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Archive for February, 2009


Thursday, February 12th, 2009

The down side of having record-high temperatures in Lansing from Saturday through Wednesday (after way more snowfall than usual), is mud. There are still piles of snow on corners from shoveling out so many times, but walking on grass feels like walking in chocolate pudding.

This morning I went out to my car to start my day, and this muddy mess is what I found:


Fortunately, the small shovel I keep in my back seat half the year, is solid metal and I was able to shovel the *mud* away from my tire. I went inside the house and found a heavy-duty corrugated cardboard box Brian had broken down, and put it underneath the back of that tire.

I gave my beloved JoyBug a pep talk about how we had one chance to get this right, and we got out of that driveway. It was a slow process but it worked. Right now I have it parked on the street before I go to Rae’s to teach.

I guess I need to stop at a garden supply on the way home to get some gravel and/or sand to fill those ruts. In the city you can get a ticket for parking on the street overnight. I’d be more likely to be ticketed on a weeknight, so I need to make something work before bedtime.

I am grateful that the driveway is only a little longer than my car. It could have been much worse. After all, there is a bit of a rush when one can rescue herself, you know? And this time I did it without much hassle.

May you stay above the mud in your own life, literally and figuratively. (I think I will welcome the frost tonight for a change.)

Corie’s Handspun Hat

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Cori (Corie?) is a new knitter, I think she started with me in November or so. She learned the basics with my “corihatnoblock25.jpgstudy hall” where I have somewhere from 1-3 knitters, a semi-private lesson, at Rae’s shop.

She made a simple hat and then another hat, and then took my bulky cable scarf class. So she is already into cables, early in her knitting career.

I thought for sure I had shown you this photo but I can’t find it anywhere (this is becoming common, I see). She went to the farmer’s market and bought some handspun yarn she loved, and signed up for my Topper-Down hat class. This hat pattern allows you to adjust to the gauge you are experiencing, if it is not the gauge I specify.

She finished this hat in the two weeks of the class, and this photo was before she blocked it. It fits just right. She found out after blocking it, though, that the yarn was too scratchy for her forehead.

So our plan now is to knit a thin soft lining for the bottom four inches (10cm) or so, so that her forehead will be touching alpaca or angora or super soft merino on the inside of the hat, and so that the lovely texture of the handspun will show on the outside.

I got this idea from the Equilateral Hat (by Lucy Neatby) which I knit a few years back (see photo at right). It specifies Noro Kureyon yarn for the pretty colored exterior. Then you pick up stitches on the edge and knit a soft lining.

The lining I used was a DK-weight silk/alpaca blend by Debbie Bliss, pure heaven. Here’s a photo of it… of course you can not see the inside of the hat here, but it lines the whole part where you see triangles wrapping around the part where you might wear a headband over your ears.

Only the top hexagon is not lined. Lovely design! Anything by Lucy Neatby is a good bet, I’d say.

I will take photos after Cori’s hat lining has been completed. She says the hat has already blocked out nicely and I expect it will be a really warm hat for Michigan when it’s complete!

Another Purple House: Ann Arbor

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I was sure I had posted this photo but I can not find it anywhere in my blog archives. I took the photo at the end of July this year.

The house is on Kingsley in Ann Arbor, half a block from Zingerman’s Deli which is at the corner of Detroit and Kingsley.


Purple with turqoise, pink, yellow and more. My kind of house!

Purple House in Marshall, Michigan

Monday, February 9th, 2009

When Brian went on his bike ride Sunday, the wind blew differently than usual and he went to Marshall, Michigan. This is a beautiful old town with some gorgeous old buildings in it. According to Wikipedia, the early settlers there expected it to become the state Capital, so many well-educated people moved there.

I taught polymer clay buttons at the Marshall knitting guild just last week! It was such fun I forgot to take photographs. We had over 20 people in that room, so my time was taken with answering questions rather than photos.


I was there after dark and took the highway, so I did not see much. Brian took the bike and fully enjoyed the scenery and architecture. He knows I like to collect photos of houses with purple paint. He took this one and shared it with me so I could show you. Thanks, Brian!

