Saturday, December 15, 2007

We interrupt this broadcast.....

Unfortunately our Christmas prep was rudely interrupted by a destructive ice storm. We had a lot of tree damage (detailed here, if you're interested: and a relatively brief loss of power. The kids have been out of school for a week, though, and that has really put a monkey wrench in my shopping / knitting / mailing / planning for the season.

Ah, well. We'll muddle through somehow, and the fun memories will probably be the ones that last.

Here's one in the making:

The snowman stocking is for George -- he drew the snowman; I appliqued it. It is hanging in front of a stocking my mother made for me some 40 years ago. I've been "meaning to" make a stocking for George for six years; for the last four I've been "meaning to" make one for Charlotte, too. This year I decided it was time to get down to business.

Charlotte and I haven't begun the design process yet. She doesn't make representational drawings, so we might choose a picture from one of our Christmas books. We'll see. I'm limited by the colors of wool felt I have on hand. In fact, George and I started out to make a nutcracker, but I don't have black and George couldn't accept boots & hat of any other color. I was really proud of him for suggesting the snowman instead of pitching a fit.

Of course it then turned out that I didn't have any black seed beads to be the lumps of coal. I went to Michaels to find some, only to remember that they have a crummy selection of seed beads, mostly giant bags of one color. Since I didn't have time to go to Hobby Lobby where I could get a small tube of black that I might possibly use up in this lifetime, I opted for this assortment:

24 colors, 8 grams of each color -- it seemed like a pretty good choice to me. And in fact it still does, but when I went to open it I found this:

which really bugs me. The label was obviously designed to hide the giant gap in the middle -- it was even taped down so you couldn't possibly shift it and notice that the bead containers were about 25% smaller than the package implies. I kind of think that if they felt they had to pad it that much, maybe it wasn't a good deal after all.

I'm trying to get past it, though. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas is coming .. now in double-quick time!

We just decided that instead of staying home for a low-key Christmas we will drive 13 hours to Colorado for Christmas with both sides of the family ...

and that we will have an early Christmas here (to save hauling big presents for the kids to Colorado and back) ON THE 15TH.

So I just lost 10 days of Christmas prep time, and added all the packing & planning of a big trip.

We must be out of our minds. But Dean's brother and my sister live 10 minutes apart, and both sets of grandparents are traveling there for the holidays --- it just seems like the right choice.

Gotta run -- I've got things to do!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

... and spinning ...

or spinning-to-come. This is a beautiful black fleece, breed unknown, that I bought at my local farmer's market! Actually I fell in love with it at a small fiber fest but managed to resist it. Truth be told, while I was saying "No, no" at the fiber festival I was already planning to buy it at the farmer's market. The very patient vendor was Wayne Jesko. It's a medium wool in a lovely deep black to which this picture does not do justice.

Here's some wool spun from his wool & mohair roving. I used two slightly different shades to get a heathered look, although the pictures are a little washed out. I think this will be socks, one of these days.

Here is a superwash merino roving that I painted, and some singles spun from it. I really hadn't expected it to be this green, and I tried to persuade myself that the yarn wouldn't end up green.

Obviously, I was wrong. I was planning to spin a three ply sock yarn from this roving, but as I spun I started worrying about the durability of a merino sock. And I just wasn't happy about that green.

So I decided to dye some silk a coppery brown, and spin a third ply from that. I used sabraset dyes for the first time, and came up with this:

Not very lovely, is it? The dye penetrated unevenly, and the top got stiff and icky. Here's a close up:

Just calls out to you and makes you want to spin, doesn't it?

Here's an end fluffed up. It really wasn't horrible to spin, and it looks nice finished. But I've got to work on my silk dyeing technique.

Here are two coordinated yarns, from Abby Franquemont's August batts. I spun them with the idea of weaving a scarf with weft stripes, but I've been too chicken to actually weave it. Also I'm not quite sure what I'll use for a warp. I'd like to weave several scarves for Christmas presents -- so I had better get a move on, hadn't I?

Should I show it to you from another angle? Can you tell I love this yarn? or at least the fiber -- the yarn could be better. But it'll do.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to spin next. I have too many wonderful possibilities calling to me. Also I have just a little of the green top left -- two small partial bobbins. I could spin up some silk to finish it off, but I don't want to. But if I don't do that, what will I do with the wool singles? Fortunately I don't have enough bobbins for my woolee winder to be paralyzed for long.

Thanks for the suggestions for sister-in-law socks. I am waiting for something to grab me. If nothing strikes my fancy soon I'll just pick one at random. Hey! Maybe Ravelry could have a random pattern picker! So you could just say, "pick a sock pattern for me" and it would send you to someone's project page.

