Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I am not in the mood for Christmas this year. It's not that I'm depressed or stressed or broke or anything; I just ... meh. I don't have a tree up or a wreath on the door or candles in the windows. None of you are getting Christmas presents from me this year. No one, and I mean no one, even those who do not read this blog, is getting a handmade Christmas present from me this year.

I will admit that when I was driving home from work a week ago and I saw the 70-foot-high spruce next to the antique shop in Oakdale newly and incredibly beautifully lit up with mostly blue lights - well, then I had a moment of seasonal joy.

And I loved these cards so much that when I couldn't forget them several days later - well, maybe a few people will be getting these this year. And these, too, while I was at it. They'll get to their recipients late, I'm sure, because I'm not really in the mood for Christmas this year, you know, so I might have ordered them a little late.

But otherwise - nope, not doing Christmas this year. I am going to go visit my folks over Christmas because, well, they're 81 and 79, and you never know. But I still haven't figured out what they're getting for Christmas from me, much less what my two brothers, my sister-in-law, and my niece ought to get, all of whom I'm likely to see at my folks' house. Well - maybe good beer for one brother and my dad. Maybe good cookies for Mom (but no chocolate; she's seriously allergic). My niece? Er, what does one get a freshman in college? A freshman majoring in some sort of engineering I don't even understand? And my artistic and sophisticated sister-in-law? Impossible to shop for.

I can't even get gauge for a small and secret (and not-Christmas) project today. On size 8 needles, the mysterious object is half an inch too wide. On size 7 needles, the mysterious object is still half an inch too wide. Annoying. You and I both know that on size 6 needles, the mysterious object will be half an inch too narrow, because this is knitting, after all, nothing nearly as precise and predictable as rocket science, God forbid.

Today I also wound lots of endless balls of lovely yarns for weaving, mostly hand-dyed skeins that would be difficult to wind a warp from. Here's a sample:


I thought about what sort of weave structure would do justice to these fine yarns - did a lot of figuring out numbers of warp ends and looking up half-remembered drafts and calculating total warp yardage and such, and didn't really get anywhere. Yet.

I'll keep working on it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I've Been Thinking

A snow day does that to me. Eight inches of snow fell here overnight and this morning; now the snow is turning to rain. My neighbor, bless him, snow-blowed (blew?) my driveway and I just cleaned up the walks and car and such as the snow turned to sleet.


So I took a day off work. An hour's commute on a good day turns into a stress-filled two hours, minimum, on a day like this, and there's always the chance of sliding off the road or being killed in an accident or something thoroughly unpleasant like that. I stayed home.

"Well!" I can hear you saying to yourself, "She's always complaining about not having enough time to knit or spin or weave - here's a whole day she can spend doing just that!" Well, yes, but even with the coziness of being snowed in, I feel restless. I knit for an hour on the CROPS jacket, which is coming along nicely...


...once I decided to just stop dithering over needle size. I ended up using the specified size, which gave me slightly more stitches per inch than called for. I compensated by using the stitch counts for the next larger size, after a bit of math said that was appropriate.

Knitting didn't satisfy me. I wound balls of handspun - some lovely cranberry BFL 3-ply and most of the skeins from Belle, the white Romney fleece I spun into a worsted-weight 2-ply some time ago.

That didn't satisfy me. I have the itch to create something. Not just follow a knitting pattern, not just mindlessly spin fiber because I like to spin and I have lovely fiber - but create something from scratch. My something. Something that says something.

It's very annoying. Creating something takes enormous time and energy, and while I have that today, I won't tomorrow or the next day. But I know this itch, this drive, won't go away, either, so I suppose I better give in and make something, damn it.

I'm going back to thinking. Thinking about creativity and what I want to say and how to fit making something into my life. I might knit while I think.

In the meantime, the plants in my bay window are blooming - enjoy!




Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Not Cooperating

I've gotten about 3.5 inches up the back of the DROPS jacket.


Looks good, doesn't it? (I swear that red is more subtle in real life.)

Except...well, remember how I swatched this on size 11 needles and got 12 stitches in 4 inches? The specified gauge is 11 stitches in 4 inches, so I went down to size 10.5 when I cast on, vowing to myself that I'd check my gauge often, once I got past the evil influence of those garter rows and ribbing at the cast-on.

I checked. I'm getting 14 stitches in 4 inches. Wrong. The jacket back should be 30 inches across at the bottom; that...thing on my needles is 24 inches across.

Shortly, that...thing will not exist.

Why didn't you all tell me I was wrong choosing smaller needles? I need larger needles!

goes off to rummage through the needle stash, mumbling to herself waaaay more than usual

Monday, November 30, 2009

Takes 3, 4, and 5

I'm making progress on my KAL with Sarah - I've now completed 5 swatches, or parts of swatches, at least. You remember my slight mathematical misunderstanding in the beginning, I'm sure - well, I did indeed complete a suitable swatch on size 11 needles in the rosy Cascade 128 Tweed.

