31 December 2007

I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say No...

...to yarn, anyway. Last Friday Anne and I set out on the super-fabulous Great Winter Yarn Crawl '07! I had researched a long line of shops to visit in MD, but we ended up hitting four -- which turned out well because we were able to take a leisurely place and enjoy each stop. I apologize for the lack of pictures... still working on figuring out how to get them off the camera and onto my computer at work.

First stop was Dancing Leaf Farm (Barnesville, MD). I bought a skein of Salsa (wool/mohair) that Dalis had laid out in a Christmas display of red and green yarns. The red color I bought is really more of a deep coral -- a saturated orangey-pink sort of red. If I haven't waxed euphoric about how wonderful Dalis' colorways are, let me repeat it: GO SEE HER YARN. You will want to take it home with you and look at it and have it be yours forever. I also bought a hardbound copy of The Opinionated Knitter. Put the yarn and book together and what do you get?

A Baby Surprise Jacket for my nephew! It's about 1/3 done now, knitted on US4 needles. It's my first EZ experience and so far I love the ease of garter stitch and the simple pattern. I knit a lot of it last night while watching the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jayne Eyre (mmmmmm, Rochester....). Which reminds me of this:

I liked The Opinionated Knitter so much that I went to Borders yesterday morning and bought a copy of Knitting Without Tears (20% off coupon put to good use!). These will get more use after I explain Winter Yarn Crawl Stop #3...

Winter Yarn Crawl Stop #2: Forestheart, Woodsboro, MD. As we drove past Forestheart, I said, "That must be it. It looks like an artsy place." You will know you have arrived when you see the purple mailbox, purple roof and a purple van parked out front. The inside is jam-packed with all sorts of fiber art and craft-related activities and supplies. There is a wall of cones of weaving yarn; a huge section dedicated to rug-hooking; a section for glass beads and bead-making; various assorted fibercraft magazines, including back issues of Spin Off; a lower section for spinning and dyeing... It's roughly organized, although many things seem to be wherever they landed. Shopping there is a bit like going through your aunt's garage or attic -- you can rummage around and find something you want -- except you have to pay for the stuff you take with you.

I have wanted to try rug-hooking for several years but held off because (1) like I need another hobby and (2) supplies aren't cheap. Mary had a small kit that I thought was adorable and I decided to take the plunge and buy it. I also bought a book, The Art of Rug Hooking, because the featured rugs were beautiful, and a small perforated-paper cross-stitch Santa ornament (I used to do a TON of counted cross-stitch when I was little and I love working on paper -- these little kits are the kind you can do in an afternoon and feel good about finishing a project).

the finished rug-hooking kit.
yay sheep!

We stopped for lunch at The Vintage Coffeehouse on Main Street in Mount Airy. Their coffee is delicious and the interior is everything you think a coffeehouse ought to be: funky, warm and comfortable, with friendly staff and good food.

Winter Yarn Crawl Stop #3: Knittin' Chicks, Mount Airy, MD. This place is set a little back off the main road in a bright traffic-middle-line-yellow building. Inside is bright and cheerful with well-organized yarn just waiting for you to pick it up. I really liked this store. The owner, Dalia, is enthusiastic and helpful. It would be a great place to sit and knit. I picked up a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash Heather in a ruby color; I fell in love with it.

Remember that copy of The Opinionated Knitter I bought a few hours previously? Well, while fondling the Cascade 220 Heathers, I decided to knit myself a yoke sweater using Elizabeth's Percentage System. The body will be the deep claret color (4008?), with the Scandinavian-patterned yoke in grey, charcoal and deep blue (4009?). I can't wait to cast on for this one...

Also worth mentioning: Dalia had set out her finished body for the Noni Medallion Travel Bag. This thing is HUGE. She said that before felting it's roughly the size of a small country.

photo from noni

And when you see it finished, it's gorgeous. Anne bought the pattern for it, so I might wait until she's taken it for a test-drive before I think about attempting it.

By the time I settled on yarn colors for my EPS yoke sweater, the sky was starting to get a little dark... we headed off for our last

Winter Yarn Crawl Stop #4: Diane Kelly, Firesong Fibers, Cooksville, MD. Diane has a beautiful studio in her home. It's the best and most organized I've seen. She raises angora goats and Blue-Face Leicester sheep. I bought one washed Young Adult mohair fleece from a Reverse Badger girl -- a stunning black and white mix -- and two raw yearling mohair fleeces that are such wonderful golden colors and of superior fiber quality. Next step is to buy some combs (Diane recommends the two-row small Louet hand combs) and also to wash the stinky fleeces at some point. I am so thrilled to have them and look forward to spinning them.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. Plus, the places we didn't get to are in the Baltimore area, so that can be another day's journey!

27 December 2007

Finished Holiday Sweater (brought to you by We Hate Sheep)

Instant Holiday-Knitting Gratification... I saw the link on Ravelry but didn't try it out until I saw Crafty Gryphon's masterpiece. Here's my latest FO. I call it,

"I Can Has Nu Lite-Brite Pls?"