Of course, I would cheat if I didn't like the one it picked.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Still knitting ...

just not blogging about it. My computer woes have abated but blogging is still very pesky. Knitting and spinning, however, are not, so I've been doing lots of that. With luck I can add some photographic evidence of same.

Socks (1): I continue to knit the tweed socks from handspun last seen two posts and four weeks ago,
I love the yarn, the short row heel with gussets is wonderful, and they are going to be a good length for the chillier weather we are having. But whaddya know, longer socks take more time to knit.

As the earlier picture shows, I started with a provisional cast on because I didn't know what kind of heel I was going to do or even whether I was knitting toe up or top down. Once I figured out the heel, I knit until I had almost finished half the yarn. Then I decided that I had better finish off the toe and knit the second sock. I split the yarn in half by weight but since it's handspun that doesn't mean the yardage or the resulting socks will be the same. I'd rather have the length match visually so I'm going to get them both almost done and then figure out what to do.

So I picked up my provisional cast on, using the purple end of the second ball of yarn. I really wish I had taken pictures when I was trying it on for length since I had needles and yarn attached to both ends of the sock. I didn't, though, so you'll just have to imagine it. I finished off with a star toe just for something different. I decreased on every round because otherwise it would have been too long, so it went very quickly.

As I knit the toe I tried to figure out how I would knit the second sock. I really wanted the shape of the two socks to match, and I tried to figure out how I could do that toe up. Maybe if I had been decreasing every other row, I would have had time. But I failed. So for the second sock, I cast on provisionally and knit the star toe. Then I picked up the provisional cast on and knit in the other direction. I'm adding gusset stitches now and should reach the heel soon.

Socks (2): while I was futzing with the heel on the handspun socks, I needed some park knitting. So I cast on a plain old top down ribbed pair. I am not at the heel of the first sock but I keep thinking I am. More measuring than knitting is taking place.

Socks (3): My sister-in-law has asked for handknit socks for Christmas. In fact, she asked right after last Christmas and has reminded me of it several times. However, in the meantime she has knit herself a pair of socks (her first). They came out great and she loves them, but she is sure (she says) that my socks will be much more wonderful. Now I feel pressured to make wonderful socks. What counts as wonderful? Her first socks were of Regia, but now she's making some out of Lorna's Laces. Do I need to do colorwork? Fancy stitches? Do I need to top her? Can't I just make a pair of pretty park-knitting socks?

I need to make a decision on this pretty soon.

Sideways vest: I am not feeling the love. But maybe if I just keep knitting it will get wonderful again. I sure would like to finish a garment for my torso sometime in this century; I haven't yet and all my favorite sweaters (handknit and store bought) are starting to fall apart.

Oops, gotta run. There's a birthday cake that needs to go in the oven.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I hate time changes. It's just not natural -- and in fact the only positive thing I can see about them is that it certainly helps me explain the artificial nature of "clock time" to the kids.

The fall one is supposed to be the "easy" one, because you get to sleep an hour later. But what if you can't do it?

For the first few days of the new time, we all slept in just fine -- even my early bird. I don't know why he was suddenly able to sleep an extra hour or more. Perhaps it was suddenly staying up an hour later that tired him out. Whatever the cause, he was more than willing to sleep until six fifteen (new time) which would have been seven fifteen last week. And where he goes, my perennially overtired husband and daughter were more than willing to follow.

And so was I -- for a few days. But by Tuesday night my body was tired of all this foolishness of staying up late and sleeping late. For the past two nights I've been so tired my eyes were watering by about 9:30 (new time). So I've gone to bed, and woken up refreshed at 5 a.m. (new time).

Guess who usually goes to bed at 10:30 and gets up at 6?

Unfortunately, I can't just stick with my old schedule until next spring. (And how ironic is it that we now spend more time saving daylight than we do on "standard time"?) So how to adjust to the new time? I think I've got to stay up late somehow. Sitting on the couch knitting isn't doing it. Perhaps a gripping movie?

What a pain in the neck.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I am so proud of myself! What you are seeing here is two needlepunched Halloween creatures -- one started last year and finihshed a few weeks ago, the other dreamed up the next day and already on the wall!

This is so unlike me. Far more typical is the way I did the witch -- buy the materials, start immediately and with great enthusiasm, then miss my deadline and let the project languish for months or years. But George was so pleased when I asked him to draw the Frankenstein that I really wanted to finish it. I was afraid that if I waited until next year he would think his drawing was too childish, and he wouldn't be thrilled to have it on the wall.

Here's a closeup. Isn't it sweet? I used a 6-strand needle so it went really fast. This guy is 3" x 5" and took between 5-6 hours to punch. I'd like to try using a 3-strand needle for details, like the teeth. Next year I plan on asking George for a mummy, which might need some detailed lines.

