Monday, June 30, 2008

55 and On the Upswing

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday, dear Lynnie-poo, happy birthday to me!


Ha! It's amazing what the thought of vacation has done for my mind-set. It's still appalling weather, I'm still a size Large, and the paint is still peeling off every surface in the house, but hey! It's my birthday and I'm happy! Let's go with it while we can, OK? (No, I'm not going to eat this much chocolate every day even if it does improve my mood. I was happy today pre-chocolate, I'll have you know. I think it was because I had a peaceful weekend and I'm almost done with six months of hard slogging at work.)

Last night I was snuggled up in bed with a stack of old Interweave Knits - since my Swallowtail Shawl is yarn-overing right along again, after a bout of tink-ering, I want to knit more lace, of course. (See my reaction to weaving a rug.) In the course of my studies, I came upon Cat Bordhi's Streaming Leaves Shawl. Aha! I said, I want that NOW! I lept out of bed, pulled down the bin labeled "laceweight," and started pawing through in search of 1620 yards of something sportweightish. I know, I know, I said it was the laceweight bin, but we're being ecumenical here and I'm on a roll, don't stop me now or I'll go back to being cranky.


I found this. This is six skeins - about 9 ounces - of merino/angora, that I bought at Rhinebeck last year for $4 a skein. It's soft. It would make a wonderful shawl. It's truly laceweight, but I'll swatch (I swear upon my grandmother's knitting needles I'll swatch) until I find the right needles to give me just the right kind of gauzy, but not sleazy, fabric.

However, the color leaves something to be desired. Aha! I thought, for the second or third time in one post but actually on my way into work this morning, I'll stop on my way home and get some Kool-Aid. I carefully researched Kool-Aid colors over my lunch break and stocked up on 25 packets of Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade - a grand total of 5 bucks worth. I thought I had six skeins of 4 ounces each, and hence needed a packet of Kool-Aid for each ounce, but in fact I only had about 9 ounces of yarn. Thus, I mixed up a potion of 12 packets of Kool-Aid.


Not quite enough dye.


I mixed up the remaining vile blue potion and gently poured it into the pot. A gentle stir. A minute or two's wait.


Better, but still not enough dye. I see I'll be getting yet more Kool-Aid tomorrow. Hmm, as long as Kool-Aid's on sale, maybe I should see what else I should dye.

No matter. I'm still happy tonight. I'm swilling my wine and I'm about to go spin on the porch. Life is good.

And you know what else makes me happy? We all raised $32,548 for Claudia's and Michele's ride. We're just astounding, aren't we?

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Look what I picked from my garden! My first broccoli, my first lettuce!


I don't know why the broccoli is so small - maybe the heat caused it to start bolting before the heads were very big? Anyhow, there's only so much broccoli we can eat at a time, so perhaps it's for the best. I left the plants in the hopes of getting side shoots later in the season.


And there are little pawpaws on the pawpaw tree! I bet not many of you can say that, eh?


Here's the whole garden - I just staked up the tomatoes last night and I bought some more basil to replace the plants the slugs got to.


And isn't this a nice line-up of clean, straight, ready-to-go yarn? I found one more WIP that needed frogging after yesterday's post; it's the blue yarn on the left. I was knitting it on too-big needles and the fabric was just sleazy. It actually feels good to have frogged these projects - I have admitted my mistakes and I am ready to move on.


Speaking of moving on, here's the beginnings of my Swallowtail Shawl in the Great Adirondack Sirino yarn. Love it! Aside from a small, er, mistake a few rows back that shall be corrected pronto (and yes, I promise to stop believing in my own perfection and to put in a lifeline when I start again), this is lovely summer knitting.


