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Twins bound by a love of knitting talk about knitting and more.

Archive for March, 2011


Kai it, you’ll like it…

Dear Jan,

110.jpgI’ve found a fabulous sock pattern, a balance between mindless and intricate, the kind that divides the sock up into bits that break up the action and keep you knitting away just to see what comes next.

24.jpgKai-Mei, by Cookie A, starts as a simple rib sock then gives you a swath of Japanese stitchery across the arch.  When knit in Ty-Dye sock yarn, you have the fun of seeing new colors rolling off the needles, then the heel flap, then the fun of lace motifs mixed up with new colors, all of which just pulls you through the knitting.

I hope this means the second sock won’t get delayed by second sock syndrome and I’ll have these pretty things finished before too long.

34.jpgBut one does not live by socks alone.  I’m trying to spin up the rest of Nora, hoping for a sweater’s worth of fingering weight.  Here is where we stand, with each batt and each storage bobbin holding about 1 oz of fiber. I hope to finish the singles before I head off on an extended business trip next week.  I’ll keep you posted.

43.jpgIt may be a tougher challenge than I anticipated.  It seems my lap is a cat magnet, which makes it harder, though not impossible, to spin.  It’s nice to be loved, if only for your body heat.

You are loved, and definitely not just for your body heat (which would be a bit of an odd thing for which your sister to love you) (cold nights in the upstairs of the ill-insulated house on West Park notwithstanding)!

Ellen

Dr. Yarn is all spaced out!

Dear Jan,

This month Dr. Yarn spills the beans on some top secret plans for exploring the fiber-sphere.

We are privileged to have friends in such high places!

Love,

Ellen

___________________

picture-7.png Q: From Melanie in Fox Wood, South Dakota “I heard on Fox News that soon there would be knitting in space. What is the story on this?”

A: I’m sorry the story leaked out —but it is true. A couple of senators are lobbying NASA to get the project on an upcoming mission.  It came about because several knitters noticed that on West/East flights, say from Hawaii to Las Vegas, they could not get nearly as much knitting done as on the East/West flights, say New York to Seattle, during which they actually seemed to gain an hour or more of knitting time. This got several of us hypothesizing that in space the needles would be lighter, the yarn would float into proper position for catching under the tip of the needle, and one could knit like the wind (800 km of yarn/s, if you are comparing to solar wind speed).

This project will save the taxpayers money in the long run because garments can be made so much more quickly and dropped in packages directly to the stores that ordered them. Members of the public often become opposed to projects like this because they cost millions of  dollars, but they don’t recognize the long-range benefits such as all the newly employed taxpayers and the possibility of bringing the stash expansion into balance.

Please keep this news under your hat for a while. There are so many hot heads (without warm hats) in Washington who just don’t understand.

(In hopes of) Spring cleaning…

Dear Jan,

81.jpg71.jpgDon’t worry, I’m not talking about housecleaning, I’m talking about wool washing.  Despite the reblooming of my Solstice Cactus (does it think it’s an equinox cactus now, too?), and despite the snow that re-filled out backyard this week, I know warm temperatures are on their way.  Time to get dirty fleeces washed before they attract insects.

33.jpg42.jpgI’ve been storing two Columbia fleeces in my garage, depending on the deep freeze to keep the insects down, but knowing I was taking a risk of other vermin.  I lucked out – when I unrolled this bale o’ wool, I found one small mouse nest full of seeds, but no mouse and amazingly no signs of mouse pee damage.   The second fleece had no signs of mouse whatsoever.

5.jpgPicking the fleeces is a messy job – besides mouse nests, you find all sorts of vegetation (pre- and post-digestion), lots of sticky lanolin, and general dirt.  I sorted out the good stuff from each fleece, ending up with about 10-12 pounds total to process.

61.jpg91.jpgI’m going to send one fleece out and process one at home.  I wanted to get an idea of how well it would clean up, so I washed a bit in the bathroom sink.  Can you believe it is the same stuff?  It combed out to a lovely puff of fiber – this is going to be fun to spin!

23.jpg19.jpgGratuitous kidden picture – the girls were posing while waiting for birds to come to the window feeder.  They were pretty upset that I closed them out of the room while I picked the fleeces.  But we’ve made up, and Selkie is in my lap right now.  Her plush fur doesn’t require any picking.  I wonder when the right time of year for shearing cats is?

I hope Spring is finding you,

Love,

Ellen

Daybreak…

Dear Jan,

17.jpgHere’s a quick post before I head to Toronto on business.  I’ll be taking a new shawl with me – Stephen West’s Daybreak, knit of Mirasol Nuna on size 4 Addi Lace needles.

