Thursday, March 27, 2008

We're off

Well, we're about to leave, and there's a lot of headless chicken-type behavior, and I'm about to shut down my computer for the next ten days. If I can, I'll post quickly from my father-in-law's computer while we're there, we'll see. I've packed six books and three knitting projects (one's a pair of sock, which should probably count as two) -- think that'll do me?

Take care!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A contest to visit

This is just a quick post to point you all to a fun contest. (I'm hoping to post one more time tomorrow before we leave.) Bea's having a contest on her blog to celebrate her sister's birthday and her 313th post (amazing!). Head on over to check it out (there's all kinds of fun prizes in the offing), and if you do, please tell her I sent you (no, I'm not above hoping for a few extra entries, as I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get extra points for correct answers).

Meanwhile, we're packing madly, and I'm trying to decide just what is absolutely necessary and shouldn't be forgotten, and what we can live without or get there if we forget it here. (Passports, I think, fall into the first category, no?)

I do just have to share one lovely thing that brightened my day today. It's a birthday present from a dear friend who went all the way to Iceland just to get me some yarn (OK, not really; everything isn't all about me all the time, but she did go to Iceland, and she did bring me back some yarn). It is a lovely wool laceweight in an absolutely gorgeous seafoam green/blue type color, which this picture does not do justice to.
It's not gray like that -- definitely more seafoam. I'm pondering the exact perfect use for such a windfall (yup, keeping my eye on Anne's website -- no pressure though, Anne!). It's so tempting to take it with me just so that I can pet it, but I will attempt to resist...

Sunday, March 23, 2008


It's been a quiet weekend. I've given myself permission to avoid email (if anyone's written to me and I haven't gotten back to you yet, that's why! I'll be back to normal soon, I promise), and to just relax a little bit. I managed to get all of my midterms graded, and I deliberately didn't bring home any more grading. It's been a rough couple of months on many many levels, and it was nice to give myself some time to attempt to recover.

Of course, the weekend also had another goal, which was to finish gathering everything we need for our trip next week and to start packing. Ha.

I'd originally meant to do all of that yesterday, but the wall and I met with a crash, and I just couldn't get myself out of the house. So we decided we'd get it all done today. Of course, I hadn't reckoned on pretty much everywhere (except places like iHop, apparently, which I find interesting in an anthropological sort of way) being closed for Easter. Oops. We did manage to get the girls the shorts and t-shirts they needed, and everything else can be acquired in small trips during the week. (As we drove around the mall, marvelling that every single store was closed except Sears and the pizza place, I was forcibly reminded of a time in my youth when my mother, frustrated upon finding that the store she had driven all the way downtown to get to wasn't open until noon on a Sunday, got cranky about living in "this danged hick town". Which was especially funny, given that Sacramento is the state capitol, and she's from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which is not exactly a booming metropolis. Ahh, memories...)

Spring break doesn't technically start until next Saturday, but on Thursday we're leaving to go visit Rick's parents on Virgin Gorda. They started spending winters on a sailboat in the Caribbean just before Older Daughter was born, and we have never made it down there to see them, in spite of a standing invitation. It's a long trip from the west coast, and a long time to spend with two small children on a relatively small sailboat. However, this time we're heading down to stay in a house with Rick's brother and sister-in-law and their daughter, which I think will be a perfect family reunion. The girls are beside themselves with excitement at the thought of seeing their cousin and cool fish all at once, and Rick's right there with them. I'm just wondering what one knits in the Caribbean?

I already have plans to visit my LYS before we leave to see if there's any yarn that I "need" (note: I realize that it's a want kind of thing, really), and I'm trying to decide whether it's worth packing the turkish spindle and some roving? Probably not, as I'm guessing that sand and spinning don't mix. I may end up bringing the Hanami stole, which has been languishing for some time, and which, being silk, packs veryvery small. It has the added fun of beads on the end to provide a bit of challenge, without being a lot to pack. I could also bring the second of Anne's Little Nothing scarves that I'm knitting with laceweight Malabrigo. Again, small, portable, and enough challenge to keep me occupied on the plane. Maybe those two and the pair of socks that I started in the car and haven't touched since? Is that too much? Not enough? Decisions, decisions...

