Thursday, December 24, 2015

Have You Ever Knit Something Just So You Could Make the Yarn Leave Your House?

I bought the prettiest yarn at the Hemlock Fiber Festival this year. Something called bouclé. Bouclé yarn has these little ringlets in it, which I found made it very easy to accidentally create or lose a stitch.

Now this teal mohair merino on the left was soft as soft could be. But the bouclé on the right turned out to be a fight. I've never knit with bouclé before, and am not sure I want to do so again. I'm thinking I used the wrong sized needles for this type of yarn. But, in the end, a lovely hat and scarf came out of it. 

I am running out of models, so Greta had to pose for this picture: 

This hat and scarf are for our friend Edie. I think this will go with her QVC coat that she wore here last week for a visit.

Merry Christmas, Edie. We hope you have a lovely lovely holiday.

Like Knitting with Drum Sticks

I had to have some surgery a couple of weeks ago, and on the night before I left, I sent this snarky note out to my colleagues:

My husband says I cannot take my computer to the hospital, so unless you want to describe your requirements for a knitted hat, you should seek out Will, Nantha or James if you need anything on Friday or Saturday.

Admire me, if you will, for figuring I'd be working again on Sunday. But one lone colleague responded with a request.

Oh CRAP! Someone wants me to follow a pattern! I can't follow a pattern. And there are cat ears on this cowl. Cat ears.

Nonetheless, I tracked down and purchased the pattern. And then I mulled. Buy the yarn used in the pattern? mmm... Finally I went into the basement and brought up my yarn stash. And lo and behold, I found this yarn:

This yarn is vintage Jaeger Natural Fleece, 1 ball is 100g. Ultimately, it took 3 1/2 balls to make the hooded cowl. It says hand wash,do not tumble dry, dry flat out of direct heat and sunlight. 10 cm = 15 rows, 10 1/2 stitches, US 13 knitting needles.

I have, like, 10 balls of it. I think I could make Donna a coat, there's so much of it.

Note to Donna:

Do you like wine colored yarn?

Note from Donna:

...I love wine... And the color wine

All right, we're in business. So I figured I'd better practice first. I've never knit with size 15 knitting needles and super chunky yarn before. So I found some more big thick yarn in my stash.

The blue and mixed yarn are a vintage Tahki Yarns Baby Yarn. Gauge is 2 1/2 stitches = 1", 4 rows = 1 inch. The purple didn't have any labels on it, but it looked about right.

ohmygosh, knitting with those big needles was like knitting with drum sticks.

As it turned out, the purple had more stretch to it than the Tahki yarn, so when I washed the finished cowl, the purple seemed inclined to head in a different direction. But heck, it's a great big cowl and you wrap around your neck, so I don't think anybody will notice.

Here's what the practice cowl looks like all finished up:

All right, enough big needle big yarn practicing. I pulled out the pattern and made the hooded cowl.

And in the end, it is... well it's a big cowl with a hood. It's biggest advantage from my perspective is that it hides your double chin, if you happen to have one. I think I look like Little Red Riding Hood with a bad-ass attitude.

Donna, I hope you have lovely holidays. If you'd like me to knit up and attach the cat ears before I send this out, let me know. Thanks for all your help this year.

There's No Mistaking Steeking

Good news! I've learned a new skill. Well, I've observed and lightly participated in a new skill.

I made a hat. And I made a cowl. But, I was under the influence of some post-surgery medications when I made the cowl. So, there was an issue with the cowl. I was using circular needles, and I messed up the circulation, and before I knew it, I had a cowl that looked like a big ol' headband, wrapped around itself at least five times. Un-redeemable.

I took it to my friends Denise, Channyn, and Linda. And Channyn said, "You need to take that to Georgia, or take it all apart and start over." It is rare for Channyn to pass on a project, so I knew the situation was serious.

So I took it to SewGreen, a lovely new charity in the 19th Ward in Rochester, NY. Georgia was out working on another mission, so Patty helped me instead. She looked at my troubled cowl and said I would need to steek it. Steeking is laying out the scarf and crocheting 2 lines up the width. Then you cut it between the two lines (after prayer... prayer is useful at this point). Then you straighten out the project and use the same yarn with a tapestry needle and sew each side, and then you sew the two sides together. It sounds a little horrifying (the part where you cut it), but in the end it did work out.

