Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The concert season begins...

A quick post because I'm swimming in undone stuff. Or stuff yet to be done. Or stuff yet to be completed.

The last few weeks have brought some interesting things. For one, many, many concerts. One thing about having a musician for a child, you go to lots of concerts. In the last week, I've attended three concerts, just the beginning of the holiday concert season. The first, was the University of MN choirs performing St. Nicholas by Benjamin Britton. Since Britton is one of my favorite choral composers, I was looking forward to this one. The Manchild also sang, as a small group from the MN Boychoir. It was partly staged, sorta, and I was not disappointed. The tenor who played St. Nicholas was incredible, which was amazing since he was a last minute replacement from New York. The original (local) tenor was sick and they called in this guy literally about 30 hours before he had to perform it. According to the Manchild, he was much better than the original guy. It must be particularly depressing, not only to miss singing a part you've spent a lot of time preparing for, but to have your replacement be better than you after rehearsing with the rest of the singers only once. The whole thing was very good and I was happy to see it, especially since it's one of Britten's less performed pieces. Of course, the boychoir performed perfectly!

The second concert was the Manchild's school band concert. He is a percussionist and a very good one. The concert consisted of the 8th grade orchestra, choir, and two different bands. I love the boy more than anything, but as a concert experience, it ranked right up there with a trip to the dentist. I got a lot of knitting done.

The third concert of the week was the highlight and was the MN Orchestra's performance of "Hansel & Gretel." The MN Boychoir provides the "gingerbread boys." This concert was really amazing. It's a "light" opera, performed with the Heart of the Beast puppet theatre, a local company. The two sopranos who play Hansel & Gretel are actual sisters, so they are natural siblings and very funny. The whole thing really is magical. This is the second year they've performed it and it just gets better every time I see it. For those of you who live close enough, don't miss it if they do it again next year. Bring the kids (it's billed as a family concert and really does entertain the kids). And, of course, the gingerbread boys steal the show.

This weekend begins the first of the MN Boychoir's winter concerts. If you're around, come see one. They really are amazing concerts and they're even free! (Ok, they do take an offering.)

In other news, I started my career as a human guinea pig this week. I volunteered for a local research trial related to my diabetes and I'm taking two additional meds, one of which has to be injected twice a day (not insulin). That's taking some getting used to. I haven't had to do any injections since I was pregnant with the Manchild (when the whole diabetes thing first reared its ugly head). Toward the end of the pregnancy I was up to four injections a day, so it's not like I'm completely new to this. But still, as the Manchild so helpfully pointed out, I'm probably "nuts."

On the knitting front I'm happy to report that I did get the bedsocks for the neighbor finished and delivered. They might have been too big. It's darn hard making socks for other people. Even with foot measurements. Still, I guess too big is better than too small. The yarn has some acrylic in it so I'm guessing it won't shrink much. I also finished several little things in time to get them to church for a craft fair that was benfitting the "Blue House," a project that provides housing and support for fifteen girls orphaned by AIDS.

I cast on last night to start a pair of Fiesta Mittens. I've been reading Krafty 1'sblog and she was raving about these mittens. When I went to Borealis to pick up the pattern, they had a sample made up and they really are cool mittens! If I like the way they turn out, I might use this pattern to make up the Knit Mitt Kit Swap that's due to go out in January.

My spoilee for SP9 got her box and liked what I sent her. Since I forgot to take a picture before I sent it out, you can see it on her blog, here. Find December 8.

Next big thing on the "to do" list is to get all the various packages that have to be shipped gathered together and wrapped. Since most of our family lives elsewhere, this can be a significant chore. Deep breath...go!

Monday, December 04, 2006

I'm Still Here

No, I haven't dropped from the face of the earth. The last several weeks have been nuts. Between Thanksgiving, various concerts, trying to get many knitting projects done, trying to get various swap partners shopped for and, oh yeah, work, there hasn't been much time for anything else. I will attempt to catch everyone up on the past several weeks, so be prepared for a long post.

Thanksgiving was great! On Thursday, we went to church and then had Thanksgiving potluck with several families there. It was very, very warm (in the upper 70's) so our post Thanksgiving dinner walk was much longer than usual. Wow, it was a beautiful day. Very weird to be in t-shirts in November, but beautiful. Friday, we celebrated our family Thanksgiving with good friends who are also the Manchild's godfathers. Reading other people's blogs I'm a bit envious of all the folks trying out gourmet recipies for "pecan crusted" this and "slivered, blanched" that. In my family, Thanksgiving is all about Tradition. There is a set menu, and it never changes. Turkey (always my partner's responsibility -- see previous post), stuffing (with nothing "weird" in it), cranberry/orange relish jello mold, sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows melted on top, corn, rolls and pumpkin pie with Real Whipped Cream. And sometimes green bean casserole. It's like dinner was prepared in 1965 and simply teleported forward every year. But it's yummy anyway. Of course, the Manchild doesn't eat hardly any of it. Rolls and a little turkey. And whipped cream with a little pie. That's about it. Sigh. But we had a great couple of days stuffing ourselves silly.