The chipper elf conveys his holiday cheer
at having tangled those lights you spent three hours
carefully winding onto those plastic wheel thingys from Frontgate.
Also, nothing says, "Hey... Do you smell that?
Is Grandma burning the Christmas turkey again?
Damn it, Helen! Just for once, I'd like a bird
that wasn't fossilized for Christmas dinner. Is that too much to ask?"
like socks roasting on an open fire.

make your own holiday heirloom sweater at We Hate Sheep.

26 December 2007

Mittenz: Now With INVISIBLE FINGARZ!!!

During the Christmas Gift-Induced Panic Sequence, I started a pair of convertible gloves for my dad. I'm using Knit Pick's Men's Convertible Fingerless Gloves as a base reference. Even after adapting the gauge, the XL still isn't large enough for his freakishly large hands. You can see all the details on its Ravelry project page. For non-Ravelers, I'm using the beautiful brown and grey alpaca I bought at the Fall Fiber Festival (sweet, the VA site already has the 2008 dates up. Mark your calendars!). I figured the alpaca, knit on US3/3.25mm needles, should make a nice warm pair of gloves that he can wear while driving his tractor or seeing to the cattle in the winter.

Mmmm, I love knitting with alpaca. I'm tossing around the idea of getting a mini-herd in a few years. I probably won't (have to get a new horse first), but I'm going to think about it.

Spinning news: my roving from loop arrived and it is gorgeous. I'm hoping to start spinning up the Glowing Hearth tonight.

Switching tracks--inspired by Chateau Petrograsm:
In lieu of knitting pictures (working on that, kids), here's some fun with art and alcohol.
The other night I tried a bottle of Clos du Bois 2005 Pinot Noir. It tasted like this:

Silky smooth, but
ultimately lacking in body,
with a slight acidic bite at the finish.

Last Saturday night I had a bottle of my old standby, Moet & Chandon White Star, NV. It tasted like this:
"Happiness" by Richard Henson, from art.com

Christmas morning we had a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998 for with breakfast. It tasted like this:

"Exhilaration" by Ulrike Martin, from ebsqart.com

Looking ahead: Winter Yarn Crawl this weekend, plus a visit from the godparents (aka the coolest people EVAR)! Stay tuned...

21 December 2007

Solstice Celebrations!

(sung to "Happy Birthday to You")
Happy Solstice to Me,
Happy Solstice to Me,

Happy Solstice to Court-neeeee!

Happy Solstice to Me!

Since I'm not Pagan, I figure I can celebrate Winter Solstice any way I like. I decided that the right and proper way was to buy myself roving on Etsy.

100% Merino "Cowboy Cool," 8 oz.
from CJ Kopec Creations

40/40/20 Bamboo/Alpaca/Merino plus some sparkly stuff "Midnight Magic," 3 oz
from loop

"Glowing Hearth," 6 oz total
from loop

I also completely finished moving out of the rental and into the new house. I moved into the rental on 21 June 2006 (Summer Solstice) and moved out 21 December 2007 (Winter Solstice). It wasn't planned that way, but interesting how it turned out.

Internet access isn't set up yet at the new place. So... posts will have to be done while at the office. Hopefully soon I will figure out a way to get pictures off my camera/laptop and onto the blog -- I've done a lot of spinning recently -- just finished up 6 oz of 70/30 Merino/Tencel 2-ply Fingering and a I-Think-It's-Blue-Face-But-Can't-Remember 2-ply Worsted.

Also, I finished Spawn of Thrummed Mittens yesterday! Woohoo!

Random note: I'm looking forward to trying a magnum of Belgian Beer... the 2007 edition of La Chouffe. I'm not a huge beer-drinker, but since it was a gift I feel obligated to open it (hey, we all make sacrifices).

So, if there's no blog post before, I hope you have a great Yule/Solstice/Christmas/Hanukkah-Was-Two-Weeks-Ago- And-We're-Having-Chinese-Food-On-the-25th Holidays!

19 December 2007

Christmas Knitting: Screw It.

10 minutes ago, I had the brilliant thought: whatever I finish before Christmas morning becomes a gift. Whatever I do not finish by Christmas morning will mean I'm one step ahead for Christmas 2008.

1.5 minutes ago: I realized that I have nothing to give my brother for Christmas--my brother, who is the second-most difficult-to-shop-for person in my family. Begin alpaca manly glove marathon knitting! Or other similar non-wool project that he probably won't wear anyway!

30 seconds ago: Nothing for ten-month old nephew. Seriously? A knitter with nothing for a ten-month old baby?

Begin Gift-Induced Panic Sequence. Happy Holidays, y'all.

18 December 2007

General Yammering. Not Much Knitting.

Moved house this past weekend; lots of knitting and blogging were accomplished thought about. Moving actually not finished; the movers are coming back this coming weekend to bring the furniture that was in storage to the new digs. There is a Christmas tree outside; my family is going to decorate it on Christmas Eve. I'm making Beef Wellington for dinner, with garlic mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. The Beef Wellington is my brother's special request--one that I usually ignore, since it's so labor-intensive, but now I have this wonderful 48" Wolf range to cook on, so I figured I had better make use of it. If you are a serious cook, you will love a Wolf range. It really is that much better.

