Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big yellow orb

The oddest thing happened today. The marine layer burned back, and lo and behold, there in the sky was a giant blazing orb. I was so busy trying to figure out what all those shadows were out in the yard that it took me a few minutes to realize the ramifications of orb appearance, but I got there. Yarn photos!

First, the socks I've been working on.
I've finished the first one, and promptly cast on for the second (this is my hard and fast rule for avoiding second sock syndrome). I haven't gotten too far with the second, due to a distraction of which I will soon apprise you, but I will.
I absolutely adore the fabric of these socks. The hand is drapey and heavy, in the most wonderful way. I made them on the tighter side so they wouldn't sag.
They're knitted out of South West Trading Company Bamboo yarn, using size 2.5 needles. The pattern is Lacy Cable Socks, from Veronik Avery's book Knitting 24/7, which I really quite love. I am not finding this pattern as memorizable as I might (this is not surprising, given my issues with chart memorization), but I quite like the results; I should mention that I modified the pattern (of course) to be smaller, using only three repeats instead of four.

I bought two balls of yarn to knit these socks, knowing in my heart that 250 yards of yarn really was enough for a pair of socks for my (smallish) feet, but worried nevertheless that I'd run out. When I finished the first sock, I weighed it and weighed the yarn that was left in the ball, and saw that I would, indeed, have enough (plus a titch more). So I wondered what I might do with that second ball of yarn (note that returning it to the store didn't even really cross my mind; am I the only one with this problem?). I was wondering along when Anne told me she'd just finished this beauty. (Remember how I said that she is a font of temptation? See why I said that?) The petite size takes 275 yards, each ball of this yarn is 250, and I should have some leftover from that second sock, so, throwing caution to the wind, I cast on.
I'm almost done with the lace part at the bottom. I'm hoping I'll have enough yarn; I'm pretty sure I will, but it'll be a photo finish for sure.
That middle bit just charms me to pieces (as such things often do). The best bit is that once I get done with the lace (tonight), it's on to the garter stitch section, just in time for tomorrow's long fieldwork day up in Tehachapi; with luck, I'll know before I drive home whether I've got enough yarn or not. Keep your fingers crossed for me, OK?

Monday, June 28, 2010

I forgot to mention...

It's a grey day, mid-sixties, and I haven't seen the sun yet (and this is why they talk about "June gloom" in San Diego). I'm actually fine with that, I like this kind of weather (although I admit to liking it just a titch better in the actual winter), but it's not so good for taking a reasonable picture of my latest sock (finished last night, just need to kitchener the toe shut and cast on for the second one). I was lamenting that fact when it occurred to me that I never got to write about my adventures in Ohio -- I got so distracted by what came after that I completely forgot. And they were good adventures! There is so much to cover that I won't get through all of it today, but I'll make a start.

It feels like a really long time ago now, but it was only just Memorial Day weekend (which, come to think of it, is a month ago, isn't it?). I flew out to Columbus on Friday, where my lovely SIL was waiting to pick me up (it was actually a little bit of a miracle that she was there to pick me up on time; did you know that Columbus has two, count 'em, two international airports? ask my SIL how she now knows...) and whisk me away to Wooster. Wooster, home of the Great Lakes Fiber Festival, which was our destination.

On Saturday morning, we got ourselves moving bright and early, since we were both taking classes. I was taking a spinning class on woolen and worsted spinning, for which Anne kindly agreed to loan me her lovely Joy (since I didn't want to try to pack a wheel on the plane, this actually was the thing that made it possible for me to take that class -- thanks, Anne!). We drove into the fairgrounds, searching for a parking space, and grabbed the last open one we saw, only to realized we'd parked right next to Anne, who was standing and looking at all of the knitting and spinning gear her car had disgorged, apparently wondering where to find extra hands for the incipient schlepping. Luckily for her, that's just what we had. So off we schlepped to our classroom space, where Anne settled in to knit, until someone came and told her that her class was in the other building.

