Thursday, August 31, 2006

OMG, I Think I'm In Love

Behold the magic loop:

Ok, the actual loop is out of the picture but trust me, it's there.

After seeing Cat Bordhi on Knitty Gritty I read her book "Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles". Truly cool stuff. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against dpns ("And they make you look so dangerous!") but I was intrigued. Last night I stayed up to read more at K. St. John's excellent site. After reading the article about the magic loop method I ripped 'em out and started over again. So far I'm lovin' it.

And back to the game!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WIPs Wednesday

What do you do when you have a number of projects to finish and not enough time to get to them all? That's right, go shopping. I drove up to Woolstock and spoke with the lovely Leslye Solomon. She confirmed my estimate of how much yarn I needed for my next sweater and helped pick it out. Eight balls blue, one gold. The gauge swatch is already underway.

The first game is 3:30 this Saturday against Marshall. I will be cheering on the Mountaineers whilst waving the pointy sticks!

The pink toe-up socks have been worked up to the start of the heels and I'm going to throw in lifelines and try out the magic loop method to finish them using my new 40" size 1 Addi circular needle from Woolstock.

Knit with the SB US 1 dpns (left sock "on hold" on another set). Destined to "sorta match" since one ball has darker areas than the other; I hadn't noticed that in the store. And the right sock looks like I must have knit the toe more tightly. May have to fix that.

I worked on the Cotton Fleece sweater last night and managed to get the front and back done. The short-rowed shoulders and deep V-neck were made much easier by entering the numbers into Excel, one column each for armhole, neck and shoulder shaping.


The Kiri shawl is done and awaiting blocking.

The other projects are on hold for now. And I still have to buy a pattern and fabric before Saturday's class on sewing skirts. Sometimes I wish there were a few more hours in a day. Or at least that I could manage to stay awake past 10 pm most nights!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saturday Night's Alright For...


Russell, Russell... tsk, tsk, tsk...

Yeah, I cleaned it up. This morning, 6:00 AM. That's why you got the extra chores today, buddy.

You're welcome.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Will She Make It?

Will she make it?

Inquiring minds want to know!

(Penguins on the telly computer)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ok, so Brian has convinced me that the wheel has suffered only minor cosmetic damage that can easily be repaired. I breathe a sigh of relief. And head off to one of my favorite places:

Nothing better than a trip to the library to cheer a girl up. Did I mention I love to read? Um, yeah. I do. As in, I'll need several lifetimes to get to everything that's on my various reading lists. As in, I have more boxes of books stored in the basement than I do yarn (and that's a lot). As in, I almost always take out more books from the library than anyone could possibly read in three weeks. Or six, with renewals. I love books. Always have.

I managed to get there 15 minutes before closing.

I meant to only pick up "A Room of One's Own" and "Madness and Sexual Politics" but came away with:

Fashion on the brain, I guess. Too much Project Runway, perhaps?

Footnote #1:

Oddly enough this arrived in the mail today:

Addressed to Brian, no less.

Footnote #2:

EPISODE #7: Everyday Woman. Loved the idea of bringing the designers' moms on as models, but I have to ask, are plus sizes really that much more difficult to design? Beautiful clothes that flatter an ample woman's body may be a challenge but they are certainly possible.

Glad for Vincent, but sorry to see Robert go.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In Which Karen Discovers a Very Bad Thing and Tries to Be Brave

So I've been working away madly on:

* The Kiri shawl - Chart 3 is really kicking my butt, probably for no better reason than I've been working on it later in the evening the past few nights. I guess it's true: friends don't let friends knit after 10:00.

* The jumper – During last Saturday's class our instructor showed me how to alter the pattern for a better fit. This last class I finished most of the sewing and tried it on. The jumper actually fits. Who woulda thunk? It just needs armhole facings, hemming, a good press and it's done!

* The pink Merino socks have been ripped and tinked and ripped and tinked and I think I may finally have a decent start to a toe-up sock. Maybe.

The next part of the tale is difficult to relate.

