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

Archive for May, 2012


I am a Craftsman

Dear Ellen,

1-dsc04677.JPGI always love getting mail.  And when it arrives bearing proof that I am a craftsman, it is even more welcome.  Say hello to one of the newest members of the  Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.  The best part is the free admission to the Guild shows!

dsc04671.JPGAlso say hello to Baby Chicka.  She is one of the fledglings from the chickadee nest that is in the birdhouse by the side garden.  Over the course of the afternoon she went from “drunken Sailor” to proficient aeronaut in her flying skills.  Very bold, she landed on the porch to check out my knitting.  (Okay, landing would be stretching it…it was really a controlled crash.)

dsc04678.JPGAnd say goodbye to this fine spinach and these spring onions.  By the time you read this they will already be in my belly.  So satisfying to eat from one’s own garden!

Love, Jan

Knit together…

Dear Jan,

You and I have gotten so much out of our knitting and blogging together.  We’ve raised each other’s bars on knitting quality, we’ve connected with each other and with so many other knitters and spinners both virtually and in person, and we’ve been privileged to name many of these connections as dear friends.  Anyone reading this blog gets this - how a shared passion knits friends together in so many ways.

Of course, you don’t need to share knitting to connect deeply with someone.  It is a pleasure, though, when someone special in your life recognizes what knitting can mean, and then connects to you through it.  Below is a photo* of a very special gift I recently received from my very dear friend, Jeanne.  This Barbara Lavallee print, Knit Three Together, captures the joy in our relationship and something of each of us - Jeanne, the Native Alaskan and me, the Knitter.  We’ve worked together and we’ve sorted out our share of life’s knots over a glass of wine,  and we have laughed, and yes, cried some, together, too.  When I think that she saw this and thought of me, well, that just sinks right into my core, you know?

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I kind of wish I had a couple of knitting buddies with me these days to help me push through some of my current projects.  Someone to unwind the yarn might just help me get the shawl I’m test knitting for Erica done.  The rows are now about 550 stitches long.  When we finish, the rows will be over 650 stitches long.  It helps that the fabric is gorgeous - Juniper Moon merino:silk blend in a subtle variegation of woodsy colors.

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Progress on the shawl has meant no progress on the sweater for your retirement ceremony.  It is quite possible I’ll be wearing a new shawl instead. Still, the gauge is so much bigger, I am still caught up in Knitter’s Hope, also known as Knitter’s Delusion, that I might get it done in time.  I’d show a photo but it hasn’t changed by a single stitch since the last one.

I hope you are knitting together a lovely weekend.  Ours is rainy, but that is just that much more time for getting that shawl off the needles.

Love,

Ellen

*I added blurring and text over the photo - the actual print is crisp and gorgeous.  Do go to the link provided and ooh and ahh over the many other lovely paintings she has done.

True Colors

Dear Ellen,

dsc04599.JPGDale convinced me that I should have a hand knit thank you gift for the Chief of Naval Operations when he does my retirement.  And he told me it should be a scarf.  And it had to be in navy blue and gold colors for the Navy.  And it needed to be cool looking.  He is convinced that the CNO will never have had anything knit for him by an admiral before.  He is probably right.  So, I agreed.  Then I spent several days searching for a reversible pattern stitch that worked with two colors.  I decided to do slip stitch diagonal stripes.  And I found the yarn at a fantastic little shop in the northern part of Lancaster County.  Since then I’ve been busy on it, but it still has about 40% to go.  I should come in under the deadline without too much fuss.  And I like it well enough that I may modify it and knit another for Dale and to work for a pattern to publish.  I’ll put up a photo of the back side when I think of it.  It is not identical, but is very nice so although the scarf is not truly reversible, it works.

dsc04600-001.JPGHere are some other colors I saw this weekend.  Our ferns are just gorgeous right now.

dsc04603.JPGAnd so are our table scraps.

Love, Jan

Remember Me???

Dear Ellen,

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted.  As you know, I’ve been a tad busy.  So, here’s your quick catch up!

