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Archive for December, 2005

Always Catching Up

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

It seems I always have more photos and more subjects to talk about than I have days/time to write here about them.

Saturday we went to Altu’s to eat and hear Blue Jell-o (Ben and Pat) play their music. Here’s a photo of them having a great time. They really truly are entertainers, the audience enjoys them very much.

Also last week sometime (I think Saturday), I stopped very briefly at Rae’s to drop by something, and I sweet-talked Rae into modeling my most recently knit hat. It’s for Altu’s niece, really, but isn’t Rae darned cute wearing it?

Tuesday night I went to the holiday Mid-Michigan Knitting Guild meeting. As always, there was lots of food and fun, more prizes than usual, and I loved it. I took Lauren/OfficiallyaKnitter with me.

Each year, the guild has a charity event for the holidays. We pick bags of donated yarn (we can’t peek into them) and then we have to use that yarn (though we can add more yarn from our own stashes if we wish) and make something for charity. For years, it’s been hats only. This year we could make anything for charity, whether hat or scarf or sweater, you name it.

I didn’t even think to take a photo of the hat I made. It was very simple, a beanie-type hat with a garter-stitch border, out of three yarns held together as one strand.

Take a look at the two tables we had, overflowing with hats and other goodies! We did a good job, folks!

Chicago! Aaaahhhh….

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

I went to Chicago to see my friend, Iris C., on Monday. I loved it!

ChicagoChicago is such a friendly, midwestern place… all the benefits of a corner of the world that is home to me, all the benefits of a place with amazing architecture, food, art. You can turn to someone in line behind you (I did this yesterday) at the Post Office in Chicago, and have a nice talk with which to while away the time. Yesterday it was a woman originally from Africa, who struck up a chat with me because I was knitting in line. I heard Africa in her voice… it was a warm and enjoyable chat we had before I left.

Iris and I went to my favorite place, perhaps in the world… Devon Avenue, where the Indian and Pakistani restaurants, groceries, jewelers and sari houses are. We had dinner at Udupi Palace (I have a picture of Sara, my Goddaughter, on an archive page of this blog, eating dinner at this very restaurant in August 2004).

ChicagoIt was wonderful. We talked and talked, and they kept bringing us tea to sip as we chatted. Then I went across the street to two Indian groceries… came home with dried split yellow peas, uttapam mix (a dinner fritter/pancake of lentil flour and semolina/wheat, hearty and filling) and coconut milk. If we had gone there earlier in the day, we would have surely checked out the current fashions in the sari houses, but it was too late when we finished eating.

This trip was not a glamour/shopping trip, it was a visit-a-friend trip. We had planned to meet up last week but she got the flu. So we delayed a week, which means I got there in time to drive her to an eye appointment, then we went to the post office, dinner, and then back to chat at her house for a while.

ChicagoI did allow myself the luxury of almost a half hour driving around downtown in the dark, on the way home. But this trip was about relationship, the connecting again with someone once very important in my life. It wasn’t about shopping or art museums or any of the other adventures that can be found in the Windy City.

I took a bunch of photos, every time I found myself sitting at a stoplight on the way home, in downtown. Even with the car sitting still, I got some blurs because I had the camera on “night” setting, which gives a long exposure. I think the blur actually gives a realistic effect, that of driving down a street filled with lights.

ChicagoI did go past the Marshall Fields windows, and saw couples walking down the street arm in arm looking in the fancy, holiday-decorated windows. Also at the same time, on the same block, I saw people bundled against the frigid wind chills… young people making cell phone calls as they walked briskly down the street, ordinary people walking through their city. My city is so small and nobody seems to live downtown… it’s just wonderful to see a city so alive, that people are walking the streets of downtown even in the cold, at 10:30pm.

ChicagoThe Carson Pirie Scott (local landmark department store) building had construction scaffolds around it, so I could not see any windows to speak of. The Marshall Fields windows did not disappoint, but my one photo came out such a blur it doesn’t really even look like a store window, just lights streaming by.

I took some photos on Lakeshore Drive, some on Michigan Avenue, one (the third one) on Rush Street, one or two on State street. The second shot shows the logo for Lord and Taylor, can you see it? I hope you enjoy the cityscape I’ve provided (in the warmth of your home, no less).