This is 8 ounces of the NZ roving in singles on the lazy kate, ready for plying.

Left hand separating and controlling the plies:

Right hand controlling the twist and winding on to the bobbin:

The bobbin fills up quickly...

... and is finished.

I start cleaning things up for the evening and when I lift the wheel to move it back to its place I see this:

My poor Schacht! What have I done?!

Brian assures me that it will be alright. He says the wood is dry and that years of no use and no oiling caused the piece to chip off. It's nothing a little wood glue can't fix.

He is very calm. I am not.

I am off to fondle my latest Ebay delivery.

A little fiber therapy never hurts.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mayoi Knits Has Been Brought To You Today By The Letter L And The Number 4

Four skeins. I'd love to remember where and when I bought them. Ten years ago, at least, but where? It may have been a booth at Stitches or the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It may have been in one of the very few yarn shops in the area back then, or I may have found it during one of my road trips to DC or York or Lancaster. I wish I could remember. And I wish someone had told me,

"Back off from the Euroflax."

Because I'm not loving working with this yarn. All I knew back then was flax = linen, the yarn described as sport weight and who wouldn't want a little lovely lightweight linen? Those four skeins in their bag looking all innocent and soft, lightly cream-colored and lustrous, who could refuse?

In my defense I sort of knew what I was getting into. I'd heard that knitting with linen yarn would be like knitting with cotton yarn in that it wouldn't have the "give" of wool. And the only thing I'd heard of someone making from it was string bags for shopping. Still, I did make the purchase. And then forgot about it.

Fast forward ten years and this spring the Euroflax finally made its debut, due more than anything to the fact that it was one of the first things I came upon in my stash reorganizing efforts. "Hey, I could use this for a shawl!"


I decided to check on the net for patterns and kept seeing comments like "Sure, it's like knitting with wire, but it softens right up after you wash it." I imagined the difference between a pair of jeans dried on the line vs. tumbled in the dryer and yeah, that made sense. But just to be sure, I opened up the skeins, added extra ties, popped them into mesh laundry bags and washed them on hot. And dried them on hot.

And the yarn was NOT SOFT, people.

Undaunted, I tried again. This time I hung the wet skeins over a rack and let them dry mostly there, then finished them up in the dryer. Still not soft. I tried again. And again. I tried four times altogether using different combinations of washing and drying. Then I gave up.

And I cast on.

The Kiri Shawl by Polly Outhwaite is a lovely design. I've seen it on knitters' web pages knit up in all sorts of yarn. Beautiful lacey shawls. My shawl would be a Kiri shawl. I rewound the skeins into balls, enlarged the charts and put them in plastic sheet protectors, got the circs and the Post-Its. Good to go.

So I cast on.

Now, the pattern is written very clearly (kudos to Polly), but the beginning is just a little fiddly for someone who's not done it before. This is entirely due to my own initial clumsiness and in no way reflects on Ms. Outhwaite's skills as a designer. I knit and ripped it out several times before I finally got it. And did I mention that, besides a few feather and fan afghans, this was my first lace project? More ripping and tinking. With linen yarn.

And it really is like knitting with wire. This yarn makes my hands hurt. My wrists and fingers are not happy.

I'm almost to Chart Three which represents the home stretch and I'm hoping that somewhere between the final wash and blocking the finished shawl the Knit Goddess will smile down upon my efforts. She will perhaps laugh softly, remembering all those other knitters before me who have gone the way of the flax. But she'll take pity on me. It will not be heavy. It will not look like an unfinished tablecloth.

And it will be soft.


I just found the following in an article, 'The Knitting Plant Freak Speaks' by Julie Theaker at

"People hate linen, and I'll tell you why. It's a bast fiber. The very toughness of the fiber that makes it so sturdy is what makes it such a you-know-what to work with in the first place. The fibers are very, very long, and they are stronger wet than dry. If you want something indestructible in the washing machine, this is your fiber. If you do knit something from linen, make it a classic that you'll wear forever, because linen is a fiber that needs to age.

