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Archive for June, 2010


Fiber meowlaise…

Dear Jan,

75.jpgHow can it be over a week since I’ve posted and all I have to show for it is this?  A little progress on Bambinoo, a funky dishcloth-in-progress from leftover baby bib cotton, a couple of skeins of woolen yarn (fast spinning, that woolen), and maybe a few more rounds on a sock?

Some would blame project fibrillation.  But you know the real reason…

63.jpgA serious kitten infestation.  It can really wear you down.

123.jpgDon’t be fooled by those innocent eyes.  This kitten is a serious threat to fiber productivity.  There is no antidote.  You simply have to wait it out.  Eventually it will become a cat at which point you may be able to resist its charms long enough to resume a semblance of normal living.

Love,

Ellen

Ellen’s hipster weekend…

Hi, Jan,

What a weekend I’m having, doing all the things the cool kids are doing these days.  I’ll try to keep the text short and sweet and let the photos do the talking.

Except the weekend started on Thursday with a performance of Dance of the Pink Flamingos at the Ballet of the Dolls, and I forgot my camera.  Given the nature of the BoD performances, that may be a good thing for those with sensitive natures.  Suffice it to say that this interpretation of John Water’s Pink Flamingos left very little to the imagination – and was hilarious and disturbing and beautiful and messy – kind of like life. You may not be surprised to learn that Steven choreographed our visit to the show (but not the show – though he could have done the costume design, I’m sure).

114.jpgFriday – date with my honey, to see an evening of literary humor featuring John Hodgman, Neil Gaiman, musical interludes (including the lead of OK Go), hosted by John Moe.  It was a public radio thing. We started with the legendary and prodigous portions at Mickey’s Diner, a St. Paul classic.

27.jpg34.jpg44.jpgSaturday – Rock the Garden!  (another public radio thing – if I’m in a rut, it’s a good rut to be in)  OK Go and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were the bands that we (Becky and Candace and I) dug on, though the rest of the crowd ate up MGMT.  But they didn’t have hand bells, like OK Go, so I didn’t understand that.  (If you haven’t seen the OK Go treadmill video, (Here it Goes Again) you must, you really must.)

117.jpg210.jpgSunday – another StevenBe production – WWKIP.  Lisa and Eryka of my local knitting group joined me – here you see Lisa demonstrating that bike short make excellent pattern holders.  Eryka is way in the back, focused hard on spinning.  I gave her a first lesson today, and by the end you could see it was starting to click.  Imagine how well she would have done with a real teacher!

36.jpgThis little project, another one of my little bibs, traveled with me this weekend and was knit up entirely during the various performances.  Despite one design feature that resulted from knitting in the dark (somehow got the right and wrong sides reversed so the increases suddenly move to the other side partway through), it was cool to get a project done while having so much fun.

Thought the other hipsters probably didn’t think it was that cool.  Ah, well, it was fun pretending to be hip for a few days.

Love,

Ellen

New Zealand

Dear Ellen,

dsc00215.JPGI’ve promised more on New Zealand, so here it is.  Let’s start out with a nice cold Steinlager Pure, shall we?  Feel free to sip while we tour through Wellington.  (Corry is taking a picture of her Steinlager as I’m taking a picture of my Steinlager.  Beer and photography seem to be common themes for us.)

dsc00255.JPGdsc00244.JPGFirst, let me say that  I was in New Zealand on business…and I was very productive!  We accomplished a lot of very important work that will move forward our interoperability with on New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and UK partners.  Days were full — really.  I just had to say that before I started to gush about how much fun we had. dsc00276.JPGdsc00230.JPG On our first day there (recovery from 24 hours in the air plus layover and transit time of another 4-5 hours) we took a walking tour of the city of Wellington with our new friend Kerry.  She was the volunteer guide from the city and congratulated us on being the only two to show for the tour — the weather was pretty cold and wet.  (We warmed up with coffee and hot chocolate though.) Kerry took us all over.  dsc00243.JPGNew Zealand is very much a maritime nation and there was much evidence of that…from the lighthouse lens in the wharf museum to the amazing restoration work being done on timbers from an old ship found beneath one of the downtown buildings during renovation.  The water is about 5 blocks from where we are standing in this picture with Kerry, but it used to come right up to that point.  The ship had been stranded ashore after an earthquake redefined the shoreline.  It was then used as the base for a building only to rediscovered these many, many years later.  We walked and talked for about two and a half hours.