  • I spent the past few nights doing this: Behold, the dutch oven full of chicken corn chowder with andouille sausage. Are you imagining it? Good. Now it's at a simmer. I turn the knob to high and in less than 2 seconds, it's at a full boil. I turn the knob down to low, and it stops simmering. Boil. Simmer. Stop. Boil. Simmer. Stop. Repeat until the novelty wears off, or someone yells that at this rate, we're never going to eat dinner.
  • I roasted a pork loin, and used the integrated probe. It's genius, albeit a little fiddly to plug in when you're trying to lift the probe flap thing with an oven mitt.
  • It has a setting for proofing dough. It will keep the oven at 80°F. No more worrying about finding the right temperature spot in the house to put your bowl of dough.
  • After flipping through the instruction manual, I'm pretty sure that there isn't much this thing can't do.
Anyway, I was thinking about finishing up the sweater I was knitting for my mom (as a non-specific present) for a Christmas present. It's the "Belled-Sleeved Cardigan" I have on my Ravelry projects page. The trouble now is I have to figure out where I left off. I think it was on the armhole decreases on one of the front sections. What this really means is: An adventure awaits! That, and I will learn to mark on the pattern where I stop working the next time I'm planning on putting a project down.

I'm also trying to finish the second of the pair of "Spawn of Thrummed Mittens" for mom for an Xmas gift. I'm almost to the part where I hold stitches for the thumb. Should be no problem to finish these up.

Just finished up some online Christmas shopping for dad. I bought an assortment of things from Gardener's supply, including some composting accessories, a plastic mulch mat for increasing tomato yield, and a "Summer of Salads" lettuce seed mix.

My spinning buddy Anne (hi Anne!) came up with the brilliant idea to have a yarn/roving crawl in the week between Christmas and New Year's. It's like a bar crawl, but infinitely better, because being drunk on fiber involves far more giddiness and far less hangover than the alcoholic variety--for about the same economic impact, with lasting satisfaction. We're still working out the details, but I will be sure to post pictures of the adventure.

10 December 2007

Tea, Art, Knitting, Spinning. (wit took the night off)

Boy, oh boy, do I have updates. Let's start with the most recent.

I just bought the utiliTEA kettle from Adagio Teas for the office. I've wanted an electric kettle for a while and this seems to be the best for the money, since it has a variable temperature control. I haven't bought one before now because I've been getting by with my morning caffeinated tea and buying 1-2 unsweetened iced teas from McDonald's during the week. Now that the weather is colder I've switched to drinking hot tea all day long.

I took off this past week to paint trompe l'oeil. Painting full-time is the most marvelous thing I can think of. I loved waking up in the morning knowing that I was going to drive to the studio, brew a cup of tea, and sit down to my palette and paint until lunchtime, walk a few blocks to one of the many neighborhood eateries, pick up a cup of tea to go from my favorite tearoom, and settle back in for an afternoon of more painting. It wasn't exactly fun painting--the phrase that comes to mind is "brutally hard"--but it was intensely satisfying. I was really depressed on Saturday because it was over. I don't know when I'll have time to paint again in the near future, but I hope it's not too far off.Anyway, the painting is linked to the electric kettle-buying. Last week I averaged daily tea intake between 5-8 cups between 8am and 6pm: 1 cup chai in the morning; 2-3 cups of rooibos until lunch; 2 cups black tea after lunch; 1-2 cups assorted decaf late afternoon; 1 cup Egyptian Licorice Mint before bed. It was marvelous. My new favorite black tea is Golden Monkey. I want to keep up the tea intake at work, although the hot tab on the office water cooler is for crap and microwaving in the limited kitchen is a pain. (*side note* the GE Profile water cooler has a hot feature that really gets steaming hot enough for tea--instantly. If I were going to buy a new water cooler for the office, I would get this one)

I didn't finish my painting, but when I do, I'll post a photo of it. I painted it all from three--count 'em, three-- colors, plus white. Behold, palette before and after shots:



I picked the Thrummed Mittens back up. They had been hibernating for many months and in the desperation to have something hand-knitted to give away to family members for Christmas... Actually, I was trying to think of a gift for my sister-in-law. My brother buys her anything material thing she could possibly want (and many material things she didn't know she wanted), so it's not a matter of buying something really nice, pretty, soft, or useful. It has to be one of those, "from the heart" gifts. Damn. Those are always the most difficult. So I started knitting her a felted wine cozy in colors she likes. I know, nothing screams "I'm so glad to have you in my family!" like a felted wine cozy. It ranks right up there on the Charm Scale with getting an electric leg razor as a surprise gift on your 20th wedding anniversary. It is a damn nice wine cozy, though. My mom came to the rescue and said,

"Why don't you make her a pair of those wonderful mittens you showed me--the ones that are all soft inside?"
"The Thrummed Mittens?"
"Yes, those. Did you tell me, though, that you absolutely hate knitting mittens?"
"Ah well. It was a thought."

Turns out I don't hate them nearly as much as I thought. In fact I plowed through the body of the mitten in less than a handful of hours today. I estimate that in two more hours, I should have the left mitten finished--which brings me to one completed pair of Thrummed Mittens. If I were particularly enterprising, I would also figure out how to make Thrummed Booties. But surely my SIL knows how much I love and appreciate her without me having to make Thrummed Booties. Yes, I think so.

