Category Archives: Fiber

The Battle is Real

The Battle is Real

(Yup, missed yesterday.  Oh well, it was almost a perfect month!)

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The Battle of the Five Armies Shawl by AlterLace

This is the shawl that never ends.  Literally.

I started it a year and a half ago.  Although technically it started in July of 2014 when I spun the yarn.  But the cast on date for this bugger was January 15, 2015.  It was supposed to be a test night for a mystery knit along (basically, you get the pattern in sections over time instead of getting the whole pattern at once.)  I did pretty good for the first 4-5 clues, and I think gave good feedback to the designer.  But then Clue 6 was feather and fan stitch.  I’m miserable at F&F.  So finally I put it in time out to think about what it had done.

I didn’t pick it up again until this summer.

Somehow I made it through the F&F but then I started to run out of my handspun.  I had expected I would, so I laid in a stash of black fingering weight to continue on with.  Except I started to doubt my own judgement on the weight of my handspun, so I decided to knit the commercial stuff doubled.  Got halfway through Clue 8 before I accepted that no, this fabric was entirely two dense (and I’d gone through almost 800 yds of yarn with no end in sight) and ripped it all back to my lifeline in Clue 7 and started it over.

Finally got to the latter rows of Clue 9, and I optimistically thought that I might be able to finish it to wear to Rhinebeck.  But no, each lace row is taking me 3 hours (860 stitches per row, beyotch!), so I gave up that pipe dream.

But I am determined.  The end is in sight.  I am committed to doing at least one row a day until it is done.  I only have 8 rows and the bind-off left.

With any luck, I can wear it for Samhain.

(This is a beautiful and well written pattern, despite my whinging.  Check it and AlterLace’s other shawl patterns out on Ravelry.  She keeps promising us a Sherlock themed pattern…)

Three Bags Full

Three Bags Full

Yesterday was a quiet day. Intentionally.  We had nothing planned, nowhere to go, nobody to see.

So of course, the day before attending one of the biggest fiber events on the East Coast, I had a radical notion.  Let’s check out a local yarn shop!

::facepalm::

There isn’t one in Woodstock, but there is one in nearby Saugerties, The Perfect Blend.  And it is.  Yarn and tea.  What could be better?  It was a beautiful day, so out we went.  It’s only a twenty minute drive, so we got to do some leaf peeping on the way.  The Catskills are a gorgeous blend of greens and yellows and oranges right now, the orange becoming even more dominant in the few days we’ve been here.  It was a lovely drive to a lovely little shop.  They had a nice selection of all different yarns (I will not buy laceweight alpaca.  I do not KNIT laceweight anything.  I don’t care how lustrous and soft and tempting it is.)

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I did buy one souvenir skein of yarn and one Christmas present that I’m very excited about.  Nikki got almost exactly the same things I did (shared brain in action!) All in all, I think we showed amazing restraint.  Certainly more than the lady from NC who was there at the same time with armloads of yarn!

After that, we went exploring.  I kept seeing signs for the Saugerties lighthouse.  Which, hello, inland!  Lighthouse?  Really?  Yes, really!  We wound our way down to the edge of the Hudson River and then took a half mile hike out to a small Victorian lighthouse jutting out into the river where it joins with the Esopus.

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As we wound our way back towards town, we came across an old cemetery and a lovely old church.  The sign read St. Mary of the Snow, and turned out, I learned through research later, that it was the first Catholic church built upstate.

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I didn’t take enough pictures of this beautiful building, but I had to get the windows.  I can recognize Tiffany windows just about anywhere.  The cemetery was interesting, built into the side of a hill, with 200 year old stones that have heaved some from the winter.  It looks like a prototypical haunted cemetery.  I can just imagine how it looks at night!  This had originally served a predominantly Irish community, so Irish that many of those older stones were labeled with the name of the county in Ireland where the deceased had come from.  It’s fallen victim to the same consolidations that many Catholic churches face today (both the Victorian rectory and the nearby school were closed).  I hope the parish survives, though.

After that we came home for lunch, naps, reading and just hanging out.  Went out to dinner, hoping to beat the Woodstock Film Festival crowd, although town was starting to get a bit busy.  We came home intending to catch up on watching Great British Bake-Off, but both of us were falling asleep by the first showstopper, so we called it a night and went to bed just after 9.

Only to be woken up at 11:30 by something crashing in the kitchen.

I was the brave one who went to check it out, only to find the roll of saran wrap on the floor and half the previously untouched loaf of challah gone.  I had just said to Nikki that afternoon that I was surprised we hadn’t had critters, as this place does seem like it would be prone to them.  Little jerk just had to prove me wrong!

We were up around 7 and on the way to Rhinebeck by 7:45 with a stop at Bread Alone for croissants and coffee/tea.  We have learned through long, hard experience to get there as early as possible, but it was so nice not having to get on the road at 5:30 for a change!  We ran into no traffic and got to park right near the gate at 8:30.  In line, we ran into Deb and Kathy and the rest of the Quakertown crew, which was such a lovely surprise!  So we hung out with them until the gates opened, and then hit the ground running.

We have a system down at this point.  First the buildings, as they get crowded faster, then the barns, then any other side stalls.  We did pretty well, for a while.  WE checked out the fleece sale.  I didn’t buy anything (although it came close), but I hadn’t realized that the breed of the year this year was Gotland, so we got to fondle all the Gotland fibers and I learned a lot talking to the breeders who were there, as well as those in the breed barn later on.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Gotland is the breed I hope to have when I get my farm.  Fun fact: most people who are allergic to wool are fine with Gotland.  And it doesn’t felt much when washed!

