Monday, September 29, 2014

The Power of Connecting

In recent years, the most profound times of growth and satisfaction in my life have been the times where I've been able to connect at a very meaningful level with people.

Plus, I get to wake up on Saturday morning and open my door to this:

The trees had just started to change color, but Autumn wasn't in full bloom yet.  Weather was gorgeous.  I forgot the memory card for my camera (again!) so, I only took these two photos on my iPhone.

Connection Batteries Recharged!

This past weekend I went up to the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival (SAFF), which has turned out to be my very favorite type of these events for a number of reasons.

First of all, it's smaller than Maryland Sheep & Wool and Rhinebeck...quite a bit smaller.  But it's also MUCH less crowded than either of them as well.  The smaller size provides ample time to speak with most of the vendors, shop in a leisurely way for fiber, and not wait in ridiculous lines for food.  I have a feeling, this event will start to outgrow itself within a few years.

It's bigger than the NJ Sheep Breeders Festival. I love the NJ event, because its 10 minutes from my house, but the small size of the event doesn't allow it to have the same range of independent dyers and interesting vendors as some of the larger events.  SAFF has a wider variety of excellent vendors and I always end up finding items that I can't find at my local yarn store.

But more importantly than the size of the event, is the fact that SAFF takes place in the same town where the annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is held, and I get the chance to spend a night at Easton Mountain when I go to SAFF.  We always get at least a couple of the guys from the retreat attending SAFF and this year was no exception.

I got to see Aaron and his brother Steven and Steven's son Darius (not a knitter yet).  Also, I got to see Steve, Dave, Kirk and his husband, Matt.  And Rob and I spent a great night at Easton Mountain before the event and hung out on Saturday at the event.  I also got a chance to meet and chat with a blog reader, Jeff who was a delight as well.


In addition to the knitter-men I communed with, I also found two new vendors to me, who I needed to by yarn from:

I couldn't have been more thrilled with some of the colorways in Pat's yarns, so I bought three hanks to make two pairs of socks.

I'll use the orange as the contrasting toes and heels yarn and to extend the amount of yarn in the green colorway to make a decent size man's sock.

Michael was a delight...and his yarn was beautiful as well (and rather inexpensive, I thought).  I bought a sweater's worth of worsted weight yarn in two colors that have inspired me lately when I've seen them mixed.

His mill is about 2.5 hours drive from Easton Mountain, but I would love to drive out there before the retreat to get a tour of it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Combining Favorite Things!

It's always great when you get to have one of your favorite things, but when two of them combine in one, it's like winning the lottery!

Fiber Excitement!

At least twice a year, I get the opportunity to go to Greenwich, NY.

In May, it's for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain Retreat Center.

In September, its' for the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival

Today, I travel up to Greenwich, NY to stay at Easton Mountain for the night and to spend all day tomorrow with fiber friends looking at sheep and buying yarn.

Life doesn't get much better than that.

Current Spinning

I've made a bit of headway on the second bobbin of singles, spinning up the llama fleece from Lulu at Wunsapana Farms.

Two things about, I didn't wash the fleece quite well enough, so I will need to scour the resulting yarn pretty well.   And two, I will have some fine yarn when I'm finished.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Patience Comes With Age

As I get older, it seems the quote from the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel seems to be more and more accurate:

Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end.

Trust The Process

I don't often work someone else's knitting pattern exactly.  I usually take aspects of it that I like and incorporate it into my own design.

But every once in a while, I just want to not have to think while I'm knitting, so it's really nice to just follow a pattern blindly and take whatever result comes of it.

This works particularly well when the pattern indicated in a design doesn't show up for the first few inches of knitting, and I just keep doing what the designer wrote, and eventually, the design starts to emerge.

Current Knitting/Crocheting

Such is the case with my current Rowan design called Tilt, by Lisa Richardson.  It's a Fair Isle design, using two colorways of yarn, and the darker yarn sometimes is very close in color to the lighter yarn. My first progress photo showed a very tweedy fabric, with very little definition between the two colorways.  And now, after finishing a few more repeats of the pattern, look what happened!

A good reminder to just trust the process.

I've also made some progress on the spiked crochet afghan.

This project doesn't grow quite how quickly I would prefer, but I really love how it looks, and one of the bonuses of this stitch is that it's completely reversible.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Big Picture

I can't tell you how many times I've started a project and abandoned it after an inch or two of knitting because I didn't like how it was looking.  How many of those projects might have turned out okay if I had continued knitting?

Visionary Designers

That's why it always amazes me when I start knitting someone else's design and after knitting a few inches, I think, "I'm glad I know what this is going to look like, because if I had started designing this garment, I would be ripping it all out right now."

