Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I've Got a Fever...

... and lace is the cure...

This is my latest lace project- Crystal Palace Yarn's Madeira Cascade scarf (http://www.straw.com/cpy/cpy9612.html ). It's a pretty easy pattern- 20 row repeat, 45 sts, CO at the ends and work to the middle and then graft the halves together (oh goody... Kitchener stitch... bleh). I'm using handspun yarn made from Twisted Fiber Arts roving. This is the Sherwood colorway, the Sleek blend (Merino/Tencel). It's 3-ply yarn and I'm using size 5 needles. This is the perfect pattern for this yarn- it's too shiny (which may not show in the pic) and slippery for socks, but it looks fantastic as lace. The only modification that I made to the pattern was to work 2 garter stitches on either edge (whether that will help keep it from rolling remains to be seen). It's not going to be a terribly long scarf, though it will block out a lot longer than it looks right now. I wound the yarn into fairly equal balls, and will use up as much of the yarn as I can on the halves. I'm nearly done with the first half.

I have been rooting through my stash, to see what else I have that will work for lace (outside of handspun- and I have probaby 3 different finished handspuns that will work for scarves or other small shawls). Lo and behold- I have a cone of probably 10,000 yds (yeah, that's the right amount of zeros) of fine undyed wool that would make as many shawls as I ever want to knit. And another cone of very fine brown brushed mohair the same size. And that's just at first glance- I know I have a couple of cones of cotton somewhere (I knitted sweaters with it doubled, so a single strand will work fine for shawls).

Karen, I'm going to get you for this.

And on the non-lace front- I'm nearly done with the handspun neon gloves (roving purchased at NCFF a couple of weeks ago). They're still very Neon. I'm going to have plenty of yarn left from the 3 ozs. I spun, and I'm using last week's Freebie Friday pattern. Gloves aren't quite as mindless as socks, but they're perfect for knitting while I watch Chuck (welcome back Chuck! I've missed you so- and I laughed out loud at The Flight of the Conchords music. Foux da Fa Fa indeed), and Heroes, which is back to Season 1 greatness.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tag- I'm It

Bella Vita Farm and Fiber (http://bellavitafarm.wordpress.com/ ) tagged me, and I'm passing the tag along (sort of a Pyramid Tag, I think- pretty soon the whole Interwebs will be caught).

Here are the rules:
Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. Let them know they are tagged by leaving comments on their blogs.
So here we go….I’ll start with 7 weird/random facts (which some of you may know already):

1. I am 1/8 Inupiat Eskimo. My maternal grandmother lived above the Arctic Circle, between Kotzebue and Point Hope, until she was 32 years old. Her father was a German missionary, and she married (at age 16) a widdower Navy man. They moved to my home town (Snohomish, WA) when their oldest son had rheumatic fever. My mother, the 2nd youngest of 7 kids, was born in Washington. I do believe that I, my sons, and grandchildren, are the only persons of Inupiat descent currently living in South Dakota.

2. I'm left handed.

3. My husband and I make wine. In fact, we're going to start a 5 gallon batch of Riesling and a 3 gallon batch of Merlot soon. I'll do an ongoing blog report of the process. I've made wine from everything from carrot, to pineapple, to apple, to blackberry. My absolute favorite is Blackberry Melomel (a mead, which is a honey based wine).

4. I can write my name in cursive on an Etch a Sketch.

5. When I was writing mysteries and going to mystery conventions, I met a lot of bestselling writers, and became friends with some of them. Meeting my idols was the absolute coolest thing about writing fiction.

6. There are a lot of non-cool things about writing fiction (including a greater possibility of a stalker, which was definitely not fun).

7. My hair started going gray when I was 23, and I decided early on that I would never keep up with coloring it, so I never did try to cover the grays. I'm 55 now, and have been totally gray for going on 20 years, and I think it's beautiful, though it meant getting used to people thinking that I was a lot older than I really am (15 years ago, an 11 year old girl asked my husband if I was his grandma).

