Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer of Socks 2013

It seems that for the past 6 or more months that most everything I've knitted has been shop samples for Fiber Charmer, or I've been too tired to knit.

I've spent plenty of time in April and May sitting in waiting rooms and lobbies of hospitals and doctor's offices, and I pulled out a pair of socks that I'd started in May 2009.  Yes, 2009.  Four years ago.  I knit toe up because I love it, and all I'd done was the toe and a wee bit of the pattern.
At the time I was still learning how to knit and read lace, and I lost my place, put the socks down, and went on to the next project.  Now, four years later, I looked at them and could tell immediately where I was in the pattern.  Not only that, but the pattern is super easy, and I memorized it and got both socks finished up.  I think I picked them up around May 5 and finished the second one up last night, May 26.
(The picture is only of one, but they both look alike.  I counted rounds to make sure they actually matched in length this time.)
While I was refreshing the pattern in my mind, I leafed through the book, Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson, and thought that there wasn't a pair of socks in there that I didn't want to make.
Long before I started dyeing my own yarns, I bought yarn.  I still buy yarns, mostly from other indie dyers because unlike the commercial yarns, hand dyed yarns have variations that will never be exactly alike from skein to skein.  When I see one I love, I buy it.  I have lots of stash, and knitting my way through Socks from the Toe Up will reduce my stash, give me a bunch of new socks to wear and slake my desire to knit on teeny tiny needles items just for me.
Next in the book is Lacy Ribs Socks.  I'm knitting that in Fiber Charmer's May 2013 TriDye installment, Go Ahead, Make Me Sing.  The colorway is based on a photo of a giant clam, and being a fan of Alf, The Animated Series, the name is an homage to Clams Never Sang for My Father.  Here's the yarn.
So far all I have is a few rows on the toe, and I'm officially on my Summer of Socks 2013 journey.
This year SOS13 is going to be a more relaxed affair.  No contests, no prizes, just a go at your own pace knitalong.  My goal is to knit the next three patterns in Wendy's book, Lacy Rib Socks, Diagonal Lace Socks in Dream in Color's Strange Harvest (it's what she used in the book, and I actually have a skein), and Butterfly Socks, probably in Fannie's Fingering Weight Plums & Pinks - a mostly solid pink with splashes of purple.
Stay tuned for pictures!  Have a wonderful Memorial Day.  Stay safe and take a few minutes to think about the real reason for this holiday.  It's not the cookouts and beer, but the men and women who have served for our country.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Waiting for better weather

I've got lots of knitting to show off, but I'm stuck waiting for the weather to clear up enough to take some nice photos.

I'd been knitting one of the Swirl Jackets from Knit, Swirl, but after frogging it for the second time (first for being way off gauge, and this was after knitting a gauge swatch in the round!  The second for discovering I'd twisted the join - augh!!!) it's gone into hibernation.  I'm knitting socks again finally, and that's makes me happy.  New socks for me!!

So, look for pictures soon, if the weather cooperates.  Heck, all it has to do is get dry enough that I can use my stone bench.  I don't mind if it stays overcast, which it looks like it will be doing for the near future.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I'm back!

I seriously had no idea it had been so long since I'd blogged.  Life got crazier, and blogging seemed to slip my mind.

Rather than go back through ancient history, let's just pick back up where I am now and see how it goes.

I'm still dyeing yarn and fibers with Fiber Charmer.  Last year was both great and bad for my business.  I did 4 shows that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I also had some challenges, mostly family related, as both of my grandmother's died at the age of 92+.  I attended yet a third funeral out of love and respect for someone.  Funerals and grief have a way of making thinking difficult.

I've been president of the Atlanta Knitting Guild.  One day I was working away on guild items, and Keith asked just how much time I was spending on the guild.  It seemed like a lot, and his response to me was that they called it volunteer work for a reason.  No one called it volunteer fun.  That's very true, but for the most part I've enjoyed my time on the board, both as president and as vice president of programs before that.

I've been struggling with going gluten free, and it is a struggle.  I think in order to be successful, I'll have to give up most grains.  I tend to overeat rice bread when I don't have wheat bread, and right now I've got all sorts of gluteny goodness in the house.  In other words, I'm failing miserably at staying gluten free, and I have to remind myself that each day, each meal I can make the choice to be healthy or be stupid.  Right now healthy wins more often than stupid, but the fact that stupid is still making choices is what I have to work on eliminating.

So, for now let's look at some knitting projects instead!

First up we have the Roller Coaster Cowl designed by Barbara Benson, a.k.a. Tumped Duck.  It's knit in Fiber Charmer's Shangri-La yarn in the Diwali Rangoli colorway.  This is actually a skein I'd not been as happy with the dye job, so I'd set it aside for me to use.  Roller Coaster is a fun knit, and it works well on even the wildest handpainted yarns.

