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Archive for March, 2012


It’s all I’ve got…

Dear Jan,

All I’ve got for you today is a hat.  It’s a nice hat, a gift for a friend who just retired, but it is still just a hat.

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Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed DK weight, a 50:25:25 blend of Merino, rayon, and silk.  The fabric on size 5 needles is fabulous.

Pattern: Based on Seaman’s Cap, but heavily modified for lighter weight yarn and to improve the turn on the cuff (see notes at my Ravelry project).

That’s all!

Love,

Ellen

Jiminy, it’s Cricket!

Dear Jan,

The weather here has turned cool and windy – it feels like early Spring as it should.  I’m still warm, though, with the glow of Cricket’s visit this weekend.

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Sunday was the big day with a trip to Stillwater where we met up with Deb and Karen for some seriously good eats and drinks at the Chilkoot Cafe (bike shop in back, should you need a tire patched).  Deb gifted us with some gorgeous BFL that she had dyed to become even more gorgeous.

We then ambled over to  Darn. Knit. Anyway. and ogled the flock in the window,

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considered how great yet how uncomfortable the duct tape dress looked,

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and then settled in for a nice long knit in the sun.

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Selkie and I are both missing Cricket.  Luckily I am distracting myself with visions of Yarnover and Shepherd’s Harvest.

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And with Yarnover, of course, a visit from you!

Love,

Ellen

Finished, Almost Finished and Just Begun

Dear Ellen,

dsc04464.JPGI finished up two projects this weekend.  Pipeliner’s Journey only required weaving in of ends and some final photos.  Dale was my photographer and he usually shoots about 12 shots for every one that meets my peculiar demands that both the project and the model be shown off to their best advantage.  I should have let him keep shooting!  I do suppose it’s fair to say that it is a valid representation of both subjects.

dsc04459.JPGI also finished the i-cord edging and added a two button and loop closure on Ann’s Big Heart.   Alison’s shawl patterns are quite nice as they really do stay put on your shoulders and have a feminine, but not overly frilly look (you know I don’t do well with too girly stuff).  I added the closure as I expect Ann may be wearing this in situations where she may be leaning back against pillows and that could be a challenge for even the most shoulder hugging of shawls.  The other shawls in Wrapped In Comfort are longer– again, I thought this more suitable a length for the purpose.  I wore it for a while while working around the house in just a tee-shirt.  It was the perfect bit of warmth to keep me comfortable.

dsc04467.JPGAnd I have one more project nearing completion.  All I have to do is sew on one last sleeve, finish the side seam, add the crotch snaps, sew on shoulder buttons, add a short ribbed collar and complete some simple backstitched line embroidery on the front.  I’m very pleased with how this came out, it’s for the son of one of my former assistants.  The baby was born in January, but this is the 6-12 month size, so I am confident it will reach him in plenty of time for a lot of wear.  It’s made out of Debbie Bliss Eco Baby,  a predominantly cotton yarn as they live in Hawaii — and ergo the name, Aloha Onesie.  It’s based on the Ducky Onesie pattern in the Vintage Baby Knits book.

march-20123.jpgThe farm kept us busy this weekend.  Our flowering plants are coming along quite nicely and as usual I enjoyed the birds at our feeders.  However, we are now on the hunt for some way to prevent the squirrels from devastating the sunflower seed supply that doesn’t obliterate the possibility for good photos.  A cage around the feeders would work, but the obscuration of view kind of defeats the purpose.  Dale is evaluating the possibility of inverted pie pans.  I am contacting Navy friends to find a supply of discarded rat guards.

dsc04438.JPGI am pleased to report that my raised beds are now populated with brussels sprouts, early cabbage, romaine lettuce, various leaf lettuces, butter lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and early tomatoes.  We’ll see how many are around after a week of exposure — I’m mostly concerned about the deer, not the temperatures.  These have all been hardened outside for the last two weeks, so the weather should not be a problem.

dsc04447.JPGIf all the deer were willing to leave exchanges, I’d likely be less phased by the prospect of sharing our bounty with them.  We found this little down payment from the buck that lives in our woods.  Dale spent another hour searching for its mate.  (The other antler, not a doe — besides, this guy is polygamist, he’s got three does!)  I had a notion that I’d like to make buttons and toggles from any antlers we might find, but now that we have one, I don’t know if I can bear carving it up.

I’ve got 24 minutes before I’m expected to be ready to pile into the car and head back to Alexandria…at least we are almost down to less than 3 months before I will be here full time.  I can hardly wait!!