My newest project is like that...I saw a Rowan design called "Tilt" by Lisa Richardson, and it's a Fair Isle/stranded knitting design using two different tweedy yarns (Summerspun and Revive) and the colors sometimes overlap in ways that make them look quite similar.  So even though I'm knitting a design in a different colorway, the differentiation in color doesn't look like I've changed color at all.

But, just like the subtle differences that are noticeable when there is a dye-lot change in yarn, the differences in colors are just enough to discern a pattern in the Fair Isle design.

Current Knitting

It took me a while to locate one of the Rowan yarns, but I ended up getting both yarns from two different companies in the UK.  Even with shipping, I got a decent deal.

Here are the two yarns:

Here's what the sweater is supposed to look like:

And here's what I've done so far:

I'm still not convinced, but even if the design isn't as obvious as I'd hoped, I still like the fabric that it's creating.  I'll press on.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Regarding the Spiked Crochet Afghan, weaverwaif writes, "do you have to stop/start every few inches with a new color ?"

Yes...actually each color stripe is two rows of single crochet, with a "spiked" crochet stitch ever 7th stitch on the first row of each new color.  Really quite easy, but each stripe will have two ends to weave in after the fact.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Needle Preference

This topic has come up in many of my knitting related on-line forums, but I definitely have a preference when it comes to knitting needles.

Knitting Flat and In The Round

So for knitting flat pieces like the back of a sweater, a scarf or a blanket, I will always go to Addi Turbo needles.  Depending on how many stitches I have to knit, I will try to find an Addi Turbo with the correct length cable.  I find 16" (40 cm) are too short for anything that I knit and don't find them comfortable at all.  24" (60 cm) are the shortest I will go.

So, I've developed quite a collection of Addi turbos (as well as some others).  If I must switch to something other than the Addi Turbos, I'd most probably go with KnitPicks Harmony needles.  They're pretty and comfortable to use, but I don't find the cable to be quite as useful as the Addi's.

As for circular knitting (small items, like socks, gloves or the ends of sleeves), the Knitter's Pride Karbonz double pointed needles are by far my favorites.  Perfect amount of "grab", lightweight, nice looking and they're extremely durable.  I've only recently started my collection of these needles, but it will definitely be growing.

Since today's current project is on a crochet project, I have to say, I've gotten quite used to using my Bernat-Aero crochet hooks, but I don't think those are easily obtainable, and I'm much less picky about my crochet hooks.

Current Crochet

I've added a number of stripes to the Spiked Crochet Afghan project.

Quick measurement shows I've got about 11" in height and it's about 68" wide.  The fabric is a bit more dense than I prefer, but i don't think I'd get the same visual effect if I went with a looser gauge fabric, and this project is all about the visual illusion for me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hopeless Dream

Thaddeus used to dream of the day when my television room chair, and the couch in the living room and the night table by my bed would be clear of any knitting items.

He's No Longer Delusional

He has come to realize that I will always have at least two or three knitting/crocheting/spinning/weaving projects in progress.

One time we went on vacation to the beach and I decided to not bring anything to knit.

Before the end of the week, I was brushing the host's dog and spinning the hair on a cd/pencil drop spindle.

As promised, here is what I'm currently working on (actively)...there may be a few other items like the kid alpaca blanket that isn't currently an active work in progress.

Lulu Llama Spinning
Finished spinning up about half of the fiber I got at Wunsapana Llama Farm

Can't WAIT to ply and wash the resulting yarn.

Spiked Crochet Afghan
Did a few more rows, and started to organize all the colors I'll be using on this blanket.

Really loving the way it's coming out and think it will make a dazzling large afghan.

Zauberball Sock
Started a new sock using a toe-up version of Marlowe Crawford's Oliver Sock

 Love the shaping of the arch on this sock and hoping my toe-up version will do it justice.

Aunt Dorothy's Sweater Vest
Still just awaiting the snaps...need to get out to Michael's or some other non-hateful-supposed-Christian craft supply store to pick some up.

Top-Down Racing Stripe Raglan
I did do a few more rounds on the second sleeve.

I keep telling myself I won't need this one until it's quite a bit colder, but I'd still like to add it to the "finished" column.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Kerry writes, "Those alpaca skeins good great, have just looked at Amber's Etsy shop and there doesn't seem to be too many there. Are yours fingering wt or DK?"

Mine are DK weight (my preferred weight of yarn).  Again, another reason it's better to see her stuff in person, but trust me on this one, you will love the softness of this wonderful yarn.

Monday, September 08, 2014

New Jersey's Best

Having grown up most of my life in New Jersey and living about 1 mile from the border of New Jersey, I probably have a different concept of this state than most folks that have never been here.

Sheep Breeder Festival

Driving on Route 95 through New Jersey or watching Housewives of New Jersey doesn't count as having been to New Jersey.  They're both aspects of the state that I don't find overly accurate in how they portray the Garden State.

