Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Frustrated On All Fronts

My travel knitting/crocheting it totally screwed up this week and I'm left working on a project I'm not enjoying at the moment.

Bad Knitting Week
I brought three projects to Delaware this week to work on.
1. The crochet tablecloth
2. The alpaca herd jacket
3. A new secret project that I may want to publish
Being all excited about the new project (it involves Koigu), I decided to work on that mostly this week to try and get it finished. Searching through my travel-knitting bag, I realized I hadn't brought the crochet hook with me for this project (see, you're finding out more about it than I cared to's a crochet project!).

I then started working diligently on the Alpaca Herd Jacket. Alternating between balls of yarn, I finished the sleeve shaping and was just about to get to the collar shaping when I realized I hadn't brought any extra balls of yarn. I had to put this project down.

Which left me with the tablecloth. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy doing this fine crochet lace...except when I find a mistake in the work I've already completed. So I've decided to try correcting a few of my mistakes.

You'll see that I've made it look like a person missing teeth, and I still need to take out another large motif...ugh. This kind of fix always seems so daunting and complex, but I guess it really isn't. It is time consuming, however.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Barbara writes, "I've been looking at the Jojoland Harmony - what are the color lengths like - how long are the repeats - do you know?"

I don't know, but if you have access to Ravelry, there are a few projects out there with pictures showing how it knits up.

Cara asks, "Where in Philadelphia can you get silk blend Manos?"

Sherry W. answered that Rosie's Yarn Cellar has it, and I got it at Twist in New Hope (I think).

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Monday, November 26, 2007

Supporting My Local Yarn Stores

While James was here, we were able to to make it to four different yarns stores, and I ended up buying at least one sweater's worth of yarn in each store.

Latest Yarn Purchases
First of all, if anyone is in the market for a large wooden yarn swift (either for themselves or as a great knitter's gift), Amazon has it on sale right now for around $50 (it usually retails for about $70).

Also, for those of you on Ravelry, you can check out my stash there (if you already have, this section of the blog will be repetitive). I also got quite a nice gift from Carol at Black Bunny Fibers.

I'll start with the gift, since it was my favorite (including the card visible in the background).

The yarn is hand-dyed merino/tencel blend, that I will use for socks. Here's a closeup, since the colors are so subtle and so sublime.

I bought 11 hanks of Berrocco Peruvia Wool.

It was softer than Cascade 220 and had some really nice colors (even though I selected gray...much to James' dismay).

Then I picked up some Claudia Handpainted fingering weight yarns.

Not sure what I'll be using the Claudia for, but I liked the colors.

I picked up some more Koigu KPPPM in colors that I thought would look nice together.

Then I found this lovely yarn. It's Jojoland Harmony in a very fine laceweight.

This yarn was was very inexpensive, and had some spectacular colorways.

I couldn't resist picking up some of the Malabrigo Merino Laceweight.

I thought the colorway was rich and interesting, and the yarn was softer than corn starch.

I can't believe no one had told me that Manos starting making a Silk Blend yarn.

The colors are just wonderful and deep and vibrant. I have no idea what I'll make with this, but whatever it is, it will be very nice.

Finally, I picked up two different colors of Rowan Felted Tweed.

I found the tan color first and liked it, and then when I saw the red, I had to have it as well.

Suffice it to say, I have enough yarn due to James' visit to keep me knitting for at least the upcoming year.

Current Knitting
I was able to finish the back of the Alpaca Herd Jacket and then work up to the sleeve shaping on the left front.

This is going to be one warm and soft jacket when it's finished.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Suzan asks, "Question: do you think Thanksgiving is more important than Christmas?"

I don't think Thanksgiving is more important than I will say that I enjoy the restful, peaceful quality of Thanksgiving a little more than the frenetic chaos that Christmas usually presents, but that has more to do with how we celebrate both holidays as opposed to the inherent importance of each.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How Do Americans Celebrate?

For the U.S. readers, do you celebrate Thanksgiving as a heartwarming time to be with friends and family? Do you take the day as an opportunity to give thanks for all you have? Or do you dread the day as one where you're forced to travel to get to family that you can't stand being with, sublimating feelings by stuffing your face with rich foods?