We surprised ourselves in the food building and found a number of things we intended to go back for, including some very nice wine.  I got spit on by an alpaca.  Maybe.  Maybe she just blew really hard.  If’ I’d been wearing a hat, I wouldn’t have been after that!

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Not the offended alpaca. Because these are llamas. I think.

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A goat picture for my mother. They like her more than they like me. The feeling is mutual

The seal on my wallet broke when we hit the Sheepshed, though.  I had expected it would.  I knew I needed another pound of Gotland fiber from them. (Sensing a theme?  I love Gotland!)  They also had some beautiful merino/tencel and dyed merino/silk that I had to have.  But their prices are phenomenal, so I got 2 1/2 pounds of fiber for what I would normally pay for 1/2.  At Carolina Handspun, I got two braids of yak/silk which made up for that savings, but the finished yarn will be GORGEOUS.  I got goats milk soap and a niddy noddy and figured I was pretty much done, until we found the Yarns Plus stall.  Talk about bargain basement prices!  I got 1200 yds of a lovely acrylic for $25, and 1100 yds for three different colorways of tencel for $24 each.  I don’t even knit sweaters, but I will now!  At this point it was almost 1 and Nikki and I were both feeling loaded down and done in.  We stopped in one of the buildings to get beads to match the yarns we got, then went back to the food pavilion and got wine, soup mixes, dip mixes and olive oil before finally giving up the ghost.  Nikki was looking a bit dead man walking by the end!  The traffic going out and coming in was horrendous, between the festival, the leaf peepers, normal Woodstock tourist traffic, so by the time we got home, we were ready to not go out again tonight.  I’ll make up one of the soups for our dinner, and we’ve got bread and olive oil dips to snack on.  And wine.  We may definitely do in a bottle of wine.

So all in all, a very satisfying trip.  I’ll be sorry for it to be over tomorrow, but I think I’m ready to be home.

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Besides, I left my ball winder at home.

Sheep Delayed

Sheep Delayed

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It’s been almost two weeks since one of my favorite days of the year: the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  I get to buy fiber and spur of the moment yarn only at MDS&W and at Rhinebeck in the fall.  Which is probably a good thing.  If I allowed myself to buy the kind of things I get a festivals whenever I wanted, we’d be living out of my van.  Granted it would be warm and soft in there with all the fiber, but still, I think the kids prefer having indoor plumbing.

A little bit of a shift this year, as normally we go on Saturday morning.  But the church was having its annual fundraising auction Saturday night.  I had volunteered to bring food and had a couple of items I had put up in the auction, so I needed to be there.  I dragged the kids and the Aquarians along as well.  Nikki was open minded about checking it out, and I think she had a good time.  Morgan was REALLY resentful that I made him go, but in the end he got a couple of items he was really excited about, so hopefully he’ll be a little more open minded about it next time I want him to go to something.  The peril was in not spending all my fiber money at the auction!

I was worried about getting to the show on time, as I was hearing horror stories about the wait times and parking, so we left home at about 5:30 Sunday morning.  It’s a 3 hour drive to the Howard County Fairground, which really is ridiculous that we go, since we rarely spend more than 4 hours or so, so we spend more time in the car than at the show.  But honestly, it’s worth it.  And leaving that early turned out to be an equally good idea.  We got there at 8:15 and got to park right outside the gate, which was BRILLIANT.  We weren’t the first there by any means, but that’s okay.  There were none of the delays going back to the off-ramp on the highway that we have run into in past years.  Such a much nicer entry into the fair!

When I say we, I’m talking me, Nikki, Xander and Hero.  This is another thing that I can’t get Morgan to come to, and in the wisdom of choosing my battles I don’t make him.  But the kids have a good time.  The first year I took them, I gave them both their cell phones and set them loose with $20 each and orders to check in every hour.  Which they did beautifully.  So I’ve gotten more relaxed, especially as they’ve gotten older.  This year it was, “Yeah, whatever, check in when you’re ready for lunch.”  They were gone prectically before we’d cleared the gate.

I went in with a very specific list of needs.  Not a long list, though.  Which may have been my downfall.  I needed two new bobbins and a replacement orifice hook for my travel wheel, and I wanted some fiber to start learning how to card with the hand carders Nikki scored me when she was out in Lancaster.  Beyond that, I had no restrictions.  Oh, and I needed a new jar of Wood Beams.  (I love this stuff.  Even if you don’t spin, I recommend it for using on your cutting boards, rolling pins, wooden spoons, whatever.  And no, I’m not getting paid to say that!)

When you go to a show often enough, you develop a strategy.  We hate crowds, so we go to the main building first before it gets so congested you can’t even move.  Even at this early hour, the big name dyers already had lines 20 people long (the show didn’t even officially open for almost half an hour after we got there).  My wheel builder was actually in one of the barns, but he’s always in the same spot right on the end, so we stopped there first before the barns got insane as well.  Got my two bobbins, and he gave me the orifice hook for free, saying it’s not uncommon for them to break, so the first one is always free!  Get a Merlin Tree wheel, people.  Seriously.  Then it was off to the main building.