Chicago, Here I Come!

Monday, December 19th, 2005

cairo Christian chapelI’m going to Chicago on Monday, just for the day. It’s about a 4 hour drive one way. I am going to see my friend, Iris C., who I used to see all the time but I haven’t seen her in over a year. We will find good meals in the windy city. And talk until I have to go home for the night.

I love driving, I love Iris, I love Chicago. I’m getting an adrenalin rush just typing all this.

Today I realized that I’ll be in the city during holiday season. I’m not big on Christmas, but I’m very very big on cities. Especially Chicago! I love driving home down Michigan Avenue during the holidays, and seeing all the windows decked out. This time of year, you’ll drive by after the stores are closed, and people are lined up to look into each window and get a peek.

I probably will not be checking email for a day. Orders for patterns and/or yarn will be handled promptly on Tuesday morning. I hope this is not an inconvenience to anyone out there.

I’ll catch you Tuesday.

Photo: (Unrelated subject, other than time of year…) I took this photo on December 26, 2004, at a Christian chapel in Cairo, Egypt. The inscription is in Greek. I was offered a candle to light and ask G-d for anything I wanted. I bought a candle (it supports maintenance of the building) and just gave thanks for being in Cairo, how could I ask for anything else?

CityKidz Are the Best!

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

CityKidzI teach a group called CityKidz Knit! each week. It’s a free program offered by the City of Lansing, at the Foster Community Center. Officially I take kidz from 7-17 but I have taught as young as 5 yrs old in a few special instances.

I have the knitters for one hour on Wednesday and officially one hour on Thursday. Luckily, on Thursday the knit program ends and then my computer lab begins (we knit in the computer lab) so if people know how to knit, they are allowed to stay and continue knitting until lab is done. No new knitters start learning during computer time, and computer questions get first priority, but honestly often we’ll have two computer kids and six knitting folks, so it’s a good way for the City to get their money’s worth out of me being there.

Frog PurseThe only budget for this program is to pay me for 2 hours a week. All supplies are donated, mostly by folks in my knitting guild and people who read this blog. I seem to always have enough yarn (and lately we’ve had some very high-quality donations, not just the standard Red Heart acrylic). I seem to always be one pair of needles away from running out. It’s sort of odd, because I do have tons of needles but often they are size 5 and smaller, size 13 and larger, or I have one of a set. The ideal needle is size 8 but we do with what we get and we are incredibly grateful for every single thing donated.

I also am grateful for other unusual donations. I have a few folks who continue to bring me canvas tote bags, usually with advertising from conferences they attend (hi, Betsy!), and this way kids get needles home without losing them on the sidewalk.

Knit BookmarkAnd a few years ago, an online friend donated a box of wool sweaters for the kids to sew with. I washed them in my machine on hot wash/cold rinse and then put them in the dryer on “inferno.” They shrunk enough to be cut into pieces, and we had a wonderful time making mittens and bags and bean bags.

I realized this week that I still had a bit of leftover fabric from that first sweater experiment, and I have almost all new kids since we did it the first time. So this week on Thursday, we got out the sweaters and made more mittens. One girl decided to make a wool teddy bear rather than mittens, and I can’t wait to see how that turns out!!!

Sewn MittensMy group this year has just been magical for me. They really love knitting, they dive in with full faith, and three of my knitters are really doing things that are impressive… things that would be impressive if an adult did them.

One girl is making her mom a feather and fan bookmark on tiny needles with tiny cotton crochet thread. It’s going pretty darned well, and she and I are both proud of her progress. The bookmark has knit-in I-cord trim which neither she nor I had done before but we worked through the pattern together. She had not done yarn-overs either, so that was a new skill she learned. It’s looking great.

Another girl, who I started with when she was 7, went away for a while but now is back with me at age 10. Someone sent me a kit for a frog purse a good long while ago and I asked her if she wanted to try it. Look at her results! She made the frog body on double-pointed needles (about size 8, also donated to the program) and she made little balls for eyes, with a bit of embroidery to make it have a black center. She didn’t like the regular I-cord it had for closing the mouth so she made one with red, which she designed as a tongue. She’s very resourceful, often knits without a pattern, just making things up. She did a great job.

