Project Update

Halloooo!!! (taps on computer screen) Is anyone out there?

I guess a blogger as negligent as I has no right to expect that all of their followers will stick around while they’re off doing other things and ignoring their blog. But here you are, and I’m thankful for that.

It’s been ages since I’ve done a project update so I thought I’d give a quick one, although I don’t have time for photos at the moment.

On the needles:

* Always a sock. Or in this case, two pairs of socks, each only needing kitchenering on the toe of the second sock. We’ll be taking odds on how long it will take me to finish them, so place your bets now.

*  The Peacock Eyes Cardigan. This is coming along nicely. I’ve got the body of the sweater completed, and the button bands are underway. Next are the sleeves, then it will be done. It’s going to be a beautiful sweater, I think, done in a hand-dyed yarn in a lovely shade of green. I don’t have photos of my own project yet, but here’s the link to Ravelry:

Peacock Eyes Cardigan by Justyna Lorkowska. Photo from Ravelry. (Click link to go see it live!)

* The Peacock Eyes sweater has been set aside to work on a black cardigan for my son. No photos for that, since it’s a custom knit from Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges. I’m really excited about how this is coming out, because it’s turning out to be a perfect fit, and it’s been kind of fun to make a sweater from a “recipe” rather than a very specific pattern.

* Oh, and finally, I am down to the buttons on the Shapely Boyfriend Sweater from Knitty. It’s knit, blocked, and just waiting for me to get the buttons sown on. I hope to finish that soon so I can wear it before summer comes. (Again, happy to take odds on that one).

What’s on your needles?

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I Knits Because I Likes It

I had the great fun of talking to a coworker today who is interested in learning to knit. It was an interesting moment of insight for me because the situation forced me to think about why I love knitting so much. Honestly, it’s is such an integral part of my life these days that I can’t recall what it was like before I started. It was also fun to have the chance to introduce someone new to this age-old craft. Plus, she’s just an interesting person and I love talking to interesting people.

Every now and then I run into someone who wonders why people would want to knit because after all, you can buy your clothes these days. You don’t have to make them yourself. In fact, it’s often cheaper and easier to pick up a ready-made cardigan at the store than to make one with your own hands.

So then why do we knit? Well, I can’t speak for you, dear readers, but I can tell you why I knit. I knit for the flow, for the process, for the challenge (and sometimes the cursing and wine drinking that results). I knit for the feel of the yarn in my hands. I knit for the lovely colors and amazing patterns you can make with yarn that was made by hand and dyed by someone you know and respect.

I also knit so that I can wear things like this, which you could not buy in any store, and wouldn’t be nearly as special if you could anyhow:

Icarus Shawl, done in hand-dyed laceweight from Abstract Fiber in Portland.

Icarus Shawl, done in hand-dyed laceweight from Abstract Fiber in Portland.

And finally, I knit because knitters are amazing, creative, wonderful people. Some of the most interesting people I know are knitters. (Not to say that you non-knitters aren’t awesome as well. You just should also learn to knit).

So, why do you knit?

She spins and she spins and she spins…

I love fall. The food, the crisp weather, the chance to finally wear sweaters again without, well, sweating.

The other lovely part of fall is that it’s no longer too hot to be covered by fiber of all sorts. One of my favorite ways to end up covered in fiber is spinning. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better evening than watching British detectives on PBS while spinning. (Unless it’s Italian detectives and knitting, but knitting while reading subtitles can get a bit dicey. Definitely not a time for working lace charts).

I’ve been spinning a lot lately, as I work my way through an entire alpaca blanket that belongs to my mother-in-law. An excellent fiberista herself, she came upon said fleece in a trade for a knitting machine she was re-homing. After a trip to the mill, it now it sits in my spinning basket, as I spin my way through it evening after evening.

You would not think alpaca were large beasts, at least not compared to their cousin, the llama, but an alpaca blanket takes a lot of time to spin. At this point, I’ve been spinning for weeks and I have one last bag to finishing spinning, then ply, and then I have a big bag of newly made yarn that needs to be washed so that the twist will set.

Now, I love to spin but I have to admit that I’m looking forward to the end of this one! It’s a beautiful black fiber, made a bit more manageable by blending with just a tad of merino (20%), so it spins up nicely. But, it’s a big project and we’ll both be gratified if I get it done during our lifetimes. I think she’s planning a sweater and it will be a very warm sweater indeed.

I’ll post photos once I get to the end of the project. At the very least, I need photographic evidence that I managed to finish!

Ah, Fall!

I think fall is my favorite season. The weather starts to cool, the crock pot comes out of hiding, and stews and soups are back on the menu. Also on the menu is home-baked bread and muffins and biscuits and well, you get the picture. After a tough year of eating gluten-free, I’m finally well again, so this fall, I’m baking again. I never did figure out the high-altitude baking thing and going gluten-free made it just about impossible. My husband is enjoying the inspiration (not to mention the home-baked bread), even if there still are the occasional flops. (Even flops taste good if you put enough homemade jam on them).

Fall also inspires me to start knitting again. While I am a knitter year-round, it’s a bit hard to focus on knitting a wool sweater when it’s 90 degrees outside. There’s something about the crispness of the air and the sight of leaves turning that inspires me to get that sweater back out and finish it so I can wear it this winter.

It’s also a time to finish off a couple of pairs of knit socks that are in progress, and perhaps start something new. It’s time to start thinking about holidays and having all the kids come home. For me, it’s just a lovely and hopeful time of year.