New Jersey is known as the Garden State because of all it's lush farmland.  It also boasts a beautiful Pinelands, beautiful lakes, and fantastic beaches.

Each year, the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival (GSSBF), in rural Ringoes, NJ gets better and better.  I honestly hope it never gets as big as Maryland Sheep & Wool or Rhinebeck...both of which I find overwhelming and way too crowded.

While GSSBF is pretty small (three barns compared to like 72 at Rhinebeck), I always find one or two indie fiber artists who have something worth buying.

I bought the following yarn.

Current Crochet

In between meeting lovely people like Hayes, Lisa and Amber, I also thought it might be a prudent idea to start working on weaving in ends for my current Spiked Crochet Afghan.

It's always so satisfying to get ahead on finishing when I can.

Next blog entry, I'll post status photos of all current WI'sP.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Going Greener

It never ceases to amaze me how up to date Thaddeus is on emerging trends, and recently, he helped reduce our carbon footprint.

Lightbulb Replacement

A while ago, we had switched most of our lightbulbs to compact fluorescents, but ever since, Thaddeus has been tracking a company that made high-quality LED bulbs that take up about half the energy as even the compact fluorescent bulbs...and they last WAY longer.

The company Switch, which has since gone out of business, made beautiful LED bulbs, that weren't glaring, harsh white light, could be dimmed, could be put inside enclosed light fixtures and lasted thousands of hours.  The bulbs were initially very expensive, but after the company went out of business, many of their bulbs in stock were sold at a significant discount.

I can proudly say that my work area light as well as most of the other lights in our house will now used up significantly less electricity because of these bulbs.

We have a long way to go to get to carbon neutral, but we're on our way.

Current Crochet/Spinning

I started a new crochet afghan using a spiked crochet stitch that I found on Pinterest.

I'm using up a ton of old Rowan Lightweight DK yarn that I was given when I used to work at the Tomato Factory...yes, it's vintage yarn.  The pattern is really quite simple.  I chained about 250 stitches and did two rows of single crochet in the first color (red in this case).  Then starting with the second color (light blue), I did 6 single crochets and then single crochet below the bottom row of the first color, and repeat that to the end, doing a row of single crochets back.  On the next color, I started with 7 single crochets before doing the "spike" so each progressive row would have the spike move to the left on stitch.

This project should take me quite a while, but I'm liking how it's turning out.

Finn also let me get a bit more spinning done on Lulu's fleece.

Spinning looks kinda boring, I realize, but when this yarn is plied and dyed, it's going to look (and feel) fantastic!  Love this llama.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Ginmaru has both a question and a comment (or two). "Are those toes from Aunt Dorothy's vest? And I love them! Also, one box is not enough for all the WIPS I have hidden when people come over. I think I have almost a room of them. Several bins for sure."

Yes, the toes are from the same yarn that save Aunt Dorothy's vest.  It was originally purchased for sock yarn, and since I used up some of it for the vest, I figured it would make for good contrasting toes and heels on other sock yarn.  Also, the one file box also doesn't hold all my WI'sP.  Just the ones in the living room where guests usually sit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Cleaning Up

This past weekend was a 3-day weekend in the States, and I took the opportunity to begin some re-organization of my yarn and projects.

Attention Deficit Knitting Disorder (ADKD) Strikes Again

I opened a filing box in my living room, where I threw knitting projects I wanted to hide when guests came over, and it was filled with Kureyon Sock yarn, an old sock project using Briar Rose Angel Face Laceweight yarn and US0000 needles.

I had made no additional progress since 2008, so I pulled it all out and put away the tiny needles.

I also found a pair of my hand knit socks with a hole in the toe that I had obviously stored for later fixing.  I took the remainder of the weekend fixing the toes .

I love the design of these socks (from a pattern by Marlowe Crawford called Oliver) and now it's like I have a new pair of socks to wear.

I'll get back to organizing another holiday weekend.

Current Knitting

Finally, I also worked on Aunt Dorothy's vest.

And this is the biggest success story, thanks to reader/normally lurker Holly, who wrote:
Hi. I'm usually just a lurker-- Have you considered running a row or two of dupicate stitch to match in with the Fair Isle at the places where the lighter skein is? It might blend it in?
Why hadn't I thought of this?  What a brilliant idea.  I ended up added two single duplicate stitch stripes in purple to the garment, and while the color differentiation is still a little noticeable, it's completely acceptable in my humble opinion!

I've also decide to add snaps to the garment instead of a zipper, so all I have to do is finish the last small section of duplicate stitch (which was fun to do...I had never done this before) and buy some snaps and wash/block this baby.

Happy as hell...all thanks to Holly!