I had really been looking forward to my class. I've been trying and trying to figure out how to spin woollen. In essence, spinning is characterized along a continuum between worsted and woollen, where worsted spinning is done using fibers which have been carefully aligned with one another, spun with no twist in the drafting zone (this results in a dense, smooth yarn with very little air), and woollen is done using fibers which are not aligned, spun in a way that allows twist to enter the drafting zone (this results in a fuzzy, light, and airy yarn). (Fellow spinners, does that sound about right?) For whatever reason, I naturally fall into spinning in a worsted style -- I have this Grand Theory that this has to do with having learned how to spin on a drop spindle (which has to be done worsted), as opposed to a supported spindle (which lends itself to woollen spinning), but I'm guessing that now that I've put that out there, seven people will promptly tell me that they spin woollen on a wheel, but learned to spin on a drop spindle. Alas for Grand Theories.

In any case, I've been struggling and struggling with spinning woollen -- I just canNOT, for the life of me, convince myself to let twist in the drafting zone, and as soon as I do, I lock up all my fibers and end up with a giant wadded mess. Not fun. The class started out with worsted spinning and I bided my time, hoping that we'd actually get to the woollen stuff before our three hours were up (and knowing, as a teacher, just how badly timing can work out sometimes). We got there towards the end of class, and I was absolutely sure that I wasn't going to get it in the short time remaining. I listened, and the teacher said pretty much what I've heard and read before, but I wasn't going to waste my chance to figure this out, so off I went. I made mess after mess after mess, until the teacher finally said something about pinching off the fiber while building up some twist, then letting go and allowing the twist to run into the fiber, then pinching again while drafting the fiber with the twist inserted. I don't think I'm saying it right, but somehow that thought clicked with everything I'd learned in my takhli class (where I finally ended up spinning cotton with a long draw), and bam! I was spinning woollen. It was so. much. fun. Seriously. I'm not great at it yet, not by a long shot, and my woollen-spun yarn isn't nearly so even as my worsted spun stuff, but it's fun! I've been practicing when I can since I got home, and it's looking a bit better each time.
Thick and thin, yes, and I'm still definitely not distributing my twist very well, but it's yarn, and it's spun woollen using a long draw. Yay!

Then class was over and my SIL and I went off with Anne to have lunch.
Then Anne and Geri headed back to class (it was an all-day class), and I went off to see the show. OK, I'll be honest, I homed straight in on two of my favorite people in the world: Chris and Christy, in the Briar Rose booth. It was SO good to see them.
I have to admit that I kind of thought about tucking my Briar Rose t-shirt into my luggage so I could sneak into the booth and work with them again. I have such good memories of doing exactly that at Sock Summit! But I didn't, I was good. I did buy some yarn, though, and when we all went out to dinner that night, Chris shared some of her new cashmere with all of us, which is unreal in its softness (and of course, I don't have a picture, and I can't find a link -- maybe Chris will see this and let me know if there's any more coming?); I keep petting it, but it may have to turn into mitts for Rick, who deserves something for hanging out at home with the girls while I do fun stuff like this. (Note to self: as soon as the sun comes back, take pictures of new yarn.)

Once Anne's class was over, we all wandered around the marketplaces for a while. Anne had already bought fleeces for her spinning class (they came on Sunday but wanted to be sure not to miss out on the best fleeces -- don't they look like they have the most fun ever? They do.):
I had decided, however, that I was not, I repeat not, going to buy a fleece. Even though I'd kind of thought that I might -- first fiber festival and all, you know? But no, I decided that I would be mature and grown-up (and I also decided that if I tried to take a fleece onto a plane and put it into an overhead bin, someone would throw me, the fleece, and its smell off that plane instantaneously; better part of valor and all).

I held firm. I really did. Right up until I was staring at the most astonishingly beautiful Coopworth fleece ever (I'm not the only one who thought so, either -- it was sitting right there with the Best in Show plaque). Even then I held firm, until Anne came up and sat on my shoulder and said, "I'll split it with you." Man, does that woman know how to dangle temptation.

