Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where are they now? 2KCBWDAY4

Finished afghan
Whatever happened to the Block a Month challenge afghan I knit? This was another example of stepping outside of the comfort zone. Our local Yarn Store, Stitchy Women  has a Thursday night social knit. It was decided that we would all pick a block out of this book (200 Knitted Blocks by Jan Eaton) with the idea that every month we would all be knitting the same pattern for our own afghans. There were nine patterns chosen, and each of us were to knit six blocks of each pattern, so that at the end we would have 54 blocks to put together as an afghan. The theory being, that we would all be knitting, at one time or another, a technique we were unfamiliar with. The month we did the blocks with beading, that was my challenge. For others, it was the block with cables. At any rate, only a few of us persevered to the end. And the majority of us ended up with lots less than 54 blocks.
Well used by all
I had knit mine in a machine washable Encore, from Plymouth yarn, in shades of blues and greens. These colors, I thought, would be welcome to whoever I gave the afghan to. The machine washablity being an important part of gift giving. However, the whole process took me a year, as it was never the priority project. After I had worked on this thing for a year, suddenly I could not give it to anyone but myself. So I did. I love it! I never had such a comfy, snuggly, happy thing to cozy up in. Every night while I am ensconced in my chair, knitting or reading, I have my happy throw on my lap. Who knew blankies weren't just for kids any more?

Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, in her prime
And now the latest news from the home front--Buffy, the Vampire slayer, did move on to the happy chicken coop in the sky.  She was a weird old bird who used to spend half her time wandering around with her head in the clouds while the rest of the flock were some where else entirely.  I'll miss her shifty little eyes but her egg production ceased a year ago February, so there won't be a drop in egg numbers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches 2KCBWDAY3

Corner of "guest" room
The blog challenge for today--"How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised" is a real killer! How does one keep such a thing as yarn (and fleece) in an organized manner? Well, as I have been using my blog to inspire me to get moving and actually do the things I write about, then I guess maybe today I will actually take a stab at making things orderly around here.
Assorted projects
Without a studio, and only a small room that has to double as a guest room at times, it sure is tricky! Here is the state of things right now: Loom and books in the guest room,
fleece under the eaves in another little room, yarn and needles in baskets all over, the scale, skein and ball winders on the dining room table.
The dining room table
Well! That is the state of things at the moment. At least my needles are orderly. Sort of. The fixed circular hang in a pretty holder that a friend made for me, the KnitPicks  interchangeable Zephyr Options have their own case and the straights are in one of two fabric needle cases. Hmm. I tried to get the yarn corralled into a three drawer plastic chest, but that didn't work because I couldn't see it. I need to see my stash so I know what I have to work with.
A bunch of yarn
So now that I look at the wreck I have made of the house, what will I do about it?   I seriously have to get this under control.  Especially since Easter is coming!  The short term solution to the dining room is to sweep everything into the dry sink.   But can I come up with a Real Solution?  Today I will spend reading as many blogs as I can, to see how other people cope. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill + 1UP 2KCBWDAY2

The most exciting thing I have learned to do in this last year is to knit two socks at a time on one circular needle--the "Magic Loop" method. I used to have such a bad case of second sock syndrome that it was a case of absolutely having to learn this. First I tried two at a time on two circular. That was o.k., but after a few instances of pulling out one or the other needle, I decided that I should learn to do it on one needle. The first time I finished both at the same time was magic, for sure! The time it takes is still the same, well maybe a tad quicker, than on double points, but having worked my way through a pattern once, at least I have two socks by the time I get tired of the project. The other thing I learned to do is to read a lace chart. I could read charts before, especially anything that is a color pattern, but for stitches, I spent a lot of time referring back to what the symbols meant. Somehow the whole process has coalesced in my head, and now reading charts is far easier.

