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Archive for the ‘UFOs’


Up, Up and Away!

Dear Ellen,

hot-air-balloon-ride-12-nov-11-1.jpgWow!  We had an amazing day yesterday.  It started off with a very early wake-up and a drive to the north side of the county where we met up with the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team for a ride in “the mother ship” — their 90 foot tall, 250,000 square foot hot air balloon.  We bundled up layers as we knew it would be pretty chilly at altitude.  Surprisingly, I barely noticed the cold and the one hour flight seemed to be over in a flash.  It was wonderful — so serene and smooth.  You feel like you are just gliding along with the best view in the house.  The sun came up while we were aloft — twice.  We saw it once and then went beyond a ridgeline and got to see it again…very cool.  The animals below were in divided camps — poultry was alarmed (‘The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!), horses were discomfited (‘I’m moving away from you because I intended to go over there, not because I’m scared.’), dogs were protective (‘You’d better not be thinking about landing in my fields!!’) and cows were totally bored (‘If you’re not dropping hay, I’m not interested.)  The high altitude perspective was fascinating.  Most areas looked so orderly and well-planned, even when the fences were obviously following irregular borderlines.  When we got back on the ground our chase van met up with us, the crew packed the balloon and we headed back to base for champagne, orange juice and pastry.

eastland-alpacas-open-house-12-nov-11-1.jpgThe flight alone would have made it a great day, but we had more planned.  We headed over to Mount Joy, PA on the northwest edge of the county to spend some time at the Eastland Alpacas Farm open house.  We walked the farm, took notes on barn and paddock lay out, learned a bit more about alpaca care and handling, bought 4H cookies (who knew!), stroked a kitty or two, hugged and petted and fed cuddly warm alpaca, and oh, yes, I did go in their shop and buy a bit of yarn and maybe a little stuffed alpaca friend.   The little brown cria in the collage was born on Tuesday.  We left even more enthusiastic about the idea of owning a few of these guys one day.  For comparison, Eastland Alpacas is situated on 20 acres, though we have a few more acres in woodland.  We, however, do not plan on having 90-some alpaca, so that should be fine.

muddy-run-park-12-nov-11-1.jpgWe left feeling very accomplished and satisfied with our adventures…but wait!  There’s more!  Next we drove into Lancaster proper and spent a few hours at the Pennsylvania Fine Arts Guild Show and Sale were we saw some beautiful pieces.  Dale spent a good deal of time talking to all the wood carvers.  I spent some time chatting with a jewelry designer whose work I really enjoyed — at the end of our conversation we had shared enough tidbits of information that I realized that her sister was a good friend of ours…a fun discovery.  We then headed home, but on the way stopped at Muddy Run Park.  Dale had discovered it a few weeks ago and wanted me to check it out too.  It is only a few miles from our place — I’m thinking summer bike rides! — and it is wonderful.  It’s basically the property surrounding the reservoir of the Ektelon Hydroelectric plant — very large and maintained for the community.  This is the same company that holds Peach Bottom and Three Mile Island nuclear power plants.  This kind of community benefit keeps the population favorably disposed.  The park would make a great knit in public site…my gears are turning.

dsc03956.JPGAs for knitting, the sleeves are on the Rocky Coast Cardigan.  I haven’t added the cuffs as I’m worried about yarn supply.  My approach is that after I finish the body, I’ll either decide I have enough to do the cuffs and collar/front bands with the vintage Manos I’m using, or I will procure some pale silvery gray Manos or Malabrigo to do a contrast treatment.  As I was winding another hank of the Manos, I saw that the tag on that hank had the price on it — $8.50.  As a similar Manos yarn now runs about $20.00, this helps confirm that the yarn is definitely old!

I hope you had fun on your Veteran’s Day weekend too!