Friday's celebration was held despite the fact that the Spouse was up at a 2:30 a.m. in order to go stand in line at Best Buy in an attempt to purchase a computer for the Manchild. She's like that, I am Not. By God, she got it too.

Now to the knitting: My Secret Pal 9 sent another box! Wow, she really outdid herself this time! As she said, this box has a "spinning" theme. Here's a pic of the goodies...

She included a book off my wish list, "Color in Spinning," which I've been coveting forever, some handpainted merino roving, several ounces of an alpaca, merino, silk blend (I think, I don't have the label in front of me) roving, some tea, a scented tealight candle, a couple of cute buttons a couple of sample packets of Crabtree & Evelyn's Gardener's hand therapy lotion (great stuff!) and a packet of hand-made cards with water buffalos on the front. (I collect water buffalos -- yes, it is an odd thing to collect.) Thanks, SP9 pal, you did a fantastic job!

Speaking of swaps, I am just about finished with box number 2 for my SP9 pal. I need to get back to the yarn store before I can send it out! So far it includes a really cute sock blocker keychain, complete with a pattern to make a teeny sock, a copy of the "Yarn Requirements for Knitters" folder, some Dove chocolates, the Christmas Gnome, some handmade Lavender soap, a cute little angel pin and some yarn (yet to be purchased). Here's the gnome:

I'm not 100% happy with the way the gnome turned out, but I reworked him until he's presentable. And he is still pretty cute, as long as you don't look too closely at the seams. He's about 10". The pattern is an Alan Dart pattern, a British designer who does a lot of toys and animals. It was very hard to find, but I fell in love with it and finally found it on ebay.

I've started on the Knit Mitt Kit Swap bag. I'm not that great with a sewing machine, but decided that a fabric bag made more sense than a knit one, so I'm giving it a shot.

Here's the Chrismas stocking I finished for my grand-nephew. It still needs to be blocked and personalized with his name, but it's essentially done. It looks very Minnesotan, don't you think? This is the pattern with the odd heel design. Having tried putting in the heel last, I think I'll stick with a more traditional heel process for future versions.

Here's Murray, admiring the Christmas stocking, or maybe just wondering what the heck I'm doing...

I'm still working on a few things for Christmas. I'm making another gnome, this time for the Manchild who was quite Put Out when I told him the first one was for my secret pal. A pair of bedsocks for my neighbor (suffering from second sock syndrome, but Must. Get. It. Done.).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of Homemade Vegetable Soup

I can't cook meat. When I was younger, I spent several years as a vegetarian. The reasons I gave it up and returned to omnivorous ways are boring and won't be mentioned. However, because I did not eat meat, my mother never taught me how to cook meat. My mom was an incredible cook. She made pot roast, swiss steak, salisbury steak, beef & noodles, stew, you name it, she could cook it. And it would be perfect every time. I am my mother's daughter, but I can't cook meat. It's either too tough, or too dry or too tough and dry. I remember my mom's cooking with fondness but have never been able to duplicate it. She died several years ago, so I can't ask her. I miss my mom at times, especially when I'm cooking.

Yesterday though, I finally made something that turned out! Pot roast in the crock-pot! (Thanks to Bobbee for the recipe) Round one was yummy pot roast, and round two is yummy homemade vegetable soup. The manchild is essentially a vegetarian, so he didn't touch either. Well, he nibbled a bit of pot roast. With ketchup. He just doesn't like meat much. Probably not a bad thing.

Knitting? Oh yeah, well I've been doing a lot of knitting. I have experienced knitting tradgedy. Remember those pumpkin Victorian Diamond socks I was working on? I can't find them. Anywhere. I think I left the bag somewhere. I've been trying not to think about it too much but I'm just about to the point where I'm going to have to admit that they're gone. Along with the pattern, because I was too lazy to make a working copy of it and was toting around the original. And my brand new Knit Picks sz. 2 double pointed needles. Sob. Maybe it will still turn up...

