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Archive for December, 2010


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???

Fa la la la laaaaaa……

Hi, Jan,

Sorry for the prolonged absence.  I’ve been consumed by holiday merriment.  The final notes of the holiday are being sung, though, so I should be returning to our previously scheduled programming over the coming days.  My narration of the last week and a half will be minimal - I’ll let the pictures tell the tale.

26.jpg12/22 - Margaret, Merry, Jon arrive from Arizona!  Apparently we were visited by aliens, too.  Jon found this one in the potatoes he was scrubbing for dinner.

121.jpg32.jpg51.jpg12/23 - Helen and Neil arrive from WV!  And candy cane fingernails get decorated.  Visitors stop bearing treasures.

81.jpg42.jpg10.jpg94.jpg112.jpg12/24 -  The tree’s turn for decorating, including the ritual placement of the shining hippo at the top.  We took the traditional Christmas Eve walk, where Merry and Jon demonstrated the aftermath of the snowiest December ever in Minneapolis.  And bayberry candles were burnt to the nubs for luck.

113.jpg181.jpg161.jpg191.jpg12/25 - Marty and Paula arrive!  The gifts were fun, the food was, too.  A Jedi knight visited us, Margaret found the pickle (Karen knit this one), we had snowy fir trees in our cauliflower brie soup, and of course there were 3 kinds of pie.

211.jpg20.jpg12/26-12/29 - Reading, talking, cooking, knitting, football games on TV, clearing snow dams off the roof, book discussion (this year was The Bridge of San Luis Rey), playing with toys, playing with kittens, a visit to Macy’s holiday display, taking in the British Ad Awards at the Walker, even a few minutes spinning with Margaret…admittedly, it all blurs a bit.  Oh, and there was more food.  I won’t bore with the entire list, but perhaps my favorite meal was the Indian dinner - palak paneer (homemade paneer), chana masala, potato & pea masala, smoky chili eggplant, and squash curry.  Storebought naan, because I’d hate to be a food show off (hah!).

63.jpg110.jpgSome knitting to display - Merry wore the sweater Helen knit for her over the course of the year after picking out yarn and pattern last Christmas.   It’s a Drops design, I can’t quite recall which one, and the yarn is Rowan Wool Cotton. And I shopped for grosgrain ribbon with which to edge my front bands on my all finished but the buttons Eyelet Cardi, In Honor of Pele.

M, M, and J left yesterday, on 12/30.  M&P leave today, and Helen and Neil start their long drive tomorrow.   As always, we had a wonderful time laughing, sharing, bonding, and as always, the quiet will be lovely as well.

7.jpg171.jpgAnd as always, the kids had more fun with the wrapping paper than with the actual gifts.

We are all counting on you completing Fair Winds in the coming year, as we plan to hold the celebration there next year.  Just warning you.

Love,

Ellen

Happy Feet

Dear Ellen,

dsc01735.JPGdsc01733.JPGI finished!  I finished!  All the holiday knitting that is.  The longest project to work were the dress socks for Dale.  The slog was well worth it though.  Having originally been resistent to the idea of hand knit socks, I believe I have won Dale over.  They are out of Fiber-phile Merino Cashmere Sock Yarn, a delicious blend of superwash merino, cashmere and nylon.  The design is basically a toe-up vanilla with an inset of a 2 stitch cable on the outside of each leg.  Had I done more, I know he wouldn’t wear them.

dsc01728.JPGThanks to your adventures in cashmere-washability-testing, I am even going to allow him to put these in the washer.  That last bit was the downfall of his final resistance as he just could not see wearing socks that had to be hand washed.  (Of course, he’s been watching me machine wash my hand knit socks for years now…not sure why he thought his would be special.)  It will warm my heart to see him warm his feet with socks made just for him by me!

Love, Jan

Christmas at Fair Winds

Dear Ellen,

dsc01710.JPGdsc01708.JPGDale and I rose early to open our stockings and a few gifts at home this morning.  We usually take our time and make it last all morning long, but this morning we blew through it pretty quickly and left little behind.  The reason for our speed act was so that we could get on the road up to Pennsylvania.

dsc01712.JPGdsc01715.JPGWe drove to Lancaster and met the girls for a really nice champagne brunch at a local hotel.  We got some pictures with Santa and then filled our bellies with some really good food and drink.  Afterward we quickly changed into more comfortable (and warm) clothes and then we headed down to Fair Winds so we could officially celebrate our first dsc01724.JPGimg_5250.JPGChristmas in the new house, complete with our tiny tree and presents exchanged between the four of us.  It was great fun…though also pretty darned cold!  As you can see, we’ve dsc01722.JPGimg_5233.JPGnow got a roof, but still no windows.  A few snowflakes found their way in to our festivities, but they couldn’t dampen our spirits a bit.  Both Marie and Heidi seemed almost as thrilled as we are about the progress — Marie called guest bedroom dibs as she expects us to have many a full house.  We certainly hope that will be the case.

dsc01721.JPGdsc01705.JPGdsc01703.JPGOn the drives up and back I continued my Christmas knitting…am now with striking distance of finishing Dale’s second sock!  Here’s hoping I can call it done on Christmas!  (I did finish all my other efforts — including the mitts to match the Cloisters Cap that I made for Marie and a headband for Heidi.  Silly me, I didn’t get a picture of her wearing it.  I did, however, get a picture of this yarn ball tree at Macy’s when as finishing my Christmas shopping!