Love, Jan

Hot Feet and Cold Nights

Dear Ellen,

dsc03770.JPGBrr!  The weather is chilling off here.  We’re consistently in the 30s at night.  Okay, okay, I realize you are likely consistently in the 30s in the day, but for us this is nippy.  We’ve woken to frost and all the other signs of imminent winter are around us.  Leaves are falling and give a nice crunchy accompaniment to walks in the woods.  I got the bulbs into the ground — all 275 of them.  And the corn has been harvested leaving behind the big rolls of silage that remind Dale of Easter Island.

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In knitting news I’ve finished my Eternal Flames socks.  I sought out a colorway that would play up the idea I had to use the flame rib stitch in a sock pattern.  I found Lancaster Yarn Shop‘s Kettle-Dyed Sock Yarn in the Amish Broomcorn colorway.  You don’t even have to put these socks on to start feeling warmer!  Gorgeous colors in this yarn.  I was a bit worried when the soak for blocking leeched a lot of dye (and took lots of rinses) from the socks, but they still look just as intense as the yarn when it was still in the skein.  The flame rib makes socks that are nice and snug — they hug your foot nicely, not too tight, but snug enough to stay up and stay put.  The heels are done with an eye of partridge stitch and the yarn is perfect for it…the short repeat of the orange and yellow against the long repeat of the dark mahogany red really makes the eye of partridge pop.  I’ll get the pattern together one of these days — I did keep notes!

foggy-coast.jpgI’m also joining in on the Knitting Pipeline’s Rip Van Winkle KAL and the Knitmore Girls’ Coastal Knits KAL and the Stash ‘n’ Burn NaKniSweMo KAl all with the same project. The Rip Van Winkle KAL challenges you to use something that’s been sleeping in your stash or queue for a very long time.  I dug up some skeins of Manos del Uruguay that I was gifted from a friend’s mother’s stash when her mother died.  She asked her daughter to give it all to someone who would use it.  I’ve had it for almost 6 years — it’s about time.  The yarn itself is so old that it’s on old tags, and is simply listed as 100% wool in size D.  It’s a misty colorway — pale pinks and greys and slate blues and creams.  Makes me think of morning fog at sea.  The Coastal Knits KAL is for any of the projects from that book.  I’ve picked out the Rocky Coast Cardigan.  So, for National Knit a Sweater Month (NaKniSweMo), I’m knitting a cardigan.  I’m calling it Foggy Coastline at Dawn.  I only have 1100 yards or so of the yarn, so am not sure it will fit me when I’m done.  Not too worried though.  Dale’s mom has been hinting for a handmade and the colors would look very good on her.  She’s enough narrower than me that it’ll work.  I think I’ll go put in a few stitches now.

Love, Jan

 

Socktober

Dear Ellen,

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I am sitting here typing with chilly fingers thinking I should have been knitting gloves this month instead of socks.  It has been snowing or sleeting all day.   We’ve only gotten a few inches of accumulation, but it is wet and heavy — and the trees are straining under the weight.  From my vantage point in my studio I am hearing the cracks and pops of a limb falling every half hour or so…several are kinda near the house, so enough to get nerves on edge!

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I did accomplish a good bit in the aforementioned sock knitting.  I’m almost done with my Hot Feet socks.  They’re based on the flame rib pattern and they are hug the foot very nicely as a result.  I knit them from this flame-like colorway to add to the thought of nice warm feet.  The heals are in eye of partridge — I love how it works so nicely with this colorway that has longer dark repeats and shorter bright repeats.

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I also got started on a pair of socks in Neighborhood Fiber Company’s Eastern Market colorway.  They’ll be for a young lady who lived in that neighborhood for a few years.  I don’t think she reads our blog that much, so I believe I’m safe to mention it here.  The pattern is the candle flame lace pattern.  I hope that’s not foreshadowing a need for candles if a tree limb takes out our power!

dsc03680.JPGFinally, I blocked the  Spring Lace socks that I cast on during Sock Summit…oh, the memories! The lace pattern is supposedly a floral design and if you look closely you can imagine the stacked rosettes working their way up the leg.  Let me offer that it is not worth it — It is one of those little lace patterns with many centered decreases and a really evil way of making you think you are on a row other than the one you’re supposed to be knitting.  I spent the entire first sock getting it into my head solidly enough to make the second sock easy.  Of course, the fact that I kept putting it down and working on something else may have had something to do with it.