Then I had the second thought: Hey, these things aren't so bad after all... maybe I'll pick up some other color yarn and roving while I'm at the knitting shop that looks more like her and whip up a pair, and give the finished blue ones to Mom. I'm brilliant AND a masochist, apparently. My main objection to knitting socks and mittens is that it tends to make my wrists sore... but that could also have been a tendency to strangle my knitting, which I have fortunately given up. Perhaps my wrists have also become stronger and less prone to injury since I've been doing hour-long weight-lifting sessions twice a week for the past 6 months. My shoulders are ripped and beastly, so why shouldn't my wrists (while lacking in obvious stunning musculature) be stronger too? That, or the weakness in my wrists was psychosomatic. Oh god--what if I'm a hypochondriac?!?


dost mine eyes deceive me?
'Sfaith, I see Thrummed Mittens by the pair.

I knew I shouldn't have left them alone unsupervised.


Looky, looky! My very own handspun 2ply: 50% Corriedale, 35% Merino, 15% Tencel.

02 December 2007

New Post Soon

What the title says.

New post, plus a side bonus of responding to emails!
Pictures of *gasp* finished objects!
And much, much more!
Until next time...

Just kidding. Things are crazy busy here, and I hope to have a new post Saturday. Ish. Saturdayish. Yes, I do things other than knit and spin. Please don't tell the yarn or the roving. If they knew, they might throw me out of the house. I'm rather outnumbered as it is. And I don't want to even have to think about the silent treatment I'd get once I was allowed back in.

26 November 2007

Spinning, Holiday Cheer (Outdoors Edition)

I spent this weekend spinning. I must be getting better at spinning because this weekend I spun about 5 ounces of a luscious 70/30 merino/tencel blend top from Stony Mountain (purchased at MD Sheep & Wool '07). I tried to spin it sometime around June or July and failed utterly. Bits of it kept breaking off and I ended up with more slightly-twisted strands on the floor than yarn on the bobbin. This weekend I had success. I hadn't spun in a few months, so I eased myself into it with a few ounces of Corriedale from the same company. Their Corriedale (or perhaps it's Corriedale in general) is a dream to spin into a sock-weight single. When I had almost a full bobbin of that, I broke out the merino/tencel and had a go. I'm currently spinning a laceweight single. I have two braids of this, so the plan is to spin one on to its own bobbin and then do an easy 2-ply from those. The yarn is so soft and yummy that it needs to be in a slightly looser ply.

Next week I'm taking a class at my LYS on spinning specialty fibers: alpaca, llama, angora, etc. That is the primary impetus for spinning this weekend: I need to make sure my regular spinning is up to snuff before I try to tackle the more difficult things. Although I have a feeling that perhaps spinning other fibers isn't necessarily more difficult, as different. Spinning sheep's wool is difficult until you get the hang of it--and then it seems so easy.

I found this in a mail-order catalog. Their product description, however, needs help. So I helped.

Let snowmen know their kind aren't wanted by displaying
Frosty's Head on a Pike.

Easy to install!
Use your own lamppost for
authentic medieval warning action!

Plus, unlike those heads which simply rot and attract maggots, you can reuse this one year after year.

19 November 2007

Charity Knitting Roundup (updated 12 September 2008)

We interrupt your regularly scheduled snark for a Warm Fuzzy Action Alert. It's the holidays, and while you are insanely harried busy knitting gifts for friends and family, please consider whipping up a quick FO for someone you don't know. I mean that in all seriousness--there's an immense power in doing good for someone you don't know and may never meet. Random acts of kindness are not forgotten.

UPDATED 12 September 2008:

Knit Your Bit: The National WWII Museum
" a simple, but cozy, scarf to be donated to a veteran in a Veterans Center somewhere in the United States."

Special Olympics Scarves
Yes, I know, many of us find Red Heart kinda squicky. But this is for a good cause. Suck it up and knit a scarf to show your support for the Winter 2009 Special Olympians.
Please note that while ONLY Red Heart delft blue (885) and white (311) can be used, creative colorwork/patterns are encouraged.

The Ships Project.
"The Ships Project now sends handmade hats, slippers, cool-ties and cool-heads to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed across the world"

Helmet Liners. from loopette's discussion thread on ravelry:
"In their infinite wisdom, the Pentagon does not issue liners for the metal helmets the troops are issued to wear in war zones. Think about it: Metal gets bone-chillingly cold, and in areas that get below freezing, that is a tremendous thermal loss and major discomfort for the soldier wearing it. It's up to us to provide these vital liners to our troops since the government will not.

During the holiday season, many of us do what we can for others to brighten their holiday. I am asking anyone who reads this, regardless of the time of year, to please knit or crochet helmetliners for our troops."

Small Comforts. ongoing effort from Knit and Play with Fire to comfort patients at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
"The oncology ward and the surgical ward are next to each other on the same floor in the hospital. Bethesda handles the bulk of the neurological cases coming in from combat zones. So there is always a need on one ward or the other for knitted hats and other small items for the patients coming in from combat zones."
There are many opportunities for charitable knitting. Check with your local civic groups, hospital auxiliaries and LYS.

Since I am all for donating things that you'd be proud to wear yourself, also take note of these cool hat patterns (updated as I find/remember them):

14 November 2007

New Needles--Good for Drug Users, Good for Knitters

I was waiting to post this until I had pictures, but until I get around to taking pictures, you guys can exercise your imaginations.

