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Archive for August, 2010


Micro fiber would be appropriate…

…for knitting caps for little preemie babies as in the Knitmore Girls contest.

Dear Jan,

Did you finish the cap and pattern you intended to do?  I don’t think I’ve seen your entry at their website.  You have a couple more days as they extended the deadline to the 3rd.  I’m happy with mine.  Karen is going to take it home with her and give it to one of her patients!

26.jpgThe pattern will be available after the contest is judged.  In the meantime, the basics are about 12 grams of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd’s Sock (great sock yarn, dense plying and deep colors) on size 1’s, 60 stitches around.  I used the Tree of Life pattern as a positive token for those little babes.

36.jpgKaren, visiting for a day on her way across the country to Brandon’s sister’s wedding, kept the kiddens in line while I finished up.  I’m not sure if I could have finished otherwise.

Love,

Ellen

If it’s fried and on a stick…

…it must be state fair food.

Dear Jan,

35.jpgIt’s hard to believe any nutrition can be found in such an offering, but, you know, I think falafel-on-a-stick just might do it.  At any rate, it was darned tasty - you could discern actual chickpeas and the herbs were spot on.

131.jpg15.jpg45.jpgThat was lunch today as I made a visit to the state fair.  I saw some animals, watched the draft horse show, did my annual wondering as to whether making our dairy princesses sit in a refrigerated glass booth while their likenesses are carved in butter in front of crowds of onlookers will have a chilling effect on their mental health, and generally had a pleasant day.

16.jpg25.jpgThe Fine Arts building was fine.  An example of  life depicting art depicting life, a portrait of a sheep, created by felting white sheep’s wool onto a background of black wool, won an award.  The series of photos of squashes on vacation did not, but I enjoyed them anyway.

34.jpg63.jpg I spent much of the day examining the knitting entries.  I was happy with my outcome, thrilled, actually, to win 1st place and a sweepstakes award for my gloves (Paula, that was great yarn you gave me last holiday!) and satisfied to win a 4th for my gansey.

73.jpgEverything is bigger than life at the state fair, apparently even Dead Fish Hats.

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44.jpg92.jpg10.jpgThere was plenty of Bohus sighting.  A Large Lace Collar knit by Shelly Monitor won big.  What a beauty!

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54.jpgBut what’s this?  According to the records, my Wild Apple cap had not won anything and yet here it is with a blue and a special award!!!  Dang, it sure looks better than I remembered.   Um, too good?

111.jpgYep.  Over in the back of the room was my actual cap, knit at a larger gauge than the one that did all the winning and justifiably not sporting any ribbons.   But a knitter can dream, can’t they?

24.jpg I knit a bit on the bus on the little baby hat I’m designing for the Knitmore Girls contest, and knit some more on it when I got home.  I’m maybe 50% of the way there, so finishing and writing the pattern by August 31 should be doable, shouldn’t it?  (And casting on such a small project doesn’t really count as startitis, right?)

More to come on that later.  Right now I’m busy dreaming about entries for next year’s fair.

Love,

Ellen

Votes for Women!

Dear Jan,

votes_for_women.jpgIt was just 90 years ago that women were granted the right to vote in the United States.  One of the biggest celebrations of this event occurred in Huntington, WV.  It is no surprise that Wilson’s mother, Helen, was central to the organization of a parade that involved the WV League of Women’s Voters, Marshall University students, and a myriad of community members.

Helen wore one of her mother’s dresses from the period and led the parade under a period parasol.  She looked fabulous, but not just because she was so finely dressed.  The real reason is she has spent much of her life working to bring accurate and balanced information to all voters in her many roles in the WV League of Women’s Voters.  Having an opportunity to celebrate the importance of women’s suffrage left her beaming.  Please check out some photos from the event here - Helen is the beautiful woman in cream, under the afore-mentioned parasol, in the 3rd picture.  Everyone in the family is so proud of her!

Kind readers, please don’t take the huge effort and sacrifice of those ladies of the early 1900’s for granted.  Get out there and vote in November, and do some honest research before you do.  The LWV would be a good place to start!