Love, Jan

Jeepers Peepers

Dear Ellen,

march-20122.JPGNature was in full roar at the farm this weekend.  At least it was as loud as a roar.  The birds were flitting about in pairs cheeping and peeping and tweeting all over the place.  And at night the peepers joined in with their songs.  It was delightful!

march-20121.JPGWe spent some time on flora while the fauna was cavorting.  Dale finished building two raised beds for me and got a load of mushroom mulch to mix in with the topsoil in the boxes and to spread over the rest of the garden.  Man, oh man, that stuff is rich!  I expect good results from it — of course, I’ll have to get some plants and seeds in there first!

march-2012.JPGI did get violas and primroses planted here and there around the house.  They joined in with the rhododendrons, crocuses and daffodils to add some lovely color.  Spring is definitely here.

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And doesn’t Dale look great in Manly?  He’s very pleased with the outcome — he even said he kind of wish winter would have one last go so he could wear it a bit.  At least it will be waiting for next fall!

Love, Jan

Down under…

Dear Jan,

I’m not referring to the land of the wallabee, I’m talking about the inner layer of a bison coat, down under all the bristly curly stuff that protects the beasts from the elements.  Soft as dandelion down, and about as long a staple, but surprisingly easy to spin – bison fluff!  You spin it semi-woolen, drawing forward right out of the cloud with very little preparation other than to comb it out of the hide*.  Well, happily for me, someone else combed it out of the hide.

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Fiber: 100% Bison  (Judith MacKenzie’s Buffalo Gals)

Spun from a woolen prepared roving in semi-woolen fashion (twist in the fiber supply, short forward draw).

Rigorously fulled after plying (doused and massaged in very hot then very cold water to raise the halo).

2-ply, ~200 yards in 2 oz.

Incredibly bouyant, or resilient, as Judith would say, and softer than soft.  This will be a special knitting project indeed!

It’s about time for me to get down under the covers, so good night!

Love,

Ellen

*The animals aren’t killed for the fiber, they are used for meat first and foremost.   In fact, the fiber was lost in past years, but recently Judith and others have started reclaiming the fiber before the hides are tanned (or simply composted).

I would have planted peas for St. Paddy’s day…

Dear Jan,

Remember how Mom used to try to get peas and potatoes planted for St. Patrick’s Day?  Well, I thought I might do that this year as it has been unusually warm and the frost is out of the ground, but I think I missed my chance.  They are a cool weather crop, and it is already in the 80’s here in Minnesota.  Heck, the Iditarod isn’t even quite over (as I write this, three mushers and their teams remain on the trail) and we are wearing shorts in Minnetonka.  I, for one, am a little scared of carbon dioxide.

My concerns haven’t stopped me from enjoying the warmth.  We headed down to the U of MN Landscape Arboretum for a day of hiking with our friends Gary and Sharon.  Not expecting much beyond bare limbs and leftover leaves from last fall, we were delighted by the variety of buds in a state of rapid expansion.  Flowers won’t be far behind (the maples are already in bloom).

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We were delighted to have a mourning cloak butterfly join us, though he quickly left when another of his own species fluttered by.  I know what they have on their mind!

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Even nicer was spotting a male bluebird…

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…and then his mate.  We saw them flutter in and out of a bluebird house, so I know what is on their mind, too!

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We did see some snow in piles in deep shade and there is still ice in the lakes, and plenty of snowdrops.  They look so simple from above, but tip up their blossom and it is a lovely, complex bloom.

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I don’t think I’ve ever hiked in a T-shirt to see snowdrops.

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We got home in time for me to finish my Iknitarod project while there were still four mushers who had yet to make it to Nome.  I made the Knit Vested and Stylish vest,  a free Red Heart pattern.

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I don’t like to bash free patterns, because, after all, they are free, but this was a case of you get what you pay for.  The pattern left many details out – I could figure my way around them, but a less experienced knitter may have had trouble.  Things like specifying what decreases and increases to use, how to make them symmetrical (and in a worsted weight, it would have been noticeable if you didn’t make them symmetrical), poor description of mitering the points, no description of how to pick up the right number of stitches…  and on and on.  The design had weaknesses, too.  For one, the attached back belt is done in garter of worsted weight yarn, pretty clunky if you ask me.  I wasn’t going to live with that.

img_0864.JPGInstead, I made a 2-ply yarn from the 4-ply Cascade 220 used for the vest.  First, I reversed the final twist on my wheel until the plies were no longer twisted together.   This took a few tries to get it right – I simply pulled the yarn off the bobbin and wound it on my hand then ran it back into the wheel with the appropriate twist to adjust until it was perfect.

I then separated the plies, running two to a bobbin winder and wrapping two on my hand.

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Next, figure out how much twist to put back in and get a reasonably balanced yarn.  How to discover the right twist?  Water – it releases the set twist of the fiber and lets it relax to where it wants to be.

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The damp two ply next to some that had not gotten a bath gives me guidance on how much twist to put back into the two ply yarn.

