Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Great "I WANTS"

The fact of the matter is that I rarely knit anything for myself other than lace shawls and/or socks.

That stinks.

I have a whole mountain of reasons as to why this is true - many of them involving issues that would take years to resolve in therapy - and it's really something that I need to change. After all, if I love my family enough to provide them all with beautiful sweaters, I should do the exact same for myself. Right?!

Enter one new book - Michele Rose Orne's Inspired to Knit - and the fall issue of Vogue Knitting. Between the two sources, there are probably 5 or 6 sweaters that I would love to have. Sooooo beautiful! It seems that classic, timeless looks are back in, and my knitterly heart is just melting.

And so for today, we have the Great I WANTS.

I want to be selfish, and knit only for me.

I want to buy the yarn to make one of those sweaters - even though I have yarn for several other sweaters already.

I want to chuck my current list of works in progress for fantastic sweaters.

I want to be happy with my size so that the mountain of issues would disappear.

I want to be the sort of knitter who cranks out sweater after wonderful sweater for herself.

I want a wardrobe full of classic, stylish handknits.

I want.....

Well, it doesn't matter what I want right now because I have projects that must be attended to and I don't have the resources to go willy-nilly purchasing things just for me right now.

The Green Woman is going to get me for this.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some Patterns Arrive

After an exhaustive search...

Well, ok, I sent my husband to Brooklyn Tweed and had him pick the sweater he wanted. It seemed the simplest method - especially since I knew he wasn't too excited about any of the patterns I already had. To my great delight, he picked Elizabeth Zimmerman's Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan, which I promptly ordered from Schoolhouse Press. I will be using the Kathmandu Aran Tweed I picked up a month or so ago....just as soon as the weather is more conducive to knitting such a cold-weather beast. As I thought it rather silly to pay so much for shipping on a $1 pattern, I also ordered another rare German lace book. I LOVE rare German lace books, and this one is a thriller. I think I may have been drooling when I looked through it for the first time.
Speaking of drooling, I also finally ordered a few patterns from Joan McGowan-Michael of White Lies Designs.
Yes, I let my husband pick out one of the patterns.

No, I will not show you the second and third patterns. You won't be seeing the finished knits, either.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Le Tour De Fleece Wrap Up

As a quick reminder, my goals for Le Tour De Fleece can be found here.

So did I win my Yellow Jersey?

Yes I did!

My stage results:

  1. I easily managed some spinning every day. My husband laughed a couple of times at how little spinning I felt was necessary to fulfill this goal on crazy, busy days (phoning it in, dear?), but he was missing the point. I was not out to spin for a set amount of time each day, but rather to work a daily spinning habit into my life. At that I succeeded quite well. In fact, I rather enjoy that my spinning is now sitting out and is available for any odd moments that I may find. And, as a huge bonus, my hands appreciate the fact that I'm no longer focusing on any one particular craft for an entire day!

  2. My Angel x2 now fills my seven bobbins. Really, this fiber was so well prepared that it practically spun itself. It almost feels like cheating... My hope is that I will have the time this winter to knit all of this yarn up into something absolutely decadent!

  3. My third goal was to fill my spindle, and this is the one goal that I had to reassess during Le Tour. As I've stated, I just had no idea of how long it would take to fill the bobbin. Of the 3 oz. of fiber I started out with, I've only spun about .75 oz despite all of my efforts, and the spindle doesn't look a whole lot different than it did during it's last photo shoot. Granted, if I weren't so ridiculously fond of spinning so fine it might be done by now....but then I'm very satisfied with where this yarn is going. Plus, I am really enjoying the slow pace and the absolute focus that my spindle requires. It's good for me!

  4. When I first made my goals, I had no idea that Angel would fill all of my bobbins. Now, I know there are many ways to wind yarn off of bobbins so that you can keep spinning. I've even heard of some spinners who never own more than the bobbins their spinning wheels came with! (Sounds nuts to me...) I am not one of these people as I prefer to leave the singles on the bobbins until I am ready to help them find their destiny. Which means that none of the blue merino has actually been spun because there is currently nothing to spin it on. HOWEVER, I did predraft it, so it's ready to go. I'm counting this as a win!