In more positive knitting news, I have finished a Christmas stocking for my grand nephew. Geez that makes me feel old. My sister was 11 years older than me, and her daughter had my grand nephew when she was pretty young. So, at 48 I have a grand nephew. He lives in Florida so it's hard to knit things for him. But I saw this pattern [hey Lori, it has a moose on it!] and decided to knit it up for him. It's kind of a weird pattern. Instead of knitting it like a giant sock, you sort of knit it in one tube and then go back and add in the heel at the end. Weird. I think if I make it again I'm just going to knit it like you would any sock. I'll get a pic of it up soon.

I'm having fits with the Christmas Gnome. I seem to be incapable of doing a decent mattress stitch. I can kitchener with the best, but a stupid mattress stitch has me completely beaten. I have torn out these seams so many times that the yarn is really looking crappy. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tear out mattress stitch? I look at the pattern and they show beautiful, invisible seams and mine are lumpy and twisted. Sigh.

I think I need some yummy vegetable soup to make me feel better.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

KMKS Questionnaire

I've decided that my limit for swaps will be no more than two at a time. I can't keep up with more than that (not even counting the $$ involved)! So, I chose my second swap carefully and picked the Knit Mitt Kit Swap. Since we already have our swap partner names, I figured I'd better get the answers to the questionnaire up!

What are your favorite colors? I like color in general, especially fall colors -- dark green, rust, golds, browns. I like deep, rich color. I also like jewel tones (not pastel), especially if black is mixed in. I like blues and purples. I like just about anything except pastels.

Are you a new mitt knitter? How long have you been knitting mittens? I have knit one pair of regular mittens and several pairs of fingerless mitts. I've been knitting about 3 years, give or take, and a pair of mittens were one of my early attempts. Everything went great until I started the thumb. Somehow I managed to knit it backwards so that the "wrong" side ended up on the outside. I couldn't figure out what I did wrong for the longest time. I still have a problem with knitting backwards when working in the round, I have to watch myself.

Do you prefer solid or multicolored yarn? Depends. If I'm just knitting something without any texture or pattern to it, I'd prefer multicolored yarn. If it's something that has a cable or other texture to it, probably a solid color.

What fibers do you prefer in mitten yarn? I live in Minnesota, so something that will keep my hands warm. A nice, thick wool most likely.

Where do you usually knit mittens? They're portable, like socks, so I knit them everywhere!

How do you usually carry/store small projects? Gallon size zip lock baggies. Boring but usable.

What are your favorite mitten patterns? Haven't knit that many so I can't say what my favorites would be. I am dying to try some of the folk or scandanavian type mittens I've seen.

What are your favorite mitten knitting techniques? So far, I've mostly done ribbed fingerless mitts, but I don't think I'd call them a favorite style.

What new techniques would you like to try? Scadanavian/norwegian folk mittens.

What are your favorite needles for knitting mittens? Double points.

What are some of your favorite yarns? I'm not too picky, although I'm a snob when it comes to acrylic. I don't care much for acrylic.

What yarn do you totally covet? Mountain Colors, Mission Falls, pretty much anything handpainted.

Any pattern you would love to make if money and time were no object? Oh yeah, these, the "Solhav" mittens from Nordic Fiber Arts. These "Frostrosen" would be just fine too.

Favorite kind of needles (brand, materials, straights or circs, etc)? I use all of them, but I haven't learned how to do small things on circular needles yet. I have Knit Picks double points which I love. I covet their Options needles. I like a nice, sharp point on my needles so I tend to stay away from bamboo. I break wooden needles.

If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be? Huh? Well, I guess I'd be something handpainted, probably wool with just a touch of silk thrown in.

Do you have a favorite candy or mail-able snack? Well, anything chocolate. I like fruits and nuts for snacks, trail mix sorts of things but I tend to be a bit picky. I like trail mixes with cranberries, blueberries, pineapple and nuts other than peanuts. My favorite is the Trader Joe mix with sour cherries, pineapple and nuts. I love chocolate covered cranberries.

What’s your favorite animal? Dogs and cats, equally.

Would you prefer super warm mittens or something more like fingerless mitts? Warm mittens.

If you were a color what color would you be? It would be hard to pick just one color. I'd be a handpainted mix of pine green, dk. rust and warm brown with just a bit of gold thrown in.

What is your most inspiring image, flower, or object in nature? Hmm... Well, I've always been attracted to intricate, colorful images. Things like mosaics, complex patterns. I learned to knit because I really, really wanted to do fair isle. I think that's why I want to learn nordic knitting (that, and all the millions of Norwegians around me).

Do you have a wishlist? Yep. It's at Amazon, search the email

Anything else you’d like to share with the group today? Wow, I think that's enough!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A box from my Secret Pal!