Anyone In The Middle?
Most folks I know either cherish this time of year, or dread it, but most don't have mediocre feelings about it.

I personally enjoy this time of year. I don't spend time with family, although that's not the reason I enjoy it so much (I actually enjoy being with both mine and Thaddeus' family). We go out to dinner with our friend Charles at a restaurant in an old stone building on the Delaware River. The main dining room has a large stone fireplace on either side of the long room, and the food is always predictably good. Other than that, we just relax at home and take long naps with the cat.

Now that's something to be thankful for.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I started to do some more work on the alpaca herd jacket, but realized I didn't have my measuring tape with me, and I was getting close enough to the top of the back that I didn't want to risk overshooting the length before getting to the shoulder shaping.

Fortunately, I had the lace tablecloth with me, and I got a little more done on that.

With 80 stars finished and only 60 more to go (not to mention all the smaller/filler motifs), I'm feeling like I'm making good progress.

Kiwi Remnants
Marilyn mentioned on her blog that James had come bearing gifts. I don't know what possessed that boy to schlep a sack-full of New Zealand goodies, but he was extremely generous. In addition to Pineapple Lumps and other New Zealand candies, he also brought some lovely fiber all the way from his homeland.

I couldn't possibly insult him by not spinning at least some of it while he was there, so I started whipping off some singles with this beautiful colored wool.

If I end up having enough, I think this yarn would make outrageous socks to wear with jeans. We'll see how it goes, and even if I'm slightly short of fiber for socks, I could always do the toes and heals in a fuschia or phosphorescent orange. They would certainly look fine with one of the possum-fur gifts that James gave me. I will leave this gift up to the reader's imagination.

James' dad also does some very fine woodwork, and Thaddeus and I both got somethings that he made by hand.

Like I said, he was extremely generous.

New Blogs
Ravelry has exposed me to a number of interesting people and blogs, and my visit with Liza also introduced me to a blog I had never heard of, as well as an associated book.

The first blog is Tychoish. He's a knitter who has commented on this blog for a while and does some lovely stranded knitting sweaters. He also blogs about absolutely incoherent concepts in computer technology and writing that I find compellingly interesting, despite the fact that I don't understand a word.

Liza has been holding out on us, but not telling us about Jane Brocket's blog, Yarnstorm. It's about yarn, knitting, crocheting and food and the photography is spectacular. How could that be bad?

Jane also has a wonderful book that I will be getting directly from, because it's not yet available in the states. The book is called Gentle Art of Domesticity, and it's a wonderful book...even better than her blog from what I can tell by the browsing of it I got at Liza's.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Ear Worm

"Ear Worm" is the term for one of those songs you just can't get out of your head.

Cure For Ear Worms Is Worse Than The Disease
Whenever I have a song stuck in my head for two days or more, I do something that almost always works. I start singing Barry Manilow's "Copa Cabana," and the initial ear worm magically disappears. The resulting Manilow ear worm is so repellent, it usually slinks out of my head by itself.

So what am I supposed to do now? I watched the movie Unconditional Love (a wonderful Kathy Bates and Rupert Everett movie) and one of the main songs is the Barry Manilow song, I Can't Smile Without You (I dare you to sing it without getting it stuck yourself).

How can Copa Cabana compete with that?

The James Visit
Both Mary-Helen and Jennifer were exactly right when they said how lovely it is to have James as a guest.

It's not often that folks meet my expectations of them, especially if I've known them from afar for a while before actually meeting them. But James certainly doesn't disappoint. He is truly a delightful guy, and a lot of fun to hang out with, and by far, one of the most low-maintenance guests I've ever hosted.

The photo above is James in front of a tree in Princeton. We had a lovely saunter through the campus after blowing our yarn budgets at Pins and Needles, the yarn store in the town of Princeton.

Here's James arriving on his bus Friday evening.

And here's James with Marilyn and I at the Wooly Lamb in Pennington (a lovely store).

Finally, here's James in front of stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks (you get the idea) of gorgeous fabrics (Kaffe Fasset fabrics to be specific).