Meanwhile, I've just been handed a mojito by my lovely husband, so I'm going to enjoy the moment and think about packing later.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


All quiet here on the western front today, which has given me some time to skein up my first batch of yarn. After much debating over which of my lovely rovings should be first onto the wheel, I decided to play with the merino/tencel blend I bought recently, as I already had a bobbin full of it, and figured that I should ply that up sooner rather than later. So, I spun away. I'm definitely finding it easier to draft as I spin, although getting started each time is tough (I keep snapping the darned yarn and having to re-thread it through the orifice, and somehow it takes several minutes to convince my feet to keep the wheel moving at the top of each turn).

I have developed a number of ad hoc tools to help. My orifice hook is a bent paperclip, which is doing the trick perfectly. And, as I have no lazy kate, and only one bobbin for the ashford, once I was done spinning the singles, I wound them off the bobbins using my ball winder, holding the bobbin on a dowel with my toes. Then I plied from the center-pull balls, which worked like a charm. It's good to know that I can manage pretty much whatever I need to with what I've got at this point. So, I finished the singles early yesterday evening, and then just had to stay up late to ply (I was kind of interested to see whether all of this made-up equipment and technique was going to do the trick).

Then, this morning, I measured out a yard of scrap yarn, and used it to set my swift up to a yard in diameter (did I mention that I also have no niddy-noddy?). I used that to wind the plied yarn off the bobbin into a hank. Then I tied it off and put it to soak in a very hot bath to set the twist. When that was done, I beat it against the wall of the shower (I'm still not entirely sure what purpose the beating serves, but I've seen it recommended in several places, besides which, it kind of felt good), and hung it outside in the shade to dry.
It has been an absolutely gorgeous day today, and everything is in bloom. The wisteria is going nuts on the back patio.
And there's still more to come.
The sage is also in bloom, the fig tree is just starting to leaf, and the orange blossoms are smelling heavenly. Spring has definitely sprung.

The yarn is the perfect purple color to go with all of these blooms.
You can see there that the spinning is still not even; there are definitely some loose bits. But there are quite a few strands that spun and plied up very evenly, and the ply was also even overall (no twisting when I hung it in its hank), and I have hope that there will come a time when I have better control over the process.
I used about half or a little more of the roving, and ended up with about 100 yards. In spite of the fact that I am wild to get the Linguistic roving onto the wheel, I think that I will finish this roving up first, for a couple of reasons. First, I figure that if I want this yarn to be about the same all the way through so that I can use it for one project, I should probably spin it more or less at once, so that I keep these charming (humph) inconsistencies (from what I've read, there comes a period in the middle skill stages of spinning when it gets hard to purposely produce "novelty" yarn; I'm looking forward to that stage, to be quite honest, since I never buy or use lumpy yarn). Also, once it's all spun, I'll have a better sense of just how much I have to work with, and I can start to consider what exactly can be knitted out of 180-200 yards of lumpy yarn. A shrug for one of the girls? A lace scarf from the Victorian Lace book? I'm at a bit of a loss...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If I could have your attention, please

It's here! It's here! The ginormous box was waiting for me when I made it home (late again) last night, and of course I promptly sat down and put it together (with a lot of commentary from Daughters, both Older and Younger). The woman who shipped it to me very kindly put little numbered stickers on the all the bits so that, if I lined up the numbers with each other, it would all go together neatly. She also included a printout of the Ashford instructions, which might be helpful if you're putting it together from all of its little pieces, but which I found confusing, since it had only been minimally disassembled. Isn't it luuurvely? It's an Ashford Traditional, and it came with a distaff, which I don't have attached in this picture, but only one bobbin, and no lazy kate, so I'm keeping an eye out.

