Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why it's a good thing that I write this blog...

Last night, after I finished knitting the first 10 rounds of the All Day Fair Isle Class knitalong hat, I finally was able to play with some of the coned yarn I got from Yarnia in Portland, while there for the Sock Summit. As a refresher, Yarnia is a unique store where knitters choose individual strands from hundreds of cones of yarn that line the shelves, which are then wound together by an extremely cool machine, on a cone for knitting. I bought 3 lovely cones, which have been calling me since I got home. And last night, I heeded the call.

The colors don't show up quite as well as I'd like in this shot- the individual strands are yellow, green, green sparkle, ice blue, and robin's egg blue.

The scanner catches the colors better, and if you click on the picture, you even get a sense of the sparkle (which is a nice, sort of understated sparkle, not Disco Ball at all). The combined strands are heavier than I expected- they're knitting up more like sportweight than fingering. I'm using 56 sts and size 3 (3.25mm) needles, which I think will work out. The fabric is going to be a little thicker than usual, but not as heavy as worsted weight socks.

I'm not having trouble with splitting the strands, though I am also being pretty careful as I knit. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to work the body of the sock in plain stockinette, or if I'll do a simple texture. I suppose I should decide soon, since I'm on the last ribbing round.

Anyway, back to the header- as I began knitting with this yarn, I realized that I couldn't remember the fiber content of the strands. But I knew that I'd blogged about the yarn when I bought it, so back to the archives I went, and learned that blue and green non-sparkle strands are wool (superwash, I remember now), and the yellow strand is bamboo, which means that the socks will be machine washable. Wahoo! (for the yarn, and for my obsessive logging of all of my Sock Summit purchases.)

The second shipment of yarn from the Emphatically Not A Chain Letter Sock Yarn Exchange arrived yesterday, from Georgia. I've never knit with Kroy, and this looks like great fun! Thanks anonymous Georgia knitter!

I am so excited, the Day of the Dead Paper Dolls, and Day of the Dead Stickers, by my friend Kwei Lin Lum arrived from Dover Publications yesterday. Both books are beautifully drawn and produced. I've known Kwei Lin online through my paper doll groups, since the mid 90's, and I am extremely happy to add her books to my collection.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First Frost, Finished Samples, Henery The Eighth He is

We had our first light frost this morning- it was 32.5 F when I got up. And foggy. The wind wasn't blowing, and I can generate enough heat as I run to make up for the chill, but I'd rather that drivers see me from more than 5' away, so it was back to the basement. At least I get to listen to Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White from Librivox, though I am remembering my irritation with Walter Hartright for not seeing (for never seeing, more's the pity) that Marian Halcomb is the far superior sister.

After exercise, and my online work and play obligations are completed (what? reading blogs and playing Pyramid Solitaire, and taking care of myFarm are obligations. Says so right in the book of Online Obligations. You can look it up), I've been watching a backlog of TV shows stored on the new DVR. It would save a lot of time if I would consistently remember that I don't have to watch the recorded commercials. I finished the adult Fair Isle Class sample hat* yesterday, and love how it came out. I've cast on the class knitalong hat, but I only have to do the first 10 rows of that, and then it goes in my suitcase for the SAFF trip.

I thought that I was done with Tudor Excesses, but another DVD arrived from Blockbuster- a 2004 version of Henry and his Chickies, starring Ray Winstone, and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn. The first disc was a bit Kathryn and a lot Anne, as it probably should be. I understand The Final Four are all crammed into the last disc, which is probably also how it should be, though I have developed a fondness for Anne of Cleves. I am enjoying this version- Ray Winstone looks like I expect Henry to look (Johathon Rhys Meyers is pretty, but not exactly like the old portraits of Hank), and Helena Bonham Carter is a good Anne (though not quite as good as Natalie Dormer, who actually made me cry, before they cut her head off). This Henry seems to be a balance of oaf/king/man/monster. Eventually, I suppose I'll run out of filmed versions of this story, and will have to move on to another royal jumble... maybe the Ptolemys.