And Caroline, you are a genius! The gusseted short row heel is just what I needed. Thanks so much.

Here's a closup. Must go knit more now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More finished stuff

I have actually accomplished a few things in the last month -- it's just so hard telling anyone about it that I haven't bothereed. But here goes.. (and remember I can't see what I'm typing until about 3 minutes later, so don't expet proof-reading!)

I decided to try making socks with a little pattern to them. I'm not sure it was worth it. They took a lot longer than a pair of straight stockinette socks, and while the chevron is nice, it isn't fabulou8s. It's 15 stitches wide, so I only did two repeats across the foot, and I think that's too narrow. Also I hate the big old stripes on the heel. But I don't like how short-row heels fit me. Does anyone know how to adapt them for a high instep? I usually do a standard heel across 60% of the ankle stitches, if that helps.

Here's one of the new socks (Cascade's Simple Stripes) with an older one (KnitPicks Simply Stripes, or whatever, in Snapdragon). They aren't all that similar but they aren't all that different either. I don't know how I got on this green and orange kick. I don't even wear green or orange.

And here is my latest FO -- a punch needle embroidered witch, started last year and abandoned right after Halloween. I'm really pleased with her and am planning a companion Frankenstein piece (designed by George). No doubt I will abandon it next Thursday, but I hope to have it on the wall next year.

Hmm. I thought I had finished more than this. I have a few projects underway that SHOULD be done; that must have been what I was thinking of. Must go work on them. Or maybe make dinner. It's a tossup.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've been sorting out extra printed materials to sell at a little spinner's retreat tomorrow. I'm quite pleased to have identified 18 books, 9 back issues of magazines, and 94 pamphlets that I can live without.

The kicker here is that they are all DUPLICATES. Can someone tell me how I ended up with three copies of Sheila MacGregor's wonderful book on Fair Isle knitting? Actually, I know how it happened, and it all made sense at the time, but what it boils down to is about 3 linear feet of duplicates. No wonder I have piles of books sitting on the floor.

Wish me luck selling these. If it goes smoothly, I might start looking at some of the rest of my library with a hard eye. As in, getting rid of things WITHOUT keeping a backup copy. Oh, my. I don't mind cutting up knitting, but getting rid of a vintage pattern or book that I might never see again? That's scary.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I have finished the Afghani sweater, with seconds to spare. I was looking for the address on their website when I saw a note saying things could arrive on Monday or Tuesday of next week instead of this Friday, so I haven't actually mailed it yet -- Thursday morning would be much more convenient than getting it in the mail today -- but I am DONE.

On the downside, I don't think this is fitting a seven year old. Here it is on my almost-four year old:

(Please pardon the sideways picture. I am struggling with a new-to-me operating system and the loss of most of my familiar programs. Also the computer is moving at the speed of molasses so that I can't see what I'm writing while I'm writing it, and going back to proof anything is like pulling teeth. Sort of the computer equivalent of purling in Fair Isle, my least favorite part of this sweater including the cutting up parts.)

The sleeves don't match, and it's too short as well as being too small. Also I didn't line up the stripes on the sleeves with the stripes on the body very well.

But I do like the colors, and it was very nice to knit with lovely warm sturdy wool instead of soft delicate smooth wool for a change. And did I mention that it's DONE?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A small problem.

As you may recall, I am knitting a sweater for a 7-14 year old Afghani child. That's a pretty big range, so I didn't worry about gauge or fitting or anything. I just picked out some yarn and a stitch pattern and cast on what seemed like "enough" stitches. I was wrong.

Here is the sweater body being modelled by my almost-four year old daughter. (It's a tube without armholes, so she can't put it on.) I don't care how skinny those Afghani kids are, this isn't going to work.

Now of course I noticed almost immediately that it was pretty small, but I kept on knitting while I wondered how small was too small, and by the time I worked that one out, I had gone too far to think of ripping it back. So then I had quite a while more to think about how I was going to deal with the problem.

First I thought I'd just make a little sweater and send it. But that seemed like giving up, and I thought of some cold 8 year old shivering in the brutal Afghani winter (cue Dr. Zhivago theme) and I just couldn't do it.

So I decided to slice it up the sides -- that's why I didn't bother with armholes -- and insert these:

Basically I'm making a square set-in sleeve by widening the body under the armholes instead of by decreasing the body width at the armholes.

There was one hitch:

Because I hadn't planned on cutting this sweater open, the end of round was not in a convenient place. (A convenient place is the middle of your cutting lines, so that you have solid fabric on each side.) So I sewed it one stitch over (after darning in the ends) and sewed it twice; it seems like it will hold well enough.