Yesterday the manchild called me at work to ask if he could open a box that came in the mail. Of course, I said, "heck no!" and hurried home to find this wonderful box of goodies from my Secret Pal.

Of course, one thing is missing -- the wonderful pair of slipper socks that went on my feet as soon as they came out of the box and didn't come off until I went to bed. They are made from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and are wonderfully warm and soft.

Thank you, thank you Secret Pal, it's an awesome box filled with lots of great stuff: two skeins of Wildfoote sock yarn (I've wanted to try that!), one gorgeous skein of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn, a bar of sandalwood soap (my favorite), a bar of cinnamon goat's milk soap (looks heavenly), a tube of Burt's beeswax lip balm, the gorgeous, comfy slipper socks and a yummy chocolate Halloween ghost. Nice job SP!

I also sent my secret pal's box out yesterday but I forgot to take a picture of it. I included a skein of RubySapphire yarns (one of the offers off the the SP9 webpage), some Chibi needles, a couple of sock patterns, some chocolate truffles and now I can't remember what else!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SP9, Contest No. 2

My SP9 host is sponsoring a contest which involves making a dishcloth and posting a photo on your blog. So, here it is:

The Ball Band Dishcloth from the Mason-Dixon knitting book. It hasn't been washed yet, so it's still a little "loose" looking.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Finished Object Sighting

Ok, they're not all finished, but here are the pics I promised:

This is the Fair Isle Bag from a back issue of Interweave Knit. It's the first Fair Isle project I attempted and I'm pretty proud of it. Technically, it's not finished because I still have to make the straps for it, but it's blocked and ready to go otherwise. The straps are braided and a bit hard to do by myself. I'll have to commandeer the manchild to help.

These are the fingerless mitts I finished awhile ago, made from Knit Picks Sock Garden and a very fine mohair (I can't find the label).

They are keeping my fingers toasty warm in my cold office. In honor of Socktoberfest, here are a pair of finished sock, (Knit Picks, Sock Garden)

and the socks in progress. The pattern is Victorian Diamonds, the yarn is Knit Picks Gloss, in pumpkin. I love the way these socks are turning out.

Lastly, here are four finished squares for my Lizard Ridge afghan. These are so much fun to make!

In progress are a booga bag, which is felting even now and this:

my Christmas Gnome, which, hopefully, will end up looking like this:

Making this gnome has been extremely challenging. First was getting hold of the pattern. It's from a British knitting magazine and is no longer available from them. The pattern hasn't been printed elsewhere so I tried to find a used copy of the magazine (ebay, getting more and more expensive and hard to find) but I finally found a woman who is selling the pattern on ebay. Of course, now I can't find the right yarn for the beard. It's Sirdar Foxy and I can't find it locally. The closest thing is Plymouth Foxy, but it's $28 a skein!! No way. I guess I'll have to order it online. Anyway, I'll post the photos when he's done.

And finally, a cute kitty pic. Kimi approves of the Lizard Ridge afghan, of course, she has a "thing" for wool.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Catching Up

Or maybe attempting to catch up would be more accurate. The last two weeks have been a blur, but I'm slowly climbing back up to the top of the Things Which Must Be Done list. Of course, from up here you have a clear view of just how much remains To Be Done.

I survived the conference and it went well. I enjoyed the Peter, Paul & Mary concert, I got to talk to George McGovern, hear Jeffrey Sachs (interesting guy), hear Bill Clinton (a little disappointing), recruit a few new volunteers and generally make a good work-related impression on a lot of people.

The Twins lost. Spectacularly. Enough said.

I've done a fair amount of knitting, but almost no spinning in the last couple of weeks. Knitting is much more portable and I haven't been home much. My work-related travels last week took me to Syracuse, Indiana, via Fort wayne. This involved flying on at least two commuter planes, aka puddle jumpers. My seatmate on one of these flights was a woman who was genuinely alarmed that I had been allowed to board the plane with four implements which clearly could be used to Kill Someone. Most of us would see these as four, size 2, double pointed needles. I tried to point out that they were currently involved in the making of a sock and weren't likely to do anyone harm but she continued to mutter about "won't let you bring shampoo on, but you can bring Those Things..."

I took the opportunity to visit two yarn shops. The first shop, Knitting Today , is a delightful store located out in the country about 45 minutes north of Ft. Wayne. It has the feel of a country general store, but dedicated to all things fiber. The owner, Lea Ann, had just the right combination of helpfulness without being obnoxious. She carried a number of pattern companies that I was not familar with and did a wonderful job of displaying project ideas in little nooks and crannys all over her store. Since I knew that this was the first stop of two, I exercised restraint in the spending. If I had known ahead of time how disappointing the second shop would be, I'd have spent more money at Knitting Today.

