Monday, December 12, 2011

Starting Points

Today I found the first thing I ever spun and knitted. Ready? Here it is.


Check out the texture.


At the time I was totally new to both spinning and knitting. I remember that spinning felt like slow going, but I was so excited that I took my spindle everywhere and worked on it whenever I had a spare minute. There is a certain bench on the UC Berkeley campus that is inextricably linked in my mind with this cornflower blue fiber.

At the time, I was incredibly proud of this scarf. Nowadays, I recognize its flaws, but there's also something about it that still excites me. The thick-and-thin yarn is wonderfully cushy and full of character. The finished item is short and oddly shaped, but it's everything a scarf needs to be: warm, soft, comforting. I just might mix it into my winter wardrobe this year.

Do you still have your first FO, whether knitted, woven, spun, or crocheted? What was it? How did you feel about it then, and how do you feel about it now? What did you learn from making it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why I haven't been spinning

It suddenly seems as though a ridiculously long time has gone by since I made any new yarn. What's my excuse?

Well, for most of October and November, I was in another country.


Make that TWO other countries.


I did bring some knitting, but, strangely, had almost no time to work on it. I churned out a couple of hexapuffs for the Beekeeper's Blanket, but that's about it.

Even when I got back, I couldn't just sit down at the wheel. Know why?


Because I had a brand new unfinished spinning wheel waiting for a few coats of oil before I could use it! Sure, I could have done some spinning on the old wheel, but I suddenly found that I was saving all the good fiber for the new one.


I finally got a coat of tung oil onto her last week. I'm afraid she'll have to wait for spring to get the's just too smelly and drippy a project to do indoors. But I did finally get to start spinning.


This wheel is a Tina II made by Jerry Jensen. I can't express in words how excited I am to have this wheel! She's so pretty, and so smooth. I love knowing that she was made just for me by a single craftsman. I love her so much, I'm calling her "she", which is something that has always kind of made me roll my eyes in the past, when other spinners do it. But I can't help it...she's a "she". I have come to understand.

Maybe the awesomest part--well, okay, not the awesomest part, but an awesome part--is the date stamp. Check it out. Magic!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

weekends are for ...

Swatching and blocking!

Up until a year ago, these were the parts of knitting I just hated.  Well, not so much hated as just didn't do.  But when I started doing stranded colorwork I had to get over this, and these days swatching is one of my favorite parts of knitting.  A swatch is tiny and fast, and so full of potential can swatch before you know whether you're swatching for a cowl or a sweater or a sweater with a crazy huge cowl neck or, I dunno, a refrigerator cozy.  A swatch is a little tiny nugget of pure knitting fantasy.

What do you think this will grow up to be?  I don't know yet, but I do  know this:  The book this came from, Barbara Walker's Charted Knitting Designs, is very dangerous.  It's basically the Kama Sutra of knitting books:  It will make you suddenly want to try, right now, things that never would've occurred to you otherwise.

These days (ie, the days near Christmas), I try to be a little more reliable than I usually am about sticking with one pattern until it's finished.  (Okay, maybe two or three.  But no more, seriously.)  Swatching is a great way to relieve just a little of that monotony without getting myself totally off-track.

Blocking is satisfying for the exact opposite reasons.  It has a finality to it.  As someone who's terrible at finishing projects, I feel a massive sense of achievement every time I pin down a completed project to dry.  (Hah!  Take that, stupid procrastinating brain.)  Not to mention ... it just looks nicer.  Here's a scarf I finished a couple weeks ago; I'm not showing you the whole thing because shhh, it's a christmas present!  I knit it from the bottoms up, blocked both ends, then knit a little more in the middle, grafted the two pieces together and blocked the whole thing again.  I don't have before and after pictures, but I have in-between and after pictures:

Yes, that's right:  I love blocking so much that I blocked this scarf twice.  I wanted the two ends to be exactly the same length as each other, and the whole thing to be as close to 60'' as I could make it, so I blocked when I was most of the way done to get a better feeling for the final dimensions.  Anyhow, isn't it amazing how blocking smooths things out so nicely?

What's your favorite weekend knitting?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Self-Imposed Spinning Club 2012

My goal for the rest of 2011 is to finish various spindle-spinning WIPs I have going, because I've got some big plans in store for 2012. In particular, I have...a lot of spindles. I also have...a lot of stash. I took some inspiration from the Yarn Harlot's self-imposed sock club, in which she pairs twelve stashed skeins of sock yarn with twelve patterns, and gives herself a surprise pair of socks to knit every month.