dsc00284.JPGdsc00220.JPGOf course New Zealand is also known for Peter Jackson and his work with “The Lord of the Rings.”  It was a big deal for Wellington, and they have included a few exhibits referencing the experience in their very nice city museum (where I am showing my world-traveling Fibre Space bag — so I can enter the Fibre Space contest for best traveled bags later this summer!).

dsc00347.JPGdsc00366.JPGdsc00342.JPGdsc00365.JPGWellington has a really nice botanical garden.  You can ride the cog railway up to the top of the city and then walk down through the gardens.  I was just blown away by the huge ferns.  I kept looking for the dinosaurs.  The winter roses were pretty neat too…as were the weird trees.

dsc00326.JPGOur business sessions were held in a sky box at the Wellington Stadium — where the next World Cup will be played.  We dsc00329.JPGwanted photos to show we were here so we could claim bragging rights when it comes round.  No one else seemed to want to knit.  We also held a session at a few vineyards on a “break day” — taken to allow our working groups to write up the decisions to be taken so that we could act on them before dsc00416.JPGtraveling to our home stations.  We did some work with their Joint Forces Headquarters in the morning and then headed out for more important business at Te Karainga and Tirohana Vineyards where we sampled wines and (at Tirohana) enjoyed a fabulous meal.  Amazingly some of their wines came home with me.

dsc00461.JPGAnd what would a New Zealand post be without sheep?  When we went out to the countryside, there were sheep all over.  I wish I could have gotten some pictures of some of them — the biggest, puffiest things you could imagine.  Though mostly dsc00305.JPGthey grazed about, I saw some of them frisking about and even though the size of small lorries, they were bounding about with glee.  It was amusing to see them sproing about, especially given you could barely see any legs!  Corry and I saw this picture while out shopping…proof that merino really can make one hot keep one warm!

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dsc00292.JPGOh…and here’s a kiwi…and a kitty!!  (Watch out, kiwi!!!)

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Love, Jan

Currently On the Needles, Or Recently Off

Dear Ellen,

With in flight time totaling over 46 hours to and from New Zealand and then another 15 hours to and from Germany, I’ve gotten a good bit of knitting accomplished or started.  I did spend some of the time pretending to sleep (as opposed to actually sleeping), but much time was put in on Cookie A’s German Stocking (which I’m calling Kniestrümpfe) and I did a repeat (as in another entire copy vice a single pattern repeat) of Casual Traveler called On the Road Again and cast on a new sweater I’m calling TGIF.

dsc00481.JPGI had a real mental block in getting these started — they are actually a re-start of a project I had begun in 2007 — and left on an airplane. The original was out of Wollmeise to make it even worse. The trip was to Hawaii and these were to be my beach knitting. I did make it to a local shop to replace the yarn and needles, but then couldn’t get past my “grieving” to cast on and get moving on them. I had another project with me which ended up getting my attention instead and when I got home, the little aloha pattern project bag got set aside. I’d look at it wistfully on occasion, but I just couldn’t move past the lost effort.

