Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hot Times in the Kitchen

The first yarn off my new wheel, plied two days ago.

Such pristine virginity didn't last long today.

Splotches of grape and cherry KoolAid, steaming away.

Cooling off.

Not what I expected, but it interests me nonetheless.

Colinette, eat your heart out.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Round and Round

New wheel! Woot!

Happy me, happy me....

In other news (what? you expected me to blather on and on about my wheel? why ever would I do such a thing?), Blogger is letting me post two more photos today, so here we go:
A dobsonfly. Sorry about the lousy photo; I found this at dusk, and neither the natural light nor my flash really did the job quite rightly. Be very glad these get no bigger than about 5 inches long (at least here in New England). Having searched my considerable natural history library, plus Googling, I can offer you these tidbits of knowledge. This is probably a female, because male dobsonflies have mandibles about three times the length of the head. However, the male mandibles are for grasping the female; it's the female who can give humans a nasty bite. The aquatic larvae (called hellgrammites; nifty stream-dwelling critters) of dobsonflies are predaceous; adults don't eat, which is OK by me.
The purple coneflowers, where a butterfly was a moment before this was taken. I think I like the photo even better without the bug.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Fruits of the Earth

My friend Noah knows mushrooms. He can rattle off scientific names with the best of them. But he's not a knitter, alas. A couple months ago, though, I discovered that Noah dyes yarn with various mushroom species. Just look at these colors!
The bright yellow and the green toward the top of the pile are dyed using ferns, but the rest are all mushrooms. I'd show you more photos, but Blogger will only let me post three photos tonight, boo, hiss.

Back when Noah first told me he had dyed yarn with mushrooms (I think it was in March or April, on a vernal pool field trip), I asked if he would give me some yarn if I knit him a hat. Well, several intervening months later, as with all busy peoples' lives, Noah and I finally got coordinated. He wants a hat like Knitty's Astrodome, only with mushrooms rather than stars. Last night, on yet another field trip, this one to chase dragonflies that only come out at dusk, he gave me his collection of dyed yarn, so I can try coming up with color combos. With soft, subtle colors like these, I think any combination will work. Luckily for me, Noah wants a multi-color hat.

Major developments on the spinning front: I'm picking up a wheel on Sunday! Yay! I can't believe I'm doing this. (Good for me!) It's a new double-treadle Louet S10, from Abi's Web, in Hinsdale, MA (no website; sorry), about a two-hour drive from here out through some of the prettiest parts of the state. I'm trying to talk Earle into going with me (then I can knit along the way, if he drives).

Development #2: I tried using a drop spindle tonight. I made yarn! Yay! It even looks like yarn, at least it looks like a thick single. After I tried out a Louet wheel at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Fair back in May, I went to Webs and bought myself a Louet spindle, Lee Raven's Spin It book, and a half-pound of basic domestic wool roving, nothing fancy. In my usual scattered way, I never got around to trying it out till tonight. Following Lee Raven's directions, mostly, I separated the roving in half lengthwise and carefully drafted the halves such that the lengths of roving were quite thin. That pre-drafting helped a lot, as I could practice and play with putting the twist into the yarn without fiddling with drafting as well. I only quit because there was a sugar cone of chocolate moose tracks ice cream calling my name - I do plan on spinning two spindles' full and then plying the singles.

Development #3: Next Saturday, Cathy, and probably Ariel and Jenn, are coming to visit and bringing their wheels! Yay! We're going to have our own little fiber fest and BBQ. I've invited a bunch of my knitting buddies from around here, so with luck, there should be lots of fiber foolery going on around here. Y'all are invited, too!

Finally, one last photo, of pink perfection from the garden. Ain't summer grand?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Step or Two, But Not Three

I've made progress.

This looks vaguely like yarn, not sheepyard mud, after washing. I think I'll keep it - my firstborn!
Inches and inches, maybe 20, of lovely mindless purple garter stitch have been made. Perfect for knitting in the heat wave we just had. I certainly won't finish this in time to send it off by Afghans for Afghans' July 24th deadline, but I'm getting there. I'm not sure I'll have quite enough of the purple yarn, so you can look forward to red or green or blue cuffs, and maybe even stripes on the fronts above the waist. I don't know yet.