Here are the front and back, separated, and one of the side inserts. I'm sewing those in now. They're live at the top so I can make them longer or shorter as seems appropriate.

Looking at Charlotte, I wonder -- is that sweater too short? It's 13" (33 cm) which I thought was pretty good since my measurement chart gives armhole depth and armhole to waist both as 5 1/2" for a size 8. I picked size 8 because that has a cross-shoulder width that approximates the size of this sweater. So then I figured this would give me shoulder to natural waist plus a couple of inches of ribbing.

I could make it longer by adding a little at the shoulder but then the neck would dip down pretty far. It's already 3" deep because I wanted to make sure it would go over someone's head easily. Should I add a little at the shoulder? What do you think?

Oh, and while I've been knitting this sweater I've also been reading Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top Down. What a great book! I can't believe I've never read it before. I had no idea how much it covered. I can't wait to knit something -- anything, really -- from the top down. Except of course that I'm busy knitting from the body up and then cutting it into pieces.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Style or substance?

I'm not much of a charity knitter. I'm picky about what I knit and especially about what I knit with. If someone wants acrylic sweaters for babies, I'll send them a check, but I won't knit those sweaters! And I always have so many things I want to knit that squeezing in another project and meeting a deadline is hard.

But I have knitted (a little) for Dulaan and for Afghans for Afghans, because I was persuaded that handknit wool garments were really wanted and useful in those places. I particularly enjoy the little lecture on the Afghans for Afghans site about Why Wool is Best.

I had, however, pretty much forgotten about Afghans for Afghans until I read that they were moving the due date up this year, to October 12th which is pretty soon. So of course I decided I had to make a sweater.

I'm using some Icelandic wool that I bought in 1986, enough for two or three sweaters. I only made one, and the rest has been languishing all this time. I've moved it from Chicago to Vermont to Michigan to Minnesota to Oklahoma. (Yes, I am a packrat.) It's a sturdy wool -- some might even say a little harsh -- and the sweater I did make looks brand new. Surely this wool is suited for Afghanistan.

It was purple, teal, and white -- you could date it to 1986 even if you had no idea when it was from! I dyed the white red, orange, fuschia, and yellow. The yellow was supposed to be gold but instead is a screaming lemon, so I might not use it. But the rest are nice.

I'm using a pattern from Anna Zilboorg's book on Turkish stockings -- not even close to Afghanistan but I wanted something a little different. Of course, now that it's knitting up, it looks sort of like a Sanquhar check that wasn't alternated, if that makes any sense. What I mean is, it doesn't look all that unusual to me. But at least the pattern has a cool name: Well Buckets. Makes no sense to me, either.

We were asked to focus on 7-14 year old kids. Unfortunately this looks more like about a 5 year old at best. I'm going to make it long and hope there's a skinny Afghan kid who needs a new sweater.

So here's the thing: if I hadn't given knitting for Afghanis a thought until I saw it on someone else's blog, and I'm all excited about using up my ancient yarn, etc., etc., am I really being generous? Or am I just amusing myself in a trendy way? I am reminded of some very uncomfortable passages in Angela Thirkell's novels, about do-gooder Englishwomen selling Eastern European handicrafts to raise money for refugees. But I tell myself some kid is going to be warmer, right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fuzzy worsted?

Take a look at this yarn:

It is Corriedale x Churro fleece, combed with English combs, and spun worsted. I am not all that great at worsted spinning but I was very careful to keep the twist from running up into the fiber.

It is fuzzy!

I didn't even think that was possible. As I spun I could see that the yarn was fuzzy, but somehow I thought that might change with plying and finishing. It didn't.

So this morning I sat down and re-read big chunks of Teal's book (yes, that's why the laundry isn't done and the packages aren't mailed or even, for that matter, packaged up) and it seems to me that I might need to make a roving out of my sliver, by inserting twist before spinning.

I tried that way back when I first started combing a million years ago but abandoned it almost right away, and really, I've never seen fuzzy worsted before. Has anyone else? Does anyone else go through an intermediate "roving-making" stage after combing and before a final spinning?

I'm hoping to make a sweater for myself out of this wool, this winter. Last winter I spun up some woolen yarn and knitted swatches out of it; they are fuzzy and lovely but I think they might pill up quickly. That's why I tried the worsted spinning -- to see if it would make a more durable yarn. I can't wait to knit up a swatch and compare it with last winter's (except that I can't find them right now). Maybe this wool just wants to be fuzzy?

Also, this is a low twist yarn. But I should be able to make a smooth low twist yarn, right?

Friday, September 07, 2007


I've finally finished a spinning project I've been working on for a couple of months: 5 batts of Abby Franquemont's superwash / alpaca / nylon sock blend in Tiger Lily. It has been a pure joy to spin, so I don't know why it has taken so long -- life just gets in the way sometimes, I guess.