Then came Yarnover and classes with Cookie. In the patterns she had available for sale, there was the “German Stocking” pattern. It goaded me into contemplating my mental block — and finally, I moved past it. I cast on last month and have made great progress. That is, once I studied the pattern — it’s a bit confusing in points, but can be worked out if one takes it deliberately and spreads out at a desk. Not the wisest choice for airplane knitting with bad lighting and a yarn colorway that wasn’t a great choice given that I was working on black needles!  (Graphite, Baby!!)   Anyway, I do love the way it’s turning out — except I should have gone down an inch or more in the calf size. If you decide to make these (and I’m speculating this may be good advice for any of Cookie A’s knee socks) GO FOR THE NEGATIVE EASE…turns out the twisted rib is plenty stretchy and if you knit to gauge and to the stitch count for your calf measurement, you stand to get a slouchy sock. When I’m finished I’ll do a swatch with my remaining yarn and toss it in the wash to see if it snugs up or semi-felts….if the former, the socks will get that treatment and they should be fine. If the latter, I’ll sew elastic thread through the cuff and that will be fine too. I’m not entirely sure of the yarn — the shopkeeper wound it for me, and I’ll be damned if I can lay hands on any ball bands at this point. It was early enough in my return to knitting that I wasn’t all that focused on keeping track of my projects.   I’m pretty sure it’s Cherry Tree Hill, and definitely a semi-solid, but the skeins I got were smaller than they offer today, so either CTH has changed their yardage per skein, or I’m just wrong about the yarn after all.

dsc00511.JPGOn the Road Again should look very familiar.  I told my executive assistant that I wanted to make her something for her farewell (she’s transferring next month) and she asked for a shawlette.  I pointed her at a grunch of shawl and shawlette patterns and she picked out Traveling Woman.  I laughed that our tastes were so close.  Then I pointed her at some on line sites and yarn weights to choose a color.  She chose the exact same yarn I chose for mine.  And, yes, she had seen mine — once — but that had been a while ago.  I will miss her.  Now I know why she was so good at anticipating my needs and desires!  I did add one extra repeat of the lace motif just to inject a bit of difference!

dsc00313.JPGI also cast on with some of my new yarn from New Zealand.  I’m working on Girl Friday which I couldn’t resist naming TGIF.  Corny, yes…but reflective of how much I do look forward to Fridays…especially when I don’t have to go to work on Saturday.  I swatched the yarn the day I bought it and cast on two days later. I knit the bottom ribbing of the back section so that I could legitimately claim having started this sweater while still in New Zealand. The yarn is Naturally Aran Tweed in colorway 82 which is a gorgeous melange of autumn colors…gorgeous.  It’s a heavy aran weight so though I’m knitting the L, it will fit loosely — more like an XL — at least if my math based on the gauge swatch is right!

I have a few other projects begging to get on the needles — yes, including swatches for the Master’s!

Love, Jan

Kitten smitten…

Dear Jan,

The kittens, all 5 of them, came home with us this weekend.  We are babysitting while Carol and Chuck visit family in Indiana.

115.jpg29.jpg35.jpg46.jpg52.jpgGetting used to a new locale is very tiring.

62.jpg82.jpg102.jpg141.jpgBut we can stay awake long enough to look adorable.

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116.jpg131.jpgBe careful – we have sharp claws.  And laser beam eyes!

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74.jpg91.jpgOur two favorite activities are attacking our siblings and attacking our dinner.

122.jpgEnjoying a nice lap is good, too.

Love from Kittenville,

Ellen

1000 Hats!!!

Dear Ellen,

1000-hats.jpgAnnie’s book is out!  And we’re in it!!  At least our hats are.  I don’t have a copy yet, but I got the notice and will order copies from Quarry Books tonight.  And your winning pattern should be in there!  Yippee!!!  When I get a copy to review, I’ll do so — and then I think a contest will be in order!

Love, Jan

Fleecy lessons

Dear Jan,

This whole process of processing a fleece has been full of lessons, not the least of which is don’t go look at the fleece sale unless you are OK with the idea of coming home with one or more fleeces.

I learned how to process a fleece in the washing machine.  Nothing exploded, or more aptly given the fear of felting, nothing entered a black hole, and I got a bunch of clean fiber, some of which I’ve already spun into yarn that I love.

110.jpgThe wool before washing is sticky and smelly.

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25.jpgYou put it in lingerie bags in a STILL washtub full of very hot water with lots (about a cup) of Dawn dish detergent.  Soak about 45 minutes, then spin (NO RINSING!).  Repeat if still nasty (I did – this shot is after the first soak).

33.jpg43.jpgTo rinse, fill the tub with hot water but no detergent.  To prevent felting, keep the water temps the same throughout and make sure the machine never agitates or sprays water on the wool.  It comes out kind of dense packed but fluffs right up.  Amazing transformation, almost as much fun as blocking lace.