I bought myself some US2 32" circs from Jenkins Woodworking. These babies are beautiful... the joins are smooth, the points are sharp, the cable has much less memory than Addi Turbos (I'm knitting SotS on Addi Lace circs and their cable is driving me nuts) and the wood is beautiful and pleasing in hand. I thought about switching them into SotS, but think I'll stick it out with the Addis and use my Jenkins needles for Mystic Waters.

The only reason I haven't cast on to these gorgeous needles is that I need to wind my Mystic Waters yarn. Yes, one of these days I will break down and buy a swift. I actually like hand-winding; I like to feel the yarn as I wind it--it gives me a good idea of its elasticity and temperament before I start knitting with it. The best analogy I can think of is that hand-winding is (in a very low-key analogy) to knitting what foreplay is to sex--you can do it without it, but it gives you a good idea of what's to come and makes the whole experience a bit more fulfilling. The thing I don't like about hand-winding is the skein getting all tangled; a swift would (mostly) remedy this.

Changing subjects:
the feathers for my Boléro Anastase finally arrived--well over a month late--from Aashlok. I'm pissed about this on a number of levels. I called them a couple times and found out that the feathers had been back-ordered--and didn't bother to tell me--after they told me they were available to ship immediately, and after I paid to have them 2-day air shipped. Well, I should say that some feathers finally arrived--they sent me the wrong ones (5" long plumes instead of 2" curled). To add insult to injury, they sent me not the three continuous yards of feather trim which I had ordered, but a total of three yards of various cut-up remnants. I'd call and ask for the item I ordered, in a continuous length, but I'm afraid with a company that screwed up that I'd never see them. So I feel like that was $70 wasted.

The plan right now is to take the scissors to the ostrich feathers (as much as it sounds like a crime) and trim them to the correct length. That way I'll still have an ostrich-feather trim even if it isn't in the way I envisioned. From a designer's standpoint, it's just pissy that I can't get it just the way I want it when it matters. Here ends the bitching. I know there are bigger worries in life, but those niggling ones--such as paper cuts or hangnails--can be so damn annoying.

Happier topic: SotS is moving right along. At the end of Hint #4, I was worried that mine was getting too long (especially since I am known to block things within an inch of their fibrous lives) so I edited out about 2/3 of Hint #5 and started there. This is cheering for several reasons: actually, just one: I'm almost finished Hint #5 and will start Hint #6 soon!

I haven't been knitting anything other than SotS lately, so as much as I'm enjoying knitting it, I'm also looking forward to finishing it so I can pick up some other things on the needles.

Unrelated: I bought a new pair of jeans a couple weeks ago, and finally got around to picking them up from Nordstrom (who does free alterations on stuff you buy there). I LOVE THEM. They are my favorite jeans ever and I think I might have to buy another pair because I'm probably going to wear these every day until they get holes in places that makes them unfit for wearing in public. They're the Dojo jean by 7... I love the design on the pockets. I love the way they fit. I love that they are low-rise without the dangers of plumber's butt or muffin tops. They are--in a word--perfect. I used to swear by Citizens... no longer. I'm a convert.

08 November 2007

And Now, This Week's Posting Forecast

I'm immersed in a painting until Saturday... blog post when I resurface.


UPDATE 10 November 2007: Finished the painting. I'm so fond of it, I almost said something along the lines of "here's a little piccy-poo," except if I said that, Caesar might come back from the dead just to strike me down for that remark. Nobody ever used sappy diminutives for G.J. Caesar. Well, Cleopatra may have... but we all know she was a lying, two-timing little bitch who was so totally messing around with Antony while she was in Rome, ostensibly visiting Caesar. How do I know this? Everybody knows it. And I read it somewhere on the Internet.

Now might be a good time to note that
if you use my picture(s) without crediting me,
I will send gremlins, demons and lawyers with halitosis after you.
Yuh-huh. I so totally will.

03 November 2007

Secret of the Stole Progress and Theme Guess


I'm almost finished Hint 3 of Secret of the Stole, so I thought I'd pin it out and see how it looks so far. The errors I made won't be noticeable to anyone other than those who know the pattern. No one will notice the gigantic hole made by two dropped stitches. Anyway, here it is:

I already have a pretty good idea of the theme. No, I haven't been working on the theme clues as released, but given this pre-blocked sample, I'd have thought it would be obvious. There are two possibilities right now:



"XxoXOoooXoOoOXooX, Aunt Muriel."


all the hip tribal rugs of the 1980s featured Space Invaders.

Knitters Tea Swap 4!

My box from Lindy, my Australian KTS4 swap pal, arrived on Thursday. I was so excited, I could hardly wait until I got home to open it.

First was a beautiful greeting card and two postcards from her town (wish I had thought of that!):

And tea from a local company:

I've already broken into the Bailey's -- it's black tea with a hint of chocolate and irish cream--delicious!

