Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WIPs Wednesday? You betcha!

I've had a bit of start-itis lately and so I have plenty of projects on the needles. Or, at least, plenty for me. I think there are currently five. And that's only if you count the knitting projects. I also have a little needlepoint thing I'm working on, and two unfinished quilt tops that I'm not working on. The quilt tops send occasional messages to the guilt receptors in my brain, asking if they might someday be allowed out of the closet. I ignore them.

As for the knitting WIPs, I tend not to let them languish, but for whatever reason, I've decided that right now I'd rather start new projects than finish the old ones. It's much more exciting! This bout of start-itis might also be from realizing that I currently know at least four people who are pregnant (whose babies really should have handknit gifts) and that I have a big exam coming up, that I don't really feel like studying for.

So, one of the recently-started projects is the Punctuated Rib Socks, by Ann Budd. The pattern for these socks is in Carol Sulcoski's book Knitting Socks with Hand Painted Yarn. In this case, I'm using a commercially-produced variegated yarn: Berocco Sox Metallic. I've only just gotten going on the pattern, as these socks are meant to be worked on while I commute to work on the bus. I wasn't sure at first how I'd like the metallic bits in the yarn, but I think they look nice. Definitely not tacky.

Another is the intarsia-in-the-round socks that I'm doing toe-up from the technique I learned at Sock Summit from Anne Berk. I've gotten a lot faster knitting these. I usually work on them in the afternoons when I let the cat out. Since he's blind, I have to be out in the yard with him to make sure he doesn't wander into the alley or find some other kind of trouble. All he wants to do is eat grass and throw it up. If the neighbor's dog comes out, that's when he wants to go back in. He wants nothing at all to do with any dogs. Anyway, as for the socks, I think they'll end having an afterthought heel and a fairly short cuff - I'm just going to knit them as far as the yarn lets me, then quit.

The last of the WIPs that I can share (the baby projects have to be secret, I think) is my Peasy cardigan. I really don't know why I haven't just sewn the freaking buttons on, but that's the last thing that remains to be done. I keep telling myself that I'll do it insert evening here, but then I get distracted by cute little bitty baby projects and the cardigan goes one more night unfinished. It probably won't happen tonight, because a friend is coming over and we have plans to drink wine on my front porch. And tomorrow I have a work-related function, so it won't get done then, either. This weekend is a holiday, so maybe it can happen then. I really do want to finish it soon, as I'd like to have it washed and blocked in time to wear the first minute that it's cool enough to wear.

So, that's current projects. Maybe next time, I'll be able to show a finished project. Until then.

Monday, August 29, 2011

State Fair Ribbon Edition

Yesterday was the last day of the Kentucky State Fair and that means that today I was able to bring home all the stuff I entered, along with the ribbons I earned. In case you didn't keep count of all the stuff I entered from this post, I'll go ahead and tell you I entered 12 items. I did not knit them all this year, but most of these items have been completed within the last two or three years.

 Anyway, I earned six ribbons this year, two of them blue! I'm pretty excited about that. I'd have been more excited if I'd earned a couple more, but I'm trying hard not to be all sour-grapey. Yes, the whole concept of judging means it's subjective. I mean, there are judging criteria, but there's plenty of room for a variety of opinion. And then there's the absurdity of the idea of competitive knitting, about which my husband continually reminds me when I get all bent out of shape about placing somewhere other than first.

I have heard that there are people who are well-adjusted enough to be satisfied with having given their best effort and all that, but I'm not sure I've met any of them. I can admit that I'm a competitive person, and that I hate being beaten. At anything. I like to win. And when you get right down to it, winning is better than not winning.

All that being said, there were some beautiful handknit items at the Fair this year, and not all of them were mine. Two of my friends did very well in the lace category, another did well in the hat/scarf category. There were quite a few gorgeous sweaters too (and, surprisingly, only one of them was Fair Isle). One of the things I noticed this year is that the judges didn't seem to value colorwork. There were two very well done colorwork socks, neither of which earned a ribbon. I thought that the best felted item was the one that earned the third-place ribbon. I'm not sure why this is, because it can be tricky to get proper tension with stranded knitting, and this year's examples were well done. I guess it will just have to remain a mystery.