I'm doing a similar thing, but with spindles and fiber. I'm pairing up twelve spindles with twelve bits of fiber in the stash, and I'll choose one to work on every month at random. I'm hoping I haven't completely sabotaged myself with overambition, because many months have two ounces of fiber or less as the spinning goal, but there are a few months with four ounce bumps assigned. It should be fun! I've taken photos of my plans, and I'll share a few here because they're just so pretty!



The great thing is that this is much of my stash that is destined for the spindle instead of the wheel. Several of the projects fit into my grandiose spinning goals of spinning enough to weave a blanket and spinning enough laceweight for an Estonian-type shawl. The rest are just for fun and beauty and joy and all of that good stuff.


Is anyone else thinking about goals for 2012? I have a few in addition to this spinning one. I want to knit/crochet with my handspun more. I want to continue with my on-the-go stockinette socks, plus knit some patterned socks I've been thinking about for a while. I want to crochet another afghan. I'm going to keep on with my hexapuff blanket. All sorts of good stuff coming down the pike in 2012.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading

Urban homesteading sounds like an insufferably hipsteresque pastime involving microgreens on fire escapes and furtive beekeeping, yet I found myself doing demonstrations on how to be a homesteader at the Union Square Farmer's Market a couple weekends ago. Turns out it was fun!

My angle for the homesteading was, of course, fiber artsy in nature. What other homesteading activities were there, you might ask? There was one table concerned with food preservation, canning vegetables, making jams and chutnies, and doing cooking demos with said preserved foods. My mom and I used to make jam together when I was younger, and it made me nostalgic for that. It would be fun to get into again sometime when I live someplace where the kitchen appliances aren't in the living room.


Another table was all about urban mycology. Avant garde composer John Cage (the guy with the piece of music which is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence) founded the New York Mycological Society, which was later led by the fabulous woman I lived with my first go-around living in New York, and they are still going strong. They had beautiful mushroom soup to share, which was made of mostly store bought mushrooms but some gathered as well. Back when I lived with my mushroom-hunting roommate, she would make me food sometimes with ingredients she found in Central park--berries and mushrooms. It's a little squick-inducing because of how many dogs and people use the park as a restroom, but I always tried not to think about it. Now I walk through Central Park almost every day, and though I don't eat anything I find, I do love observing what kind of stuff lives and grows there.


There were a lot of fiber arts going on. I brought my inkle loom, since it's little and I doubted many people had seen one before. Lots of people had lots of questions--including many of the fiber artists in attendance. Inkle weaving is a lot of fun, and while you're certainly not going to clothe your urban homesteading family in cloth from it, I suppose you could be self sufficient in the shoelace and guitar strap sectors of your life?


The other demos involved spinning via spindle and wheel, a little bit about natural dyes, rug making, knitting, crocheting, and needle felting.


I love the little needle felted gnomes, and I found it hilarious that they had little butts. I mean, of course they have butts, but since I don't really do sculptural kinds of things, it's somehow hilarious to me to think of the needle felter working specifically on shaping the butt. What can I say, I'm twelve sometimes.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Rhinebeck Recap

What's great about Rhinebeck?


The animals. Without the animals it's really just Yarn Mall. Not that Yarn Mall is a bad thing, but this sign is no joke.


It's not just the alpacas, though, I love them all:





The events. I actually did a lot more event going than I have in years past. I hardly shopped at all on Saturday, in fact! The Make It With Wool fashion show was not as good as the Maryland Sheep and Wool fashion show/sheep parade, but still, I love seeing people in their best of their handmade duds. I didn't take this photo of the Leapin' Llama contest, and it's from a few years ago, but it gives an amazing sense of the hilarity of this contest.

llama limbo
(photo by Tchotchkes)

Learning new stuff. Two years ago I got to try spinning on a pendulum wheel. One year ago I got to try Jonathan Bosworth's reproduction of a Han Dynasty spinning wheel on which one could spin two threads simultaneously. This year I tried something a little more mundane, which is inkle weaving. The upside of its seeming mundane-ness is that when I was totally charmed by it, I could easily give it another go. Behold my new toy, made by Threads Thru Time out of some gorgeous Ambrosia Maple.


Hanging out with friends. I was so glad fellow blogger Emily could come this year, rocking her amazing vest and laughing at the length of the Sanguine Gryphon line on Saturday morning. My dear friend Katy came this year for the first time, and although I'm not sure she met her goal of petting a sheep while eating some sheep, I'm pretty sure she did both separately. My husband also came for the first time and was completely won over by pygora goats. Convenient, since pygora goat ownership is an aspiration for me.


The people watching! It's Yarn Prom! I should have gotten some photos of the amazing knitwear I saw this year. My favorite sweater I saw was a pullover with a colorwork yolk that was done to look like a Greek amphora. Pure genius.