The second shop, The Cass St. Yarn Depot, is located in Ft. Wayne. In the charm category it wins very high marks as it is located in a historic train depot. Otherwise, I wasn't impressed. For one thing, they don't have much yarn. Really. Knitting Today had twice the inventory. The Yarn Depot did have a nice display of books and magazines. The shop did not have a very welcoming feel and the staff weren't particularly friendly. Quite a contrast from Knitting Today.

I know that I am very spoiled living in the Twin Cities where we have at least a half dozen excellent yarn shops, but sheesh, you expect a yarn shop to have yarn!

The trip allowed me to finish a pair of socks. I'm also working on a Booga bag (almost done), another set of fingerless mitts (done with one, halfway done with the second) and another square on the Lizard Ridge afghan. This morning I finished blocking my Fair Isle bag (shown in previous post). It's amazing what a difference blocking makes. It's like magic. The bag will be done as soon as I weave in about 4,693 ends and make the strap.

Tonight I hope to start my Socktoberfest socks -- the yarn, pattern and the double-point needles arrived from KnitPicks while I was gone. I've already used the needles on another project and have to say I love them. They're very light, just the right length and have nice, sharp points. Love the yarn (Gloss), love the color (pumpkin) and I can't wait to get started.

The Secret Pal 9 swap is well underway, I'm being spoiled and trying my best to spoil my pal. Details, later.

I will post pictures. Soon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

These are a few of my favorite things...

Ok, my SP9 hostess is having a contest for her group. If we answer these questions about our favorite whatever, we're entered in a drawing, so here it goes:

Actor Johnny Depp
Actress Don't know her name, the woman who plays "Starbuck" on Battlestar Galactica.
Animal Cats and dogs, equally
Band Coldplay, U2, Battlefield Band, lots of others, no real favorite
Beverage Right now it's the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbuck's
Book Impossible to pick one, anything by Sherri Tepper
Bubble Bath I like oils rather than bubbles, patchouli, sandalwood, spicy scents
Candy Chocolate
Color Fall colors, rusts, browns, dk. oranges, forest greens
Flower Any perennial that will grow in Minnesota.
Food Anything Mexican or Tex Mex
Lip Balm Don't use it. Wait, does plain chapstick count?
Lotion Don't use it, although I should.
Movie The newest sci-fi/fantasy flick
Song Most Puccini arias.
TV Show Battlestar Galactica
Vacation Spot Pretty much anywhere along the north shore of Lake Superior

Monday, October 09, 2006

SP 9 Questionnaire

Ok, I survived the last week of working insanely hard and am now seriously vegetating and self-medicating with fiber. In the interest of catching up with my obligations, here are the answers to the Secret Pal 9 questionnaire:

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like? So far, I like to knit with just about anything. I love yarn that has a lot of color. I use primarily wool, wool/silk blends, alpaca. I want to try some of the bamboo or soy yarns, they look like they would be fun. I don't like acrylic, although I have been known to use a wool/acrylic blend from time to time. I don't like scratchy or itchy yarn and I don't tend to wear mohair or angora much, but I do sometimes use it with something else to make it a bit fuzzy or softer. Mostly I respond more to the colors in yarn/fiber rather than the content or texture.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in? A plastic pencil box from my son's elementary school days. I'm outgrowing it and it's falling apart.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced? I've been knitting about 3 years. I'd wanted to learn to knit for years, tried teaching myself from books and had one person try to teach me. None of those really worked. About 3 years ago I decided to take a class at a LYS and was fortunate enough to get a teacher who taught continental (picking) style. That method clicked for me and I've been happily knitting ever since. I guess I'd say I'm in the intermediate range. I can do basic stuff in my sleep, I'm pretty good at intricate fair isle, I'm learning lace and I can do socks. I haven't learned how to cable (just haven't wanted to try anything yet) and I don't know how to do intarsia yet (do want to try that, soon). I can read a pattern pretty well, but sometimes still have to ask other folks to "translate."

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list? Yep. Do a search on the email address at Amazon and you'll find it.