Anyway, I've already begun thinking about what I might make for next year's fair. I'd like to earn a few more ribbons, and it would be nice if I could get some more blue ones. I think I'll have to step up my game, though. I suspect a few people will be coming for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sock Yarn Doesn't Count As Stash.

Amiright? This is what I've heard, anyway. See, when I go someplace, I like to check out the local yarn shop, if there's one anywhere near the place I'm visiting. At Sock Summit, the yarn was conveniently located mere steps from the classrooms where I learned so much. Up north, in Michigan, the shops were a little farther away, but definitely not out of our way.

When we go to the lake, in addition to spending a lot of time in/on the water, we also like to check out the surrounding countryside and small towns in the vicinity, shopping in the local stores and eating local foods. In Cedar, Michigan, we always make a point of going to Pleva's Meats, where they make the most delicious sausages. They even put cherries (a plentiful local agricultural product) and pecans in them! They're so good. Next door, there's the Cedar City Market, which stocks lots of regional wines and liquor, as well as locally-produced cheeses and other good stuff. The guy that runs the place is pretty cool, and has a very well-curated selection of booze. This makes me happy.

Conveniently located across the street from both these shops is Wool and Honey, a yarn shop with a nice selection of luxury yarns as well as locally-produced alpaca yarn, roving and felt. I keep looking at that yarn because the undyed colors are so lovely, but I can never think of what I'll make with it while I'm in the store and so end up with yarn purchasing paralysis. I really need to plan ahead, or, at the very least, take my laptop so I can search the Ravelry for an appropriate pattern. Anyway, I ended up buying the buttons to finish my Peasy cardigan and two skeins of fingering-weight yarn. I hesitate to call the Fibre Company Canopy that I purchased sock yarn, though it is 400 yards of yarn that some people have knit into socks. There are plenty of hats and shawls, too, but I think this yarn will become gloves. I still have to make up my mind.

Another town we always go to (especially as it is on our way to the cottage) is Suttons Bay, which is home to lots of places to eat. This trip we had dinner at the Village Inn (Est. 1871). The food was good and the beer was cold. We left full & happy. Just up the street from there is the Thistledown Shoppe, which is so chock full of yarn, skeins were jumping out of the bins and into my hands. I ended up with two skeins of Shibui Sock (against which I am helpless) and a skein of some lovely locally-dyed tussah silk single-ply. The color is called Leelanau Sunset and that's exactly what it looks like: beautiful reds, gold & reddish-purples that I can't wait to start knitting up. As this yarn was not fingering-weight, I think it has to count as a stash acquisition. The day I was in, they had the sweetest shop dog in the world napping on a wing chair in the front room. She very gently stuck her nose under my hand whenever I stopped scratching behind her ears, as it was obvious I had chosen my yarn and was defenseless against her beseeching eyes. She saw me coming a mile away.

So now that I'm home, I've been searching Rav's Green Acre, looking for just the right patterns for my new yarns. I haven't found exactly what I was looking for, but I'm sure that with a little patience and perseverance I'll find what I want. At least I have plenty of non-stash to get me through until the next time I leave town. If you happen to have a favorite pattern for variegated sock yarn, let me know. I may well end up knitting every sock in Carol Sulcoski's book, as most of the sock yarn I've been buying lately seems to be some variety of variegated.

Looks like that's all I have for now. Until next time, Friends!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hit and Run

I'm on vacation this week at our family's place in northern Michigan, so I much prefer being outside with my kayak than inside with my laptop. As I'm headed out to do something fun, I thought I'd put up a little tease about some socks I'm working on:

It's all Anne Berk's fault, you see. I took her intarsia in the round class, and now I'm happily handling yarn spaghetti on my vacation. And in case you decide this is something you might want to do, you should know that this is not a good candidate for two-at-a-time knitting. Nor is it a good candidate for knitting in the car (unless your driver is willing to take turns at a crawl).