Patty showed me two youtube videos. And it all looked simple enough, except that I don't know how to crochet. So Patty did the crochet. And Patty did the cutting. And then it was my job to do the sewing. Unfortunately, this was such dark, thin yarn that I really couldn't see what I was doing. At one point Patty considered undoing my sewing, but I think she realized there wasn't much holding me back from breaking out the staple gun. So, it isn't perfectly sewn together, but it will hold, and it looks lovely.

This cowl and hat are now ready for my sweet friend Leunora. I gave her a hat and scarf this summer, but they were not the right color for her. Baby blue. Leunora is definitely a fall colors sort of person.

Leunora's hat and scarf are made from light, fluffy maroon bunny. The sunlight in the picture below is making it look redder than it actually is. Should washing it be necessary, hand wash it in hot water, treat it ever so gently, and lay it out to dry. Do not put it in the dryer or the washer, unless you have a Barbie Doll that you want to wear this.

Here is my giant squirrel modeling Leunora's gift. I have run out of models and must now resort to dressing the statuary.

Leunora, thank you so much for your support during this hideously awful year of 2015. You are one of my wildest friends, and I loved spending time with you.

Here's a picture that shows the color better:

And Patty, thank you for helping me with the steeking, I literally could not have done it without you,

Monday, December 7, 2015

Those Girls

Last weekend, I went back to knitting with my friends Channyn, Denise, and Linda. Those girls, they are so sweet.

So, Linda and Denise were working on this project:

Of course, there's a story that goes with it.

It seems that three years ago, Denise's, Channyn's and Linda's family went on a family vacation to New York City. Channyn cannot leave the house without seeking out a yarn store, so she found one and was looking at some mighty fine yarn for a project she had been longing to do for some time, a shawl.

Now, Denise, well, she takes a lot of ribbing because whatever Channy does, Denise either wants, or wants to do, or both. So if Channy makes a nice cowl, Denise wants to wear the cowl, and Denise wants to make the cowl, and she is inevitably convinced that her cowl is never as nice as Channy's, which means she goes back to wanting to wear Channy's cowl. I swear, last week I saw Channyn eat the insides out of some puff pastries, and Denise ate the outsides.

So of course, Denise wanted to make the shawl too. So she picked out yarn. And somewhere in there, Linda was pulled in, Linda who had at that point, three years ago, knit one cowl. The shawl has beads embedded in it. Channyn commented that the bead part would be kind of tricky, but Linda insisted she was up for it. So Linda bought yarn and beads as well. 

Channyn came home, made her shawl, and moved on to other things. Channyn is our master producer. Linda slogged away at hers, periodically making mistakes and mailing the shawl to Channyn so she could fix things and send them back. And last week, we all got together with our assorted projects. Note that I am not making the shawl, as it would end up looking round or muddled in some other way. Like Channyn, I am a producer, but I have rules like, "If there are too many stitches, munge some together with the knit together technique," or "If you drop a stitch, find something that will snag onto it and drag it up through the knitting and then sort of knit it back in."

So, looking at the picture, Channyn's is the grey and wine colored one at the bottom, Denise's is the purple and off-white one on the upper right. And Linda's is the brown and turquoise one on the left. I'd say that Linda has maybe one more long day and hers will be finished. Denise, maybe three more long days,

The dynamics when we are all on a knitting frenzy is amazing to behold. Linda slogs along, counts her stitches, comes out with too many, can't sort it out, lifts up her shawl and throws it at Channyn. Channyn fixes it and throws it back. Denise slogs along, drops all her stitches, and throws it at Channyn. Channyn fixes it and throws it back. There's quite a bit of whining, and a certain amount of cussing on the part of the throwers. Well, heck, if that's how it works, I'll try it too. So I haul out one of my projects that has a hole in it, throw it to Channyn, and lo and behold, she fixes it and throws it back. In the meantime, Channyn is knocking out another project filled with cables. Channyn is so good at this, she doesn't even need a cable needle to do cables. 