best-of-knitscene.jpgI proved once again that I am a shameless book whore strong supporter of the publishing industry and our fellow designers and picked up both Coastal Knits  and The Best of KnitsceneAs there are many reviews out there right now for the former, I thought I’d offer a quick review on the latter.  This is a really nice little book!  Not only does it have 20 patterns, all of which I’d be willing to knit (and several which I feel I must knit), but it also includes extra articles on the designers and on a number of very useful tips and descriptions to help even the seasoned knitter be more successful.  Two of the patterns have been in my mental queue forever — Connie Chang Chinchio’s Geodesic Cardigan and Cecily Glowik Macdonald’s Michaelmas Mitts.  The first is an open front cardi with a lovely horizontal pleat detail on the front vertical bands and the second are long mitts trimmed with buttons and knit in some wonderful fuzziness.  It’s nice to know that the book includes updates to these (and all 20) to correct all errata found since their original publication in the original magazines.  At least three other patterns are shouting at me to dig out yarn and cast on.  Get this book and I guarantee a case of startitis!

I’m looking forward to drawing our winners from our birthday party celebration.  Till then,

Love, Jan

Unexpected Design Innovations (UDIs)

Dear Ellen,

Herewith, I am coining a new knitting acronym — the UDI or unexpected design innovation.  These are those changes to patterns we make when we are well into the pattern and we realize that if we continue executing the pattern as written, we will be unhappy.  So, we make changes.  We may be worried about running out of yarn, so we adapt to use another color, reduce rounds between decreases, or shorten sleeves — or we may realize we’re going to have loads of yarn left so we add repeats or lengthen sleeves — or we discover we worked the pattern incorrectly about umpteen rows back so we determine we can make it work if we make sure to make the same deviation on the other side — or…you get the idea…and we discover we love the result better than we thought we would like the original.

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This little sock is a UDI…I was sizing up the fast baby booties and discovered that adding only 2 stitches to the cast on yielded a toddler sized sock, not a 6-9 month bootie as I was targeting.  I kept going though and realized the resulting footy (you can’t call a big girl or boy’s sock a bootie, right?!) would fit the foam stress reliever foot that we had in the office at work.  And if knit in a harder wearing worsted, it would make a nice little slipper sock for toddlers.  I still have to write up the pattern…the weekend disappeared on me.  (We got surprised by early arrival of some furniture and it took almost all of Saturday to get it from the warehouse and into place.)

dsc03552.JPGNot much more knitting to highlight this week.  I did finish the cuff of a pair of socks that is part of The Knit Wits Socks Around the World.  They’ll go into the mail next week headed for the next knitter who will do the heel.  I think I’ll cast on a pair of socks for myself as soon as I’m done here.

It was great fun to see you Thursday night.  Sorry you’re flight cancellation stuck you in DC, but I benefited from it.  Hope you had a blast at Rhinebeck, and I’m expecting those sheep.  😉

Love, Jan

Labor Day on the Farm

Dear Ellen,

dsc03336.JPGDale and I extended our Labor Day weekend by adding on 2 days of leave.  It was absolutely wonderful!  I made some good progress in a lot of areas…our pantry is much more settled, our library can be used and I am able to find some things in my office/studio.  I also got a few hats knit for Warm Hats, Warm Hearts and have one more planned for the drive back to Virginia.

dsc03347.JPGdsc03352.JPGI cast on with my handspun for my Virtual Loungewear, the Saroyan shawlette which we have declared to be our group’s cellblock uniform. The fabric is lovely and light.  I dropped down to a size 5 needle from the size 10 recommended in the pattern because the yarn is really a laceweight.  dsc03353.JPGI was going to try several needle sizes to see what I liked, but I started with the 5s and loved the result.  The gauge is tight enough to make the fabric appear opaque, but it’s open enough to make for a very light, but warm fabric.  Because the gauge is, of course, more dense than that of the original I added several increase repeats before starting on the straight section in order to make it wide enough.  I’m shooting for about 12 inches wide so it can be a combo-scarf-shawlette.  It’s definite potato chip knitting — I want to see what’s going to happen with the next swath of color!