My Man, in Winter

Sunday, February 8th, 2009


Brian does not complain very often. He just takes life as it comes, and everything seems pretty OK to him.

Really, he is salt of the earth. I’m the pepper. I’ve always got something to fix, something not quite right… an optimist, though sometimes not well-focused. My mind and moods hop and jump and do “frequent flyer miles” with my feet touching the floor. Brian watches me zoom and waits for me to calm down, he knows it won’t last forever.

I complain about winter. He rides his bike to work. In snow. Wearing a wool suit coat as his winter jacket. And he swears he doesn’t get cold. Sometimes wet (cars splash, and there are unavoidable puddles though fenders help with those). Not cold, though sometimes he wears two pairs of wool socks.

On his days off, if the wind is not too bad and the slush/ice are navigable, he goes on a ride just because it makes him happy. I know he will come home in a good mood, I am all for it. This week Friday was above freezing and sunny with manageable wind. He rode over 90 miles and got a little sunburn. No big deal.

Here he is, probably on his way home from work some night this last week. This is on the Grand River in Old Town, Lansing, Michigan. For locals, it’s across from the Fish Ladder.

I love this man.

Happy Birthday, Rae!

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

My friend, sometimes-boss and sometimes-muse, Rae, turns 26 today. She’s so wise in so many ways, so level-headed about business things… she looks her age or less, but acts and thinks often like she has lived many more years.

I’m loud and outgoing, and the louder I get the more Rae just lets me go… Often people come in her shop and assume I’m the owner because of my age and my apparent confidence. I make sure to introduce her as “this is my boss, Rae.”


I will spend the (very long) day today with Rae, her beau, and her aunt, at a knitting/spinning/fiber gathering, called Knit Michigan. I am looking forward to it. We will be tired, but friendship, caffeine and adrenaline will get us through nicely.

I am so grateful for Rae’s friendship. I resisted meeting her at first, I was so busy with other work.

Sarah Peasley told me many times that I should get over to Rae’s shop and meet her at least, even if I didn’t have time to teach for her. I am grateful that Sarah was persistent.

I started by plugging in classes at Rae’s in slots that no other shop wanted from me. Now her shop is my home base, it’s where I work most often. (It is also bicycle distance, 3 miles, from my house.)

Lucky for me, this area is wonderful about sharing instructors. I work other places as well, and we all get along (this attitude is highly unusual in most areas, but it allows me to keep teaching knitting as my “day job”).

Friday night, Brian and I had a nice dinner with Rae and her sweetie. We walked down to Emil’s Italian Restaurant , about 4 doors down from Rae’s shop. It was good fun, on my very favorite block in my city.

Here is a photo Brian took of me sitting next to Rae at Dagwood’s Open Mic night sometime last year.

Happy Birthday, Rae!!!

Blueberry Flammegarn

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I just put up 3 full skeins and an Oddball 345 yd skein of Blueberry Resonance Flammegarn just now, in my web shop. I’m taking all my yarn off the website tomorrow while I take all stock to Knit Michigan with Rae (and hopefully sell out).

I figure I should give you all a last-chance shot at the color which sold out in one day the last time…

Never Doubt what a Kid Can Do!

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I am delighted to present to you, the product of many months of hard work, learning, mistake-making, ripping, and re-knitting. My student, M, age 13, just finished this adorable baby sweater this week. I think it’s time for a party. What an amazing accomplishment!


She used a pattern from a Debbie Bliss baby book she checked out of the library. Debbie Bliss makes high-quality designs, but they are not as simple as some other patterns. No problem! This kid could picture herself finishing the project, and she kept on focusing on that finish line. For the record, she used Berocco Comfort (I think the DK weight) for her yarn.

The scarf around the sweater in this photo was a little fun project she made up in the last week. She had some tiny balls of luxury yarns, one of silk with sequins. She made a fringe-to-fringe scarf in the luxury yarns and it was done in no time.

But the sweater? There are adults who would have given up. This sweater is cast on at the bottom of the back, you increase to make sleeves then split for the neck and decrease sleeves and front to make the shaping. After that you pick up and knit ribbed trim for front and back. There are two seams, one  under each arm.

