Sunday, October 28, 2007


Just a quick note to say that my friend Paula has opened a very classy etsy shop, where she sells her art and illustrations. You must check out the Alphabirdybet. My favorite letter is "C" :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good News!

Today we got some good news about the sale of our house. We're not finished yet, but it looks like we are going to be sometime soon! This is such an answer to prayer in so many ways (I think I've probably got a few new readers - so I'll say here that I am a Christian). God is so faithful!

Other happy thoughts:

I just made myself some of my mom's chocolate pudding. This is a great chocolate fix, and a hearty snack when one is facing a few hours of spinning :)

Here's the "secret" family recipe:
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. milk plus 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan mix cornstarch and sugar (this will help prevent cornstarch lumps when you add the liquid). Using whisk blend in 2 c. milk. Heat over medium heat. In a separate Pyrex bowl, beat together 1/3 c. milk and egg until thoroughly blended. When the cornstarch mixture is warm (but not boiling) pour some of the cornstarch mixture into the milk/egg mixture, beating constantly with a whisk. Once blended add the milk/egg mixture into the cornstarch mixture and mix together thoroughly. All this blending and heating is the process of "tempering" an egg. This basically lets you mix in the egg and boil it without getting scrambled egg chunks in your pudding. Bring mixture to a boil, mixing regularly. Let boil one minute. It should be nice and thick now. Remove from heat, mix in vanilla, butter and chocolate chips. Enjoy warm, or pour into bowls and chill, your choice. Of course you can leave out the chocolate chips and have a vanilla pudding.

"Fish or Cut Bait" from a fiber sample included with my last Art Club purchase. I named it for the blobs of blue and neon green that reminded me of fishing lures. The chunks made for a cool effect, but the little Ashford orifice had trouble with the additional bulk. Hmmm... a jumbo kit will be a must for my future wheel.

This was my first yarn plied with thread. I was aiming for a crinkle cut look. When plying, I found that it looked more crinkly for me to hold the yarn to the side and let it ply around the thread, rather than the other way around. My concern is that the thick and thin single will slide around on the thread. I need to knit it to see, but I want to pick out a little project first (Ipod cozy?), because otherwise I'll just end up with another swatch. This yarn also made me realize that I need to figure out the difference between woolen and worsted spinning and make sure I can do both, since this technique is supposed to work best with a woolen spun single.
Speaking of handpun, I also made my peace with this:

by turning it into my first top down hat.

First handpun project completed. Score! And I even like the stripes. The hat has chosen Mr. M though. Well, maybe I can borrow it from time to time.
Next up on the wheel: this batt (Sorry for the link, but I can't get a good picture. The most vibrant one on the seller's page is accurate.)
Off to the wheel I go...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

This & That

First off: Sweater Amnesty
Have you been following the coned yarn saga over at Yarn Harlot? At first I didn't think much of it, I'd heard that coned yarn often had something yucky in it that had to be washed out. But then I thought about my lovely Irish yarn... the yarn that is strangely slick on the needles and yet scratchy to work with... the yarn the swatches to one tension and then *presto* comes out another size when washed. Duh.

The kindly seller even explains in her note with the yarn that the mill she buys it from in Ireland now only sells it wholesale by the cone. She skeins it up herself for shipping. So right now the last two skeins are soaking in my sink. The results have not been as dramatic as the harlot's, but thus far the washing has resulted in a fluffy, fresh, gloriously green tweed. It has also transformed two gallon Ziploc bags worth of yarn into a HUGE pile of yarn. Looks like it might be easier to knit the sweater than to try to jam all that back into the cedar chest. Anyway, I've decided that when I come back after my weekend away (still moving the last of the stuff out of the house) I'm going to treat this yarn as if it just arrived. I'm going to swatch with anticipation. I'm going to leave the pattern on the nightstand. In other words, I'm giving this sweater amnesty for past crimes and hoping that we can fall in love all over again.

Spinning update:
I've been going to the weekly spinning get together put on by the guild here and the ladies have been so supportive! A few weeks ago someone brought a bag of little bits of different fibers for me and I got to try cotton, silk, and several different kinds of wool, including some washed locks. It made me feel like a bit of a klutz, but it was really interesting. It has also been fun to observe everyone: different wheels, different fibers, different fiber preparations, different drafting styles... one lady has been working with a lovely wool/tencel blend. I love the sheen. The best part though is certainly the conversation. I don't say much, I mostly just sit and listen, but it is good to get out of the house and be with people for a few hours.