I hope you’re enjoying the cool weather too. Maybe settling down in a chair with a book and a nice cup of hot cider, or enjoying a bowl of chili with cornbread after a football game.

Happy autumn, everyone!

A Colorful Life

Today, I’m grateful for the color that we have in our lives. I think we often take this for granted in our modern society when all it takes to add color to your life is a quick stop at the paint store or the purchase of a new sweater at Kohl’s.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, the reason that purple is considered the color of royalty is because many years ago, it was crazy expensive to make. I read about this recently, in an article that described how historians replicated the process of making purple the old way.

First, gather something like 1500 of a specific crustacean (because that’s easy, right?) Next, soak the shells of said crustaceans in urine (I didn’t say this wouldn’t be gross) in the bright sunshine for something like 14 days. Strain, let dry down to become more concentrated, strain some more.

Now you can finally dye your yarn, which you will have created by shearing the sheep or picking and ginning the cotton, then combing and spinning it. If you want linen, you’ll have to first find the plants, then soak them for weeks, then beat them to remove the bark and spin them while still wet. I personally love the spinning process but let’s face it, my family would freeze if they had to wait for me to make their clothing.

If you wanted a different color, or say, a color on the walls of your home, it was another extensive process to first find the pigments and purify them. Not to mention that the saturated beautiful colors we have today simply weren’t possible.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love natural dyes probably more than anything else. That said, I’m also grateful for the bounty of colors we have to choose from and the fact that color is now within the reach of even commoners like me.

As for me, it is my day to be a princess. I’m wearing purple, after all.

What are you grateful for today?

P.S. Speaking of color, the painters were awesome and the place came out beautiful. I was nervous about the gold we picked for the stairwell but it’s gorgeous. If you’re curious, you can check out my color choices here:

Main Color: Sherwin Williams: Bittersweet Stem

http://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW7536-bittersweet-stem/

Accent Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Ceremonial Gold

http://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW6382-ceremonial-gold/

Mittens and Gratitude

This post is part of the 30 Days of Thanks. Every day for the month of November, I’m posting something I’m grateful for.

Friday night we went to a football game, the first playoff game of the year for a young man in our family. It was an important game, because he’s a senior and because his team was 2nd in the state championships last year so we are hoping that they’ll come out on top this year. As loyal family members, we dressed up warm and headed out to the field carrying blankets.

As we sat there, the cold crept in and what started as a nice calm night got colder as the breeze picked up.  The longer we sat there, the chillier it got, making me very grateful for these:

Warm and Wonderful. I love alpaca.

Warm and Wonderful. I love alpaca.

They are the Simple Autumn mittens by Halldora. Available on Ravelry free: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/simple-autumn-mittens

The yarn is Cascade Eco Alpaca.

They were simple, easy to make and super warm. I was toasty throughout the entire game. (Which we won, by the way. Go Cougars!)

In other news, I also finished the Brunello cardigan a few weeks ago so I figured while I was taking photos of knitted items, I’d share a couple of those too. I think it came out well although if I were to make it again, I would pick a sturdier yarn (it’s already starting to pill). I’d also make it in a solid color because I think the lace would show up better. And I would probably add a button – I may do that anyway as it would just make it more comfy to wear. Still, I’m very pleased with how it came out and I love the Knitty patterns because they have big girl sizes that actually fit, plus the patterns are very well-written and easy to understand.

Brunello Cardigan from Knitty.com. Done in BFL from Blue Moon.

Brunello Cardigan from Knitty.com. Done in BFL from Blue Moon.

Close-up of the lower edge lace on the Brunello cardigan.

Close-up of the lower edge lace on the Brunello cardigan.

So that’s what I’m grateful for. Family, football and warm knitted things on a cold November night. What about you? What are you grateful for today?

They’re Not All Mine

It’s funny how when you live with certain things in your home long enough, you fail to notice them. Like, for instance, a growing population of spinning wheels.

We had appliances installed recently. The guys were really friendly transplanted Midwesterners like myself, so we were chatting as they scoped out my kitchen and figured out what they needed to do. As he was headed to the truck to grab some tools, one of the guys happened to walk past my craft room. He stopped for a minute, then with a look on his face that said “I have to ask,” he said the following: “Wow, you really like spinning wheels, don’t you?”

Now, in his defense, the current population of spinning wheels in my house stands at seven, and my craft room is small so they look like a large herd. In my defense, however, they’re not all mine. The majority are, though, and the other three I’m holding for a friend who didn’t want movers manhandling her wheels during a recent real estate transition. He was kind enough  not to ask what was in all those bags lined up along the floor behind them. (Three fleeces in various stages of processing, plus three or four alpaca blankets just for good measure). Nor did he ask what was in all the bags on the table (six or so assorted knitting projects plus a drumcarder and container of half-processed fleece).

I’m not sure why, but since the end of the Tour de Fleece, I really haven’t been spinning. I think part of it is that for me, spinning is a social activity and with no one to share it, it just doesn’t appeal as much as it did when my fellow spinners were getting together every week. I haven’t been knitting much either, due to some tendonitis in my wrist.

That said, it’s time to get off my duff and get started on some of this stuff. Fall is coming (we hope. It’s been in the 90’s here which is crazy). It’s time to bust out the soup-making provisions, brew some tea, settle in and get to work.

Here’s to Fall – may she come quickly and reduce this heat. And may she bring some creative inspiration with her.