Wednesday she learned to do mattress stitch to sew the sides together. I had her sew the straight parts on each side, and when it got curvy I did the sewing for her.

The truth is, she will meet the baby, on Friday. She had to finish this week. Nevertheless, she put off the sewing in our Wednesday class until it looked like that baby would not get the sweater… so I made her sit and sew the sides. The curves were an experience in playing it by ear, and I figured I could do it myself but I was unsure I could explain/teach what I was doing.

M, pat yourself on the back again. You did a fine job and it is good to be proud.

Polymer Clay Classes

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Saturday I had 3 students at Rae’s making polymer clay items. These three students have taken a lot of my classes over the year, we all know each other, and it was just the most pleasant way to spend a winter Saturday I can think of. The two photos here were taken of their projects that day.


Then on Wednesday night I did a presentation/class in a short format, for the knitting guild in Marshall, Michigan. The room had over 20 people in it, most of whom were following along with me.

It was a wonderful experience. Folks went home with big trays of buttons to bake (with an hour and a half there was no way to bake all the buttons for 20 people). The work I saw was just wonderful. However, with such a short timeframe and a building ready to close when we left, I did not get any photographs of their work. Sigh.

I want to officially thank everyone involved with inviting me to do the class for the guild. I had such a wonderful time, and the crowd left smiling. It’s odd, but the more students you give me it seems the more fun I have. I would think that a larger class would be more difficult, but that wonderful adrenaline just kicks in and we have great classes together! I loved every second.


Birds on a Gray Day

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

The other day I was working at home and heard a sound something like hail on the roof window. I got up to inspect. There was a flock of birds, very busy, in the tree above the window. There were seeds on the tree which fell on the roof from the disturbance, and that was the sound I heard.

I grabbed my camera and got maybe four photos, then they all flew away as if on cue. Here is a photo taken as they took to the sky.


Back to MailArt

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I have not shared here in a long time about the MailArt I used to enjoy sending. MailArt basically is anything artful you can send through the postal mail system, particularly non-paper things sent without an envelope.

I’ve sent plastic fish, paper plates, wig heads, nerf balls, a plastic yard flamingo (without legs) and who knows what else, through the US Postal Service without an envelope.

If it’s not breakable and you can get postage to stick and two addresses to be legible, you can send it. I usually have used Priority Mail for anything large and bulky or odd.

The only thing I’ve sent that did not make it, was expensive/firm paper plates dropped into a public mailbox. They clearly were put through the standard equipment and chewed up beyond recognition. Funny thing, though… soft and inexpensive white paper plates made it, they were flexible enough to get through the mail-processing machine system.

However, if you wait in line at a post office and hand the odd piece to a postal worker, they have a way to process it so that it will not get chewed up. Truthfully, we are lucky in the USA to have a system that is as efficient as it is, and still allows unusual pieces.


The most fun thing I ever sent was styrofoam wig heads. I was able to write/stamp all over them and they stood up to travel rather well. Brian has one I sent him, in his office at work.

I never tell anyone ahead of time, to expect an odd package. Usually I get a delighted note or phone call when it arrives. Often I get a great story about how the package was received. I love those stories.

One thing I learned while enjoying MailArt, was something they call “eraser carving.” You can literally buy a plastic eraser, and cut it with a craft knife or v-cutter (for linoleum or wood block printing), then use it like a rubber stamp. When you get really into it, you can buy special “soft block” medium which is larger, for something more like a linoleum print.

I have not done any eraser carving in too long. Sometimes I do get out the stamps I previously made, and stamp envelopes I mail out, or make a greeting card. This week I did that to make a “feel better” sort of postcard.

I got out my star stamp, and sticky “embossing” stamp ink. I stamped on a black card, then sprinkled colored embossing powder on the sticky spots. I tapped the card to make the powder fall off the card in all places other than where the stamp had been, and melted the powder with a heat gun made just for this purpose.

I also did a similar process with a different color of powder, using a marking pen with sticky embossing ink in it. I followed it all up with some fabric paint dots to fill out the background. It was a lot of fun.