The top skein is a three ply; the bottom one is Navajo plied, although not with any great attention to color changes, so there is some barber-poling. The first skein should give me a tweed fabric, the second one, a striped fabric.

Following some interesting posts of Abby's on twist I decided to spin a soft single and then ply it up harder, without worrying about a balanced yarn. Looking at it, I almost wish I had put a little more plying twist in. But first I'll knit it up and see what it's like to work with and how it wears.

I love this yarn & can't wait to start knitting with it. But I do have some decisions to make. I have about 375 yards of each yarn. I haven't figured wpi yet, but I think it's a little heavier than standard sock yarn. So maybe I have enough for two pairs of short socks. But maybe I don't.

I think the safest bet would be to make toe-up socks, and to plan for them to be knee-high. I need some longer socks for colder weather when my standard short socks just aren't enough. BUT the question is -- do I make one sock from each yarn? Or both feet from one yarn and both legs from another? Or mix & match? Maybe I will just start knitting one sock and see where it takes me.

Here are a couple of closeups. Don't the colors just make you want to sing? Part of me wants to use the yarn for something more "special" than socks but another part of me (my feet) wants cozy warm socks to cheer me up in the middle of winter. Not that we have winter here, but that's another story...

Isn't it interesting how some of the alpaca fibers aren't dyed? (At least I'm guessing that's what they are. Click for big if you can't see them. ) They make a little shaggy halo that might or might not affect the final socks; we'll have to see.

So the real question is: do I finish my current socks before casting on for these?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gotta knit!

It is September and I want to be knitting something Substantial. Enough with the socks already. I want a Garment.

So if I were to work a quick and probably inaccurate gauge swatch with some bulky handspun (last seen here) and cast on without any more planning than I can do while packing a lunch for a sideways, randomly striped vest, what do you suppose the odds are that it will turn out to be something I can wear and enjoy?

Just asking.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Know thyself.

I finished my Sidewinders:

They're .... okay. They are a little tight at the ankle, because my instep is so high. They're a little baggy in the leg. But they'll do.

If I made another pair, I'd use Maia's modifications for a high instep, and to eliminate the toe graft. But I won't make another pair, because I learned something.

Turns out I don't like fancy sock construction methods. I want a plain old sock that goes from top to toe, or toe to top. Heel variations are fine. But I just did not enjoy making a peculiar piece of fabric that eventually turned into a sock.

(What do you think this means about my planned Baby Surprise Jacket? I am curious, myself.)

The two things I didn't like about it:
  • you can't try it on.
  • something's happening all the time, and you need instructions to know what to do.
Socks are my carry-around project, and if I have to carry around a 28-page book of instructions (really! though I'm sure it could be condensed to about four pages, but I don't want to take the time) and then actually LOOK at them while knitting, it kind of defeats the purpose of a carry-around project.

Of course, I might not actually look at them, as shown by these toe grafts:
Following instructions

Winging it.

The same sort of thing happened at the center back. The second sock has one too many rows, or perhaps one too few, so that the graft is visible in the garter stitch section. I realized immediately what was happening but I just Couldn't Be Bothered to fix it.

So I'm thinking I won't be knitting Debbie New's fabulous garter stitch swirl socks. Too bad, because they've been in the back of my head for about 10 years now, but there you go.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What happened to summer?

My, the time has flown. First Ravelry sucked up my time, then we went on vacation, and then, and then ..... and now summer is over. Or at least, school has started, which seems like the end of summer even if it's still hot out.

What did I accomplish over the summer? Not much, as it turns out:
  • I have a pair of socks almost done, and another pair coming along nicely.
  • I have a lovely sock yarn almost spun up.
  • I have a lot of pictures on Ravelry.
  • I've acquired a 2 harness loom for the kids that almost works.
  • I've agreed to teach a tatting class in October, so I'm madly trying to increase my tatting skills.
  • I tatted a bookmark but gave it away without taking a picture of it. It could have been better, so I think I'll make another one. And take a picture of it.
  • I've done some gauge swatches for my Falling Leaves vest.
Almost, almost, almost. Lots of fooling around but no real results.

But now that Fall is Here, I'm sure I'll accomplish lots! Or at least take some pictures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Old friends

I've been spending a lot of time putting projects onto Ravelry. It has been loads of fun -- I've dug into both cedar chests and the coat closet and pulled out stacks of things I've knitted over the years. I've gone through old photo albums, looking for pictures of knitting. It has brought back a lot of memories, most of them good. Even the frustrating projects are funny after a while.