dsc03340.JPGdsc03339.JPGI’ve got my eye on some more spinning too.  These gorgeous spindles arrived in the mail yesterday and they are calling to me like crazy.  The fact that they came with some lovely samples of fiber doesn’t hurt.  Oh, and I found a great little shop up in Lancaster called Labadie Looms.  They’ve got handspun yarn, a good deal of locally sourced roving and a bunch of spinning wheels.  dsc03341.JPGThe lovely owner shared with us that she was a 9th generation handspinner, handweaver and knitter and that the shop has been in existence in some form since 1863.  I bought this 1/4 pound of coopworth from her. I had never heard of it before.  Have you spun with it yet?  She says it’s one of the breeds that was favored by the Pennsylvania Germans who populated this area.

dsc03345.JPGdsc03344.JPGdsc03346.JPGWhen we left Labadie’s we brought home some cute little sisters to stay with us for a while.  Aren’t they adorable?  They were made by a local 15 year old.  I love how authentic she was with her color choices and design of their headwear.  I know I could make similar ones myself, but the fact that their purchase would be encouraging a young woman in her craft made it impossible to say, “no.”  The yarn is handspun as well, but I didn’t think to ask if she did the handspinning as well as the knitting.

dsc03319.JPGdsc03323.JPGLabor Day on the farm is really pretty much like any other day.  There’s no such thing as a day off, but the work we’re doing here is so much more enjoyable.  Dale was having a great dsc03328.JPGdsc03330.JPGtime making mulch out of limbs felled during Hurricane Irene.  This is a tiny pile so far, but it turned into a much larger one and was the third one of the day.  For some reason I kept thinking of Frances dsc03326.JPGdsc03332.JPGMcDormand.  I did some work in the flower garden…Ruby kept an eye on me.  The roses are still bearing well and we’re getting some beautiful berries on many of our plants now.

dsc03317.JPGIt did rain for much of the weekend and the week so far.  Luckily the house is secure and snug and dry as a bone.  It does make me want to snooze though…or just sit and watch the rain chain.  I hate to think about tomorrow — it will be back to the grind.  But at least it’s only a 2 day work week!

Love, Jan

Please Stop the World…Just Till I Catch Up

Dear Ellen,

My head is spinning…so much going on and I’m not sure how much more I can take.  Much is very good, much is interesting and much will help us build our future, but good grief!  I just wish I’d get a day to sleep.

dsc02992.JPGdsc02993.JPGLast week was the grand opening of the house with a wonderful party that the builder threw for the Parade of Homes.  They included us, our immediate neighbors and several of their other clients.  According to Jared (our fantastic architect shown here with his parents), there were over 130 people in the house at one point.  As I had no clue there were that many, it proved out our intent to design it for good flow while entertaining.  We heard many, many very nice comments about the property and the house.  They announce judging results tonight…we are hopeful.  It would be fun bragging rights to have, but we really are hopeful for the folks at Custom Home dsc02985.JPGGroup who were so incredible to work with throughout this experience. Dale thinks his garage floor alone (2 part epoxy terrazzo) warrants best in show.  This was definitely the high point for almost all the men who were at the party…and something Dale has wanted his whole life.  I have to admit, it’s pretty nice.

dsc03001.JPGdsc03017.JPGWe stayed in a hotel near BWI the night of the party — poised to fly to Tampa to watch Tom graduate from Plant High School and to attend Jim’s retirement dinner.  (He’s now out of the Army and in the private sector.)  dsc03010.JPGTom’s wearing a coat from his Uncle Ted (Chris’ brother) who got it from their dad.  He died fairly recently so it was quite an emotional moment for everyone.  We had a far too short, but very good time with the family.  I continue to be amazed by Chris’ ability to deliver the best of high end hospitality without seeming to break a sweat.  She juggled a million people and a wild event schedule that was just perfect.  I only wish I would have had more time just with her. dsc03014.JPGWe did get a few minutes with our friends John and Betsy.  If your memory is very sharp, you’ll remember that they live in Norfolk, not Tampa.  Believe it or not, but they were at the graduation as their nephew was in Tom’s class and they sat just 5 rows ahead of us.  We met up for coffee Saturday morning highly amused that we had to travel to Florida to get a chance to see each other.