So thank you Le Tour De Fleece for the opportunity to overhaul my spinning habits. I have really enjoyed being a part of this community, and I am very happy with the results of my own personal goals!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Making Lemonade

I was awake at 5 this morning - after a long, rough night of little sleep. I tried desperately to get back to sleep....but then when you try desperately to sleep you usually don't. And so I got up, grabbed my knitting bag, fixed a cup of tea and headed out onto the deck to enjoy a little bit of solitude.

It was raining, and I love early mornings in the rain.

Of course, rain is a special blessing when you live so close to the highway. Just beyond that line of trees is a major highway*, and the noise from it normally drives me crazy. Today the rain was just strong enough to silence the road. For me - a farmer at heart - that's a real treat.

I was able to spend an hour in blissful peace and quiet - just me and my needles. I left the iPod inside so that I could enjoy the sound of the rain, and I turned the deck lights off as soon as I could so that I could enjoy the view. What started as a way to escape extreme frustration turned into magic.

And, thanks in large part to that unexpected gift of time, I was able to finish a pair of socks today.

Jeweled Steps, by Cat Bordhi

New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book 1
Claudia Hand Painted Yarns

Fingering Merino, 2 skeins in Blue Terra Cotta

Needles: Knit Picks Harmony DPNs, 2.25mm

May 8 - July 25, 2008

Modifications: Instead of following the pattern, I took the jeweled steps and threw them into the master numbers instructions so that I could get a better fit and use a tighter gauge. It was a very simple modification.

I adore the yarn. I could write epic poems about how I love to watch the colors change and blend in this type of crazy, rainbowy handpaint...about the joy I feel when watching new combinations appear on the needles. Not to mention the fact that this particular yarn is a squishy, soft delight to work with and wear. In short, it's just perfect.

I'm not so crazy about the socks.

I find that Cat Bordhi's toe-up socks fit a bit loose through the arch of my foot, and as I also didn't use as tight of a gauge as I normally use there's an overall slouchiness that will probably drive me up the wall.

The jeweled steps, just by their nature, cause little loose spots on either side of the step. They weren't so bad on the first sock, where the increases for the foot shaping helped work against the gaping, but on the second sock they were pretty atrocious. I tried several methods to fix it, but the fault in the pattern won out in the end.

Mostly, though, I just really hate knitting toe-up socks. Personal preference, I know, and there's no real logic behind it. If I'm being really, REALLY honest, I will admit that I don't like making 'fancy' socks. I prefer plain vanilla socks - a la Ann Budd - that are mindless to make. Socks are normally the one bit of knitting that I don't have to think about. Why I even bother with the patterned ones is beyond me.

However, this does get me one pair closer to my goal of never having to wear store-bought socks again, and the yarn is so lovely that it makes up for everything else!

*You thought I lived in the country, didn't you! Nope, we're just extraordinarily lucky to live in a subdivision built by contractors who understood the value of trees and did an excellent job of protecting as many as they could.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Le Tour De Slow

My third goal with Le Tour De Fleece was to fill my drop spindle.

With only four days left, I might not make it. Apparently, I grossly miscalculated the amount of time I would need. What you see in these pictures is all I've accomplished since the 17th, when my spindle made it's grand appearance here at Green Woman Comes Knocking. I am getting better - and I am learning a lot - but I am very, very slow.

I am starting to realize that this spindle is something I need very badly in my life right now. I think perhaps I will save that topic for a bit later, though. I need to ruminate.

Oh, and Tynan made friends with the shawl today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's a Problem...

This is my knitting bag. It's an Amy Butler Sweet Life bag, and I think it's absolutely beautiful.

The problem is that this is always how full it is. I am a natural pack rat, and I have this weird fear of running out of things to do - or of getting bored - that goes back to childhood. When I was small, I always carried three books to Gram's house. In high school and college my friends referred to my attache cases as 'kitchen sink bags.' Small surprise that my knitting bag is overloaded.