I have a stack of old photos that haven't been scanned yet, but I can't resist sharing one project with you. It's my Gray Vest, which has seen steady use for almost 20 years.

The only pictures I can find of it date from about the same period in the mid 90's. That's my then-boyfriend, now husband, and me, first at my aunt's house where he first met the family, and later at a fish show where we were both judges. It doesn't look like either of us got a haircut in between!

The vest was really not terribly successful, considered objectively. The pattern is written in one size, 36 inches at the chest and 24 inches long, and I remember thinking, "oh, if my gauge is a little off, that will make sure it will fit." (Ha, ha -- guessing to make sure, get it? Oh, what a precise thinker I was!) The sweater is 46 inches at the chest and 26 inches long. This was my first inkling that gauge matters. On the positive side, I liked it baggy, and I can still wear it now although I am 40 pounds heavier than when I made it.

I know neither photo shows much detail, (gives me a new respect for those Polperro photos) but can you see the horizontal bands of garter stitch? Can you see how they bend at the chest? This was before I learned about bust darts, too.

The yarn is a superwash wool (from when superwash was kind of new and exciting). I can't remember the name right now, but I'm working on it. It has held up okay although there are a few odd worms where the sweater has been snagged. I think this is the kind of superwash where the scales are filled with some sort of resin, because it doesn't really feel wooly. It doesn't feel like plastic, either.

I don't wear the vest as much as I used to, partly because I live in a warmer climate now where I don't automatically put on a turtleneck & wool vest every day in the winter. (In the second photo I am wearing the vest over a Pendleton wool shirt over some sort of t-shirt -- winter in Minnesota.) Partly I don't wear the vest because I'm so much heavier that I don't think it looks as good. And partly, it just looks old.

I would make this vest very differently today. I have, in fact, tried to replace it three times, with a gray alpaca/silk shawl-collared vest, a big boxy black one, and a closer-fitting purple cabled one. Two of those vests have been quite successful (the black one was a mistake), but neither have replaced this vest for day-in, day-out comfort and ease of wearing.

Maybe this winter I will try again. Maybe I should just make the same pattern again (it's from a wonderful compilation of old patterns, Classic Knitting Patterns from the British Isles: Men's Hand-Knits from the '20s to the '50s, currently available on ebay.) (Not from me, I just love this book.) Or maybe it's time to move on.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rest in Peace

A couple of months ago I signed up to be part of the Mother's Day Project (and see the main project site, too). I guess you would call it a protest against the Iraq war. People are embroidering the names of the female soldiers who have died in Iraq. The embroidered names will be assembled into tote bags, and each person who has embroidered a name will use a bag for a while.

I've had a lot of ambivalent feelings about this. I have been opposed to the war in Iraq from before it even started -- I wrote President Bush in October 2001 when he first started conflating Iraq and al Qaeda, asking him to please exercise restraint. It's pretty clear how much influence I have in the White House. But then I've been a liberal who votes Democratic or Independent for my whole adult life. I've watched the war turn into a worse mess than I ever imagined it could be, but I haven't really seen anything I could do about it (except vote, which I've certainly done, to what avail I don't know).

I'm not sure what good this project will do. And I wonder about using the names of women soldiers only. How is the death of a woman worse than that of a man? I suppose that most of us embroidering are women, and perhaps might be able to place ourselves a little more in the shoes of a female soldier. Really, though, I think it's just that the number of dead women is more manageable than the number of dead men. Horrible, isn't it? And who is embroidering the names of the Iraqi civilians? But in the end, I kept on thinking about this project, and so I volunteered.

In due time I got my name, but I didn't start embroidering. I put it in the back of my mind, and let it float to the surface every once in a while. I wondered about her, and her family, and I wondered what it would be like to be a soldier. My father was in the Army in the 50's, but he was a lifeguard at White Sands Proving Grounds. My uncle was in the Navy, I think, but we've never talked about it.

It wasn't until I moved to Oklahoma that I met very many military families. And I'm sure that the people I know aren't typical of the Armed Forces -- or at least aren't representative in any statistically valid way. But they sure have put a personal face on it for me. And it makes me wonder what the family of this soldier might feel about the Mother's Day Project. So I'm not going to use her name here. I just don't think my feelings have much to do with her, or her family.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling discouraged and low, and decided to pick up this project, I guess as a way of reminding myself that hey, at least I'm still alive. Then that struck me as a pretty self-centered way of approaching this. So I spent some time googling the soldier and reading and thinking about her life and death, but I didn't start stitching.

For whatever reason, today seemed like the right time to get started. I had been thinking about thread colors -- black for loss? camouflage for the Army? red for blood? something else? -- when I remembered reading about her new car. I checked again and sure enough, her car was red. So I went with red for the car she loved, and red for her death.