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.) I tend to like spicy scents like patchouli, sandalwood, etc. I don't like flowery scents too well and I don't like fruity/food scented things, usually.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy? Oh yeah. Let's see, anything chocolate. I like all kinds of chocolate, dark, milk, anything in between. I like it plain or with stuff in it. I like things covered in chocolate, especially chocolate covered cranberries. Other than chocolate I like nutty things, like snickers, nut rolls, Trader Joe trail mixes (my favorite is the one with sour cherries). Things that combine caramel, nuts and chocolate are right with the universe. I don't however, particularly like peanuts or peanut-butter flavored things. I don't mind it when there are peanuts are in things, if they're not the main flavor (for instance, I love Snickers bars). I have to say though, that I try to control the sweets, I am diabetic so I have to be pretty careful. Doesn't mean I never eat chocolate, or sweets, but I have to do it in small bits. Please don't send the sugar-free stuff though, it's pretty disgusting. I'd rather have small amounts of the good stuff!

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin? Yes, I do spin, thanks for asking! I also weave, but I find I weave less and less these days. I do some gardening (perennials) and I do a little beading, mostly just to make stitch markers and sometimes earrings. Mostly I just knit and spin!

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD). I listen to mostly rock and classical. Rock tends to be along the lines of U2, Indigo Girls, Coldplay, Green Day, Mindy Smith, Seal, Sarah McLaughlin, etc. Classical tends to be choral (I'm a classically-trained singer) so I listen to a lot of masses and other choral works. One of my all-time favorite pieces is Berlioz's Te Deum. I like opera. I listen to my son's CD's (he sings in the Minnesota Boychoir). I also like world music, particularly middle-eastern, and african. My favorite world music group right now is Niyaz. Yes, I have a way to play MP3s.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand? I love color. There are very few I can't stand, at least in small doses. I don't particularly like pastels, or anything that looks washed out. My favorite colors are "fall" colors, rusts, forest greens, oranges, browns, golds. I also like blues, sea colors, purples, black. I like rich, deep colors.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets? My partner and I have been together for 22 years, we have a 13 year old son. We live with an eight year old standard poodle and two cats. I also have a goldfish and two corydoras catfish at work!

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos? Are you kidding? I live in Minnesota! Yes, I wear all of the above, usually all at the same time.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit? I knit a lot of socks, mostly because they're quick and portable. I have a hard time with long, epic, projects, I guess I lose interest. I like making things for other people, so I make a lot of socks, scarves, dishcloths. I love fair isle and I'm trying to figure out a fair isle sock pattern I have (I have to substitute the yarn). I like small, intricate projects.

13. What are you knitting right now? Right now, I am working on some fingerless mitts, a sweater, the Lizard Ridge afghan from the current Knitty issue, an earflap andean style hat for my son (I still need to spin the fiber for this). I also have a few log cabin squares done for an eventual blanket.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts? You bet.

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic? I use them all, depending on the project. I like sharp points though, and I have an unfortunate tendency to break wooden needles (in teeny sizes). I use the Susan Bates aluminum sock needles now (see above mentioned "tendency to break wooden needles"), but I just ordered some new ones from Knit Picks. I lust after their new Options needles and will probably break down and order a set someday. While I don't usually like plastic, I have used Bryspun needles and like them. I currently own two sets of straights and one set of dp's from them and I appreciate their nice, sharp points. I also like Inox needles.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift? Yes, I own both a yarn winder and a swift.

17. How old is your oldest UFO? It's the above mentioned sweater. It's been sitting on needles for about a year and a half. Not likely to see daylight anytime soon.

18. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas, although Halloween is a strong second.

19. Is there anything that you collect? Yes, I collect water buffalo figures. Yes, I said water buffalos. Yes, that IS a weird thing to collect. When I traveled to southeast asia in 2000, I fell in love with the water buffalos and brought home several water buffalo thingies/figures. They have to be the asian kind, not the african kind. My collection currently consists of about 25 little water buffalos, or little things with water buffalos on them. Ebay is your only hope.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have? Let's see, I subscribe to Spin Off and I always use the Michael's coupon to buy the latest issue of Interweave Knits. As far as books go, I don't have that many so there are lots of books I want. I have really enjoyed playing with dyes and color and would love more info on how to dye yarn and roving more effectively. If you visit my Amazon wishlist you'll pretty much see them listed there. I can always use new needles and gadgets.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn? Intarsia. Get better at lace. I'm dying to knit a lace shawl, but my first attempts at a lace scarf didn't go so well. Right now I'm practicing lace techniques but with a heavier yarn, which I find much easier. Hopefully, I'll be able to "graduate" down to a laceweight yarn at some point. I'd also like to learn Nordic knitting and would love to try a pair of mittens.

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements? Yes, I knit a lot of socks. My foot measures 10" long and I usually wear either a size 9.5 or 10, depending on the shoe. European size is usually a 41 but one of my feet is actually smaller so I have a hard time wearing shoes like Birkenstocks, much to my dismay. I like a sock that comes up about 9-10" but I don't wear knee-highs.