*P.S. to those who have asked: the pattern for the All Day Fair Isle hat is only available right now if you take the class. But it's based on the Stranded Picot Hem Snowflake Hat that is a freebie here on the blog. The original uses smaller yarn and needles, and more stitches than the class sample.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All Day Fair Isle Class results, and now that it's getting chilly in the mornings

Lookie here! Martha finished her hat from the All Day Fair Isle class that I taught at NCFF. Didn't it turn out beautifully? She and her sister Molly opted to knit the adult size hat, rather than the toddler size. I am so proud!

And since I need an Adult Size hat to show the class at SAFF (the first chart I tried needed adjusting- it was too long, and this is not a hat where the brim can be rolled up, so I had to revise it before the class and didn't have time to knit another sample). I'm using leftover yarn from the The Big Book of Socks (Jarbo Garn Raggi, and some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted). I love the effect with self striping and patterning yarns in Fair Isle, but I also love the 2-color look of traditional Norwegian knitting. Plus, I got really tired of using the same striping yarn for all my class samples (I think I've knit 5 hats that look pretty much exactly the same, and that is easily 3 too many).

I'm nearly done with the samples for my five SAFF classes (I need to finish this hat and cast on the one we'll knit together in the class)(which is full, btw). All of my handouts and workshop supplies are heading to NC even as I type (via the PO). I just have to put together the *Writing Patterns for Publication* talk/handout, and I'll be ready for SAFF. Wahoo!

When I was at the Sock Summit, I took a podcasting class from Heather Ordover, of Craft Lit . I still haven't tried my own audio recordings for the blog, but now that it's getting chilly (and the fall winds have come up), I've been using the treadmill in the basement more often. I don't listen to my Zune when I run out on the highway because of that it's really more important to hear the oncoming traffic than it is to listen to music or books thing, but when I'm in the house, I'm not so apt to be run over by a text-driving trucker.
I subscribed to Craft Lit, and have downloaded a couple of the recent podcasts, which brought me in toward the end of a reading of The Scarlet Letter (note: that link contains major spoilers). It's really interesting to hear Heather's take on Arthur Dimmsdale. It's been awhile since I read the book, but I doubt I'd change my opinion of him as the worst sort of hypocrite (of which we have many examples today, many in exactly the same position as Arthur). Heather views him with some (though not a whole lot) of sympathy, whereas I see him as a worm.  She's nearly done with this book, and I don't think I'll go back and listen to the previous chapters, but I will continue on with whatever book she chooses to read and discuss next.

In the meantime, I've started listening to Wilkie Collin's The Woman in White (link contains some spoilers), via my old friend, Librivox. I am not as partial to TWiW as I am to The Moonstone, but I am enjoying it. So far, the reader is excellent, and it surely makes that hour on the treadmill go by faster.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Signing at Athena Fibers

I had a fantastic time at Athena Fibers in Sioux Falls yesterday. The store itself is lovely- rooms and rooms of yarn, nestled in a lovely old house in a quiet neighborhood. The yarns are many and varied, and all of them wanted to jump into my basket. And the people were such fun that I only realized that it was past time to leave when someone spotted my husband waiting outside patiently. Great yarn, great people, fun conversations, and lots of laughs. And dessert. Pretty hard to top that.

Here's a fuzzyish shot of everyone, pretending to be sedate (my camera didn't like the back lighting). Note the sleeping puppy.

This is more like it... Note the dessert... and the puppy

Yarn- I guess I was in a purple mood yesterday. A couple of Bokus, 2 Mini Mochi (moochi???? mookie??? how do you say it?), a ball of Ty Dye sock yarn, and some sheep buttons that begged to come with me.

And on the way home, I finished Jane's Mitered Koigu Mill End Socks. I love how they came out.
All in all, a great trip! Thanks Lauri and Judy, and everyone!

P.S. Mona stopped by, but had to leave early. She gave me a shout out on her blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carpentry Definitions

Maybe you have to be married to a carpenter to think this stuff is funny, but most of these made me laugh out loud.

The Real Tool Definitions(if anyone has proper attribution, kindly let me know):

Drill Press: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

Wire Wheel: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the worksbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses in about the time it takes you to say, "Oh sh..."

Skill Saw: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

Pliers: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

Belt Sander: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

Hacksaw: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouiji Board principle: it transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredicitble motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

Vise-Grips: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

Oxyacetylene Torch: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub from which you want to remove a bearing.

