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

Archive for January, 2012


Don’t let the cat out of the bag…

Dear Jan,

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Without disclosing too much, I had to share a bit of the mystery knit I’ve been working on.  It would be hard to tell what the pattern is from this, wouldn’t it?  But you should be able to see how dreamy the fabric is, which makes this intense knitting session quite enjoyable (though I will still have Santas decorating my mantel in the middle of February, I’m quite sure, for all the attention I’m not giving anything else).

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You’ll find the only other knitting I have going right now a bit less mysterious – classic Argyle socks for the Master Knitter Level II course.  Lisa and I do a little bit on our portfolio of projects every week.  I’ve already made a mistake – didn’t cross the colors where two of the diamonds meet – so this will likely be the practice sock and I’ll send its mate in for judging.

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The Poison Pawn wasn’t too sure she liked the title above, but I assure you, no kiddens were injured in the making of this  post.

Love,

Ellen

On Today’s Menu…

Dear Ellen,

Today is a short day at the farm (we are heading back early for a send off party for a friend enroute to Afghanistan), but we still managed to pack a lot onto the menu.  (Not the least of which was a very yummy stew — 3 varieties of dried beans, quinoa, fennel stalks, rutabaga, savoy cabbage, carrots, onion, leeks and chicken stock plus a half dozen handsful of fresh herbs (sage, thyme and fennel feathers). Cars were washed, a new bird feeder hung and all the feeders and suet cages refilled, yarn wound, woods tromped and web site troubleshot.  I do hope that my forensic tracking identified the correct source of the obnoxious invasion from this week.

img_5812.JPGI am finding a great deal of pleasure in watching the bird feeders.  This clever red-bellied woodpecker has been frequenting them, but he also is quite self reliant.   Do you see the nut wedged into the bark of the tree?  He put it there and then he pecked it open so he could get the meat out of it.  He’s also partial to sun flower seeds and suet.

dsc04154.JPGSeveral of our neighbors are into deer farming.  The deer are sold as venison and some of the males are kept to sell their shed antlers to the Chinese as aphrodisiacs.  It is odd to see them in fields like steers, but really not very different in concept.

dsc04157.JPGDale is continuing to enable my spinning.  Here is a very lovely solid maple and mahogany lazy kate that he built for me.  I haven’t tried it for plying yet, but did put this bobbin on to see if the tensioning mechanism seemed likely to work.  It does.

dsc04159.JPGAnd here is a close up of the spinning on the kate — a very lovely Bluefaced Leister (70%) and Tussah Silk (30%) blend.  It spins very nicely and finely — except when I have stayed up too late spinning.  He bought it for me at the same time he bought the wheel.   Yes, enabler.  I need to go show my appreciation now.

Love, Jan

I thought web freedom meant we controlled the content of our blog…

Dear Readers,

Unless my twin has gone radical on me, someone is promoting their version of web freedom by hacking our site and adding a honkin’ big Stop SOPA button towards the bottom of the page.  I apologize, but I don’t have access to our page design to be able to remove it.  Jan is the web maven and is out of town, so let’s all hope she comes home soon and can get this straightened out.

In the meantime, here is a gratuitious kitten picture to distract you.18.jpg

Cheers,

Ellen

We had a ball…

Dear Jan,

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Even with Oscar keeping an eye on us, we had a fibery good time at my pal Lisa’s Saturday afternoon.  A bunch of us gathered to say hello to L’s neighbor and the lovely young woman visiting her as a foreign exchange student.

img_0334.JPGI like to think I engendered international good will by giving M her first spinning lesson.  She certainly seemed happy with the results.

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Karen did not find it necessary to spin at all for her knitting.  She was stretching silk hankies, aka mawatas, and knitting the unspun fibers into a beautiful swatch.

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No one attempted to knit the ball of yarn* Lisa keeps in her backyard.  I think it is a sign her stash must be overflowing!

Love,

Ellen

* An old bowling ball wrapped with telephone wire.  Lisa is exceptionally clever.

January Means Sweater Knitting

Dear Ellen,

dsc04150.JPGI’m surely having fun with my spinning wheel.  I’ve now got two lovely skeins of my own handspun worsted weight corriedale.  (I need to double check the WPIs, that’s an eyeball estimate.)  They are both from fiber from Desigknit — such gorgeous hews I loved watching the fiber turn into singles and then into the 3-ply yarn.   I’ve got ideas for them — I’m thinking a brioche stitch hat, maybe something like Nancy Marchant’s Delft’s Blauw.  It’s pretty sweet and I own the book — Knitting Brioche.  And I’m hoping I’ll have enough left for some simple mitts.  We’ll see.  In any case it will have to wait.  I have THREE sweaters on the needles right now.  Yep, three.