A third girl knew cast on/knit/bind off before she came to me. She has since learned purling, increase/decrease, double-pointed-needles, and the works when she got to me. She was ready! (Actually, the 10 yr old with the frog purse taught this older girl how to purl, while I was teaching the youngest ones to knit, our first day this fall.) She is currently knitting the kitty/devil hat from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch N B*tch book, which is seed stitch in the round, followed by decreases, all on double-pointed needles… then it has picked up stitches for ear flaps, and finally I-cord ties. This from a girl who knew garter stitch only when she got to me this fall. I told you this term was magical, didn’t I?

Here we have five of the six kids I had with me on Thursday (we also had three adult relatives join us that day, which is always wonderful). The two I didn’t mention yet, are showing off their sewn felt mittens.

Photos from Thursday’s felted wool/mitten extravaganza: 1) Group shot with bookmark, 2 pair mittens, and scarf (girl on right is making the teddy bear), 2) knitter with Frog Purse, 3) close-up of bookmark, 4) mittens from the sixth child (who left early).

Slowing Down

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Roving by FiberSpatesLast night (Friday) I was with Fay and Stef until past 1am, then I had almost an hour to drive home. We had good food, good talk, much show and tell, and a bit of knitting.

I tried two new techniques during our too-short gathering. I got a lovely surprise Christmas present from Marie Irshad (of KnitCast in Wales, UK) which was some wonderful handpainted merino top from Fiberspates (a dyer in Wales, who Marie has interviewed on KnitCast). The fibers are all shades of pink and some wine. Gorgeous. I’m struggling today with getting the color right in the images, the color has much more depth than you see here.

Of course I wanted to dive into the roving instantly, but I picked up my mail on the way to Stef’s. So… I split the roving into fat bits and knit from roving. It was surprisingly strong to knit with, very little trouble with it wanting to come apart. I joined ends by just overlapping thin ends/beginnings, and it turned out beautifully. I just made a slightly-too-big mug rug (I drink so much tea, these are always a good project that will not waste effort) using a sort of stepped K1P1 rib. I will hand-felt it just a little bit, I think. But I’m telling you, a hat made this way would be the warmest, softest hat a person could wear! Yum. Thanks, Marie!

Roving by FiberSpatesI also tried “freeform knitting” last night. Actually I did not get very far at all, it’s a lot harder to be random with knitting than it might seem. I made one small piece with three different yarns. Actually, I knit with two yarns and I crocheted the third.

I was delighted, though… I used two worsted weight yarns, one (Cascade 220) in garter stitch and one (unknown soft wool boucle) in part stockinette and part garter. Then I used a sock yarn (Opal handpaint leftovers) in single crochet, on a size G hook if I remember right. I often think that crochet fabric can be stiff and lumpy. Well, this expermiental piece is a little lumpy and a little see-through, but it’s very flexible and I like the softer hand I got. And since I’m using a thinner yarn with the crochet, it feels about the same thickness as the knitted worsted yarn in garter.

So far, freeform seems a lot of mental work, to try and make knitting not be little rectangles. I haven’t tried it enough to make a real judgement, but this requires much more ability to be random than a ColorJoy Stole, which is merely knitting five pre-chosen yarns (garter stitch stripes, one row each yarn) in a somewhat random order. Freeform is much harder, because you are dealing with deciding on shape rather than just which yarn to use next. I think it would be easier to do the random-direction thing with crochet. If I can only find some crochet I like, this could work. We’ll see…

Today/Saturday I was going to meet Jillian/KnittingFrau at Threadbear, but she came up sick with the flu her kids had earlier this week. Poor dear. She’s too far away for me to take her some soup so I’m sending good karma thoughts through the air toward Ann Arbor where she is. I think I’ll still do my best to get over to Threadbear (maybe tomorrow instead).

I also had promised Altu I’d pop by her restaurant this afternoon. I slept in, desperately needed after three short nights of sleep, but now where has the day gone? Looks like Threadbear is now a Sunday event (maybe better, since I have nothing else on the calendar tomorrow and can hang out for a while).

