Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking After Mommy

I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent playing 'school' as a child. When I walked by my daughter's room the other day and saw this delightful scene, my heart took a little leap. (We'll talk about the mess later....)

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Dream Begins To Come True

A package arrived yesterday.
A very small package that easily fit in the mailbox.
Inside were three tiny skeins of yarn.

3 very special skeins of yarn from Heirloom Knitting.
350 yards of Shetland Supreme.
480 meters of Gossamer Merino.
And 725 meters of Gossamer CashSilk.
They embarrass this sock yarn with their daintiness and delicacy.

They excite me with the possibility.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Next Two

It's past time to start considering the next couple of sweaters for NaKniSweMoDo. As you know, I finished the first two in January, and took February off so that I could focus on the alpaca show. Now that the end is in sight, I'm read to move on.

Here are the two I'm considering.

Town and Country, from A Fine Fleece - made with Cascade 220 in a green heather.

Or,

Ylva, by Elsebeth Lavold, in some silky wool of a long discontinued color that I earned several years ago by knitting a store sample. It would feel good to use up that yarn!
I have a list of pros and cons for both, but at this point it's still six of one....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Changing My Mind

I planned. I swatched.



I didn't like the swatch at all.



I found something better.



Thank You Ravelry!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Dreaming Of Spring

I would like to point out that I am not tired of the winter for conventional reasons. Rather, this year I'm sick to death of winter because we never had winter. It's barely snowed, never iced and been moderate in temperature. You would think I would be rejoicing. But I love the winter in all of it's cold, snowy glory...and I hate it when we get a seasonless season. Instead of the snow and ice I can at least appreciate, all we got was gray.

And so now that it's warming even a bit, my thoughts are turning towards spring. For this knitter, spring means lace. After finishing my last shawl, I immediately cast on for Anne Hanson's Lacewing Shawl. The yarn is Liisu Yarns (Now the Unique Sheep) Laceweight in Meadowlight. I had purchased the yarn almost two years ago, and am glad now that I bought every skein that my LYS had as it's a yarn no longer in production. To my great delight, I think it's prettier knit up than it was in the skein - which isn't always the case with hand dyed yarns. I am eagerly looking forward to the insects around the bottom. They may get a special treatment...

My lace dreams are strong enough that I'm thinking about waking my Forest Path stole from its long slumber. No, it's not the most terribly interesting thing to knit, but it will be pretty. This is a stole I can see myself wearing often...and so I would like to finish it. In all honesty, the yarn haunts me. I spent a lot of money to buy the exact yarn the pattern called for because I wanted this stole so badly...and it's just sat for almost four years. It's time to get busy.
A good friend gave me this gorgeous skein of yarn for my birthday. (I'm feeling a bit lazy this morning, so I'm not going to go look up the details now.) It took very little searching to find a pattern that was perfect for it. It's only a 4 row repeat, and so this may become my 'mindless' lace for the spring. I can't wait until this shawl full of sunshine is finished.
But it's not enough to just work on the things I've already started. I really enjoyed working with the Claudia Hand Painted yarn on my last shawl - dye problems aside. I have four skeins of "Strawberry Latte" waiting for a project, and I have beads that go very well with it. I may have to spend some time today perusing Ravelry for pattern ideas - although I'm oddly tempted to do another version of Miralda's Shawl with beads instead of nups. Any suggestions?
I have one other piece of lace in mind...but I think I'll wait a few days before I talk about it.
Spring and lace, could any other combination be more perfect?

What Followed Me Home

We spent this last weekend at home on the farm with my parents. My father had shoulder surgery a week ago, and - while it wasn't as serious as they had feared - he did need some help around the farm and the distraction of grandchildren. My Mother is also partially laid-up right now with a broken bone in her foot. She can still get around fairly easily, but she shouldn't be.

My husband and I spent a lot of time blissfully working on the farm. Well, at least I was blissful. Who knows what he felt! The children spend their weekend entertaining two adoring grandparents.