And I am tagging (Not 7 but all are very great fun):

Knit Geekery (http://knitgeekery.blogspot.com/)

Procrastination Diary (http://procrastinationdiary.blogspot.com/)

Jackson Street Books (http://jacksonstreetbooks.blogspot.com/)

Pumpkin Knits (http://pumpkinknits.blogspot.com/ )

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Come No One Told Me...

... that blocking lace is such a pain in the butt?

I can see that if I'm going to do much lace knitting, I'm going to need blocking wires.

No one also told me not to try to block a lace shawl late in the evening, after a marathon 8 hour lace-knitting session. I won't be doing that again.

But.... ta da!!! Swallowtail is done! And she is beautiful, though my heart stopped when I got it all pinned out on the living room rug and saw The Hole (see the *before* pic on the red leather chair- I don't think I need to Paint in an arrow). However, rather than run screaming into the night (which would usually be my first response), I calmly pinned the spot to keep the sts from unraveling further, and decided to think about it in the morning.

I thought about it this morning, and after examining The Hole, I realized that it wasn't as dire as I suspected. Yes, there was an unravel, but it was YO unravel, which only cost me 3 sts. And if there is such a thing as a lucky mistake, this one was lucky because it could not continue down (or up) the shawl, or do further damage. I threaded yarn in a darning needle, and chain-stitch embroidered the stitches back into place (see the *after* pic on the green chair). It's not an invisible fix (and there are other mistakes, all visible, but I'm not fooling with them), and Swallowtail is absolutely not competition worthy, but it looks fine. And if I don't point The Repaired Hole out to people, I daresay, no one will see it (except Astute Blog Readers, but I'm pointing it out to you anyway).

For a very first real lace project, I am quite pleased. The shawl itself is really too small to be anything but a neck decoration, but the next time I need a snazzy neck decoration, I'll be set. I had a hard time getting the subtle color changes (periwinkle, blue, green) to show up in the pictures. The unblocked, and outdoor shot are the best.

Stats: Pattern: Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl

Yarn: Handspun laceweight domestic wool, 2 ply, Hydrangea colorway, Roving from A Knitted Duck

Amount used: 315 yards (I would have used more if I had done the Nupps, rather than beads)

Weight of Finished Shawl: 2.8 ozs (.4 ozs are beads)
Measurements: 45" wide, 24" long at the center

Needles: Size 4 us (3.5 mm)
And yeah, I'm going to knit more lace. But first, I should (need to) finish Genevieve's Graduation Sweater. Wonder if I'll actually work on it today...

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It's a disease, lemee tellya. I mean, I've knitted lace before. Easy lace, I'll grant you, nothing complex or mind-bending. And I've enjoyed it but lace knitting (or is it knitted lace- there is a difference, but I can't remember which is which right now) never really tripped in me the need to go and knit more.

Until Karen (from Knit Geekery- link on the right side of the page) started her Swallowtail Shawl (Evelyn Clark- free pattern- http://www.evelynclarkdesigns.com/portfolio.html). Who knows why, but Swallowtail caught me in a big way. I downloaded the pattern, wound some handspun yarn, dug out some beads (having decided in advance to skip the Nupps, a decision I have not regretted) and got to work.

It was sloooooow going at first- I referred to the written instructions on every repeat of every right side row, not *seeing* the pattern or *reading* my knitting until I was well into the Budding Lace section. Then it clicked- I sped up (and switched to straight needles, with which I am more comfortable knitting back and forth) and began to understand the design, to see where/when/if I made any mistakes, and I started to be able to talk and knit at the same time (mostly "yes dear", "just a second, let me get to the end of this row", but it was communication of a sort).

When I got to the Lily of the Valley border, I decided to try the chart, and lo and behold, I understood it! And I sped up even more, completing the first half of the border yesterday afternoon, even with the beads (which are not quick knitting- though I did figure out a way to use fine wire to get the bead on the stitch that works way better than a crochet hook). I should be able to finish the Lily of the Valley section today, and maybe even get into the last border before the bind off.

It's been a satisfying knit- every time the stitch count works out right, I do a quiet little Wahoo! and a fist pump, and I can't wait to see what this sucker looks like blocked.