My friend Jen heard I was going through a cranky spell and sent me this necklace she made to cheer me up. I love the fact she based the design on the back of a beetle! I don't think Jen has an Etsy shop yet, but I'm going to encourage her to open one - the world needs more crazed-naturalist/creative types, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of cranky spells, I'm taking a vacation. I'm taking at least the last two weeks of July off and I'm going nowhere in particular - I'm just going to hang out, rest up, and regain some sense of reality, such as it is. Long walks, good food, no alarm clocks.... Of course, there may be trips to yarn shops (the Elegant Ewe and Fiber Studio in New Hampshire are calling my name) and a trip to the Cape with my friend Nancy and lots of visits to SnBs, I hope, and oh! Did I tell you? I'm taking Barb Parry's series of spinning workshops at WEBS in July - woot! Anybody else going? For that matter, anybody wanna come spin on my back porch while I'm on vacation? I'd love the company! And if you have any suggestions of shops/classes/SnBs/etc. that I oughtn't to miss, shoot 'em to me - I intend to have fun, fun, and more fun. I may even cast on for yet another ten or twelve new projects, just for the thrill of new beginnings.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's Not You, It's Me, Or Frog Weather

You'd think I'd know better by now. I have been knitting for more than 15 years, I have steeked successfully, I have Fair Isled beautifully, I can cable with the best of them, yet I still make stupid mistakes. I don't make all the stupid mistakes possible, mind you, I just make at least one per project.

So, for my Sloane Pullover, I really did swatch and got gauge. I did think about the need for using a light-colored yarn for a cabled garment and, in fact, I chose a light color. When I got confused with the pattern, I emailed Elizabeth, the designer, who got back to me with a clarification within the hour. I chose a smooth yarn that would show off the cable. I chose a color that flatters me. I chose yarn from my stash. I knit steadily along; I did not put it away for months (years, decades). It's a top-down sweater; when I got down past the armholes, I tried it on and asked my friend Sue (the one who is blunt and honest about what looks good and what doesn't) if it fit - she said it did. I was a good little dutiful knitter.

Except I chose the wrong size, damn it. I have a 38-inch bust. I knit the Medium size, because I foolishly persist in thinking I am a Medium size forever and always, despite all current evidence to the contrary. The Medium size has a finished bust size of 40 inches; the sweater is 38 inches around at the armhole, pre-blocking.

Two inches of ease is not enough if one is making an aran-weight sweater for a plump person. I should have knit the Large size, with a 44-inch finished bust. It's a good thing I didn't weave in any of the ends, isn't it?


Luckily, I have enough yarn for the Large size and as soon as we're finished with a little dip in the frog pond, I intend to cast back on again. I will not be beaten by my own stupidity.

Speaking of frog ponds, the weather here is appalling - the humidity is so high and the air quality so low that I feel as though I'm living deep in a frog pond myself. I was sorting through my breeding population of plastic food storage containers this morning, seeking to exercise a little birth control and selection for desirable traits like matching lids, and I found myself literally dripping sweat off my nose and chin, just standing still in the kitchen. Lovely New England weather. I think I'm going to have to hang the reclaimed and washed Sloane yarn in the basement near the dehumidifier, if there is to be any chance of it drying before Labor Day.

Given that the weather is awful and Sloane needs to swim in the frog pond, I also decided to bite the bullet and cull ruthlessly through my WIPs for other garments that need systematic rending. My Sloane reminded me that I have made the same error before, so I am reclaiming the Kureyon from this Debbie Bliss cardigan that's been sitting unfinished for more than two years.


Nobody, and certainly not I, wants a bamboo Clapotis.


There's got to be a better use for purple Calmer than a boring Caddy's Sweater.


And when I'm done, I'm going to go get Chocolate Moose Tracks ice cream on a sugar cone, just to keep up my size-Medium-yeah-right girlish figure.

(Don't worry; there are plenty of other unfinished WIPs around that I couldn't bear to part with. And I've started two new projects and bought even more yarn in the past week, so I'm still normal, or what passes for it among knitters.)

Edited to add: Kinky!