Here is an average-sized 5-year-old child (and an awfully cute one!) for scale.

This is how the bag is supposed to look when full.

But this is how little actually fits into it when full.

And this is how much stuff I had to take out of the bag in order to close it properly.

Where am I going with this?

Last night I was gently admonished by my acupuncturist for carrying a bag that was both too big and too heavy. She had commented last week, but was much more specific this week. It's quite simply too much weight to be putting on my neck, shoulders and back. (I can't even get the strap up on my shoulder most of the time because it's so full.) She's absolutely right, and in fact I have been considering a change for the last month or so. I'm thinking a much smaller backpack would be a better idea - or one of those funky new ergonomic bags.

Time to start looking!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Emily's Firmament

Firmaments Lace Shawl by Bonnie Sennott
Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk, 1 Cone - Olive
Addi Turbo - 3.25mm, 24 inch
June 23, 2008 - July 21, 2008
Finished Size: 46 inch diameter
Modifications: Absolutely None!

Notes: For the first time ever, I didn't come out quite right on the edging. Instead of trying to fix it, though, I fudged it. (The Green Woman doesn't know whether to laugh uproariously or fall over in a dead faint.) In order to make it work, on the last repeat of the edging, I simply did a few double joins instead of singles. While trying to figure out if there was an easily adjustable problem, I did find a place in the edging where I actually goofed. I left it in. (I really pushed the Green Woman over the edge with that one...)

About the pictures: The bed is queen sized (for reference). The last picture is of the shawl blocking on a white sheet - taken for the high contrast so that the pattern shows up well. The color is actually the most acurate in the pre-blocking photo from the preview posted earlier today.

I absolutely love this shawl! It will probably be gifted at some point - especially as I have a second color in mind for this pattern that I would prefer to keep for myself - but for now it is taking it's turn on the back of my husband's grandmother's rocking chair. It's a place of honor that only my favorite shawls get experience!

The Pixie decided to help with the pictures...

And I wound up with what is quite possible my favorite portrait of my daughter.

Emily's Firmaments - A Preview

It's soaking in the sink right now. I'll block it later this morning, and will put up pictures of the finished shawl just as soon as I have them!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Computer Woes

Due to complications - which we've now hopefully fixed - I haven't had Internet access for several days. Silly to say with such a new blog, but I've really missed writing!

Coming up this week:
  1. One finished shawl
  2. A few patterns arrive
  3. Le Tour De Fleece.....Le Tour De Slow
  4. I teach lace classes
  5. The Green Woman and I rediscover our love of musicals
  6. AND Could I actually be loosening up a bit and having fun?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happiness Is...

Seven bobbins full of singles, courtesy of Angel the alpaca from Alpacas d'Auxvasse. Thank You Angel! and Thank You to Ann Mayes, for combining both of Angel's beautiful colors into one glorious roving. Another shot, just because it's so pretty. Don't you just love the way that the caramel and cream blends together?! I believe this is a total of 26.5 oz, but I might have misplaced the tag from one of the bags. Happiness is also my Golding spindle and the merino/bamboo blend from Butterfly Girl Designs on Etsy.
It's not much, but it's a start!
Tomorrow...Knitting Content!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing with the tredle.
Spinning At Last!
Her First Yarn.
Predrafting, So She Can Keep Going!
Miss Princess has been watching me spin for the last week or so with a hungry look in her eye (Makes me wonder what her Green Girl looks like...). She started begging yesterday, and so I decided that today was the day. The wheel is my ancient Ashford Scholar - a long retired model that my parents purchased for me when I was 15. It's a bit of a bear, but I really don't want her messing around with my Lendrum. She really can't hurt this wheel, no matter what she does. Plus, I figure that if she can learn to successfully spin on this old clunker she can spin on anything. The fiber is some needle felting fiber I picked up this summer to use for crafts. Perfect little girl colors!
A few quotes from my new spinner:
"My yarn is perfectly perfect like yours!"
"Can I save my money to buy my own wheel?"
"I LOVE spinning!"
"Will you get me some more fiber?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Seemed an appropriate title given the amount of time I spent spinning while watching the A-Team on Saturdays back in high school!