Whoops - just saw this note from Linda on facebook. I am "lol"ing all over the place:

So I was super super super careful knitting, got through another set of repeats and was finishing the first row of the next repeat. Made it to the center where I am supposed to have 8 stitches remaining........ and I have 9. I tried to throw it across the room, but there was no one there to catch it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Shelby's Blanky

My friend Shelby has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month. She went to the hospital to have surgery on her back. She was supposed to be out a day later. And, instead, they gave her one of those nasty antibiotic-resistant viruses and held her captive for weeks. They let her go from the hospital to a nursing home. And then she went home. And then she got sicker and went back to the hospital (a different one, as Shelby is a bit bitter about the whole experience, after all). And then they transferred her to another hospital. And finally, two days ago, she was sent home. But, she's not allowed to see the likes of me, the immune-suppressed.

I wanted to make her something that would comfort her. So, I've got this dandy lap blanket. When I first learned to spin, it took me quite a while to get to a point where my spinning was worthy of knitting. I finally got over the hump, and my mom knit my son a baby blanket from my handspun. I had never dyed anything before, so I dyed the yarn with Kool-Aid. My son, being a manly sort, gave up the blanket pretty early along, I suppose because it was made from bunny, and manly kindergartner's don't like to appear toting fluffy bunny blankets. So I took it over, and whenever I go to the hospital, I pack it up and take it with me. Now I am looking at it and thinking perhaps I should wash it, as it has been to the hospital a lot, first for when my Mom and Dad were there, and then for a couple of trips myself. Goodness, it may be imbued with hospital cooties.

Back to Shelby... I inherited my Mom's friend Shelby from my Mom, and Shelby now lives maybe two blocks away from me, and so I got to thinking that her lap blanket, which is also very bunny, should be dyed with Kool-Aid. So last night I hauled down to the basement and lifted up the craft microwave and followed the directions from How-To: Kool-Aid Dye with a Microwave. Here it is, drying on the rack:

I have some regrets about having lifted the craft microwave up to get it set up; my back went out. But it seems better today.

Anyway, Shelby, I know I should have dyed this to match your red couch, but in all honestly, I think most people who receive lap blankets from me store them under the couch, as my craftmanship isn't necessarily display-worthy. It's all about the snuggle, if you ask me. Also, I wanted to make it the same color as the one that my mom made so you would think of her when you use it. My mom really appreciated your friendship, and so do I. Thank you so much for helping us through our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Without friends like you, it would have been so much harder.

Monday, November 23, 2015

This is How it Ought to Work

Oh dear, it looks like my friend Linda got together with Denise and Channyn this weekend, and she may just have gotten a little carried away. I cannot resist posting this picture. Linda is actually the most sane of the four of us. I believe that she owns maybe 2 skeins of yarn at this point. She starts a project, knits it, and then Denise and Channyn thrust more yarn upon her, which is not how the rest of us work, though I dragged my bins of yarn up from the basement last Friday and I only have 3 bins (compared to Channyn and Denise's 13). Admittedly, I do have about 700 pounds of silk and alpaca in the basement, but that's a whole 'nother story, and that's roving, not finished yarn. Linda, by the way, knits until she hits an issue and then mails her project to Channyn, who fixes it and then mails it back.

I adore these girls. They are such a hoot.

Channyn made that hat and those mitts. She took an existing pattern that was a little wonky and re-architected it to get the cables to line up right. What a gift; I'm usually taking a perfectly adequate pattern and doing just the opposite, turning it wonky.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Week: It's All About the Pink

This weekend I went out with my friends Channyn, Denise and Linda to architectural salvage stores and an estate sale.

I've had it in my head that I want to make knitted camisoles. The one I like the most is this, from the cover of the book Knitting loves Crochet. I love the contrast between the two blues.

Unfortunately, I don't actually know how to crochet, so this may have to wait. But while we were at the estate sale, I came across crocheted what-nots, including this one, which I am hoping is not in reality the underpinnings of a vintage chastity belt. So I am wondering if I could make a camisole by using this for the top part with my own knitting for the bottom part:

While the book above establishes that you can combine knitting with crochet, I haven't found much on combining cotton crochet with silk / alpaca yarn.

