Sunday, June 05, 2011

They Haven't Killed Me Off Yet

I'm amazed. I thought if you didn't post for over a year you were toast. Not so! People began asking for my "annual post" as a nudge so I thought I'd better find out.

Seems I only blog when travelling and sometimes not even then. Travel is coming up though so I am hoping for fresh material.

Miss Trixie just turned 13 and is in pretty good health!

This last year has not been the smoothest, though I have maintained a hundred fifteen pound weight loss since last August. I always say it's not getting it off that's the hard part, it's keeping it off - and nothing has changed about that since the last diet.

I am better at NOT making vows to do things. Some things work out as a happy surprise (weight loss while secretly trying) and many things just fall flat.

Most of my knitting is still for other people, and mostly I like it that way. It's a lovely way to give a gift with heart. Charity knitting is great too. You may not know who's getting it, but you know your work is doing good. I'd show you an example of a hat for a friend but my computer, my i-Phone AND my regular camera are all on the fritz. Unfortunately I vowed that I'd make this hat, which is probably why it took two years to finish and arrived in Michigan in late Spring, just in time for not needing it 'til Fall. Sorry Nancy!

Otherwise, I'm the Queen of Cowls and keep whipping them out. Enough that I can give away some and actually keep some! Pictures trashed, sorry.

I hope to be weaving and spinning much more since I've pushed my own restart button and am turning out a bit of both.

Mr. Chirpchatty (my husband's name from the personality change he goes through when we go to India) has a possible new job; and guess where part of it will be? Yep, India. This year we'll probably go during the hottest monsooniest season. Now that I'm thinner - I'm cold most of the time, but I don't think it'll be enough to get me through South Indian weather without lots of air conditioning.

Off to weaving retreat next week. Then to my Mother in Riverside, then to Austin, and then? No clue. Glad Bloglines didn't Deep Six me. I'd hate to have to write all the parts about India over again rather than just linking to them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Retreat City

Just returned from the Madrona Fiber Arts yearly retreat where I volunteered - and a spinning retreat right after.
Trying to adjust to the fact that even with much poundage gone, I look older.....lots older.
Met the lovely Linda Cortright who started Wildfibers Magazine and also started Keep the Fleece - a 501(c)(3) charity to help the smaller producers of fiber all over the world. Also spent some very enjoyable time with Sivia Harding and some of her talented friends from Portland.
Met a charming Chinchilla named Harvey while at Madrona. The hotel is pet-friendly and his mom Donna brought him along. A Chinchilla face resembles a hamster more than a rabbit, and his fur feels like mink! I had to go and get some of the fiber she was selling through Village Spinning and Weaving out of Solvang, CA. She mixes it with Cormo and silk. Drooool.
Right before Madrona I helped Ryan celebrate the big Five-O birthday.
Then on from Madrona to a week at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island for the annual February retreat with Judith MacKenzie. Few things compare with having a whole week with Judith.
Many of the local spinning homies were there too...

And of course, new friends were made.

Every year I buy more Pygora from Marcelle - I think I finally have to say I have plenty and have actually do something with it. I'd like to blend it with silk or something fun. Even spun tightly worsted it blooms incredibly.

Mary P and I lusted after Barbara's Jensen Ashley. I'm pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool castle wheel girl, but the beauty of this wheel is something. Fortunately, when I sat and spin at it with Barbara's permission, it just didn't fit or feel right with my body. I say fortunately because...

After almost being able to buy a Reeves' 19" frame wheel in red oak from a friend - she changed her mind. I've been vulturing over her in (I hope) a subtle way for over a year, hoping she'd change it again - and she has! In a couple weeks I will be its new home. I don't have a picture for you but if you go to this link, it's almost exactly like the one I'm getting. It's a double drive with optional Scotch tension and comes with seven bobbins! Also, the wonderful WooLee Winder people make a WW for it already!!! They had a fire that wiped them out unfortunately, so when they are back up and running I will hopefully have saved up the money to buy one.
Some of us took a small guided tour through the salmon rescue aquarium and tide pools that are housed on the Camp property. That salmon colored piece in the middle is a Sea Star that has only his or her middle and one arm left - trying it's best to regenerate...

I finished the orangey "red scarf" but I made it over-wide, so now I believe it needs to be a stole. I've sold off most of my zillion skeins of Koigu but have a few left in spots around the house. The site that sponsors red scarf project says that you should submit no more than 5, so I still have a head start on getting them done. I was so good at Madrona - bought one skein of red Manos so I could blend it with a variegated skein with reds for the project. And, er......oh I guess I DID buy a couple patterns, and the Chinchilla roving. I have to say volunteering is a great way to keep yourself out of the market!