This is cool: chrysanthemum buds and white tea that bloom when you put them in hot water. Beautiful tea--now there's an idea! Plus, a cup-sized tea infuser--how did she know I needed one? :-)

But the part you were waiting for--look at all this awesome stuff! The periwinkle blue is a wonderfully soft, squeezable wool and the aqua yarn is a 50/50 silk/merino handpainted at The Knittery. There's some yummy dark chocolate... er... there was some yummy dark chocolate, which was last seen in this photo--stop looking at me like that, I do not look guilty. ;-) There are two great FiberTrends patterns--one for a cabled hat and another for a lace shawl I can't wait to get on the needles. Plus, she included a pair of her favorite knitting needles, by Pony. They're short so you can take them with you wherever you go, just pack and go.

To top it off, she included an adorable koala ornament, which will have a special place on my tree this Christmas. :-)

29 October 2007

Autumn Studio Tour 2007

I went on the Countryside Artisans Autumn Studio Tour. It's a trek through the foothills of Sugarloaf Mountain, in the scenic part of Montgomery County (yes, there is a rural, scenic part). If you missed it, they are holding subsequent ones this fall and winter--see the website.

First stop was Kiparoo Farm, a working sheep and dairy farm. As we pulled up to the shop, my grandmother said, "You can tell an artist lives here." It was a bit of an adventure going down their long, winding, rutted dirt driveway--SUV or truck highly recommended--although my aunt's sedan managed it fine.

Kiparoo Farm Yarn Shop

I bought yarn for a Christmas present for one of my best friends, who hopefully is too busy in dental school to read my blog. But if you do read this K, I'm not telling what it is. The real surprise will be whether I get it done before Christmas. At top is a wool/mohair Aran-weight, and below is a skein of loopy mohair.

The following is a sculpture by David Therriault at Alden Farms. I love it. I want to take it home and have it be mine forever. I want to place it in my garden (when I have a garden of my own) and have it be a restful object of contemplation. The only reason I haven't bought it is the price. And I've almost convinced myself that it's worth dipping into my savings for this hunk of stone with bits of iron in it (beautiful hunk of gorgeous stone with bits of perfectly placed iron in it. After all, I told myself that I was saving up for either a Roth IRA contribution, or art purchases). That, and I don't have a place to put it. Oh, but I would design a garden around this...

if wishes were horses, this would be in my stable.

I did, however, buy a piece I could afford: a stone and iron picture frame. It is a good consolation prize. The carpet background doesn't do it justice--it is most at home in the grass, or on a wooden mantel.

After that, we went down below Poolesville to Lindenwood Farms. I suspect it is an old farmhouse, but it has been perfectly maintained/restored. There was an artist's studio there (a beautiful studio in an old farm building). I was mostly interested in the architecture of the main house. There was a well:

Next to the well was this sort of lighthouse structure. I forgot to ask the owners what it was. Does anyone know? My next guess would be some sort of mill, but there's no river nearby.

There were a couple places we went that I didn't take pictures of--if you're in the area, it makes for a lovely weekend. A word of warning--it will take the whole 10-5 time if you stop everywhere excluding the vineyard.

Morningstar Studio reminded me of an embodiment of the ideal Appalachian studio... I wish I had a printing studio like this:

One of my favorite stops was Dancing Leaf Farm, where Dalis hand-dyes everything in luscious colorways. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. I wanted to stay there for hours, just watching the sheep graze.

I bought one skein of Salsa, and one of Tango. I think the colorway is "Briar Rose" but it changes a bit everytime she dyes it--even in the same colorway, there are a lot of variations. I love it!

I also bought some soaps there that a friend of Dalis makes herself--goatsmilk, with jojoba oil and shea butter and all those good things in it. I have plans to go buy more when I run out.

The last stop was to Art of Fire, a big glass-blowing workshop in a converted dairy barn. I didn't take any pictures there... but I did buy a pink champagne flute for my mother (she collects and uses unique champagne flutes) and I picked up literature on class schedules (Anne, your influence works even when you're not around. Scary, huh?). Yes, like I need another hobby. But it might be interesting just to try it... maybe I'll suggest that for a Christmas present.

Ok, next blog post: Shenandoah Fiber Festival, and perhaps some SotS progress--I've started Chart 3!

19 October 2007

The Lust List

Get your bibs on, folks. I'm bringing out the drool-worthy. This is a list of yarns I've seen, heard about, or otherwise tracked down online that if the moon and the stars lined up, would be in my stash:

First up: MULE-SPUN TWEED. Beaverslide Dry Goods. These tweeds have been endorsed by brooklyntweed and, after reading the lengthy description on the Beaverslide site, I now think I need to come up with something to knit in tweed. Apparently "mule-spun" means that it's extra-wonderful. And it involves mules.


Musk ox

Chances are you've heard of Qiviut. Chances are higher that you couldn't pronounce it properly until after reading that Wikipedia entry. I saw a stand of it at Stitches East but refrained from buying any. But here it is in gorgeous colorways, from a(n apparently) well-known (in Canada) clothier.

image property of and from Project Himalaya.

Himalaya brand yak is available exclusively through yarnmarket.

Finally: VICUNA.
image from Colorful Stitches.

It's a sign you've been buying too much yarn when $310 doesn't seen so bad for 217 yards of the world's finest fiber. HERE IT IS.
Vicuna is the holy grail of animal fibers. It doesn't get any better. I'm still waiting, though, for some revolutionary fiber to be discovered in a heretofore overlooked animal, like squirrels or bears. Hey, all you'd have to do is round up the black bears and shave their bellies. It can't be that difficult. The entrepreneurial among you could start a grizzly bear farm. I could go for that. Courtney's Farm-Raised Grizzlies. And I wouldn't have to buy a guard llama for them, either.