22.jpg18.jpgI’m loving everything about this little piece – the drape of the yarn from the bamboo, the shimmer of the silk, the swing of the design, and the way the colors balance each other so nicely.

41.jpgAnd it is snug and warm with the wool in the blend – good for a night when we are expecting yet more snow.

Ah, well, as sure as Day breaks, spring will certainly spring.  Maybe in less time than it took me to knit this shawl?

Must go pack – have a great week!

Love,

Ellen

If Spring won’t come to you, you have to go to Spring…

Dear Jan,

Spring seems to be having a hard time finding the Twin Cities.  True, it’s been delightfully warm this week, but we still are mostly snow-covered and the piles of snow covering the crocuses that line our driveway are thigh-high.

16.jpgLucky for me, I had a business trip that took me back to Columbus and Ohio State.  And the witchhazel bushes (Hamamelis vernalis) that used to greet me with their delicate, ribbon-petaled flowers as I walked to class at the end of winter quarter were still there, in full bloom.  I can go back to Minnesota feeling sure that in a few weeks we’ll be seeing blooms of some sort at home, too.

21.jpgNot a lot of knitting time this week, but airports and knitting go hand in hand and I made some time on my Daybreak.  I’m into the border, now, but may make that wider than specified in the pattern as I cheated on the striped section when my brown yarn ran out and fear the overall shawl would otherwise be a bit small for good neck draping.

I did tiny bit of the last brown row in blue – we’ll see how often I notice that when I wear the shawl.  I’m sure I’ll notice the lovely hand that this yarn has – Mirasol Nuna, a blend of bamboo, wool, and silk, and bringing the best properties of all three.  The bamboo feels cool and drapey, the wool makes it a comfortable knit with enough spring in it, and the silk luster adds the finishing touch.  On a size 4 needle the fabric is fluid but far from sheer.

31.jpgI also made some progress on my traveling socks – finally getting to the heel on this fine fingering weight.  The Ty-Die sock yarn is a wonderful knit with every changing colors (not well represented here – much prettier and greener rather than brown), and I’m working on my Signatures (thanks, K!), so the slow progress is still plenty of fun.  But I can’t wait to get to the interesting stuff in this pattern by Cookie A – a lacy butterfly stitch that swings across the arch.

It will have to wait as I have a surprise knitting project in the works.  Unbloggable for now as the recipient may read the blog, and not very big, but big enough to keep me from knitting the sock at all odd minutes.

I should really be using these odd minutes to catch up on some work email that piled up while I was traveling, so I’ll sign off now.  And try really hard not to pick up my knitting bag instead of signing on to work.

I hope your weekend is filled with the work you want,

Love,

Ellen

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Dear Jan,

Now that Warm Hats Not Hot Heads has entered a steadier phase with the occasional hat mailed and update posted, rather than an all-consuming-let’s-knit-another-hat-this-week-and-now-one-more phase, I have returned to other symptoms of my fiber addiction with a vengeance.

4.jpg2.jpgI spent Saturday at StevenBe’s, knitting and spinning with my work knitting club and of course, enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Steven and his staff.  I always fail to take enough photos, but here at least is a shot of Steven and of a fabulous new yarn discovery – Schulana’s Mosco, a rayon, mohair, nylon blend that is so drapey and soft, and the mohair halo burnishes the edges of ribbing and cables so wonderfully – wow, this yarn deserves some real attention.  It is about a heavy fingering weight.  Doubled, it looks like a nice stand in for dk or worsted.

8.jpgSome Mosco came home with me, along with some rovings and yarn from a new indy-dyer.  Alisha Goes Around is a young woman running her business out of her kitchen, and I sure hope it goes well because I want more of her incredible colors in my stash.  She charmed Steven and Jessie, and that is good enough for me.  This one is her Marmalade (of Ponies) Fingering weight in colorway Landscape.  Did I mention that her names are enchanting?

9.jpg10.jpgHome for a quick dinner with Wilson, then off to Lisa’s for a knit night that was a benefit for an industry scholarship program.  4 hours later, and I came home with a completed scarf out of Linie On-line Zico pom pom yarn.  It is wonderfully soft and a little girl I know will love it in her holiday package next year.  (Wow, done with some holiday knitting this early!  Of course, must knit another one of these for her sister…)  This yarn is wild – you knit it by knitting the short cords between the pom poms.  66 stitches and 28 rows later, you have a scarf.

12.jpg14.jpgSunday morning I ran over to Deb’s where we spun together for a bit before I headed back to Steven’s for a spinning lesson – linen, hemp, and bamboo (rayon) were on the menu.  I did a passable job and am happy with the results so far, but maybe it would have been a good idea to spin some dyed flax fiber so it wouldn’t be so reminiscent of twine.  I have enough linen to knit up a scrub cloth, and enough of the hemp (tan fiber in second picture) to edge it.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with about 5 yards of bamboo, but it was interesting to spin.