Love, Jan

I Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling…

Dear Ellen,

This time of year it is impossible to stop Dale from humming and whistling Christmas songs.  Most amusingly, he is usually making up new words for them.  This is not a problem.  Except I get them stuck in my head.  Consider, to the tune of Sleigh Bells, “We have silly little dogs, they look like pollywogs do…Their names are Max and Ruby, they’re cuddly and cutie…like you.”  I guess that’s a compliment.

dsc01695.JPGdsc01701.JPGWe are getting quite into the holiday spirit.  The cards and packages made it out in time that they have a real chance to make it to their destinations by Christmas.  I am nearly done with Christmas knitting — the giant socks for Dale, a headband for Heidi, and a knitted flower embellishment for a headband remain.  Last night I gave Jessie the newboy cap I knit for her and she loved it.  Doesn’t she look great?  And I finished a moebius cowl for our friend Lisa.  I think there will be more knitted gifts next year, but I’m going to plan them out earlier.

I hope your holiday is FANTASTIC!

Love, Jan

Don’t Blink…

Dear Ellen,

If you blink, you might miss going from this…

dsc01646.JPG to this…

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dsc01658.JPGdsc01684.JPGWe were pleasantly shocked to see how much progress has been made at Fair Winds.  The framing crew is doing a fantastic job and we are blessed to actually have 3 journeymen in the crew — usually there is only 1.  Plus it’s a 5 person crew vice the usual 4, so they are racing through the stick build.  We got to go inside and feel the house…we kept ’squeeing’ as we walked through the floor plan and could see our dreams coming into reality.  It’s still missing the wrap around porch — that will make the turret feel more connected — but we could tell how we’ll live in it.  So cool!

dsc01683.JPGThe basement is huge…could have a bowling alley down there.  Instead it will be Dale’s workshop and office, and the workout area, and a recreation area for grandkids…and the wine cellar…and the sauna.  I did say it was big.

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dsc01674.JPGdsc01667.JPGThe views from my studio are absolutely stunning…and the view out the back wall o’ windows is to die for.  When it’s complete we should spend many, many happy hours knitting (and even spinning) there.

dsc01648.JPGdsc01649.JPGI seem to be missing pictures of all my knitting, but here’s a few of the little rolled brim hat I made for the new baby boy of one of Dale’s co-workers.  I’ve also been working on a variety of hats including Jocelyn’s Cloister hat.  It turned out great and I mailed it off to Marie without pictures.  I’ll try to get here to wear it next time we’re together so I can grab a shot of it.

Much Christmas prep to go…therefore must sign off!

Love, Jan

Crawling out from under the snowdrift…

Hi, all,

Thanks for the wishes for better health.  They (and the antibiotics and likely just the natural course of things) seem to be working and I am dressed and working at my desk and not in bed today.  I’m sure I’ll be back to work next week.

93.jpgAll week I’ve been looking at this snowdrift whenever I  stumbled to the kitchen for tea.  And today, my desk looks straight out at it.  Now that I’m feeling better, I have plans for it.  You’ll have to wait and see, as I’ve promised not to overdo, but I hope that in bits and pieces I can tackle and transform it over the weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll share a marvelous side effect of being flat on your back sick the week before your in-laws (MIL, FIL, BIL, 2 SIL’s, niece, nephew) show up for a full week at your house*.  Your mother-in-law, if she is as wonderful as mine, will influence your husband into agreeing to a cleaning service to prep the house.  I’m pretty sure that the relief of the stress of how to get the house clean from my bed is partly responsible for my recovery, too.

I hope to show you the knitting that was managed while I was down for the count (though there were plenty of hours where I was too fatigued to even knit!) sometime this weekend.  In the meantime, thanks again, and stay warm.

Ellen

*It is because of things like this that a week that most people respond to in horror (your in-laws live in your house for a week?!) is one of the highlights of our year.  Believe it or not - some years we have 13 people in one house for the week with no melodrama at all (unless you count charades), but with plenty of poetry reading, cookie eating, cooking and feasting, book club, etc.   I don’t count the typical parent-child squabbles (Jon, time to stop with the video games!; Wilson, eat your squash!).  It is exhausting but tremendous fun.