On Saturday, Mom and I escaped the house for a bit to run some errands. Mom's been quite naturally cooped up for the last week, and she needed to get out. I suggested a trip to the neighboring town of Liberty so that we could visit the yarn and bead shops that coexist in a wonderful place called Corbin Mill. Sometimes you just need to be surrounded by beauty for a little while!

This one skein of Schaefer Anne just had to come home with me. I fell in love as soon as I picked it up, although it's quite out of my normal range of colors. Perhaps this signals the start of another color shift?

For those of you who are curious, it's "Sock the Vote" in "Michele." Mom came home with a skein of "Hillary" which was my second choice. If I could have justified it.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How This Happened

First, I should clarify.

I am not a quilter. Not by a long shot. Not in the way that I'm a Knitter or a Spinner. I appreciate quilting, but I have no interest in becoming a Quilter. It's just not my thing. In fact, I believe I've mentioned before how little I enjoy sewing. No, if you want a Quilter....speak to my Mom or my husband's aunt.

Rather, I am someone who just happens to make a quilt every once in a while. To be precise, I've made two. The first, seen here, is a simple patchwork that I made the summer before I began college for my dorm room. In fact, my roommate came to spend a weekend with me and we made a similar quilt for her as well. The second, often seen in the background, is a strip pieced log cabin which I made sevenish years ago for our bed. In all honestly, it is poorly quilted and falling apart from much use and love. When it became apparent that it needed to be replaced I did not jump at the chance to make another, but rather asked my Mom to do that for me.

So what could possibly have caused my knitterly heart to go nuts over some fabric and a pattern?

I blame two things.
First, The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket. I fell head over heals for this book when it first hit the shelves last fall. Ask my BKB...every time I went to Barnes & Noble I would pour over the lovely pictures in great delight. I was obsessed! I couldn't quite justify the purchase, though, so I put it on my wish list and hoped. To my great delight, my in-laws purchased it for me for Christmas. It quickly became my evening reading - tucked into bed with my rice bag at my feet and a mug of tea at my side. At it's heart, this book is a testament to all that makes home life beautiful, and I eagerly devoured each page. The one thing that surprised me was how attracted I was to Brocket's quilts. Each chapter has a quilt, and they are far from the traditional quilts that most of us are familiar with. Bright, bold and rather simple in design they are for her a type of living, usable scrapbooks. (It's no surprise at all that Kaffe Fassett is a major inspiration for her.) I had never thought about quilts in this way, and found myself both charmed and oddly attracted to the idea of making these gems.

This is where my second inspiration, The Wooden Spool, comes in. The Wooden Spool is a lovely quilt shop in Excelsior Springs, MO (my hometown) that happens to be owned by a woman who grew up in my church with me. Jamie is just a couple years older than I, and she and her sister were constant playmates during my childhood - although Jamie was just enough older to have that mysterious 'grown-up' air about her. My mother used to make Jamie's Easter dresses, and as soon as the store opened she became one of it's biggest fans. Anymore, it's just about the only place Mom shops for fabric. I had no idea when we were younger that Jamie was a Quilter, but it is obvious that she loves her handwork, her shop and all of the people involved.
We go to visit The Wooden Spool almost every time I go home, and I'm always a bit of a joke...the knitter who hates to sew, but who might be tempted at any minute. Last Thanskgiving I finally fell. My mother, my brother's girlfriend and I all went to the shop so that Mom and Erin (Actually, both my brother and his girlfriend are named Erin, but that's a story for another day.) could pick out fabric for a quilt. Now that Mom's made one for us, it's my brother's turn after all. I always make a beeline for the fat quarter selection, having a strange fascination with these little bundles. This time, though, my eye was drawn beyond the fat quarter bin to a bench just beyond it, on which sat the most glorious group of fabric I had ever seen. AND, it had a fat quarter bundle that was well in my price range! I left without it, though. I did purchase two or three individual fat quarters from the group, but I didn't really want/know what to do with the entire collection.
But I couldn't get it out of my mind.
Armed with an imagination full of Jane Brocket's quilts, Mom and I went back in January. The rest is history. I can't wait to get to work....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10 Things I Want To Do When I'm Finished With The Alpaca