14 October 2007

If Tinking is Technology, I'm A. Afarensis.

Thanks to Anne, my co-conspirator in fiber adventures, and Lindy, my tea swap pal, I have signed up for the Mystic Waters KAL. I think it would be a good project to use up one of the blue laceweight yarns I bought this weekend from Lisa--probably the Baby Alpaca Lace. I'm knitting SotS with that in purple right now and I love working with it.

Speaking of SotS... I cast on my first point yesterday, and worked on it for a while. I tried slipping the pearls on with a flexible wire beading needle, which worked great. The problem was that the yarn was doubled going through the pearl. This meant that more often than not, the yarn got stuck inside and--as metal is stronger than alpaca fiber--the beading needle would end up cutting the yarn on its way out. The upside was that the pearl was securely fastened, even if it was bobbing in the wind. I fixed them with some clear nail polish. I'm going to let them just hang loose for now, because I love the way they look, color-wise, with the yarn.

[Courtney forgot to add a picture]

Yes, there are some mistakes... I attribute this to having been a stubborn and intractable child; I never learned to count properly. The Man told me I had to learn. Of course, The Man wanted me to learn multiplication and long division, too. Yeah, I showed the system what's what. Now I'm an accountant and I have an adding machine. So go ahead, buck the establishment. Take a look at your local newspaper or elected official--most of those kids never learned proper grammar and they still became journalists and Congressmen. We have calculators and spell-check for a reason.

Unfortunately, there is no technology that can cover your ignorance in lace knitting... yet. Unless you count tinking and lifelines as technology.

I finished the Crinoid Shawl! I know, I haven't posted any pictures of it since I cast on. That's because I've only pretended to be working on it, and now I've pretend-finished it. No, seriously, I'll take pics and post those soon.

Since I've finished one thing, I want to start another. According to my Ravelry queue (how I love that thing), Cherie Amour is up next. But considering current projects, I want to do a little finishing before I cast on for something new. So instead of a fall sweater, Cherie Amour may be my new spring sweater.

On a completely unrelated note:
I don't know why I love hedgehogs so much--I've never even seen a real one. Blame it on a childhood involving lots of Beatrix Potter.

I saw the captioned one on I Can Has Cheezburger?.

Concise explanation of the post title: Australopithicus afarensis is thought to either be an ancestor in the development of Homo sapiens, or a side branch that never evolved further. A. Afarensis did not have stone tools (which are considered to have been a big step forward in human evolution). Please connect the rest of the dots yourself to see the whole picture.

13 October 2007

After Stitches East...

Ah, the Boléro Anastase...
The feathers haven't arrived, but I suspect they will probably come on Monday. I didn't finish the jacket, obviously, but I now know how to line it properly. I also know to buy China Silk from the Thai Silk Company in Palo Alto, CA for reasonably-priced, high-quality silks. Speaking of silk, I ended up lining my jacket in a 100% polyester sari-type fabric. I had put it off to the last minute and hadn't time to run to G Street, so I stopped at Jo-Ann's. I surveyed the fabrics, inspected the end labels, and I swear everything was polyester. I wanted silk--and nothing but silk would do. The conversation went like this:

Courtney: "Do you have any silk?"
Saleslady: "Yes, the first section on the right, behind the Hallowe'en fabrics."
I inspect them and return.
Courtney: "No, those are all polyester. I want silk."
Saleslady: "Those ARE silk."
Courtney: "No, they're polyester. I'm looking for silk. Like a shantung, or a dupioni."
Saleslady: "Yeah, we have shantung right here."
I read the endlabel.
Courtney: "These are polyester and rayon. I want silk. You know, comes from worms. Boil 'em up, string 'em, weave 'em. Silk."
The saleslady was blessed with sudden comprehension.
Saleslady: "Ohhhh, you want silk... made from SILK."
Courtney: "Yes."
Saleslady: "Oh." She paused. "We don't have that."

In any event, I made it to my class. Jean Frost taught it and it was excellent. She asked that I bring my bolero next year. Let's just hope I finish it by then.

RS sleeve, WS lining

outside sleeve, spilling out its WS polyester guts

I went to the Stitches East Market. I did really well at only browsing, not buying... until I saw a lace shawl in alpaca... and the yarn was black, mixed with blue and green--it's exactly what you'd get if you had the colors of Blackwatch Plaid all spun together. I bought three 440-yard skeins (hey, they were a good price).


Again, I was doing well... until I arrived at Lisa Souza's booth. And I went crazygonuts. I pulled out everything that grabbed my attention. I ended up buying 4 skeins of assorted fibers, all in the Sapphire colorway. I looked seriously at Mars Quake--which reminds me mostly of autumn and falling leaves and walking through the forest--but I had no idea what I'd do with it. And hey, if I change my mind, I know where to find her shop.

Lisa Souza "Petal" in Sapphire
All my base are belong to it.

I also bought a little something fun to include in my package for my tea swap pal... but L, you'll just have to wait to find out! :-P

My preciousssss....