We actually stayed pretty focused on that building this year.  Some really interesting new vendors.  One place called itself the dollar store of the show, and I got some great nicknacks there.  A little travel tool kit, a pair of really sharp yarn snips, and some conductive thread so I can make smart phone compatible gloves.  They also had some lovely jewel toned merino that I got on a second visit.  We stopped at Into the Whirled, as we always do.  I only got one braid of fiber from them this year, as they didn’t have any bamboo blend, but I did get four skeins of finished yarn, three for a big project (yet undecided on) for me and one skein of Moriarty as a prize for the 221b team in the Ravellenic Games this year.  At a new stall for me, I was introduced to silk caps.  Silk comes in a couple of different ways for spinning.  You can get it in hanks of combed top like wool fibers, but it also comes in compressed layers, usually squares called hankies, since that’s what they look like.  Caps were something new to me, so I asked the vendor about them.  Basically, they look like stocking caps.  When you spin them, instead of pulling them apart like you would with a hankie, you just turn it inside out, pull out some of the threads from near the crown to whatever thickness you want for your yarn, and spin.  The fiber then unravels itself from the cap.  I was really curious, so I bought two, one in a purple/blue and one in a copper colorway.  I’m looking forward to trying those.  The other new vendor I got excited about was a place called Bead Biz.  They had, as the name implied, trays and trays of strings of beads for fiber crafts.  When we first found them, I didn’t have any projects in minds, so I just petted and coveted and moved on.  But after I got the ITW yarn, I knew it needed beads, so I went back and finally got a shimmer steel blue set.  I’m really itching to start something with them, but I’m forcing myself to wait until I finish one major WIP that’s kicking my ass.

Other little goodies I got:  A bag of dyed Gotland sheep curls.  I love Gotlands so much.  I do think those are going to be my fiber sheep when I get the farm.  Got some blue beads to make a full set of shawl stitch markers, since having a bunch of random markers on a project makes me crazy.  I got an inexpensive drop spindle to teach one or two people at church how to spin.  And I got a bag full of alpaca fiber to practice my carding on.  There were a couple of plant vendors tempting me as well.  I didn’t need any tomatoes, and for the moment I am resisting peppers (we’ll see how long that lasts.  I do still have two self-waterers in the shed…)  But I did get a lavendar and a lemon verbena to go in a couple of urn planters I trashpicked.

What I didn’t come home with was a big bag of raw wool.  It was a near thing.  I suspect I won’t be as lucky at Rhinebeck if we go this year.

We had a late lunch, intending to hit all the barns, but by then it was almost 1:30 (how did that happen?), everything was getting crowded, and we were exhausted.  So we gave up, satisfied with our purchases and our day, and hit the road home.  Dropped Nikki off around 5 and we were home by 6:30.  I had about enough energy to photograph everything and order in dinner before I collapsed.  It was a good, productive weekend, but honestly, I’m getting to old for that much excitement!

Terror

Terror

I started a terrifying knitting project last night.

It came about through a combination of factors.  Factor one was the latest round of Nerdopolis on Ravelry.  One of the challenges this month is to use a technique or pattern that scares us, whether that’s colorwork or enterlac or (eep!) steeking.  But I’ve kind of tried everything, and none of it really scares me anymore.  That’s one thing I can say for my online community, they are total enablers and get everyone stepping outside their comfort zone all the time.  But that left me without a project idea.

Factor two was the weather.

Because yay, the weather’s finally turned!  And brought us our first of what the weather service promises is many nor’easters for this winter.  But we still had all our windows open.  So when I went upstairs last night to get on the computer, I was FREEZING.  So I went for my comfort warm, which is a heavy sweater my Aunt Millie made and gave me many moons ago.  It’s heavy and cuddly, a lot like a wearable blanket, and the last time I wore it, it was just enough too big for me to wrap up in.

It’s been a while since I wore it.

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It’s just way too big on me now.  But I love it so much.  The pattern on it is the sequence of the seasons done in beautiful cables, with flowers in spring and apples in the summer, with clouds in the sky and a couple of different kinds of trees. [ETA: I found the pattern!  It’s called Enchanted Forest and originally came out in 1992! No wonder I couldn’t find it.]

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I just love it, but it’s just not practical to wear anymore.  But what could I do with it?  I can’t really downsize it without losing the mural quality of it.  I certainly didn’t want to donate it.  It’s the only knitted project from her I own.  She’s a world class quilter, and I have several small quilt pieces from her, but I don’t quilt, I knit, so this is the one piece of hers I have that I share an experience with.  Plus it’s cuddled me through some tough times, and I don’t want to lose that.

The blanket imagery kept sticking with me, though.

Well, why not?  I could take of the collar, the button bands and the sleeves, rip back the bottom ribbing, fill in and seam up the armholes and turn it into the center panel for a really nice afghan.  Add a couple of texture panels to make it blanket width, put a border on it, and boom, blanket.

My heart instantly started pounding.

What was I even thinking, considering dismantling something handknit?  Handknits are sacred!  And it was fine as it was.  Who cared that it fell off my shoulders and got in the way of my keyboard, right?  But I know I would rather something I made be used, and this wasn’t getting used very much.  So I did what I always do when I have a moral dilemma.

I called my mother.

“I doubt she remembers or cares at this point, honey.”  Yeah, but. But.  BUT!  *gaspflail*

I decided to do it.

EEP.

Never one to tread softly, I got started taking it apart.  Just to see how it went.  Before I even got off the phone with Mom.