Table Saw: a large stationary power tool used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

Hydraulic Floor Jack: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

Band Saw: A large stationary power saw primarily used to turn aluminum sheets into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside.

Two-Ton Engine Hoist: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of eveyrthing you forgot to disconnect.

Phillips Screwdriver: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids, or for opening old style paper and tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt, but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

Straight Screwdriver: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws, and butchering your palms.

Pry Bar: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

Hose Cutter: A tool used to make hoses too short.

Hammer: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent to the object you are trying to hit.

Utility Knife: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons. Works particularly well on seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes.

Son of a Bitch Tool: Any nearby tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling, "Son of a bitch" at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not something I'm going to try any time soon...

I'm game to try to spin just about anything, but this is too much for me .

It's beautiful.... but....


The Field Report, Happily Hookin', Yarn and Exchanges, and Miters,

What a difference a week makes. The entire soybean field isn't as stripped as this section, there is still a lot of yellow, and even a smidge of green, but the dry-down has begun (despite an inch of rain in 20 minutes yesterday).

Our cottonwood tree is turning as well. Some years, the cottonwoods give up early and the leaves go straight from green to brown. It looks like we'll have color from our largest trees this year.

I won a lovely little Snowman wallhanging kit from On the Prairie Rugs at NCFF. A couple of nights ago, I gave rug hooking a shot. Guess what? It's a lot harder than it looks. Okay, it's not hard exactly- the process itself is simple: use a hook to bring narrow wool fabric strips from the back of the piece, to form uniform loops in a design on the front. It's the uniform loop thing that I'm having trouble with.

It's fun, and the piece is supposed to be primative (boy oh boy, is it ever primative). But I saw some of the totally gorgeous finished pieces in the On the Prairie Booth at NCFF, and my little snowman would be embarrassed to show his frosty face in that company. That said, he'll fit right in with the Folk Art/Primative style of some of my holiday decorating.

Though I might be tempted to hang him back side out.

Remember the yarn and book exchanges that are absolutely not chain letters ?  I still have 2 book exchange slots if anyone is interested (the last yarn slot was filled. Thanks). Please follow the link for instructions and limitations of the exchange. In the meantime, I got my first exchange sock yarn in the mail: a lovely ball of Austermann Step (with Aloe), in blues/pinks/creams/yellows. It's lovely!

Thanks, Julie from Maine!

Though most of my time lately has been taken with getting workshop handouts ready for SAFF in October (I want to mail the handouts and all of the yarn and dyeing supplies next week, rather than trying to take them on the plane, and tempting fate to mis-place my luggage)(not that I'm not tempting fate with the P.O., but I'll have time to replace stuff if it doesn't arrive). Anyway, I did find some time to work on Jane's Koigu Mill End Mitered Square socks. I have the cuffs finished and sewn, the stitches picked up, and the heels done. All I have left are the feet and toes, which will be lovely road knitting for my trip to Sioux Falls and appearance at Athena Fibers tomorrow! Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Tab- Rabotnitsa Paper Dolls from Russia, 1978-1982

Paper doll friend Natalia, a wine journalist from Russia, offerred to share these wonderful paper dolls with us. They're from the Soviet Union Journal Rabotnitsa (Working Woman), and were published between 1978-1982. They're beautifully drawn. Thank you so much, Natalia.

As a side note: I took Russian for two years in high school, and loved it. I used to be able to read Cyrillic easily, and I was able to understand the Russian dialog in the marvelous movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming without reading the captions (though that likely owes more to the grade-school Russian in the movie, than my translation skillz). Unfortunately, most of that ability is gone now.

P.S. Rent The Russians are Coming- it holds up extremely well (except for the hokey love story- and maybe I'd like to brain the bratty kid, but that's just me), and I am amazed that it found an audience at all during those tense years. It not only has something important to say to us about hysteria, it's laugh-out-loud funny.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NCFF 2009- Part 3, Competition, Market, Swag, and Local Mills

Unfortunately, some of my NCFF pictures didn't come out- views of the vendors and marketplace were dim, pictures of the Ravelry gathering were blurry, and shots of some of my friends were so bad that they will thank me for not posting them (it's the photographer's fault, not the subjects, who are all gorgeous). I am terribly disappointed that pictures of Patsy Zawistoski's skit, modeling her all-occasion garment were dim, blurry, and bad. It was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen.