23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd) March 1.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What did you say my blood pressure was?

I'm just a little stressed out right now. I have way too much to do in the next week and not nearly enough time to do it.

As I mentioned before, I'm working on a "mini" conference that is happening alongside the dedication of the George McGovern library. There's still too much of that up in the air and now my national office has gotten wind of what we're doing out here on the prairie and wants a piece of the action. Which is good....and bad. They're now sending a staff person and I'll have to figure out what to do with her for three days. I hate it when people try to "help."

I'm exhausted to begin with because I worked three Twins games at the Metrodome over the weekend. Huh? Did I just say I worked at the Metrodome? Yep. It's a sort of slave labor kind of thing. The company that runs the concessions here uses "volunteers" from non-profit groups to come in and run their stands in the Metrodome and the Xcel Center (in St. Paul). They then pay the organization for each "volunteer" who works a shift on their behalf. The Manchild sings in the Minnesota Boychoir. The Boychoir is touring Australia this summer. It costs A LOT of money to send him, so I'm working shifts to pay off his tour costs.

Although it's really tiring to work the concessions (you're on your feet the whole time), it was fun to be there this weekend, because...the Twins WON THE DIVISION yesterday and I got to be there. Normally, I'm not a huge sports fan, I'm sort of one of those who come on board when things get exciting. But, of all the teams here, the Twins have always been my favorite. They won their last World's Series in '91, right after we moved to Minnesota, so it's been fun to follow them. Plus, you can knit at a Twins game. Definate plus. We go to games at least once a year, because the Boychoir sings the national anthem to open a game at least once a year. So, it was fun to be there yesterday. If you haven't been following, the decision as to whether it would be the Detroit Tigers or the Twins wasn't determined until literally the last minute. The Twins had to win yesterday and Detroit had to lose. Both games were played at about the same time, so after the Twins game was over (they won) everyone stayed in the dome and watched the Detroit/Kansas City game on the big monitors. The Detroit/KC game was a real cliffhanger, going to 12 innings, when KC finally won. I now know the real meaning of the phrase "the crowd went nuts." I think I lost a bit of hearing yesterday.

Needless to say, there hasn't been a lot of knitting the last week. There has, been a little though. The fingerless mitts are almost done, and Saturday night I started a Lizard Ridge. I completely love this afghan. I love the color, I love the texture, it's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I have five more skeins of Kureyon, but I'm thinking about seeing if I can swap some of them for different colors at the Knitalong page. I think that to get the full color effect I want to use a different colorway for each one. Swapping seems to be an easy way to get some new colors.

I'll try to post pictures soon, but likely not until after next weekend, when I can finally collapse. Back to the rat race...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Swap Partner Got the Box!

My Spinning/Roving swap partner got her box yesterday so I can put up some photos of what I sent her. The contents included two different colors of Alpaca, and a bit of Suri Alpaca, all purchased directly from an alpaca farm just south of the Twin Cities.

VERY nice stuff. This farmer has the ability to spin (mechanically) yarn so the roving is really, really nice. She has some sort of machine she runs the fiber through which makes the roving a bit thinner and very uniform and even. I bought some for myself too, of course, so I can't wait to spin with it. I also included a pattern for a headband made from natural alpaca colors (which I want to try myself!), one for fingerless mits and one for wristlets. I also made her three beaded stitch markers and included some Wizard of Oz bookplates. I read in her blog that she really likes Wizard of Oz stuff.

The really fun thing about my first ever swap partner is that our families are very similar. She also had a son with her partner, so we have that in common. That was one reason why the manchild decided to send her son a little gift too. [It's a small world, after's a small world after's a small world, after all, it's a small, small,'s a small world, after's a small world, after all, everybody now, it's a small world, after all...] Ok, sorry about that, and now you'll have that stupid song going through your head all day.

In the knitting department, I'm working on some fingerless mitts. It gets really cold in my office during the winter months, so I'm looking forward to having something to keep my hands warm. The pattern is one from my favorite LYS, Borealis. I'm using Knit Picks Sock Garden in Hyacinth held with one strand of a kid mohair/silk blend, just enough to put a teeny bit of fuzz in the finished fabric. The colors aren't what I usually go for (pinks, purples) but I got it from a Knit Picks clearance bin thinking I would make socks for a gift. I like the way they're turning out so far. The pattern stitches up really fast too, I made the first mitt in a little over an evening. Now if I can just find time to make the other one. From the looks of things, I'll have more than enough yarn to make a second pair.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sun at Last

After several days of dreary rain, the sun has finally decided to make an appearance. Perhaps fall has not quite given in's not even October! Here's the view from my office window on this gorgeous day!