Of course, I had to spend some time spinning last night (right?).
The fiber is more of the wonderful merino/tencel blend I spun a bobbin of at Common Threads; I figure if I can get another bobbin spun, I can ply it and see what it turns out like. This is definitely turning into a take-it-as-it-comes sort of experiment for me; I'm not being too scientific about it, but I think that that's not such a bad thing. I'm very glad that I spent some time playing with spindles before getting a wheel (I know, it wasn't a lot of time, but it's still true). The spindles slowed down the drafting/winding on process, such that I had time to let the spin run up the fibers before winding on, if I was spinning too tightly, and I could more easily stop and re-start if I wasn't drafting quickly enough. It is a nice way to take the process apart and to work on each bit.

Today, both of my students cancelled their independent study, and I got to come home an hour early. To an empty house. A whole hour to myself. It's been untold ages since I got to do that, and I've been feeling the lack. I'm trying to get to a place in my head where I feel like it's OK to say "no" to the things that people propose, without fretting unduly that they won't understand. This feeling of freedom, though, at being alone (blessed, blessed solitude) may be a good incentive. I practiced piano (and how long has it been since I did that?), and petted my dog, and just enjoyed silence. Yup. Must create time like this more often.

The Daughters are home from swimming, and the baked potatoes are starting to smell baked, and there's a spinning wheel calling from the other room. (Note: This was actually ready to be posted ages ago, but Blogger's been having issues. Here's hoping it makes it through this time!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I never thought I'd remember fondly the days when my knitting was so tight that K2tog was a positively herculean feat, but pulling my sock out of its bag this morning and having one needle stay in the bag, releasing its stitches to wave about clearly enjoying their newfound freedom, definitely brought a wistful tear to one eye. It's definitely a reminder of how far my knitting has come in the last couple of years; it's not just technical ability that's changed, but also the little things, like relaxing a bit while knitting. I no longer feel, however unconsciously, that if I don't give each stitch that extra little (or big, as the case may be) tug, they'll all be uneven or funky or out-of-control. I think I must have learned to trust my fingers. (You'd think this would have come sooner, given all the years that I played piano, but I guess I'm a slow learner.)

(Side note here: Some of you were flatteringly impressed by the whole reading while knitting thing. I say flatteringly because honestly, you can do it, too. In a lot of ways, I can do no better than to refer you to EZ's description of reading while knitting in her Knitter's Almanac. She advises closing your eyes, making a stitch, and opening your eyes again to check it -- yup, it's there. Then close your eyes, make two stitches, check again. Of course, her writing is much more charming, and she points out that falling off a log is harder than knitting without looking. For me, the whole knitting without looking thing happened when I started knitting at meetings and wanted to be able to look at folks who were talking without stopping my knitting; it reminded me a lot of learning to play piano without looking at my fingers, except that I didn't have a tea towel tied between my neck and a piano to prevent me from looking, and no-one was poking me in the back to make me sit up straight. Once I knew I could knit while looking at a person, knitting while reading was no trouble at all -- barring the whole question of how to keep the darned book open, but that's another post.)

In any case, there will be some fiddling with stitches to correct those which have run away up the tiny bit of sock I have achieved thus far. Alas. I started these socks in the car on the way home Sunday afternoon, and I can tell you that knitting a picot edge while plowing through L.A. on the 405 at 80 mph is no joke. I'm impressed I didn't put an eye out. And I definitely didn't knit as fast as I might otherwise have done. Here's how far I got.
The yarn is from The Knittery (ordered from The Loopy Ewe some time ago), and I love the pink and green together. While I should be a good and generous mom and knit these socks for one of the girls, they're for me me me! I'm knitting them up like the pair I did for Younger Daughter a while ago, with a picot edge, and just a little lacework clock down each side. I'm using size 0 KnitPicks Harmony needles. Simple, mindless, soothing knitting. Just what the doctor ordered. I would have gotten further last night, piles of laundry to be folded notwithstanding, except that this came in the mail:
(I would like to point out here that I ordered this on Thursday afternoon. And there it was waiting for me yesterday. No spinning wheel yet, though. Grump grump grump.) This is the kit for the boy's Tulip Cardigan, the purchase of which was greatly facilitated by some encouragement from people who shall remained unnamed (coughEllencough). I called the Coldwater Collaborative and they immediately shipped the kit out, in the size I wanted, with instructions included, and the woman I spoke to was very friendly and helpful. If you're thinking of knitting this one, I definitely recommend checking these guys out for the kit.

