Sunday, December 5, 2010

Remnants scarf and other cool things

I created a slim scarf out of leftovers from a couple other projects that I'd like to share here:

This was a crochet experiment that originally did not have any particular objective. I just had some extra of the two colors and thought they would play nice together. I made, essentially, granny squares, some with pink centers and brown outsides and some with the reverse. When I ran out of the brown alpaca, I sewed them all together in a single long zigzag (Adam’s idea) and that was the scarf. I love how it came out.

Here is yours truly wearing the scarf:

It's a slightly dark pic but it's an iPhone shot, what do you want.

I'm going to type up the instructions and put it up as a free download in the next few days. It is super easy and will work with many different yarn weights. I used worsted, here, but sock yarn would work, as would even laceweight. If you used laceweight you might want to have two rows of zigzagged squares to give it decent width.

* * * * *

I'm influenced by (read: I'm a huge fan of) Sophie Digard, a French designer of, as her website puts it, "Scarves, shawls, gloves, fingerless gloves, head gears, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, hairpins, bags, 'espadrille' shoes, plaids, ..." She designs gorgeous items that are made using thread in multiple colors. The way she puts colors together blows my mind. I saw scarves by her a few years ago in a shop down in Tribeca but they were outside of my comfortable price range. I got a bee in my bonnet about her earlier this year and finally bought a bag by her:

Click on "Views" to see more detail.

The bag is stunning! It smelled like lavender when it arrived, too. I kept it in the plastic wrapper until Thanksgiving, though, because I felt like it was too nice to use. But when my mom was here she was in my studio using my yarn winder and she saw it stashed in there; she asked me about it and I realized as I said it how stupid it was to buy something and then not use it because it's too nice! Anyway, after that I got it out and I've been using it lately.

You can see a selection of other items here at Ped Shoes. I think I have a very good color sense, but I am humbled by the things she makes. I love how she puts colors together that I would never use together, and makes them work and makes them gorgeous. It doesn't hurt that they are made in the tiniest scale. I seriously tried to buy yarn that fine and couldn't - I do think they are made from thread. Check out this amazing necklace at The French Needle:

* * * * *

Over at the Purl Bee they have the most astonishing, amazing, simple technique for two-color garlands:

I love when people are just noodling around and invent something like this and then just go ahead and share it with the world. Go read the instructions - you won't believe how easy it is. I can see many amazing uses for this technique!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

STITCHES East, part two

While writing the blog post yesterday I was joined multiple times at my table by ladies I had met earlier, because I was sitting alone at the only table with available chairs in the crowded cafe area. Then I was joined by someone I didn't know, Vivian Hoxbro and her companion (husband? partner?). I introduced myself and mentioned I'd seen her books; rather than say I haven't gotten around to trying out her techniques yet, I lied and said I was intimidated. She pointed to my sweater and said if I could knit that, I could follow her patterns. (And that's true, too. I'm not intimidated by any knitting technique. Not even steeks, really. But on the other hand, I am intimidated by famous people, in any interpretation of the word - and Vivian Hoxbro is famous, at least in the knitting world.) And then, Nancy Bush came up and spoke to Vivian, and glanced at me, but didn't say hello. Now, if there's anybody famous in the knitting world, Nancy Bush is that person. She was going to get in the line for the cafe, and implied she was going to come back after that. And I got flustered and sort of shut down. I picked up my trash and said I was just going and now there was room for Vivian's friend, and hustled away down the escalator. And as I went I felt horrid. Here were two people I would have loved to meet and talk with, but because of my stupid intimidation by / infatuation with / resentment of famous people, I had to run away. As I went down the escalator all I could think about was how I would have loved to stay and charm Nancy Bush and Vivian Hoxbro and then tell Nancy Bush about my book idea, and then she would say what a good idea it was and she was going to make it happen. Instead I scurried away into the crowd like a small rat.

It reminded me of the time Melissa told me about having written a song for Emmy Lou Harris when she (Melissa) was still a bartender at Lucky Strike, and then ELH herself came into the bar a few days later, but instead of telling her about the song, Melissa balked and just kept it to herself. Those lost opportunities burn like hot brands in the creative soul. I still feel regret for Melissa when I think about that story. As Mr Rochester would say, Remorse is the poison of life.

Anyway, I tried to put it out of my mind. I was in a huge bazaar of fibery delights. I continued on where I had left off in the aisles and came up to another lady wearing the lovely skirt outfit I am trying to sell Mom on (not really trying to sell her on, but I know she wants to knit a skirt and I think she would like this one). I asked her if I could take a picture, and trying to be considerate I took the picture from the neck down.

As you can see, though, the lady's name is Claudia - as in Claudia Hand Painted Yarns! Which I figured out after taking the picture, and then I delightedly said how much of a fan of her yarns I am, how I've made several pairs of "lucky" socks for my husband out of her sock yarns, and how thrilled I was to finally meet the lady behind the yarn. I also was able to tell her how wonderful her colorways are, how I was a painter in college and now I'm starting to dye fiber myself and how hard I am discovering it is! She was very approachable, and receptive, and gracious. So that went part way toward making up for the Vivian H/Nancy B fiasco.

