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Archive for February, 2012


Leap winter…

Dear Jan,

Without a 29th day in February this year, winter wouldn’t have really made it to the Twin Cities until March.  But we woke up to a good dousing of snow and all the traffic snarls and shoveling…and beauty… that an ice/snow storm entails.

img_0787.JPGThis guy took my mind off my shoveling aches when he appeared right outside the window.

feb-29-2012.jpgBut he only had eyes for someone else.  I caught him in the act of wining and dining her (I thought he looked a little seedy, myself).

img_0779-3.JPGLuckily I had another friend come visit.

Tomorrow’s March – spring can’t be far behind!

Love,

Ellen

Seams like I’ve fallen for Argyles…

Dear Jan,

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In addition to wonderful family feelings, I came out of this last weekend with an almost completed Argyle sock.  What’s missing you might ask?

img_0748.JPGSeams.  Argyles, in order to work the intarsia, are knit back and forth into the instep and then get seamed up at the end.  The leg and the diamond that goes over the instep are knit back and forth in intarsia, then you do the heel flap and heel turn as usual.

argyle.jpgNext step is to break the yarn at the heel cup, and reattach and pick up the gusset stitches along the heel flap, knit across the heel, and pick up along the other side of the heel flap.  You then  knit the gusset back and forth – doing decreases at each edge on alternate rows to create the classic gusset shape.  A couple more rows of stockinette to make the gusset edge as long as the intarsia instep flap, and then you can join up and knit the foot and toe in the round as usual.  Practice your best seaming skills to close that gap up and you have a foot.

img_0753.JPGThe leg seam remains to be sewn, but I’ll show you the finished sock when I can show you the pair.

img_0743.JPGBecause as fun as this first one was to knit, you can be sure I immediately got started on the second.

Love,

Ellen

There and back again…

Dear Jan,

Tonight, I washed up the rice pot that I had left in my sink to soak yesterday morning.  Since filling it with soapy water approximately 36 hours earlier,  I’d been to Connecticut and back, hugged my niece and nephew and his bride-to-be at their engagement party, danced up a storm with my sister and her military buddies, and even got a few hours of sleep in there somewhere.

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Marie and Karen made quite the couple with their dyed tresses. Marie’s Mohawk was adorably chic.

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It made me so happy to see everyone.

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But it would have been hard to be happier than Allen and Libby.  I don’t think they stopped grinning for 2 minutes, total.

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We aren’t showing any pictures from the morning after.  It may take me a few days to get to a reasonably photogenic state, in fact, but Wilson is in agreement, it was totally worth it.

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Love,

Ellen

P.S. An Argyle sock got nearly finished on the plane ride home.  Just a couple of seams to sew – but first I want to get some pictures so I can explain the architecture of Argyle.  Coming soon to a blog near you!

Madrona itself…

Dear Jan,

Madrona was great.  It feels like a retreat and is billed that way, not as a conference, yet has the size and allure of a larger event.  The market is human scale, unlike Sock Summit, but the vendor list is so wonderful that having a few dozen vendors is more than enough to meet your needs and fill your suitcase with goodies.  The size of the crowd is also quite human, such that most fit into the hotel where the classes, market, and free fiber events are held.  This creates lots of opportunity for sitting around together, knitting and spinning, sharing goodies by the fireplace or sipping wine in the bar.

The teachers and classes are for the most part outstanding.  Carol Rhoades views hand carding as an art, and spinning one of the ethereal rolags that I made in her class was a revelation.

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Equally ethereal, but completely unspun, is knitting from silk hankies.  Here you see a classmate trying her hand at making a hanky, stretching a single silkworm cocoon over a frame of 4 nails.  Ethereal, for sure.

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I got to sit and spin with some great spinners, including Judith MacKenzie, and I knit swatches of Japanese stitches while chatting with Elise Duvekot – we were both in Gayle Roehm’s excellent class.

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I shared a recent acquisition, a gift from Susanna, while sitting in the spinning circle.  This is a Fiber Catcher, made with care by Natasha Puffer.  It was excellent!  One side is white, showing off dark fibers perfectly, and the other is black.  See what a difference that makes?  You can also see the little flat pocket at the front of the catcher where you can easily tuck little stray nups and noils of fiber so you don’t make such a mess.  You can’t see the handy zippered pocket on each side to hold your snips or orifice hook or whatever.  I was the envy of many spinners – I can heartily recommend Natasha’s work, available at her Etsy site.

img_0604_2.JPG Joan was my roommate – here we are wearing our signature Saroyan’s.  She is a doll of a roomie – I found a little felted heart in my suitcase upon unpacking at home. Now I have to decide whether or not to share it with the kiddens, as I know they’d love it.  And Joan would love them to have it, so after I enjoy it a few more days in its current pristine state, I suspect they shall have it.

img_0605_2.JPGComing home, I feared suffering severe knitting withdrawal.  Luckily, this was waiting for me, enough to keep me going for a long while.

