Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Saga Begins...

Hurray! The Sweater has been started! But first, background info on this project is in order: Last year before Laura moved to NH and bought this house, she looked at her stash and realized she had gone a little overboard with buying fleeces (but really, who can blame her?) So with the impending move, she washed a bunch of fleeces and sent them off to be made into roving. Boxes and boxes and boxes of roving came back (much to the delight of the kittens when they discovered them recently...) There was one box of nice soft gray roving and I convinced her to let me spin some if I promised to make something for her, namely, a sweater. So I've been spinning this stuff on and off for a while now. No pattern had been decided upon other than that she wanted a "cabley" aran. Around Christmas she bought Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns book, and as she probably mentioned in her blog, I latched onto it and made her a hat (seen below as modeled by the charming Asterix), ostensibly to serve as a swatch for The Sweater (I would definitely recommend the hat-as-swatch-for-sweater method because it's less boring than making a square).



So the other day I decided that I had been looking at the basket of yarn (8 skeins total minus one for the hat) for long enough (plus I was afraid that a Certain Kitten



who hasn't been so great about using her litterbox lately might take too much of an interest in said basket of yarn) and started it. It is a combination of designs from Viking Patterns, "Ragna" (pg. 54) and the Lattice Cable Pullover (pg. 39) in Kristin Nicholas' Knitting Beautiful Classics. The Sweater back has (and front will have) seed stitch on the side then a little twisty cable, then one of the Ragna cables (as seen on the hat above), another little twisty cable, then the lattice braid in the center, twisty cable, Ragna, twisty cable, seed stitch. I am pretty happy with it so far and have about two pattern repeats done (16 rows each). At this point it seems either big enough or too big, in which case she can wear it as the outer layer because there ain't no way I'm taking it out now:



And my Knit Picks order arrived today...merino.... alpaca.... mmmm...

In other news, last weekend Laura and I finally went to the used bookshop in town and it was truly amazing -- John was up here on Sunday and I had to go again just to take him to see it! In terms of absolute numbers of titles, I'm sure they have at least ten times that of Borders -- the place is a two story barn & just jam-packed with books. Some of the sections were so obscure yet so extensive -- like whole shelves on different European, Asian & African countries, for example, and a shelf for each US state...and in the nature & animals aisle, whole sections on elephants and kangaroos. And they have great really old-old books, too -- like nineteenth century botany books with those amazingly intricate engraved illustrations. John was impressed with the Sci-Fi section and found himself a comic rendition of The Empire Strikes Back from 1980. I found a copy of The Goat in the Rug. It's really worth the trip if you live in New England.

At work I am getting ready for my kiddo vacation camp program that starts on Monday -- a whole week of fiber arts! I've done weaving & spinning here and there with different programs, but never had the chance for kids to really learn some of the skills, so this is very exciting! Tomorrow's morning pre-school class is the last in the classroom before camp, so then I can start setting up! Pretty much the last major thing I have to do to get ready is haul the small Harrisville loom down from the Spin Shop to the classroom...it's already warped. It's still not too late to register if you know a kid in the greater Concord, NH area that would be interested! Camp pictures & report next week!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I did it!

The Fiber Studio 2005 Spring-Summer class schedule came in the mail this morning. The first class listed is an 8-week evening class on weaving on 4-harness looms. I know the basics of weaving and have done it before, but have never had a class and tend to make things harder for myself than I should. I want to be a better weaver. So I signed up!

Then there's the knitting. I am getting bored with the Kimono shawl. It seems to be at that stage where it isn't growing, no matter how much I work on it. Nor is the new licheny/rock koigu yarn as interesting as I had hoped with the shawl pattern I am using -- I think I will take it out and lovingly return the koigu to the stash until I can find a more appropriate rock-like pattern. The gansey sampler is coming along quickly. I have only one sleeve, the neck, and finishing left to do, since I sat down and worked on it like a crazed fiend while Laura took Ellie back to school on Sunday, thereby making me a poor knit-along partner since I am now way ahead of her...In any case, I'm setting that one aside for a while, too until she catches up.

So, bolstered by one of Yarn Harlot's commenters who recently told her to embrace starting new projects and not feel guilty about it, I started a new lace scarf last night. See the cover of the Winter 2004 Spin-Off for the pattern (I REALLY like this pattern). I am using some laceweight merino & silk yarn that I spun from roving that came from The Copper Moth -- the color is called "twig" -- a soft brown wool with shots of pale blue/gray silk.