Dancing girls on an ancient Greek amphora at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
(photo by Ben Sutherland)

The food. No holds barred. Fried pickles, maple cotton candy, garlicky sauteed artichokes, beans and escarole, cheese and wine tastings, caramel apples, unfried pickles, and some birthday apple crisp.


The shopping. Indeed, there was some shopping. I didn't buy a single full skein of yarn, but I did pick up some miniskeins for the Beekeeper's Quilt. Then, there were the spindles and fiber...

This spindle (a featherweight Bosworth in swamp kauri) and fiber (alpaca/silk from Gale's Art) came home with me.

And a silk hankie from Miss Babs

Some other goodies, too. It really is my favorite weekend of the year, what else can I say?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rhinebeck Vest

If you are a woman who's ever been pregnant before, you'll probably disagree with what I have to say next and possibly hate me for it, but:  the worst thing about being pregnant is that none of my clothes fit me.

To clarify, I've been unbelievably lucky so far in terms of side effects:  no morning sickness for me.  In fact, I've been hungry all the time since day one.  Oh, and uncomfortably warm too.  Thank god it's fall.

So, rather than making a Rhinebeck sweater this year, I went with a Rhinebeck vest.  I wanted something that I could wear with a 30-week-pregnant belly, but that I could also wear when I revert to a non-pregnant state.  I just hate the idea of buying or making clothes that I can only wear for a few months.  (So, mostly, I don't.  I have one pair of maternity jeans (pictured below, natch) that I wear everyday, one bra that fits, and six t-shirts from target.)

Oh, right, the vest.  I wanted the sporty look of a down-stuffed nylon vest, without the bulkiness (or the zippers that no longer close over my belly.  grumble grumble.)  So I went with simple cables on the front and the back, and ribbing on the sides; the cable twists are positioned to create some simple diagonal vees.  Another advantage of this approach to cabling is that I never had to count rows to figure out when to twist; every RS row, I twisted in the column next to my previous twist.  

To make the vest a little more modern, I added a tall, double-thick collar which is a different color on the inside.  (DH thinks "handknit sweatervest" is practically the definition of old-person clothing.  Then again, he wears socks with sandals.)  The yarn is Quince&co Osprey in Peacoat and Bird's Egg.  Aren't the colors fabulous?  I think of navy blue as an incredibly boring color, but I just love how saturated Peacoat is.  Osprey is a delicious aran-weight yarn which comes in fabulous colors and is both made locally (in Maine) and surprisingly affordable.  I loved working with it and it knit up super quickly on size ten needles.  I'm a little worried about pilling at this gauge, but at this point, there's nothing to do but wait and see!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Clay Crochet and a Yarn Frog

On Saturday my friend Katy and I were wandering around Philadelphia after a delicious visit to the Reading Terminal Market and a horrifying visit to the Mütter Museum, and we stumbled upon Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. I was familiar with the artist responsible for this place, Isaiah Zagar, because I've seen the documentary about him, In a Dream. I have no idea when, where, or why I saw this documentary, which is perhaps a testament to both my shoddy memory of media I consume and the sheer volume of documentaries I've watched. It was a very fun place to walk around. It reminded me a little of the City Museum in St. Louis in its wacky artist's vision sort of vibe, although I have to say the City Museum wins out for its dangerous jungle gym appeal.

Magic Gardens is beautiful, though. Lots of passageways to explore.


More visual stimuli than anyone can possibly know what to do with.



Now, you might have spied in the last photo the thing that really caught my eye here. Zagar uses a technique where he presses crocheted and other lace items into the clay tiles he makes. They are so beautiful and I just started taking photos of them everywhere.




Given just how many of these tiles you can find in Magic Gardens, Zagar is clearly fascinated by the textures of lace fabrics. There's a positive and negative space thing going on in the tiles that seems to play on what's special about lace fabrics. Lace fabric is doubly interesting for what it can do with light--diffuse it, dapple it, etc, which I guess makes it a little more magical to me than these tiles. Still, I love these tiles and bought one in the gift shop!

My other fun find this weekend was at the NY Aquarium in Coney Island, NY. I was there running a 5K charity race for turtle conservation (appropriate, given my running speed). We toured the aquarium after the race and I met this adorable frog who wanted to pose with my on-the-go sock in progress.


So cute. The next post you'll be seeing from me will no doubt be a Rhinebeck recap. Is this the year I finally buy a fleece? What other treasures will come home with me? How many sheep will I pet and how much maple cotton candy will I eat? Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm a little jealous of my cobloggers' spinning abilities for one particular reason:  color control.  I love yarns with long, subtle color-changes (well, who doesn't?) and the sight of all the different varieties of hand-dyed roving at fiber festivals is almost enough to make me want to learn a new hobby.  And then I remind myself that I already have 8 different knitting projects that I consider to be works in progress ...