Then I continued on and finally found the booth for The Sanguine Gryphon, which I knew was there and only found on the last aisle. I met Gryphon, who took one look at my name tag and said, to my surprise, "Oh, Barclay, how nice to meet you in person!" I've written her a few emails about this or that, and I've bought several skeins of her yarn, which are also beautifully dyed. I talked with her for a few minutes, and I bought a pattern, and she also let me take a picture of one of her other designs that I found hard to visualize from the photos on their site.

And then I did something I rarely do, and I asked the person in back of me in line to take my picture with Gryphon:

She has a weird expression here, but I promise you she seemed quite flattered to have a fan ask to take her picture, and she has her arm around me even, though you can't tell. I swear! And yes, apparently she does wear those anachronistic garments all the time, and sews many of them herself, although this very luxe silver one was not one she had made.

After this picture she told me she had heard my name announced as a winner of something, and my next class was coming up shortly, so I raced away to collect my prize (a skein of Miss Babs sock yarn - something I actually wanted!) and get to my class.

I didn't take any pictures of the spinning class, but it was a really REALLY helpful class. I learned to spin on a spindle, but more importantly, I learned a lot more about twist, how to tell if you are overplying, and how to draft. I will need to practice a lot more (of course) but I feel like I am well on my way to having much more control over the yarn that I spin.

All in all, it was a great conference and I had a good time!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Location in Hartford

I'm at STITCHES East, a knitting conference, to take a couple of classes and visit the large market of "soft wares" vendors.

I got here yesterday and took a class called The Joy of Steeks (a nervous-making technique wherein you knit for several months, then slice right up the center of your work and, amazingly, it doesn't all fall apart). This was a fun class. I was sitting among a group who were pretty on the ball and we started giggling at our classmates who were all "Huh? What? Where do I baste? Are we supposed to cut now? Do we pick up stitches around the corner?" etc. Despite being in (or probably instigating) the peanut gallery, I did get a lot out of the class, and will not be afeard when I need to use this technique someday.

After cutting between the machine-stitched columns of stitches along the center column

The edge, after picking up and knitting a mitered placket

Here we have basted up another column, and are adding a hand-crocheted edge prep

That same column after crocheting both side columns and cutting

Last night I went to the fashion show, which I was surprised to find was quite professionally done, with "real" models and two commentators. There were some nice designs, some of which I might make. There was also a fair proportion of crap. There were several designs made using yarn with, uh, stuff in it - I believe the yarn industry is foisting Novelty Yarns on us again, as it seems we failed to learn from the '80s. Two or three of the garments looked as though the model fell in a pile of raked leaves and didn't quite brush herself off. Oh well. I don't have to follow where they would lead.

Debbie Stoller is here launching her newest Stitch 'n Bitch book, as well as her line of yarns (which are pretty nice and at a super price point). Unfortunately, at the dinner (after the fashion show) she was seated with the fancy Knitter's bigwigs,* so we couldn't really hang out much. I sat with two ladies from the peanut gallery in my steeks class, which was nice. I generally find events like that pretty lonely and/or very hard work, but my dinner companions were really nice, and I soldiered through.

Today I slept in, which was lovely, and then checked out of the hotel and drove over to the convention center, where I got super rock star parking (at least, if it is a legal spot). This is handy because my second class, Spinning for Knitting, isn't until 1:30 and I am bringing my wheel to it, but I wanted to finish going through the Market and NOT have to schlep my wheel the whole time.

Yesterday I didn't see anything in the Market that excited me, but today I found a booth that is selling wonderful Irish yarns and they had a sweet cardigan pattern that I tried on and LURVED, so I snapped that up. Then I turned a corner and found the Miss Babs booth; I've spun a bunch of her hand-dyed fiber before and I love her colorways. So I got a couple bumps of fiber to spin that I think will ply well together. I introduced myself to Herself but she was super busy manning the register and it wasn't a terribly meaningful exchange.

Now I've had a little breakfast and I'm heading back to finish the Market. After that I have my second class and then it's back home to my lovely husband!

* It's my theory that Debbie is being courted by XRX/Knitter's.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 9, 2010

End of the (tomato) season

Today I pulled up all the tomato plants, which were all close to dead or dying. I had already lopped off the ends of the vines, and all flowers, two weeks ago to encourage the plants to put their remaining energy into the fruit that was already there. We had a few get a little more red, but mostly what we got in the end was this big bowl of green ones.

It looks like pickled green tomatoes or fried ones ... or both ... are in our future!

I also put up the halloween decorations on the front of the house.

Now we are making a pot of Italian sausage, kale, and white bean soup from my sister's recipe. I love sausage & white bean soup - I hope this turns out well!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Adam's latest custom gloves - rubberized work gloves

For his birthday (TODAY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETIE!) I made Adam a new pair of gloves. As he already has a regular pair, a fingerless pair, and a pair with caps that tip off the top so you can dial your phone but keep on your gloves, the only thing I could think of to make them different was to make work gloves. He keeps suggesting that I am trying to send the message that he should be doing more yard work. I am trying to send the message that I love the dude. Also that I love knitting gloves.