While I was gone the EZ's Green Sweater class started without me at Village Yarn and Teas. Mine will be in the same yarn as these socks. Didn't realize when I bought it that it was superwash (I know I know - I was a new knitter and not so good at reading labels), so no spit splicing possible. Not as big a fan of superwash as I was in the early knitting days.

Found another pal - Nancy H at Judith's retreat - to make the Selbu Modern tam for from the last of the Koigu - doubled in brown and light aqua. That's the Martha sweater she's wearing from the Rowan Studio booklets. Bought the yarn for it. May get to it in my lifetime!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To 'paca or not to 'paca

If you are not a knitter, the following post will bore (and confuse) you to death.

Finished another Selbu Modern hat (free pattern!) for DF Mary P. She wanted it in the same colors as the first one I made in Shetland - which went to the daughter of DF Evanne. Here's the first one.

I thought the Shetland would be a bit scratchy for Miss Mary - who likes the groovier end of the fiber spectrum, so I decided to make it in Alpaca. Now it makes sense to me (again) why Fair Isle is done in Shetland - it's a nice grabby fiber that makes it easy to tension - even on Addi needles, which are the only ones I will use. 'Paca got no grab I can tell you - tho it sure spit-splices well. Slippery stuff, and you have to keep re-tentioning the yarn every couple stitches. I was really worried that it would remain pucker-city even after blocking. Since Mary and I both have bigger than average heads (23.5" and 22.5" respectively) I cast on 144 stitches (instead of the 128 the pattern called for) on US size 2's and did about 2.5" of corrugated rib. I increased to the correct number for the pattern after the ribbing (192) by doing K2, then knit into the front and back of the third stitch - repeat all around - and it comes out perfectly to 192. Changed to size US 3 needles for 4 rows, then to US 4 for 4 rows, then to US 5 for the rest of the pattern. Since I was using Honey Farms Alpaca, it was more like a sport or DK weight, so US 5s made the tam part of the hat bigger - but the gauge was still appropriate for the yarn. I made sure to keep the dominant color (red) in my left hand, but all the red stitches seemed to suck in and disappear. Tried to analyze why, and what I was doing wrong, but never figured it out. I was sure blocking would not help - and it certainly didn't come out as even as the Shetland version, but it was miles better after blocking - isn't it always the way? Had to get creative with two pie plates and an XL yogurt tub to block.

No - the oven is not on - I spun it out in the washer after soaking, and then put it on a cooling rack so the air could circulate. Had a space heater on facing it about 4 feet away.

Not sure how much heat the dog contributed. I was still really worried it would just be too big and awkward tho it felt wonderfully soft and warm.
Thankfully, it fit her well. After the relief of the fitting session, I started in on January's (mostly red) Koigu scarf on US 2s in a simple Moss Stitch pattern for the Red Scarf Project. It may leak over into February....but no worries. I'm finally ahead of the game this year!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Long Learning Curve

Lost most of the original post due to the vagaries of computer stamina. It was over wordy anyway. When did I stop saving them in MS Word first?

Long learning curves? Yes, certainly knitting - but right now cooking. I am - after all - married to "Mr. Picky." That would be Mr. Chirpchatty's alternate name. Although I must say he's been much more gracious and sensitive these days about what might or might not be so appealing about the dishes I've tried. Is it being in his 50's? Is it 26 years of marriage? Not sure, but I really appreciate the new "tude." Once again this year we both forgot our anniversary. We do this on a annual basis. Last year we remembered only because it was our 25th, and once I actually remembered it in advance of the date, I made hotel and restaurant rez right away and put them on the calendar. The Trixie dog got to go too.

Boy, I guess some things have changed in a year. We amuse ourselves (when we remember) by assigning different gifts for the anniversary year versus the ones from the traditional list. The 25th is supposed to be the silver anniversary. We made it the squeeze ball anniversary (having used up turnips the last year we remembered). You know...those spongy rubbery balls you squeeze to relieve stress and improve your hand strength? This year through much vulturing on eBay, I managed to find several in yellow and grey shaped like miniature brains. I have yet to find the coveted green brain that my doctor's lab tech has us squeeze when he draws blood.
We had a lovely Anniversary dinner with DFs Don and Sandi.