The interesting thing about taking apart someone else’s handwork is you learn a lot about them as a crafter.  What I learned last night is that my aunt is VERY good at weaving in ends.  In that I couldn’t find them.  Anywhere.  I picked and pulled and squinted and finally had to make a cut to get the collar started.  Then I started to find them, the double strands separated and carefully woven under stitches and over rows.  I can’t weave my ends in that cleanly.  I need to learn.  Once I got the collar off, I unraveled it and wound the yarn up on my niddy noddy to skein it for washing.  I’m not sure how she does her moss stitch, but this sucker refused to be unraveled from the working end.  I had to go back and pick out the cast off edge to get it to come apart.  Now I’m curious if my moss stitch does the same thing.  Or maybe it’s just the yarn.  But as I was taking it apart, I was thinking about her, and about how her hands maintained the tension to knit such thick yarn so evenly, how heavy it must have been making it, wondering what kinds of needles she used (I can’t imagine doing such a heavy project on straights, but I don’t know if she shares Mom’s bias against circular needles.)  It was like I had a piece of her in my hands.  But the more I ripped, the more excited I got.  I wasn’t destroying it.  I was making it into something new and beautiful in her honor.

I stayed up past midnight.

I need to do some fiber tests to find out what the yarn is.  It looks and feels like acrylic, but knowing Millie, it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t use yarn that was at least partly wool.  By dismantling the sleeves, I should have plenty of yarn to fill in the armholes.  It will just be the trick of picking up the right number of stitches to make the moss stitch pattern invisible.  Then I want to do two long panels of Celtic cable, maybe in red, and four blocks of the different trees.  Then I’ll piece all of that, pick up a million stitches and knit a border on it (or learn how to do a knitted-on border).  This has gone from a quicky project into a major one.

In the meantime, Hurricane Joaquin is wrapping stormy cold arms around us, and I’m wishing I had something warm to wrap up in.  Too bad I took my sweater apart…

Spinning My Wheels

Spinning My Wheels

It feels like I don’t have any free time anymore.  But I do.  What I have is things I’m doing that are taking up all my free time and keeping me from doing other things that would take up my free time.  For example, for three weeks in July, I did the Tour de France.

Well, no, I did the Tour de Fleece.  But it’s totally the same thing.

 

For those of you who are new around here, the Tour de Fleece is a spinning challenge that happens on Ravelry and off where spinners set goals based around the Tour de France.  The usual goal is to spin every day the Tour rides, but each person sets their own goals as well.  My goals were simple:  Spin a pound and a half of lovely Gotland wool I got at Rhinebeck last year, and then anything else that met my fancy, and to get comfortable with my new wheel.

I went a little crazy.

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The spinning went with me everywhere.  It went to DC.

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It went to a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!

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And every night, I did at least two ounces of the endless gray Gotland.

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All that in addition to being the head honcho of the Tour on Ravelry.  Free time?  Yeah, what’s that?

In then end, though, I finished a lot of yarn.

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A LOT of yarn.

Now that it’s over, I find myself desperate to knit.  ALL THE THINGS.  I have started and finished a hat, started a headband and a shawl, and am set up to start a shrug, all out of handspun.  And if I haven’t had enough, I’m starting another spinning project.

Oh, and we’re starting to plan for next year’s summer Ravellenics Games.  Which start the week after next year’s Tour.

Who, me, crazy?

A New Addition to the Household

A New Addition to the Household

I thought I’d spare you another exercise post to introduce you to a new member of my family.

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This is Idris.  Or possibly Amelia.  We’re still getting to know each other, so I’m not really settled on a name yet.  She is a Merlin Tree Roadbug spinning wheel, and she’s just about perfect.

I’d been wanting a travel wheel almost since I started spinning.  I love my Bumblebee, but she’s big and heavy and hard to take to knit nights and on trips.  I’d seen the Roadbugs at fiber festivals, but the booth was always too crowded to try one.  In the meantime, I was hanging out in the Bluebonnet group on Ravelry where everyone sang the praises of their Thimbles, the Bluebonnet travel wheel.  I loved the idea of supporting independent craftspeople, which Jerry at Bluebonnet is.  Every wheel is handmade by him, use parts interchangeably across the line (so my Bumblebee bobbins would work on my Thimble) and with one of the mainline wheel brands, so it would be easy to get more bobbins as I needed them.  Last year, I saved up all of my birthday and Christmas money, and got the Thimble, sight unseen.

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We were not happy together.

Don’t get me wrong, the Thimble is a sweet little wheel. But she and I just didn’t work together well.  I could never get the tension smooth, so I was always fighting with her while drafting, and while she folds up compactly, you have to have an easily lost hex wrench to do it.  This was not a get up and go wheel.  I started calling her Hermione, because she was obviously smarter than I was, could do anything, and I just couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  Lord knows, I tried.  I think I made 5 different yarns on her in five different fiber blends.  It just never took.

And then, this year at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I finally got to try a Roadbug.

It was damn near perfect.  For a wheel I had never touched before, I was able to sit down and instantly be spinning fine single.  It was quiet and stable.  It didn’t fight me at all.  If I’d had the money, I would have walked out with one right then and there.  I tried to get Nikki to try it, but she refused.  Said she didn’t want to be tempted (and then went and bought three new drop spindles.  I know where her heart lies.  At least for the moment…)  But I knew I had to have one.