A skill I admire, but have no interest in learning, as of yet, is intarsia.  For some reason it has no appeal to me.  Maybe I should tackle it sometime this year, just to make sure I don't like it!
Today is Fun Day as I am going down to the new fiber mill, Battenkill Fibers in Greenwich, NY,  with my friend Glo to pick up her processed alpaca. She and her husband own AlnGlo Alpaca Ledge Farm (contact: and that is where all my alpaca comes from. The mill is newly opened so Glo wanted to see if it was worth taking some of her 17 fleeces down to them. Currently, she and I wash all the fleeces by hand. Her test was two white fleeces to be washed and made into roving. If she is happy with their services, it may save us from washing so many. It isn't just the washing, it is the sorting that takes so much time. And 2011 shearing is only 2 months away! We haven't even finished washing all of 2010. Glo cards most of it up into batts for sale. She also spins an astonishing amount up as yarn to sell. After we pick up her fiber, then it is off to lunch. We always have fun together.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns, Eskimimi Challenges 2KCBWDAY1

Right now I am in the mood to have my mind given a good shake up. When I read about this challenge, I knew that it would be a good thing for me to do. We shall see!
Little balls of yarn
Being a handspinner, I have made my share of good and not so good yarn. Lately, one of my favorite yarns is actually only half mine. The other half is kitchy fun yarn. This is the yarn I have previously spoken of, the funky stuff I wind into little balls with my handspun. I found that it is a good way to use up bits and pieces of stash. I use these in a shawl that is a perfect showcase for this yarn. The ironic thing about this is that when I was introduced to "making" yarn this way, I totally rebelled, as it seemed so wrong, somehow. Now I love to do it with my left over oddments, but I still only use it for my lacey shawls.

Finished shawl
One of my 'not so good' yarn experiences was the yarn I was going to use for my warp. Now there was really nothing wrong with this yarn, it just did not live up to my expectations. And then I didn't like it because it was far more muted than I wanted it to be. However, it is making up into a nice scarf.

Beginning of a scarf

The sad part of today is that I have another hen in the Critical Care Unit, aka the Bathroom.  It is Buffy (the Vampire Slayer).  She is one of my original hens of unknown age.  I am not sure if this is the same ailment as befell my Little Red Hen, or something else, but thought she had better be isolated from the others and kept warm.  I am not hopeful about the outcome, as she is not drinking water.  Always a Bad Sign.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Not Thinking

This is what becomes of Not Thinking.  I was doing a cold water wash, and, as always, had all my hand knit socks in the little laundry bag that I wash them in.  Because I was Not Thinking, I put my lovely newly knit Nemesis socks in with the others.  But Nemesis were knit in commercial alpaca, so this was the result.

Sad little socks

I was horrified, yet also amused that I would spend all that time knitting only to ruin them!  I quickly put them on and made them fit my foot and leg, letting them actually dry (mostly) so that they could still be worn.
The end result is OK.  They still can be worn, are still soft, and life goes on.   Good thing the next pair is out of my usual sock wool that can withstand a wash in the machine.  I will definitely treat these babies with a little more care next time!
Molded to foot and leg
Meanwhile, spring is slowly advancing upon us.  It is still very cold.  The snow is leaving the yards at a sedate pace.  This will probably put us in a good place come May, as we got word that the bee shipment is going to be late.  At first I panicked about that, thinking that there won't be enough blossoming for bees by mid May, but at the rate we are gong it probably will be perfect timing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Small balls of yarn
I've been wanting to knit a shawl using a pattern that I was introduced to a while back.  The fun part about this pattern is that I knit it using yarns that I wind into balls, using fun, kitchy sorts of yarn.  This one started with my hand painted alpaca.  I wind them into small balls so that I can switch from one to another in a short span of knitting.  It makes such a fun piece of knitting.   The unifying bit about it is my yarn running through the whole shawl. 