dsc03021.JPGdsc03024.JPGWhile on the road, I finished up a cap and booties to go with the overalls for my friend’s baby.  Then I decided I needed to redo the booties as I wasn’t perfectly happy with them as they seemed a little small for the size of overalls.  I also knit the hat for Master’s Level I…not done with the I-cord for the embellishment yet, but the basic hat is knit — as you can see there are ends with which I must deal.  I have to say, I really do like the jogless color join that they recommend.  I had been using the “knit the last stitch into the stitch below the needle”, but this is better and doesn’t distort the row.  (Edited to add this link to a very good description.)

dsc03025.JPGThis week I’ve been in a military transition course, a euphemism for retirement preparation.  I don’t think I’m retiring quite yet, but at this stage of the game they want you to have taken the course just in case they know something you don’t know.  It was a good course, but it kept me away from the office and home (long days!) and I’m behind at both.  You’d think I’d be breathing a sigh of relief with the weekend here, but instead I am gritting my teeth for even more fun.  I leave tonight for a few days in Southwest Asia — back mid-week.  …and then comes packing and moving!!  (Most stuff heads to Fair Winds, but enough to live on during the week will stay behind to go to a small place we have yet to find.)  At least I got this sock started.  It will come with me and hopefully return with a friend.

Love, Jan

Yikes! I’m Not Ready

Dear Ellen,

dsc02719.JPGdsc02721.JPGI’m supposed to be almost packed for the wedding, but as you can tell I’ve been spending my time catching up elsewhere.  I have to get busy.  At least the shrug is knit and blocked, but not seamed.  I do love the way the fabric turned out.  Worst case, I’ll use the mending kit from the hotel room.  You can take pictures so I can post an FO picture later — probably much later as I’ll leave the wedding and head straight to San Diego for a week of meetings.  See you soon!!!

Love, Jan

Knitting for Little Ones

Dear Ellen,

dsc02718.JPGI’m having quite a good time knitting up a little pair of overalls for a good friend’s baby due in July.  I am truly enjoying it — the pattern is sweet (will be smocked at the top and at the leg edges), the yarn is wonderful (Crazy Monkey Gorilla Toes in Pretty Ribbons), and best yet Carolyn and Don have been trying to have a child for years so there is lots of joy in every stitch.  The pattern has fixed length straps, but I’m going to modify that so she can use these over several sizes.  More to come.

dsc02723.JPGOn a less pleasurable note, it turns out I’ve knit some socks for a young girl.  I don’t know which young girl, but I do know it’s not me.  Remember the Cushy Cables Socks?  Well, the label does say handwash, but I’ve become so cavalier about throwing my socks in the washer, it didn’t even register.  The socks are still quite lovely — and even cushier!  But now I’d say they should fit about a 5-8 year old who has REALLY loose shoes…or they’d be great slipper socks or bed socks for a little one who can’t keep her feet warm.  Maybe even a tiny adult…maybe I’ll bring them to Sock Summit to see if anyone we come across fits the bill.  The picture shows them against medium sized sock blockers.  Sigh!  I did get to wear them once…and they were SO comfortable.  I’ll use Socrates again, but will pay heed to the handwash instructions.

Love, Jan

In Bruges

dsc02635.JPG…okay, so it wasn’t Bruges, but it was close.