When I got home, I looked at my finances and knew I just didn’t have the money to get one.  But I did have something of value.  The Thimble.  So I decided to bite the bullet and put her up for sale or trade on Ravelry.  If I sold her, I’d have enough money to buy a brand new Roadbug.  Instead, I got a message from a woman in California who had a Roadbug that didn’t suit her and who was interested in the Thimble.  We talked, and agreed to a straight swap, although I kept all but one of the Bluebonnet bobbins (I still need those for my Bumblebee, so now I can build up lots of singles!).

The shipping was PAINFUL pricewise, and I think she got a better deal than I did, but I don’t care.  I love this wheel.  Honestly, as soon as I saw it was TARDIS blue, I knew I had to have it.  I’ve brought her to work with me twice, and while I won’t take her camping with me this first trip, I may in the future, and I’ll definitely take her with me to DC next month.  I need a few more bobbins for her, and I’m trying to decide if/how I want to decorate her.  She’ll get a good workout during the Tour de Fleece next month.  And the best thing is that the woman who got my Thimble is just as happy as I am with her new wheel!  We keep tripping over each other in the Merlin Tree and Bluebonnet groups, bonding over our shared problems and joy.  It was a good swap.

So, lessons learned.  Always road test before you buy (although honestly I don’t know if that would have helped with the Thimble.  It was only after working with her for a while that I figured out our incompatability), and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Now I just have to decide on a name…

Sheeeeeeeep!

Sheeeeeeeep!

Last weekend we went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, as we do every year.  It’s a long drive just to spend a few hours, but it’s always worth it, and this year was no exception.

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It was a gorgeous day, and the kids actually got up fairly easily.  They love going to this every year, although I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I give them $20 each and tell them to get lost until lunchtime!  So we got out the door on time and stopped for gas.

Which was when I found I didn’t have my debit card.

I knew I’d had it the night before, because I’d bought groceries and had (thankfully) taken $200 in cash out of the ATM.  Got the gas on my credit card and went back to the house to make sure I hadn’t stuffed it in my pants pocket.  No joy.  Tried calling the store to see if they had it, but they said if I’d left it in the ATM, the in-store bank would have it and they wouldn’t open until 9.  So there went my money plans for the day.  Which may have been a good thing.  I have a low credit limit on my card, so I would only be able to go so wild, and I did have the $200 in my wallet, so we could still do our think.  I was just upset that, if I had lost it, it would mean replacing it for the third time in three months.  Frustrating.

So, 20 minutes late, we scooted down to Philly to grab Nikki, got lost in South Philly trying to get to the highway (I don’t know why I have such a hard time getting out of S. Philly.  I only lived there for three years…) and finally got on 95.  Pedal to the metal, baby.  Well, at least for me.  I was doing 80 a lot and still getting passed, so I don’t feel too bad about it, but I needed to make up that lost time.  I know what the parking lines get like if you get there too late.  Like, they close the off-ramp, the line gets so long.  We took the northern route of the Baltimore loop (not sure why Google maps always tries to send me down through the city.  Not happening, friend.) and hit the off ramp just as the line of traffic was starting to back up into the highway.  We spent about 20 minutes in the line just to get into the fairground, but our parking spot wasn’t terrible.  Loaded everyone up with water bottles, distributed spending money, and off we went!

The kids peeled off as soon as we got through the gates.  I was on a mission, though.  This year, come hell or high water, I was going home with something to process fiber on.  I really wanted a blending board, but I know how much those suckers run ($185-230, depending on the maker).  So first stop was the auction tent to see if there was anything there I wanted to try for.  There was a beautiful Irish tower wheel that I coveted, but nothing that I HAD to have, so Nikki and I went off to shop instead.

Before we even got into the exhibition hall, though, I ran into my spinning teacher who was standing in the doorway waiting for someone.  I haven’t seen Deb in almost two years, so I went up to her with an excited, “Hey, lady!”  And she looked at me blankly.  “Um, hey?”  I knew what was happening.  “It’s Steph.”  Her whole face popped.  “Oh my god, I didn’t recognize you!”  Which honestly, is a gratifying reaction to my weight loss but a sad commentary on me keeping in touch with my friends.  We caught up briefly, as she had to get somewhere, but it was so good to see her.  I have to get up to Doylestown for one of their spinning days to see them.

After that it was shop, shop, shop.  I hate to buy anything until I’ve seen everything, so Nikki usually makes the first purchases, and this year was no exception.  But we were both there with a mission.  She wanted a good spindle and fiber.  Grabbed many business cards for places I wanted to go back to when it was time to spend.  She found the Bosworth table, which, if you want a good spindle, yeah.  And then we found a new vendor we have both fallen in love with.  It’s The Whispering Woodturner, and they had the most gorgeous wooden knitting tools I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful turned yarn bowls and darning eggs and these awesome gadgets they called a swirlette which is basically a lazy susan for your ball of yarn.  And blending boards!  Cheap, beautiful blending boards.  $140 cheap.  I should have grabbed one then and there, but I stuck by my plan.  Now that I knew I was getting my board, I was on the lookout for things to use on it.  I got a couple of cheap bags of dyed locks and two little packages of dyed roving blended with some sparkle for some pop on the board.  Met up with the kids for lunch briefly, then off we went to actually damage our bank accounts.  I went straight to the WW and found there was only one board left, a blond one with some interesting markings.  Not as interesting as the cherry one I’d had my eye on, though.  I asked the owner if they had any other boards, and he said no, that was their last one.  “No, it’s MINE.”  So yeah, I lucked out.  As he was packing it up, he told me that it was ambrosia maple, meaning it’s wood from a maple tree that had been attacked by ambrosia beetles, which was what caused the interesting streaks in it.  It really is a lovely piece, and I can’t wait to find the time to sit and play with it.  Nikki got a swirlette from him and tried to buy a yarn bowl, but it was the one they were raffling off, so she was disappointed in that.  That worked out in her favor, though, because our next stop was the Bosworth booth, where she bought not one but THREE spindles.  My favorite is the one made of teak from a Buddhist temple destroyed in an earthquake.  The timing was just too significant not to need that spindle.  Then I got a lovely fiber batt and some mulberry silk from Wild Rabbit (I love their silks and am so glad they had their own booth this year!), and I got two skeins of tencel from Just Two of Us to make a sweater of some kind out of.