I cast on last night, and made it through the first stripe. We'll see how far I get with it tonight. Meanwhile, I still haven't sent the booties and socks off; the post office and I aren't friends at the best of times, and I have not had a moment to get there. Must. Send. Socks.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Driving done

We just arrived home. I tell you, the thought that my wheel could be waiting for me got me through the Central Valley (well, that, and the absolutely lovely blossoms and green hills all up and down the state). Alas. Still no wheel. (This just seems wrong somehow, doesn't it?)

However, Rick's socks are done and on his feet. Another pair of socks has been cast on. And I had my aunt vet the yarn that I bought to knit Icarus for her. Apparently it's more eggplant than burgundy (which is a bad thing). And so the search goes on. (But better than finding this out halfway into the shawl, no?)

We had a lovely weekend. I'll write a much longer post about it tomorrow (although, if you can believe, I took not a single picture, in spite of bringing my camera and my good intentions). We visited with Grandmom, I had a relaxing couple of hours knitting with Gwen (hi, Gwen!), and we enjoyed hanging out with Rick's aunt and uncle. So, well worth the drive. And now I'm off to be prone; after 500 miles of sitting, I'm done with verticality.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Instant gratification

(No, the wheel has not yet arrived.)

Y'all are some people with opinions when it comes to the knitting of baby gear. This is a good thing, though, as it turns out that I seem to have run out of decisiveness lately. So I'll just borrow all of y'all's, OK? The vote came down to socks, or a jacket-like object (several suggestions were bandied about, all of them good).

I seriously contemplated hauling out the odds and ends sock yarn stash to think about doing an EZ Baby Surprise jacket. Then I spoke to my friend (the one who's having the baby), and it turns out she's probably going to be induced on Friday. This rather compressed my timetable, so I cast aside (get it? get it? I slay me) Rick's socks in favor of a pair of baby socks. Dudes, talk about instant gratification. I cast on last night, and finished them tonight while Younger Daughter was doing her math homework. Very nice. I'll probably start the second tonight while reading in bed. It has been ages since I had a project which allows me to read while knitting, and I'd forgotten how much I like it. I also found myself unreasonably charmed by the fact that knitting this sock required absolutely no planning, and just about no thought. I spent approximately 30 seconds thinking about what kind of stitch gauge I might get with the yarn, asked Rick to guesstimate the circumference of a baby's leg with his fingers and then guesstimate what the actual measurement was, did a bit of math, and bob's your uncle, I cast on 32 stitches. (Can I just mention that I love the fact that the word "guesstimate" does not set off Blogger's spellchecker? That's cool. Spellchecker does, though. You can't have it all.)

I knitted the top in k2 p2 rib using some of the remaining smidge of Dream in Color Smooshy, and then did the foot plain in some Cherry Tree Hill. The result (in bad nighttime light using PhotoBooth):
I'm in love. I could make baby socks until the cows come home. And I just might. These just take so much less time than knitting Rick's socks! Meanwhile, I remembered that I also had a pair of booties that I'd knitted once upon a time, figuring that I was going to be ready, yes indeedy ready, for this baby's arrival. Alas for the idealistic plans of youth.
These are the 3-hour baby booties from Stitch 'N Bitch. They are on my list of sure-fire, no-fail, get-'em-done-fast baby knitting. I keep some superwash bulky wool around just for these. So, if I can whip the second sock out (and I don't see why I couldn't), I'm hoping to mail these off by the end of the week so they're waiting for my friend when she gets home with the baby. Then I can think about something more serious and indicative of how happy I am to see this baby coming into the world. I'm thinking it's either Baby Surprise, or the DIC baby jacket that I keep seeing. I almost hesitate to ask where one might find the pattern and yarn for that jacket. I'm a bit afraid of the damage I might do to my bank account.