Here you can see they are coated with a plastic rubber coating, the spray-on variety of Plasti-Dip, which I got on Amazon. My mother wisely suggested that I try it on a piece of test knitting before committing to doing it on the final product. I thought this was a brilliant idea but I ran out of time - it took me all ten days (from last week when I thought of the idea to last night before going to bed) to knit them, finish, and work in the ends, so doing a test first was something I didn't have time for. Fortunately it worked out very well.

Something you may have spotted, you eagle eye, is the different color wrist band on the right glove. Yes. I ran out of yarn about two inches from the bottom. Bummer - but as they are work gloves, they don't really have to match perfectly, do they? I just picked up at that point with some hand spun left over from the fingerless pair.

I tried to follow the pattern I've seen with rubberized work gloves where the rubber appears to wrap around the finger tips and sides. To do this, I used painter's tape to cover the backs and the wrist bands. (Below, you can see as the tape is getting peeled off.) I stood the gloves up on a couple of beer bottles and sprayed them with the plasti-dip.

I put on three coats. I'm not sure why I got the pebbly textured surface, but I think it may add to their utility when Adam puts them to use.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Weekend: The New York Maker Faire / BUST Magazine Craftacular

If you are looking for something cool to do this weekend, the New York Maker Faire ( is happening both Saturday and Sunday. Maker Faire is an event created by Make Magazine to "celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset."

Maker Faire New York

There will be speakers, demos, and workshops on all aspects of DIY techniques, ethos and mindset: blending craft and technology, painting with light, cigar box guitars, even hacking your Playstation 3. Here’s the extensive schedule:

Now for the self-promotion: One big component of the fair will be the BUST Magazine Craftacular (, a curated craft fair featuring 100 New York area DIY artisans, indie crafters and designers. I will have a booth there with my hand-dyed fiber (for spinning) and my handspun yarn, Saturday only.

The fair will be open Saturday, September 25th - 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 26th - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Maker Faire will be held out in the New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street, Queens, NY 11368-2950. The easiest way to get there is to take the 7 train to 111th Street Station. There will also be public parking for $10 at Citi Field nearby.

If you decide to come to the Maker Faire, I hope you will stop by my booth (#96 in the BUST Craftacular) and say hi!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finished, blocked Pine and Ivy

Here is the completed, blocked shawl. It's quite large, and lovely, and I really hope Jennifer (of Spirit Trail Fiberworks) likes it.

Some notes about this project (Ravelry link):

The yarn was very nice to work with. At the beginning, I split the strands on the needle a few times, but this was (once I got used to working with laceweight yarn again) something I quickly learned how to stop doing. I worked the first section, the 3" or so edge along the bottom, twice because I dropped a stitch down a few rows and couldn't recover. But the yarn tolerated being manhandled, as it were, quite well. There was no perceptible wear, fraying or blooming after I ripped back those 30 rows.

I blocked it using wires, threaded through the edge stitches and through the points on the top edge; by pinning it out and then spritzing with water. I know I have a spray bottle for this purpose but for the life of me I can't find it. I made do with a water gun that we have around for discouraging cats from clawing furniture, and it worked perfectly well.

I used less than 1.5 skeins of Spirit Trail Fiberworks' Lachesis (colorway Moon Shadows). I have 29 g left of the second skein (initially 50g) so I used about 781 yards on this.

The pattern is Pine and Ivy by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. I worked the "Tall" size. It took me two months and ten days. It seemed like longer - I just don't like knitting lace with laceweight yarn. I guess I have to accept it.

I used seven lifelines over the course of the work. I strongly advise using them. I read a post in some knitting blog recently where the writer seemed to think of them as an amateur tool - well, I've been knitting for over 35 years, and I'm pretty much the best knitter I know. No, I take that back - Sunday Holm is the best knitter I know. But aside from Sunday. And I don't consider lifelines a rookie move, they are simply a smart move. If you are afraid you won't seem cool if you put in a lifeline, don't worry. It's much cooler to have the lifeline than to have to rip all the way back because you messed up and didn't have one. Everybody messes up; it's how you prepare for it, and how you handle it when you do that makes the difference.

A whole lotta shaking goin' on

First of all, we got a new cat, Errol:

Errol Goodboy Bindle Featherstone from Quirm* (who was "Simba" at the Clifton Animal Rescue, but we felt that name didn't seem to match his personality) is about a year old, and has a sweet, if slightly needy, disposition. We put him in Adam's study for the first two days, to keep him separate from Lilly, but moved her food up to outside the study door so they could smell each other (and talk to/hiss at each other, as well). After two days the door was left open and they have gradually been getting to know each other. Lilly was very annoyed at first.

I actually took that picture today, when she had calmed down a lot, but she always looks crabby like that.

This has totally upset our household. Adam and I each had to sleep with him one night in the office on a blow-up bed, because he whined continually if left in there by himself. He seemed tremendously lonely. With company he was pretty quiet, but sought much petting, which is not conducive to good sleep. He likes to push his head into one's armpit or under the arm, into any cozy spot. He also did a funny thing where he pushed his head into my hair and kneaded the back of my neck. He was very good at keeping his claws sheathed while he did this, which is why it was a cute thing and not a painful one. But I only let him do it a little bit, as I was not super crazy about the wet bits of my hair that resulted. I think he might have been trying to nurse on the back of my head.