I wanted 11 stitches in 4 inches; after washing the swatch, I got 12 stitches in that distance. No biggie, I have size 10.5 needles around the house. However, even before I washed the swatch, I could tell this swatch fabric was too loose, too limp, too almost sleazy. I didn't think size 10.5 needles would fix that. I want this pattern to be a jacket sort of thing, not a slinky form-fitting sweater.

Thinking about jacket fabric made me think of one of my most successful knitted objects, Sally Melville's Not Your Mother's Suit Coat, knit with turquoise Lopi and Artful Yarns Shakespeare held together. It made for a very firm and warm jacket, and I wear it all fall and all spring - in fact, I wore it to work today.

So, I went poking through my stash in search of yarns to pair up with the Cascade 128 Tweed, something to fill in the gaps, so to speak, in that original swatch. I came up with all sorts of possibilities, from mohair to glitz to plain wool to hand-dyed-by-me lamb's wool-and-nylon. A deep stash is a good stash.

First, I tried the Cascade with a dark blackberry Harrisville Highland weaving yarn (I think that's what it is; the cone's unlabeled). I just happen to have a giant cone of that I bought at a weaver's yard sale. The resulting swatch was OK - here are both the original swatch on top and the Cascade plus Harrisville on the bottom.


After washing, the bottom swatch measured 11.5 stitches in 4 inches. Not bad; I'm reckless enough I'd just start in on the jacket proper on size 10.5s and check the gauge after a couple of inches. But I wasn't all that fond of the blotchy effect of the darker Harrisville against the medium-value Cascade. I swatched again, this time with some slightly glitzy Cherry Tree Hill Oceania - a variegated wool boucle.


Eww. That swatch didn't last long enough to even get a decent photo. Next!

Swatch #5: the Cascade with Harrisville Orchid Line, a lovely, but discontinued I believe, mohair, silk, and wool single. After washing, 12 stitches in 4 inches. I think I like this. This is a substantial fabric, just right for a lighter jacket. Here are all three (worthwhile) swatches, with the Orchid Line combo on the bottom.


In that photo, the red of the Orchid Line stands out more than it does in real life, so you'll have to believe me that the real effect is considerably more subtle.

I did have a panicky thought, though, while I was knitting that last swatch - I think there's only 900+ yards of the Orchid Line! And this pattern needs more than that! Ack! Luckily, I was wrong; I have 1225 yards of the Orchid Line, and I need only 1040 for the DROPS jacket.

I'm casting on tonight (with size 10.5) and I've already started perusing Etsy looking for buttons.

Also, if this works, I will have used up two sweaters' worth of yarn in one FO. I may be on to something here....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Bit of a Hike

As I said yesterday, Sarah not only talked me into a knit-along, she talked me into agreeing to take a hike twice a month and blog about it. (This is what I get for whining on Rav about being out of shape and about not ever finishing anything. ;~)

It was perfect weather here today - sunny, about 50 degrees F, a little breeze now and then. Also, it's Sunday. This state doesn't allow hunting on Sundays, so it's possible to meander mindlessly through the woods without worry.

I wasn't meandering mindlessly, though; I was walking to Spirit Falls. I am lucky to live in a part of Massachusetts where there is considerable land protected from development. The Tully Trail
crosses many of those protected properties, and I chose a bit of it for this inaugural walk.


The short portion of the trail I walked today starts on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control dam, which created Tully Lake. I stood on the dam to take the photo above. Before the Tully and Birch Hill Dams were built on the Millers River and its tributary, the East Branch of the Tully River, in the 1940's, downstream towns such as Athol would experience major flooding regularly. We like these dams. They also provide great recreational opportunities. I started hiking at a canoe launch on the Tully River; despite it being late November, there were two kayakers setting out upstream.


I met several other hikers (and their attending dogs and children) as well.
Even with a few other hikers, this was a quiet hike. I saw no moose, no deer, no coyotes, no porcupines, not even any droppings - just one or two chickadees and kinglets. Until I got to the falls itself, this was a hike focused on the small and the underfoot.


In late November, the deciduous woods around here are bare of leaves, just shades of gray, with the occasional flash of white birch bark. On the ground, though, there are many little evergreen groundcovers.



Round-leaved pyrola. These green leaves were entirely under the fallen brown leaves; it was only the withered, upright flower stalk that gave these away to me.


Trailing arbutus:


Mosses of unknown sorts, unknown to me at least:


Christmas ferns. These indicate a richer, less basic soil than we usually have here in central Massachusetts.


A little tapestry of greens:


There's more short greenery as well, but here's something different - Indian pipes:


Indian pipes are saprophytic plants, meaning they have no chlorophyll and subsist by parasitizing soil fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. In summer, the pipes are thickish and white; late in summer, they wither, leaving brown stems capped by the seedpods.

