Sunday, April 15, 2007

Long Time No Blog

Busy here with family stuff, so not much time to blog.

In digging through papers this morning trying to find my son's tax information (yes, I still haven't filed) I came across this:

My own sweater that never ends (aka The Purple Sweater) still awaits seams and a collar. Much ripping and reknitting of other projects has been done.

For now, back to the paper chase.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Knitting on NPR's Marketplace - Where's the Story?

I listen to NPR a lot on my commute. Second to classical music, but still a lot. Yesterday evening I was surprised to hear a blurb for an upcoming story on Marketplace about, of all things, knitting. "Knitting on Marketplace? Interesting."

Not so much. It turns out that their reporter, Cash Peters (who always sounds like Terry Jones to me), interviewed Edith Eig. I guess if you're going to call knitting an "old-fashioned fashion craze made new again" then Edith "Hollywood's knitting guru" Eig is your go-to gal.

Me? I long to have back those 15 minutes of my life I once wasted perusing the boring, pretentious, name-dropping "Mother of Purl" that Ms. Eig wrote. Most knitting books, whether I like the designs or not, have at least one redeeming feature, a technique to be learned or a new take on an old idea like cables or Fair Isle. Not here. Insipid designs, no inspiration. If your burning passion involves what Hollywood celebs are knitting, then "Mother of Purl" may be for you. My guess is you'll still be bored.

But I digress. In the interview Ms. Eig's accent made her words barely intelligible ("Edith has more than enough accent for us all", according to Peters) , which was probably a good thing given that she had very little to say. Peters interviewed her husband Merrill, who hawked their lighted knitting needles (easily the silliest knitting product to come out in 2006) and several of their customers, one of whom gushed that knitting was her "zen". Ugh.

Of course as a fluff piece it wasn't a complete waste; maybe it will inspire someone out there to take up needles and yarn and learn how enjoyable knitting can be. But it could have been so much more.

The real story is not what a group of celebrities and hangers-on are up to. Marketplace would have done much better to focus on something that has revolutionized the world of knitting: the Internet.

For the first time, people with no access to local yarn stores can order just about anything they want, any time. They can easily compare prices and even order samples of yarns they're interested in (because of course it's hard to know how the yarn actually feels and how it will handle with only pictures and text). They can sometimes order from their local yarn stores since quite a few brick and mortar stores are developing their own Internet sites. And people who couldn't buy luxury yarns before now have access to places like Elann and Knit Picks and ColourMart that bring the price of silk and cashmere and alpaca down to affordable levels.

And the community available online! From forums like Knitters Review to the many mailing lists at Yahoo, knitters can get together to compare notes, ask questions and join in knit alongs. They can find other knitters in their area by checking out Stitch 'N Bitch, Knitter's Online, TKGA or Meetup. They can learn about events like Stitches or The Knit and Crochet Show or the countless fiber festivals that are held, like the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and Rhinebeck.

And blogs! Want to see if someone else has knit the pattern you're considering? Chances are someone has, and has posted pictures and notes on their blog. Want to learn a new technique? Learn about knitting in other countries? Find new patterns from indie designers? Blogs are your friend.

And podcasts! One of the great things about podcasts is that you don't have to have an MP3 player to listen to them - they can be downloaded directly to your computer. Check out Cast On with Brenda Dayne or Knit Cast with Marie Irshad. For more, download iTunes or hit PodcastAlley and do a search on "knitting" or "fiber" or "spinning". You're sure to find something you'll enjoy.

Needless to say, there's so much more. Marketplace, are you listening?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm Not Really Buying Yarn, I'm Conducting an Experiment

In a recent post to the Yahoo Spin List, Leigh MacNolan-Dudenhoeffer wrote about her experience in respinning Caron's Felt It yarn and plying it with brown Coopworth roving (check out her blog for the details). Pretty cool experiment. I immediately thought "SWS!"

SWS is, like Felt It, a softly spun singles yarn. Lot of gorgeous things are being made with SWS and it really shines in entrelac (see here and here, for example). I've been eyeing it for a few months now, but was concerned about the pilling that's pretty much guaranteed with such a softly spun yarn. And anyway, I'm resolved to knit from the stash this year, right?