Love,

Ellen

Batt Sheep Crazy…

Dear Jan,

Please forgive my vulgar post title, but really, this weekend was rather nuts with fleeces and batts and, well, just look at what I had at the end of Sunday morning…

82.jpgYes.  The patio table is covered with literally pounds of batting, all the result of my borrowing Steven’s drum carder for the weekend.  My arm was aching from all the cranking, and it was with no small amount of relief that I returned the carder to StevenBe on Sunday and started spinning the results of my labors.

For those of you who have no interest in the fleece processing process, just skip to the gratuitous kitten picture at the end of the post.

14.jpgThis process started months ago when I bought the fleeces and then washed them (without agitation or rinsing!) in my washing machine.  The results were kind of condensed clumps of fleece - not felted, but definitely not fluffy.  I used my fingers (and later my hand cards) to tease these clumps open a bit and feed them into the carder.

33.jpgSeveral handfuls later, I removed the batt by sliding the doffer under the web, pulling rather than cutting the continuous piece apart.

23.jpgI split it lengthwise and then spread it widthwise and fed it back through the carder once more.  This time I let the carder really stretch the fibers as they fed in.  The result - an airy poof of loveliness.

53.jpg62.jpg72.jpgRepeat roughly 70-80 times and you have an idea of how my weekend went.  I processed my Targhee cross fleece (shown above) and my Shetland.  The former is great.  The latter is simply wonderful.  The darker batts are from the fleece from the belly and legs - coarser and a bit hairy, but still wonderful.  The grey batts?  Like buttah.  Funny to think they started out looking like little lumps of something you wouldn’t want to step in.  The transformation was enchanting, like blocking lace.

43.jpgAh, my favorite colors really are grey and black.

Love,

Ellen

P.S. Knitting happened over the weekend, too, and a little spinning.  Maybe that will make it to a midweek post, but right now I have to do a little of the work that pays for my hobbies.

Why the Midwest is where you want to be in case of zombie attack…

Dear Jan,

picture-5.pngWe are ever vigilant against potential disturbances by the undead here in the Midwest.  Don’t take my word for it, check today’s Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune.  Click to embiggen.

Safely and lovingly yours,

Ellen

Woman On Subs

Dear Ellen,

dsc00888.JPGdsc00887.JPGdsc00889.JPGI realize that this post must have had you immediately wondering why I would make mention of my luncheon habits , but actually I was referring to the tour I took last Friday of the mighty warship USS PROVIDENCE (SSN 719).  dsc00936.JPGPROVIDENCE is, of course, Allen’s submarine.  I flew up to the city of Providence* on Thursday evening and on Friday did some business at the Submarine Base and then Allen gave me a tour of his boat. **  I was so proud — mostly of the fact that I didn’t fall down any ladders, but also of how well Allen is obviously doing on board as the Supply Officer.  We spent the rest of the evening walking around New London, having pizza and laughing at funny web sites like Regretsy, The Man Repeller and Texts from Last Night.  Ah, a great mother/son evening.*

dsc00896.JPGdsc00898.JPGThe next morning I drove him up to his mechanic’s house in Hebron so he could pick up his 1973 Innocenti Mini who had been in getting a new fuel pump.  We took pictures with the mechanic’s red minis (larger and smaller!) and then headed out for breakfast and to see me off at the airport.  A very nice visit.

dsc00942.JPGWhile on the flight I started a new scarf.  You may recall that I made a Sparkly Scarf for Ava several months ago — and mom Katie made the comment that she so wanted one too.  She’s not going to get an identical one, but I’m taking the leftover yarn and making her a Lamina with the same beads. It may have to be a pattern repeat or two shorter than the pattern calls for, but it will be plenty long enough to be a nice accessory. And with all the sweaters I’ve been working on, I need some snack knitting!  I’m calling it Katie’s Sparkly Scarf because I am so creative.  dsc00941.JPGIf you look at the cast on edge, you’ll be able to see a bunch of live stitches on a stitch holder.  The instructions called for a provisional cast on so you can knit half in one direction and then return to knit the other direction (after picking up live stitches and unraveling your provisional cast on).  I figured, why not just use a toe-up sock cast on and put one half the stitches on a holder so you don’t have to screw around with any of the silliness of the waste yarn and all.  I expect it will work out perfectly.  Stay tuned.