However, I have no more knitting classes until January 8 when I’m teaching a one-day First-Time Toe-Up sock (no gauge required) class at Threadbear. This three-hour class is best if you knit a baby sock or a bulky yarn footie for yourself, as too many stitches will prevent finishing in the time allotted. But in one day you will have learned how to make socks without a gauge, particularly nice when you don’t know how far your yarn will go or you have handspun where the big sock might vary a bit from a small gauge swatch.

So for now, I have one appointment tonight to help a knitting friend with her new computer. Then the only public/teaching work I have for several weeks is CityKidz Knit! program. Which, by the way is absolutely magical this term. I have many pictures which I’ll get out to you in the next few days if all goes well.

Images: Lump of gorgeous FiberSpates Fiber from Marie. Mug Rug knit from the roving. (Sorry, I can’t seem to find my tiny three-piece freeform fragment in all the show and tell stuff I took to Stef’s house last night.)


Friday, December 16th, 2005

flowers beforeI tell you what, winter with all this gray outdoors can make a person tired. I just go home and want to drop, before I’ve even had dinner!

Thursday we sang our last private party of the holidays. We had so much fun singing in homes this year! What great fun, what appreciative people we have played for.

flowers afterThursday I also had a great session with CityKidz Knit! program. We got into the box with the remainder of the felted/shrunken sweaters (donated from an online knitting friend a few years back). We made mittens (and in one case a teddy bear). It was great fun. One girl’s brother loves to sew so he joined us this week, though knitting does not sound interesting to him. He finished his in record time. It was great to have him fit right in, right away.

Fay's MittensFriday I plan to have lunch with my friend Tony, and then go visit Fay who was a student at my Threadbear “Design Your Own Mitten” class, and her daughter. We expect to perhaps do some freeform knitting/crocheting. And talk, and talk, and eat, and drink tea, and talk. Or so the plan goes, if the weather goes along for the ride. It’s too soon to know on that count, as it keeps snowing.

Photos: 1) Garden pot before (summer 2004), 2) Garden pot after (this week, covered with ice and snow), 3) Fay’s mittens from Design Your Own class, early November 2005.

4 Against the Wall, at Creole Gallery

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Wednesday night I did the unheard of. I did not go to Habibi Dancers rehearsal. And I went to a very special event (at Creole Gallery in Old Town) instead.

I attended the gala poetry reading, to celebrate the new book: “4 Against the Wall” by Zachary Chartkoff, Sam Mills, Robert Rentschler, and Ruelaine Stokes.

Back when I was single, when I had angst, when I was writing poetry to exorcise the angst… I went to the poetry readings at Hobie’s restaurant once a month. I read my poetry, and I listened to others read their work. And let me tell you, these four shine a mile above many poets I’ve read.

I wish you could hear their voices. Because, really, poetry at its best is about sound. Yes, it’s also about ideas/thoughts/feelings. You can read a poem, eyes alone, from a page in a book. However, to make a poem truly sing, someone must read it aloud, give it a voice.

My favorite poetry performer of all time is Ruelaine Stokes. She can read her own poetry, or anyone else’s (I love it when she reads Rumi), and make it take on such life that it almost has a flavor.

Here is my very favorite poem. Ever. Of any time, any writer. I can not read the poem without choking up and/or shedding a tear. I have lived the spirit of this poem, though I did not write it.

I am not the only person who has been deeply moved by this poem. Several years ago, I purchased an artpiece from Freshteh Parvizi which includes fragments of text, excerpts from this very poem.

The poem is on page 75 of this new, wonderful, fabulous, incredible gem of a book. (Included here with permission.) Written by none other than my friend Lynne Ruelaine Stokes… poet, photographer, artist.

from the “book” of common prayer
wash my heart & call me clean
a hard time is over

yesterday I listened to the grass grow wild
green under the snow

& now I see the water fall
from your eyes

let it rain
let it rain down on me

forgiveness is mine/listen to your lover

the trees will buy new dresses
the birds will flower

I called it a hard time, lord
but it’s over

tea is on the table, honey in the pot
bread and butter
even the radio wants
to be my friend

that hard time, lord
it’s over

Lansing State Journal Article about Poetry Book

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

The Lansing State Journal had an article on Wednesday, about my friends and their poetry book. I enjoyed the article, and maybe you would as well.

