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.