dsc00905.JPGdsc00924.JPGdsc00935.JPGI’ve decided to go ahead and post pictures of the sweater I made last year for Allen.  (Remember, I was going to submit the pattern for publications, so couldn’t put pictures up?)  Well, I never submitted it as I decided it needed some tweaking before I would do so. Plus I’m going to knit something similar for Dale, so will use his as the submission…someday.  It will be different enough to qualify as a different pattern.  I learned a lot from making this one for Allen and am quite pleased with most of it, especially things like the applied I-cored neckline, but there are other areas that need adjustment (like shoulder width, scye depths, that kind of stuff).

dsc00944.JPGdsc00945.JPGdsc00949.JPGToday has been a quiet day.  I took the dogs for a nice long walk and enjoyed just being.  We’ve got wild grapes all over everything along the trail that the dogs and I follow.  dsc00951.JPGSome honeysuckle and wild snapdragons too, but mostly wild grapes.  The dogs pretty much ignored the flora and me.  They were far too involved in conversations of their own.  I love how much they like each other.  I could have used more nap time, but the day was pretty good regardless.

Love, Jan

* Sorry for all the bizarre new spam we are sure to get.
** Notice we fully capitalize the names of our naval vessels like PROVIDENCE (in order to make them appear even more powerful).  We do not fully capitalize the names of cities like Providence.  It’s a Navy thing.
**For you landlubbers — NO, not you laplanders! — we call submarines “boats” and we call ships…well, “ships.”

More knitting history from Dr. Yarn…

Dear Jan,

Your favorite knitting expert and mine, too, has done it again, shedding light in his own unique way our favorite subject.  Here is his August missive.

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13.jpgModern day laplanders.   Who’d a thunk such an impressive body of work could have arisen from their ancestors?  Or that they’d look so cute and pettable?  Husband added for scale.

Q: Who invented knitting anyway?

A: This goes back a long way. It started in a cold Arctic region known today as Lapland. It follows naturally that on the long winter nights, Laplanders would have to find something to do besides raise large families. Early knitted garments were prepared to place across the lap on cold nights, hence the name Lapland.

Another reason knitting started in cold climes instead of torrid regions such as Africa is that elephants have very little hair and are hard to hold down during shearing.  The Laplanders wisely raised the placid Musk Ox instead.

Sealskin jackets were going out of style, and some new fashion had to be developed. Early on they just stuffed the Musk Ox hair in jackets and comforters. They soon had too much of the stuff; fortunately, they had all these whale bones lying around after their Labor Day barbeques.   As it turned out the rib bones looked just like our curved double-pointed needles of today. It was a natural to put the two together and start making little jackets and socks.

What really set knitting off for good was when tourists started coming to Lapland and were enthralled with souvenirs.  They would spend good money for the little knitted garments. The tourists would spend 99 cents for a sweater with a picture of a moose or goat knitted in. This would be equivalent of $129 in today’s money. Nowadays knitters spend $129 for material to make a $150 sweater. Time and motion experts have figured this out to be about 10 cents an hour or about the same pay scale as in early Laplander time.

Thanks for this excellent historical question that adds depth to our knitting culture.

Dr. Yarn

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Jan, you and I know that  a handknit sweater is priceless, but I fear Dr. Yarn is referring to the price a Muggle might pay for a handknit.  I guess he’s on the mark, there, so we’ll have to measure our knitting wages in pleasure instead of dollars per hour.

Labor Day is coming up.  Do you have any barbeques planned?

Love,

Ellen

I say this as if it’s a good thing…

…because it is.

Dear Jan,

Check out the most recent Cat and Girl.  This one hit me right in the sternum and made me laugh out loud.  I think many knitters will have the same reaction.

I love that Cat is happy to hold Girl’s yarn - while she knits, not while she is rolling a ball.  That is true friendship.  And must indicate that Cat is not a knitter, or he’d never give up all that time from his own needles.