The crown jewel purchase of the day was from Annie Frazier Antique Buttons of NJ. If either I had had more money, or she had taken American Express, I would have seriously gone crazygonuts in her shop, too. As it was, I restricted myself to only buying a button for my bolero... and it's PERFECT. I'm not normally one for owls, but everything about this button works. First is the color. Second, note how the lines of the owl's face mimic the lines of the cabled section.

Man, I'm still thinking of some of the enameled buttons she had that I wanted to buy. Seriously, I'm going to have to save up for a field trip to her store. Even if it is in *cough* New Jersey (long story involving a college suitemate called and from Jersey, who has forever cast an indelible shudder on my memory).

All in all, a good weekend. New skills learned, new stash gained... what more could you want?

10 October 2007

The Knit Goddingdom Five O'Clock News

  • Boléro Anastase
    • frantically working to finish homework
    • ordered 3 yards of 2" curled ostrich feather for edging from CA
    • praying that feathers arrive by Friday
    • G Street for lining and notions Thursday
    • hoping to finish during my class at Stitches East
  • Bryan's Beanie
    • finally found the perfect pattern
    • cast-on after Stitches East
  • Crinoid Shawl
    • excruciatingly close to finished
    • will not work on it until after Boléro Anastase is complete.
    • only four more rows, then bind-off
  • Jacket for Mom (aka Belled-Sleeve Cardigan)
    • on hold until Crinoid and Boléro Anastase are complete.
    • still really like it
  • Secret of the Stole
    • planning to cast on after Stitches East.
    • bought beading wire and flexible needles; will try with pearls
Current reading (er, listening... I listen to audiobooks whenever I'm in the car--it's hard to have road rage when your imagination is engaged--and a lot of the time I'm knitting):
  • Pratchett, Terry. Going Postal.
    • Just finished it. It's brilliant and hilarious. It was my first Discworld novel, and was a good introduction to the goings-on of Ankh-Morpork.
  • Pratchett, Terry. Reaper Man.
    • A little slower than Going Postal. Would not the best introduction to the Discworld novels. Even though the pace lags slightly, I can't stop listening to it.
  • Herbert, Brian. Dune.
    • haven't started it yet. I've seen the TV miniseries and have heard that the book is much, much better.
Never fear, the snark and insanity haven't left... they've simply been too busy to sit down and chat. Never fear, they shall return. With teeth. Sharp, pointy teeth of... ah... yes! sharp, pointy teeth of truth, light and justice. I imagine they probably also glow in the dark.

08 October 2007

Fall Fiber Festival

On Sunday, we went to the Fall Fiber Festival in Montpelier Station, VA. It was beastly hot and dusty... and a lot of fun.

On the drive down, in the middle of a glass-blowing discussion, I saw the sign:

After a beautifully-executed U-turn, we toured the shop and spoke with the owner. Below is one of his creations. I forget what it's called, but I love it.

Then we drove on to the Festival:

Behold the tents of untold wonders ahead...
And mind the tractor, dear.

I bought an apple-cider doughnut. It was delicious. Note the dry, dusty earth in the background. Imagine clouds of it surrounding you, whipped up by passing cars, sheep, goats and people. Imagine it settling in your hair, covering your clothes and clogging up your nose. You'd need a delicious, fresh, hand-made doughnut, too.

nom nom nom

I talked for some time with Mr. Cecil, of Cecil's Folie Bergere. He breeds and raises Cashgora goats. They look like sheep, but he assured me that they are goats. Their fiber is amazingly soft, like... well... cashmere.

Hi, my name is Buddy and I,
along with all of my wonderfully soft and cute relatives,
want to go home to Courtney's farm.

Here is an angora bunny having the hair methodically pulled from its underbelly:

not my gumdrop buttons!

Llamas! Not just any llamas, either. These are grand champion llamas. I talked at length with their owner. Turns out llamas are intelligent, like poodles (and Portuguese Water Dogs), and you can train them to do just about anything. Apparently they are generally sweet-natured--until they're threatened, and then they become fearsome head-butting, foot-stomping monsters of pad-footed death. I'm thinking that I need a guard llama to protect my herd of Mr. Cecil's cashgora goats. ;-)

Here's a llama, there's a llama...

Mangham Mohair sold mohair blankets, among other things. I really liked them, and thought about buying one for the Queen's Mother (everyone in Knit Goddingdom just calls her "Courtney's mom"), but I wasn't sure about the color. So I took a picture:

My yarn-diet willpower broke down at the end of the trip. Technically, I think it melted, and would have taken more than a few fresh-squeezed lemonades to revive it. Anyway, I bought a pound of Corriedale roving from Stony Mountain Fibers and five balls of di.Ve' Autunno. I had bought Corriedale from Stony Mountain at MD Sheep and Wool and loved it. It's incredibly easy to spin and practically pre-drafts itself. When your spinning skills are such as mine, this is incredibly important.

di.Ve' Autunno, 100% Extra-fine Merino

I also ordered a skein of brown and light-grey alpaca from Misty Mountain Farm--the same people I bought the black-and-white from at MD Sheep and Wool. They ran out but are going to ship it to me.

And, finally, for those fans of the viral meme:

"and now listen, little child, to the safety rail..."

Stay tuned... this coming weekend is Stitches East, the following weekend is the Autumn Studio Tour, and the weekend after that... well, you'll just have to find out.