And age. And age some more. Preferably over a period of decades. The more it is tortured, the softer it gets. At one point in traditional Irish linen manufacture, the linen is pounded with sticks to soften it. So cut the poor fiber some slack and don't be mad at it for being less than perfect right off the needles. "


"Knowing what I do about bast fibers, I have considered skeining hemp or linen yarn and running it through the wash ten or fifty times before trying to knit with it, to see if that helps. Can't hurt; the stuff won't die. "

I am somewhat comforted.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kids Just Love to Sit and Spin


Right. So before I spin up the newly dyed roving,

I thought I'd get back into the groove by spinning up something else from the stash.

This is New Zealand roving from The Mannings. It's turning out to be easy to spin, but a little coarse.


On the bobbin:

I think this is semi long draw:

Veggie matter:

Picking it out as I go along:

A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure what I'll use the final yarn for, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to dye it. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Taking the Leap...

...into sewing, that is.

When Mom visited this past Christmas I told her I'd been thinking about making an afghan. Not just any afghan, mind you, but the kind she used to make 30 years ago. It's a sort of Swedish weave but without the fancy stitch patterns. She'd made me one in sunset colors that I'd just loved to death through high school and college, and we still have one in variegated blues that the family fights over on cold winter evenings.

Very warm and comfy.

Out we went to the fabric store where she helped me buy monk's cloth, yarn and needles (thanks, Mom!) We got our supplies home and I brought out my sewing machine.

This is the machine that I'd bought in a fit of naiveté when DH and I were first married. I had thought back then that I'd like to sew a few maternity dresses and... well, you know the story. It never happened. The machine has sat in the back of my closet, unloved and unused for almost 21 years.

Anyway, Mom and I set it up on the kitchen table and puzzled over how to thread the thing. We got a bobbin wound and she jury rigged a spool pin from a cut up McDonald's straw. (How cool is that? Mom, she's crafty. In a good way.) An hour or two later we were in business, zigzagging the cut edges of the monk's cloth in preparation for the months it would take me to make the afghan. I was seriously thrilled.

Since then I've been thinking of the sewing Mom used to do, the jeans taken up, the dresses, and one jumper in particular she made for me in soft corduroy that I absolutely loved. She taught me to sew and do embroidery too, although my talent on the sewing front was never anything like hers. I remember cutting out bits of fabric into "dresses" for my Liddle Kiddles and using scraps of yarn as belts when I was small. Later Mom bought me a 3/4 size sewing machine and some patterns to make clothes for my larger dolls Velvet, whose party dress I managed to ruin with a too-hot iron, and Dancerella, a cool pirouetting ballerina.

And I've been seeing some pretty nifty things on the net lately, like knitting needle cases and circular organizers and cool bags. And I'm thinking, "Hey, those wouldn't be hard to make. Inexpensive, too. And I'd love to sew up some cloth napkins, so much nicer than paper. And pillows, I could make pillows, and..."

So last week I took the plunge. I signed up for Sewing 101.

Last week we covered the basics. This afternoon I bought fabric for the jumper I'm going to make. We pinned and cut out and that was very scary. It's been a very long time.

Next week we start sewing. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

DH and Russell are in New York. The past two years they went as a birthday present to Russell for the big Red vs Blue event at the Lincoln Center. This year they're bumming around Manhattan. (And maybe seeing Spamalot. If so, I'll be seriously jealous.)

So I'm being a bum here at home. My big claim toward "getting things done" today has been cutting coupons and going through the bills.

And watching the latest Project Runway on the DVR. I saw repeats of the last few episodes earlier this summer and now I'm hooked. Definitely lurve that show.

Love me some Shakespeare, too. While channel flipping, I caught the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream and saw a very familiar face.

Dame Judi Dench, anyone?