My mini-skein of "exotic" fibers wasn't much to look at, so I have a picture of my latest round of sampling from the fiber stash instead. Left to right:
  • Romney singles, fingering weight. I wanted to make a shawl from this, but I'm going to have to work my way down to lace weight or I won't have enough of this roving. Stuck at 18 wpi.
  • Next two are mystery wools (seller knew, I forgot). I was able to drop by a sheep to shawl event when we were out of town a few weekends ago. I mentioned to a lady who was spinning that I was a beginning spinner and she exclaimed "Have I got a deal for you!" She had sent a bunch of wool to the processor a few years back and was up to her neck in it. Selling for $8 a lb. I got 37oz. A bit rough and lots of lanolin, but I'm sure I can find *something* to do with it :) The grey in particular is begging for cables.
  • Finally, at the end is some Alpaca. It hasn't been washed or anything so it is a bit gritty to work with, but spins up SO soft. There is lots of junk in it that I hate to see going into such a soft yarn, but I'm not sure how to get it out. Thoughts?
Hoarding Problem Shopping Update
This shop is driving my batty. No really. Um and this one too. Can it be my birthday yet? Please?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

FO: Shetland Triangle Shawl

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and the music in its roar.
-Lord Byron

Pattern: Shetland Triangle, from WrapStyle
I love wearing wrap/shawl/scarf/poncho things, so this book was well worth the money for me. There are at least 3 or 4 other patterns that I may make or use for inspiration. Shetland Triangle itself is a lovely pattern, and a great introduction to making a lace triangle. I had the aha! moment when I realized how the increases were integrating into the pattern.
I was a bit intimidated to hear this called roving. Would it be very fragile? As I knit though it became clear that it is really more of a low twist single. Lovely, fluffy and soft. Yum. I have a desire to hoard some more... just in case I need to make an afghan from it later or something.
Needles: Needlemaster circular, size 6
Mods: 12 pattern repeats, rather than 8, before doing the edging. This gave me my perfect shawl size - the edging just brushes my waist when the shawl is around my shoulders and there's also enough length to wear it wrap style too. Quantified, that comes to 52" wide, by 23" deep (after blocking of course). It looks a little smaller in the picture because it got a bit bunched up. We're not quite knitwear photoshoot experts around here yet ;)

Verdict: I can't quite put a finger on it, but there is something very comforting about this shawl. It is the first thing I have knit that I missed knitting once it was done... my hands just wanted to keep going. I want to be careful with it, because the white will show dirt, but it is going to get worn!
Finally: Thank you Grandmother for the yarn - and thank you Mr. M for the help with the seaside photograph. My first shawl! Squee!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Adventures In Plying

Disclaimer: any unflattering commentary about some of the colors in the yarn you are about to view are solely the opinion of a picky knitter and novice spinner and should not reflect poorly on the dye job originally done on the roving.

As I was working with the Blue-Faced Leicester yesterday, it occurred to me that I had managed to make a yarn that I never would have purchased had I seen it in the store. Part of it was denial, I was attracted to the orange and green in the roving and somehow managed to block out the large sections of purple/grey. Part of that was inexperience, at the start I had very little idea how my preparation of the roving would influence the colors. In retrospect I probably should have torn the roving lengthwise into very thin strips to preserve the integrity of the colors. Part of the reason I didn't do that was that it would have made for very short color repeats. At any rate, I have a better idea of what to look for in a roving next time.

Now it's time to decide what to do with what I've got spun. I probably have enough for a hat, or some wrist warmers, and since the yarn is so soft I'm leaning toward something next to skin. But first, to ply or not to ply?

Single ply yarn

Single ply swatch (size 6 needles).

After all the warnings about knitting with energized singles (a single ply of yarn that wants to twist back on itself) and how that will produce a biased fabric, I was happy to find that I was able to make a low twist single that I could knit with (I think...) The fabric is light enough that it should work for some wrist-warmers that start under my sleeves and come down around my hands. Of course, the striping effect seen in the swatch would not be so strong if I was working with more stitches.

Two ply yarn, Andean plied.

Two ply swatch (size 7 needles)

Although it may not be as clear in the picture as it is in real life, the striping is somewhat less strong here. The barber-pole effect in some of the yarn translates to a more mottled look. I would favor this, except that it occasionally produces icky color combinations. Down at the bottom of the swatch you can see the result when murky orange, purplish and corpse bride blue/green get together. Not me.

Three ply yarn, Navajo plied.

Three ply swatch (size 8 needles)

Here I am rewarded for those long color runs. The colors are muted, but fairly distinct. As a bonus, the lumps that Navajo plying produces (ahem -when done with a thick and thin single) disappear once the yarn is knit. And three ply... so soft and fluffy! This would be great for a hat.
So, what do YOU think? Hat? Wrist-warmers? Or should I just pack it up and mail it to the first person who declares that they find it beautiful?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Foggy morning window

Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi) plant pods, from the farmers' market
It's starting to look like fall around here, inside and out. Yesterday we had three different kinds of squash with dinner. I forget how much I like squash when it is in season. Really worth remembering to stick into the oven two hours before dinner. Now I just have to find a way to get some fresh caramel apples and apple cider. As if to encourage the building desire to hibernate, it rained and rained today. Most of the time sheets of wind and water were coming down, but it occasionally lightened to moments of mist. It makes for a long day at home.

I've started to play around with plying. The lady who loaned me the wheel gave me a bobbin full of pink and purple singles, saying "just take that off and throw it away." It was too good an opportunity to pass by. Above is a two ply, done from two center pull balls.

Here is the remnant of the longer ball, Navajo plied (thanks to this tutorial). I like the grist of the three ply better, although it is very overplied. Somehow I just couldn't treadle slowly enough. In the future I will probably have to make sure that I put some extra twist into any singles I plan on Navajo plying. Stay tuned, lots more fibery adventure in the works!