I used some thread I had on hand. As I started work I realized it wasn't the best quality, but I decided to keep using it; it reminded me of stories I've read about the unarmored vehicles that soldiers were reinforcing on their own with whatever they could find in Iraq. And some of my stitching wasn't the best -- I'm not a very experienced embroiderer -- but I decided I didn't get any do-overs. She didn't. And it didn't take very long to do, which also seemed appropriate; she didn't have a very long life. I don't want to belabor this too much. What I'm doing doesn't have much to do with the soldier whose name I embroidered -- the choices she made, the things she was proud of, the way she voted. But I hope it's at least a small way of saying I hate what has happened -- is happening -- in Iraq, but I respect the soldiers who are victims of these terrible decisions.

It has been a surprisingly moving experience for me to embroider this one small name. I'm glad I did so.

Friday, June 29, 2007

What I meant was ...

I guess I wasn't very clear in this post. I was trying to say that, much as I admire the works the artists have produced, I'm glad I don't have that single focus. Or maybe I'm glad that I have the family that doesn't let me have the single focus. Or maybe just that, while I love to look at their work, I wouldn't want to be them.

But speaking of obsession, I'm spending way too much time with Ravelry. Because hey! I can make lists! And better yet, I can edit patterns! Oh, I should have been a cataloger.

Some knitting is occurring, and even some spinning. But not much to talk about yet. I'm too busy taking a trip down memory lane, pulling old sweaters out of my cedar chest.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I've finished my first Sidewinder sock. Here are some not-so-pretty pictures:

The toe is a little blocky but comfortable.

I like the vertical construction. I sort of thought the stripes would go straight up but they wobble over my instep. I have very high arches, and the sock is a little tight over the top. Normally I do my heels over about 60% of the stitches and that takes care of it. I can't quite figure out how to do the same thing here. At first I thought of doing fewer heel decreases/increases, but doing the same number of rows. But that would just change the bend, which I don't think is the issue. Short rows across the top of my ankle? It's not tight enough to make the sock uncomfortable, but it's noticeable.

Here are the decreases in the inside of my foot,

and here are the increases on the outside. They're much less noticeable. On the next sock I think I'll try to match up the increase (K in the row below) and decrease better. I might even follow Nona's suggestions; I was worried about them being too tight but it might look better.

I have enjoyed knitting this, although I'm not sure I'll make another pair. I think I like a more traditional construction better because you can adjust the fit as you go. It's a well written pattern for a nicely made sock, but I think Nona must be more adventurous than I am!

The jury is still out on the wool (Reynolds Swizzle). It seems kind of scratchy right now but we'll see how it wears.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Badge of honor

The kids and I have dyed some t-shirts and shorts gray to serve as pajamas. The idea is that we will paint them to look more armor-like. But on Saturday I decided to embroider some sort of badge on Charlotte's shirt.

I really enjoyed doing it, although it's clear I should have spent a little more time in planning. The sequins are oddly grouped on the right, and there's an unexpected gap between the rows of chain stitch there. But when we add metallic paint I'm sure it will all work out!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Focus, obsession, and interruptions

I love my family. But before I got married I lived alone for 15 years, and I was shocked to discover how much time it took to have a day to day relationship with someone. Although Dean and I had courted for five years, we had been living in different states the whole time so there was none of this "Morning, honey, did you sleep well" chitchat.

Now, as it turns out, I like that sort of chitchat. But it does eat up time.

Then we had children. Talk about a time sink! Not only do they want me to do things with them -- read books, play games, go places, talk -- but then there are the things I need to do for them -- the laundry, the dirty bathrooms, the clothes they keep growing out of, the meals they need, you name it.

They have seriously cut into my fiber arts productivity.

A digression: I have always been intrigued by people who focus on something to the point of obsession. I was bowled over the first time I saw James Hampton's Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly
at the Smithsonian:

It's very hard to get scale from this, but this collection of altars and other furniture fills a garage. Every time I see it in person I am bowled over; it makes me think about the time he spent and the focus he maintained over about 14 years -- with no feedback from anyone else.

Just the other night I watched a documentary about Henry Darger, who makes Hampton seem like a trifler. (It's called In the Realms of the Unreal.) He spent over sixty years working on one major book? piece? story? artwork?, as well as many related materials, an autobiography, and other odds & ends. He lived in one room, had very little human contact despite working steadily, and left about 30,000 pages of illustrated manuscript. Here are a couple of pictures from it:

I also met someone rather Darger-esque when I volunteered at the Brautigan Library. A young man came in with a hand made, hand sewn book. The pages were flattened out grocery bags -- he worked as a bagger -- on which he had spent the previous winter writing a sort of autobiography that seemed to revolve around his birth. (It reminded me of Tristram Shandy.) There were many collage pieces on the pages to illustrate the story, and the text and the collage interacted in fascinating ways. I tried to convince him that his book was art as well as a story, and ought to be shown to art dealers or rare book dealers as well as to the Brautigan -- a special place, indeed, but not one equipped to deal with that sort of manuscript. He was unwilling to leave his manuscript at the Brautigan (and who could blame him); I never knew what happened to it or to him after that.