Here are the rest of the crochet treasures that I picked up:

I'm hoping that I could at least use them somehow with some nuno felting that I've been thinking of doing.

While we were out, we also came upon a most worthy piece of equipment:

I tried something fierce to convince myself to buy this. In my mind, it would sit next to me by the couch, and everything I needed, from yarn to needles to knitty noddies, would sit in the little shelves, and when I needed something I would just whirrrrrr it around. Unfortunately, I live in a wee house, and this piece of equipment would dominate the room where I spend most of my time. But still... I am a woman who likes to be surrounded by the clutter of her art. If a ball of yarn doesn't come trailing off of me when I jump off the couch, then I don't have enough projects going. But, the price was too high. The shopkeeper said she really didn't want to sell it, thus explaining the $500 price tag. If it had been $200, my husband would be spending his evenings watching tv in the kitchen, because surely his armchair could fit in there quite nicely if necessary.

Back to the architectural salvage store... it turns out you can even pick up some fancy vintage hats from the ReHouse Retro store. Can you imagine some middle-aged lady picking out this treasure over at Sibley's or Forman's back in the day?

In spite of all the shopping, there was work to be done, so I did manage to finish up this cowl. I've used two strands of two different types of yarn, which is a new technique for me. One is Holiday Yarns "Flocksock Fingering". I picked it up at the Hemlock Fiber Festival. It is 75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. It is the darker pink in the picture below. I liked working with it. It has just a bit of stretch to it and feels nice to knit with. The color is called "Cheeky". The other strand is a luscious angora called "Fluffy Bunny DK", which is 90% Angora, 10% Nylon. Its color is also called "Cheeky".

There was yarn left over, so I started another cowl this week. I am combining the Holiday Yarn with my own handspun. I like the contrast in color and texture. And I like combining my homespun with someone else's yarn; it makes me feel oddly collaborative.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Struggle is Real

This weekend I went on a girl's outing with a gaggle of women who have been annually retreating for 24 years. I've been going for the last few years, and always have such fun. They like to take hikes and go to museums. I like to go to museum stores, sit on benches and knit or spin in museums, and sleep while they take hikes. I am considering bring along long underwear next year, though, because I would like to be a good sport about the hiking thing. It says a lot about a group of people who can do something together for this long and still make newcomers welcome. I like to go because they all talk about their children and their spouses and their careers, and I like to hear the stories about where the kids are in the college process and the getting on with life process. This year also was the first year where someone had a grandchild to talk about. Certainly there will be more of that to come.

On the first night of the girl's outing, everyone brings food and we sit and catch up. I decided to bring rocks. I found an estate sale a couple of weeks ago that had something like 200 hand painted rocks. If I hand painted a rock, it would not be lovely, but these rocks were amazing. There were scenic rocks - this black capped chickadee has a place in my bathroom:

And there were rocks with flowers painted on them:

My husband, who is traditionally the most supportive when it comes to the odd things I go crazy about, was completely nonplussed by the rock obsession. "I don't understand... why would you want to pay money for... rocks?" They are, in my humble opinion, the ultimate gift. You can use them as decor. Or as a weapon. And if you don't like your rock, you can stick it in your pocket and wander down the street and leave it in a neighbor's yard. Or you can chuck it. And best of all, you absolutely never have to ask yourself if the Salvation Army is likely to want to take that rock off your hands. Because, well, like I said, you can just chuck it.

I also brought my latest knitting projects, some in process, some complete. Two of the girls found a home for some of my completed projects. Here is Tina, modeling my "I will get you through the long cold New York winter" outfit. I started by making a hat. And then I made a cowl. But the cowl wasn't warm enough, so I knit an inner lining. And then the cowl seemed to be too large, but not large enough to double wrap, so I sewed it together so the ends would overlap. But then I thought it wasn't keeping the neck warm enough, so I knit a second cowl. Tina can now go out in a blizzard, or de-layer and look jaunty with just the inner cowl. All this is made from the 1/3 silk 2/3 alpaca yarn that I made up a few weeks ago from the frosting buckets of pink yarn.