And then we have this, my Lacy Cables Shawl.
Note the lovely little bit of cabling.
And the not-so-lovely bit, where apparently I cannot pick back up a very basic yo, k2tog, lace pattern, once I put it down for three weeks to make my Prosperous Plum Tank, even though I can still cable properly.
Why, listen! I think I hear the bullfrogs croaking now. Sigh...

In Other News of the Spineless
Since Stariel likes my bug pics, she gets one more. The squeamish should avert their eyes now.

A wasp with a bad sense of color - can't she tell she clashes with the Swamp Milkweed?

I'd post more, but Blogger is being its usual recalcitrant self.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I Came, I Saw, I Sorta Spun

Nothing like a cold dose of reality to wake me up out of a delicious daydream. You may remember that back in May, at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Fair, I tried spinning for the first time, on Louet single- and double-treadle S10 wheels. Loved it. LOVED it! It took considerable will power to walk away from the wheels without taking one home.

But I thought I would be good and dutiful and responsible and all that nonsense, so I said to myself that I would research wheels, try them out, check out prices, and be a good Puritan in my obsession.

So yesterday I went to a great begin-to-spin day-long workshop given by Anne Corbey at
The Fiber Loft in Harvard, Massachusetts. Five of us spinner-wanna-bes gathered at 10 AM in lovely air-conditioning, each with our own single-treadle Louet S10 wheel and a goodly pile of unwashed fleece from Anne's own Romney sheep (I think it was a Romney - she also has cross-breeds, and I didn't remember everything she told us over the course of five hours or so).

Note that I said unwashed fleece. Anne thinks spinning is easier in the grease and that washing the wool is easier after it's spun, rather than when it's still fleece.

First we carded. I learned that I need to develop my arm muscles if I want to card fleece. Since one of the reasons I'm considering taking up spinning is that I think it will give my over-strained knitting muscles a break, hard-carding may not be the way I go. (I almost said it's not in the cards for me, but I spared you.) An hour later, we each had a pile of mostly clean and reasonably straight fiber, and we started spinning!

Anne came around and started each one of us off. I was first. Unfortunately, my yarn broke shortly after Anne took her skilled hands off it and my untutored ones took over. I valiantly tried to reattach my roving to the yarn from the orifice. And tried. And tried. And friggin' tried till my lower back hurt and my teeth were clenched and I was having hot flashes...nonetheless, I persevered. Eventually, Anne worked her way back around to me, reattached my roving, and I was off again!

For another yard. Maybe only 20 inches. Anne had told us to treadle slowly, and when I treadled slooowly, the frigging treadle kept stopping and reversing direction and driving me Up. The. Ever-lovin'. Wall. Eventually I said screw it and treadled faster. The yarn started behaving itself. I bet there were whole minutes where I actually calmly, meditatively, with relaxed muscles, spun. Maybe five such minutes in three hours. Five separate minutes, that is.

And I thought I was coordinated. Hah!

I will say that all this knitting and sorta-spinning is improving my character. I no longer think I'm practically perfect. I no longer think I can learn anything at the drop of a hat. I no longer think it's possible to live life to its fullest without regular infusions of fiber.

I may even learn something about myself from all this. Stubborn? Cranky? Prone to fits of self-doubt? Well, OK, I've always been self-doubting, but now I'm learning what other character flaws I have, as well.

Back to the subject: Anne also had us try spinning a commercially prepared roving, a nice, clean, dry dark gray wool of some basic sort. Pain in the fleecy butt. I think I needed to pull this roving further apart than I did, so I wasn't feeding gobsfull into the poor wheel at one go. Anyhow, some of my more-talented comrades in spinning did spin up the commercial roving. Most of us also tried a double-treadle wheel, and most pronounced it considerably easier to maintain a good treadling pace with the double treadle than the single treadle.

Finally, in the last hour of the workshop, Anne showed us how to ply our own yarns, since we'd been prompted to spin yarn onto two bobbins earlier. She also told us that we were the only - I repeat, only - class in her 23 years of teaching spinning there in which everyone in the class spun enough of their own yarn to ply it, rather than having to learn plying with commercial yarns. I began to feel better.

So, stop yammering, Ms. Linnet, what does this alleged yarn look like? May I present:

All of maybe 25 yards? This is in the stage called "put tension on the newly plied yarn overnight" and you all may admire my vaguely French porch chair, sinnce I don't have a niddy-noddy. Currently, the yarn is bathing in a large bowl on the kitchen counter. If it turns clean enough to be something other than pale-yellow-mud-colored, I may even use it in something - a felted kitty bed, I'm thinking - rather than burying the evidence in the compost heap.