Saturday, June 21, 2008


Once upon a time, long, long ago, the Linnet took gym in college - yes, this was long enough ago that 2 semesters of gym were required for graduation (University of Delaware, if it matters). I took archery and ballet - archery because it was fun and ballet because I'd taken ballet from age 9 or so till college and I wasn't bad at all (hey, no chortling in the back row!).

In fact, I think I took 2 semesters of ballet in college. The first semester I loved. The second semester I couldn't dance at all - I kept looking, and feeling, like one of those baby robins that hasn't quite gotten the hang of landing on a branch yet. All discombobulated. Crashing into the far wall after a jump. I couldn't bear to look in the mirror that covered one entire long wall. I even broke into tears a few times in class. Finally, the teacher, whose name I've forgotten, but whose advice I have not, said this: Sometimes, when you're trying to learn something new, you try and try and try and beat your head against the wall, but you don't make any progress. You've hit a plateau. Don't give up; just keep trying - one day, it will all make sense to your body and you'll make a quantum leap in your dancing.

Now, I'm not sure I ever got to that quantum leap in ballet (let's pretend the semester ended first, OK?), but over the decades since then, I've certainly hit, and eventually got over, that plateau in one thing after another. My ballet teacher's advice was one of the few specific teaching moments I remember from college.

So, I think I've hit a plateau. I've certainly been trying hard on many fronts for quite some time now, and I'm not seeing any progress. I'm cranky. I spend too much time list-making and quantifying (see Elizabeth's spot-on comment yesterday) and not enough time enjoying life.

Tonight I'm absolutely sure I'm on a plateau. I finished the bottom ribbing on my Sloane and tried it on. It's too small (or I'm too big). Damn! I can get it on, but it's too form-fitting to be flattering. I had even added one more set of waist-shaping increases than called for, but no go.

So, here are my options: Frog and reknit in a larger size. Lose weight till it fits. Finish it and give it to someone dear whom it does fit. Add it in its sleeveless form to the UFO bin(s).

For tonight, however, I went with Option E: I wound the Great Adirondack Sirino yarn I just bought, I dug out my copy of Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl, I got the last beer out of the fridge, and I'm going to go cast on something that doesn't need to fit.

I will be very, very glad when this plateau is breached, and I bet you all will be, too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

All I Needed was a Size 5 24-inch Circular Needle

You know where this is going, right?

I started the bottom ribbing on my Sloane Pullover two days ago. I needed a size 5 needle. I had two, but they were both 16 inches long - they just weren't long enough to go around the bottom of a sweater that, I hope, will go around my considerable ass. So, I needed a longer size 5 needle - say, one 24 inches long.

Yesterday, I was out in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, for work, and I kept in mind that if we got done early enough, I could stop by some yarn shop somewhere on the way home and get me a 24-inch size 5 needle. That's all I needed. Just one circular needle. One.

Route 7 goes north/south through Great Barrington, more or less. It's the main drag. I had some memory of there being a yarn shop in Great Barrington somewhere, but I couldn't remember its name and I'd certainly never been there. Lo, the yarn shop is on Route 7 - not in the center of town, but out on the commercial strip of Route 7, just south of McDonald's. I passed it, did a quick turn-around, petted the old cat in the entrance hall, and stepped into the fumes.

The yarn shop is
Wonderful Things. Aptly named. It had 24-inch size 5 needles, all right, and a lot of yarn. A whole lot of yarn. Rooms and rooms and rooms - a warren, really - of yarn.

I succumbed to the wool fumes, badly. I only bought three skeins, but those three skeins set me back about $100. I bought a ball of Jojoland Harmony, a skein of Claudia's silk laceweight, and a skein of Great Adirondack silk/merino Sirino. Here are my usual lousy photos.




The one thing wrong with Wonderful Things is they do not put prices on their yarn. I certainly could have resisted the Great Adirondack if I had known it was $55 a skein, but by the time I stepped up to the cash register, I was well and truly high on wool fumes, and didn't flinch at the total.