First, a picture of my bedroom - to which the alpaca has been relocated. Why? Excessive Glitter in the kitchen and living room. My List:
  1. Start my third sweater for the year - Town & Country from A Fine Fleece.
  2. Spring Cleaning!
  3. Sort the girls' clothes.
  4. Spin something for myself!
  5. Go to the park with the girls
  6. Sew up a bunch of my project bags. I need more, and several friends have asked if I would make them for sale.
  7. Work on my quilt.
  8. Finally put together my beaded necklace.
  9. Go on a Charles De Lint book binge.
  10. Spend quality time with both girls - playing with the Pixie and reading with the Princess.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What's Up With The Pins?

I finished a pair of basic socks today, and rather than do a typical "Finished Object" post, I thought I would instead answer the most common question generated by my knitting. (Although, if anyone is curious these were made from an old skein of Opal, on 2.25 mm patterns using my Ann Budd pattern.)

So what is up with the pins?

Simple, really. As I've stated before, I have some OCD tendencies. One of those is an obsession with 'perfection' in one form or another. For socks, that means that they have to be absolutely the same size - no winging it with a ruler. I put a pin into a stitch on my very first row, and then mark every 10th row after that. When the leg is as long as I'd like, I put a final pin in and move quickly through the heel and gusset. Another pin goes into the stitch made by the last gusset decrease, and then I mark the foot as I did the leg. Not only does this create matching socks, but it also gives me a template for future socks. I know, for example, that my Dad favors socks with 85 rows in the leg and 55 in the foot. You see, it has lots of benefits!

Now back to the alpaca.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

10 Things I've Learned From Judging Alpaca - So Far

1. Those cleanliness points? They really DO matter. When I started, I thought it was rather ridiculous that a full 10 points was devoted to cleanliness - especially as vital things like crimp and staple only receive 5. Now I know better. Nothing kills the process like a sample of alpaca loaded with dirt, veggie matter and/or poo.

2. Check that, one other thing kills the process, and that is scent. Wow. I worked on an otherwise fantastic sample today that was giving off a rancid, nastiness so bad that all I could think was please God, let's get this one done fast so that I can put it back in the bag!

3. You can learn a lot about the owner of the alpaca by how the fiber is presented. Generally speaking, the cleaner and more neatly packed the sample the better the conditions the alpaca is likely to live in. I'm making a broad assumption here (the samples come to me completely blind), but I'd be willing to bet the farm on it.

4. Also, the better the presentation the more likely the owner is to be concerned about their fiber business.

5. There is a marked difference between each of the color groups. Again this is just a guess, but I think certain characteristics - such as crimp - are probably carried along with color genes. Some colors have more guard hair than others, some have markedly better crimp, and some tend towards a better hand. It's very interesting!

6. Along with that, I'm guessing that white tends towards a certain consistency because breeders have worked to develop it so that they have an easily dyed fiber.

7. Just because a sample has some fantastic qualities doesn't necessarily mean it will spin well. Vice versa, samples that score lower can surprise you and be a delightful spin. You should never make assumptions about anything.

8. There's no point in showering or dressing before doing this job. No matter what, you end up covered in veggie matter and smelling like alpaca - which is never pleasant. Bless my husband, he's had to deal with a scraggly, stinky wife since this started - and he has at least another two weeks to go.

9. It turns out that being a spin-off judge is a remarkable dieting tool. As my BKB said, you just don't want to touch food when you've been handling stinky fiber all day and are filthy yourself! On a serious note, though, it is exactly what I needed to distract myself from the constant attention to all of my food issues, and I'm grateful for that. I'd much rather worry about a work deadline than my waistline!

10. I have found that I am considerably more productive now that I'm operating with a 'work' schedule. It's forced me to be considerably more focused in every other aspect of my life, and so I'm getting more done than I would have thought possible.

Twoish more weeks to go!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Day For Love....and Glitter

Presenting...the 5th annual Valentine Card extravaganza!