The trail here parallels the Tully River at a little distance. I caught glimpses of it now and then.


Across the river was a large red maple swamp, underlain by thick grasses and sedges.


A few trees had signs that Pileated Woodpeckers were working on them. This hole was about 4 inches square.


After an hour or so, I rounded a small ridge and started hearing water. Running water.


I came upon the small Spirit Falls Brook. Crossing over it, I started uphill. Straight uphill. This brook falls about 300 feet in about a quarter-mile, straight down off the long Jacob Hill ridge.

Spirit Falls itself is a long series of small and larger waterfalls. The inch of rain we had two days ago gave the Falls enough water to really splash and rumble. It was a lovely, lovely waterfall.



I stood near the top and watched the water slide off into the air.


I stood for a while, just watching the water flow. And then I turned around and walked back to my car, my face in the sun all the way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New! Shiny!

Thank you all for your sympathy and well-wishes; I am indeed feeling much better, but I can tell I'm still weary. Just plain weary. So I'm being nice to myself.

Which, come to think of it, had nothing to do with finding out this week that I have the following in this house:
  • 13 sweaters in progress
  • 7 sweaters queued up (which for me means yarn/pattern/needles all matched up in a bag)
  • 26 sweater quantities of yarn in the stash.
That is 46 sweaters in some form of not-yet-finished around this house. (Also, it doesn't count the handspun, nor the laceweight, nor the weaving yarn, nor...well, anyway, onward.) (Are you all feeling better now about your own stashes?)

It's all Sarahw's fault, the very dear and charming Sarah from across the pond, who is asleep as I write this and thus can't stop me. Heh.

I met Sarah on Ravelry in the Abby's Yarn forum and then in real life at SOAR. She posted on Rav a day or two, asking for opinions on what sweater she should knit next, giving us several choices. I said something, I don't even remember what, and all of a sudden I find myself in a little knit-along with Sarah. (Also, there's something about walking, but that's tomorrow's post.) Sarah's very enticing and persuasive that way. Sarah's going to knit Mariah, and I'm going to knit something else, to be explained below. We'll swatch together and plug along together and whip each other (OK, mostly me) into finishing mode together, blogging all the while, of course.

Now, while figuring out this week if I had enough yarn of the right sort for a KAL of a specific sweater with another friend (details on that later) (lots of yarny chumminess going on hereabouts), I figured out two things:
  • I have 46 sweaters in progress, in the queue, etc. See above.
  • I did not have the necessary yarn (5 sts/in; 2062 yds.) for that second KAL.
Which is how I ended up at WEBS today with Marcy.

Where was I? I'm getting my sweater projects mixed up...

Oh, the KAL with Sarah. Right. So, since I had so recently inventoried the sweater stash, I was loath to go out and buy yet more yarn for another sweater (except of course that second KAL, which was actually the first, for which we're going to knit something specific that I can't tell you about yet because I have to coordinate with my second, but really first, KAL buddy) (got that?). Somehow, 46 sweaters to knit strikes me as possibly enough.

Thus, for Sarah's and my KAL I decided to pick one of the bulkier yarns from my stash, choose an appropriate pattern, and have a prayer of finishing something sooner rather than later. So, here's the yarn:


Cascade 128 Tweed, bought at a deep discount at WEBS sometime in the past 4 or 5 years.

And I thought I'd knit that popular DROPS jacket. There are only 1,040 yards or so between me and one of those mythical FOs. I am being smart - knitting from stash, knitting with bulky yarn, and knitting a pattern that many people think is great.

I started swatching, because I am a Good Girl and was brought up a Puritan and All That.

Then I realized that if I want to make a swatch that's about 4 inches wide, plus a little garter stitch on either side, I didn't need to cast on 50 stitches for a yarn with a suggested gauge of 11 stitches in 4 inches. I kept looking at this row and a half, thinking to myself, "Why is this swatch turning out to be 15, 20 inches wide? Maybe I better drop down 3 needle sizes...."


No, I needed to cast on only 20 stitches. Basic math had eluded me. How many years of high education and blah, blah, blah.

Take Two:


If this jacket continues in this way...well, that may explain why I have so few finished sweaters in this house.

P.S.: Does it strike you as odd I don't have 2000 yards of ordinary 5 sts/inch yarn in my stash? I may need to go shopping.

P.P.S: That being brought up Puritan? Well, let me tell you - back when my mother knit, when I was in high school or thereabouts, she didn't really care about gauge and swatching and all that. I think she knit to relax (5 kids in 9 years, ahem). She always figured that with 5 kids, a sweater would fit someone. However, I suspect she wants me to aspire to be a better person than she is - do as I say, not as I do and all that. Thus, I swatch (that's the Puritan part).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's been one of those days, and I'm going to vent here in detail, perhaps in such detail that those of you with delicate sensibilities may wish to go on to someone more refined in your blogroll.