Oh, and I was bad. I finally decided to order from Knit Picks. Of course I had to order more than $30 worth of yarn because then I could get free shipping. SO I ordered 6 hanks of laceweight white merino (a total of 2640 yards!) for dye experiments and three hanks of baby alpaca laceweight in the "autumn" colorway. All of this came out to just over the requisite $30. Knit Picks is an evil stash-building enabler.

In other news, the Sugaring Off tour training at Ipswich River went really well and I am so excited about leading groups there. Such a great place to work (sigh....) If you are in the Topsfield, Mass. area on the weekends of March 5-6, 12-13 or 19-20, come on over to the Sanctuary and sample some syrup!

Laura and I went snowshoeing on Sunday -- it was gorgeous with the heavy wet snow hanging on the trees. We could hear a woodpecker nearby and headed in that direction -- when we got nearer, I could tell which tree it was without seeing the bird because the vibrations in the tree were so loud as I passed it. It felt really neat, too.

John drew me a blue-spotted salamander wearing a hat and knitting a scarf for "Valentine's Day." I really hate Valentine's Day, so the lack of flowers/candy/jewelry from him was great -- he listens sometimes. I gave him a rock -- labradorite.

Friday, February 11, 2005

It's Gansey Time!

Yesterday evening Laura decided to start knitting the sampler Gansey in Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel. It looked like so much fun, so I decided to try it, too. I have wanted to join a knit-along for a while, but can't find any new ones (haven't looked very hard, probably), so we decided to start our own Gansey Sampler knit-along! Laura was going to design a button today. Have the pattern? Wanna join us?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Let it Snow

Alright, I know on Sunday when it was so nice I was suggesting that I wish spring would hurry up and get here, but today it is snowing like crazy -- big heavy clumps of snow -- and now I am thinking that I can wait a bit because this will let me go snowshoeing again. And it is pretty. The trees are coated and weighed down with snow and swaying gently in the wind.

I'm also quite pleased because the fates conspired to keep me home from work today -- snow, cancellation of the school where I was supposed to do an outreach program, and my car, alas, is in the shop again. So after intending to stay awake and read (after getting up at 6:30) and deciding not to go to work, I fell sleep for another two hours and woke up again at 9:00 because Laura had made an appointment for the cats (all four of them) to go to the vet and the roads were OK to just cross town. Mena, Twilly and Abbey were loaded into their crates for the ride while Asterix (because he is a dignified person) got to ride in the car sans-crate which he didn't necessarily enjoy, but handled himself well. Abbey was quite displeased with the whole affair. Everyone is well, though when it was Twilly's turn to be examined she thought it would be a fine idea to leap, claws fully extended, and grab hold of my neck to escape the prodding doctor. Ow.

So I got out my Kimono shawl and am about halfway through. OK, finally a picture (and yes, that is Abbey expertly camouflaged against the navy blanket in the background):



And I should probably mention (because this is supposed to be a fiber blog and it was fun) that yesterday I did two fiber arts homeschool programs at work. I had 9 kids in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. We read Charlie Needs a Cloak (these kids are at a much higher reading level, but it's a fun book!) We looked at and felt different types of fiber -- wool, alpaca, silk, angora rabbit, mohair, flax, cotton, qiviut, and golden retriever -- they really liked that part. Then we learned how to card on some wool that was regretably full of vegetable matter and with truly horrible old cards, but they did well. Then we did some spinning on hooks and CD drop spindles and played around on little wooden block looms to make bookmarks/bracelets, 2 tapestry looms and my 4-harness table loom. Oh, and I almost forgot the Kool-Aid dyeing! All the kids got very into what they were doing -- I have one kiddo in the program who has a form of autism and she sat right down to the spinning wheel and figured it out with such record speed and stayed so focused that by the end of the program her mom wanted to buy a spinning wheel because she was so impressed with the apparent theraputic benefit of spinning! Several of the other kids said it was their favorite program so far. It was definitely my favorite, too -- I can't wait for camp in February!