My point? Cut off from much of normal human social interaction, these people achieved a lot. Their productivity was pretty impressive.

Gotta go now. My kids need breakfast -- and boy, am I glad.

(P.S. In the interest of accuracy I should point out that I didn't achieve anything very impressive or meaningful in my 15 years of solitude. But I sure did get a lot of knitting & spinning & reading done!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

See you later ....

Here I was, pouting because my Netflix movie hadn't arrived for tonight and the projects I'm working on do not absorb my full attention, and my husband is out of town so I can't go to knit night, when my Ravelry invitation arrived.

I guess I know what I'll be doing with my free time for a while. I'm really looking forward to sorting out my needles -- pathetic, but true.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jumping on the blogwagon

Yes, I'm making Sidewinders, too. Not much I can add to the general discussion -- they are interesting, it's unnerving to knit socks without being able to try anything on or measure anything as you go. But I'll tell you this:

Oh, how I hate the join on the Inox 2.25 mm. needle.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Paradise .... and some silk questions

Doesn't look much like paradise, does it? But it is. My two children are in summer school for a couple of hours each morning for the next month. This means (oh, bliss) that I can spin OUTSIDE while it is LIGHT out and yet it is QUIET enough to hear the birds. And since there are no fast-moving, shrieking dynamos in the yard, just one sluggish middle-aged spinner tucked back under the porch roof, there are lots and lots of birds and squirrels and rabbits and so forth to watch. No pictures -- I forgot to take my camera out and I was having such a lovely time I didn't want to go in.

The drying racks surrounding my chair are filled with the Icelandic fleece I bought at Rendezvous last month. I'm going to card it without separating the coats since the outer coat is not very coarse. I think I'll spin the darkest areas separately, but blend the rest.

The fleece only weighed about a pound and a half before washing, so I expect to get a vest out of this. I'm thinking of a puffy three ply in a light worsted weight, but I'm not sure yet. I've got a sample batt waiting to be spun but right now I'm absorbed in this:

Silk! I don't have much experience spinning silk. This is some tussah sliver dyed with drink mix at the OKC fiber retreat last fall (can't remember the event's official name right now). I'm enjoying it a lot but I'm having some problems.

If you look at the bobbin you can see some spots where the yarn is kinked. This puzzles me because I'm having a hard time getting enough twist into the yarn -- that is, when I do a test two ply by pulling some of the singles off the bobbin and letting them twist back on themselves to make a balanced yarn, the two ply has a lower angle of twist than I want. Everything I read says that silk should be spun with a lot of twist. I'm using my woolee winder with a ratio of 19:1, and drafting about an inch and a half with each treadle, maybe even a little less. It's as little as I can bear to move my hand! I could switch to the lace head for a higher ratio, but I'm not trying to spin laceweight, and I really don't think I should need a higher ratio. Plus spinning with the WW is so hypnotic and relaxing -- I really love it.

I think the kinks might come when my hand is moving a little faster than the bobbin winds on, and that maybe a little more tension on the bobbin will fix it. But I also think that more tension on the bobbin makes me draw out a little more yarn with each hand movement.

All in all, it's nothing that spinning a few more ounces (or pounds...) won't fix. I'll figure it out.

But this has me puzzled:
On the bottom is the sliver as it looked after being dyed -- all shriveled, compacted, and crunchy; most unattractive. On the top is the sliver after it has been "popped" between my hands to open it up -- lovely, soft, easy to draft.

Except that there are spots that stay hard, crunchy, and compacted. I'm sure you can see them in the top section. Is that sericin? I have popped that section of the sliver over and over, and they never open up. They don't draft smoothly, and I'm not sure what to do about them.

I don't have much of this dyed sliver left, so I'm just going to keep spinning it as is. But in the future (I have lots more) should I degum the sliver? Before or after dyeing? Anyone have more experience with this?

No pictures, but I also spun up some silk hankies that we dyed the same day. What fun! Knowing that there really wasn't any way to spin a truly smooth yarn from hankies made me pretty casual about the whole thing. I think I might get some more and try knitting from drafted but unspun hankies.

And now for something completely different: an onion flower. This isn't any fancy ornamental allium, just an onion that didn't get harvested last year. Isn't it lovely?