Which was when my credit card squawked.

So, I was done shopping.  But it had been a great day, and I got everything I’d intended without bloating my stash.  Hero got herself a Bunny Crossing sign, and Xander got a rabbit in a magician’s hat puppet, so everyone made out well.  Our last purchase was two bags of tea cookies to eat on the road home, which the others rolled their eyes at when I bought them, but were moaning over as soon as they tried them.  They were GOOD cookies.

Didn’t have too much traffic on the drive home, except after we dropped Nikki off and had to get around the city Science Festival.  Tempting to stop, but we didn’t.  I did stop at the grocery store to see about my card, but it was 5 and the bank closed at 3, so bag it.  Went home, made dinner for the kids, and then I actually went out for my run.  It wasn’t a bad one, either, considering how much time I’d spent on my feet that day!

The results of the day:

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(Oh, and my card was locked up in the ATM safe and sounds.  The tellers were very kind about getting it out for me.  So no replacement!  Woot!)

Designing

Designing

I started a design project this week.  I’m not going to go into too many details about it, in case I crash and burn (all too likely) so that I don’t disappoint the people it’s meant to honor.  But I did want to share a small piece of it.

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Graph paper is evil.  You can make so many pretty designs on it, designs that it seems like should be easy to replicate in knitting stitches.  But it’s not.  I have to decide which if any of all those sloping lines to do as decreases, whether to make this a knit/purl pattern or a closed/lace pattern (I’m terrible at lace) and what stitches to frame it out with.  I need to pull out my one and only stitch pattern guide and try to find something I like.  I have four other motifs to include in this pattern and need the lace to pair them up with.  I think this will end up being a circle shawl.  Just because the math will be easier without having to figure in all the extra increases and garter edgining.

But first I have to finish the test knit I’m doing and at least one spinning project I have on my wheels.  And maybe some socks.  And there’s some mending I need to do…

In which I am a muggle

In which I am a muggle

I didn’t spend a whole weekend cleaning for a change.  Don’t get me wrong, I did quite a bit, mostly in the kitchen (organized and lined the cooking tool drawer, got rid of one of the counter top shelves that was really just serving as a crap collector), did laundry, got Morgan to organize the camping closet. But I did a lot more fun things.  Well, for certain definitions of fun.  Morgan and I went to Lowe’s and picked up all the supplies we need to lay our new front walk over Thanksgiving weekend.

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I made bread.  (The bread will be getting its own post.  I’m in absolute transports about the bread.)

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And I got to hang out with my girlfriends.  It’s not always easy for us to find time together.  Nikki and I are online together most nights (or we were before my children started doing ALL THE THINGS), but we tend to only see each other once a month, and Deb is even harder.  I get to have lunch with her maybe once a month, but Nikki doesn’t even get to see her that much.  And for all three of us to get together?  Madness.  So our Wholigan nights are special, even when we don’t do anything special.  Saturday night was one of those nights.  Nikki came up to my house, and I let her shop my fiber stash to feed her burgeoning spinning interest.  Then we went down to Deb’s and hung out.  And really, that’s all we did.  Hung out at her dining room table, ate and talked until her kids went to bed, when we moved in by the living room fire to eat and talk some more.  And knit.  And spin.  Nikki had brought her new spindles, so when I got frustrated with my current knitting project (a Tilting TARDISes cowl.  Only five more repeats.  Out of eight.  *sigh*), I picked them up and some of the fiber she’d pilfered from me and took them for a test spin.  I’m not a big fan of spindling, but it was soothing to do for an hour.  Deb’s husband laughed at what a wild group we were when he got home to find us all sitting in front of the fire just watching this spindle spin.  But hey, it was that kind of a night.

So it ended up being a bit of a spinny weekend.  Sunday night I got on my travel wheel to work on the yak/silk fiber I got in Rhinebeck.  Got about 2/3 of the way through the bobbin and was spinning until midnight, happy as a clam.  Nice, fine, even singles coming off my fingers.  My shoulders are a little stiff now, but it’s a good feeling.

The feeling that’s not so good?  My long draw spinning.  I can’t do this.  I don’t think it’s a skill.  I think it’s magic, and the people who can do it are laughing at me for being such a muggle that I can’t figure it out.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this video.

It just flows off her hands.  That’s not normal.  When I do it, the fiber fights me every inch, breaks, knots, clumps, it’s awful.  It takes me fifteen minutes to get through one rolag.  We hates it, precious!  We hates it forever!!