I have even chosen my next shawl- Evelyn Clark's Heartland Lace Shawl (pattern available through Ravelry), though not the yarn I want to use.

When I'm not working on lace (read: when anything actually interesting is on TV, or if I have to speak coherently to my companions), I'm plowing ahead on Christmas hats (this one was knit from charcoal Romney lamb yarn- Romney is not usually a soft yarn, but this is yummy. And I think the shot picks up the incredible sheen). And just for fun (they'll probably end up in the Christmas pile too) I finished a glove using the handspun from the roving I got at NCFF and this week's Freebie Friday pattern. This yarn isn't spun as evenly or consistently or finely as I'd like, but it's working just fine for these gloves, and that neon green is even neonier in person.

And, for the 4th day in a row, I have no socks on the needles. I'll get on that right away.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Freebie Friday- Fingering Weight Gloves

Wahoo! It's Freebie Friday!!!!

These are the gloves I knit with yarn handspun from Twisted Fiber Arts Firefly Roving. They took under 200 yds of heavy fingering weight handspun, but the pattern will work with any yarn that will give you 7 sts and 10 rnds to the inch with size 3 needles (or whatever needle size you need for that gauge).

These gloves will fit most Women- you could size them down for a youth or child by using finer yarn and smaller needles, I think (and knitting shorter fingers). Sizing them up for men with sportweight or DK yarn and Size 4 needles might also work.

Click on the 2 pattern pages to enlarge, right click to save as jpgs, print from any graphics program.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Tab- Flower Fairies and Brownies, from Jack and Jill Magazine

I didn't have a subscription to the Jack and Jill magazine as a kid, but my school did, and all of the grade school girls would clamor for the the latest release so we could check it out and trace the paper dolls that were the center spread in every issue (there used to be paper dolls everywhere- magazines, newspapers, on the backs of cereal boxes). I specifically remember the Flower Fairy dolls, and how much I loved the flower outfits.

These dolls were drawn by Rae Owings, and they're obviously related. I saw a notation on the net that The Flower Fairy set was published in Feb 1965, but that sounds wrong because I would have been in the 7th grade by then, and I remember these from grade school (say 4th or 5th grade) (I hadn't outgrown paper dolls by Jr. High, I just went underground with them, and I doubt my Jr High library had a sub to Jack and Jill). On the other hand, maybe one of my younger sisters checked this issue out and brought it home. Sisters, do you remember these?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's all Karen's Fault

There I was, happily contemplating which sock yarn to wind next, when I checked in on Karen Irving's Knit Geekery blog (http://knitgeekery.blogspot.com/ ), as I do first thing every morning. I've known Karen, and Mary (of Procrastination Diary http://procrastinationdiary.blogspot.com/), from back when we were all writing mysteries and hanging out on Lauri Hart's Mystery Writer's Forum. Mary is the only one of us still writing fiction, but we all knit, and this week, Karen mentioned that she is currently working on the Swallowtail Shawl, for her lovely mother in law.

Now Karen has posted pictures of other shawls, so I am trying not to ascribe evil intentions to her, but I can't help but wonder if she smiled secretly when posting a picture of her Swallowtail-In-Progress, thinking that I might be ensnared by the lovely pattern.

Lord knows, I didn't see it coming.

I mean, I can *see* cables (in fact, I remember, at about age 8, when the whole process came clear to me after examining a pair of store-bought knee socks), but lace is a foreign language. I can do it, but I don't generally search it out. So being captured by the Swallowtail Shawl pattern was totally unexpected.

But capture me, it did. I wound some handspun laceweight yarn (the Hydrangea roving from A Knitting Duck- the pic doesn't show the lovely colors: periwinkle, blue, and a hint of green, very Hydrangea-y) and I sat in my chair and concentrated. I have read enough commentary on Swallowtail (something like 2,000 of them have been posted on Ravelry) to know that this is considered an easy lace pattern, but it's not easy for me. 5 repeats into the Budding Lace Pattern (and we haven't even gotten to the Nupps, which I am skipping, in favor of beads- I know my limits), and I am finally starting to *see* where I am in the pattern (though I still need to refer to the written instructions constantly- and the chart hasn't clicked for me yet). You can see in the pic that I've made a mistake or two already, but I will live with them. I have 9 more repeats of this pattern before starting the Lily of the Valley borders, so by then, I might actually be zipping along.