Tina is also sporting a "Fight Like a Girl" t-shirt. I brought a bunch of those along to share as well.

Next, we have Mary, who is wearing a hat and scarf set from my early "yarn over" years. I am a sluggish learner when it comes to knitting. So I learn a stitch, and then everything ends up using that stitch for a few months while I get comfortable with it. Currently I am slogging away at cabling, but so far can only do one cable on a project, because I get distracted when I am knitting and am pretty sure that if I tried to do two or more cables in the same project, I would end up re-defining wonky knitting.

Both Tina and Mary looked quite fetching with their knitted Barb-isms this weekend. But I also came with another mission in mind... this summer, my friend Lee came for a visit and went home with a hat and scarf in the baby blue that you see Mary wearing. I looked at the pictures, and there just was no way that I could leave Lee wearing baby blue. She is definitely a fall colors person. So we went through the bag of projects and yarn and agreed on a lovely maroon angora yarn. I have to finish the pink angora project that you can see below, but the yarn is the same weight, so you can imagine what Lee's might look like in maroon:

The beauty of the angora is that it is delightfully lightweight, but also deliciously snuggly warm.

One of the reasons that I adore my friend Lee is that she is the ultimate free spirit. While we were out wandering, we stopped at an antique barn, and Lee started re-organizing their outdoor statuary. I'm such a rule follower that I was absolutely aghast at first, but then it seemed Lee had a point - nobody will see these if they aren't elevated!

My husband, understanding that painted rocks are just a stepping stone to larger things, wanted to know if I had brought home a bunch of statuary. "umm... just the squirrel. We needed a squirrel."

We resisted this delightful pig, but only because he was over-priced:

By the end of our adventures, the girls had decided that we need to lose weight. "Oh". So we are amusing ourselves with the expression "The Struggle is Real", which our friend Rachel has researched, and seems apt for our problem. From

A (generally) ironic saying often used in place of the saying, "first world problems". Has slightly more urban undertones than "first world problems". Denotes a situation where the user wishes to express that they are encountering some sort of undesirable difficulty, but dealing with it. With irony, it has a comical effect of dramatizing a non-critical yet undesirable situation.

For those who find themselves suffering like we ladies with a bit of a poundage issue, I've found the perfect t-shirt, available at Sears, which ironically (or aptly) only comes in sizes 1X, 2X or 3X:

Friday, October 30, 2015

This Week's Color: Lavender

This week I am making a lovely lavender yarn. My recipe is 1/3 silk, 2/3 alpaca.

Here's what it looks like as I am pulling it off my Patrick Green drum carder. The silk alpaca combination comes out soft and silky and shiny:

Here's how it looks before I start spinning:

Here it is, as it is being spun on my Hansen electric spinning wheel. 

Next, I soak it and set the spin. And then, because it is a very thin yarn, I ply it to itself. We're such a bunch of geeks here that I have to vie for space with my husband's collection of computer books. He says these books are his legacy to our son. I asked if we should get them autographed, but he suggested that the author is a bit of a curmudgeon:

Next, I set the yarn up with other yarns and ponder my next project. Since I only know how to make hats and scarves and cowls, it's pretty clear what will be made next. I want to practice the cable that I learned last week, so this will be another cable scarf. And I learned last week that I need to practice on a couple of more projects with just one cable before I get all wild and try to do something with multiple cables.

So my plan is to use the deep green wool on the left, the sweet lavender alpaca/silk, and the blended purple/green that sits beneath the lavender to make a hat and a scarf. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Disgusting Smoothie Recipe

There are people in this world who have taken their refined pallets and come up with fine recipes for smoothies and healthy drinks and meals. I searched the library and came up with the following books. I liked them all so much that I bought 3 of the 4 books. I would have bought the 4th book, which was all about making frozen fruit smoothies, but since I will never actually follow a recipe for that, I thought it would be overkill to buy the book. So, here they are:

These books are all written by Julie Morris. She explains what a super food is and what they are supposed to help with.