Part of my learning curve in cooking is attempting to cook Moroccan recipes in a Tagine (see picture below). All these recipes really should start out with "take every spice you've got out of your cupboard now - you'll need them all." Just as with knitting and sewing, I'm learning to read the entire recipe before I begin - otherwise there will always be a potentially nasty surprise in store. In sewing, your Vogue pattern may say "insert the sleeve and then take all placket pieces..." Insert the sleeve? How exactly is that done..? In knitting, you may be surprised to find - as with the reclaimed Elizabeth Zimmerman green sweater of much current excitement - that it may be knit in one color, but there are several steeks involved! In cooking, it may be that you come late to the realization that every house should have Ghee, Harissa and Rose Water in their cupboard for Moroccan cooking - no need to list them in the ingredients list. Surprisingly, Amazon Fresh (Amazon dot com's newish grocery delivery system) actually has all of these items.
You prepare the items in the bottom part of the Tagine,
and then cover with lid to steam and burble til done.

So, things are a little slow right now. Knitting a few things I promised to friends. I know I said that last year my resolution was only to knit for myself and the husband and that I totally flunked that one. I should have amended that to say I really like knitting for others, as long as there is no set deadline involved. If I didn't like it, I'd be a knitting victim, and I've expunged that word from my personal description.
Every year I also miss the deadline for the Red Scarf Project. This is such a brilliant idea (see link) that I'm going to knit my first one in January and see if I can do one a month with no pressure. How hard is a scarf? It's car knitting! Red is not a color I usually buy for knitting, but the rules are not so rigid that it can't be a scarf close to red or with just some red in it. I'm such a fool for variegated yarn that I can handle that.

The big excitement for this week so far has been going to two banks in a row with the dog. They never fail to have biscuits, and as soon as we get in line for the drive-through, my more sensitive body parts are being tromped all over by Miss Impatience who has leaped into my lap!!!!

Yes, yes, they're working on it, I promise....

Alright alright, I'm getting it out now! (Love those pneumatic tubes.)
Leave the finger, don't chomp the finger, don't........sigh.....

Friday, January 08, 2010

Damson XL

I finally finished the Damson XL shawl. XL because I wanted to make it big enough for DF Wendy to use as a nursing-in-public cover-up for places where they are uncomfortable with the amount of exposure it takes to nurse a baby. She and little Pete are doing so well and I can't wait to see him Sunday and how he's already changed!

Here he is at about 4 weeks. Cute City, eh?
And here he is at that age with the very petite Mom Wendy. I'm hoping the XL shawl won't be tent-like on her - but since the original was meant as a little shoulder shawl, perhaps it will be okay.
Here's the shawl blocking. It really is a lovely shape that won't fall off your shoulders. I did it all in garter rather than switching to stockinette at the double decrease points. Actually, the shawl had a mind of its own at those points and all eight of them stuck out like little ready-to-nurse appendages. Since I did it in bamboo instead of wool (so Mom and baby wouldn't get overheated) I hope they will block flat............Oh goody, seems they did.
I sure do love those EZ Blocking Boards, even if it really takes two to block anything bigger than a narrow-sized small sweater. You can kneel on them to pin, stand on them when they fill up the entire kitchen floor (at least at my current weight I can) and they are just amazingly strong - yet easy to carry around when you fold them in half and use the carrying handles.

Here's the confused dog, wondering why it's not okay to walk on the blocking shawl. (Her) "But? My water dish is over there." (Me) "No, I put your water dish at the entrance to the kitchen so you wouldn't need to walk on the fact this is the third time you haven't needed to walk on the shawl." (Her) "Oh...."

The Damson shawl (Ravelry link) is by Isolda Teague. I'll tell all on my Ravelry projects page in a day or so about what I did to get the XL size, in case you are an XL size and might want to do it. My Ravelry name is "dims."

I was able to see Wendy on Sunday at Top Pot (doughnuts and coffee extraordinaire) with other knitters and give her the shawl at last. Alas, little Pete was not there - but Wendi seemed to like it. The Bamboo gives it a nice drape.
The evidence of the other sugar sniffers gathered together. They shall remain anonymous.
Should be enough to cover little Pete without making them both too hot.

Plenty of shawl to go around!
And look! It matches her cell....sorta....

Then I tried it on the lovely Diana so I could see if it really would fit a less-petite person than Wendi as a full shawl. Bad English there....