I feel rather as though I have eaten an extra-large ice cream cone instead of the baby cone I asked for - it's good, but too much. You know what else? I just timed myself knitting the k1p1 ribbing: I can knit 10 yards of yarn in 30 minutes. That's 20 yards an hour. I figure k1p1 ribbing is a good mid-range indicator of the variety of knitting, from simple stst, to keeping tracks of increases and decreases, to cables or Fair Isle, to maddening lace that you have to frog every third row. So, on average, I think I knit about 20 yards of yarn an hour. There will be about 1320 yards in my Sloane Pullover, about 65 hours of knitting. Six weeks of ten hours a week of knitting nothing else whatsoever. Maybe five weeks, really, given that much of it is simple stockinette.

When I succumbed to the wool fumes in Great Barrington, I just bought myself 2655 yards, or 133 hours, three or four months at the very least, of knitting. Knitting I hadn't really planned on. Knitting that will be fun and beautiful, sure, because these yarns are gorgeous, but really - is knitting (and spinning and weaving) all I ever want to do with my life? I'm thinking I may need to weed through the stash. I'll keep these three skeins, because they are stunning, but I think I have a lot of yarn that doesn't really thrill me any more, that could go without breaking my heart.

Or maybe not. It is yarn, you know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Dead

The state of the garden, in three bullets:

  • The Good....The broccoli has little brocs.


The peony is gorgeous.


The porch plants look great.


  • The Bad....I think the slugs got to the basil. I've never seen basil look this bad.


  • The Dead...


This was my caladium-and-red-petunia pot on the porch. I cannot keep a caladium alive for beans - anybody have an idea why?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Summer Weekend, Tra-la-la

Don't you just love June weekends? Despite the sucky weather of this one (it's 60 degrees F today and overcast; not warm enough for dragonflies but definitely warm enough for the mosquitos to be out, little buggers), I've been enjoying myself.

Yesterday, Diane, that famed organizer of the Franklin County Fiber Twist, organized a Knit-in-Public Day event on the common in the center of Greenfield, Massachusetts - it was so much fun! Here's Diane, Marcy, both demonstrating their love of having their photo taken, and Lisa and Lisa's friend, whose name I didn't catch. We were the core attendees - several others came and went, and kids especially were fascinated with my spinning wheel.


I'd never met Diane before, so we got to chat about Marbled Salamanders and crazed-naturalist stuff - and she gave me several ounces of fleece off Io, her (mostly) Cormo ewe. Thank you, Diane! Here it is drying after being washed - I love this gray. Diane also gave me a refresher lesson on hand-carding; as soon as the fleece really dries (which will be a while, in this still, humid weather), I'm going to card this and spin it up.


Diane was knitting on gloves for Plimoth Plantation docents out of Harrisville Shetland Style yarn. Those are handsome gloves, aren't they?


Marcy decided she really needed to examine the gloves in detail right when I wanted to take her picture. I have much the same reaction to cameras, so she's forgiven, for now.


In other news, the other night I spun up an ounce of Falkland top I bought two years ago at the Wool Room in Antrim, New Hampshire, when I was buying a little of every uncommon breed I could find to sample spinning. This was a dream to spin, especially after the coarse springy roving of the brown Border Leicester I've been chipping away at for months now. I aimed for somewhat fine with the Falkland, and parts of it are perfect, as far as I can tell, but the consistency of my single's diameters still needs work. I'm not very patient - it was clear to me I should spin this much more slowly, with more control, but I didn't do that at all. This ounce made a grand total of 58 yards, over an hour or two that evening.


My Sloane Pullover is coming right along - another half-repeat and I'll be starting the ribbing.


Those of you paying attention will note that I am already working on my spinning skills list for SOAR (not Abby's list, at all, it's my list for myself; Abby seems to think we should have fun in her class, silly woman, rather than improving ourselves). I have now spun Falkland, Shetland, and Border Leicester cross in the past few weeks, and I have Cormo to hand-card. I spent maybe three hours yesterday spinning the brown Border Leicester at the KIP event, producing a grand total of a half-bobbin. I'm making progress.