Saturday I am going down to Ipswich River to get trained to be a volunteer guide for their Sugaring Off tours in March. It will be great to see and work with them all again! It will also be good to learn more about maple sugaring so I can possibly tap the big old maples here at the house. In the fall we discovered that they stand in a straight line through the much younger surrounding woods and also found the collapsed remains of the old sugar shack where the farmers boiled (complete with an old sap bucket). It would be nice to start it up again on a smaller scale!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Springy Weekend

So its only the beginning of February and it has been in the 40's for the last two days -- can we keep it? Yesterday Mom and I had a great day -- we went over to Vermont to a nice little fabric shop that she had heard about. We didn't find any salamander fabric as we had hoped (but plenty of lizards & geckos, but they looked too much like lizards & geckos to bother with) They did, however, have a lovely selection of frog fabrics, so I decided I should have a coat with snippets of different frog fabrics to wear for pond programs and purchased 1/4 yard lengths of several prints. They also had the vegetable prints that I liked from Keepsake Quilting in fat quarter cuts, so I bought carrot, mushroom, asparagus and red pepper prints to make napkins.

Then we went into Bellows Falls and had lunch at a cute little place called the Happy Cat Cafe, which was decked out in cat stuff and had great chocolate chip cookies and black bean burritos. Then back across the river to NH and up to Newport (we decided it was quicker to get back that way), until I remembered there was a yarn shop there that I had heard of but never been to: Hodgepodge Handicrafts (who doesn't appear to have a web page I can link you to). So we found it and it sucked us in and made me buy a whole big bag of white shetland roving, so I can cease to exploit Laura's supply of wool (yeah, that's it...) The shop also had lots of yarns from local farms, consignment knitted things, wheels (Majacraft dealer, for future reference), and lots of roving. The woman who owns it said that the building has been in the family for years as a furniture store and that over the years she has slowly replaced the furniture with yarn. They had a sweet Jack Russell/Sheltie pup named Henry who really liked to tug at my pantlegs...

So then we headed home to tea with Doug and Laura who spent the day painting the apartment. I delved into the new shetland and by bedtime had one skein. I also finished my faux-koigu floppy hat (no picture available -- it's too silly looking). But here is Abbey with the yarn, at least, and one of the completed mittens:



Today flew by way too fast because I slept later than I would have liked, sat around drinking tea and knitting (oh, alright, I started a new project -- a shawl (what else) with the rocky-licheny-colored koigu. I started it using the Fiber Trends landscape shawl pattern with the picot edges, but went immediately to the seed stitch and will continue for quite a while and do some sort of lace inset thing later on -- I don't know yet). But I really wanted to go outside, so I cleaned out my car while the big, predatory Jungle Cat (Abbey) danced around outside in the mud and snow. Twilly, who prefers the quiet life, only ventured out for a bit and not far from the porch (she really wanted to be inside practicing one of her new favorite hobbies, which Laura caught her in the act of recently):



So after all that excitement and a lot of miscellaneous puttering around, I put my spinning wheel out on the porch:



and spun up some more shetland and some of the brown wool that Laura was kind enough to wash for me. It was SO nice outside (please note the lack of socks)...aaaah....but alas, I know it's not the real thing yet.

We took a walk down to the end of the driveway with Mena and Asterix so that we wouldn't feel like complete sloths and then spent some more time on the porch until it got prohibitively cold (the temp dropped really fast!) Now it's tea time & Carl Hiaasen time. Please don't make me go to work tomorrow.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Kick me

Will someone please?

I have a case of the blahs AND I have been in a bit of a fiber slump. I (gasp) haven't knitted or spun anything for two whole days. This is all Carl Hiaasen's fault...

I am almost done with my faux-koigu floppy hat and then I will go back to the Kimono shawl. I did go to Laura's twined knitting class on Tuesday night because my car was in the shop again and she was my ride. It was really nice to sit around and knit with people, so went to online yesterday and joined the Concord Area Knitting Group that meets at Borders on Sunday afternoons and monthly at the Ewe.

The kittens, (OK, mostly Abbey) have been being exceptionally persistant lately in finding balls of roving and unwinding them all over the living room floor. When I got home last night I found mutilated zip-lock of angora in the dining room. Mind you, these things were up on shelves, supposedly out of reach of said kittens. They're laughing at me, aren't they?

And then I got to work today and someone had taken a BB gun to the big glass windows of the Visitor's Center, shattering four of them. Just what we need.

On the brighter side, last night I made some okay multigrain bread and tried making yogurt again -- it worked this time! Also discovered the joys of reading by lanternlight while sitting in the hot tub. Some sticky clumpy snow fell overnight, coating all tree limbs. It was really beautiful on the drive in to work. Tomorrow Mom and I are going over to Vermont to a quilt shop that specializes in Bali batiks. The plan is to find one with salamanders or lizards that could pass for them.