I don't know that I'm enjoying this exercise, but it's fascinating. And it's Karen's fault.

And here's a mystery for you: I have knit worsted weight socks in my size for years. I know from long experience, that I need between 220-250 yards of worsted weight yarn for a pair (depending on the yarn brand, since worsted weight yarns vary in thickness). When I started the sample sock for my heel workshop at NCFF, I chose some nice Andes worsted weight wool (purchased at Great Yarns, Everett WA, a couple of summers ago). The label says that one skein is 165 yards (100 gr), so I wound both skeins, knowing that I'd need some of the 2nd to complete the pair. Well, I finished the pair last night (can't knit lace and watch Fringe at the same time), and not only did I get 2 complete socks from 1 skein, I have yarn left over. A bunch of yarn. Since the other ball does just weigh 100gr, I have to assume that the listed yardage was off. But while the yarn felt just a little thinner than most of the worsted weight I have on hand, it was definitely worsted. I'm puzzled.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flags and Shawls

It's a prayerful sort of day.
My good friend Melanie (check out her blog- a beautiful combination of art, spirituality and knitting: http://handstosoul.wordpress.com/ ) sent me some Tibetan Prayer Flags to hang on my back deck (under construction- note that the grass is still green, which tells you that we've had a very wet, mild summer and a long intro to fall). Tibetan Prayer Flags (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_prayer_flag ) are pieces of unhemmed cloth, strung outdoors in the wind and elements. The squares of cloth are hung in a specific order: yellow (earth), green (water), red (fire), white (air) and blue (space), and as they slowly unravel, good thoughts and prayers are imprinted on the wind, generating peace and harmony and good wishes. It's a lovely sentiment, and I will send my good thoughts out with the bits of thread from my flags.

And my copy of The Prayer Shawl Companion arrived!!!! With my shawl design right there on the cover!!! Which means that Frida should e-mail me (kathleentaylor1952 at gmail dot com ) with her address, so I can send her winner's copy to Iceland (Iceland. Iceland. Iceland. Not Finland).

The book, compiled and written by Janet Bristow and Victoria A. Cole-Galo, founders of The Prayer Shawl Ministry ( http://www.shawlministry.com/ )and published by The Taunton Press, is beautiful. It has 38 lovely shawl and wrap patterns, each by a different designer, including Kaffe Fasset, Nicky Epstein, and Brandon Mably. The patterns range from easy/simple, to lace and mosaic patterning. The pictures are lovely, and the stories that accompany each pattern are inspiring. It's a gorgeous book, and I am proud to have contributed to it.

(Amazon link to the book on the right side of the page)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Maybe Ill Gotten Ribbon

Oh my. I was going over the critiques of my Blue Ribbon handspun yarn skeins, looking for suggestions and ways to improve my spinning, when I noticed that my total for the wool/silk skein (Tulip colorway, Twisted Fiberarts Roving, 2-ply fingering weight) was added wrong. I should have had 69 points (out of a possible 75) rather than 74. So, it's possible that I got that ribbon in error (depends on how many points the next lower skeins had). I'll notify them, and if that's the case, maybe we can get the ribbon to the rightful winner.

In the meantime, I finished a pair of Christmas Grandsocks- the pattern is called Circle Socks, and is available as a free download on Ravelry, or from designer Anne Campbell's Needlework (http://www.jfcampbell.us/anne/patterns.htm ). The easy slip stitch patterning makes a great texture on the cuff of the sock, and I love love love how it works with self-striping yarn. I modified the pattern by using heavier yarn, size 2.75mm needles, and 56 sts (rather than 64) on the cuff (and 54 on the instep), and working a short-row heel and a star toe. This sock will fit girls shoe size 12-13. The pattern calls for an 8 stitch repeat, so you can adapt it to other yarns, and adjust it for sizing pretty easily. The yarn is Playful (100% superwash wool) from Twisted Fiberarts (heavy fingering weight), in the Tulip colorway. I used a mottled coordinating solid yarn for the heels and toes, and I have enough yarn left over to knit another pair this size (or even up to youth shoe size 3-4).