Sample of the three runs
First day of spring brought snow and freezing rain.  Jeff boiled again last night.  He is up to five quarts.  Yum.  It sounds like it may be good sugar weather the rest of the week.  At least he can quit any time he wants now, as we will have enough to eat and give away.  Mostly give away, as the grand girls love it.
Still spinning the Cotswold.  I've been distracted, so must get back on task.   Then I still have the dyed batts to do!  I'd better get cracking.  At least some of the seeds have sprouted. I now have tomatoes, broccoli and some onions up, plus zinnia.  I am anxious for the celery, as the celery we were given last year was wonderful. So, I am hopeful.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nemesis Socks

Nemesis sock
Finished my Nemesis socks.  They were started some time ago when I found a skein of commercial alpaca I had picked up somewhere (you know--stash!) and thought I would love to have socks from it.  Then I read the pattern from that was called Nemesis and the two clicked in my brain.  The idea of carrying the pattern down the heel was intriguing.  The funny thing is, I love making socks  (two at a time on one circular--the Magic Loop method), but when it comes to something like the sweater I made for my sister, the excitement of commercial yarn and following a pattern pales after I grasp the concept.    Socks are the only patterns with commercial yarns that I find any pleasure in knitting.  The problem was, I would do one and then the excitement of the pattern was over and I never wanted to do the second.  Plus, they never came out the same.  First I taught myself how to do two at a time on two circulars, then mastered the Magic Loop method. The time it takes to make them is probably the same for me if I were still doing it on double points, but the relief of having them both done at the same time is immeasurable. 
I put Kid-Setta in the heels & toes
 The next pair will be toe up from Melissa Morgan-Oakes book Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks. The pattern "Simplicity" seems like a good bet to use with the yarn I have in mind.  The yarn is some self striping I got on sale from Stitchy Women a while back.  Unless I decide to knit them with the varigated pastels that look sort of like baby colors.  I thought the pastels would be summer like.
Today is Maplefest day in Poultney.  It should be a good day for the sugar makers as the weather is perfect for production.  Jeff is on his second boiling now.  So far he has made 1 1/2 quarts.  This lot is very dark.  I don't think we are going to have any light syrup this year.   Which is o.k. with us.  I think I will head down to the pancake breakfast and do a little shopping at the places that are having bag sales.  Oh, did I mention that the Yarn shop is among those places??

Thursday, March 17, 2011


So here is a philosophical question I have--when I give someone something I have knit for them, why do I do it?  Mostly I feel that I have done it because I wanted to gift them something I did just for them.  Therefore, if I did it with love for the person, then it stands to reason that I don't need anything from them except, maybe, thanks.  The problem is, I read over and over about knitters giving say, socks, to family and friends who just rave on that they got hand knitted socks--will the knitter make them another pair?  Or how the receiver of the knitted item is just blown away that someone would spend all that time, just for them.
I have not had this experience.  In fact, sometimes the feeling I get is that the person I knit for is really thinking that I must be on hard times to give a handmade gift and not a "store bought" one.     I guess I wish I would see the person wear the item, or maybe even comment on it.  It is very gratifying to see that, when it happens, and there are those who do this.
Which leaves me with my question--why do I knit for others?  I know one person I have gifted with sweaters, hats and scarves, none of which were ever seen again---mostly , I think, because they were none of them  just exactly what the wearer was wanting.  So maybe I should go back to my answer--if I knit because I love someone, that should be enough.  Just don't knit for those who I feel it is a waste of time.
Someone who doesn't think I waste my time

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And rainy Wednesday

Nasty day today--wet with rain and snowy slush.  The sap is running well, Jeff started some to boil last night, and still is at it today.  Although he is at work, so I am tending the fire and keeping an eye on things.
This afternoon's plan is to finish getting the seeds planted in flats.  Then on to carding the Cotswold.  Good day to be indoors.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunshine Tuesday