We've been drinking a smoothie every day for several months now. I have no idea how to tell if the smoothies are helping, but I can at least say that I feel quite healthy and figure it can't hurt.

My current smoothie recipe:

1 cup frozen organic blueberries
1/2 cup frozen organic cherries
1 frozen banana
2+ cups of unsweetened Silk Almond Vanilla - I put two cups in and then add the fruit and then add all the seeds and powders and then I top off the container with more Silk

 To this, I add the following:

1 tbsp organic cacao nibs (raw)
1 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp organic chia seeds
A handful of organic goji berries
1/2 tsp beet powder
1 tbsp organic hemp seeds (raw, no shell)
1 tbsp organic golden flax seed
1 tbsp powdered peanut butter (I bought this at BJ's)
2 scoops beef protein (I bought this on Amazon)
1 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp red maca powder
1 tbsp cinnamon

I like my smoothies to have a little substance to them, so I don't blend them overly long. This makes them crunchy. I think most people would not like a crunchy smoothie... if not, then I wouldn't bother with the cacao nibs. After blending, I pour off half of this for my husband, and then I break out the spinach and fill the cup up with that and blend a second time. My smoothie is, as a result, bigger than my husband's. His smoothie comes out purple, mine a murky greenish purple.

I haven't calculated how many calories this makes up, but I don't particularly care. This is my breakfast. My husband eats a full breakfast in addition to the smoothie. I added the beef protein because I don't think I eat enough protein. I was also hoping it would make me feel more full for longer. It does not make me feel more full.

I tried adding dehyrated maqui berries, and they nearly killed me. The seed is like a small rock. It absolutely does not get digested. Just take my word for it. But I'm not giving up - I ordered powdered maqui berries this week.

I buy most of the ingredients (the seeds and powders) for the smoothies from I comparison shopped and concluded that buying from was less expensive than buying from the grocery store, even with shipping included.

I would not, if I were you, follow my recipe for a healthy smoothie. I'm just slogging in whatever I've got that looks interesting. My methodology, to quote an old boyfriend who felt the urge to describe my cooking style, is the "dump" method. I dump a little of this, a little of that, and if I can swallow the smoothie afterward, whatever went in the last time goes in the next.

An Ode to Beets

An Ode to Beets

No thank you.


I am attempting to change my evil eating ways, and that of my husband, and so have taken to making up a healthy smoothie every day for each of us. His, sadly, does not include any vegetables. He has historically claimed to have an allergy to squashes and squash-like vegetables. Personally, I think it is an aversion, rather than an allergy, but either way he won't eat them. And he is taking a medication that says he can't eat leafy vegetables. This leaves carrots and beets. I tried buying a big bag of carrots. Perhaps if I hid the roast beef under the carrots, he might consider eating the carrots, but as far as I can tell, I'm the only one eating the carrots.

So. That's when I came up with my best idea of all. Powdered beets. So I ordered up my latest round of smoothie ingredients from, including powdered beets, put a teaspoon of beet powder into the smoothie along with all the other superfoods and seeds and what-not, handed the smoothie to my husband, and he took one sip and declared that he could not consume the smoothie. This was a first. Mind you, I've been presenting the most disgusting smoothies you can possibly imagine, varying in color from an insipid brown to a dank looking purple, and not once has this man said a bad thing. But the beets tipped the scales. He drew the line.

Not to be outdone, I concluded that I had given him too many beets. So I cut back to 1/4 of a teaspoon. Now we're up to 1/2 of a teaspoon. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, except that tends to sell in pounds, not ounces. We'll be consuming that one pound of nasty smelling beet powder for the rest of our lives.

I couldn't help but notice that the beet industry is trying very hard to turn around public perception of their product:

For the record, I do not love beets. But I am a sharing, caring woman. So if you have been pining for powdered beets, I want you to know that I would be willing to share my beet powder. I would even be willing to send it across state lines in order to make your life just a little beet better. Just let me know...