I have also been working on handspun hats for the Christmas pile. I finished 3 more, and am almost done with the adult size hats. I still have 7 kid-size hats to knit. These are super fast- we're talking 2-3 hours, start to finish, and the pattern could not be simpler (66-72 sts, size 10.5-11 needles, knit ribbing for 8" or so and decrease). It's a good way to use up all that bulky handspun yarn I have on hand (I must have been psychic when I made so much of a kind of yarn that I rarely use. Yeah, that's right... psychic...)

And I finished spinning and plying 2.1 ozs of the neon green/purple/blue Merino roving that I bought at the fiber fair. It's 2-ply, heavy fingering weight, not terribly consistent in diameter (something I need to work on), and about 148 yds. I have less than an ounce left to spin, so there may not be enough yarn for gloves, but there will be plenty for fingerless gloves, which is what I think I'll make with this yarn.
TV commentary: Was last night's Emmy Awards show not the worst awards show in the entire history of awards shows? It was excruciatingly bad- the hosts were awful, the speeches were all too long, and even the dresses were boring. And Mary Tyler Moore- please, no more surgeries. Oh, and sleeves are a really good idea. Trust me on this.
But tonight- Heroes!!!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fiber Fairness

Even though I had to drive over and back at Deer-Thirty (the magical hours when deer decide that they can occupy the same spot in space and time as moving vehicles), my day at the North Country Fiber Fair was fantastic.

I arrived before the 8:00am cutoff for entering items in the Juried competition. I entered a skein of wool/silk 2-ply yarn (from Twisted Fiber Arts roving) in the wool-blend category, a skein of bamboo/silk that was spindle spun (from Butterfly Girl Designs, spun on a BFG spindle), the pair of handspun Firefly gloves (also Twisted) that will be a Freebie Friday pattern, maybe next week, and a pair of stranded fingerless gloves knit with Knit Picks Palette yarn, using Nanette Blanchard's Black Forest Fingerless Mitten pattern (all of these have appeared on the blog somewhere along the line). I then had about an hour to browse the still-unopened vendor booths before my No-Wrap Short-Row Heel Workshop started at 9.

The workshop went well. Last year, I taught the same technique but tried to go at it from an unusual angle, thinking that might make it easier for people to visualize what was happening on their needles. I was wrong. This year, I tried a different attack on the technique, and the workshop went much more smoothly. I think almost everyone had a lightbulb moment, and everyone finished their heel (or came very close to finishing).

The heel workshop was over at noon, and I had time to eat a yummy lamb-sloppy joe and then browse and shop before the next class began. I bought 3 ozs of dyed Merino (neon green/blue/purple), a cone of millspun sock weight natural SD Wool yarn (from the South Dakota Colored Wool Studio), 2 wonderful skeins of J L Yarnworks' sock yarn (and some great sock monkey hair clips for the assorted little girls in my life), and two sacks of naturally dyed wool in shades of yellow for my handspun sweater (that I have not started yet) from Connie Henning and Shay Huhta. I also seriously considered a braid of sportweight millspun alpaca yarn- 600 yds of charcoal and fawn- beautiful and oh so soft, but decided to sit in the spinning circle and spin for a bit instead of continued browsing (these people speak Yarn and Wheels, and I needed to listen).

At 1:00, I met with about 6 others for the Crochet with Wire and Beads class, taught by Connie Herring (http://www.connieherring.com/ ). I don't crochet often, so I wanted to expand my skillz with this class. I'm so glad I did- we were given a choice of glass bead colors (I took the peachy/earth tone set), and in 3 hours, crocheted and assembled a gorgeous 3-strand necklace and a fantastic matching bracelet using beads and very fine wire. It's not a fast process, but it's fascinating, and my guess is that I will be buying more beads (oh great- another stash...)(though I do have lots of handmade, lumpy bumpy lampwork beads left over from my last obsession that wasn't yarn. hmmm....).