Sap buckets--sugaring has begun!
The sun is shining, the snow is melting, Jeff has set out 10 taps and the sap is flowing!  I am one happy person.  Nature can send whatever she likes now; it won't matter as I am starting seeds, having seen winter's grip broken.
The warp is hanging on the loom.  I won't finish threading and tie up until I get the weft spun.  There is too much temptation for one of the household cats to lay on a warp for me to leave it idle for too long.  Plus, I don't want to stretch it more than I have to.
A waiting warp
I've decided on a marled weft, as well.  Cotswold, plyed with the colors.  Since Cotswold is a fine wool, it should pair well with the alpaca.  At this point in time the idea floating around my brain is that it will be the same color pattern--purple, blue and on to the pink, in roughly the same widths, for a loose plaid effect.  Always subject to change.  Plain weave, so that the colors and pattern are the focus.  Loosely woven, also, to make a nice flowing material.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Jesse, modeling for my Etsy shop
First off, I can't type anything without saying how distressed I am about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  It is such a devastating event.  I cannot even comprehend the horror and helplessness.  Although prayer seems like a feeble thing to do in the face of such magnitude of loss, I know it is all I can do for the nation, and so I will keep the Japanese people in my thoughts and prayers.
Jesse did come through, and from far away in Madison was able to get my printer up and running.  I was so happy!  He is a wonderful son.
Warp, laying on table, in raddle
The warp is on the raddle, and now I am looking at it, wondering if I want to go through with this or not.  I knew I was short a great deal of yardage, but I went ahead and counted off what I had spun.  It is a 19" width right now, which should be adequate for a shawl.  But do I like the way the colors go?  I am thinking of the warp being either stripes of gray and cream, or stripes of the colors--any thoughts on the subject?   I really would love some input at this point!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I have spent the last 2 hours hunched over the computer, trying to get my new printer to work.  Jesse, the computer son, has my drive divided into two parts, one running Linux and the other running Windows.  The printer is all hooked up in Windows, the problem is this particular driver is not in the Linux base, so I had to find and download one.  Which I did, but now I can not install if for some reason.  He has been helping me via email from Wisconsin, yet it is so hard (and I know from personal experience) to help a person with a computer problem when you don't know, really, what they did.  Jesse is very patient, though, and has only scolded me once for buying a printer without making sure it was Linux compatible.  I did read a review and the person was using it in Linux, they just didn't say anything about the driver for it!  I am sure it is just one small thing yet to do, only I don't know what it is.  Worst case scenario is that I can only use it on the evil Windows side until someone adds my model to the data base.  Nice thing about running Linux--all open source and no paying for every program or update that comes along.  We use it 95% of the time.
More frustration in the form of snow, turning to rain today.  When will it end?
I did manage to get my warp all spun, plyed and set.  Counting off on the warping board is my project for today.   Having second thoughts about some of the red colors which means they may get cut out of the project.  I will only know when I get it on the board.  If all goes well, I'll start loading the loom this afternoon.  We will see.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Little Red Hen
She did die, and I was sorry for it.  Put on the snow shoes and trekked out to the burial grounds for pets who die in winter, aka the swamp.  She is part of nature now, whether she nourishes the soil or another animal.  I am regretful that she is gone, yet I have another Rhode Island Red, Lollypop, that I am sure will prove to be as good a layer as she was. 

Little Red Hen

Last night, when Jeff got up to feed the fire, he saw that the hen house temperature had dropped to 19 degrees.  So he went out to start the heater, and found Little Red Hen on the floor in front of it.  Figuring she was looking for warmth, he left her there.  But this morning, she was still there , which led him to put her in an old dish pan with some hay to bring her into the house to warm up.  She is one of the original hens, a Rhode Island Red, and is of indeterminate age.  So she actually may be quite old.  At any rate, she has always been a good layer until this winter.  Lately, these last few weeks, she has been reluctant to fly off the perch  in the morning, and often times I help her down.  I think she has fallen to the bottom of the peck order, which leads me to believe that the other hens know something about her that I don't.  Regardless, she is ensconced in the bathroom for now.  I hope she revives, as I hate to lose her, and I dread to think of what to do with her body in the dead of winter, should she succumb. Poor little thing.
Batts still to spin
I have been busy plying my warp.  It is very interesting to see as it is a marled yarn, which usually I am not crazy about.  However, KnittyBlog had a great writing one day last month about an experiment that Jillian did with marling yarns, so it has me thinking hard about how this will look in a woven piece.  I still need about 100 yards more, so I am going to be spinning that up today. I think that I will work on more pink. What it looks like, at this point:
Warp, so far