They're starting to get along now - in fact, I think they are obsessed with each other. Errol certainly is obsessed with Lilly, and she is starting to tolerate him (mostly not growling) and also to watch him doing his goofy stuff. He's only a year old, so he still has a lot of kitten energy, but is big enough to give her what-for when she bullies. I think they are a good match.

Secondly, I finished the gray Pine and Ivy shawl about a week ago and it took me until last night to get it together to block it. I was slightly daunted by the fact that it has shaping at the shoulders, which, when you lay the thing flat, look like a couple of flattish boobies. If I were not to do something with those, the stitches in those sections would not be as opened up as the rest of the shawl.

So I put a couple of saucers under those sections to give them a little bit of opening up as well. It looks pretty funny. The thing is huge - 72" across and 28" from tip to top - and I had to add books on the end to take up the extra space, and I couldn't get a picture of the entire thing, even standing on a chair and raising the camera almost to the ceiling.

* Fans of Terry Pratchett may recognize this as also the name of a pet "swamp draggon" from Guards! Guards!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A weekend full of activity

Etsy shop: I made new ads (which run on Ravelry). A new design uses a pretty good photo of a pink/peach skein of my handspun yarn. I added "handspun yarns & hand-dyed fiber" on the two existing ads with the blue sky and sheep. I'm wondering if this change will help people know what the ads are FOR and encourage them to click on them. As it is there has been VERY LOW SUCCESS with these ads so far.

I also listed the four 4-oz bumps of roving I already dyed last week, and the pink/blue/brown silk+mohair I recently spun from the Hello Yarn spinning club.

Dyeing: Last night I dyed some more roving. This time I used the Cormo I got from Juniper Fiber Farms; they had a fund raiser so I bought 8 oz to help out. It's lovely stuff, very very soft. This time I made fewer mistakes.

1. I wore gloves. This meant I didn't have to be so cautious about where I touched stuff, because I wasn't worried about getting my hands stained. (AND I didn't get my hands stained.)

2. I used a half a teaspoon of citric acid along with some synthex in the soak before applying the dye. This meant the dye took better.

3. I put the pot on the stove in our kitchen. This, admittedly, was forced upon me because the shite hot plate I bought at Target (on which the larger burner broke a year ago) completely stopped working, but it also meant that the heat was more dependable. Instead of using the microwave, which is a method I don't like so much, I put some water in the bottom of my large pot and a steamer tray, and put the two plastic-wrapped dye+wool packages in there to steam for 30 mins. At the end of this, it was late and I was tired, so I put the pot in the basement stone sink to cool overnight.

This morning when I took the wool out of the plastic wrap, I still had to rinse it a bunch of times, but not as many as last week, which I think was due to the fact that I used more citric acid and also a lot less dye, so more of it actually discharged fully into the wool. (I am still using up all this concentrated dye from last year. I can't stand to just put it down the sink; I'm pretty sure that's not safe anyway. Once it's used up, I will go back to the regular method I was using last year, and I'll be better able to estimate how much dye I actually need for each 4 oz of wool.)

Sewing: (I know! SEWING!) It's been forever since I did any sewing. However, I came across a tutorial for a "summer scarf" (which, counterintuitively, could really come in handy in the over air conditioned office yours truly works in) and then also, about the same time, saw that Purl Soho had some Liberty prints in. The confluence of events was too much for me to resist, so I got a half a yard (it was SUPER OVER PRICED but I only needed a half a yard) and it arrived Friday night. Today I went out to Michael's and got some elastic beading thread so I could make this.

Now, I've been sewing practically my entire life, so this was a pretty easy little pattern, not a huge challenge for me, except for sewing with a bobbin of elastic thread, which I've never tried before. It was NOT successful. Maybe the elastic thread I bought was too wimpy, I don't know, but it snapped several times while I was sewing the two lines, and finally I decided it was too unreliable. So I found some elastic cord, about two millimeters in diameter I'd guess, that was a lot more sturdy, and I sewed it on the back of the scarf using zigzag to create a kind of channel that the cord ran through. I tied a knot on each end and sewed the extra end into the channel as well on each end. I think it came out pretty well!

Spinning: I'm not doing the Tour de Fleece, but I have been doing a lot of spinning lately anyway. I have some lovely yellow-gold-red-brown silk+cashmere that I got from Spirit Trail Fiberworks last year when I was in her spinning club (it was a terrific bargain, in my opinion, but I couldn't keep up with the rate she sent stuff so I still have a couple installments left over). I spun that last week, and Navajo-plied it to preserve the color shifts. I also started spinning some great brown superwash merino/cashmere/silk roving from Pigeonroof Studios. The color shifts in it are much more random and varied, so I will double ply it, most likely.