So, last night I decided, yes, this really is a low-level bladder infection I'm dealing with, and I called my doctor's office. They're open till 8 PM most nights and I called about 6:30, maybe 7 PM. Got an appointment for 8:30 this morning. Okaaaaaayyyy - I'm used to a quicker response during normal business hours, like come pee in a cup now, yep you have an infection, here's your antibiotic prescription. Particularly since I now have only one functional kidney, courtesy of past doctor-induced "accidents."

But I'm not in pain, I can cope till the morning. So I do.

I show up at the office at 8:30 AM. Five, maybe ten-minute wait to be called into an exam room. Fine. The nurse comes and takes my blood pressure and temperature. Fine.

She gives me the sterile cup and sterile wipes and shows me to a bathroom. A small bathroom, with no sink and no shelf for putting down things like sterile cups. I manage to produce a small amount of the required liquid, getting half of it on my hand in the process and cursing the whole bathroom arrangement as I go. You'll be happy to know there was a sink immediately outside the bathroom. Fine.

I go back to the exam and await events. The doctor comes in somewhat later, apologizes for keeping me waiting - apparently, the server for the electronic records system went down, holding things up. Fine. She takes my history and symptoms, and prods and pounds my back (no pain - yay!) and my bladder (a little discomfort, hmm). Fine. She goes away to await the lab results on the required liquid. I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The doctor comes back, apologizing again for the server being down, which apparently is holding up all medical progress for 50 yards around.

I wait some more. I read the WebMD magazine and the large-print Readers Digest in the exam room, but I skip the Scholastic Parent and Child magazine. I am thoroughly bored. I wish I had brought my knitting.

The doctor returns, asking if the lab results had been brought. They have not been. She goes off again and returns 10 minutes later with the results, apologizing yet again, as apparently the non-functioning server screwed up communications with the lab. This is not a big hospital we're talking about here; it's a small-town clinic. Whatever. Fine, dammit. (I like this doctor, whom I haven't met before; she looks very sweet and nice, but quite obviously has no tolerance for nonsense like this. Her steely eyes give her away.)

And why, yes, I DO indeed have a bladder infection. Fancy that. The prescription will be called into the local CVS; however, since I am already 90 minutes late for work - yes, that was NINETY minutes I waited around that exam room - and since I know CVS won't get around to filling the prescription immediately, I go to work.

Whereupon I find our computers at work are screwed up and we have no internet access, which means we have no email, and oh, by the way, we can't access most of the drives, either. I think it's all a big conspiracy to get me to file all the papers on my desk, seriously.

But the computers eventually return to their normal semi-functional state and I can finish an email conversation with the guy I'm seeing, who would like to spend all 4 days of Thanksgiving weekend with me, and because I am just a little stressed and weary and worn down and FINE, DAMMIT, I would like two of those days to myself. Alone. Quiet. Me time. We're dating, not living together, dear.

The work day ends and I drive the hour home to my local CVS to pick up the antibiotic before I dash home to grab something to eat before the Planning Board meeting tonight.

The prescription hasn't been filled yet. They just got it from the doctor's office, some - let me count - eight hours after my office visit concluded. I politely say I'll be back at 8:30 PM to pick it up. I go home, gobble dinner, and go to the Planning Board meeting at 7 PM.

It's short and sweet and we're out of there by 7:20 PM. Which means I might as well go home for an hour before I go back to CVS to pick up the prescription. Which means I have plenty of time to vent here to my very dear and patient blog-readers.


In other news, we have half a sleeve. If I had taken my knitting to the doctor's, to work, to CVS, I'd have a whole sleeve by now.


And how was your day?

ETA: You guessed it - I should have taken my knitting to CVS this second time, too. Will I never learn?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Small Victory


Sweet Fern mitts, in Ashland Bay merino I spun three years ago. A fun knit, if you remember to check the errata beforehand, and they fit. Even more importantly, they're finished!

Next up: the Cottage Garden Pullover. I put this down when I needed something more portable to knit at SOAR, and its time has come again. First goal-along-the-way: The body below the yoke - only about three inches of plain stockinette, round and round, to go.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lesson #2B

Lesson #2B from SOAR: Finish things.

I'm sitting here at home, still sick with the flu I caught at SOAR, mulling over what I learned, what I experienced, what I felt. You'll know I'm well again when I quit posting!

I believe it was Monday night that we were all treated to a lecture by Sara Lamb. Sara has a wonderful new book out, by the way; all of you with any leanings towards weaving should get it. It's beautiful and inspirational. In the lecture, Sara showed us through her years of work, with a bit of emphasis on what didn't work, and why she finished those projects anyway. Her take-home message: Finish things.