dsc04139.JPGThe first is the Ori-Mommy sweater that I’m co-knitting with Marie.  My part is now up to 57.5 inches long…about 14.5 inches to go.  She was making good progress on hers too, so we should have a sweater in the not terribly distant future.  Believe it or not, but I have really enjoyed working on this.  It’s basically K1P1 ribbing all the way.  Maybe I like it because I can drink and knit without worrying about forgetting the pattern.  Maybe it is the zen quality of the rhythm of switching back and forth between knits and pearls which I do find quite soothing.

dsc04141.JPGThe second one is called Manly.  I’m very pleased to be working on this one.  You see I have been eager to knit for Dale for sometime and he finally wants a sweater.  He did say he hoped it would be  a manly one though. So here we go — bulky wool in an almost olive drab…almost. It is really lovely with bronze and gold fibers that give it a nice heathery look. Brownstone is the perfect pattern, but I’ll be making it longer and adding some short rows in the back of the body to make sure it doesn’t creep up in back. He just hates that.

dsc04143.JPGFinally, I’ve been eager to do some selfish knitting and this sweater I’m calling Fooling Around is the ticket.  It’s knit in Zealana Kauri Fingering, oh so soft with 60% New Zealand Merino, 30% possum and  10% silk.  The swatch bloomed beautifully and I know this will be very lightweight, but very snug at the same time.  The pattern is Pam Power’s Devonshire and has a beautiful lace inset in the back and along the edgest. I am so loving this knit and I never thought I’d want to knit a sweater in such a fine weight yarn.  Perhaps this will warm me up to try to start my Bohus.  Don’t hold your breath though — that sweater may have to marinate in stash for a while longer.

dsc04131.JPGI’ve got some other fibery ideas for the coming year.  Remember that fungus?  It’s now drying on top of Allen’s Mini.  Sometime this spring I’m going to give a shot at using it as a dye base to see if I can’t get some oyster mushroom yarn out of it.  More to come on that one!

dsc04151.JPGTo wrap up last year I knit this little guy to guard my computer.  The kit to make him was in my holiday loot from Dale…my own knitted ninja.  Haiii-YA!!!

january.jpgAnd finally, a quick report on 55 in 52.  I’m now down to 47 in 48.  I believe I can credit the fact that I’m preparing healthy options on the weekends so they’re ready to scarf down when I come home from work exhausted.  Yummy!

Hope your 2012 is going well!  Love, Jan

Fiber flowing between the fingers – such deep joy…

Dear Jan,

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I’m so far behind at work and at home, yet I don’t regret having spent the last 3 days spinning with Judith MacKenzie and 17 other like-minded souls.  Two days of spinning exotic fibers, the luxurious nature of which hits me right at spinal level, and then a full day today of laceweight spinning – stretching our brains as we made new neural connections to enable us to spin what was more like thread than yarn.

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I am spent.  But happy.

I hope you are happy, too.

Love,

Ellen

Looking back, looking forward, and keeping your eyes shut…

Dear Jan,

Again with the closure thing.  I should just get over not having gotten the time to do a holiday post, but I can’t let it go.  So, in the a-few-pictures-are-worth-a-few-1,000 words-but-can’t-really-capture-the-wonderful-holidays-we-had category, here are…

Both of our young ladies were able to be home. Chef-to-be Jenny prepped many vegetables for us as she practiced her knife skills.  You wouldn’t think that you’d need your potatoes cut in a 1/4″ dice if you were going to mash them anyway, but they certainly do cook quickly from that state.  Here she was just chopping onions, I am kicking myself that I didn’t take a photo of the stockpot full of perfect little cubes of potato.

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Karen’s visit coincided with a visit from our mutual and dear friend, Cricket.

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Wonderful holiday gifts appeared as if by magic under the tree – this wonderful Navajo spindle from our niece, Merry, symbolizes the joy.  Look, I already made yarn with it!

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I realize my posts have been pretty fiber-light lately.  The yarn I spun on my new spindle is a start at correcting that, and I also worked on Rimfrost (aka Many Moments of Grace) over the holidays. Both sleeve caps are satisfactory now and I am working on the arms now.

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We may be entering another dry spell, though, as last weekend I got started on an unbloggable project.  The yarn, 7 skeins-worth of Kidsilk Haze, is luscious to knit.  The only thing that worries me is that I have to have it knit by February 13.   I’ll try to find some sort of fibery pictures to distract you as I leave the blindfold on my actual knitting for the next few weeks.

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Ellen

Fibery Update

Dear Ellen,

That Erica!  She is trying to replace the fiber I talked about in my last post.  I’m not letting her.  The fiber was beautiful and in comparing it to other braids I’ve seen at shops and fiber fairs easily of the same or better quality.