Until next time, Friends!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finished Objects: State Fair Edition

Today, I submitted 12 items for the Kentucky State Fair, some of which you've seen, others I completed well before I started the blog. I have hopes that a few things will do well. Others, not so much. Some of the earlier items are pretty simple knitting, but I think they're executed well and I definitely used high quality materials. The Fair opens this Thursday, and all will be known then. Of course, I'm out of town until next Monday, so I won't actually know how I did until the next day, at the earliest. Anyway, if you can stand it, here they are:

Knitted Afghan

Hand Knitted Sweater (not Aran, Fair Isle, or Jacquard)

Hand Knitted Baby Blanket

Hand Knitted Vest

Hand Knitted Scarf/Hat or Mittens/Hat

Hand Knitted Baby Sweater

Hand Knitted Baby Booties

Hand Knitted Stole/Shawl/Shrug

Hand Knitted/Felted Item

Hand Knitted Socks

Hand Knitted Lace

Hand Knitted Item w/o Category

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's called restraint.

And I exercised it. Mostly. At Sock Summit, the Marketplace was a marvel. High-quality stuff as far as the eye could see. Hand painted yarns. Roving. Books. There were so much awesome temptation. This is all I came home with:

A respectable haul, but certainly not outrageous. Enough sock yarn for four pairs of socks, a skein for a friend, some lovely handmade soaps, some ceramic buttons, and a cute little ceramic bowl. I skipped the books, as I was worried that my luggage would be too heavy on the way home. I also skipped the roving and spindles as I'm not sure I'm willing to take on another hobby which will involve new gear and a whole 'nother stash. But those undyed rovings were really beautiful and intriguing.

The first booth I really spent time in on the first night was Sanguine Gryphon. The line of people waiting to check out wrapped around the side and into the next aisle, but I decided to sharpen my elbows and take a look inside. All the yarns were beautifully painted, and when a skein of Skinny Bugga named after the Golden Orb spider found its way into my hand, I knew I had to have it. It's mostly different blues, with a little gold thrown in. Its 80/10/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend will ensure that the socks made from this yarn will be mine.

The other yarn I purchased the first night came from A Verb for Keeping Warm. A voice over the loudspeaker had just announced that the Marketplace was closing for the night and I sort of slowed down at their booth. They were so kind as to invite me in and let me shop. I didn't want anyone to get in trouble for any illicit after-hours sales and hoped we wouldn't get thrown in Sock Summit Jail for it. This set off lots of musing about how nice Sock Summit Jail would be, with its handknit afghans on the cots, felted slippers, and ubiquitous handknit socks. I bought two skeins of Creating, and they gave me a free pattern.

On subsequent days, I managed to get to Little Red Bicycle, where I bought a skein of yarn for a friend. His only request was that it be in a "manly" color. That would be the red skein in the top photo. The dyer at LRB is someone whose posts I read a lot on Ravelry, and at the LSG party, she wore a dinosaur suit. She's pretty awesome and her yarn is gorgeous!

I also managed to find my way to Miss Bab's booth, which was full of beautiful yarns and lots of patterns. In addition to all the gorgeous hand-painted yarns, she also had lots of beautiful semi-solids, which are probably my favorite yarns to knit - I like how the saturation of the colors adds depth to the things I knit. Anyway, I ended up with one semi-solid and one hand-paint. I can't wait to see how they knit up.

Aside from the yarn, I bought some lovely handmade soaps from Goodies Unlimited, which smell so good, I can't stand it! I think the peppermint is my favorite, but I also love the lavender soap and the almond one, too. I gave the citrus-scented one to a friend, and now that I've looked at their website, I expect I'll order some more. The other non-yarn purchase I made was from Jennie the Potter, who had all kinds of ceramic awesomeness in her booth. I only ended up with a set of buttons and a cute little bowl, but I was glad to have them. All her vessels, be they yarn bowls, vases, or mugs, had cute incised decoration: sheep (some wearing socks), squirrels, trees w/birds. They were all so cute! I was looking pretty hard at some of the bigger pieces, but I was worried about how well they'd travel home, so I just got a small bowl with a robin on the inside. It will do well for stitch markers or pins or something.