For some reason (see the last post), that rings a piercing bell for me. I went up to Sara after the lecture and asked about all those projects one starts, and then sees within a few inches or hours or whatever that it just isn't going to work at all - do I have to finish those? Sara laughed (Sara is so completely sane) and said, no, those are called "samples" and you don't have to finish them.

I'm thinking of all my unfinished projects now, and there are some I can easily state are samples. The stripy thing part-way down this post? A sample, clearly. Overall, the idea is quite good, but as I said in that post, the sample I made showed the size stripe I chose to be too wide (even accounting for eventual felting). I did not finish this, but one of these days I'd still like to work on this idea some more.

On the other hand, there are many UFOs around here that are well worth finishing - they're proven patterns, in good yarn, in a style and color and size that should flatter me, if only I could finish the blasted things. Dear readers, help me here: How do I learn to persevere? How do I keep from flitting fruitlessly from project to project, acquiring and starting wonderful, inspiring, lovely new projects, but hardly ever creating something in its entirety?

Lesson #2

Lesson #2 from SOAR 2009: Acquisition is not creation.

I'm very good at acquisition. I do it well and easily and fast. Give me a Rhinebeck or a SOAR market or Mass Sheep & Wool and I can pick out my favorites like nobody's business. I have the stash to prove it, too. The shepherds of the world are very fond of me.

But I do not have the finished objects to match. First of all, I give away many of the projects I do finish, and second, I don't finish much of what is supposed to be for me. I think this needs to change. I think I need to become selfish, in many parts of my life. I think I need to reserve some energy for me, so that I'm not exhausted when I arrive at SOAR and even more exhausted when I leave, so that I'm not doing 3.5 jobs at work in the time allotted for one, and so I have some pretty FOs for me.

I started the lovely, simple Sweet Fern Mitts from Clara Parkes' new book, The Knitter's Book of Wool, just before I left for SOAR, so I'd have something to knit in the airport and on the plane, wherever. They are for me. Me, me, me. I'm knitting them out of some badly spun (but more than adequate for this task), 2-ply, Ashland Bay merino I spun in September of 2006. It's soft, it's a lovely heathered rose-pink, and I did a good enough job spinning the fiber that it's not very pilly. Wanna see what the mitts look like now, after a week at SOAR?


There's also the frogged and re-washed skein hanging in the basement from mitt #1. Sigh...

I knew after an inch or two that the chart in the book was wrong, so that the cable pattern is upside-down, but I could live with that quite happily. I tried on the mitt several times as I went along to make sure it fit, and it did, beautifully. Once I got past the stitches reserved for the eventual thumb, I did think it odd that the cable seemed to line up with my index finger, not my middle finger, the way the photo in the book showed, but I thought it was because I was trying on the mitt with the three dpns still in it. Also, there was that oddly placed k2, p1 column, when most of the mitt is k2, p2, but hey, who am I to argue with a designer?

Lesson #2A: Always check the errata. (Here, for this pattern.)

Once mitt #1 was finished except for the thumb, it was clear the off-center cable was not acceptable to my symmetrical mind, and the mitt was frogged. Now I begin again, more mindfully, let us hope.

It would be very, very easy to put this project aside - it's only for me, after all, and it's only a pair of fingerless mitts that don't match any of my coats, after all, and it's only a little project, after all, when I have so many other, bigger projects in progress I should turn my attention to. At most it'll use up just one ball of yarn in my stash.

But none of those other projects are for other people and none of them have deadlines. I am going to finish these pretty pink mitts, in yarn I spun myself, and I'm going to finish them for me. Because I'm worth a little pink pair of handspun, cabled mitts.

Lesson #1

Lesson #1 from SOAR: Learning new skills is HARD.

A confession: I cried in Stephenie Gaustad's workshop the first day when she was teaching us how to spin cotton on a wheel. Not as hard as I cried in Maggie Casey's retreat on long draw a few days later, when Maggie had us switch from spinning wool on a wheel via long draw to spinning cotton on the wheel. That time I had to leave the class, I was crying so hard. I think I was very exhausted by then.

Basically, I couldn't do it. I couldn't spin cotton on a wheel. I could spin cotton on a tahkli and a charkha and a great wheel, but a basic flyer wheel? No.

I don't normally cry all that much. Remember when I broke my ankle badly a few years ago? (No, I am not posting the link to the photo of my ankle in its external fixator and, yes, you should be very grateful I'm not. It wasn't pretty.) I did not cry when I broke it, I did not cry when the emergency orthopedic surgeon reduced the fracture (translation: squooshed the bones back together without anesthetic), I did not cry ever. At all.

So it was a big deal to cry in Stephenie's and Maggie's classes. (I really hope I didn't bother anyone who was in those classes.)