When the Princess was 2, I bought $50 in supplies at our local Michaels for her playgroup to make homemade valentines. The other children - largely assisted by their mothers - each made one or two before wandering off to play. My daughter was having so much fun that she proceeded to spend the entire day making 29 beautiful valentines. That's right, a 2-year-old child spent 7 HOURS making art. We were charmed, the recipients loved their valentines and now we have a very special tradition.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Plan Fulfilled

Last spring I bought myself a beautiful trench coat in a shade of blue which hovers somewhere between Robin's Egg and Tiffany and Turquoise. I'm not sure what drew me to the coat first - the blue, or the deep chocolate brown top stitching. It's meant to be a coat that lasts forever.

From the beginning, I knew my coat needed - and deserved - some sort of chocolate brown knit lace to go with it. I found the yarn late last summer, and then the project was set aside for a while as I focused on more pressing projects. Then Nancy Bush's fabulous new book was published, and I knew I had found the pattern. Yet, it still just sat. Why? Once again, I tried to do something that my heart knew wasn't right. My head wanted beads - some beautiful blue beads that matched perfectly - and so I spent months trying to figure out how to best incorporate the beads into the pattern. Silly me.

I picked up the shawl at the end of January, ripped out the beaded mess and started over. I thought it would take me months to finish because I was in the midst of sweater frenzy. In fact, I had barely cleared edging pattern by last week.

Then, I took it home with me, and it became my perfect vacation knitting. I started Friday night, and finished Sunday morning. Perfect. The yarn has been difficult to photograph - often appearing washed out. I was pleased to capture this image. My blue coat is a bit paler than in real life, but the yarn is the gorgeous chocolate I fell in love with. Check out my new shawl pin, too!

In the end, the shawl is the perfect size for the coat - big enough to do what it needs to do, but not so much that it overwhelms the coat. (And thank you to the birds for loaning me the bird feeder hook long enough to take a picture.)

Really, this particular pattern is more about texture than about lace. The large diamonds are full of nups, and the textured stitch pattern at the top is a marvel. I'm completely in love with the balance of the design and the beauty of the finished project. We knitters should be so lucky with every project.
Just for fun - a picture of the shawl as soon as it came off the needles.
The required blocking photo, which always feels silly, but shows off the detail work beautifully.
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, Fingering Weight in Chocolate - 3 1/2 skeins
Needles: Addi Turbo US 6, 32 inch
Finished Size: 58 inches across top, 29 inches from center back to bottom point
Time to Knit: January 20 - February 8, 2009
There was only sad moment to this whole process. While I adore Claudia Hand Painted Yarns for their incredible color work and the feel of the yarn, I have to be honest and say that in my experience they are not the most colorfast of yarns. I've had a pair of socks fade beyond belief after just a few washings, and knew this chocolate would be a problem. My hands looked bruised by the time I finished the shawl because so much had rubbed off on them, and the shawl took 10 rinses to come clean. It didn't actually lose much of the color - but there is definitely a purplish cast to the shawl now that wasn't there before, and the chocolate has lost a bit of it's intensity. It's a good thing I won't need to wash the shawl again!

PS. There's no new list this week!

Monday, February 9, 2009

If You Want a Laugh

Long before we began dating, my husband and I bonded over our mutual love of bad tv. This has evolved a bit over the years, and now takes the form of our Sci Fi Saturday date night. (It is the 'scariest night on television' after all!) Several weeks ago, my husband started to do reviews of the wonderfully bad tv movies that we love so much. Check it out if you need a laugh!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

5 Things I Learned About Myself This Weekend.

1. It's true. In order to be a better Mommy, I need to get away from my husband and children once in a while.

2. Given the opportunity to stay in bed all weekend, I won't. There are too many fun things to do to waste time on sleep!

3. I do feed on sunshine and fresh air.

4. I also draw nourishment from silence.

5. This farm girl has been living in the city for too long.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Did Warn You

As expected, I've been buried this week under a mountain of alpaca. (Which is stinky work, let me tell you!)

YES, I've absolutely enjoyed every minute of the job. Well, ok, every bit except for that one sample which had poo in it. (Why on earth would you submit a sample with poo?)

NO, I have not had any time for anything else beyond spinning and my family.

YES, it's going to be like this for the rest of the month - which means that the blog is going to take a bit of a hit.