But I did get some usable pictures. Including this young girl, drop spinning. The Gramma in me wanted her to get off that chair before she fell. (she didn't)

And Aleta Van Kampen's stunning Fair Isle and Appliqued tam, which deservedly won the Kay Cheever Award for Excellence.

And the sweater competition- note the red ribbon on the Dakota Earth and Sky sweater. The winner, in the middle, was spun and knit by Shay Huhta. It's even more beautiful in person- soft and light and intricately cabled (as opposed to my sweater, which is admittedly pretty, but also heavy and scratchy. You could wear Shay's sweater without a turtleneck underneath. Mine, not so much).

As a prize (I also got a Red ribbon on my Twisted Fiber Arts Entrelac Socks, and an Honorable Mention on my handspun lace Forest Canopy Shawl), I chose this little hooked rug Snowman kit from On The Prairie Rugs , whose website is under construction, though you can see a few of their patterns. I have never done this sort of rug hooking and am excited to learn how. I wonder if I still have an embroidery hoop somewhere.

I managed to spend less than I usually do at NCFF. I got these adorable handmade cards, and some stitch markers that I forgot to photograph,  from JL Yarnworks.

And some Brown Sheep sportweight mill ends (for $10 @  pound!) from Luv Ewe in Sioux Falls.

Since I spent most of my spinning time on Saturday, working on the Fiber Sandwich, I didn't buy much fiber this year. But I did get a lovely 9oz batt from Connie Wagenaar-Henning (whose etsy shop will be restocked soon). Connie very nicely enclosed a note explaining that No Dot, Ashley, Bunny, and Almond Girl donated fleece to this batt.  And I bought a small bag of Blue-Faced Leicester/Kid Mohair/Alpaca/Silk blend from Kelly Knispel, at South Dakota Natural Colored Wool Studio.

The most exciting news of the weekend was that both Kelly and Connie are opening their own small fiber mills. Kelly (who markets her fibers under: Biota Spinner's Web through the Natural Colored Wool Studio. raises sheep, and will process fibers (all kinds, in any amount) into clouds for spinning. Connie raises her own sheep and concentrates on natural dyeing. She will process fibers into batts and roving. I've purchased and spun fibers from both of them for years, and recommend them highly. There is room and need for both mills, and I am totally delighted to have processors within driving distance of my home. I'll announce when they're up and running, and ready to take orders, and maybe I'll even go tour and take pictures.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NCFF 2009- Part 2, All-Day Fair Isle Class, and The Proper Headgear for a Knitting Booksigning

It may not show on the surface, but I get stage fright before every appearance or workshop. I am always afraid that I've overestimated my skill as a speaker or teacher, and that the audience/students will go away disappointed (and in the case of those who actually paid to learn something from me: angry and demanding a refund). I was even more apprehensive about this year's NCFF because it was the first time that I'd attempted an all-day workshop, so it was a new time-frame and a completely new class.

I need not have worried. I was blessed with seven brilliant students who not only worked hard, laughed often, and were great company for a full day of class work- they all got it (I can't begin to tell you how rare that is). Everyone had a Lightbulb Moment, which is what makes teaching such a worthwhile adventure.

Carole, Michelle, Kathy

Martha, Molly, Bobbie, Gloria

We all started out at the same place (everyone completed their homework, which is also something of a rarity), and we spent the rest of the day discussing Fair Isle techniques, decreases, knitting back backwards, bobbles (the last two weren't part of the project at hand, but Digression is my middle name. You can look it up), weather, books, writing, spinning, and how much we enjoy snack time (okay, so it was how much I enjoy snack time). The day went extremely quickly, and while no one finished their hat in class (it takes me 5 hours from start to finish, and I've knitted that hat pattern several times now. We didn't expect to finish), almost everyone made it to the decreases, which was the crux of the class: reading a Fair Isle chart without having to refer to a written pattern.