My comment about the felty bits does not mean it was bad fiber whatsoever…just a bit more challenging for me than the smooth as silk, lofty fiber that Erica produces routinely.  I do intend to head back over to her etsy shop though — she said she’s got lots of colorways up right now.  And while I won’t let her replace the sunny yellow-orange braid I used on that yarn, I AM going to acquire more of her work via PayPal payment!!

I just wanted it to be clear to all of our readers that Erica’s work is FABULOUS and when it doesn’t meet her standards (which are very, very high!) she doesn’t like to let it out in the wild!

Love, Jan

55 in 52 while 53 and 54

Dear Ellen,

dsc04121.JPGIt seems like we take turns hitting slowdowns in our web posting.  This time it was my turn.  I am barely caught up with my personal e-mail much less anything extra.  I think the new spinning wheel may be to blame.  As you can see, I have now produced some plied product.  This is DesignKnit fiber — a beautiful colorway in 100% corriedale.  I am satisfied with it, but not overwhelmed.  I do know I will get better. 

dsc04120.JPGAnd it looks far better than it did!  This is how it appeared before I re-plied it.  Classic newbie error — I plied in the same direction as I spun.  To make it better, I sent it back through the wheel in the opposite direction, unplying and then replying each section as I went.  I also think it would have benefited from my not trying to 3-ply as my first wheel plying experience.

The singles weren’t that bad, but they were victims of two things —

  1. I overspin.  I try not too, but I do.  I can go for short stretches where I manage to keep my feet from pumping away like crazy, but it doesn’t last…yet.  As a result my singles have lots of energy.
  2. Erica had warned me that this fiber might have some felty bits in it and offered to refund my money.  I examined it (at the time) and couldn’t see anything I thought was felty.  When I actually opened the braid and got into it, I understood what she meant.  It does have a few felty bits.  I consider it a great way to learn and wouldn’t have it any other way.

dsc04128.JPGI’ve also been busy with the farm…especially the wandering about admiring nature.  Here is our fungus tree with a new addition.  It is cool how absolutely round that hole is!  We have very accurate woodpeckers here.  And below is a shot of geese flying south for the remainder of winter.  I love listening to them call to each other and imagine the guy in the back is letting the guy in front know that he’s keeping up.  Either that or the guy in front is calling for someone else to spell him so he can take advantage of some drafting for a bit.  Look closely and you can see how hard they are flapping their wings!dsc04112.JPG

All of Saturday was pretty much consumed by the Pennsylvania State Farm Show — the largest farm show in the country!

 dsc04107.JPGWe don’t just do princess torsos in butter…we do a whole cow…okay, calf.

dsc04105.JPGdsc04102.JPGThere are many sheep…some in very cool outfits.

dsc04109.JPGThere are rabbits of many colors and varieties…though these will look pretty much alike on the dinner plate.  (Sorry, K & J, but these are the same breed your mom and I used to raise!)

dsc04093.JPGDale found a combine he wanted.  At least he wanted to go for a ride in it.

dsc04101.JPGWe decided to let sleeping hogs lie.

dsc04095.JPGThe youthful intensity of those entered in the poultry event was fun to watch.

dsc04094.JPGI particularly appreciated the “stare ’em in the eyeballs” method of inspiring greatness.  (No chickens were harmed during this competion despite the eery similarity to the way our special operations forces have been reputed to have killed goats.)

dsc04099.JPGFinally, no good farm show could be without…alpacas.  I made several new friends — both four legged and two legged.  And came away with some beautiful rovings. 

Dale sized up the competition in the fiber arts and baking categories and says we can take them.  I can hardly wait.

Love, Jan

P.S. If you were wondering about the title of this post — that’s a goal of losing 55 pounds this year.  I want to be healthy for retirement!  Five down, fifty to go, so now I’m at 50 in 50!  I’m still 53 though.

Goodbye China, hello 2012!

Dear Jan,

Please forgive my failure to write lately.  We have had a wonderful holiday, but house guests (as wonderful as they were) for 11 days straight do end up curtailing some of one’s normal activities.  I’ll get a couple of holiday photos up soon but my closure fixation insists that I quickly tie up loose travel ends.  Given that it is stale news, I’m limiting myself to just a few photos that captured iconic highlights of the trip.

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We visited the Summer Palace in Beijing just as the sun was setting.  It was so cold – the lake was turning to ice as were our ears.  But the low light of the setting sun glowed warm through the Seventeen Arch bridge, the longest in any of the Beijing Imperial gardens.

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What do pandas do when it is cold out?  They stay inside and sleep.  So many sleeping pandas – but this one was by far the most relaxed that I spotted at the Beijing zoo.

img_9672-2.JPGAnd one of my last views of China may be the most iconic of all – the Great Wall, seen just north of Beijing from the airplane window.

I hope I’ll be back to see it again, but  I’m happy to be home and finally completely over the jet lag.

Happy New Year to you and to all of our readers!

Ellen