Yes, we got the chance to visit Liza's business(and home) while James was in town. I was in sensory overload running through some of the most gorgeous fabrics I've ever seen. It's quite amazing but Kaffe's fabrics keep getting better and better.

Liza said I was allowed to show some of Kaffe's latest fabrics (that aren't even available for at LEAST another month) after I conducted ample begging. This is a sampling of my favorites.

Liza also insisted that I admit that I even liked the new pastels (despite the fact that my camera doesn't do these fabrics justice, I felt obliged to post the picture).

Just remember...these fabrics aren't even available yet...when they are, they'll be on Liza's web site.

Walking through Liza's inventory of quilting fabric is like trying to see the entire Louvre in one day. My eyes get overwhelmed after about the first hour by all the masterpieces, and then I get visual ADD, where I jump from a partial conversation with Liza's family or her friend Claudia, to a vibrant fabric I catch out of the corner of my eye. I needed a nap after our visit even though she served coffee.

I think Liza ought to have a Willy Wonka-like contest where five winners of golden tickets get to take a personal tour of her warehouse. Veruca Salt would insist that her daddy buy the entire business for her.

Current Knitting
Despite our multi-State yarn crawl on both Saturday and Sunday, I was able to get some knitting done on the Alpaca Herd Jacket.

I've got about 2 more inches to do on the back of the garment before I start to the two front pieces. It's not flashy, but it sure as hell will be soft and warm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Kiwi Invasion

Many of you already know this, but James (Fibre Alive blog) from New Zealand will be coming to the states and visiting with me this coming weekend.

Schedule of Events
James arrives from New York City at 7:30 PM on Friday evening and will have a quiet dinner at our home (if he hasn't already eaten). After that, we're looking at the following tentative schedule, in case anyone would like to meet with James while he's here.

Morning - Gazebo Yarns - New Hope, PA

Late Morning - Woolly Lamb - Pennington, NJ

Lunch - H.I.Rib Company - Pennington, NJ

Afternoon - Pins & Needles - Princeton, NJ

Late Afternoon - Either walking around Princeton campus - Princeton, NJ


Afternoon - Twist Knitting & Spinning - New Hope, PA

Current Knitting
This week, I've put down the crochet tablecloth, and focused my work on the Alpaca Jacket.

Fortunately, I've re-couped some of the lost knitting I had to rip out, but I'm much happier with the more muted color differentiation. This picture reflects approximately 13 inches of the back of the jacket.

New Magazine
I picked up the new Interweave Knits this past weekend, and for one reason only. Marilyn has two articles in it, and I wanted to support her.

I'm hopeful that the choice of having Marilyn write some articles for them is a sign that the magazine will get better and better. It really needs to.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding Googling for answers, Marilyn writes, "For those who are truly lazy, get the Google Toolbar. That way, you don't have to favorite it or even type in the URL. You can Google right from it."

I love this tool, and can't imagine why most folks don't use it. Not only will it allow you to do a search from anywhere, it will also allow you to search the resulting web pages for your search terms. It's a great tool.

Regarding the same topic, Ann writes "But in defense of the 'neps' question, it's one of those things where if you didn't know what it is, Googling won't help. Google on "neps" and you get unhelpful answers in the first several results pages. It's not until half way down the 3rd page that you get the relevant answer. It's something that all search engines are working on, but it requires contextual references, which people are leery of."

In some cases, I would agree with Ann, but not this time. The context of using the word 'neps' in my blog entry was clearly associated with carding wool. If a reader tried googling for 'neps' and got a lot of confusion, they should probably realize it required an additional search term or two, such as 'definition neps carding wool,' which would have narrowed down the search results.

I also want to say I was glad that Evelyn didn't take offense to the public critique, even though she had tried to Google.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wagging The Dog

Often when writing this blog, I find that my knitting, spinning and fiber-related activities are dictated by needing material for a blog post.

Do I Write The Blog or Does the Blog Write Me?
I can't tell you how many times I've thought to myself while knitting, "If I just do another few rows, I'll be able to blog about this." Or, "A $3 purchase of a pile of vintage knitting booklets would be well worth the price just for the ability to blog about it."