And before you start commiserating with me and thinking, ah, it's too bad she had such a trying time with her first spinning, I just want you to know: I don't give up easy. And I don't let some pile of greasy fleece and my own unlearned fingers get in the way of a True and Proper obsession, no-siree-bob. Remember I'm stubborn and cranky.

I still want a wheel.

And I bought four skeins of Koigu on the way out the door, just to relieve the built-up tension. At least I know how to treat myself well.

Friday, July 14, 2006

File This Under Time Warp Needed

You remember that bi-colored hat I knit for Afghans for Afghans a short while ago? Well, I was intending to knit Elizabeth's nifty hat pattern in the new Knitty in kidlet size for them too - really, I was - but then I got an email from the A to A people, saying the deadline for receiving garments has been pushed back two days, to July 24th, and that they had enough hats - what they really need is coats, vests, and mittens for ages 9 to 18.

I fell for it.

I dug out Sally Melville's Einstein Coat pattern (which comes in kid sizes), some purple Colorado yarn I bought on sale ($24!), of which I had exactly the right amount, found the right size needles, and I set to work at 6:45 PM last night.
First, I photocopied the pattern and marked the stitch counts for the size I was to knit (age 10-12). I cast on 38 stitches, using a crochet cast-on. Then I knit. And knit. Just knit - it's all garter stitch.

The progress as of 8 PM:
Lousy photos, both of them, but you get the idea. There's no chance in hell I'll get this done in time to ship it off to meet the deadline. What am I thinking? Just how twisted is my perception of reality?

But it is lovely mindless, worthwhile knitting, and some kid will get this someday. Just maybe not in ten days.

May I Present...

Joanna's Prosperous Plum Tank, in aqua! Ta-da!

And the back...
A detail...
The details: Started June 20, 2006; finished July 2 PM July 13, 2006 - fast, for me! Yarn: Rowan Calmer, in aqua, shade 467, bought at my LYS. This is size 34, to fit my size 38 bust, and it took about 3 .25 balls of Calmer. My modifications: I used a three-needle bind-off for the shoulder seam, instead of the grafting the pattern called for, because I hate grafting and I thought this stretchy yarn needed a little more stability at the shoulder. I also crocheted only one round of crab stitch around the neck edge and armholes, but that's because I was so happy to be finishing something that I forgot it was supposed to have two rounds of crochet. I like the neck line just as it is, with one round, but I might add another round to the armholes, because they have a tendency to curl. I haven't blocked this yet, though, and I won't be able to until the 110% humidity here moves out. I've never crocheted anything before, and I'm really happy how this edging turned out.

In fact, I'm really happy how this turned out overall. The pattern was great (thank you, Joanna!) - very clear and well-written. The yarn was perfect for a summer knit - soft, smooth, calming indeed.

However, I was appalled - appalled! - at how I looked in the photos Earle took of me. I need to lose weight! I need to cut my hair! I need to put up a full-length mirror, so I can keep track of these excessive, ahem, developments in my maturity.

Other than that, this was enormously rewarding to knit! Try one yourself!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Round 'Em Up

I have some dim memory of having committed to working on, maybe even finishing, a bunch of lace projects this summer. This strikes me as a good time to see how we're doing in La-La Linnet Land.

Ostrich Plumes Stole - about where it was a month ago.
Flower Basket Shawl - still haven't dug out the pattern again.

Peacock Feather Shawl - nada.

Aguave - ah, so this is what that green yarn is for!

Arrowhead Shell - ditto Ostrich Plumes Stole.
Lacy Cables Shawl - eh, maybe I've added a row or two to this since last we saw it, two, three weeks ago.

In short, I haven't accomplished much on my projects for Amazing Lace.

On the other hand, I've just started the v-neck front of Joanna's Prosperous Plum Tank- the end is in sight!
And this?
This is a badly done, badly cast-off swatch in Marine Blue Zephyr for Melanie Gibbons' Mystery Stole Number 2. Why, yes, that does mean I'm casting on new lace before finishing old WIPs. Do you expect any less from me?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Natural Lace

From my weekend in northeast Vermont:

A pink-edged Sulphur butterfly.

And a calligraphy beetle.

Stay tuned for a round-up of lace progress later today, if I get enough chores done.