Frogging under the influence…

Dear Jan,

Despite the lovely wishes of our readers and friends (thanks, guys!), this bug that was on the run turned around and bit me again.  I left work midday on Monday and dragged myself in to the doctor today.  No firm diagnosis, but he said that he would have diagnosed pneumonia based on symptoms except that there wasn’t much to observe, really, on the chest x-ray. Still, he sent me home with antibiotics and I’m sure that we will see a real turn around in the next day or so.

He also sent me home with codeine for the cough.  He warned me of the side effects - not to operate heavy machinery, not to sign any contracts, increase your fiber intake, etc., but he didn’t mention that it may lead to enhanced frogging.

Result:  about 8-10 inches of sleeve has vanished, despite my glee at being so close to finishing the 2nd sleeve, despite the number of times I convinced myself the new skein of handspun really wasn’t that much darker and my efforts to blend it this time were much more successful than last time we went through this.  In a gap in that line of reasoning, during which occurred the momentary thought “that sleeve does look darker overall than the first one or most of the body”, I suddenly found my lap full of raveled yarn.

This may prove to be disappointing in the clear light of day when I realize that what was just minutes from finishing will now take hours, likely days to complete.

But there is more cough syrup in the bottle.

Intoxicatingly yours,

Ellen

25.jpg31.jpgP.S.  I think I’m hallucinating.  A grey cat jumped in the box and it turned black!

Sick days and snow days…

Dear Jan,

I took my first sick day, and then another, in a very long time this week.  Nothing dramatic, just a lousy cold.  I knew it wasn’t the flu, because with a really bad cold you feel like your going to die and with a bad case of the flu you wish you would.  I never quite got to that point, and now am definitely on the way up, but not so much that I was much help to Wilson in clearing the 15-17″ of snow that fell in our part of the Twin Cities.

5.jpg92.jpg16.jpg19.jpgFriday night it started coming down, and by Saturday night we had a 4 foot drift on our deck, drifts piled up against the basement windows, and kitties very grateful for a woodstove.

22.jpg23.jpgI did work from home during the week, but also napped, served as cat furniture, drank tea, and yes, especially during the weekend, got some knitting in. My handspun Saroyan is now well past half-done, and I got 50% through the Second Sleeve of my In Honor of Pele cardigan  (while Wilson shoveled, poor guy). 24.jpg I did make sure and bundle him given the windchills well below 0F.

41.jpgTo break up the knitting, I spun up a bit of mystery fiber that I had purchased in Halifax last May - it was a piece of roving dyed by Handmaiden, bought in a shop that had some sort of connection to them.  They had seconds and odds and ends and I bought several.  Of course, I was going to remember what I bought.  Of course, I didn’t.

A little forensics suggests that it may be cashmere.  It is certainly soft enough.  The staple is quite short, maybe an inch and a half.  Crimpy, but not uber-crimpy like a Merino.  And challenging to spin.

62.jpgI’m spinning it fine, because there isn’t much fiber and I want more than a few yards.  This means lots of twist, as the finer the yarn the more twist needed to hold it together.  I tried to spin it worsted, but it is soft and a little slippery so I was really having to pinch it hard to keep all that twist from getting into the fiber supply. Too much stress!

3.jpgIt got better when I listened to the yarn (and to many spinning experts who say spin short staple woolen, long staple worsted) and moved to a kind of double draw woolen spinning. Pre-drafting helped a lot, too.  See the difference that a little bit of stretching of the roving makes, turning a dense rope of fiber into a cloud?  So many wonderful transformations in the spinning process…

I guess after this storm it will be months before the landscape transforms back to anything other than white.  We’ll see how that goes.  I love winter, but this one is starting awfully hard and awfully hard.

I think we just hit the point in the evening when I need to go hibernate.

Love,

Ellen

A holiday visit from Dr. Yarn…

Dear Jan,

I heard a rumor that Dr. Yarn leaves cashmere and silk in good little knitters’ stockings.  I’m not sure about that, but I am sure he leaves us all the present of knitting wisdom.

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 santa_claus_2.gifSix-year-old Virginia from Fall City, Iowa writes, ”I asked my daddy if there is a Santa Claus that knits all the doll and kitty things for Christmas. My little friends said Santa doesn’t really knit. My daddy says if I see it on the TwinSet blog, I would know it were true. Please tell me the correct answer.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus who knits little things for children and kitties. Your little friends are wrong. Santa and Mrs. Claus do lots of gift knitting for Christmas. They start right after Christmas and usually wind up around November. Some items take the Clauses right up to December 25 to finish.

Your friends are like other little children that don’t believe in elves, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, or any of Dr., Seuss’ friends. What a terrible world it would be if we didn’t believe that Santa Claus and knitting don’t belong together!

Thank you for this touching and seasonal question.

Dr. Yarn

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I am reassured.  How about you?

Love,

Ellen