For those of you who write blogs, I know you know what I'm talking about, and for those that don't, I'm sure you can imagine.

Don't get me wrong, even if I didn't write a blog, I'd be doing quite a bit of knitting and spinning and other fiber-related activities. But to be honest, I think my production is somewhat higher due to having some audience watching my progress.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
All that being said, this past weekend was one of those "one step back" types of weekends when it came to my knitting, and I blame it on the blog.

I decided to work on my alpaca jacket. I had about 16 inches knit on the back, and I was just about to do shaping for the sleeve openings. Due to pictures of the garment that I took to show progress here on the web site, I realized that there was a significant color differentiation on the bottom of the fabric.

I decided I needed to pull it all out and start again.

I now have about 3 or 4 inches completed, but the color change will be much less noticeable now (I alternated between two balls of yarn every other row).

Readers' Comments/Questions
Ted asks, "Which software do you use for distilling PDFs, and for editing images?"

For image editing, I use PaintShopPro. I downloaded a free version of it years ago, and got used to using it. I ended up buying the software after I had already gotten my money out of it. For creating PDF files, I used to use freeware that uses a print driver to create a PDF document, called PDF995. It worked pretty well, but recently, I found out my company accidentally assigned me a license for Adobe Acrobat Professional, which allows me to create any kind of PDF file, so I will use that from now on.

Evelyn asks, "What's a nep?"

This is one of those questions where I'd refer you to Google. This article is something I found using such a search engine.

Andy's Crafts asks, "What kind is cormo yarn?"

Again, another lazy question where Google could have provide many answers, such as the web site linked here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Resetting, Reconfiguring, Rebuilding

Hi Folks!! Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but I was doing some short flight traveling and I also got my new computer in the middle of the week.

Missing Brain Parts
My companies tech support is usually quite good. Even when I break my laptop, they are able to rebuild my new one with all my files on it.

The thing they don't do, is reload all my settings, and personal softwares.

So, every time I get a new laptop, I have to reload my digital camera driver, my graphics editing software, my PDF creator software and my graph paper software, etc., etc.

It makes it very difficult to do anything until my computer is back in the same condition as when I broke it. Until it is, I feel like I'm walking on crutches.

Fortunately, it's almost there now, so regular blogging will continue next week.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I did virtually no knitting or crocheting on current projects at all this week.

Well, I did do one star on the tablecloth, but that's it.

Current Spinning
I ended up re-washing some of the Cormo fleece, and it came out much better this time, but boy is Linda right when she says, "Once you DO manage to have it clean, it is a nightmare to put through a drum carder, neps galore."

I put a very small amount through the new drum carder VEEERRRRRYYYYY slowly and it came out in a perfectly acceptable and spinnable roving, but there were a few neps even thought I took great care to avoid them.

I then decided to do my "rapid spinning" technique, and spun up the one batt of roving into singles, and then double-plied it to make this.

Finally, I swatched and iron-steam blocked a small knitted sample.

Suffice it to say, I will have a boatload of very nice Cormo yarn to kit with if I persist with this fleece folly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bustling Activity

Thank goodness for coffee with all that's going on in my knitting world. I may have to upgrade to methamphetamines soon if this pace keeps up.

Take a Breath
It's pretty bad when writing my blog entry for the day turns out to be my only form of meditation and calm.

First of all, you'll note in the "Current Knitting/Crocheting" section that I had three projects going on at once this past weekend.

Second, Ted and I are working on trying to create a knitting retreat for men in early Spring of next year. More will be revealed soon.

Third, I'm getting the house ready for visitors both this coming weekend and the following. This coming weekend is my sister-out-of-law, and then next weekend, James of Fibre Alive will be staying with us from the far reaches of New Zealand.

Finally, I found a new Amazon widget that allows me to show downloadable movies in the left-hand frame of my blog (at the bottom). They only have 45 of my 100 favorite movies that are available for download, but I figure if anyone wanted to try watching any of my twisted and strange movies on their computer, and couldn't find them at their local Blockbuster, then this might be a good option.