All the way back in April (as you obviously know) I had a wonderful, wonderful time visiting your workplace and meeting and speaking so many of your colleagues and co-workers.  So many good memories and ideas from that visit!  The Navy let me hang around for a few more days so I could do some outreach for them — speaking to a number of groups in academia and youth development.  (My favorite was the time I spent with about 60 3rd-8th graders talking about women in technology.  Ten year-olds really keep you on your toes!!) 

susannas-beaded-mitts.JPGIt was great that the trip included Yarnover weekend.  Vendors, classes with Chris Bylsma, Mary Scott Huff and Susanna Hansson, and of course, time with you meant for fantastic fun!  (For our readers, no, the picture on the lower left is not one of us.)  I loved the chance to visit StephenBe’s and to enjoy the sensory overload that is his world.

dsc04536.JPGAnd then, right after I returned to the DC area, I had the chance to take a class with Brenda Dayne of the Cast-On podcast.  She is as lovely as you would expect from her podcast.  I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to get to know her a bit — witty, smart, funny and engaging.  She’d fit right in to any group that you and I put together, that’s for sure.

dsc04587.JPGThe class project was the Mrs. Beeton wristers.  I went against recommendations on my accent yarn choice (purchased at Yarnover!), but I’m very happy with it.  Future versions should include a modification to accomodate the lack of elasticity in the Seduce (rayon, linen, silk and nylon blend).  The minor problem is that without the “sproing” the knitted ruffle works up to a depth that is a bit too long.  It hides the inner ruffle knitted out of the main yarn, a superwash merino sock yarn.  I do love the contrast in texture though…even more so than for the versions of Mrs. Beeton worked with the recommended yarn types.  The simple fix will be to modify the ruffle pattern to lose just a few rows and that will be very easy.

may-20121.JPGThings are definitely popping up all over the farm these days. That gazebo I mentioned is firmly situated across from the house — bedding plants to come.  And I’ve got fairy ring mushrooms, knock out roses, peas, melons, corn, wildflowers, onions and spinach coming along very nicely!

may-2012.JPGOur tenants are doing well too.  I thought the chickadee had abandoned her nest in the birdhouse and opened it to make sure.  Surprise!  She was right there.  I quickly snapped a picture and closed it back up.  She didn’t twitch a bit and the next day was still sitting her clutch.  I was relieved I hadn’t frightened her by the rude intrusion.  The eggs above our front windows have hatched (see the tail sticking out?) and the babies are making a mess of things.  (That’s okay, we know how to use a scrub brush.)  And the purple finch who nested in the holly bush just outside our back door has laid a nice little trio of beautiful blue eggs with little black speckles.  I caught this photo while she was out taking advantage of the bird feeders.

dsc04573.JPGI’ve put some time in at the spinning wheel and now have 3 very full bobbins of alpaca/tussah silk singles.  I’ll be doing some trial plying of these to see how I want to finish them.  I’m hoping two-ply will yield a heavy sock weight or light DK. 

briar-rose.JPGThe alpaca fleece that I ordered from Morro Fleece Works arrived this past Saturday and it is incredibly lush!  I was so glad I had an extra bobbin at the ready and on Sunday I sat down and spun up about 4 1/2 ounces.  Like buttah!  The roving drafted like an absolute dream — the closest to the zen of spinning that I think I’ve experienced.  It’s a semi-worsted spin with a lot of energy.  I want to test out how a highly spun and highly plied alpaca behaves in a fabric.  I love this color and this fleece so much that I’d really like to use it for the Knitmore SPAKAL, but am smart enough to know I need to figure out the lack of elasticity issue before I knit an entire sweater out of it!  (By the way, I’m seriously considering Mishke by Julie Weisenberger.  Yes, she seems to have both of our attentions!

dsc04527.JPGBefore I say goodbye, I want to share the helmet liner I knit for my trusted assistant.  He is heading off to Afghanistan for a year to command an Air Force communications squadron over there.  I wanted him to stay warm, a small token of my appreciation for all the hard work he did for me over the last few years.  He loved it…can you see the smile?  His last day is tomorrow.  We’ll all be sorry to see him go.  Good luck, Mike!

That’s it — next post will be sooner and shorter.  I promise!

Love, Jan

After this weekend, everything is in sheepshape order here…

Dear Jan,

last-viewed-events-28a.pngAs you are well aware, this last weekend was Shepherd’s Harvest, the biggest fiber festival in the Twin Cities area.  Four barns plus some freestanding tents of vendors, sheep, alpacas, goats and bunnies, classes and fleece sales all combine to make one of my favorite events.