Last night I prepared the last bag of Angel's roving for spinning. Should all go as planned, I will finish it up tomorrow, thus finishing one of my goals for Le Tour De Fleece. Interestingly enough, by completing this goal I will be forced to deal with another goal - that of filling my drop spindle. Why? I will end up using all of my bobbins for Angel. I'm not entirely sure of how I want to ply all of that alpaca yet, so I'm going to leave it on the bobbins and then focus on my spindle while I think about it.

Thus, a nice, neat plan...courtesy of Le Tour De Fleece and a touch of providence.

In other news, I have finished half of the edging on my shawl! Yipee! I hopefully will have pictures up of the finished shawl by the end of the week!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I walked into my living room to find the Pixie systematically destroying one of her sister's pre-K projects. Apparently she had finally realized that the Princess's beautiful house looked just like a present...and she decided to open it. Perhaps because such moments are so blessedly rare with the Pixie it had never occurred to me that the little house was in danger. I was devastated. That silly little house had been a favorite of mine, and was one I intended to save for The Princess. It had been part of an entire village her class had built - complete with Styrofoam cups full of newly planted grass and cardboard sidewalks. Now it was nothing more than a pile of scrap paper and a goldfish box with sticks glued on top.

Truth be told, I was also worried about what the Princess might do when she found out about her sister's Godzilla impression. Sibling rivalry is also rare in this home, but this is exactly the sort of thing that normally would touch off an explosion.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the Princess announced this morning that she was going to redo her house. There was no anger or sorrow, and I didn't see a morsel of loss or regret. Instead, she seemed quite pleased that she had a project for the day, and was eagerly looking forward to each step of the process. Her father told me that he had offered to help her put the old pieces back together again, but that she had turned him down, having already decided to recreate.
After breakfast, Princess gathered her materials and began meticulously refitting the box with a new paper cover. Wanting to be able to focus on her artwork, she agreed to wait until her sister's nap to decorate the house. As soon as her sister went to bed, she ran for her paints and old clothes while I set up her workstation in the kitchen. Two blissful hours were spent painting and drawing as she redesigned her house.
She was utterly happy. Now I am not often surprised by my children. As their mother, I fancy that I know them better than anyone else, and can usually predict how they will react to any given situation. Today, though, my Princess caught me completely off guard and in the process she taught me a huge lesson.

What I had seen as a complete disaster, my daughter chose to view as an opportunity. The old house had been nice, but had long outlived it's usefulness. Rebuilding it though, now that was something special. (Kind of like Mom and her lace shawls, now that I think about it...) It's all about perspective, and I think I need to work a little bit harder to be more like my child.
And the new house?
It's even prettier than the last.

Progress Reports

I'm actually a tad surprised that I was able to make any progress at all this week. Last night I hosted a Special Meeting for my P.E.O. chapter, and I tend to get more than a bit nutty over the housecleaning whenever I host. The house always winds up in great turmoil for days and days. Add to that my first acupuncture appointment, a practice session for P.E.O., my monthly knitting study group with the guild and a morning babysitting one of the sweetest babies I know and you have a very busy week indeed!

Nevertheless, I have spun up about 8 oz. of my Angel x2 over the last two days, partially because I finally wised up as to the best way to handle these beautiful rovings. It occurred to me earlier this week that it would just be easier to unwind the whole thing at once instead of breaking off chunks as I go. (We just won't think about why it has taken me over a year to figure that one out....) The rovings are so beautifully prepared that I can spin quickly and continuously from the basket in whatever small moments I have available. Sadly, I've not done much of the edging on my Firmaments Lace Shawl. I think I've only managed one or two repeats each day, and with a total of 95 needed I'm certainly not making much progress. In a way, my sudden reticence is a tribute to this shawl. When I love a project, I have a tendency to stall out at the very end. I am, after all, very much a process knitter. Lovely as they may be, finished shawls are not all that useful in the life of a stay at home Mom. Shawls on the needles, on the other hand, are a magical thing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Insomniac Knitting

Last night was really rough for me. I was in bed by 10:15, completely exhausted and hoping for a decent night's sleep. Instead, I got a visit from the Insomnia Monster. Much like the Fear Bugs, the Insomnia Monster had been around for years. I was, in fact, complaining about him in my first journal at age 13.