And even then I was a grown-up, and I said things about "sleeping on it" and "deciding in the morning" and "don't want to make you buy half a fleece you didn't want to start with". And we walked away. We'd made it about twenty feet when we turned back and saw another woman, bending over OUR fleece, throwing her hands up in delight. I swear we teleported, we got back there so quickly. It turns out that she was the woman who had raised (grown?) that fleece, and was deservedly celebrating her win. The game was up, though. (Geri was politely smothering her laughter; I guess she might know me better than I wish she did.) Five minutes later, we'd written a check, and the fleece was ours. We were pretty excited (and maybe a little giddy and sheepish)(pardon the pun).
Can you blame us, though? This fleece is seven pounds of gorgeousness.
Look at those colors! We left it with its erstwhile owner, who processes fleece; as Anne said, who better to trust with it? We'll each get half of it back (probably about 2.5 pounds each by the time it's been finished) sometime towards the end of the summer. Plenty of time for me to work on that woollen spinning technique, right? I figure this is going to be a sweater, just for me. Or else I'll just pet it. Because I've got to say, this fleece makes me pretty happy all the way around.
Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finished Objects!

I really have been knitting through it all, and today I finally have a few FOs to show for it. Of course, I appear to keep casting on just as soon as I cast off, but that's the nature of the beast, right? So, some flower pictures, an update on this weekend's feis, and knitting are all on the agenda.

I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of what I see when I sit in my knitting chair on the back patio. The jacaranda is starting to lose its flowers, so it's all purple snow out there.
But there are still plenty on the tree.
I can also see all the greenery from the shady corner of the house.
And here's the chair itself, tucked away in another shady corner (less shady since the wisteria was hacked back this year, but it's working hard to grow more shade quickly).
That's my favorite place to sit outside and knit, and that's where I got most of the last-minute knitting done on this, in time to wear it out to dinner for Rick's birthday on Friday night.
That's a pretty accurate representation of the color, actually. This is Lacey, from a Louet pattern booklet, knit up in Louet Euroflax sportweight. I used size seven needles, and three skeins of yarn.
I have to admit that I really don't enjoy knitting with this yarn at all (hence the speed-knitting; this is all about product rather than process), but I love the results. I washed and dried it twice (gentle wash cycle, low heat dry), and it's now draping beautifully, completely unlike its original stiff self (like knitting with kitchen twine, really). I'll probably wash it another time just on general principles. Softened like this, the hand that linen develops with wear really shines through.
And I adore the color; next to purples, it looks purpley (for example, it really works over the henley redux, if you can believe), but near blues and denims, it appears more blue. Between the color (do I love denim, or do I love denim?), and the washable nature of linen (no blocking needed), it will be a workhorse of a piece. I can tell I'll be using it a LOT over the summer.

The other project I finished was smaller and easy. I knitted myself a pair of the Turkish Bed Socks that I made for Older Daughter, out of the same yarn. My pictures of the socks on my feet are glitchy for some reason, but they're perfect in clogs, which is exactly why I knitted a pair for myself. I have a lot of skein ends from socks I've knitted for myself (I have small feet) that would be just enough yarn for more of these.
(Excuse the clogs; those are my oldest and most beat-up pair, but you can't beat Danskos -- I've been wearing these constantly for more than nine years now.) These went quickly once I buckled down and worked on them. They're knitted out of Sockotta (Plymouth), on size two dpns. The construction on these is fun, and keeps them from being boring, without being weird and overthought.

Last but not least, Younger Daughter had a very good day at Sunday's feis.
She's been practicing madly for months now (since our last abortive attempt to go to a feis, which ended when she got the stomach flu in the middle of the night before), and it really paid off.
She clanked when she walked. Heh.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is it summer yet?

It feels like it should be summer already, doesn't it? Older Daughter has been out of school for over a week now, and Younger Daughter is now done, too. On Wednesday, I finally finished the last really big deadline-driven job I had to do, and on Thursday, after cleaning the house up so we'd be ready for this weekend's visitors, I sat down outside on the back patio and knitted and knitted and knitted. It was absolutely wonderful, and it meant that by yesterday, I'd finished the wrap that I'm working on.

That's a bit of a tease, as I have no pictures yet. But it is done. I even wore it last night when we took Rick out to dinner for his birthday.