Next is Boundless by More Than Knotz.  She designed it using 4 colors of Fiber Charmer Valhalla yarn.  It's a large square shawl that is amazingly cozy.   I love the way all the colors work together in this shawl.  Susan designs using lots of different textures, and she loves working with color, but I also think many of her designs would be stunning in a single color as well.

 Finally is Saroyan, a free pattern that you can find online.  When you look at Saroyan on Ravelry, you'll find it knit in just about every yarn weight.  It's knit from end to end, and the lace edging is knit as you go, so there's no picking up stitches later.  It's worked by proportions in that about 25% of your yarn is for the increases side, nearly 50% is used for the middle, and 25% for the decreases side.  This allows you to knit it in laceweight up to bulky and still have a terrific scarf.

This one is knit in Fiber Charmer Galadriel in the color Emerald.  I still need to block it, but I was more concerned with having a sample ready for the spring shows.  Now that it's warming up, I'll have time to properly block it before the fall shows.

I hope you have a lovely, lazy Sunday afternoon.  I wish I could, but I have to update the shop and catch up the laundry.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More navelgazing

The other day, while getting dressed for work - dress shirt, dress pants, tie, etc, Keith mentioned that he wished his uniform was a pair of shorts, polo shirt and tennis shoes. Who wouldn't wish for that with the high heat and humidity we've been having?

I laughed and said I got to wear my pajamas all day to work.

He said that some people had pride in their appearance.


Of course, it doesn't really apply here, does it? I dye yarn and fiber in my kitchen. Why in the world would I get dressed, even in blue jeans, to do that? It's hot and messy, and my ancient, threadbare flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top work just fine.

But his joke got me to thinking. There are more mornings than I care to think about when I do roll out of bed, slap on a pair of jeans, and head out. Do I need to really worry about my appearance if I'm going to Wal-Mart at 8 am to buy more birdseed? The grocery store or post office? Maybe it does.

I do have my excuses. It's been so hot and humid that makeup will slide right off my face. The interior of the car when parked in a lot reaches temperatures that would melt a T-1000 Terminator into a puddle from which it couldn't regenerate, and what will that do to my mascara?

Ok, so I don't want to wear makeup during July in the Deep South. Am I that confident in my own appearance, or am I just lazy?

Lazy. For one thing, a whole face takes some time to apply, and when you're trying to beat the heat, each minute counts.

But what about at other times? Times when I can't beat the heat because it's later in the day?

I think what has happened is that working alone in my dye lair has changed my perspective. When I used to have a "real" job, working outside the home and seeing clients all day long, I did have to put forward a neat appearance, which included makeup.

Now I may go days without seeing anyone other than Keith in real life, and the pets don't mind my old flannel pjs. Why should they? I can stop working for a minute if someone needs laptime, and I don't have to worry about cat or dog hairs all over my legs.

What it has made me realize is that I do need to be more mindful when I'm going out to meet friends. Is my outfit adding unneeded pounds to my butt? A little concealer wouldn't hurt as between the constant lack of sleep and probable allergies I have permanent dark circles. (Actually, they eased up while I was out of town. I'm starting to realize the bad air in Atlanta affects me more that I ever thought.)

And most importantly:

I'll have to start looking into mirrors again. :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Navelgazing about aging

I recently had a birthday, which I may have mentioned before now, and while it didn't end in a 5 or 0, it's getting awfully close to one of those milestone zeroes. While it's just a number, and it's better than the alternative and whole bunch of other platitudes, it's getting awfully close to one of those big ones that ends with a zero. I'd be lying if I said I'd not been thinking about it and some of the implications.

With that as backstory, we were visiting with a friend, and Keith took lots and lots of pictures, as this friend has beehives, and I've loved bees since I was young. Having my own beehives is one of those fantasies I have, along with the organic farm where everything is perfect and I don't have to ever sweat.

I loaded the pictures onto the computer and found I couldn't look at them. It wasn't me in those pictures! It was my mother!

I've avoided cameras for much of my life. When I was young and thin, I tended to look goofy and gawky. There was a while in college and my young adult life when it seemed I took decent pictures and actually looked good in them, but in my 30's my weight started creeping up, peaking at another number I'd rather never mention, and I started some major camera avoidance. Yes, I later learned some of the weight was due to the hypothyroidism, but knowing that doesn't make me look any better.

Thus, I avoid cameras much as one would avoid the plague. I submitted, most unwillingly, to family photos when there was no way I could possibly escape them. Other than that, few pictures of me exist at this age.

Until now. There they were, a whole helluva lot of them, of me looking at bees. Well, it was supposed to be me, and it sort of looked like me, but the woman really looked like my mom! It was unsettling, to say the least. That's not the worst of it. Keith took so many of them with my back to the camera, which would be unflattering even to Kim Kardashian. Trust me on this.