But that quote is why I HAVE to master this.  I got some gorgeous Gotland fiber at Rhinebeck this year. (maybe I told you this already)**goes back and checks** (Yup, you know all about my Middle Earth fiber.)  But because it’s…*ahem*…precious, I want to make sure I spin it right.  And all the recommendations I’m seeing are to spin it long draw to keep it from being wiry.  So I am determined to learn.

Even though I suck.

My teacher (herein referred to as Alpaca!Deb, not to be confused with Who!Deb) told me when she was first teaching me that it takes a pound of fiber to learn a new skill.  So that’s what I’ve done, set aside a pound of different braids of fiber to practice on.  Not my best stuff, but not crap, either.  I pulled the first braid into rolls (called rolags),

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and I’m trying to do fifteen minutes a night.  I’m failing miserably.

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This is what I did in October.  That’s about two hours of work.  Remember how I filled 2/3s of a bobbin Sunday night?  Yeah.  And it’s all clumpy and bunchy and underspun and I’m miserable about it.  I want to be a wizard, not a squib, and I’m feeling very squib-like at the moment.  But the good spinning this weekend has rededicated me.  I *will* practice fifteen minutes every night.  At a minimum.  Even if it’s just one rolag.  Just like Tour de Fleece, I must spin every day.

But I still think these magical spinners are keeping information to themselves…

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage

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This past weekend was the annual New York Sheep and Wool Festival up in Rhinebeck, New York.  Amongst fibery folk, this is a bit like Mecca.  Everyone wants to go at least once.  I’ve been fortunate, living where I do, that once I discovered it, we started going every year.  We would drive up to my mother’s the night before, stay over, and then drive the hour and a half from there to Rhinebeck, get in when the gates opened, and be done by 1 or 2, when the crowds got overwhelming.  Mom usually went with us, but when she couldn’t, we would always bring her back goodies.  But then last year she moved to Virginia in September, and we decided our Rhinebeck days were done.

But god, we missed it.  We needed Rhinebeck in our lives.  We love the Maryland festival, which is growing and improving every year, but it just isn’t the same as fall in New York.

So this year, I begged my brother to let us impose on him.  He’s just a little further south from where Mom lived, so it was still doable.  He and his wife were very generous about letting us, and suggested I bring Hero along as that was the weekend he would have my nephew Owen, and they could go with and hang out together.  So that was set.  Nikki caught the train up to my house on Friday afternoon, getting there just as I was getting home from work.  We threw everything and the girl in the car and were on our way.

We got to Gabe’s at about 7:30, just in time for pizza and kittens.  Pam is a vet and works with a local shelter.  When they get tiny kittens in that need fostering, she sometimes brings them home.  This time she had two little one month olds, a tabby and a tortie, who could barely stand, they were so small.  It was very tempting to sneak one home with us!  I think this was Nikki’s first time being around little ones like that, and she was totally smitten.  But the long day, long drive and early start time the next morning caught up with us fast, and we were crashing by 9.

We were all up by 6, and Gabe made us eggs before we hit the road at 7.  It was a gorgeous morning,

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punctuated by hot air balloons

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We saw three different ones within 5 miles.  It was brilliant.

We got to the fairground at about 8:30, half an hour before the gate opened, and the front lot was already full.  The gate we usually go in had a line all the way down and onto the road, so we went to the other gate, which turned out to be propitious.  One of the best things about Rhinebeck being in the fall is that people get to show off their knitwear because, well, it’s chilly!  The Rhinebeck sweater is a thing, often a thing with epic stories behind them.  I was wearing my Eden Prairie shawl, as I was really proud of it (and it was snuggly warm!)

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We had barely gotten in line when I heard a voice behind me say, “I know that shawl!  Oh, I know that person!”  Turned around and it was a fandom friend who I talk to all the time on Twitter and occasionally on LJ, but we’ve only met in person once before, there at Rhinebeck in passing.  So we got to have a nice conversation in line while we waited for the gates to open while the kids played ninja and I’m sure annoyed everyone else in the line.  As soon as we got inside, we split up, the kids off to do their own thing and Nikki and I off to do a methodical job, starting with the main buildings, although we rarely buy anything there.  Cell signal is terrible up there, so I had wisely (I thought) brought our camping walkie talkies, one for me, one for the kids.  Little did I know my battery would give out after an hour.  We made good progress, though, and were out of the buildings before the worst of the crowds settled in.  I found a great deal on tussah silk, and found the laceweight yarn I want to use to make Hero’s bridal shawl. (Shut up.  I know she’s only 13, but do you KNOW how long it will take me to make this damn thing?  And if she doesn’t get married, I’ll give it to her for getting her D.VM. or something.  It’s fine.)  But I didn’t buy anything.  I had a list, and I wanted to see everything before I made any decisions.

We met the kids at our designated meeting spot (thankfully I’d been wise enough to do that ahead).  They were pretty much eating their way through the fair, which was pretty much what I’d expected.  But they were good, so I told them where we’d be and we started on the barns.

The barns are always my favorites.  The smaller vendors tend to be there, and there are always treasures to be found.  And this year was no exception.  I finally, FINALLY found Turkish drop spindles that I hadn’t been able to find at Maryland or in the buildings.  But I didn’t buy one yet in case I found something else I needed.  And I found an amazing deal on Gotland fiber, 8 oz. for $9.  I have a weakness for Gotland.  I call it Middle Earth fiber, as it’s the fiber that was used to make the cloaks for the Fellowship in Caras Galadhon in the Lord of the Rings movies.  But I didn’t buy it.  What if there was something else?  That was becoming a pattern.  I was frozen in indecision.  I couldn’t commit to ANYTHING.  All the beautiful yarns and fibers that I picked up and almost bought, then put down and walked away from.  Nikki bought stuff before I did.  Unheard of!  I started to get really frustrated with myself.