My day of knitting also gave me a chance to finally think more about our week up in the Bay Area. It's a funny thing, because I've had to tell people where I was, as a few work deadlines were postponed, and it always feels very dramatic to me to say that we were up there to be with Rick's grandmom while she was dying. I've been trying to figure out why that's so hard to say. I think there are a lot of reasons, but one of them may be that we tend to use verbs like "die" as, essentially, punctatives, verbs that describe a one-time contained action. Like "drop", or "fall", where there's very little time for an internal event structure, and the whole act is encompassed in the verb. But it turns out that, at least sometimes, dying isn't like that. It's a process, an -ing, not an -ed. It's momentous (but not momentaneous), and in many ways indescribable; I kept wishing (as I almost never do) that words like awe-ful and awe-some hadn't changed their meanings over time, because I felt that they might once have been useful in describing a process like die-ing. But simultaneously, because processes (as opposed to punctatives) by their very nature encompass many moments, some of those moments, rather than being awe-some, are instead mundane, quotidien, routine.

The girls finally said to me, almost shamefaced, that they knew this was really big, and they were sad a lot of the time, but that they were also bored. They wanted, in essence, a timetable, to know what and where and when. I told them that those feelings, all of them, are part of the inherent tension in situations like this; they're awesome (in that old sense), but also filled with moments that are, quite honestly, boring. Birth, I said, is also like that. It happens when and as it will, full of exciting moments like breaking water and pushing and new babies crying, but also boring moments like walking between contractions and waiting (and waiting), and the process of dying often works the same way, especially when it's a dying that comes like this, naturally, at the end of a long life (I know just how different it can be in cases of trauma and illness, and I am grateful beyond belief that this is the girls' first experience with death).

I told them that in some ways this was Grandmom's last and great gift, to give them a chance to learn that there are many experiences in life like this, whose schedules and directions are completely outside of our ability to shape, and that all we are in charge of is how we carry ourselves through that. In a world where we are so often taught that everything is under our control, it can come as a shock sometimes to realize how few of the biggest things really are, and it is our job to walk through them with as much grace as we can muster. It's been a hard lesson for me, and one which I have had to relearn (but which I am, gratefully, having to relearn less and less often), and our week with grandmom was one more reminder, one more opportunity to spend time in the process, being rather than doing.

It's a useful reminder to me as a mother, too, that growing up is most definitely an -ing, and that nothing in that process is certain except change. I got to spend some time this week with my young friend who is learning to knit, and who gave me a bit of a window into the changes that happen between twelve (Older Daughter's age), and fifteen (this new knitter's age). I've also known this young woman since she was seven, and talk about changes! I went to pick her up with everyone's suggestions for first knitting projects on a nice little list, in case it was needed, but it was not (as I should have known); she had her own plan, and it was a good one. She wanted to knit a headband. So off we went to my LYS, where we found her a lovely merino/bamboo blend yarn and some needles, and sat down outside to start knitting.
She's a natural. I taught her a cable cast on, figuring that by the time she got through that cast-on row, she'd be well on her way to knitting, and it worked like a charm. She picked up the knit stitch like she was born with knitting in her hands (I don't think her mother had a master -- and shouldn't that be mistress? -- knitter put knitting needles in her hand as an infant, but I'll have to ask). Interestingly, although I'm a thrower, holding my yarn in my right hand, she almost immediately arranged herself so that she was doing something more like picking, with the yarn in her left.
No, she's not left-handed (although I am), but as this works for her, I'm going to brush up on my Continental purling so I can at least show her how it looks. She did also learn to purl, and by the end of the hour, she'd come pretty far.
Aren't those stitches lovely and even? And she even looked like she was having fun.
I know I did. So, I hope we'll get to see each other for another lesson next week; if this continues, I may very well have brought another one over to the Dark Side. If nothing else, maybe knitting will be something that can carry her through some of her own life's processes, and she'll learn what so many of us knitters know: keep walking, and knit through everything.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Knitting continues

I'm trying to alternate knitting posts with the processing-type posts (still doing a lot of processing from last week). I am actually knitting, so it seems like this just might be the place to share it, right?

In particular, I've been working on the Tibetan Clouds beaded stole, and I promised that when I got done with the middle panel and prepared to move on to the "wings", I'd show how that goes, so here it is.