There are actually two lessons to be learned here. Lesson #1A: Exhaustion is not good. Sleep more, eat better, say no to more requests from anyone. I think most reasonably intelligent, properly socialized, sane people learn this in their twenties or thirties; I'm just a little slow.

Lesson #1B: Learning new skills that involve one's hands (both of them) and feet and eyes and brain and alllllll the leetle nerves among all those parts is HARD. And it's OK to fail, to suck more, to be miserable at the new skill. Where character prevails is in the afterward, in the persevering beyond the tears.

I've let a few days go by. I've slept a lot. I'm mostly over the flu I caught at SOAR. I'll probably go back to work tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon I felt well enough to spin a little. I pulled out the fleece I was working on in September, a lovely pale gray Corriedale x Border Leicester roving I was spinning on my antique Canadian Production Wheel. Apparently, I can still spin; I filled about a quarter of the bobbin in no time flat, before collapsing into bed again. Here's the proof:


Today I got out a little of the cotton sliver Stephenie gave us in class, and I tried spinning it using long draw on the CPW. Bingo.


It's not perfect, but it's yarn. Cotton yarn, spun long draw. Only a few yards, but more than I produced in 6 hours in Stephenie's class. A few months of practice, and it'll be good yarn.

Character-building, indeed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I have the SOAR virus, so this post will have photos (a few) but only a few words.

Something about brain surgeons and Monty Python...

Roomie #1:
Roomie #2:

Stephenie Gaustad teaching cotton spinning:

My wonderful classmates in the cotton class, with Honorary Roomie #3 smack in the center:

OK, I'm going back to bed now, I've used up my quota of energy for today.

Friday, September 25, 2009



I found this on the outside of a window screen at work this week. I don't think it's native to Massachusetts, but I like its stripes nonetheless!

Monday, September 21, 2009

There's Hope After All

I don't have kids, but I get to hang out with a couple of absolutely top-notch ones anyhow.


That's Olivia on the left and Isabelle on the right. Olivia's holding Freddy's Hope, a dark gray Shetland ewe lamb; Isabelle's holding Wilber, a mioget (under the most luscious chocolate tips) Shetland ram lamb. In the middle you can't see their mom Pat, who can't tell she's holding upside-down the plaque Isabelle won. That plaque is for the Phil and Lee Delano Memorial Shepherd Award, given out each year at the Middlesex County 4-H fair, held in Westford, Massachusetts. The Delano award is a Very Big Deal. If I remember correctly, it is given to the best shepherd that year. Isabelle also won the annual Wool Top Trophy at the same fair, given for the shepherd who takes the best care of their flock overall, including how the flock is displayed at the fair. Under Isabelle's capable showmanship, Wilber was the Champion Shetland Ram at the Bolton, MA, Fair in both the Junior and the Open Shows, and he was the Reserve Champion Ram in the All Other (wool) Breeds class at the Northeast Youth Sheep Show. Isabelle is 15. At age 15, I think I was accomplishing exactly nothing.

At the Woodstock, CT., sheep show, Olivia led Freddy's Hope to a Reserve Champion medal in the All Other Breed Ewe Youth Show and to the Grand Champion Ewe in the Open Show. Grand Holy Mackeral Champion Ewe. Olivia is 11. I don't even remember being 11.

These two won many more awards this year as well, but I'm not even sure I got all the details correct on the awards I did list. Isabelle did say something about not putting the ordinary ribbons up on her bedroom wall any more - she only puts up the rosettes nowadays. And did I mention Isabelle was the one to decide which of her Shetland ewes to breed to which ram from another flock to produce these two lovely lambs? Apparently, she was debating the finer points of fleece quality and being high on their hocks and twinning and being a good mother and all that stuff.

I'm very proud of these two (and of their mom!), even though I had nothing to do with bringing them up or teaching them how to raise good sheep or anything (except maybe knitting) (and spinning, quite possibly) (definitely Rhinebeck - you can meet these young women and their mom there with me this year, by the way). And I'm showing my support for their stellar efforts by promising to buy Wilber's fleece when he's shorn for the first time this fall. I really ought to buckle down and go for Hope's fleece, as well. It's a sacrifice, but somebody has to do the hard work around here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Knitting. I Do It.

(Let's just pretend the past five months of non-blogging didn't happen, OK? I miss you and if I don't start somewhere, I'll never start again and never get to talk to you again. So, onward.)

I've been knitting. Yeah, so, you say? Well, all summer I did not knit. I spun, I wove, I learned, I even sewed a little. Deets on all that later, if I remember.

But now I want to knit. I want every inch of a lovely yarn in a heartswoony color to move slowly through my fingers, throw by throw, bamboo needles slipping along. I want to knit mindless stockinette, with a little fillip of color or cable or lace here or there. I want to knit for me.