Monday, March 7, 2011

Snow tired

Well, after a day of rain and freezing rain, we got wind and snow.  9 or 10 inches when Jeff cleared the driveway.  It stopped for about an hour or so, now it is back snowing and blowing full force.  It didn't keep him from going out in the truck (which has four wheel drive) to keep an appointment in Rutland ( a thirty minute drive in clear weather).  I however, did try to stop him as I ran down the road after him screaming and waving my hands to let him know that the wood furnace had blown out the vent in the stove pipe!  It sent black soot everywhere and the fire alarm went off.  Freaked me out, just a bit!  Fortunately, the furnace is in the cellar, so it keeps the ashes, etc, out of our living space.  Also there was no harm done, although he could only theorize what had happened.  The  house would not have burned down if he hadn't been there, he explained, so I was happy to know that.  It is the first time in over 20 years of burning wood that I have been totally undone by it.  If he had already been out of reach, I guess I would have  figured out what to do, but I am glad I didn't have to!  The end result is that I aggravated my throat with hollering and then gasping for breath once I had run back into the house to throw open the bulkhead doors for him, so now am coughing a bit.  Definitely not a sprinter!
Still it snows, snows, snows.   Later I will have to shovel off the end of the drive so Jeff can get back in.   I think it is ' finish spinning the batts, then plying' day. Sure not going out anywhere!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Met with my student today.  She is so eager to learn about the art of spinning that it is a pleasure to be with her. Today we talked about fiber preparation.  It was good for me, as while I was digging into my bags of fleece I found a bag of long forgotten Cotswold.  I was a newbie spinner when I acquired it and was a little intimidated by it, so stuck it away.  Now, almost 15 years later, I find it and am thrilled. I combed some of it and it became a cloud of wonderment.  What possibilities!  It is so interesting to me to see how far I have come.
I did get some of my dyed locks carded into batts.
Alpaca batts, canning jar dyed
They are looking fine.  I have two more to do, plus a redo of one that needs a little more blending.   Then, finally, I will be spinning.
But, tomorrow Stitchy Women  is having an open house sale and I got a preview of things she has marked down.  I am so excited!  Not that I need a darn thing more, but stash is good for the soul, I am convinced.  Besides, some of the things on sale are books, and as a former librarian, books call to me at all times.  One can never have too many reference books, I am sure!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I promised myself I couldn't write until I finished the sweater, and it is DONE.  I worked all  yesterday morning on it.  The steek cutting was the least of my traumas.  It took me over an hour to hand sew the zipper in, after which I  tried it on and it looked awful. Really bad--a great big white streak up the front.  I had left too much space showing between the two bands.  I took it out incrementally so that I wouldn't have to repin the whole thing and resewed it with the knit material much closer to the zipper teeth.  It is now just a zipper and not a huge white band up the front.  Washed it, blocked it, now am waiting for it to dry so I can take photos of it, then pack it up and off it goes to the sister.  I am 'practice packing'--I send things off wrapped up in my special boxes the way I will send off anything from my Etsy Flyin' Bobbin shop , if anything ever sells.
Back of Sweater
Front of Classic Line Cardigan
And although I am glad I knit the sweater, it was just following directions with ready made yarn, which doesn't fill my soul with joy.  So now I am ready to dive into my colored batts and get spinning!  The warp is going to be so colorful and bright that I need to wait until it is on the loom to know what the weft will be.  I will halve all the batts so that the length of color is not too long between changes, which will leave me plenty to play with afterwards for the weft.  Unless the weft has to be a neutral color.  We will see.  Besides, I bought some sparkly fibers from the Etsy shop WC Mercantile , and they might just have to go into the weft for happiness.