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.

05 October 2007

Thanks for the heads-up on the two-skein method, DK.

SotS Fearless Leader (aka Nautical Knitter) has thrown a curve ball: start with both ends of the skein for cast-on, working two points simultaneously. I have no problem trying that, except the other end of my skein is 1500 yards and two days' worth of winding in the center of a hand-wound ball. I'm about as likely to unwind that ball to find the center as a sat-down mule is likely to up and plow a field.

Incidentally, if you are stuck with a sat-down mule and need it to plow said field, I recommend trying a parade. Mules love parades. I have never seen a mule sit down in the middle of the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tennessee (and yes, I have watched said parade). No, those mules step right along. That's where they get the phrase, "A mule on parade is worth two in the field, plus it works harder after a little vacation." If you have never attended Mule Day, you really ought to go sometime. It's highly a-mules-ing. I'd like to go back, but there was an incident involving my criticism of James K. Polk's foreign policy and the residents of Columbia politely but firmly asking me to leave town which I'd really rather not go into further detail about at present.

Back to the Stole. I know the instructions say, "DO NOT PANIC," but when I first read them, I couldn't find my towel. Panic ensued. Turns out it was in the wash--an accident, I swear ("it" being my towel, not the panic. It is well-documented that panic has a constitutional aversion to washing machines). After reclaiming my towel from the swooshy spinning menace and its threat of certain cleaning, I was able to sit down and give the instructions a thorough reading. I think I have come up with a solution, so all is froody again.

The green ball took up knitting after The Rolling Stones
rejected it as their intergalactic mascot.

The only reasonable solution I can think of is to knit one point (say, the left?) and break yarn, place the stitches on a holder, then knit the right point and sew 'em--or whatever it is we're supposed to do with 'em--together later.

I wanted a lace-knitting adventure, and now I have one.