I finally gave up at 2:30 and got out of bed. I grabbed my knitting bag and iPod and went to the kitchen for about an hour and 15 minutes of quiet knitting time. The happy news is that I finished the body of the Firmaments Lace Shawl, and will be starting on the edging this morning.

The bad news is that I managed less than three hours of sleep last night - and what sleep I did get was fitful at best. Argh.

In other happy news of the creative sort - I am really, really loving Le Tour De Fleece. I have been spinning a bit every morning, and while it may not be much right now it is very, very satisfying.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mix One Crazy Dad With One Crazy Sport

As near as I can remember, my father fell in love with bicycling when I was in middle school. By the time I began high school it had gone from a quite hobby to a full-blown obsession, complete with multiple bikes, insane amounts of gear, and as many bike rides as Dad could fit into his schedule.

I didn't get it.

I didn't get it at all.

What I have come to understand as an adult is that my family shares a unique brand of obsession with our hobbies. We never, ever just dabble in something. No, we almost never just try something. We DO, and we do it completely.

So it shouldn't really have come as a surprise - except for the fact that this was before the family obsessive personality was truly recognized - that Dad not only rode bikes all of the time, but he also watched biking events and read as much as he could about his new chosen sport. He lived and breathed cycling...and he still does.

Back in those days, Greg LaMond was the American hero of the Tour De France. His story was one of overcoming the odds, and that spoke to the farmer boy in my dad. Dad spent hours telling us all about Greg and the Tour, and our family love for the Tour De France began. Later, Dad would became a huge fan of Lance Armstrong's. He even traveled to France during the 2001 Tour so that he could ride the route that the racers would take, and then watch them later in the day. To this day, I think that trip was one of the highlights of his life. More recently, Dad traveled to the BMW training facility to ride with George Hincapie, who is his new biking hero. Last summer Dad followed the Tour of Missouri on his motorcycle - a new event that George easily won. The girls and I joined him downtown the day that a stage ended here, and two new biking fans were born that day. It was amazing!

Although I did the MS150 when I was 14 (That's a story for another day, as it mostly deals with proving someone wrong.), I really haven't shared my Dad's interest in biking. The Tour is the one exception, and it's something that does tie me to my Dad. That's why I'm choosing to celebrate the Tour De France this year by joining Le Tour De Fleece.

That, and I need to use up some fiber!

Stage One Complete

I'm quite happy to report that I did indeed pull out my wheel and spin a bit yesterday. It wasn't much - but it counts! I would like to have done more....more spinning, more knitting, more creating in general...but we had a happy surprise and wound up spending the entire day with family.

The happy surprise was courtesy of one of my Gram's neighbors, who called yesterday morning to find out if we were busy. It turns out that they had decided on a spontaneous trip here to see some of their friends, and she thought that they might as well bring Gram along to see us. We thought it was a wonderful idea, so I called Gram to invite her down. The neighbor had already suggested it, but Gram didn't want to be a bother. Silly Gram. Excellent neighbor.

And so Gram's friends dropped her off when they arrived in town, and we all had a lovely afternoon together. Gram was able to spend quality time with the girls, and I am very grateful that they all had that opportunity. As my husband later pointed out, normally Gram is here with my entire family and she kind of gets shoved into the background. Yesterday she was the center of focus, and our girls doted on her. (The Pixie just informed me that she wants to see Gramma-Great today too.) The cousins who are also in town this weekend came to our house so that Gram could see the little girls all play together. The Princess and her cousin are very close, and Gram thought they were a lot of fun - despite the chaos they tend to create!

As a bonus, I learned something about Gram that I never would have suspected! I found out that Gram played baseball in high school. She had a card in her purse that a friend had sent with a picture of the two of them and one other friend in their baseball uniforms. That was a stunner!