And since, clearly [snort!], I'll get everything on my list crossed off well before SOAR, I give you today my list of projects to finish before SOAR and Rhinebeck. As you know, it is tradition to knit something new to wear to Rhinebeck. I plan on being there for Saturday and Sunday, so I'll need two new FOs to wear - I'm planning on the Sloane Pullover and my long-ignored Celtic Dreams. Of course, I'm also VERY tempted to take Lynne Vogel's Color for Spinning workshop at Rhinebeck on the Thursday and Friday before the festival itself, but even if I do take that class, I think I'll just restrain myself to finishing Sloane and Celtic Dream.

Now, for SOAR, I'll need a little something to wear, too...or maybe a few little somethings. It is a week-long event, you know. Oh, hell, here's the whole list, just laugh at me now and get it over with:

1. Finish Sloane.

2. Finish Celtic Dreams.

3. Finish a pair of socks (just one pair of plain socks, any socks).

4. Finish the shawl from my handspun (anybody remember this?).

5. Finish Boo, Too (I washed my swatch and the gauge is pretty damned close; a little math is needed and then I'll cast on for the body).

6. Knit a small (less than 500 yards or so) shawlette or scarf.

7. Weave a shawl or scarf (I'm thinking of using what I spin from the various sheep breeds).

8. Finish spinning the brown Border Leicester fleece, just to Get It Done.

9. Design something and make it.

10. Try making a little money from all this fiber obsession, to offset my fiber expenditures.

There. I have two lists of 10 items each to complete before October. I am certifiably nutso, aren't I?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Taking Off!


Yep, I did it. I swatched for Boo, Too last night, and I drank a matching beer while doing so.


To answer Bezzie's terribly, terribly rude question about my balls, they're big. (Well, of course they are!) This swatch is for the corrugated slipstitch pattern that Jillian so cleverly used to take advantage of yarn with long color repeats; thus, you see the two-stitch-wide columns of different yarns in my swatch (please say you can see the different yarns!). The lighter color is the thick-and-thin singles Araucania Magallenes color #312, of which I have a total of 726 yards, more than enough for one of the two main colors in this jacket. The garter stitch rows at the beginning of the swatch are all this yarn.

The other yarn, the darker one, is my handspun - well, half of it is my handspun, anyway. This is roving (I didn't note the breed, if I ever knew) from
Susan's Fiber Shop, bought at Rhinebeck in 2006. In February of 2007, I spun it up and plied it with several different solid colors of Patons Kroy sock yarn (85% wool, 15% nylon) that were lying around my stash. I have a total of 882 yards of this yarn, more than enough for the other main color. I doubt that these two yarns together are enough for the entire jacket, but we'll see - I can always use something else for the ruffled edges.

Also, it is obvious to me that swatching Boo, Too was all that was needed to:

I'm going to SOAR, I'm going to SOAR, I'm going to SOAR! I'm taking Abby Franquemont's workshop! Geez, I think I'm more excited about this than when I got accepted into grad school, either time. Ohboyohboyohboyoh.... Uh, oh.

WARNING: Puritan content ahead.

This means I have to shape up. This means I really have to learn how to spin, before I take this class on Spinning for a Purpose. This means I need a list. A list of all the practice spinning I should do in the next 4 months before SOAR. Therefore, I give you The List:

1. Spin about 150 yards of a bulky singles yarn and knit myself a hat.
2. Try spinning a two-ply from the same fiber several different ways - looser singles, tighter singles, then looser plying, tighter plying - to understand how to judge what works best.
3. Spin two different colors of a three-ply yarn (I've never spun a three-ply) and knit myself a Fair Isle hat.
4. Spin enough 2-ply laceweight - say, 400-500 yards - and knit a scarf or small shawl from it.
5. Produce at least 300 yards of a decent 2-ply on a spindle (I have several beautiful spindles, and I've never used one of them).
6. Spin the fiber of five different breeds of sheep.
7. Spin five different non-sheep fibers.
8. Hand-dye three colors of roving successfully and spin them up.
9. Take one batch of multi-colored fiber and spin it three different ways, in terms of displaying the colors in the finished yarn.
10. Use hand cards to prepare one of the Shetland lamb fleeces I got from my friend Isabel, spin up the rolags, and knit something.