And I sorted the locks of the fleece I washed by color lightest to darkest, only to decide that I want to spin it all mixed up instead. I started carding it, this afternoon; that is hard work, and slow going. I have about 20 rolags so far and MUCH more to go. I am going to spin some of it tonight if Adam ever finishes playing this game he's been trying to win this afternoon. It's an annoying game so I don't want to sit in there while he's playing it. I hope he finishes soon!

Gardening: We had about a 5' square part of our garden that I had intended to plant with, well, several things, but which never got planted with anything. Instead I just put newspaper and hay down on it and hoped that would keep the weeds at bay. It did probably do a little good, but they figured out where the edges were and came up along there with a vengeance. Finally this weekend I summoned the energy and the desire to remediate this scourge.

We went to Home Depot, which itself is an unusual event. Adam had to get a special tool to take apart the inside of the car dash to install the AUX input on the stereo (that was my birthday present, both the kit and the installation). I got a bunch of dirt (which always feels stupid to me to have to pay for) to move a very small root-bound dewberry tree into a larger pot, and some trellis things to stake up the cucumbers.

It was SO HOT in the sun that I put up the umbrella over the table and worked under the shady side of that while I was doing the repotting. Then I went to do the weeding. As this was in the direct sun, I rigged up a lean-to shade along the fence using some stakes and some mulch paper. It kept blowing down and I had to keep moving it as the weeding progressed, but it helped a lot. Even with my goofy sun-shelter I had to come inside twice to cool off because I felt like I was getting sick from the heat. But I got the weeds all pulled up. I put down more hay all over that area and it looks a lot better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Washing the fleece

So, I finally overcame my fear and put the fleece bags in the wash.

After reading various opinions from lots of different fiber arts bloggers, I decided that since this was just a single pound divided into several lingerie bags, I could put it all into the machine at the same time.

I used my top-loading machine and ran a large load full of hot water and put a generous squirt of Dawn dishwashing detergent, which was the brand most mentioned in blog posts on how to wash fleece.  Then I added the bags of sorted and arranged locks one at a time. I was careful not to agitate the wool. I let it soak for about 20 minutes and then pulled it out to drain the machine. The water was pretty brown - about like weak coffee with a little milk.

I ran a second load of hot water, added a generous squirt of Dawn again, and added the bags of fiber. After letting it sit for another 20 minutes, I pulled it out again, drained the machine - more like weak tea (no milk) this time. I re-filled with hot water once more. This time I left out the detergent and just put the bags back in. After 20 minutes more soaking, I switched the machine to the spin cycle and spun out all the water, which was clear.

I don't know if I did it right or not. Two things seem to have gone differently than I expected. One, when I pulled the bags out of the machine, my super neat rows of locks were gone and in their places were clumps, e.g.:

Maybe I didn't put enough wool in each bag. I did all the sorting and bag-filling according to what I thought I'd read, but then when I looked back through posts on the subject, it seemed that people had loaded a lot more wool into each bag, with layers of tulle (tutu netting) between layers of fleece.

When I removed these clumps from the bags, though, they did not appear to have felted, which was my biggest concern; I wasn't so focused on keeping the lock structure after I found how difficult it was to separate the locks in lots of cases. I spread out the contents of each bag (re-formatted into rows of locks) on top of the bag to dry.

The other outcome I think was wrong was, the tips of the locks were still brown. The lanolin was definitely mostly removed by the washing, that much is certain - I can't feel any grease on the locks now. But it still looks like the fleece is dirty on the tips. I thought the tips of the locks would be dark gray/silver/white after washing, but that brown was still there. I don't know if that means I should wash it all again or not - but I really don't want to. I don't think it would be bad for the wool to wash it again, but frankly it's a huge pain in the neck and I just want it to dry so I can try hand carding it and spinning it.

I'm glad I tried this, because I would rather have tried the process for myself than just depend on mills to process wool before I spin it, unaware of what work has gone into getting it from the sheep to my spinning wheel. But I doubt I will want to do it again, at least not by myself. I bet there are ten important things I did wrong. I bet there are ways I could have done it so the locks didn't get mashed up into clumps in the bags. I bet if I'd used the sink instead of the washing machine it would have been a totally different experience. So I'm not closing the door on the possibility of taking a class some time from somebody who knows what the hell they are doing.

* * * * *

It's my birthday weekend so I decided last night to make chocolate chip cookies. Once again I followed the recipe from "The New Best Recipe" for chewy ones, although I did add about a half cup of butterscotch chips to the mix.

They look great, and they were chewy, which I love, but the butterscotch morsels ruined them - they were WAY too sweet and cloying. I think if you are going to include butterscotch chips, you need to have dough that is less sweet. Also, these delightfully chewy cookies, when you put them in a storage container overnight, become rock hard by morning. This is the second time I've used this recipe and I'm here to tell you they do not store well. If you are going to use it, make sure you make the cookies as big as they say (otherwise they cook too fast) and only make the ones you are going to want to eat right then. You can make the rest into balls and keep them in the freezer for the next time you need some CCC's. (I ended up taking the leftovers to my meeting this morning. They got eaten.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

What a spectacular gift!

My mother sent me (and Adam, but mostly me) this gorgeous knitted, fulled rug she made for us. I know it was intended to be a wedding gift, but since it's almost my birthday, I'm co-opting it as my birthday present.