Letting go of Perfectionism

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

LynnHI’m a funny mixture of character traits. I am artsy-fartsy and in some ways I can try things that seem unconventional and scary to other folks. I can paint my house trim purple and revel in it (in this town where folks will harass you in a good neighborhood if you paint outside the “classy” conformist beige-and-white color scheme).

I can dress strangely and look like I intended to look that way. I put colors together that others wouldn’t. I wear two or three patterned fabrics at the same time. I often wear three, four, even six items I’ve handknit, all at the same time (can you say “dorky?”). I see myself and others also see me as free and easy.

But there is another side to me. When it comes to my artful creations, I can become a control freak. I figure my art reflects on me and sometimes it’s important to focus on details. But sometimes I stop and I notice myself doing it when it is not useful or necessary, and I’m not proud.

When I was working with my Goddaughter, Sara, on her socknitting project, she was proclaiming herself a perfectionist and I let her know that it was not helping her progress. And yet I do this, too. I don’t brag about it but it’s there. And it pulls me back sometimes.

I was just reading Too Much Wool where she is talking about her progress on a complex cabled sweater (Celtic Dreams) and how she is letting go of perfectionism, dealing with being off by a stitch or several. She’s not ripping back, she’s figuring out how to go forward based on the current situation. In one case she was off by over 20 stitches and she made it work. Go, Cassie!

Mike Ross, centerNow, isn’t this how we have to “do” life? We get to today and deal with what is right now. Why not approach knitting that way, as well?

When I make things for store samples, I rip a lot. I knit and make mistakes and rip, because those samples are supposed to match the pattern. However, when I knit socks/bags/hats for me, I am fine with fudging a bit. I tend to be a sort of “make it up on the needles” knitter when it comes to accessories, anyway. And my students learn from this… Brenda in my Watercolor Bag class has been telling me how freeing it has been to knit a felted bag where one or two stitches off will just not be noticed.

But when I knit from other folks’ patterns, I obsess over matching their numbers. Part of that is because I usually knit other folks’ patterns when I’m doing something I don’t know as well (like cabled anything, or a sweater/tank top).

Right now I’m doing the Funnel Neck from Sally Melville’s Color book. And in two places I found myself not matching her numbers. Now, books can have mistakes but there is no errata on the XRX website for this particular pattern (there are some for other patterns in the book). So for now I’ll assume it’s probably right and I am the one who is confused – she’s the sweater knitter and I am not. But I can not figure out how to get her numbers, and so I am fudging. And in no case am I off more than 2 stitches, and that means that it will still fit.

LynnHSo I am practicing not worrying about perfection. About making something and it will work and it doesn’t match. Who will see that I was off 2 stitches when I wear it, anyway? (The row counts match, so sewing together will still work well.)

But it is good to face our real selves. And admit when that little character trait is not helping the situation. I just want to wear this sweater, I do not want to be ripping over and over (never mind that I did a LOT of ripping yesterday when I clearly forgot to decrease, etc…). And I did finish a second sweater piece last night, and it is two stitches wider than the other. But then again, this sweater has identical front and back measurements (and my body does not) so I can use those extra stitches where I need them.

It’s interesting… live music performance is a totally-in-the-moment experience. When you hit a wrong note, you just keep on going with a smile on your face and a lilt in your voice. And if you keep going, people either will not have noticed the note or they will forget soon. And I do live performing well, and honestly I’ve done it now enough times that I do not get nervous before I go on.

But recorded music… there is a reason that live albums are popular. When you record, you can re-do and re-do and re-do until it’s almost not like your act. In fact, Brian has put out several “Heftone Banjo Orchestra” CDs where he overdubs himself playing several different banjos, it’s something that is totally in the studio and can not be reproduced on stage.

I have trouble letting go with the recorded music. Once it’s on that CD, people will be able to hear every note that is not dead-on. And since I was trained in classical voice for about 5 years (I can pronounce Italian but not understand it) I am very hard on myself. Too hard. Because what we do now is not classical music, it is the popular music/early jazz of 1900-1930 or so.