Happy Friday,

Ellen

Multiple tasks, but not multi-tasking…

Dear Jan,

In a case of the blindingly obvious, I discovered just how much one can accomplish on a 3 day weekend if one doesn’t allow one’s job to intrude.  I told folks at work that I was taking vacation and would NOT check email.  If something urgent came up, they had to call me.  I informed my boss, she said, “good for you!”, and I came home resolved to not check in until a quick look at the calendar tonight told me to what location I needed to head in the morning.

32.jpg 12.jpgWow - it sure was effective.  By focusing on home, I’ve cut a swath through a number of long ignored tasks.   Friday I picked up our new drapes (good ol’ J.C. Penney, at least until kittens stop climbing the walls), picked up my new desk (yay! no more dining room table as office!), got substantial knitting done, picked tomatoes, processed the farm share, and then, after dinner, actually started cleaning out a walk-in closet which was no longer walk-in.  Oh, and spent a fair share of time letting kittens sleep on me.

52.jpgSaturday - installed the hardware and the sheers for the new drapes, knit a bunch more, spun up the last of a batch of grey merino, and even fixed a wonderful dinner with Wilson.  And exchanged the desk for one without a scratch and got that one assembled.  The kitties helped clean up the salmon skin from dinner.

71.jpg51.jpgThe different yarns I squeezed out of my Frabjous Fibers top are kind of fun.  Here you have a single spun on a drop spindle to your left, the middle yarn is plied from one ply drop spindled (hence worsted spun) and one ply semi-woolen (long draw but from a combed top on the wheel), and the right yarn is both plies semi-woolen on the wheel.  I hope you remember my 2ply of this fiber with the silk hankies, shown separately.  That one looks most different, but take my word for it, they all feel quite a bit different and I expect will knit up in their own ways.

22.jpg42.jpgThere was a fair amount of kitten cuddling on Saturday, too.  Since it was the weekend, Wilson could help.

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7.jpg52.jpg51.jpgSunday brought State Fair Entry Day!  I am entering my gansey, my gloves, and my Wild Apple cap.  We’ll find out the results in about a week.  I’m also entering some handspun, just to get my feet wet in that arena.

91.jpg61.jpgI also finished hanging the curtains.  This was aided by kittens willing to sleep on each other instead of on me. The truly amazing thing is I did this after W & I went for an afternoon run.

81.jpgAnd a little more knitting.  I am finally to the scyes on that tank top and it should go a lot faster now.  For a little fright, click to embiggen and look at all those ends on the back.  I didn’t figure out that I could put it all on a circular needle and slide it back and forth to whatever end the color I needed was on until I started on the front.  I am going to do the unthinkable and tie these ends together - not only will this be in the seam, but this is slick cotton yarn and I think that will be the most secure method.  (This will NOT be a state fair entry at any point in its career!)

Phew, now I know why  I am so tired now.  I doesn’t compare to what you usually put into a weekend, but for me it was pretty good. Time for some shut-eye and then back to work.  Maybe focusing on that for the week will yield the same great results, even if it isn’t all as much fun.

I hope your week is productive,

Love,

Ellen

Monkeys Off My Back

Dear Ellen,

dsc00883.JPGI set aside Woodland Vines for the day and concentrated on finishing up Tropical Gorillas and moving forward on TGIF.  As nice a pattern as Cookie A’s Monkey Socks is, I am glad to say that my version is complete.  I seem to have hit the point where if socks are on my needles for more than 3 or 4 weeks, they start to bug me.  Somehow I should be able to finish them faster than that!  I do realize that work on the Vine Yoke Cardigan was a major distraction from working on the second sock.  It only took me two days once I decided I needed to take a break from the cardigan and get moving on a few other WIPs.  (I seamed the shoulder and set in the sleeves for the dsc00884.JPGGirl Friday Sweater too…tomorrow will do the side seams and sleeve seams and maybe pick up the eleventy million stitches for the shawl collar.)  In any case, these particular monkeys are off my back now.  Ironically I’m already thinking of a second pair of these.  They’re great socks!  If I can block them out a half size larger, they’ll be a Christmas present for SIL Chris.  If I can’t, oh too bad…I’ll have to keep them! They’re already too big for either you or Patty!   ;-)

Love, Jan