I think this is the end of my Sock Summit posts. My State Fair submissions have to be turned in this weekend, so I've been busy washing and blocking all kinds of stuff, which you'll get to see soon enough. Until next time, Friends.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Actual Knitting Content!

You've been waiting awhile, yes? Once I actually arrived in Portland, I got on the MAX and headed straight for my hotel for a shower. Except it took longer than I planned because I went the wrong direction and ended up at Pioneer Square. But, once I got my bearings, I got going in the right direction and checked in.

The first thing on my agenda was to get to the Oregon Convention Center to check out the Marketplace. I took a lap to check out all the booths before I made any rash decisions. There was so much awesome stuff! Signature Needle Arts was there, and their needles are really awesome. The only thing that kept me from buying any is that I really prefer a long circular to dpns when I knit socks. As soon as they come out with a US1 needle, I'm all over it. There were at least two booths full of knitting books, one of which had the most excellent Japanese stitch dictionary: 1000 patterns for $119. (Honey, if you're paying attention, you should consider this a hint.) There were also vendors of glass, wood, and carbon-fiber knitting needles; spinning equipment and roving; buttons, stitch markers and yarn bowls. And a metric ton of yarn: hand-painted, hand-dyed, hand-spun and lots of commercial yarns and especially yarn from indie dyers. I bought plenty of stuff, but I think I'll save that for another post.

After I finished in the Marketplace, I went up the escalator to attend the opening night reception, at which Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (AKA the Yarn Harlot - you might have heard of her) and Tina Newton (both of whom were collectively known as ST-1) were speaking.I have no idea how many people were there, but since I was in line buying myself two glasses of wine (it was a long line, I wasn't going to do it twice), I ended up at a table near the back with some nice people I met in the wine line. ST-1 had plenty to say about how the folks in charge of the Convention Center didn't quite understand what they were in for, how much fun the conference was going to be and how rewarding (and exhausting) it was to finally be under way.

The next morning I was scheduled for Anne Hanson's "Holes in our Socks" class, which was billed as an intermediate-level class. I think it was intermediate for sock knitters, but beginning for lace knitters. I have to admit, I probably should have chosen an advanced class, as many of the people in class were new to lace knitting and some had real problems with reading lace charts. What I found most interesting about the class was seeing all Anne's samples. She had many where she knit up the same swatch in multiple yarns, all of which behaved differently due to the fiber content of the yarn, its thickness, or how it was spun. It really impressed on me the importance of swatching and yarn substitution.

On Saturday morning, I had Lorilee Beltman's "Seismic Socks" class, which was about vertical intarsia in the round. It's a really neat concept and definitely a challenging technique. Lorilee had so many samples of finished objects that I was really excited to learn how to do this. I've had at least two of her patterns in my queue for awhile, but I'm so glad I took the class before I tried to knit the socks. They'll definitely be the better for it. I also have to say how much fun Lorilee is: when we were taking our picture together, we used some samples as sock puppets. We knitters are wild! Wild, I tell you!

On the last day of Sock Summit, I had Anne Berk's "Intarsia with a Twist" class, which was about working intarsia in the round. Seriously. It works. I can't wait to play around some more with this technique. I think that once I get a fairly basic sock down, I'd like to see if I can make cables work with the color changes. At Stitch 'n' Bitch last night, everyone's eyes were glazing over as I tried to describe the process, but I'm sure it's because I made it sound more complicated than it is. That happens to me sometimes. Anyway, Anne Berk is probably one of the most energetic people I've been around and her enthusiasm is contagious. I'm so glad I took the class.