And speaking of works in progress, I recently decided that I needed to make a baby surprise jacket.  Out of yarn that went through a long color change between green, teal, blue, purple and fuscia.  It had to be exactly those colors in exactly that order.  I don't know why my mind produces such unreasonably specific demands.  Can you imagine me calling around to local yarn stores, asking if they have a fingering-weight or sport-weight yarn in exactly those colors?  And it should be mostly wool too?

In this kind of situation, one has little choice but to take matters into one's own hands.  Fortunately for me, I had already planned a trip to see my friend and fellow mathematical knitter sarah-marie, recent proud owner of a sock-knitting machine and kool-aid/easter-egg-dying-enthusiast.  Unfortunately for me, she laughed at my incredibly specific color demands.

But the internet didn't!  The internet said I could have whatever freaking colors I wanted, if I bought Wilton's food dye in the right shades.  (This knitty tutorial was a great resource.)  I won't bore you with the color mixing details (they're on my ravelry stash page if you want 'em); but I mixed 'em up and mashed them into my sock blank and nuked them in sarah-marie's microwave until it looked like the colors had set; and the result was everything I'd hoped for, with a cherry on top.

(What I really love about this shot is how you can see that my bra and tank top exactly match two of the colors I'm dying with.)

From there, it was a simple matter of finding enough patience to wait for the (no longer blank) blank to dry and unraveling.  Something magical happened to the yarn at this step; the pure saturated colors that were visible on the blank became more subtle and just barely speckled when the yarn was unwound.

I can't wait to see what this yarn looks like knit up!  The BSJ it will eventually turn into is for our very own baby surprise, arriving this December if everything goes according to plan.  We don't know yet whether it's a girl or a boy -- yet another reason why this yarn is perfect.  Aren't surprises great?

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I'm excited about something, I can really tear through it -- I charted, swatched and knit these mittens in less than a month this last winter.   I even had a first draft of the pattern out to a test knitter less than a month after that!  And then ... then I dropped the ball.  Maybe even forgot, for a while, that there was a ball there at all.

Happily, the imminent arrival of fall got me back in gear on getting this pattern out.  After all, this is definitely a seasonal pattern!  (Didn't you know winter is octopus season?)  I posted it for sale on ravelry last week, and have really enjoyed watching people get excited about it.  It's not my first published pattern  -- that honor goes to a knitted cross-cap -- but it's my first pattern that people other than me and my test-knitters have knit.  (As far as I know.  If you're out there with a cross-cap you haven't posted on ravelry yet -- get on it!  I'd love to see it.)

A big part of what makes these mittens so great is the yarn -- Traveller from the Sanguine Gryphon.  Ask anyone I've been wine tasting with, and they'll tell you that I'm not great at the adjective game, so I'll be brief:  this yarn is sturdy and soft and warm, and it comes in awesome colors.  And!  St. Tropez, the blue colorway in these mittens, is sadly a discontinued colorway, but ... it is making a reappearance!  A limited quantity of Traveller in St. Tropez is going on sale on sale Monday September 26 at approximately 9pm EDT.  And probably selling out shortly thereafter!  Seriously, I will try to leave some for you, but I do love this color and don't know how long I'll be able to control myself.  (The orange yarn, colorway Costa Rica, is a regular color and not at risk of disappearing soon).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!

I highly recommend reading this blog post while listening to this song:

I'm not a Mets fan in particular (or of any team now that the Montréal Expos are defunct, to be honest), but I love fight songs, and there aren't many MLB teams that have them. Last night was the annual Stitch 'N Pitch game at CitiField, Mets v. Nationals. It wasn't the most eventful game, though it did end on an unusual uncaught third strike play. Moreover the Mets lost, but that's not really the point, right?

For one, we go for the swag. This year we got there a little late, and the only swag left were the cross stitch canvases.

I also go because it allows me to hilariously enforce the knitting rule with my husband: if we're in the knitting section at a baseball game, you must knit. He got a good three rows done, almost completely unassisted and with no refresher needed, on the garter stitch scarf he's been working on for years and years.

Oddly enough, I didn't get a good photo of him, myself, or the other knitters I was with, but this brings me to my next point: we go for the people watching!


That's a lovely granny square in progress along with some Mets-themed yarn bombing along the railings. It was all around the main entrance to the stadium and our section.


That's a team of women wearing matching shirts and all crocheting with the same pink yarn. Gotta love it!

In the great tradition of knit blogging, I had to get photos of my sock-in-progress with some of the colorful characters regulars at Mets games may have come across before: Cowbell Man and Pin Man. They both have official jerseys designating them as such, in case you were wondering.