Judi would have been around 34 when this aired in 1968 and she was absolutely stunning. Fabulous cast, too. I like this comment from IMDb : "and for those who only know Judi Dench as dowdy or as Queen Elizabeth, in this film she plays the queen of the fairies, Titania, in a costume consisting only of three small leaves! She might have been the sexiest Titania ever. "

Friday, August 04, 2006

Coming Back

Coming back to knitting and spinning after a break of over ten years is like coming home to old friends. I started off slowly this past winter after I'd seen a news story about prayer shawls for a local hospital. I thought maybe it was something I could do too, so I found a pattern and cast on.

Knitting the shawls made me think of others things that I used to love doing before the crash.* Knitting and spinning would be easy to start again, I had the equipment and a huge stash of yarn and fiber in the basement. I started a striped sweater in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in March, knit circularly per Elizabeth Zimmermann's formula. When I got to the armholes I put the sweater aside - I want fitted sleeves and am too lazy to figure out the shaping just yet. And it's wool. A big ol' wool sweater in one's lap in this August heat? Fugetaboutit! It'll have to wait for cooler weather.

Current WIPs:

Alison Hansel's Nothin' but a T shirt - modified with short row shaping on the shoulders, picking up and knitting long sleeves, and changing the crew neck to a deep V neck.

Polly Outhwaite's Kiri Shawl in Euroflax's original linen yarn; almost to the edging.

Socks - I grabbed a ball of Lion Magic Stripes yarn last month, figuring that it made sense to practice with less expensive yarn. It's knitting up quite nicely.

A week or so ago I found the first and only pair of socks that I've knit so far, on size 3 (I think) DPNs. They're over 10 years old, the gauge is a little spotty, and the second sock isn't done (what a surprise!). But not bad. I'll probably rework them at a tighter gauge later. First, I'm knitting up the handpainted sock yarn I have from Labadie Looms in Bird-in-Hand. The first sock has been ripped since it was much too wide. Updates to follow.

*That is, before a bout with the depression from hell. Although I've had clinical depression for as far back as I can remember, after the death of my father it became much worse. After almost 10 years I finally found a wonderful doctor and was put on proper medication. For the past 3 years now I've been slowly coming back to life, doing things that I used to enjoy doing and learning to push past what I've seen as limitations. It wouldn't have been possible without support from my husband and kids, Mom, and my doctor. I thank God for them every day.

New Needles

I was swatching for socks this afternoon with some lovely rose handpainted Merino. I've got the perfect set of bamboo DPNs but of course they're already in another sock-in-progress. It was time - time to break out the new Susan Bates sock needles.

I know what you're wondering. Yes, they are aluminum. Colored aluminum. Yes, cold metal knitting needles just like the long straight size 8s I learned to knit garter stitch slippers on way back in the sixties with rainbow Red Heart. But I digress.

You know how it is when you have one of those 40% off coupons and a few spare bucks, right? You feel sort of flush. Like maybe it'd be a good idea to head on over to Jo-Ann's and take a look around, because you never know... And this time I lucked out. The needles were waiting there, in all their tiny glory, US sizes 000, 00, 0, and 1. What sock knitter could resist?

So I picked out what appeared to be the thickest (thick being a relative term here) of the four sizes and cast on. And I'm thinking, not bad. I could actually knit a pair of socks on these babies. They're so smooth and not as slippery as I'd imagined they would be, although that may be due in part to my super-tight gauge. But not bad at all. Who knew?

I may have to go back and pick up another set. Because you know, there just may be another coupon around here somewhere...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cool Colors

Blues, greens and purples. The jars sat out in the sun all day while I was at work. Here's some of the wool from the first batch:

Not all of the dye was exhausted so I started another batch in the microwave: 2 minutes on, 2 minutes rest, etc.

Here is one of the many articles online about microwave dyeing, and a very cool color chart that Barbara M. Harris-Pruitt put together. Check out her great Basic How-to article.

Our 20 year old food coloring box with two bottles left:

(NB: I have a separate set of dye equipment for working with dyes that are not food grade. Please, if you think you'd like to dye your own fiber or yarn, do your research first. Never use the same utensils that have come in contact with dye for cooking. Articles on dye safety are your friend.)