Current Knitting
Projects three:

1. First of all, I kept up my frantic pace on the tablecloth by adding another three large stars.

I kept telling anyone that asked that I was hoping to finish the tablecloth by Thanksgiving, but I'm not holding out much hope for that. And honestly, Thaddeus and I take a friend out to dinner on Thanksgiving anyway, so I'd have no dinner table to use this cloth for, unless I brought it to the restaurant.

2. I continued work on the Alpaca All-Herd Yarn Jacket.

This picture shows the pattern stitch a little better, but the color of the yarn shows up much lighter as a result. I really don't think there's anyway of getting both to look true in the picture.

3. Finally, I tried on a sweater I knit last year using some homespun Blueface Leicester, and I absolutely hated how big I had made the neck opening.

I found the leftover yarn from this project (I had forgotten how soft and fine it was), and corrected the neck to a much smaller, although still a little messy.

But at least now I can wear this nice sweater.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol asks, "Qu'est-ce que sait "poo-tags"?"

You know, those little pieces of sheep dip that got stuck in the fleece, and the fibers get all mashed into it, creating a little blog of furry poo. Kind of disgusting, especially when you thought the yarn was supposed to be clean.

Regarding my laptop issues, Marilyn writes, "Well, blame your stupid IT department for giving you a wireless card when you didn't need one."

Actually, that was the stupid piece of the story...on my part. The laptop was given to my by IT with wireless card. When I got a wireless network in my house, I didn't know I had a wireless card already, so I bought one. Pretty clueless on my part. And as for Air Cards, I absolutely don't want one. I already feel like I have a leash around my neck without having the ability to access e-mail from every nook and cranny in the universe.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Day of Confession

Okay, maybe it is good for the soul, and besides, I have two confessions to make.

Confession One...I'm a Techno-Idiot
Regarding my PC, it all started when my PC bag fell off my roller-luggage while I was at the airport. When I got home, I realized my wireless network card, that was in the card-slot (which sticks out from the PC about an inch or so, had busted during the fall.

Easy enough, I went to Staples and bought a new one (actually Thaddeus went and bought it for me). After inserting the new card in the slot and re-booting a number of times, my laptop wasn't recognizing the new card. I disabled the network connection for my wireless and then re-enable it. I uninstalled the card slot, and then re-installed it. I uninstalled the driver/software for the wireless card and then re-installed it. Then I started trying all different combinations of these three things before I started to realize that perhaps I had broken more than just the wireless card. I continued to try multiple options until I got a hardware conflict error, and then started booting the laptop in so-called Safe Mode until I somehow corrupted a configuration file that was necessary to boot my machine. Now the machine was completely hosed.

All that was stupid enough, until I brought my PC into the tech guy at work, when he told me I had a built-in wireless card all this time, and there was no reason I needed to have purchased the Linksys card at all. So, not only had I paid for two unnecessary wireless cards, but if it hadn't been in the PC to begin with, it probably never would have broken my laptop.

At least my new laptop is better, stronger, faster...and I know now that it has a built-in wireless card.

Confession Two - Fiber Preparation Idiot
Wanting to use my new drum carder, I decided to try scouring the Cormo fleece I bought at Rhinebeck (if you've read Ted's description of processing an Icelandic fleece, this story will be strikingly similary...aka...boring).

Being very worried about felting this incredibly soft fleece, I filled a bathtub with very hot water and added Dawn dishwashing liquid. I added about 1/4 of the fleece, and let it soak for about 10 minutes. I then carefully took the fleece out of the hot water and drained the tub of incredibly disgusting water. I repeated this process twice more, and then put it in a zipper pillow cover.

I then repeated this process for another 1/4 of the fleece.

I spun both pillow covers in my washing machine to centrifuge out excess water, and then laid out the fleece to dry on two deck chairs.

After letting it dry for a day, I decided to test-run a small amount of carding.

Even after all this back-breaking work, the fiber was still way too greasy, so I resigned myself to re-scour all of it again.

As I was getting it ready to wash, I realized that I probably should have skirted this fleece before scouring, because there were still some little poo-tags in the fleece.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of work to do to prepare this fleece, and I learned a valuable lesson.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I was able to slog my way through three more stars on the tablecloth during my flight on Wednesday night.

I fly back this morning, so I should get a couple more done today.