After Gram left, we drove in to my in-laws' home to spend the rest of the day with that side of the family. We only see the cousins two or three times per year, and we always try to do as much with them as we can!

And post about the Tour didn't happen yesterday and it was a very light creative day.

But it was a very, very good day, and we all went to bed happy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Yellow Jersey

My goals for Le Tour De Fleece are:
  1. Spin every day.
  2. Work through all Angel x2 alpaca fiber.
  3. Fill my drop spindle.
  4. Begin spinning blue merino

My reasons for said goals are:

  1. I really want to make sure that spinning is a daily habit - and not a victim of random spurts as it is now.
  2. I have already started spinning this beautiful fiber, and want to make sure that it is as consistent as possible - which means spinning it all up at the same time. Angel is a lovely two-toned Huacaya Alpaca roving from Alpacas d'Auxvasse. (Yes, the alpaca's name is Angel.) I purchased some of it through our local guild sale last December, and then quickly fell in love and contacted the farm to purchase everything bit they had left. I began with 26.2 oz., and have only spun up about 6 of that.
  3. Until last summer I had never spun on a drop spindle. I was back to spinning again after a tenish year hiatus, and had quickly discovered that my beloved old wheel just wasn't going to cut it anymore. At 15 I had been able to do whatever I wanted on it. At 34, I needed a wheel with more versatility. While I was contemplating my options, I ordered a drop spindle from *Golding Fiber Tools, selecting a 1.3 oz butterfly. I love that silly spindle, but I've not given it the time it deserves.
  4. I have my reasons.

Tomorrow: My family's obsession with the Tour De France.

*Drat the luck, I just looked at their website, and they have some GORGEOUS new designs! SOoooo tempting!

I Love Alpaca, But Alpaca Does Not Love Me

Memory is a tricky thing.

When I think about alpaca, all I remember is my love for it. In fact, I can become quite rhapsodic when discussing all of the merits of alpaca - from it's softness to the subtle halo. I love it quite dearly, and often it's the first thing I seek out in a yarn store.

Of course, all of that comes crashing to the ground somewhere in the middle of a large alpaca project when I find myself wondering why my hands are so very dry - bordering on the painful. Then I remember, alpaca sucks the moisture from my hands like no other fiber, and I'm going to have to fight that until the end of the project.

The horrible dryness hit a couple of days ago, and yesterday the skin on the tip of my left index finger split open just a wee hair. As knitting injuries go it's minor, but it does hurt.

And so there will be no frantic marathonesque knit to the finish to complete the shawl by my guild meeting on Tuesday night. I have 3.25 repeats of the last lace pattern to complete and then the edging, which is a bit much given the circumstances. Ah well....

Really, I don't know that I'm going to have the time to finish this weekend anyway. We have a fun-filled weekend with the cousins planned, and I can't imagine much knitting is going to happen. I also have a rather large to-do list for this week, with most of the items being responsibilities that just can't be put matter how much I'd rather be knitting!

If the shawl weren't so pretty, and if I weren't quite so anxious to see it finished....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tour De Fleece

My poor spinning wheel has been feeling rather neglected lately. I'm prone to spinning in short - albeit intense - bursts of activity, and my recent focus on a certain green shawl has pushed everything else aside. (I would really like to finish it by my next guild meeting.) She really deserves better from me.

Enter Le Tour de Fleece.

I had heard about the Tour last year, and thought it sounded like a lot of fun. After all, this event combines spinning - one of my favorite things - with the Tour de France - one of my family's favorite things. When I came across a link to this year's Tour, I felt that familiar little nudge from my Green Woman, and so I decided to sign right up.

I have a few different goals in mind, and am mulling over which of them could prove to be the most fun. I will announce them the day before Le Tour de Fleece officially kicks off, and will also provide a bit of our family bicycling history as well.

Until then....back to knitting!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Magic

There were fairies in my backyard today....


So did anyone else notice that I photographed my Sunrise Scarf upside down?

Odd, that.