But for now, I’m going to bed.  I hope you are having a great week with plenty of fiber and friends in it.

Love,

Ellen

Mah, mah, mah, mah, mah, mah…my Madrona!

Dear Jan,

Sorry about that post title. I have had this rif on The Knack tune knocking around in my head all week, because, as you well know, I have spent the week in Seattle and then Tacoma with the ultimate destination of attending the Madrona Winter Retreat.  Today, the lead up to the retreat.

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I flew out last Sunday afternoon, working furiously to finish some work email on the airplane, but finishing up the toe on the Socks Around the World 3 group sock project just as we landed.  Of the 10 pieces of sock knit by 10 different people, no two were matchy matchy, yet they all went together quite well.  I handed them off in person to Carin of the Knitwits podcast, originator of the SAW concept,  while at Madrona, after blocking them in the hotel room.

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Susanna Hansson, The Bohus Expert, picked me up at the airport, along with Susan Newhall, The Blended Intarsia Orginator, and we proceeded to have a blast throughout Seattle.  We spent a day yarn store hopping, catching Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, The Fiber Gallery, and The Weaving Works.  The collage above is from Churchmouse – what a nice shop, with wonderful yarns and lovely teas and most important, an expert and welcoming staff.

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I loved seeing green after the brown winter we’ve been having in Minneapolis.  Not only green, but flowers, too, the prettiest of all blooming in Susanna’s windowsill overlooking her front garden.

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On Tuesday, Susanna had to work, Susan took off to buy 92% of all the Japanese knitting books in Seattle, and I went on a day trip with SIL Paula to visit the lots she and Marty had just signed an offer on in the little town of Mt. Vernon.  I was charmed – by the town, which felt like Medina of the 1970’s and has not one, but two knitting stores and by the land, which is in a neighborhood situated in a wooded and ravine-crossed area so you don’t see more than a few neighbors.  Plus, a beaver pond at the end of the road with public walking trails.

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Tuesday night we musselled in to the classic Seattle dining spot, Ray’s Boathouse, and ate very well indeed.  I believe some local brew may have been involved, as well, explaining why Susan and Susanna show such little concern at the enormous salmon looming behind them.  In the morning, Susanna entertained Susan and me by bringing out two new genuine Bohus acquisitions.  We were very highly amused – I’ll share some photos and a story in the next few days, I promise.

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For now, Thompson, The Very Handsome Parrot, says “Put ‘er there, back soon.” (To tell the truth, he doesn’t speak that clearly, so he might have been saying “Pretty bird, Thompson,” but I can tell he misses you already.)

More to come,

Love,

Ellen

Lamb Season

Dear Ellen,

dsc04195.JPGOh, I so wish I had photos to share of the little lambies at one of the farms near us.  We went out hiking today on a converted railway — good hike and lots of lovely scenery, but we knew we had only covered about a tenth of the trail.  We went driving to see where the other trail heads were and in the process passed a farm with so much cute sproinginess going on one could hardly stand it.  I had hope to take a picture or two on our way back, but evidently food is in the barn and our return trip was around feeding time.

dsc04189.JPGWhile walking around our own property, I found that nature is doing a bit of her own plying.  It’s a bit unfortunate though — these aggressive vines are killing a lot of the trees.  We go through the woods severing them from their root stock and freeing the trees from being strangled.  It is pretty impressive as an example of large gauge 2-ply though!

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img_5866.JPGThis week’s star avian visitor was a yellow-shafted northern flicker, who graced us with his presence as an exception to policy as this variety of woodpecker rarely goes to feeders.  He couldn’t resist the suet.

dsc04196.JPGdsc04197.JPGAnd I’ve been knitting away on Pipeliner’s Journey and Ann’s Big Heart.  On the former I am not getting the length I expected — no wonder, my garter stitch is evidently much tighter than gauge…and who checks gauge for shawls??  Oh well, easy to add some rows to make sure it’s long enough.  If it looks like I’ll run out of yarn, I’ll just order more.  If the dye lots don’t match, I’ll just use the new yarn for the border only. I finished the knitting and blocking of the latter.  Very pretty lace pattern and the shawl is easy to wear.  I’m debating doing a simple i-cord edging on the two fronts and around the collar.  I think that would finish it off nicely.  Then, despite the fact that it lies so easily around the neck, I’d add a large hook and eye closure.  If Ann wears this in a hospital bed, I think having it fastened would be convenient.

The three day weekend was gone in a flash.  At least I only have three work days this week — I’ll be picking Allen up at the airport on Friday and it’s the engagement party on Saturday!  Looking forward to seeing you then!