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I plied it on my wheel, and then knit these little bits right off the bobbin.  That was convenient, as it let me put a bit more twist in as needed.

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I was quite happy with the weight and look of the little belt.  That extra effort almost always pays off!

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A day in the sun, the last push to finish the vest, and even some spinning leaves me ready to make the effort to get to bed early.  I hope your day was as full and productive as mine was!

Love,

Ellen

Something else I’ve been doing lately…

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Superwash Blue Faced Leicester from Abstract Fibers, colorway Twilight.

True Worsted spun, 4-ply, fingering weight.  About 212 yds from about 3 oz of fiber.

Likely to be socks.  No ETA to announce.  🙂

What I’ve been doing the last few days…

Congratulations, Dallas Seavey, on winning the 40th Iditarod!

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Deer Me

Dear Ellen,

This weekend was designated a non-achievement weekend.  I did do a few things like mending some pants for Dale and making soup for the coming week, but otherwise I pretty much enjoyed doing nothing.  I got Manly blocked (just missing toggles and loops!), but I was so lackadaisical I didn’t even take a picture.

deer-3_11_12.JPGEnjoy this one from Dale — these guys were grazing in the upper end of the pasture when he went out this morning.

Love, Jan

I hope Dr. Yarn gives me a filing extension…

Dear Jan,

Lest you think Dr. Yarn let us down, let me set the record straight.  He delivered his column per our contract well before January ended; indeed, he shared a draft with me over the holidays.

I let him, and his readers, down by not getting it edited and published.  I hope the quality of his insights which I now share will assuage some of the frustration I’m sure you have been feeling.

Love,

Ellen

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This question just came in from a reader from Virginia.
Q. What is this I hear about a special tax on knitting?
A. I’m sorry to say that what you heard is true. I was invited to a closed-door, by-partisan* hearing in Washington on the Fourth of July, of all times. Our Congress is so desperate to balance the budget that some members are considering taxing anything they can get away with.

tax-forms.jpgA five percent tax on yarn patterns, a ten percent tax on needles, and a fifteen percent tax on domestic yarn were discussed. Imported yarn would be taxed at twenty percent!  (Note the use of passive voice, a true indicator that someone is trying to get away with something.)

Devastating to knitters who depend on travel knitting to stay calm on extended trip, it was suggested that our country levy a tax on any yarn that left the country. To make it worse, if you knitted something while on vacation overseas, there would be a value-added tax when you returned to this country! (Though this would depend on the choice of pattern – some decrease the value of the yarn they are knit in, we must admit.)

I am not naming names, but the idea to start an annual tax on one’s yarn inventory could seriously impact several of my readers**. Such a tax would undoubtedly hurt the economy – conscientious knitters would reduce yarn inventory thus causing a slow down in yarn sales.

One senator suggested a simple but disturbing approach.   He proposed adding check-off boxes to each 1040 income tax form that ask if you — never knit, — only occasionally knit, or — were a Knitter with a capital K. This would result in a zero, five percent, or fifteen percent additional tax, respectively, on page 2, line 44, of your adjusted taxable income.

I soon realized that these legislators were completely out-of-touch.  During Q&A I asked for a show of hands of the members of Congress who have actually knitted. Not a hand went up!

Think about that. It makes you wonder what kind of people we are sending to Washington, doesn’t it? . I encourage you to subscribe to our new publication, Knitter’s Voice. We will keep you posted on who is on our list to vote out of office in 2012. We love single issue politics here (really, who doesn’t?), and anyone who doesn’t want to  tax the rich but is perfectly willing to tax poor knitters will make that list.

Thank you for your timely question,

Dr. Yarn

*This is not a typo.  I am not referring to a hearing held by both parties; rather, to a hearing held behind closed doors to get it by any objections of partisans of knitting.  Yes, I agree, quite the nefarious strategy.

** Tax tip in case this is enacted: Hide your inventory in the trunk of several Cadillacs, or perhaps knit some pullover V-neck vests out of it and avoid some of the taxation.

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img_0815.JPGP.S. One extension I won’t get is to the end of the Iknitarod – the fiber challenge to complete a significant project during the course of the great sled dog race, the Iditarod.  I’ve cast on for the vest I am required to knit for the Master Knitter Level II certification program.  Believe it or not, though my stash is large enough to trigger my immediate subscription  for Knitter’s Voice, as I sure can’t afford that stash tax, I did not own enough of the “smooth, light-colored, non-heathered ” yarn required. I ran out and got some nice simple Cascade 220 in a periwinkle that I hope is light enough.  It is definitely smooth and non-heathered.

img_0800.JPGPoison is smooth, non-heathered, but definitely not light colored. 🙂