But this is for science! Uh, yeah. That's right. Science. Why, it's An Experiment! (channeling John Lovitz) And so earlier this week I hit TSWLTH.

I brought home a skein and removed the bobbin with the loden singles I've been working on from the wheel. Unspinning the yarn required nothing more than running it onto a bobbin in the S (counter-clockwise) direction, enough to take out the Z twist. This gave a nice pencil roving:

...which was then spun into a much finer singles:

... which was plied into a fingering weight yarn:

Oh, and did I mention that, flush with extra 40% coupons, I bought a few more skeins yesterday?

Because, you know, this is for science.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sn*w Day

Home with the family, sn*wed in, more or less.

The sn*w's not so bad, but ice is causing major problems.

The last few days have been so cold I figured I needed a hat. And this is the girl who does not wear hats. Ever. But yeah, it's that cold. So on a brighter note, I have my first finished project of 2007:

Simple hat with a hemmed edged.

(I tried the picture in the bathroom mirror trick to show how it looks on me, but they all turned out way too dark.)


The yarn is from merino roving, possibly a blend with some mohair since there's a nice halo, that I spun up years ago and just recently plied. I got a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch and then winged it. Cast on 108 stitches with a provisional crochet cast on, knit for about an inch, then did a turning purl ridge row. Knit another inch, then knit the next row together with the picked up cast on row. I used one of Sean's hats as a guide to how deep to make it, then worked four decreases (ssk, k 1, k2tog) every other round until there were 8 stitches left that I Kitchenered together. Very easy, very quick. The hat is lightweight, warm and very soft. Needles were Addi turbo and Fiddlesticks DPNs, both US 4.

And believe it or not, this is the very first thing that I've ever made from my own handspun yarn. Woot!

P.S. Wow, I actually have comments! When I figure out how that works I'll get back to you.

P.P.S. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a new book out!

P.P.P.S. Daytime soaps and talk shows...zzzzzzz...

Sunday, January 28, 2007


In Baltimore sn*w is a dirty word. They panic here. Bread, milk and tp disappear from store shelves the instant the S word is mentioned in the weather forecast. Some brave souls, made of stronger stuff, will brave the elements in that all important trek to the 7-11 for cigarettes, sn*w be damned. Justin Berk will shovel a patch of sidewalk, just for show. Rob Roblin will interview folks in the local diner: "So it's sn*wing outside, how's that working for ya?" Or words to that effect. Traffic on the beltway will slow to a crawl at the first sign of a flake. Really.

Every year I joke with B about it, every year the same. Except this year. We haven't had much in the way of sn*w this year, less than an inch a week ago and that's about it. Today is the second sn*w of the season, at least here in Bel Air.

The storm:

You may have to squint to see it. The panic this will bring is almost incalculable.

Safe inside, I've been working on the purple sweater for Mom. It was supposed to be done for Christmas, but the first version was much too large (didn't have her measurements), and the second much too small (cast on with a smaller needle by mistake). After reskeining and washing the yarn to get the kinks out I started again.

Two sleeves to go, a mitered V neck ribbing and the sewing up. Hopefully this one will be just right and I can send it off. Because I'm really tired of purple Cotton Fleece. Really.

P.S. Go Kimmie!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Better Times Ahead

Well I didn't find the fiber I was looking for yet, but Rubbermaid container M yielded the most gorgeous roving, bought this summer at West Earl Woolen Mill:

I have about a pound and a half of the Loden and two pounds of the Sapphire to play with.

West Earl Woolen Mill doesn't have a web site, but here's their contact info:

West Earl Woolen Mill
130 Cocalico Creek Rd
Ephrata PA 17522
Phone: 717-859-2241

It is a little shop and fair warning, there's lots of acrylics stocked, but they did have some wool and cotton yarns in addition to several types of roving. Worth a stop if you're making a trip to yarn shops in the Lancaster PA area.


What do you get when you rip a thrift store sweater to recycle the yarn?

You get 8 ounces of fingering weight yarn:

You get an ounce or so of scraps:

And you get fluff. A lot of fluff. All over everything. 55% silk, 30% nylon and 15% angora, courtesy of American Knitworks.

Made in Korea, of course.

Not very fluffy but unlike the yarn above, all American:

Our (mostly) outdoor cat Bandit.