I want to knit Yarnbee Cheryl's completely adorable Cottage Garden pullover from the latest Twist Collective. I've met Cheryl here and there in classes and such at WEBS; she is just as adorable as this pattern.

Nothing in my stash quite worked for this, despite my best efforts, so I ended up treating myself to a sweater's worth of Rowan Felted Tweed, and here's my progress 19 days after casting on:

Cottage GardenBeginning

I'm not quite as far along as Kelly, who plans to wear hers to Rhinebeck - she's about 25% of the way along now, and I'm at maybe 10%? OK, OK, I'm at 5%, although Kelly started only 2 days before me.

Now, I really don't mean to beat myself up here. I've had a stress-filled and chaotic summer - just the usual work nonsense, combined with a rainy, rainy, I-hate-rainy June - and I intend to be good to myself now. So, understand that I'm not comparing my progress to Kelly's, I'm really not.

What I am doing is wondering why I rarely finish anything I start for myself. The other day I was re-reading Abby Franquemont's blog post on the state of being waylaka. Go read it, so I don't have to attempt to convey something Abby has already written about so well. What struck me there was the concept of doing something right, and if necessary, doing something over and over and over again until it was right, because doing something right is what distinguishes a worthwhile adult from a lazy good-for-nothing. From a waylaka.

I am most certainly a worthwhile adult, in many, many ways, and I suppose that's why the pile of unfinished projects here bothers me so much. I can easily let go of attempts that didn't work out, but to take one example, since I'm talking about knitting here, the unfinished sweaters here that are wonderful patterns, in great yarn, in colors and styles that suit me - those unfinished sweaters in the bins hereabouts bug me. There's really no excuse for not finishing them except... I got a little bored. A little distracted by New! Shiny! somewhere else. And I'm a little lazy. A little waylaka.

I'm not happy about that. Let's see if we can get this simple, classic, adorable Cottage Garden in perfect colors, in great yarn, finished this winter, OK? For me, for me.

(Did I mention I missed you?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not All Bad

Life isn't all bad, you know. As evidence, let me present some spindle-spinning.


Barb Parry's 75% Cormo wool/25% silk, spun on a Greensleeves Maureen's Mjolinor.


Random silk, given to me by Marcy because I harangued her to do so, spun on my new Golding.

Now, it's off to work on the other 95% of life.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moving On

No, I'm not going to tell you I've quit blogging (the non-evidence of the past two months to the contrary); I'm going to talk about the ways in which I'm moving on and how I feel about that.

Exhibit A: Earle's moving out. I'm basically OK with the fact he and I are calling it quits - we came to the mutual conclusion that we make good friends and good housemates, but that we're not more than that (think of magnets pushing each other away, in certain configurations) - but, you know, I'm really rather tired of being on my own. I'd like someone around to be nice to and for someone to be nice to me. Plus someone to help decide what the hell to do with the gutters.

It's rather hard being in one's mid-fifties and unwilling to spend hours and hours staying in shape and dieting and exercising and dyeing your hair and shopping and hemming pants and plucking eyebrows and makeup and dealing with flirting with guys who, in reality, are mostly pretty damn boring or whacko, if they're unattached at an age close to mine. I don't want to do all that anymore (not that I ever did to speak of). Screw it. I would like my fitness back, however. When I broke my ankle four years ago, I started sitting on my ass way too much (and knitting/spinning/weaving, ahem). Despite the gorgeous weather here today, I'm not inspired to go dig up the garden or saw down the dead branches way up in the spruces or much of that. Lack of exercise breeds more lack of exercise.

Exhibit B: We're all getting older. My parents are getting older and they'll die sometime in the next five, maybe ten years. Dad'll be 81 on Sunday; Mom just turned 79. A friend and neighbor of theirs just dropped dead at the age of 83 while arriving to see his grandkids hunt for Easter eggs. I don't want my parents to die, I don't want my friends to die, and I don't want to die. Blunt, but true. Helluva thought for early spring.

Exhibit C: I'm an okay knitter, an okay spinner, an okay weaver. I'm a relatively new spinner and a very new weaver, so I forgive myself beginners' mistakes, but already I can feel myself being driven to do good work. Creative work, competent work. Not dabbling-around work. Which takes time and training and practice and stretching one's brain inside-out. Rather like getting back in shape, only more so. I just don't know if I have it in me to work that hard, or, conversely, to relax about it and just knit/spin/weave for fun. I must always press onward.

And yet the chances of my getting anywhere are slim, especially given my age and other commitments (see Exhibit B) and the energy needed for coping with companionship or the lack thereof (see Exhibit A).

Annoying, really. I expected better from life, since I'm basically an optimist, and it's annoying when life doesn't live up to my expectations.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If I Don't Blog Now....

I'll never get through it all.