Here is a closeup of some of the stitch work.

I believe this was a pattern in the second Mason-Dixon Knitting book (which is a very fun read in addition to being useful and chock full of good patterns, btw).

It's fantastic and I LOVE IT! Thank you, Mom!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More work on the fleece; my thoughts on shooting a gun

I spent about two hours this evening sorting and ordering more of the fleece locks. I now have six (6) lingerie bags of locks with probably a quarter of the fleece left to go through.

This is really a tough task. I don't know that I'll do it again, unless the grid goes down and I have to.

* * * * *

I went to a shooting range with my husband and his sister and her family. I posted about this on Facebook briefly, but I wanted to show a couple of pictures I brought back from the shooting range. Here is Adam giving me a couple pointers on how to shoot a .45 H-K:

Here I am putting the advice into action:

I felt quite intimidated by the experience. First of all, it's incredibly LOUD. You get a noise-canceling headset, which is about 50% effective. I still felt like jumping every time other people were shooting, especially those shooting bigger guns (including machine guns). My SIL went and got some earplugs for herself and for me, and that PLUS the headset was a lot better. I could still hear plenty, but it wasn't startling.

Second, the gun itself was fairly heavy, and shooting it was tremendously forceful. You could say, well, DUH. Yeah, I know, but it's one thing to guess at this, and another entirely to experience that. The kickback was not as big as I expected. But I felt like I had a profoundly powerful and dangerous force in my hands, and I was keenly aware of not really knowing what I was doing or feeling comfortable. I also thought I would prefer not to be comfortable enough with it because I tend toward the cavalier attitude, and this is not a thing to be cavalier about.

I couldn't help thinking about all the cop and spy shows and movies I have seen over the years, the hundreds of guns and gun toters I've seen, how NONE OF THEM ever made it look like there was anything to it. It's not "no big deal," it's a huge deal to have this killing force in your hand. I feel shocked at how different the reality of shooting a gun is from what I have seen on TV.

I have to admit, I was delighted that I have good aim, that I got good shots right away. My dad was a sniper in the Army and a part of me would like to think I got something of that from him. I was pleased that it wasn't totally frustrating to try to hit the target.

I did quite well, so Adam challenged me to a grudge match - ten shots each, whoever scored best. He shot first and got a 90; however, he can't see, because he is too vain to get glasses. I'll take any advantage I can get. Anyway, I went next and got this:

If I ever do it again, I'd like to try shooting with a rifle, to see what it is like to do distance shooting. Also, my coworker was telling me about skeet and trap shooting, and that sounds like a fun challenge as well. But honestly? I could probably go the rest of my life without ever shooting a gun again, without any regret.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There's a lot of brown in this post

I've been up to a lot of different things and just haven't been blogging much about them. Here is a partial roundup.

I started working on the fiber I got as part of the group project my spinning guild is doing. One of the guild members has a sheep farm, among her animals a prize winning Romney sheep named Debbie, and a subset of guild members decided to buy Debbie's fleece together and divide it amongst ourselves. I got a pound, about what most other people got. A pound is a lot to spin, to me. I've had it for six weeks or more but haven't had a chance to deal with it. It's composed of unwashed locks, so I have to wash it first before anything else can be done with it. This weekend I started sorting it and putting it into lingerie bags to wash it.

Above is some I have begun to sort through. Below is one clump; I hope you can see how tangled it is; I had this idea that the locks would separate cleanly (and magically) into pieces that I could easily lay out into rows for washing. Not so!

One thing you cannot see is how much lanolin is in it. It's surprisingly free of vegetable matter (aka VM), but very greasy. This left my hands feeling extremely soft, once I washed the lanolin off.

After a while I got better at telling which end was which of the lock - the outside inch or so is brown with dirt (which I understand will wash out). You are supposed to lay them all in the same direction, so I tried to be careful about that. Below, you can see I have laid some of it into a lingerie bag; in the next picture, I tried to show the rows of locks inside the bag - I'm not sure if you can tell.

I filled two bags so far, and only have one more empty bag on hand. I need to go to Target and pick up as many as they have there. I think I might need up to 10 or 12. The next step, once the sorting is done, is to wash it carefully in very hot water, without agitating (so as not to felt it). I need to read more about how to do this, but I have read in several places about doing this in the washing machine. But is that going to leave a lot of lanolin gnarliness in my machine, afterward?

You may see one or the other of these ads in the next month on Ravelry. In fact, if you do, I'd love it if you dropped me a note saying so. It's not that I don't trust their record-keeping, but I certainly have no way of knowing if it's real. That said, they claim I will get around 30K impressions, in my exact market. Given that it cost me only $15, this is quite a deal. After all, I paid $150 for a print ad in BUST magazine, which, while I love BUST, did not seem to result in any additional traffic to my shop and definitely did not result in any additional sales. Not to mention there were no metrics to come out of it. Another time, I paid for a promo spot on Etsy which was useless as well, and they also provided no numbers. So, this is another test foray into buying advertising and I am keeping my expectations low, but I have to say that Ravelry is impressing me so far with how they are doing things. In particular, the fact that you can upload multiple creatives and they will split the impressions among them is very professional. I have yet to see what kind of statistics they provide, but I'm optimistic based on what I've seen so far.