It seems like I should have more to say about my non-class experiences at Sock Summit, but there was so much going on, it could take more text than you're likely willing to read to describe it all. There was a fastest knitter contest, whose winner knit something like 57 stitches per minute. There was also the Fleece to Foot Challenge, in which teams of 5 people had to spin the wool of some freshly-shorn sheep, spin it into yarn, then knit it into a sock. And most famously, there was the flash mob of some 600 or so attendees, who performed yarn-themed choreography to "I've Had the Time of My Life." It's on YouTube. I'm embarrassed to admit that I forgot when it was supposed to start, and I was on my way to the Japanese Garden as it happened. Had I been there, I probably wouldn't have danced, but I would have cheered those who did. It was cute.

I think that's all I have for this time. Next time, I think I'll show off all the goodies I brought home from Sock Summit. Until then, Friends.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stuff I've Learned About Train Travel

  1. Spring for a spot in the sleeper car. It's a little more expensive, but on a trip with two overnights, an actual bed with a blanket on it is well worth having. Also, meals are included in the price of the ticket and they have special activities for sleeper car passengers, like wine-and-cheese tastings.
  2. Those packages of moist towelettes are awesome! It's not the same as an actual shower, but they sure made me feel better.
  3. I'm not so sure how I feel about dry shampoo. I may not have done it right.
  4. The Great Plains are vast and seemingly unending.
  5. Glacier National Park and the nearby Flathead River are beautiful.
  6. The Border Patrol checks everyone out in Havre, MT. I'm not sure that there's anything else going on in town.
  7. The Columbia River Gorge is awe-inspiring. I'd like to see it next by boat.
  8. Don't count on the train to travel 2300 miles without any delays, especially if it has to go through a place that was very recently under five feet of water. My train arrived 6 hours late to Portland.
  9. The food in the dining car was only alright, but better than what was available in the sightseeing car. The Amish folks got it right by packing their own meals in a cooler. Had I done that, it would have been my best chance for any kind of a vegetable.
  10. The coach car attendants are fantastic people. They had to put up with a lot of crap from people who were unhappy about how far behind schedule the train was. Like it was their fault, or something. I know I couldn't do their job and keep a civil tongue in my head. (Mary, if you see this, thanks for being so great!)
  11. The Mississippi River in Minnesota is just gorgeous, and I'm glad I got to see it at sunset. It was the end of a great first day on the train.
  12. A sweater is a good thing to have. Even better things to have: a neck pillow and a blanket. Or possibly a Snuggie, but I wouldn't be caught dead in one. Unless I were being ironic, or something, and anymore I just can't be bothered.
  13. Most of my fellow travelers were very nice people. Many of them were very chatty. Headphones and pointy sticks mostly insured my solitude. One guy, upon discovering that I was from Kentucky, told me a dirty joke about a horse named "My Face." I avoided him thereafter.
  14. The trip would have be infinitely better had my husband been with me.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    See All the Things! Or, uh, not.

    Ninety minutes is not enough time to go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Hell, it's not enough time to go to any museum. But as I had three hours between trains, I decided that I couldn't be so close as 6 blocks and not go. There was one thing, in particular, that I wanted to see: the Golden Spider Silk Tapestry in the African gallery. Have you seen the video about this tapestry? It's so freaking cool. They actually pulled the silk from the bellies of Golden Orb spiders from Madagascar. Then they did it a whole bunch more times. Then they unstickied the silk, spun it into threads, warped a loom with it, then wove it into a bunch of small brocade panels which they attached to each other to make one big brocade panel. Seriously, if you're going to be in Chicago any time soon, you need to see this. And give yourself the whole day, would ya?

    To get to the African gallery, you have to go through the American Indian gallery, as well as the Chinese gallery. And if you're me, and you're in a hurry to get to the African gallery, you miss the turn and take two trips through the South Asian gallery before you figure out where you're going. And then you go through it again to get to the textile gallery to see the special exhibit of kimonos. The South Asian gallery had all kinds of statuary of Hindu, Buddhist and other religions' gods, made from many different materials: stone, wood, metal. If I'd had more than 90 minutes, I'd have taken a closer look.