10/27/15 - An addendum to the beet story: As my husband walks by today with his empty smoothie cup, he says, "That was one of your best." "Really? What was different?" " didn't taste like beets"

Must be it's time for me to bump up the beet allotment to 3/4 of a teaspoon... bua ha ha ha.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This One Wore Me Out

I bought some lovely looking yarn at the Hemlock Fiber Festival this year. I needed something dark red for my cousin Kate, and didn't have anything suitable in my homespun stash. Too bad she doesn't like hot pink. This is what I bought:

The color was right, but when I knit up a cowl, it came out too lightweight, and just a bit scratchy. I can't stand scratchy. And you can't send a wussy lightweight scarf to someone who lives in New York State.

What to do, what to do?

I spent today knitting a liner for the cowl out of super soft white homespun alpaca.

It took forever, but now it's warm enough to get through a New York winter.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giving New Life to Some Old Fiber

So, a couple of weeks ago, my friends Denise, Channyn, Linda and I got together. And we had a plan. We planned to do the thing that every fiber hoarder secretly hopes will happen at least once in her life. Yes, friends, we organized the stash. Note that this was Denise and Channyn's stash, and it is only a subset of the various stashes of which they have been hoarding. We organized the yarn, and just the yarn. While we did take the time to co-locate the bins of roving and fleece, our mission on this particular evening was to organize the yarn. And, as it turns out, you can learn a lot about of person if you touch every skein of yarn they own.

Denise had conditions for our effort. "I want the yarn organized by weight, and I want it grouped into clear plastic bins." Personally, I wouldn't have gone with clear plastic, but by the time we got through the project, it became clear why that would be an important criteria. You need to be able to see what you've got when you have multiple craft collections, after all. Also, Denise wanted each skein labelled. And she wanted each bin labelled. And she wanted each skein lovingly photographed so that she could load it all up on Ravelry. 

Oh goodness gracious. I'll cue you in on something - Linda and I had to stay overnight, because there was that much yarn. And I fell asleep at least once the next day while sorting through the yarn because there was that much yarn. And we sorted everything - even a drawer full of cast off leftover yarn scraps from previous projects.

We also had a donate pile, because somehow commercial acrylic yarn had leaked into the stash, and these girls do not use commercial acrylic yarn. 

Also, Linda and I wandered off with some yarn. So here are two examples of the yarn that I took. First, there was the Zain yarn. The Zain yarn came with a story. Denise's son Zain wanted to knit his girlfriend a gift, so he went through the yarn collection and picked out some yarn. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was not yarn, it was pencil roving. Pencil roving looks like yarn, but really, it is roving that has been pre-drafted but hasn't been spun yet. This must have caused some consternation. So I volunteered to take the roving, which I think was 15 or 20 years old, and spin it into yarn. And from there it seemed like the nice thing to do would be to knit something out of the yarn. 

So here's what got knit for Zain and his girlfriend: Two hats, one cowl, and one scarf. 

I love the scarf the most. I learned how to knit a cable this week, so if you look closely at the lighter blue green section on the right you can see my cabling. 

Channyn taught me how to block this week, so here's what the whole scarf looks like:

Next we have what I like to call "Channyn's Twine." The story on this was that Channyn had bought some fiber when she first learned to spin and she made up some yarn, but she didn't like the yarn because she said it was too rough. I swore that it was not rough, and Channyn said that if I would wear it on my head for an hour, then I could have the yarn. 

Go ahead, give me a challenge. I wore it for an hour. Please forgive my bald head. I've just finished chemo so I don't actually have much hair just now. Look at how nice and thin Channyn spun that yarn - and it was some of her first yarn! It took me a solid year to get to spinning thin like that, maybe longer.

So anyway, I took the yarn home and contemplated how to cure it. I considered plying it with a softer yarn, but that would be a disservice to the softer yarn. I finally ended up plying it with itself, resulting in the very lovely yarn below, with the nasty twine-like texture of a scratchy wool. If anyone can think of a way to use this, let me know. For now, it is on a shelf, making me itch just thinking about it.

Mama Smurf

Ahhhh. I've been spinning. And knitting. More spinning. More knitting. Carding. More spinning. More knitting. More carding.