After the class, I had a good hour to sit in the circle and spin some more, which was beyond wonderful. I met a friend from Ravelry, and caught up with people I only see once a year (and was reminded, once again, that people who don't know that I lost weight, are apt not to recognize me until I speak. No mistaking that voice).

About halfway through the spinning circle time, the judges finished with the competition, and...
[Turn Away if You Can't Stand To Read A Grandma Bragging].... I learned that all 4 of my entries had won Blue Ribbons! In fact, I came in 2nd place in the entire competition, and as such I got to choose from a table full of wonderful prizes (including books from The Taunton Press that my editor had sent as donations). One of the prizes on the table was a 600yd braid of sport-weight Alpaca charcoal and fawn yarn. Guess which prize I chose?

After a catering service served our buffet supper, there were many door prizes (I won a wee needlefelted angle kit), and then we had a fashion show, narrated by Rick Mondragon, editor of Knitter's Magazine. We all modeled our entries, and I showed off the revamped Dakota Dreams sweater, to many oohs and aahs.

Most of the people hunkered down after that, to spin and knit or crochet or weave some more, and to plan classes and activities for today. But I had to drive back home (insert sad face here), so I left after the fashion show, and braved Deer Alley for another 75 miles.'

As always, I had a fantastic day, and as always, I'm sorry that NCFF only happens once a year.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

To Live and Die a Pirate King...

Desipte yon date at the top of this post, Today do indeed be Friday September 19, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and so's not to be walkin' that there plank, we'll be talkin' like them Piratical types for the time bein'.

If yers want to knit someting in the Pirate Vein, here be a felted Pirate Hat that be totally adorable: http://scrubberbum.typepad.com/patterns/2005/11/kids_pirate_hat.html

And if ye be thinkin' about beadin' like yon Pirate, here be the place to visit for some truly skully patterns: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art46069.asp

And if ye want to listen to Piratical Music, ye can naught but to take to the sea with The Pirates of Penzance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_of_Penzance Especially the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt version. Yon movie, also with Angela Lansbury, (http://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Penzance-Kevin-Kline/dp/6300182762) be pretty darn good, but ye version filmed outdoors, live (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363891/ ) be my favorite performance of my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operetter.

I plan to be livin' my life in the normal way on this grand fall day, with just a tinch of pirate talk, and have yon knitterly type things to show ye Mateys.

First, spy yon skeins of handspun yarrrrrrn. They be 100% Merino Wooly Sheep, dyed by Guild Masters in the realm of Twisted Fiber Arts, in the Minstrel style. It be spun 2-ply, and it weigh in at 4.1 ozs and 465 yarrrrrds. I be plannin' to work this yarrrn with beads as a piece of lace frippery of some sort for Her Ladyship.

Then, we be seein' some wee sockies for yon granddaughter for ye upcoming Wynter Holidays. Yon sock, also dyed by Guild Masters Twisted, be in the Tulip (some sort of Dutch flower, I believes) style, and workd in a pattern called Circle Socks- a slip stitch texture that be showin' off the color changes in yon yarrrrn in a way that makes me Piratical Heart Thump with Happyness.

Then we still be workin' on dear Genevieve's Graduation sweater, and we be makin' progress, though it be slow progress. The sleeves be vast and mighty and be still on yon needles, but they be growin'.

Tomorrer, we be hitting the high seas for Watertown, SD and ye annual North Country Fiber Fair. We be leaving port before the sun peeks over ye eastern horizon, and we be returnin' long after she sets in the west, but we be comin' back with booty and pictures and stories.... yarrrrrrr

Thursday Tab- Saalfield Wiggie, #1358

Gee, I wonder which super skinny 60's model, who obviously did not give permission to use her name or image, inspired this set?

There must be a page missing. (T)Wiggie is the front cover, and the wigs are the back cover, so there should be 4 pages of clothes. There are no notes with the files to explain the missing page. Sorry for not having a full set.