I've discovered how to get through a snowy winter - keep at least two projects going in each of three creative modes! So, I've been busy; this'll be just a quick run-through.

I finished the cabled scarf Tilly from Lisa Lloyd's wonderful book A Fine Fleece. Knit from 4.5 skeins of Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool, this took me six weeks to knit, but oh, it's lovely. The yarn is a soft single, so it's a little splitty and a little pilly, but blocking made it bloom a tad and gave the whole scarf body. I love it!


While I was finishing up Tilly, worlds collided and I saw a lovely version of cosmicpluto's Simple Yet Effective Shawl on Ravelry at the same time my LYS had a 40% off sale on Noro sock yarn. Bingo! I restrained myself to buying only one ball (which is all the pattern takes), and now I'm fairly close to being done. You can't get a sense of scale from this photo, but it seems to me that this one ball of sock yarn is producing a lot of fabric - a lot more than would be needed for a pair of socks, even given that I'm knitting at a somewhat larger gauge than one would for socks. Interesting, at least to me.


I can spin on a spindle! Woo! Here are yards and yards and yards of Spunky Eclectic BFL is some forgotten colorway spun up on my little Greensleeves Connie's Mjolinar. I'm thinking I'll use this single as the weft in a floaty little scarf for me, hence the winding onto weaving bobbins.


The Louet S10 has been going like a banshee, producing a deliberately, ahem, slubby bulky-weight 2-ply from a beautiful Romney fleece I bought at Rhinebeck and sent to Friends Folly Farm for processing. I'm beginning to see the end of these 5.5 pounds of roving ...


And loving the result. There are two more big skeins drying downstairs, 2.5 more bobbins-full to ply, and maybe 8 ounces left to spin. I plan on dyeing this and knitting myself a heavy cardigan in a broken rib (but don't hold your breath waiting for it) and weaving a good-sized throw from all these riches of yarn.


I've been playing on the Canadian Production Wheel, just trying a little of this and a little of that, trying to get the hang of her. I finally figured out (with the help of Marcy - thank you!) that she needed a little corrosion taken off her flyer shaft; with that taken care of, I commenced real production. First off is a three-ply of Spunky Eclectic 100% wool in the Boogie colorway. I believe this went from unspun braid to spun/plied/washed in one day. A productive wheel, indeed.


Yesterday, I started a larger project - some gorgeous 80% merino/20% cashmere from Spirit Trail. This will be a 2-ply, for a weaving weft or knitting lace, depending on the final yardage and the whim of the moment. Oh, this is lovely fiber!


Well, I finished Laurie's warp-faced scarf, but I forgot to take a photo of it, so you'll just have to believe me. Now, I have an 8/2 Tencel warp partly onto the 4-harness loom; I'm planning to weave a semi-fancy twill scarf using Just Our Yarns Aziza as weft. I'm not sure I like the color combo so far, but I expect the multi-colored weft to tone things down. If it doesn't, I think I'll replace the blue in the warp with more deep fuchsia and try again. For me, weaving so much more experimental than knitting or spinning, and I like that.


On the 8-harness table loom, I finally - yay! - finished the table runner. Done, done, done! I've learned a few things from weaving this. First, I don't much care for using the hand levers common to most table looms. I'd much rather be moving the harnesses up and down with my feet on treadles; using my hands to move each lever one by one is too slow for my impatient mind. Second, you know how a cabled knitting fabric will draw in width-wise much more than a stiockinette fabric with the same number of stitches? Well, woven twills do the same thing compared to plain or tabby weave. For this table runner, I was following a pattern in Handwoven, which said to weave tabby for the hems on either end. I did, and learned that doing so made the ends flare. There's no real reason why the turned-under hem couldn't be twill rather than tabby, I think, and that would eliminate the flaring. I have enough warp left on the loom to weave a dishtowel, so I'm going to try using the twill pattern for the hems and see what happens. Third, this may not be evident in the photo, but my beat was off (equivalent to saying my gauge varied), so some of the motifs are square, as they should be, and some are rectangular. I suspect this came from neglecting this project all summer and fall, such that my hands weren't doing the same motions as when I started. All in all, though, this table runner is very usable and makes me happy!


See this? It's a medieval spindle whorl, from about 300 to 800 years ago, sent to me in a swap with Sarah of the UK. It's lead, remarkably heavy for its size - it's only a little over an inch wide, but it weighs 1.75 ounces. One of these days, I'm hoping I can make a shaft for it and try it as a bottom whorl spindle. It'll make a heavy yarn, for sure. Thank you, Sarah!


It may be winter still (and we're expecting another snowstorm this afternoon), but my fig tree, which has been dormant and leafless all winter, believes in the coming of spring - look at its little unfurling leaf! Oh, I can't wait - leaves and flowers and dragonflies...


I'm going to SPA in Maine next weekend; I hope I'll see some of you there!