There is something magical in watching the powder melt and stick to the card. I have not done that in a few years. It was great fun.

Next I hope to actually get out an eraser or two, and my carving tools. I miss doing that! I’d like to make a ukulele stamp if nothing else. Maybe also a Heftone Bass stamp, and maybe a sock or two.

Photos: three wig heads I mailed maybe in 2001 or 2002; postcard from this week; “eraser carving” self portrait printed in embossing ink on a sheet of unbaked polymer clay and then baked, year 2000. Notice that the star stamp I used on the postcard I also used on the wig head at far left.

Presenting my new yarn: Resonance Flammegarn!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

New Yarn!

For several years I have been dyeing yarns off and on. For fingering-weight socknitting, I have used a base (white) sock yarn, 80% wool and 20% nylon, which I have been calling Tiptoe.

Well, I tried a new base sock yarn this month and I am loving it. It is 75% wool and 25% nylon. This means longer wear than the previous yarn, but often that percentage is not as squishy and soft as yarns with more wool. In this case, the new yarn is almost luxury soft. I have been swatching with it and my fingers keep noticing how soft and comfy the fabric of the sock feels while knitting.

May I introduce four Flammegarns? Limeade, Robin’s-Egg, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Blueberry! Cheerful, clear colors for your gray winter enjoyment.


I am calling my new yarn Resonance. Diana/Otterwise came up with that name for me, and I think it is perfect. Thanks, Diana!!!

Resonance sockyarn has approximately 425 yards per 100 grams, where Tiptoe had about 440. This translates to a slightly more dense fabric, and 0ne skein still is plenty for ladies and some gents. It’s a bit cushy, a bit luxury, a bit kitten-soft. I am really loving this yarn!

Prototype Colors Available Now

I dyed up some prototype skeins of the yarn and put them up on my shopping cart yesterday. I can not believe how fast the Blueberry sold out! I’m dyeing this yarn in what is called Flammegarn (Flame Yarn) which is a technique historically used in Norway. It’s a tie-dye technique which leaves white dots on the otherwise-mostly-solid background color.

History (lite)

Originally Flammegarn was dyed in either blue or red. The red version looked a bit like fire with the tiny white bits, and thus it was named for the similarity to flames. These days I use the dyeing technique but I use many base colors besides red and blue. Apparently blue is still a favorite, no matter what century we’re in.


Selling Fast

I have been dyeing 3-6 skeins at a time in between other work obligations this week. I was prepared to do another 3-4 skeins in a fifth color, but since I’m already sold out of blue I am changing gears. I will be dyeing more blueberry and it should show up on the site Tuesday or Wednesday.

Violet will need to wait until the next batch is dyed up. I’m not sure when that will be, as I’m running out of the prototype base yarn. (I did not know if I would like it, so I played it safe.)

I’ll be ordering more yarn to dye and hope to be releasing that batch around February 15. For now, perhaps you would like to take a peek at some cheerful springlike colors? Looking and smiling is free, even if you are not buying.

Photos: A peek at the 4 colors I’ve worked up this week, and a First-Time Toe-Up Sock I have started in the Blueberry. The blue in real life looks more like the sock photo, but the other 3 colors look very close to true on my monitor, in that first photo.

Turquoise Wool Knit Boots?

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I never liked the standard-style Ugg boots. For one thing, they were brown and I have no interest in that non-color for my wardrobe. For another, I like clean lines and am not much into the earthy look. I think brown suede/fleece Uggs normally look worn out when you buy them. I don’t like faded jeans, either, so the look didn’t work for me.

But today I glanced at a site called “Everything Turquoise” and saw knitted Ugg boots. These were turquoise with wool knit sides rather than leather, and buttons. Love turquoise, love knitting, love wool, love buttons. Now we’re talking! (Note, some photos of this model at “Amazon’s buy page” show tiny buttons in what looks like plastic, and some show large wood ones… I’m into funky big ones, myself, though I’d be tempted to replace the neutral buttons with Polymer Clay ones I made myself)

I’m not in the market for boots (especially not casual ones for $140), but these really make me smile! Check them out!