I've been busy spinning from the stash. After the Kool Aid yarn (which is soaking in the washer right now), I spun up a dark rainbow batt from Clear Water Dye Company, bought years ago at Maryland Sheep and Wool. It was full of VM and neps, as was another batt I finished this week that I bought last year. In purples/white/blues, very pretty but not much fun to spin.


I'm really going to have to LOOK more carefully at the fiber I buy and not just fall in love with the color or softness. Last week I threw out bagsful of batts from the same fleece that I'd used to make the yarn for B's sweater. I wish I hadn't because a day after I threw it out I thought of several ways to salvage it. C’est la vie I suppose. I'm going to dig out a bag of roving this afternoon (same source as the purples/white/blues batt) and have a go at it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I've come to the conclusion that I do in fact have enough fiber and yarn.

For now, anyway.

There's a lot of talk lately on the knitting blogs and email lists about New Year resolutions and for the most part they sound so restrictive. Especially the yarn diet.

Ok, not that kind of diet.

Making resolutions for the new year has never worked for me, mostly because as soon as I make them something in me wants to break them. But there's all that fiber...

I have 13 or so large Rubbermaid bins of yarn and fiber in various stages of prep. In the cedar chest. In an old picnic basket. In boxes and bags and my closet. Still, I can't help thinking that I'd rather not limit myself to what I have in the stash. Come spring there's the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival and perhaps another go at Stitches this year and I have to support the LYS, right? Who can tell what wonderful things the new year might bring? And also, I'm so not into the whole diet mentality. (Thank you, Weight Watchers.)

I think I'll start this year with one and only one resolution: to appreciate what I have.

Simple, right? Bringing a sense of thanksgiving to my daily life sounds like a good idea. Part of what, when I was sitting with the local Zendo, my Sensei would have said is the practice of joy.
The possibilities, it seems to me, are endless.

As it applies to all things fiber I like the spirit of Wendy and LBB's challenge:

Here's my take on the exceptions:

1. The Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon will start January 1, 2007 and run through September 30, 2007 -- a period of nine months.

No problem.

2. We will not buy any yarn during that period, with the following exceptions:

2.a. Sock yarn does not count. What? You think we are made of stone?

I have enough sock yarn. Really.

2.b. If someone asks for a specific knitted gift that we really and truly do not have the yarn for, we may buy yarn to knit that gift.


2.c. If we are knitting something and run out of yarn, we may purchase enough to complete the project.

Doubt that it'll happen, but ok.

2.d. We each get one "Get Out of Jail Free" card -- we are each allowed to fall off the wagon one time.

My exception will be the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May (no yarn or fleece, just fiber and I'll go with x amount of cash and when it's gone that's it).

3. We are allowed to receive gifts of yarn.

Ok. And I can use the gift certificate to The Mannings Mom gave me for Christmas.

4. Trading stash is allowed.


5. Spinning fiber of any sort is exempt.

Nope, see 2.d above.

So, where to start?

  • Weave in the ends of the Clapotis and finish the Cotton Fleece sweater for Mom.
  • Block the Kiri shawl.
  • Wash the finished skeins of Kool Aid dyed yarn.
  • Finish up the purple/white/blue batt.
  • Spin up some black singles to ply with the singles from the dark rainbow batt from Clear Water Dye Company.
  • Rip out the misbegotten Lamb's Pride striped sweater and re-skein the yarn.
  • Do the button band and sew the buttons on the cardigan from In Sheeps Clothing (already tried it on and steam blocked it).
  • Try on the two cotton short-sleeved sweaters I started 15 years ago and rip 'em if they don't fit.
  • Finish the socks I'm working on.
  • Start my version of the FLAK aran with the Lllama Seta I got on sale at Woolstock.
  • Rip out the sweater for B and restart it with a new pattern that fits. He's actually said he'd like to wear it if I finish it. The wool: spent a long weekend at The River Farm in New Market, Virginia with other members of the local spinning guild over 15 years ago and learned how to spin several plain and fancy yarns. All, if I remember correctly, in the grease. Carded up part of the chocolate brown fleece I bought with a longer stapled white corriedale and spun the yarn for the sweater. Very soft and lofty and deserves to be finished.

So, appreciate what I have. Use it. Enjoy it. Give it away.