In other news, I've been doing some fiber dyeing. I'm pretty excited about it. Maybe some planet moved out of opposition to another or something; all I know is after over a year of being completely blocked about doing any dyeing, last night I finally just went down to the basement and cleaned off the work table I have set up down there, filled up a pot with hot water and put it on the hot plate, measured out some fiber, and put it in the pot along with some dye. I have some leftover mixed up liquid dye that I would like to use up, rather than trying to figure out how to dispose of it safely. But it's just basic colors - blue, yellow, and brown - and I have felt constrained by that. I'd rather do something with more muted colors, the colors I have dancing around in my head, colors I have to mix from scratch. However, I figured it was best just to get working, rather than get all hung up on the particulars. So I used some of the brown and some of the blue.

I just now noticed that it matches the color scheme of my business logo. There are worse color schemes I could have picked for my first foray back into the world of dyeing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I'm on about row 27 of Section B of Pine and Ivy. Here you can see the second lifeline, which I just added.

It's not super easy to see because it's kind of blurry (sorry, iPhone photo), but if you enlarge it you can see the pink one about 2 inches back and a new brown one just along the working edge. Just putting that in took me about 20 minutes. I hate this project.

Two nights ago I dropped a stitch again and couldn't recover from it. We were in the car on the way home from work and I had a minor meltdown. Once at home, and after having some dinner, I was able to recover things after all. But Adam told me if I didn't put in another lifeline, I would be a fool (and he would say "I told you so" if it happened again). Anything to avoid that. I took his advice.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Color Yellow

I planted these calla lilies last year and got foliage from only two, and no flowers; this year, all three came up, and two are showing flowers in this amazing brilliant yellow.

I didn't have any idea what color they would be when I planted them, but sort of expected white or green. Yellow? Who knew?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My favorite

Chicken cacciatore. Adam knows I love this dish. I don't do recipes on my blog, but I think he started with Giada's many moons ago and by small adjustments has gradually made it his own.

After dinner the kitchen is mine to clean, first, and then to bake a special sussy for my SIL, who has to have a surgery on Monday morning. I don't want to spoil the surprise so I won't be more specific.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 14, 2010

A photographic experiment

Something I've really struggled with since starting to sell my yarns online has been photographing them and having the color in the pictures match (or really get anywhere close to) the yarn color. I got a good camera; I made a light box; I got some halogen lights from IKEA and set them up on the sides of the light box; and still the pictures required a lot of futzing in Photoshop to adjust the balance. Even though I saved the adjustments into a reference file so I could just drag and drop them onto new photos, it didn't always work; and besides, that's cumbersome.

I'd read something about White Balance a while back and decided tonight to see if I could investigate a little further, see if this problem could be addressed if not resolved. I read an article (here) about WB and found in the Canon 5D manual how to adjust it for my camera.

There are 9 settings, and the last 2 are adjustable further (this is color temperature. I don't understand the units but I can grok the ranges).

So I did a series of 18 pictures - without flash and with flash, on each of the settings, the last two at whatever their default temps are, I didn't pay attention. The ones without flash were too dark and orangey. With flash on, the tungsten and fluorescent settings were VERY blue, the shade and flash settings were on the orange side. The best in my opinion was the custom, at the default temp. Here's a set of thumbnails of the tests:

I think the last 2 on the left, custom balance and custom color, are the best, both in terms of not too blue and not too orange, and in terms of how true to the yarn colors they are.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Craftacular was LOADS of fun!

As was no doubt quite clear in my last post, I was a bundle of nerves and apprehension before the craft fair. I was so afraid of uncomfortable situations and questions and cheese-standing-alone-ness that I totally forgot the thing was supposed to be fun - and it totally was!

Adam and I drove to Brooklyn in record time. I was worried that I would need to make change so we looked for a bank to get some singles, but we couldn't find one that was open. (TD Bank has Sunday hours, and I think some Wachovias do too, but there were none nearby.) Eventually Adam hit on the idea of asking in the grocery store, and the manager was persuaded to give me 20 singles and 2 fives. Then we headed back to the fair site, carried in my stuff, and started setting up. The table was naked and sort of scratched up wood, so Adam went out and came back with a couple of plastic tablecloths that really improved the look of things. I put out all my yarns, and spent a while organizing them by color and arranging them to look nice. We put up the sign I got made at the last minute and that was all we had to do. It took almost no time to get completely set up.

I looked around at my neighbors and was kind of intimidated by how much energy they all clearly had invested in their displays. It was amazing! I kind of felt a little bush league, but at the same time, everybody has to start somewhere, and I thought for a first try it wasn't bad at all. After everybody got set up we started chatting and I met some of them. They were all super nice people. The couple next to me had T-shirts and tote bags; the group in back of me (a couple and the wife's sister) had hair ornaments and pins; and there were a pair of roommates across from us, one of whom sold clothing items of all sizes with crochet and other stitching hand-adorned on them, and the other had hand made metal jewelry that was pretty cool looking. The roommates were the most seasoned, although everybody had done fairs before except me. I found out that this was a highly sought-after fair; apparently 500 applications come in for 50 spots and it's very competitive to get in. I felt terrific that I got in after hearing that!