Meanwhile, this new focus will help with figuring out what kind of knitting to pack for the drive up and down the state. The library just got the copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on CD in (we save these for long car trips, and I put in the request way in advance to be sure we can get the next one), so we're good to go; I just need some knitting to do. Obviously, baby knitting. And the rest of Rick's sock. And then I can't decide whether to knit myself a pair of socks out of the happy springtime pink and green yarn I have, or the pair of Marie Antoinettes with the lovely golden yarn Anne sent, or a pair of Acorn Socks (which feel rather fall-like to me, and therefore which might have to wait). Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Not much new

Or news, for that matter. The wheel should be coming soon. It turns out that the seller got caught in a nasty ice storm (in Illinois), and lost internet for a few days there. But she said she'd be shipping either this past Friday or tomorrow, and that it should take 3-5 days once it's shipped. So I'll keep waiting. Of course, the road to spinning apparently never runs smooth, and I'll be gone as of Thursday for the whole weekend, which means that it'll probably arrive just in time for me to not spin with it.

We're headed to the Bay Area to celebrate Rick's grandmom's 94th birthday, which will be the week after this one. So I really can't complain, as I'd rather celebrate with her than be here, even for a wheel delivery. It's a long trip for a short time, but it's one of the occasions that we have tried to always make it up there, ever since moving away. It's always simultaneously wonderful to see her, and all of our family, and difficult, as I remember how much I liked living near all of them. And to go this time of year, when the hills are covered in green, and the ceonothus and scotch broom and douglas irises are all in bloom, is even harder. I'll be sure to get a few walks in while we're there, although I know I'll miss having Kia along with me; she was always my trusted companion on all hikes, but it's a long drive for her, and we probably won't bring her along.

It's been a busy weekend, with not much knitting, but a lot of errands. We had a friend's daughter to stay the night on Friday and all day Saturday, so the girls had great fun. In the middle of that, Younger Daughter had a birthday party to go to, and then we all headed off for a piano recital at which both girls were playing. Of course, I'd just found out on Friday at their lesson that I was to be part of the recital too (a duet with each of the girls), so there was the bit of added frisson, as I am not fond of performing in front of other people (I know, I know, I teach; what can I say?). However, I failed to utterly screw up either of the girls' pieces, and they both had a wonderful time, so all is well.

Today, Older Daughter had a birthday party to go to, and Rick had traffic school, and Younger Daughter and I stayed home and did laundry. So again, not much knitting. But I did promise you finished sock photos. Here they are, badly lit, as Older Daughter didn't get home for pictures until after the light had gone.
To recap. These are the Violets Rising socks, by Anne Hanson. I was test-knitting them, so the pattern is only available right now as part of a sock club. I knitted them in Dream in Color Smooshy, on my size 1 sock needles. The toes are in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock, because I was worried I'd run out of yarn (I'd already knit a pair of mitts out of the DIC); it turns out that I probably could have done the toes and been just fine, as I have some left. Ah, well. I really had a blast with this pattern; it made the knitting go quickly, as there were several different bits, with just enough paying attention to keep me engaged, without being too overwhelming. I'll definitely knit a pair for myself at some point.

I'm also knitting the second of the SoSquare socks for Rick. I'm done with almost all of the leg (half a pattern repeat to go), and I'm hoping I'll have a chance to turn the heel either tonight or tomorrow night. I'm getting a bit tired of endless non-knitting meetings at work, I must say, as the knitting goes slower under these circumstances. I'm also still contemplating the skirt. I'm thinking of ordering some Rowan denim online to make a skirt out of, as I didn't make it to the yarn store on Saturday; I was still dithering over whether I really wanted to buy new yarn to start the project and figured it was better not to go until I'd decided. Meanwhile, I've been staring at the swatch I did of the cotton/linen blend and wondering whether it mightn't make an interesting kimono (why yes, I did get Kimono Knits for my birthday, why do you ask?).

However, I spoke with one of my dearest friends today, who just found out that her baby, due in early April, will probably be making an earlier appearance than expected (like, very soon). So I now think that I should probably consider busting a move on some baby goods, and have been staring contemplatively at my stash baskets all day, wondering what I should try first. Maybe a pair of little socks would ease me into the baby knitting thing? I do have that bit of DIC left over...