Learning to let go is good. I don’t have high blood pressure, as my mother and brother do. And I don’t need to invite it by over-worrying.

And with that, I will now go teach children to knit. And children will not rip knitting out (to fix problems) under any circumstance! They want me to sew it together with a darning needle if there is a hole, and they will continue ahead, thank you very much! Gotta love the “babies.” They teach me to live in the minute, over and over again.

Images: 1)Me (dorky and unmatched but happy) at Wheatland Music Festival, 2003, staying warm with six knitted items I made myself. 2)Paul Bennett, Mike Ross and Brian Hefferan experiencing live music performance last Saturday night at Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine. 3)Knitted fragment by a 5yr old boy at Foster Community Center.

Thanks, Dawn

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

snowThanks to Dawn I have a chance of reaching Jill. It’s so great to know folks are out there reading these dissertations I write… and even more wonderful to catch folks I know in email sometimes… especially when I am in a pinch as I was tonight. I’m crossing fingers I catch Jill in time for what she needs.

Snowy Days
It’s still winter in Michigan. When the wind goes away, it’s fairly pleasant. Today’s snow was light and fluffy, if you just blew on it, it would fly away. Very pretty, indeed.

The sun is behind clouds more than not here, and it is colorless outside even during the day most days. This is a perfect time of year for appreciating bright-colored yarn to knit with. Funny, though, I’ve been so blah lately that I feel like wearing gray and black. We need some sun here, and we need it soon! Fuschia and turquoise, here I come.

Here’s a photo of our walkway in the dark, in the snow. Thanks to Photoshop you can actually see the house in the picture. Brian shovels almost all the time, and though our house is small we have a LOT of sidewalk to shovel. I appreciate him, I really do.

Email for Michigan Fiber Festival?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Does anyone out there have a way to reach Jill at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, Michigan (other than the mff AT iserv DOT net email address, that is)? We corresponded yesterday morning and she wanted me to send her some photos. Now the photos are bouncing back “greylisting in action” and I know she is on a deadline.

Any advice would be welcome. My email is Lynn@ColorJoy.com

Quality Time with my Singer Hobby Machine

Monday, December 12th, 2005

yarnI was supposed to go to Chicago Monday. My friend became sick with flu, and that gave me a day with no appointments. I did my best to make the most of it.

I had started a funnel-neck pullover from the Sally Melville Color book (from The Knitting Experience series) a few days ago. I am pretty much a novice both at machine knitting and at sweaters. So I’m trying to combine the two, converting a handknit pattern to machine knit. It is a fairly simple pattern, plain stockinette, where the front is the same as the back and no “at the same time” instruction for a v-neck or whatever.

yarnBut somehow there are instructions for “funnel neck pullover” three different times in the book. She has four or five different possible gauges, and two possible stripe patterns, plus a solid. Somehow I picked the most complex of them all (not realizing there were other choices in the book). I picked one that has three different neck finishes, sleeves or none, and two different possible gauges. And a stripe pattern that is described in words rather than a chart, probably because the stripes are fairly random and very wide, and it would be hard to chart it without wasting a lot of page space.

Therefore, the pattern (which is lovely, absolutely lovely in several different variations througout the book) in the version I chose, has sort of plan A, plan B, plan C. It has to stop and tell you what color pattern to knit in, at the same time it is telling you how many stitches to decrease for the armhole or how many rows before the next decrease.

yarnSince I have knit only 2 adult sweaters, both from formulas rather than patterns (Sarah Peasley’s Knit to Fit sweater class really was wonderful), I’m not used to following this sort of thing. Yes, I’ve done a couple of tank tops and a baby dress from published patterns. But in all that time I’ve knit over 120 pairs of socks. I just plain understand socks better, you know? This is good for me, and I certainly can figure it out, but my brain is not used to this particular exercise yet.

I got stuck the first time through, I had the wrong number of rows and stitches. I found the mistake in one case, where I had to rip out 12 rows of machine knitting. In two other cases I was just counting wrong in my head, sifting through the pattern on the pages. Sunday I taught at Little Red Schoolhouse and Linda and I had a too-short chat about what might be wrong… then today I ran over to Rae’s before she closed for the night and she and I figured out the rest.

