, I'd decrease on the front every 6th row instead of every 4th. I ceased decreasing several inches before reaching the shoulder -- otherwise this jacket would have had skinny little shoulder straps and I might have been forced set fire to the project after all. Since the neighbors might be a teensy bit worried if they spotted me dancing around a flaming pile of purple yarn in the middle of the vegetable patch, I think that's a good thing.

I've now got the shoulder seams done up (the 3-needle bind-off that I'd planned to use just was so not happening with this cotton/linen yarn) and have started the sleeves.

And because the paper I've been writing all summer is now finished, edited, and submitted (crossing all fingers 'cause I really need to get the publication thing going), I rewarded myself -- does starting another project count as a reward? -- by getting out the Rowan Tweed that I won in a scavenger hunt on Ravelry and started the 198 yds of Heaven (Ravelry link) kerchief that I've been hankering to do for a while. The set up rows were painful for no good reason except that my direction-following skills seemed to have gone on vacation without me. When I finally counted the stitches and did what the directions said to do, everything started going well.

The yarn is a silk and cotton blend, a little stiff and papery and not terribly forgiving, but it will soften and mellow after washing. The pattern has both charts and written directions, and while there are a couple of peculiarities about the chart (like -- the center stitch is shown clear over on the left side.. huh?) the rest is smooth sailing.

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