11.jpgAlso on my wheel this weekend, more of Nora, the TargheeXFinnX?X? cross.  I have been spinning up one ounce batts and then transferring them to plastic bobbins.  I’m not 100% sure why these two are so different in size – I’m hoping it is only because I wound off the top singles into a center pull ball first.  Maybe the yarn breathed a bit?  The idea behind the plastic bobbins is that they are a cheap way to warehouse the singles until I can ply them all at once.  I’m trying to work up another sweater’s-worth and want to get maximum uniformity.

7.jpgI’m cranking through this project fairly quickly, partly because I can’t wait to spin up the top I purchased from Erica at Designknit.  I love her dyeing, partly because of her science background and the chromatographic way she approaches this sport, partly because what’s not to love about her colors?  Check out her recent post in which she tries, rather successfully, I think, to emulate the cardinal against a winter landscape in one of my posts a few weeks back.

6.jpg15.jpgYes, you and the kiddens are right, this post is over-long and a bit tedious.  My apologies for clearing the pipes out.  One more gratuitous photo – my long awaited amaryllis, blooming just in time to nurse me through a couple more weeks of winter and snow-filled yards.

And now it is past-time for me to sign off and get ready for bed and another work week.  (But maybe another hour or two of fiber?)

Love,

Ellen

I’d Spring Back if I Had Any Snap Left in My Elastic

Dear Ellen,

dsc02440.JPGdsc02446.JPGdsc02424.JPGI can’t believe that spring is here.  I know you can’t either.  Of course, the fact that you still have massive piles of snow probably affects your view of things, but down here we have robins, daffodils and lots of mud.  The tree buds are swelling and some of the cherry trees are actually blooming.  The think I hate about spring being here is the loss of an hour this weekend.  I was tired enough without trying to manage the day without that hour.  And I had to drag myself out of bed before I was ready in hopes of going to be on EST vice DST.  If I don’t 4:45 AM will feel like 3:45 AM House tomorrow and that would not be a good way to start the work week.

dsc02425.JPGI’m pleased to report that we will now be able to tell the direction of the wind at Fair Winds.  Our weathervane went on the turret this week.  Only problem is you have to subtract about 65 degrees or so from the heading as they failed to correctly align the directionals.  Oh well!  This one is easily fixed…and can actually be used as a learning point for when our inlaid wood medallion goes into our floor — something that cannot be easily fixed!  With this error, I think dsc02429.JPGdsc02436.JPGdsc02428.JPGthey’ll be extra careful to have the compass out when they put the medallion in!  We now also have interior trim through much of the house and garage doors…it all adds to a more complete looking house.  I am so eager to see it when the rest of the window trim goes on and the landscaping gets started!

dsc02450.JPGdsc02451.JPGdsc02452.JPGI have finished a bit on knitting this week…not really that much volume, but hats do go quickly.  Yes, I’m working on another hat for Warm Hats Not Hot Heads, but the ones I finished this week were for an charity effort for Haiti where it is surprisingly cold at night.  These three will head off to join others to make the journey to help those still trying to recover form the earthquake last year…makes my concern for those in New Zealand and Japan even more acute when I realize how far from recovery Haiti still is.  I’ll be watching for an opportunity to help the kiwis and Japanese too.

dsc02448.JPGThe more complex project I’ve been working on is my Primula Shawl.  (Sorry, still no project page…in fact, I’m about 10 project pages behind at this point!)  I’ve added some extra rows of patterning to the project to use up the yarn and I’m pretty darned pleased with it for a first complex shawlette pattern.  I do have some real tweaking to do.  I want the ends to wrap more to the front like a faroese shawl, so just a bit of adjustment.  I love the color — the color for ovarian cancer awareness.  You may remember that Ann’s Hat was designed and knit for a friend with ovarian cancer.  (That pattern is up to 54 projects and is in 67 queues!)  This shawl is for her as she continues the fight.  All that’s left is the bind off and blocking.

dsc02454.JPGHere’s a picture of the Blue Spiral Cowl that I knit from stash yarn using the pattern Spiraluscious.  Glad I had listened to The Knit Wits podcast where Princess Carin the Knit had problems with that one extra stitch.  I have to admit that if I hadn’t been watching for the problem spot, I probably would have done the same thing.  The way the pattern is written, it’s easy to misinterpret it so that you think you are to increase a stitch each time you do row 16.  Reading it very deliberately you realize you are only supposed to do that the LAST TIME you knit row 16.  Technically, it’s written correctly, but I do think it warrants a bit more clarity for those of us who have exhausted a few too many brain cells.

dsc02449.JPGI still think of my cabled socks and the Sweater from Down Under as WIPs, but they are rapidly heading towards UFO status if I don’t get back to them soon.  I have the sweater ready to join me downstairs so I can match cabling down the sleeves while I work on them.  The socks come and go to PA with us in their nice little project bag.  At least they know I’m thinking of them.