And they all did wonderfully- with nary an excess pucker in the bunch (can we hear a round of applause for good tension?). And best of all, I got some excellent feedback that I will incorporate into the handout, for the next time I teach the class (next month in North Carolina).

I finished my sample hat on Sunday, during the booksigning for The Big Book of Socks, which was less a booksigning (owing to the fact that all 36 copies of the book that Kelly and Marie brought, sold out before the signing!) (talkaboutcher rarities), and more of a sit-and-knit-and-talk-and-laugh, which is every bit as much fun. I think I have the perfect headgear for that sort of signing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We interrupt our regular broadcast...

... to announce that my friend Kwei-Lin Lum's Day of the Dead paper doll set, and her Day of the Dead Sticker Book are both now available from Dover Publications! Wahoo Kwei-Lin. Mine are on their way!

NCFF 2009- Part 1, Fiber Sandwich

What a wonderful weekend I had in Watertown, at NCFF. The fiber fair is growing steadily, and has expanded to holding classes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I wasn't able to get there until Saturday, where I taught an All-Day Fair Isle (I'm also teaching that one in North Carolina at SAFF next month). On Sunday, I had a booksigning. I saw old friends, made new ones, bought some fiber, did some knitting, got out the wheel, ate a really good catered supper (the best I've ever had at NCFF), modeled in the style show, and, in general, had a marvelous, and exhausting time (I opted not to spend the night, so driving back and forth was a bit much: 300 miles in 2 days... next time I'll get a room).

So first up: As a fundraiser for NCFF, vendors and spinners donated up to 4ozs of any kind of fiber for the Fiber Sandwich (the only restriction was that it had to be spinnable... in other words, not fresh from the sheep- and yes, I know you can spin in the grease, but that wouldn't have worked for this project). Volunteers (every portion of this event was volunteer), fluffed, distributed, and spread the donated fibers in layers on a table.

I heard that there was about 4lbs of fiber total, every kind: natural wool, dyed wool, llama, angora rabbit, mohair, glitz, camel, silk, and possibly, space alien.

The table full of fluff was divided into 4 oz bags and distributed to the volunteer spinners. The original deadline was to spin the 4ozs of fiber into any kind of yarn the spinner desired, by 1:00pm Saturday. That proved to be just a little bit impossible (an understatement...) so the deadline was extended to 2:00pm on Sunday. I was teaching an all-day class, but with the deadline extension (and knowing that I could squeeze a little spinning in over lunch, during breaks, and after class was over), I signed up, happy to do my part to support NCFF by donating the finished skein to a silent auction at the end of the Fiber Fair. It was a wonderful fund-raising plan, but one that could have been tweaked even further- I wanted to spin that stuff so badly, that I would have PAID to do it... just sayin'...

At any rate, it turned out that I had some blocks of time during the all-day class (as I waited for the students to catch up to me, or each other, so that we could all work on an important step together), that I was able to spin during the day as well. I can spin and talk at the same time, so it worked out fine (in fact, try to get me to shut up... Go ahead... try it...)

Since there was a deadline on the spinning, and I didn't take the time (or have the equipment) to card my fibers, I just grabbed random handfulls, fluffed them a bit more, and spun the stuff as it came. This made for a lumpy/bumpy yarn, which is not my favorite sort of spinning, though I do love the yarns that result from that kind of experimentation. I happened to have a bobbin full of already spun singles, so most of my 4ozs was spun and then plied with those pre-spun singles. But the last bit of leftover fiber sandwich was plied back onto itself. I was given 4 ozs of fiber, and turned in 2 skeins with 5.3 ozs of yarn.

This is my large skein.

Giving 14 spinners the same fiber and telling them to make whatever yarn they like from it, is like giving 14 knitters all the same yarn and telling them to knit. I was fascinated by the different yarns produced by the spinners- all of them beautiful. Here some of them are, drying in the sun, before the auction (washing made a huge difference in these skeins- they were definitely in need of blooming, and the odd whack against the side of the building).

A closeup of one particularly beautiful skein.

Unfortunately, I left on Sunday before the Silent Auction ended, but I saw the signup sheets, and know that every single skein had a bid (some of them hefty), and they raised at least a couple hundred dollars for the fair. Which is wonderful.