    After I flew through the African and South Asian galleries (with nary a look at the American Indian gallery), I went downstairs to see the kimonos. I took one picture (which didn't come out) before one of the security folks let me know that photography wasn't permitted in that exhibit. Anyway, the kimonos were all lovely, and I especially liked that they had on display some stencils that had been used in patterning on kimonos. My favorite of all that were on display was one that was a black and white checkered shogun's kimono which also had a very subtle floral pattern all over. Up close, you couldn't really see it - it really played tricks on my eyes. Stepping back a few feet, the floral patterning asserted itself. It was gorgeous.

    After the kimonos, I decided I had time to take a lap through the Japanese gallery, which I don't remember having seen on past visits to the Art Institute. There was some interesting early sculpture, from the 5th century or so. I also took a look at the wood carvings and ceramics, but the space that really grabbed me was the Ando gallery, fully of woven bamboo baskets by artist Fujinuma Noboru. These were the most beautiful baskets I've ever seen. It makes me want to take up basketweaving, just to try. Of course I couldn't achieve that level of skill, but it would be fun to try. Maybe for my next hobby.

    After the Japanese gallery it was time to head back to the train station to catch my train to Portland. I'm cheap enough that I only paid for a coach seat, rather than coughing up for a sleeper car. I lucked out and got a seat all to myself, but I very nearly had to sit next to the chattiest woman ever. She was on the phone the whole time the train was boarding, then she -horrors- started talking to me. And before you go thinking I'm a completely nasty person, it wasn't just small talk. She was heading for life's story territory just as I realized a couple seats were about to open up. I couldn't move fast enough. After I moved, she placed another call, which got her all the way to Wisconsin, I think.

    In knitting news, I cast on for Peasy, by Heidi Kirrmaier, with more lovely Rowan Revive - it's the same yarn I used on my Vesper, by the same designer. Peasy is a top-down cardigan, with pretty little lacy/viney bits on the cardigan fronts. I'm knitting it with size 4 needles, which got me gauge the last time I knit with this yarn. I'm so glad I brought this project, as the miles of stockinette would be just the thing for a 46-hour train ride.

    Well, that's all I have for now. Until next time, Friends.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    All Aboard for Sock Summit!

    Well, so much for getting two posts up before I left - I didn't even get one!

    Early last Tuesday morning my husband drove me to Indianapolis, where I got on a train to start my journey to Sock Summit. It was an uneventful drive, which started a little late because I forgot to go to the ATM and I couldn't find my neck pillow. (Yes, I know: First World Problem.) We got to the station with a few minutes to spare before boarding and then my dear, sweet husband turned right around and drove back to Louisville, fueled on a 20oz. can of Red Bull.

    Once I found myself a seat (I had two to myself!), there was a short wait before we could depart. At one point, they cut all the lights in the car, and for half a minute, I was expecting Dementors to show up. It was pitch black both inside and out. But then the lights came back on, we felt the locomotive power up, and we were off!

    I pulled out Damask, which only had about 1.5 chart repeats to go before I could call it done. I've been very pleased with how well this project has gone. No major mistakes, just one dropped stitch, which I was easily able to fix. I didn't even have to use any lifelines, which is not a practice I recommend, as lifelines really are your friends. The only thing I might say I was unhappy about would be that the front of my shirt was covered in alpaca fuzz, but it was not really that bad. As the train rolled along toward Chicago, I completed Damask while the sun came up over the corn and soybean fields.

    Having grown up in northeastern Indiana, these fields are my favorite view. As a kid, I rode my bicycle for miles and miles on country roads surrounded by acres and acres of corn. I don't remember many fields with livestock, just crops as far as the eye could see, occasionally broken by a barn or silo. This morning, there was a mist over the fields, giving them a dreamy quality as the sun rose over them. It was a great way to start the trip.

    Next time, I expect I'll be writing about my Peasy cardigan, which I cast on last Monday, in anticipation of completing Damask. I also had a little Sock Summit homework to do - I needed about an inch of ribbed cuff for one of my classes. Until then, Friends.