That oughta keep me out of trouble this summer. Luckily, some of these items overlap (dye the roving for spinning the laceweight, for example) and I think I'll count anything I've spun in the last month or so (like that Shetland roving a week ago). I probably have every single thing - fiber, spindles, dyes, hand cards - to do all of this in my stash already, so maybe I should resolve to use just what's in the house for this learning game. And I really should get around to subscribing to Spin-Off.

Now, don't you all look at me like that. I know you think I'm crazy. I know you think I'll never do all this (and you're probably right). I know, I know. Just for that, I'm not going to give you my list of what sweaters, scarves, socks (yes, socks), etc., I want to finish in time to wear them to SOAR and/or Rhinebeck. Not today, anyway.

Just remember, you only have four months till Rhinebeck - what are YOU going to wear?

(and I'm definitely not telling you about my co-worker, who told me today she already has two Christmas presents knitted up. Some people are really sick, unlike me.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Too Hot

It's too hot to work on my Sloane Pullover. It's too hot to decide what to do with all that Ashland Bay fiber in my last post. I have no mind left. All I've been able to cope with is...brown.


I have produced four enormous and two piddly skeins of this, and still there's more and more and more. Really, sheep should be smaller. If there are dwarf sheep in the world, I want a flock. Nice little two or three-pound fleeces, pre-washing - that's what I want. Remind me of this when I start lusting after some 12-pound Merino fleece at Rhinebeck, will ya?

So what's a knitter to do in this heat?

Why, cast on, of course! And since it's Jillian's birthday, as let slip by Amy, I am going to celebrate appropriately.


This is the yarn for my Boo, Too*. I'm finally going to swatch tonight. If there's a beer left in the fridge, it's coming with me. Onward!

Oh, and for all of you who follow this blog because I chase dragonflies (what? nobody?), here's a pic of an Eastern Forktail damselfly in my backyard. He's all of an inch long (yes, it's definitely a male). Gorgeous creature!


*Does that look like enough yarn for a jacket? I'm worried...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Monogamy. And Not.


I've been knitting away madly on my mauve stockinette obsession, aka Elizabeth's Sloane Pullover. I'm past the waist sideline decreases, maybe halfway through the past-the-waist increases. I'm very proud of myself for being so faithful.


On the other hand....I am sick of brown. Sick, sick, sick of spinning up this brown fleece.

So, the other night I finished spinning up, badly, the silk cap I started back in, oh, February.



So, then I pulled out 2 ounces of merino and tencel. I'm afraid I can't remember where I bought this, and my spinning certainly didn't do the colors justice, but look!






Very pretty!

Well, that only took a couple of nights, so then I grabbed 4 ounces of gray Shetland roving (again, I'm afraid, from an unnoted vendor somewhere at Rhinebeck). Not shiny, but pretty! And very soft to spin; I think there was still a good bit of lanolin in the fiber, so it felt very different from the silk or the merino/tencel.


And next? Since I'm clearly loving this roll in the fiber stash -


Well, the next fiber on the top shelf of the bookcase full of fiber is the silver colonial wool/tussah silk from Ashland Bay, on the left in this photo. On the right is the same weight of Ashland Bay merino/silk. I'm thinking of plying singles of each together, so as to get enough yardage to really make something of this, but I'm not sure - they look too differentfrom each other. What do you think?