Love, Jan

6 More Weeks

Dear Ellen,

dsc04167.JPGI guess being put on notice that it was expected to hang around for 6 more weeks made winter finally get serious about showing up here.  It’s very cold for this part of the state (this part of the year), but fortunately I have hand knits to keep me warm on my walks.

february.JPGAnd our birds are happy to have lots of bird seed and suet.

dsc04182.JPGdsc04175.JPGI finished up some pleasing 3-ply 70% BFL and 30% Tussah Silk yesterday.  By this morning it was dry from its bath to set the twist and I skeined it up.  I’m rather pleased with it.  It has a little bit of a halo, but not much.  The silk makes it feel very, very…well, silky.  And the colors are wonderful.  The colorway was called Redwood Forest and you can see it.  It spun very nicely.  If you see any Frabjous Fibers around, you might want to grab it.

dsc04166.JPGIn other spinning news, I scored a collection of ounce to ounce and a half samples  of 24 different sheep breeds.  I’m going to try to do 2 a month for the next few months.  Once I retire I can do more.  Fun!

dsc04171.JPGI’m making headway on the shawl for my friend Ann.  I did find an error in the pattern, but I worked it out pretty directly.  The start of the shawls from Alison’s book is new for me.  I rather like it for this kind of circular shawl.  I think Ann will like it too.

dsc04170.JPGI also cast on for my Pipeliner’s Journey as part of the KAL over on The Knitting Pipeline.  I am LOVING this Quince and Co. yarn!

Short, but sweet this week.

Love, Jan

Downy or Hairy?

Dear Ellen,

img_5819.JPGDo you like your peckers downy or hairy?  Sorry, upon reading my opening line, I realize it sounds way to much like the language of our spam commenters, but to be clear, I am talking about woodpeckers.  I believe this lovely bird is a hairy one.  The two are remarkably similar with differences only in their beaks and outer tail feathers as far as I can tell.  If those are black bars/spots on her outer tail feathers (yes, I can tell she’s a female — no red patch on the back of the head), then I’m wrong, she’s a downy.  But I would expect to see the black spots a bit better and her beak is far more chisel-like than I saw on the pictures of the downy.  Tough call.  I’ll let you know after I post this over in the “Knitting Pipeline” group on Ravelry.  Paula’s an expert.

dsc04161.JPGI’ve made good progress on Manly.  I have almost reached the “joining of sleeves” point in the body entirely with the first skein of Eco+ — was very pleased to see how far it went.  I started the next skein, but realizing I’d need sleeves to join soon, decided to work on those before I continued on the body.  I’ve got one ready to go and am about a third of the way up the second.  I’d be there in no time if I hadn’t picked up two new projects that I need to crack out quickly.

dsc04160.JPGThe first of these is a helmet liner using that fabu pattern, Gusseted Helmet Liner from TwinSet Designs.  I’m sure your familiar with it.  (By the way, when I created my project on Ravelry for this, I became your 200th project.  Do I get a prize?  Oh wait, I already got one — that lovely Columbia roving and fun, fun gifts from China.  I am particularly partial to the finger flashlight.  Thanks!) I’m making this for a buddy who deploys in a few weeks. I found out he still only has the government issue crappy acrylic helmet liner and asked him if he’d like a good one. He was thrilled when I said I’d make him one.  I’m making great progress, but am not thrilled with the stretchiness of my cast on — believe I will finish the helmet liner and then try to pick up stitches near the cast on, pick the cast on out and then bind off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast Off.  Also, instead of doing a provisional cast on for the resumption of knitting in the round after the neckstand, I used two circs as the base and did a figure eight cast on to yield two lines of live stitches — one line oriented up and the other down. It worked great. When I go back to do the ribbing around the face opening I’ll simply pick up the stitches on the sides of the neck stand and be in business.

dsc04163.JPGThe next one will be a shawl for my friend Ann.  You may recall that I designed Ann’s Cap for her when she first came down with ovarian cancer.  She’s been in remission for a few years now, but her last scan showed that it’s back.  Surgery is Monday.  I’d like to be able to bring this shawl to her sometime week after next.   The pattern, from Wrapped in Comfort is perfect — named Bigfoot, I’m naming this project Ann’s Big Heart.  Her feet aren’t that big, but boy her heart is!  (I have been meaning to knit from Alison’s book for a while, but was not able to lay my hands on it.  It showed up a few weeks ago when I unpacked the last boxes from the move.) I’m doing it in Socrates — a yarn that has a very warm, very soft feel to it.

dsc04162.JPGFinally, I decided to join in on a KAL on the Knitting Pipeline boards.  Quince and Company picked up a pattern that Paula designed and it is lovely, called Piper’s Journey (click through to see a preview on their site).  I’m not a Piper, but I’ve so enjoyed her podcast and being a member of the Ravelry group, so I couldn’t say no.  Mine’s called Pipeliner’s Journey.  It will, however, have to wait till I finish the other priority projects.  As it’s not yet available (it should go on sale within the week), I may finish them up just in time.  I’m making mine in Quince and Company Chickadee in the glacier colorway.

Spinning continues too…am through the 4 oz. braid of silk and merino and I have a question.  What do you do when you can’t find the end of your single?  Mine somehow disappeared after it broke during the spinning process and now I fear surgery will be the only way to recover it.  As I’d like to ply next weekend, your advice will be valued!

Love, Jan