I took 3 great classes.  The first, taught by Dee Heinrich of Peeper Hollow Farm, was on sheep color genetics.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  Looking at the photos of lambs and figuring out their possible genetics was like sudoku on hooves.

The second was a photography class with Gale Zucker.  Yes, this is the second class I’ve taken with Gale, but now that I’ve been applying some of her wisdom I was ready to absorb a bit more.  Like how changing the exposure setting on your camera can make a big difference in picture quality in general, and how lowering it as much as a full f-stop can allow you to actually capture black yarn in particular.  The picture below shows the results of decreasing the exposure setting (with no other editing of the photo after it is downloaded).

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My last class was taught by Carol Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill.  We played with fiber blending, color blending, and color layering.  A total blast, and I’m afraid it may have pushed me toward doing some dyeing.

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It definitely pushed me toward buying one of her Coopworth fleeces.  The fiber we worked with in class was so lofty and lustrous.  I also bought a pound of raw Rambouillet just to compare that fine stuff to the stronger Coopworth.  A Rambouillet lock  is on the left below, the Coopworth to the right.

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In between coming and going to the festival, I did get a little knitting done.  I’ve gotten a start on another test knit - this one for Erica.  Her spiral shawl is a great travel project, at least at this size, as the pattern is simple increases in a stockinette ground.

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And I haven’t forgotten the big event of the summer.  I’ve gotten a start on my sweater to wear to your retirement.  The pattern, Paulina by Julie Weisenberger, is much lovelier than this bit of sleeve suggests.

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All in all, I’m ending the weekend smiling.

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Love,

Ellen

Bits and bobs… and birds…

Dear Jan,

I am still catching up on work and home since the big Yarnover/FiberFest weekend.  Part of that includes posting the beginnings of some projects that resulted from classes we took.

I admit.  I really didn’t expect to get tons out of Susanna Hansson’s Off the Cuff class, taught at StevenBe’s on Sunday.  It seemed more of an excuse to spend time with you and Susanna.  What I forgot to take into account is that this was one of Susanna’s classes. She never just gives you a pattern tutorial - she gives you history and context and little ideas along the way that make it all go so much easier.  Photos of early use of the beaded pulse warmers, books from Europe and Japan showing modern designs, and the concept of using bead gauge instead of counting beads - all made the price of entry well worthwhile.

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Not to mention the product.  I’m very amused by these, knit out of Madelinetosh Tosh Light (merino wool) and beaded with size 8 lime green lined beads from Matsuno.

Ditto on Monday’s class for a Domino Scarf also taught by Susanna.  Simple project, great history of modular knitting, current context of  domino and modular knitting, fabulous examples, and many tips and tricks.  I incorporated our Habu yarn tasting class from Friday into this - while most of these scarves have been knit with a kid mohair/silk lace yarn like Kidsilk Haze, I opted to go with the Habu A-20 silk/stainless steel blend.

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And again, the product is amusing me to no end.

One more project to share - one that was begun without my knowledge.  I dallied in removing the Christmas wreath from the front door, making the perfect real estate for family of house finches.

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Watching this project progress is sure to be very amusing, as well.

I hope your weekend was amusing, and the week to come is excellent.

Love,

Ellen

Oh, rat’s nest!

Dear Jan,

After our wild weekend of wool, I settled in for a quiet spin last night.  I filled most of a bobbin before a small calamity arose - a lost end, gone in the wooliness that is my woolen spun Columbia fleece.

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Happily, I had a bit of a lifeline.  I don’t recall where I saw this tip, but I’m glad I did see it and put it into practice.  I fill my bobbins from one end to the other, and rather than work my way back to the other end of the bobbin, I move immediately to the far end and work my way back.  See what happens?  You get a strand of yarn running roughly perpendicular across the wound singles upon which you wind your next course.

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And when you permanently lose an end, you never have to cut back more than to that perpendicular thread.  I barely lost any at all here.

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One more storage bobbin filled, and disaster averted.

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I hope you enjoy your Brenda Dane class tonight, and that you report on it soon!

Love,

Ellen