The good news, though, is that I've come up with some great ideas for posts to keep us happy in the meantime. Look for those posts to start next week after The Monday List.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Little Bit of Winter Joy

The Green Woman and I took ourselves to Lowe's Sunday afternoon to spend some time perusing the greenhouse. We had decided that we needed some green in the house, and that perhaps some new plants would help us to shake off the winter blahs. Instead of several potted plants, we came home with this lovely Phalaenopsis Orchid. As I was paying for it, I remarked to the cashier that I used to always buy one around this time of year to cheer myself up. Funny, but I had forgotten that. (My husband hadn't forgotten. He made a comment about it as soon as I got home.) She's exactly what we needed, and we are basking in her beauty. It's rather hard to be blue when you have a little bit of sunshine sitting next to you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Monday List

Whoops! Monday almost slipped by without a list!

Last week's recap:
1. My P.E.O. duties were completed, happy day!
2. I did set up a schedule for spinning the samples, but wasn't able to start because of my sick kid. (She's much more important - and my boss agreed.) The great news is that - so long as I stick with the schedule - I should easily be able to finish by the end of the month, well ahead of the actual deadline for the show.
3. Cobblestone is done! (See last post.)
4. I did work on my shawl, and had a wonderful time doing so.
5. No quilting of any sort happened.
6. I managed to get myself out of bed in plenty of time for my morning routine for the majority of last week. Bedtime is still iffy, but I have been working on just going to bed when I'm tired - no matter how early that may be.
7. See this week's list.

This Week's List:
1. CALL MY ACUPUNCTURIST. My body has come up with new, creative ways to let me know that I'm out of balance/blocked/stressed/need help. NO MORE DELAYS! Even my husband said yesterday that I need to call her asap for an appointment. My only excuse is that it does feel like an indulgence. Just like so many other Moms, I tend to put myself last....and I know I can no longer afford to do so.
2. My big goal for the week is to complete the judging/spinning of the Class A samples.
3. My beautiful shawl - Miralda's Triangular Shawl - has become my priority knitting. My wish is to finish it in time for my next guild meeting.

And that's it for this week! I know that it's a rather short list, but there is a very, very good reason for that. This weekend I'm going to be house and dog sitting for my parents - and I'm going to go by myself. That's right, I'm getting a much-needed, well-deserved break. While staying at my parent's home isn't exactly the same as taking a vacation to some marvelous destination, it does present some rather tantalizing opportunities (assuming I don't spend the entire weekend in bed, reading trash novels and knitting), such as a trip to the Nelson....

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Two


Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran - color 121 (taupe) - 12 skeins
Addi Turbo, US 7 (4.5mm) 16, 24 and 32 inch - KnitPicks Options DPN's, US 7
On and Off the Needles - January 14 - 31, 2009

What to say? I bought the yarn for this sweater last summer - a special order from Hillcreek Yarn Shoppe - and then it just sat and sat and sat. I'm a little bit embarrassed, actually, as this was meant to be a Christmas present for my husband. (Remember the Every-Other-Year sweater plan?)
So what happened?
Well, as usual I got in my own way. Back when we started to discuss this sweater, I gave my husband a list of sweaters to choose from. Now, my husband is - like many men - very particular about his sweaters. He likes plain, snug-fitting pullovers in neutral colors. The Cobblestone Pullover was a no-brainer.
However, one of us got hung up on the idea that he perhaps needed a cardigan because he already had a couple of pullovers. (We rather good-naturedly argued last night about who started the cardigan idea. I still think it was him.) We selected a pattern, the yarn came home, and...
Nothing happened.
In fact, every time I picked up the needles to cast on and swatch I found that there were lots of things I would rather be doing.
Just after Christmas, I looked at my husband and said, "Honestly, do you think you would wear a cardigan?" He said, "No," and instantly I wanted to start knitting for him again. It became my second NaKniSweMoDo sweater, and after a month of marathon sweater knitting, we both have new sweaters.

As soon as he tried it on yesterday, he said it had become his new favorite hand-knit sweater. I must admit, he looks rather handsome in it!