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I know, I'm a loser. I post a teaser like that, and then I leave everyone hanging, and don't even email back to everyone who commented. Mea culpa.

We've had candidates on campus this week, which means whole days, including meals, spent doing interview-type business. This is the first break I've had since that heady moment when I won the eBay auction and had to share with all of you right away. (This should tell you something; I posted the news within about five minutes of winning the auction, long before telling anyone who was actually in the house with me at the time.)

I'm still waiting to hear from the seller that she's received my payment, which makes me a bit nervous, and a bit cranky -- I want my wheel now, dammit! But I'm trying to be a grown up about it (no snorting from the peanut gallery, if you please).

As you know, I'd been planning to wait a bit before buying a wheel, but circumstances came together in an interesting way and it seemed to me that the time had come. Here's the story. I'd signed up to go to the Lace in the Woods retreat in Big Sur this June (no, I hadn't posted about it yet; I was waiting for something, I don't know what -- maybe I sensed doom?). But the retreat had to be cancelled. This was a huge disappointment, although I completely understand why it worked out that way. But I mean, really! I was going to spend a week, in Big Sur, taking classes with all kinds of nifty people (including Anne), and I was going to meet other people whom I've only gotten to know online. It was very exciting. And now, not so much.

However, there is a silver lining to my disappointment. I'd made a deposit to hold my spot in the camp (do you see where I'm going with this?). No camp, no need for a deposit, and a check came merrily winging back my way. A check that just happened to be more or less the amount that some used Ashford wheels sell for on eBay. Coincidence? I think not. I see the hand of Fate at work here (OK, I realize that this is probably just me making excuses, but it sounds so much better to say that I bought the wheel because the Universe made me). So I went for it.

The wheel I bought is an Ashford Traditional. I can't get the pictures off eBay, but it's in excellent condition, hardly used. In fact, the seller says that it's only been used once. It's even finished. While it has a distaff, it (oddly) does not have a lazy kate, so I'll have to be on the lookout for one. It's a single drive, which is a bit of a change from the other wheels I've tried, but I don't think that's going to be a problem (years of playing the pedal on a piano actually means that I'm more used to one foot being active while my hands are doing something than both). I love the way it looks, and I'm very excited to have it arrive (now!!). So that's the scoop on the wheel. What do you all think? (Here's a picture and the specs online.)

Meanwhile, knitting time has been scarce, but I finished Tess' socks last night (the violets rising pattern). I'll put full info in a post with pictures this weekend, I promise. She promptly put them on, and then wore them to school today (I don't think that there is anyone more appreciative of my knitting than the girls; there's something delightful about having the recipient of knitting put the garment on instantaneously, whether it looks dorky with what they're wearing or not, and refuse to take it off). I need to cast on for Rick's second sock, and then I'll have no more singles running around, which will make me happy.

Meanwhile, though, I'm casting about (get it, get it?)(I'm so bad at puns that I'm always quite charmed with myself when I make one) for a new project to start. Socks would be easy, but I'm not sure I am in the mood. I am holding off to start Irtfa'a until the perfect yarn comes through, so that's not it. I have some yarn in a linen/cotton blend (Maggie's, I believe) that I've been thinking of knitting a sweater with, or maybe a skirt, so I decided to swatch it last night. I knitted up a square, but even on smaller needles (size 6 instead of the suggested size 8), the fabric is far too loose to be a skirt. So I'll wash the swatch to see how it comes up, but I don't think that it will turn into what I need for the flippy, kicky skirt I want. This is a pity, as I thought a linen/cotton blend would be light enough to really have some swing to it. I'm starting to think that I'll just have to get some Rowan denim and play with that to see how it turns out.

I've considered knitting the skirt that was in IK last summer (I'll find the name and a picture for everyone), but now I'm considering trying to design something myself. Something very simple, with eyelets at the waistband for a drawstring, and a sort of gored shape. I'm just not sure that I have the knowledge or ability to make something myself from scratch with no pattern whatsoever. On the other hand, how will I know whether I can or not until I try, right? And after all, it's all knitting...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Retail therapy

Um. I may just have bought a spinning wheel.


Don't tell Rick. It'll be our little secret.