I’ve learned to card, that Less is More as far as getting really lofty puffs of fiber that roll into rolags that draft like a dream.

73.jpg81.jpgStarting material, before and after loading the carder.

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9.jpg10.jpgStarting and finishing the first pass, with a chance to pull some vegetable matter (VM) out of the fiber.  Lots of dirt falls out, too.

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112.jpg121.jpgAfter 3 or 4 passes, a fluff cloud of fiber, ready to be rolled into a cute rolag.

151.jpgI’ve learned that it pays to mix up your locks of wool as you card – unless you want the second skein to look different from the first.

32.jpg41.jpgI’ve learned that different colors from the same sheep spin slightly differently and feel different, too.  It may be more about the location on the animal, but grey back wool sure feels different from white belly wool.

61.jpg51.jpg113.jpgI’ve learned that yarn you spin from a fleece you processed yourself at first is yarn you want to hoard for yourself, then transforms into little love bombs you want to send out into the universe.  I have a knitter friend going through a family challenge, and one of these skeins is headed her way.

I have to admit, I’m hoarding the other one.  I guess there is more to learn.

Love,

Ellen

Worsted case scenario…

Dear Jan,

I’m starting to think this spinning thing is not a fad.  In fact, based on my ability to focus on it, I’d say gainful employment is a fad, but spinning is a trend, no a movement – heck, maybe a new paradigm!  Give me a mug so I can print a spinning slogan on it, this initiative is here to stay.

16.jpgI give you evidence – 738 yards of something between a light fingering weight and a fingering weight worsted spun.  This is the first yarn I’ve spun that is beckoning, no, shouting,  at me to knit it up.  I see a scarfy shawl, something to get this color up around my neck.

23.jpgI still have some work to do on getting my singles even and my plying twist consistent.

19.jpgThe fiber is a Lorna’s Laces hand-dyed top in the colorway Beverly (209).  The colors varied tremendously in their draftability – that periwinkle was downright sticky.

18.jpgThe camera loved this stuff.

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17.jpgAlmost as much as I love beans.  (hah – you didn’t see that coming, did you?  I couldn’t resist sharing this cheerful blend of beans with you – oh, they were tasty)

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The beans are definitely a trend, too.

More spinning!  Powered by beans!

Love,

Ellen

Kiwi Teaser

Dear Ellen,

dsc00311-1.JPGI know you’re dying to hear about the trip to New Zealand.  In short, it was GREAT!  I have lots of great pictures and good stories and much productive work was done with my colleagues from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to support our common interest in global security.  But face it, the really important thing is that I scored some awesome yarn and fiber.  I’ll provide more details this coming weekend, but for now will at least give you this view of my haul which I considered an investment in the Kiwi economic health.  Note the swatch — I cast on for “Girl Friday” before I left!

Love, Jan

Kittens and Knittin’s…

Dear Jan,

A busy work week means  a lot of fiber activity gets pushed into one post at the end of it.  And then you go see kittens and the knitting becomes an afterthought.  I am afraid the kitten:knitting ratio will be a bit out of balance for this post.

4.jpg21.jpgThe kitties grew a lot this week and are developing personalities.  The two biggest are going to have medium to long hair – cashmere soft.

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3.jpg6.jpgThe two littlest, both black, are girls. The solid black is sweet, and the runt, with a white chest spot, is a pickle biscuit, as Carol says.

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5.jpgThe middle kitty is another little girl.  She’s vivacious – wrasslin’ with her sisters, but sweet and wants to cuddle, too.

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71.jpgIt’s getting hard to fit everyone in at dinner time.

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2.jpgI’d better fit a little knitting in.  A couple quicky projects this week – a baby bib for the new daughter of a work colleague and matching doll bib for big sister.  The pattern is of my own design, so I’ll get it written up for sharing.  Both are from one ball of Lily Sugar ‘n’ Cream, with some to spare.

14.jpgAnd I’ve finally finished spinning all of this multi-color top into singles and have gotten on with the plying.  Details when I finish up the job.

Safe travels and love to you,

Ellen