Finally we finished all the buildings and tracked the kids down to get lunch.  I think at that point I needed the break.  And the protein.  We got fair fare (hot dogs for the kids, sausage and peppers for us) and had a seat.  Hurrah.  The lines were starting to get long everywhere, which was kind of our signal to get the heck out.  So I started making a list.  I’d kept cards with notes from almost everywhere I’d found stuff I wanted, so now I sorted them out by get now, save for later and not happening.  Then I wrote everything I wanted down along with their prices, and totaled it up.  4 things I was absolutely getting, with about $80 left over for whims.  Pretty good.  So we sent the kids off with the agreement to meet back at 1, and I went on a mission, dragging poor Nikki along behind.

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I was victorious.  I got the silk and a pound and a half of the Gotland (my first sweater quantity!)  I got sock yarn for a barter I’d arranged with a coworker, and a contrasting color for myself.  I got one luscious braid of yak/silk.  I wanted a sweater quantity of that, but at $31 a skein, when I need 6 skeins, it wasn’t happening that day.  But I will go back to her in January to get it.  She said she’d even do a special order for me if I needed it!  So the one braid is just to get familiar with it so I’m ready for the SQ.  I got a braid of merino, just because I like the color and it was cheap ($10).  I got a handmade Turkish spindle that it lovely and light.  Plus I got to give Turkish instructions to two people while I was waiting to pay!  I tried to score an instructors discount, but that didn’t fly…  I rounded it out with a bottle of wool wash and some goat’s milk cheese for Gabe and Pam and we were done.  The shawl yarn ended up being waaaaay too expensive.  I get that it’s a luxury blend (silk/angora), but $55 for 1500 yds just seemed a little excessive.  The blending boards were all well priced at $160, but when I know I can get the cloth for $75 and make my own, I just couldn’t justify it.  And I couldn’t remember where I had been talking to the lady about the dye kit, so I couldn’t go back for that.  Which breaks my heart, because after the fact I realized it was a dyer whose yarn we LOVE, but they’re closing up the business and moving to Colorado after this show!  *sigh*  But I see those kits every year at both shows, so next time.

We were on the road by 2, and stopped off at Hyde Park so Nikki could get some Roosevelt tat for her mom.  We usually stop there every year, and never have a problem.  Well, Ken Burns’ series has obviously done what it intended, because the place was PACKED.  We had to park way the hell and gone, so I dropped Nikki and Hero near the door and waited in the car with Owen, who had passed out.  they were in and out in 15 minutes, and we scooted.  We were tempted to buzz Sleepy Hollow, but at that point we were just too burned out, so home we went.

Which was when Nikki broke.

My friend is a woman of strong will and determination.  But with enough patience, you can convince her of anything.  Thus it has been all along this fiber journey of mine.  She didn’t need to knit, crochet was fine.  She didn’t need fancy yarns, Red Heart was good enough.  She now knits Manos de Uruguay, her preferred yarn.  I just keep exposing her to things and eventually she succumbs on her own.  Thus it was that day with spinning.  I don’t know if it was me spindle shopping, or all the gorgeous fiber, or watching the Australian/New Zealand (we still aren’t sure which) lady doing long draw on the wheel, but something got in her head that day and said it was time.  She had bought 2 oz. of an alpaca blend for me to spin for her, but she decided she wanted to try it herself. Thankfully I had brought my top whorl spindle with me just in case, along with my yarn swift and ball winder.  Hey, some projects won’t wait!  So I dug it out, got her set up and showed her the basics the way my teacher, Deb (not that Deb.  We call this one Alpaca!Deb in my house) had shown me.  I spun a couple of yards to show her, and then let her have a go at it.  To keep from hovering, I tried to take a nap.  In the 20 minutes it took for Gabe and Pam to get dinner on the table (an amazing vegetarian chili!), she had the basics down and was well and truly bitten.  My “I win!” dance might have been a bit gloaty.

We had dinner and puttered around a bit, and then settled in to watch X-men: Days of Future Past, which was surprisingly excellent, as my last X-movie experience had been X3, which was terrible.  We made it to 10:30 that night.  Go us!  But sleep was entertainingly challenged by Pam and Gabe’s cats, who decided to make their presence known in a myriad of ways that night.  Despite that, I still got a decent night’s sleep.

We eased into the day the next morning, hitting the road around 10.  All the indulging of the day before had finally caught up with Owen, who had a terrible stomach ache as we were leaving.  Poor thing.  We made a pit stop at a local farm stand for cider donuts and apples.  OMG, these apples.  They’re the size of softballs!

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Two of them made a whole apple crisp.  And so good!  From there it was a pretty traffic-free drive down to Philly and then a not so traffic free drive back up to home.  Dropped Hero off at OM and went home myself to crash.  The sign of a great weekend.

I still haven’t started anything from the new goodies, although I’m itching to.  I’m binding off a lace project at the moment, and then can start the barter project and a quick pair of wrist warmers for Xander.  I’m not touching the spinning until I can be less indecisive about it.  But I have time.

Only 7 months until Maryland Sheep and Wool…