Finally, I got out a pencil and wrote in my book “Row 40” etc., wherever I could figure out what row I should be on. Knitting machines are good at counting for you (assuming you set the counter back if you have to rip out). I am happy to say I finished the back. And I’m now up to my armholes on the front. Woohoo!

The yarn I’m using is Arucania Nature Wool in a dark-to-medium teal with a lot of blue in it. It’s gorgeous knit up. The yarn is hand-dyed in vats, in Chile. There is no dye lot, so here I am with 5 skeins, all with different amounts of dark/light patterning. So I’m following the standard advice about handpainted yarns. I’m rotating two rows of one skein, two rows of another (and occasionally a third skein in there to use up some smaller bits and mix up the color even more).

The first skein I wound into a ball, was a tangled mess. The other skeins have not been any trouble, however. Not only was the first skein tangled, but my swift chose that exact moment to stop working properly. I’d tighten it, and it would turn a half turn before collapsing. It would not hold my yarn properly so I could ball up the skein.

In the end, the bit that holds the umbrella part open is just a wooden screw. The very tip of the screw presses against the dowel which is the center pole of the umbrella. Well, the dowel got really really slippery from all the use and abuse I give it. And the little tip of the screw was actually shiny (porous wood, but not porous any more). It just would slip no matter how much I tightened it. I got out some coarse sandpaper and roughed up both the dowel and the screw tip, and it’s working well again. Whew!

The sweater fabric looks very pretty, it reminds me of leopard spots in blue rather than brown. Although I must say that sometimes I fall in love with the back side of the fabric. Is there anyone else who often prefers the reverse/bumpy side of stockinette to the flat side? Especially when it’s a multicolored yarn?

I love how the colors blend so well together with “purl bumps” alternating on the back. In this case, the funnel neck would roll wrong if I wore it purl side out, but I did consider that for a short while.

I have an allergist appointment at the awful hour of 8am tomorrow. That means I can’t stay up till the wee hours finishing the sweater pieces. It could be SO fun to do just that!

But I tell you, I’ve had far too many short nights this last week. I always say you can’t buy passion, and this week I’ve been too into my work at night to go to sleep… until I can’t keep the eyes open any more. Now tonight after days of that, I’m dragging at 11:30pm! Usually I’m up until something more like 2am. Somehow lately I can not sleep past about 9:30am, regardless of when I go to sleep. Therefore, I need to start “hitting the feathers” earlier than I’ve been doing in the past.

Photos: 1) Yarn looking innocent in packaged hanks. 2) Yarn showing its mean side on the uncooperative swift. 3) My Singer hobby machine set up in the kitchen (a great excuse to not cook, as if I need one). Under the table is a drawer unit full of polymer clay, unhappy because I am ignoring it.

My house is usually much messier than this, so this is the closest you will get to a photo of my favorite knitting chair. I usually don’t handknit much at home, anyway… but if I do, it’s usually at my desk (piled first with papers and on top of that, yarn). I never was a Suzy Homemaker, but at least I’m good at making pretty things.

(Actually, when I’m lucky I knit on the couch, feet up sideways, propped with pillows and wrapped in my Ethiopian cotton blanket (gahbi)… and in the summer I knit in the hammock when at all possible, but summer is too short here!!!

Hat Week

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Shepherd's Hat from Northern EthiopiaI seem to be knitting at least four hats at a time again. Some are experimental, where I’m making them up on the needles. That means I’ll be ripping out a lot of hats at a time again, too. For a hat, it does not upset me much to rip. They have so few stitches, even when using DK weight yarn, that I can reknit in a day or two or three.

It means, however, that there are not many photos for you. I have my new hard drive mostly working, my PhotoShop is up and running, and now the challenge is to figure out where in the heck the computer downloaded the photos I moved off my camera a few days back. It was not where I thought! Normally I can search the computer for something by date, but the conversion to the new hard drive means that all my folders have the same date on them. Aargh! I’ll get there…

Meanwhile, here is perhaps the prize purchase of last year’s trip to Africa. It’s an Ethiopian shepherd’s hat. Yes, for a real shepherd, that’s a current real job in rural Ethiopia.