The middle panel is knitted in the round, with increases at each of four corners, resulting (if all goes well) in a square. When I got done with all of the charts for that section, it looked something like this.
A giant blob. It was rather unsatisfying to try to see what was going on with it by this stage, as it looked something like a jellyfish.
(from the underside)

So the next step was to bind off the stitches along one side of the square, resulting in this (the bound-off edge is at the top there).
Then, I knit across the next side of the square, putting the stitches on an extra needle to be held in reserve, resulting in this (first bound off edge on the right, stitches held in reserve on top):
I then bound off the third side, and knitted across the fourth side, and ended up with a square, bound off on two sides (the top and bottom), and with stitches all ready to go on the other two sides (I will now knit back and forth from each of those in turn, to create the long "wings" of the stole).
I don't know if that's clarified anything, but I hope so. From now on, I'll be able to pet and admire the stole more easily as I go, as it can be spread out. This one is time-consuming, because of the beads, but the yarn is absolutely amazing to work with (I truly adore this yarn; silk and merino have to be one of the best fiber marriages in the world), and the results are making me so happy that I don't mind that it's taking a while.
(If you click to embiggen, I think you can see the beads on that one). It's just as well that I don't mind, because in the meantime, I went knitting at my LYS last week, and I appear to have started another stole. Oops.
It's actually much further along than that by now. There's a small part of me that would really like to finish it in time to wear it out to dinner for Rick's birthday on Friday night. The finishing on this one is easy; it's linen, so instead of blocking, it is, quite literally, wash and wear. This makes it marginally less impossible to finish in time than it would be if I had to finish knitting it with time to spare to soak and block it and then wait for it to dry before going out. It may still be a pipe dream, but hey, if it's not done, what's the worst that happens? I'll just have to wear Artichaut, or something, no?

In the meantime, I get to take one of my favorite young people (the daughter of a dear friend of mine) to my LYS tomorrow to teach her how to knit. I absolutely can't wait; I've been trying to arrange this for a while (such a converter, I am). So, any suggestions for a good first project for a 15-year-old? I think in the end that she might end up enjoying one of those beaded bracelets I was obsessed with some time ago, but I'm not sure that's a good first project, as it's a bit fiddly. Maybe the beaded tam, instead?
What first projects do you all use that will neither a) bore your student to tears, nor b) frustrate them to the point of giving up? Balance in all things...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You can't buy that at Walmart, baby

Length in inches of husband's feet? 10.75
Diameter in inches of husband's feet? 9.5
Number of stitches per row? 66
Number of rows per inch? 6
Total number of stitches? Approximately 7,000*

Feeling when husband turns from packing to leave town for big stressful important business meeting to ask whether his new socks might be done in time so he can wear them for good luck?


(Needless to say, I stayed up to finish them before he left town.)

Project details: Sanguine Gryphon Bugga (can't remember the colorway, but it's a stunning dark dark blue). Size two needles. Toe up socks, nothing fancy, just some 2x2 ribbing at the top. I made them so that the legs and feet are the same length when they're folded in half (my standard), but there was some yarn left over, so I might pull out the cast off and add a bit more length when he gets home, we'll see.

*Edited to add: Per sock.

Monday, June 7, 2010


It has been a week of disappearances, of unexpected happenings, of change. I haven't really come to grips with any of it, so this will be a short post. Just before I left for Ohio last weekend, we got the news that Rick's grandmom, whom we both love dearly, had taken a turn for the worse. It wasn't something unexpected, and she's long been ready to take that next big step; we've always known that her death would be something that we grieved for our own sake, while being glad of it for hers. Rick decided that he was going to drive the girls up on Saturday to see her, and I changed my ticket so that I could fly to San Francisco on Sunday night, instead of back home on Monday (this all happened with the help of both my wonderful SIL, who had to change her plans to get me to the Columbus airport on Sunday, instead of Monday, and my amazing brother, who talked me through changing my tickets). We'd planned to give me a chance to see Grandmom on Monday morning, and then to drive home on Monday evening.

We stayed all week.

We had to leave yesterday to get Rick and the girls home for a week they couldn't miss here. By the time we left, Grandmom had fallen into a coma. She died peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 96, at 4:00 this morning. She spent her last week surrounded by the people who love her.