Dear Ellen,

dsc02601.JPGdsc02616.JPGI spent last week in Europe as U.S. representative to the NATO Command Control Consultation Board.  It sounds pretty fancy-pants, and I have to admit the simultaneous translations via earwig is pretty cool, but the board sessions quickly become very dry and, yes, boring.  On the other hand, Brussels is very interesting!  Great scenery, great food, great chocolate…all in great supply.  The Grand Place was having a plant sale that added some great color to our photos.  We ate in a restaurant with a sheep mosaic on its walls.  dsc02618.JPGdsc02608.JPGOn our walkabouts we came across really cool costume ideas…and the infamous mannequin pis.  You can find this little guy made out of chocolate, various gummy candies and imprinted on everything from beer steins to mouse pads. 

dsc02716.JPGdsc02717.JPGAs usual, I did some knitting on the airplane…finished up the first sock of a pair based on the flame stitch pattern.  It has some “love” in it…a clever term a friend uses to refer to mistakes that she has decided can go uncorrected.  The pattern was tricky to convert to a full chart and I was tired.  No one will really notice.  I was glad to get home, but I head out again on Friday for Ohio…the second sock will get some good attention on that trip!

Love, Jan

Finishing Off 2010 Along with Assorted UFOs!

Dear Ellen,

dsc01752.JPGdsc01755.JPGYou may remember my Woodland Vines sweater — the one I started in the summer and thought I’d finish in a few weeks?  Well, it sure got sidetracked during the fall, but in a bout of slogging through 2010 projects on needles, I finally moved forward and finished it up.  I had completed the knitting a month ago, but dsc01757.JPGdsc01758.JPGthen it sat in a chair waiting for blocking.  The pictures take it from blob, to blob hanging on dress form, to blocked blob (note yoke detail!), to finished product!  At least it’s finished dsc01762.JPGexcept for finding the right 11 buttons and sewing them on.  I’ve ordered a few different alternatives from some etsy vendors and am confident that I’ll be pleased with at least one of them, so I’m hoping to be completely finished very soon.

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dsc01765.JPGdsc01768.JPGTGIF is also a finished object now.  All it was waiting on was a decision on whether or not the button solution was adequate or not.  If so, I needed another means to actually secure the sweater for when I wanted it closed as the current solution means buttons are only decorative.  I decided to add a frog (as opposed to deciding to frog) of simple I-cord to use when needed.  When it’s not needed, it can fasten in the back.  I’m pleased…but may revisit the buttons if I find others as perfect in size and color, but far lighter in weight.  The knitting is now finished, I’m waiting for the toggle to arrive in the mail, but you get the idea.  I’ll post final FO pictures of these two once the buttons/closures are completed…maybe even with me wearing them!

dsc01741.JPGdsc01737.JPGI also finished up the headband for my friend at work — it’s very fun.  Not what I would normally wear on my head, but I do kind of like the neck band option.

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dsc01759.JPGdsc01751.JPGdsc01753.JPGI have three WIPs remaining and I’m committed to not casting on anything new till 2011.  First is the Sweater from Down Under.  I had set it down for quite a while, but picked it back up just the other night and am making progress again.  Second is my Simple Lace Scarf…a little more progress there as well.  And finally, those nasty Noro socks.  It’s really hard to get motivated to knit them with my dislike for the knittability of the yarn.  Beyond my earlier complaints, I’m now finding knots — and knots that do not keep the color changes consistent.  Grrr!  I only have part of a single cuff left so it should be finished this weekend if I would just grit my teeth and get it over with.

dsc01756.JPGAt least I have some inspiration to get me motivated to move through these projects…Christmas gift goodies from folks like you and Dale!  Looking through the books (especially Wrapped in Comfort by our good friend Alison) will make me want to get some new projects going and I’ve sworn no newbies till the UFOs are done!  With the Knitwear Design Workshop I’ll have my head full of all the new projects I want to design myself!  There are a few other inspiring goodies in the picture…including HiyaHiya Puppy Snips, a Debra’s Garden whorl pendant needle gauge, Yarn Dots, a magnetic measuring tape and a very nice hand knit face cloth.  Our readers can guess which of you gave me the face cloth.  It’s looking like 2011 will be a great year for hand knits!

Love, Jan

P.S. Have you noticed how our spam volume seems to have jumped?  Does this mean we’ve arrived???