The hat appears to be woven like a basket, from rope of some sort. At the hotel gift shop where I bought this (in Gondar/Gonder, Northern Ethiopian historical area), they told me it was wool. I’m thinking that was the best word in translation, and perhaps it is really goat hair.

The fiber is incredibly coarse and incredibly scratchy. I can wear scratchy wools that others can’t touch, and this hat can stay on my head for a maximum of maybe 5 seconds before I need to take it off. Woohoo, they must wrap their heads underneath the hat when they wear these (which they really do, we saw them in action in some parts of our travels).

It is very densely woven. It would definitely keep off rain and sun. And isn’t the horsehair tuft a wonderful decoration?

Keeping it Simple

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

Yesterday was supposed to be my day off, but because of our performing schedule I ended up with two working events. However, today I could have gone to Spinners Flock in the morning, and I had a possible class in the afternoon. The class cancelled, and I grabbed the chance at a full day off at home.

I even got so excited I made a plan to sit at my knitting machine all day and do my best to make something wearable. I picked a project (funnel neck from Sally Melville Color) and even splurged on new yarn, as ridiculous as that may be (I have precious little yarn on hand in quantities enough for a top/sweater, unless it be brushed mohair… and I wanted a garment that would be against my skin).

I was excited about the knitting machine idea. I like the gizmo but it has a big learning curve. I’ve made lots of swatches this year and the back of a tank top that worked out. The last time I made something actually useable on it was two years ago. That’s too long!!! Time to dive in and have fun.

But I stayed up too late, slept not late enough, and proceeded to do the few business things I needed to do before I could play. And it’s nearly 4pm now, and I’m still making the computer behave.

Somehow in the conversion to the new hard drive, my PDF writer didn’t write, so I couldn’t send a proofing copy of a pattern to my test knitter. I had to re-install, uninstall, re-install again.

Then I finally processed a couple of photos for you, and I could not get my FTP program to access my website so I could upload. A phone call to my wonderfully calm husband helped me re-think the situation and I fixed that as well.

I did do a little knitting on a hat for Brian while waiting for downloads and installs. The yarn I got for my funnel neck is still in the bag. I actually was looking forward to the zen process of winding it into balls on my ballwinder. The day is not done yet, and I’ll get to it, but the day is not as I planned.

Then I go and get hungry! How inconvenient. Well, I don’t like to cook but lately my habit of ignoring hunger in order to avoid cooking is not working for me. (I end up eating too much later, and it’s really bad for my body to do it that way.) I had to do something.

So I made it simple. I cut open a gorgeous ruby red grapefruit (this is the right time of year for citrus) and dug in. It was dripping with fresh juice, and it was beautiful to behold… yellow skin, red pulp, turquoise plate, shiny spoon.

Now I’m boiling some success rice (boiling pouches that cook for 8-10 minutes with no measuring) and I’ll add the rice to some wonderful boxed free-range chicken broth. Instant lunch, almost. I’ll add some dill weed and drizzle good olive oil on top. I only need a little lunch today… because…

We will be eating dinner at Altu’s tonight, as Mike Ross is playing and that is an act not to be missed. I am not sure if he’s done a solo gig before, he has played in many a band over the years and is fiddler/harmonica player/ singer in Scarlet Runner Stringband with Brian. But he has a cassette tape out with original material on it, and I love his pairing of melody with poetic and thoughtful lyrics. He’s well known as a harmonica player, and he’s a wonderful friend to have. Maybe some of you will join us there, too.

Well, the buzzer tells me my success rice is successful. I’m going to go add the broth and have some lunch. Healing food today… chicken soup, grapefruit, and good tea. Keeping it simple is the way to a better attitude, you know?

Photos… finally! I’m vastly behind, but these are Lori and Brenda’s Watercolor Bags. They have finished the three skeins each of Noro Kureyon yarn (they picked the same colorway as their center skein, without knowing it). They are decreasing for the bottom of the bag in a solid yarn. I’ll be seeing them for my Reading Simple Patterns class at Rae’s on January 12, and I hope to see their bags felted then! Oh, and a too-blurry photo of the one and only Mike Ross!