The rule in my house is, you pick your material, and you consume it until it is all gone. So, I dug out a couple of buckets with hot pink tussah silk and hot pink alpaca. I carded them on my Patrick Green Electric Drum Supercard, 1/3 silk, 2/3 alpaca. 

This is what it looks like all carded up. Oooooh, shiny:

Then I spun up the carded fiber into yarn using my Hansen electric miniSpinner. Here's what the yarn looks like:

And then I started knitting. There were some problems along the way, because, well, there are always problems along the way. I paired my lovely buttersoft silk with a nicely colored maroon handspun yarn which turned out to be a rather harsh contrast. It's scratchy. So I tried to recover from that by knitting a hot pink silk alpaca liner for my cowl that I made. But the cowl was too big. If it was made from wool, it would have been a good candidate for felting, but it's not wool. So finally I came up with the idea of draping and tacking the cowl so it would have an area of overlap in the front. In the meantime, I made another cowl to go under the cowl (honestly, some days I wonder if I should knit at all), and that looked really good. So here's the result, two cowls and a matching hat. Layer up, my friends. I think I look like Momma Smurf.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Chalk Painting, My Newest Obsession

We're redoing our bathroom. The old version of the bathroom was split into two rooms, with a door between. It had two sinks, one in each of the rooms. And the sinks, tub and toilet were all robin's egg blue, and, I'm thinking, about 50 years old. My cleaning lady commented that the tub must be too small for me. "How did you know?!!" "Footprints on the walls." So true. A 5' tub for a 5' 4" bubble bath lover. Oh, and the carpet - yes, carpet in the bathroom - 1970's plush, icky sort of harvest moon-ish brown.

So, some wonderful burly men from Bernhardt's Remodelling Center in Lakeville, NY, came over and ripped the bathroom to its studs. They've put down some lovely tile on the floor. They've put up new walls. They came highly recommended, and I must say, I've been extremely impressed.

So at the moment I have one room with nothing but tile on the floor and a medicine cabinet that I bought on craigslist. The room gets painted on Monday. And then my new tub and toilet and sink arrive, and the guys will do the installation and plumbing. And then I want to fill it up and make it into my sanctuary.

I don't want to build shelves or a closet. I've decided I want an armoire. So I started wandering around craigslist looking at armoires and wardrobes, and that's when I noticed Chalk Paint. It started with The Purple Painted Lady, a local place. That's where I read about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. That led to ordering books by Annie Sloan from my local library. And then I noticed something about Milk Paint, which led to Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint. That lead to another round at the library for her book, Inspired You: Breathing New Life into Your Heart and Home. That hasn't arrived yet, but I think it looks like a terrific book. I really liked her website and her youtube videos.

Next? Many youtube videos. I don't usually binge on youtube all that much, but I had a night where I was wide awake, so I watched videos. Chalk Paint versus Milk Paint, how to do various techniques - you name it, I watched it. By the time I was done, I was in full dither about the virtues of Chalk Paint versus Milk Paint, and then finally decided on Chalk Paint because it's thickerer.

But wait, there's more! It turned out that the Purple Painted Lady is having an event - The Purple Painted Lady Barn Sale Jamboree! Coming on September 26th, doesn't this look cool? I am totally going! It is in Palmyra, New York, a place I'm not sure I've ever been to intentionally, and will have more than 80 artisans, raffles, and demos of chalk painting. I am so totally in! I'm meeting up with some cousins.

But even that isn't enough about Chalk Paint. I've decided I need to learn from the master, so I've signed up for a workshop on it in October. My cousin Michelle and I are taking the workshop, and I can't wait. I've already got my first project picked out. I bought a cabinet for my husband's bathroom at a garage sale. It's a rather bold blue, and I want to make it white. Well, more than just white. I'm still thinking through the details.

I saw this stencil that I thought could look really interesting on the inner rectangles of the front of the cupboard. It's called Rockin' Roses Damask Stencil. I like it, but, it's pretty girly, so I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do for something in my husband's bathroom. I found a stencil technique in Annie Sloan's Painted Kitchen book that looked really cool. You use two different colors of the chalk paint and roll to get a two-toned affect.

Anyway, stay tuned as the adventure proceeds...