After helping me get set up, Adam went off for a while to do his thing. He wasn't particularly interested in the rest of the booths at the fair and nobody had been let in yet, so it didn't seem that exciting. While he was away they opened the doors to the people who had been lined up for over an hour to get in to the fair. I was kind of amazed by that, but apparently this is a hugely popular event, especially in Williamsburg. In no time at all the place was pretty crowded. There was certainly no way I could spin yarn, as I needed to watch my table and I had to turn to the side to find room for my wheel. So I people-watched and talked to people who stopped to feel the yarns. I sold two skeins of yarn within the first half hour, which was very encouraging.

Adam came back with Pete, who was in great form. He kept trying to buy yarn, but I was hoping to sell to new customers at this fair, if possible, plus he kept trying to buy yarn that was a little too rough for the intended use, which was for baby garments. Fortunately, finally another customer bought the yarn he had had his eye on. I will make him and Jenny something super soft in its place.

Debbie Stoller came by my booth after an hour or so and she sat with me for a couple hours, knitting and chatting with me and also helping me sell my wares. It was SO nice to spend time with her - it's been years since we have, yet it was like no time had passed at all, other than that she had several big stories to tell about family events that had been happening.

Adam and Pete, and Audrey and her boyfriend Brad, who arrived a little later, all hung out for a long time. I was right next to the bar, so they had beers or sodas and shot the breeze with each other, while I schmoozed with customers or spun yarn. At some point both Debbie and Adam had encouraged me to start up the wheel, which did as expected generate a lot of interest. Especially with little kids, whose parents were all excited to show them a spinning wheel. And I was delighted to show them how it worked as well.

All in all it was a great day. I sold a bunch of yarn; I made back the cost of the booth and then some. I'm not sure how much profit was made, yet, but it was a great start and I was able to give out my cards to lots of people and meet really interesting folks, both women and men, who use yarn for art and craft. I'm so glad I did it and I hope I can do it again soon!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting ready for the Craftacular

I spent the morning retagging my yarns with the new tags I got - just in time for this event. I've also ordered a poster/banner with my company name and image, which will be ready JUST in time for it (as in, tomorrow morning on the way to the Craftacular I will stop at Kinko's to pick it up). I didn't think of it until late in the week; I was going to order it today but thought last night, oh, maybe I should go over there now instead of waiting till tomorrow. Good thing I did! I didn't realize there is a proof you have to approve and it takes a while to make the thing. Anyway, lucky me; I'll have a sign now and won't look like a total n00b.

I am scared about this - what if I get questions I can't answer like "what could you make with this?" Actually as I was tagging the yarns I kept thinking about the yardage and the fiber content (because I had to write it down) and thinking of ideas for the yarns. Some would make great scarves or throws, others I had in mind for myself to use for a Baby Surprise Jacket, etc. So maybe I'll be okay with that question. It might be a good idea to bring some kind of reference book with me, if I can dig out the right one from my bookshelf. Something that says "a vest takes 700 yards, a sweater takes 1500 yards, a scarf takes 400-1000 yards, a BSJ takes about 2-300 yards." Actually, except for the vest, I know those numbers are reasonable.

Also, what if nobody buys my stuff? What if I sit at my booth, smiling at everybody who walks by, and nobody stops to look at the yarns or buys them? (What if I am last picked for Dodge Ball?)

What if my prices are all wrong? I am pretty sure they are all over the map, some are too high, some are too low, and they are also inconsistent as far as yardage to price. Of course, you have to factor in what fiber it is made from. Another worry: Right now I have a bunch of yarns that are two or three skeins in a bunch, tied together with ribbon and priced as a unit. What if people want to buy only one skein in the bunch? Okay, I can handle that - I will just sell the one, and reprice whatever's left.

Never having done this before, I am insecure about the amount of yarn I am bringing to sell. I am literally bringing everything saleable. I'm also bringing another big plastic tub with my unspun fiber in it, which Adam suggested as a way to make it look like I have a lot more that I just haven't put out to sell yet. Fake it till you make it, right?

Obviously I am just nervous because it's the first time I've done a craft fair. I'm sure that whatever happens, it will be fine. The day will pass as it would no matter what, by the end I will have either broken even or not, maybe I'll make a little profit on the cost of the fair; in any event if you factor in the cost of goods sold, I will not make a profit. This is not a way to get rich. This is a way to support my fiber habit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm in the BUST Spring Craftacular this Sunday, May 23

The BUST Spring Craftacular is this weekend, and I will be a part of it!

I will be selling my handspun yarns there to try to recoup some of the expenses involved in maintaining my stash. :) I would like to invite you all to come out if you feel the urge to go to Brooklyn this Sunday to shop for crafts. If you do, I will be at booth #51, conveniently located across from the bar, and I hope you will all stop and say hello!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
The Warsaw
261 Driggs Avenue
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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