51btz-3nbll_sl500_aa300_.jpgI want to close with a book review.  When I saw a dog that looked so much like Ruby on the cover, I couldn’t resist buying a copy of  Knit Your Own Dog:  Easy to Follow Patterns for 25 Pedigree Pooches by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne.  It is such a great little book!  I want to start taking pictures of all the dogs I know so I can recreate them in yarn.  The book doesn’t walk you through the process of “matching” your actual dog’s coloration to their patterns, but really, it’s just a matter of modifying the color patterns, the actual body patterns don’t have to change.  The author’s have their own knitwear business in London and they export completed garments as well as writing some great patterns.  They have two earlier books centered on pet accessories.  These gals obviously both love their pets and they know them very, very well.  I love that the patterns are extremely realistic and as the authors point out, the patterns include “details specific to each breed.”  They look to be clearly written, achievable for an intermediate knitter (there is fair isle, intarsia and shaping at a very fine gauge) who also knows how to manipulate fabric with a sewing needle.  I love them!  There are patterns for terriers, working dogs, sporting dogs, hounds and non-sporting.  I can’t decide which is my favorite, but I’m partial to the terriers of course,  and the corgi and the westie crack me up.  I’m dying to cast on — but it will require some planning as I’ll need to break my yarn diet to do it.  (Though there is that clause about buying yarn for gift knitting!)  The introduction ends with the encouragement to “Stitch your bitch.”  When I first skimmed it, I thought it said, “Stitch, you bitch.”  And I wondered, how did they know?

Love, Jan

Many warm hats are out the door! (What next?)

Dear Jan,

1.jpgIt was great to see your bag of hats ready to be mailed.  I had a similar pile, and I’m hearing from so many of the knitters who signed on to knit that they, too, have gotten their hats mailed or hand delivered.

3.jpgEven as I am sending out one more hat (a beautiful tam knit by Susan!), the responses are starting to come in!  Bonniebeth reports receiving a thank you letter, specifically for the hat and the message, and Kathleen even received a thank you phone call from the Representative to whom she sent a hat.  Alison has had several great experiences with staffers joyfully accepting hats for their bosses.  Dozens of knitters have felt the satisfaction of making a small but meaningful effort to increase civility in the U.S. political system.  It would be great to just keep this going and going…if I didn’t really need to focus on my day job a bit.  But this is too good to just drop, so here is what I’m thinking.

  • Knitters have committed hats to cover 100% of the Senate and nearly 50% of the overall Congress.
  • Many knitters have knit hats for congresspeople outside of their own district or even state.  This gave us the coverage we wanted so that conversations could start within the halls of the Capitol building.  At the same time, we know that our elected officials pay most attention to those who can vote for them come November.
  • The job of keeping track of commitments to knit, choosing people for whom others should knit, etc., has grown beyond what I can fit into my life.  It’s time to make this self-maintaining to some degree.

SO….here is what we will do.  We’re going to make this more manageable for me, more meaningful for each hat sent, and more lasting by making it bigger. Yep, bigger.

I now invite knitters and crocheters everywhere to stitch a hat for anyone who they’d like to thank for being a role model for civility or who may need a reminder that civility is the right path forward.  Do please check the tracker and see if your own U.S. Representative has had a hat yet – it would be awesome to eventually cover 100% of the House as well as the Senate – but don’t feel like you have to knit for someone you can’t vote for.

Who to knit for?

  • How about a second hat (or third or fourth) for your congresspeople if someone else knit their first one?
  • How about that television pundit who makes your stomach hurt when they brandish opinion as fact and rile up fear instead of reason?
  • How about your local politicians?

Please leave a comment on this blog AFTER you knit and mail your hat.  I will track these on our Warm Hats Not Hot Heads Recipients List, over on the sidebar of this blog.  You can also email me at (e DOTdon’tspellitout! silva AT comcast DOT net) or send me a private message on the WHNHH Ravelry group.  I’m going to keep this up indefinitely, so feel free to send a hat this month, next month, or even next election cycle.  Just let me know when you do.

Do feel free to discuss your plans to knit over on the Ravelry group – share ideas on how to expand the effort and who might need or deserve a hat.  This is now the knitting public’s effort.  I do ask that we stay civil ourselves – that is my only real requirement and I will moderate the group’s discussions with that in mind.

I hear from reliable sources that a hat is in the works for Stephen Colbert.  Does that give you any ideas of whom you’d like to knit for?

Thanks for all the support on this.