This is a vanity that I'm pretty sure many other women have faced. We've all heard that saying about telling young men to check out how their future mother in law looks as that's how their wife will look one day. When we're young, we don't think that will ever happen. We know everything we'll ever need to know when we're young, and we know for sure that we'll never look like that. Middle aged and a little too well padded.

I'll never look like my 25 year old self again. I know that. That doesn't stop me from fooling myself by avoiding mirrors that I look younger than I am or wondering about plastic surgery in Brazil. I'd probably even bare my neck to a vampire if a bite could stop aging. (Yeah, there is that whole drinking human blood to survive, but I'll worry about that if I get bitten.)

What can I do about it? I can keep avoiding having my picture taken. That's an easy form of self delusion, and I've got some experience. I can get back to the gym, lifting weights, doing cardio and going to yoga. Exercise is a sort of fountain of youth. Not a very fun or easy one, but it does work.

And those pictures of my ass? One of them is going on the fridge so I have to look at it every time I reach in there at mealtime or for a snack.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Towards the end of 2009 I received word that I would be the recipient of a prize of 1 round of Moonbeams, a wonderful fiber club from Moonwood Farm.

Moonbeams are amazingly beautiful. They are batts made from alpacas raised in Alabama and other fibers that usually include silk, Angelina, Firestar, rayon of bamboo and milk protein fiber.

They are labor intensive gems for the dyer, but delightful for spinners.

I oohed and ahhed over them every month, but didn't spin them because I just figured I'd really mess them up. After all, I'm a sporadic spinner.

As I've decided to spin along with all the Tour de Fleece spinning without officially taking part of any of the groups on Ravelry, I decided to start spinning my Moonbeams.

This gorgeous purple fiber is the Dark Crystal Moonbeams from August 2010. Each package of Moonbeams comes as 6 mini batts, so I spun 3 on one bobbin and 3 on another so that I could easily ply them together. What you see in these pictures is my two ply yarn that I plied together last night.

I'm afraid my photos don't really do justice to the Mermaid Moonbeams from April 2010.

They look a little grey in the photos, but they have brown, turquoise, blue, and pink in them.

Once again I spun them so that I could make a 2 ply yarn with them. I confess that I spun the second bobbin much too late in the evening last night (spinning it between 9:30 and 11:15, taking a break for a very late dinner about 10), and I discovered that I was alarmingly overtwisting the single. I ended up with some tight little coils in the yarn.
Plying the two together today helped some, but not enough. The yarn itself is overtwisted, but as I keep telling Keith over and over, it's all about practice. I need to keep spinning, and I'll keep improving.

Sure, my Mermaid yarn isn't as nice as the Dark Crystal, but I also understand why it isn't and what I'll need to do next time.

After all, mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

Have a great Sunday (or try to). Here we have 90%+ humidity with temperatures that will be above 90F. I expect some rain this afternoon. Going outside is like stepping into a steambath.

Is it too early to start counting down the days until September 1? I realize that the days will still be hot then, but at least the nights will start to cool down a little. I don't 75F is much of a low, but it makes a great high temperature!

These are the unspun Mermaid batts. Aren't they gorgeous?

Friday, July 8, 2011

More pictures about pooled knitting

I'm thinking that pooled knitting is a lot like turning the heels on socks. You look at the directions and think WTF? However, when you get started they start to make sense.

Of course, that may only be me, but I don't think so.

Anyway, for those of you who need another illustration of this, I started another one as an example to take the guild last night, and I took lots of pictures this time.

The very first picture shows the yarn stretched out and making sure that it will pool the way I need it to.

The second picture shows that after I wound it into a ball, I pulled out several paint repeats and put knitter's safety pins where the rows end/start. You may ask, how did you make them stay? Easy, I put them through the plies of the yarn.

Gladys, who inspired all this, uses a backwards e-loop cast on to get started. I rarely use this cast on, but I did for my samples. I discovered something very interesting when I started swatching, but I didn't take pictures of it at the time.

What I will do is do another cast on and show you my discovery. It's so simple you'll smack yourself on the forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"

In all honesty, I'm sure I'm not the first knitter to notice it either, I just haven't searched around to see where else it might be on the interwebs.

Picture number 4, the blurry one, shows my first attempt at matching up colors and getting gauge. As you can very easily see, gauge was off that time.

I tinked that first row and reknit it, using my cunning discovery, and as you can see in the final picture, I got it right that time.

Full disclosure time. I got it right in two tries on this one because the first one was so (and still is) very fiddly. I think this one will work without needing two different sized needles for gauge.

For the record, this colorway is one I dyed, but this was a test or seconds skein. As you can see in the first picture, the yarn didn't dye very evenly with those dye concentrations. I put it aside, thinking I'd probably overdye it at some point. However, with the vivid colors, I thought it'd make a great, easy to see, example of pooled knitting. I'm pretty sure I'm just going to knit it up to have as a show sample for when someone asks what does "pooling" on the label mean?

It's Friday! Have a great weekend! I'll be back with spinning pictures.