Looks like it's working.
I believe she's had enough of the picture-taking!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Hot Fair Isle Book / The Elusive Folca Box

Lizabeth had a copy of this new book at Ferals (our nickname for our Fair Isle knitting group) last week. Boy is it amazing. The stitch patterns are pretty traditional but the garment designs are really great. Go here to The Needle Arts Bookshop for a look at several of the patterns. It's the same price pretty much as going through the Kinokuniya bookstore here in town ('cept you'll have to pay shipping) - which is what I did to order a bunch for our group. You can always order from Kinokuniya - but it's nice if you actually live near one of their bookstores so you can pick books up and not pay shipping. They don't charge you for what you order until it comes in. Here is the part of their website that tells the locations of their U.S. stores. If you go through Kinokuniya, you'll need the ISBN which is: 978-4-529-04676-3

I was pretty thrilled to finally find a source for the Folca Box. Purlwise first blogged about it on April 20, 2009 on her blog, and her pictures are MUCH better than mine.

The place she found it has gone out of business - but thankfully - an Etsy Vendor who has actually lived in Japan has found the right place to import them. I have a feeling she is the only American Vendor for them and she just got a big order in! Susan is very nice to deal with and has her own knitting et al blog called Fleegle. Here is the link for her Etsy Store called "The Gossamer Web." Note that she sells cobweb and other laceweight yarns that she dyes herself. Not that there are any lace knitters here in Seattle, heh! She dyes really lovely colors! There is a Gossamer Web group on Ravelry too which posts about new additions to the store.
The little Folca box measurements are:
Closed: 4" x 2.5" x 1.5"
Open: 7.5" x 5" x .5"
The Big blue compartment is only 2" by 3" and a squeek.
The fun is trying to find some tiny Japanese snips that will actually fit in that little compartment. The smallest embroidery scissors are usually 3.5" so no-go. Also, a tape measure. I've bought a regular coated sewing tape measure - cut off about 6 inches - and folded that in half for measuring gauge swatches. You could also try folding scissors as an idea as long as they are not thick.
I I needed more than one, and also that I like to have one each for several knitting bags. They are very sturdy little guys and stay snapped together. Spread the word!
Are all Knitters and Spinner enablers? It's kind of a disease, isn't it!

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Bazillion Blogs

About two years ago, DF Nancy turned to me at a retreat and said "Don't you use Bloglines?" She was referring to the fact that I typed in the addresses or used a search each time I wanted to read a specific blog, or went to another friend's site like Ryan's Mossy Cottage Knits and just clicked on the ones from her sidebar. I thought I was probably the last person to hear about it, and Bloglines is certainly not the only product out there - but you should know that it exists and "aggregates" all your blog info into one place and subscribes to their RSS feed. If you click on the link for "aggregates," go down to the subheading "Function" and it will give you an idea. You can do this with Blogs or Sites that strictly collect news or facts of different types.

Bloglines is great - once you've subbed to a blog you like, it comes up on your list only when there is a new entry. You never have to check anyone's site again, hoping that they've updated. Even if they've gone a year without an entry (ahem, shuffling of feet, embarassed look), when it finally happens (she with the most guilt says) it will come up that day in your list. It's free, and all you have to do is log on to have your list pop up. You can also install an Icon down in your "tray" on the lower right corner of your screen that will look like the letter "B" and will have a red asterisk over it whenever there is new content. You can just double-click that and it will bring up Bloglines and your newly updated list. The saves me so much time and trouble I couldn't help passing it on. If anyone else wants to chip in their favorite one in the comments - feel free.

Let's talk for a minute about how helpful knitters and spinners are. Oh're a captive can't talk! Whenever I go to an event and bring lots of stuff of my own, or get a table to sell things, it's amazing how many friends and people I barely know come up to ask if I need help setting up or breaking down. "You need help?" "No, I've got it but thanks for asking." "How 'bout now, you need help? Wanna take a potty break?" "Need help carrying things to your car?" When one of my loads on the dolly that wasn't well-balanced tipped over at the St. Distaff's day event, one friend and three strangers rushed over with the speed of light to help me get it all back in the boxes. Women in these particular crafts just seem to be warm, caring and darn helpful!!! The only other place I've seen this is in India, only reversed. Men are more predisposed to help each other in the way women do here. They are physically affectionate in public much more than we are here in America, in spite of the fact that same-sex unions are stigmatized just as they are in the U.S. and other countries. When Mr. Chirptrippy took a spill on some slick pavement, 3 guys were on him almost before he hit the ground, helping him up and commiserating, and not just because they wanted his business for their autorickshaws. I couldn't get close to help him myself because these men were helping him and making sure he was absolutely okay. Not an isolated example either. One of my funniest memories from India was sitting on a bench out in front of the hotel, and having two drop-dead gorgeous guys hitting on me (probably just to practice their English) while holding hands with each other. It's just an expression of friendship and considered completely natural there. However, women and men - even married couples - cannot touch in public. The world is a sometimes a strange place.

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