I've added a fun new button to my blog, "Socktoberfest!" Thanks to Loribird for finding that one. It's a celebration of socks, the way October is a celebration of beer (and I'd MUCH rather spend my time knitting socks than drinking beer -- it's an acquired taste that I never seem to have acquired). I think I'm going to order the Victorian Diamond pattern from Knit Picks. These socks just seem so elegant (which means I'll never have a place to wear them).

There hasn't been much knitting or spinning time lately, work has intruded as things have been very busy this week. I'm thick in the middle of planning two conferences, one in a week and a half, the other in early December. They are essentially the same event, planned for two different places and times, but still twice the work. Especially since the venue for the December conference fell through last week. The South Dakota event should be fun, though, as I will get to hear President Bill Clinton speak. That should be such a refreshing change over the stunted, illogical, uneducated ramblings of our current president. Oh, did I mention that I don't care much for George Bush? Lest you be terribly impressed that I'm planning a conference at which the keynote speaker is Bill Clinton, let me say that I'm not involved in planning THAT event. I'm working on a sort of parallel/mini-conference on hunger issues that will hopefully draw some of the attenders of the BIG event. The BIG event is the dedication of the George McGovern Library on the campus of Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota. If you're curious, you can find out more here.

Interestingly enough, Bob Dole IS speaking. I heard him speak (at another McGovern event) about six years ago and was grudgingly impressed. He tells really great Viagra jokes. He and McGovern have been good buddies since they worked on the school lunch legislation back in the sixties. Dole has often co-sponsored legislation having to do with hunger, nutrition, AIDS, debt relief. I wouldn't (and didn't) vote for him for President but he's not a bad guy overall. Of course, if I had to choose between him and Bush, Dole would win, hands down. At least the man can put two coherent sentences together.

Lastly, here is a photo of the manchild's first attempt at spinning. Pretty darn good for a first attempt don't you think?

Ok, really lastly, GO TWINS!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The box goes forth!

The box for my Spinning/Roving Swap secret pal is ready to go! If all goes well, it should begin its journey west tomorrow. I'll take a picture of the contents before I seal it up tomorrow, but since I blew it and she knows who I am, I can't post it until after I know she's gotten the box. I don't want to spoil the surprise! Likewise, I don't want to say too much about my field trip to procure the fiber. More on that later, too.

I will say that my very sweet manchild gave me a little present to put in the box for my sp's little boy. Awwww, isn't he just the sweetest kid? And speaking of the manchild, I spent some of the evening teaching him how to spin. Talk about a duck taking to water! Once it's set I'll take a photo of his first yarn. He's really good! Way better than my first attempt was. Of course, he did have an excellent teacher...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Of lace, swaps and spinning

Lace may not be my thing... I have started and ripped the #%@&#+! alpaca lace scarf too many times to count. I finally decided that maybe it wasn't so smart to try my first lace project with actual lace yarn. So, I tried the same pattern with a worsted weight yarn. It was MUCH easier and I think I more or less got the hang of it. I eventually ripped it out too because it just wasn't the right yarn for the project and it looked awful. So, the scarf is kaput, may it rest in peace.

Does lace get easier? I lust after all these gorgeous lace shawls but I have to think it would drive me absolutely nuts to try to knit one of those suckers.

On to better things: I GOT MY SWAP BOX! It held gorgeous stuff, including some beautiful Merino Wool top, some Bluefaced Leicester and some Ingeo! Also included were lots of fun patterns to try. Thanks, Tamara, you made my first swap a real treat! I can't wait to get spinning. Here's another shot of the gorgeous hand-painted.

This afternoon, I'm going on a field trip to buy the fiber for my secret pal, so hopefully I'll have her box ready to ship very soon! This swap stuff is great!

Ok, did I mention that I love my new Minstrel spinning wheel? Presenting the very first handspun, handpainted yarn to come off my wheel and I'm pretty darn proud of it. It's not perfect, but it's definately usable! Now I just have to decide what to make with it!I have more fiber to spin, but this is as much as would fit on the bobbin (if I counted right, it's about 414 yards). Some of it is awfully thin though.

The socks for the spouse are finished! I told her she couldn't wear them until I took a photo, so I figured I better get that done. Here they are, made from Moda Dea "Sassy Stripes" yarn. The spouse is allergic to wool, so I have to make her acrylic socks. Yuck. (Yes, I'm a yarn snob.) I have to say, though, that as acrylic yarn goes, this stuff isn't too bad. It's a worsted weight, so it knits up really fast. I have more yarn to make her a second pair. She says they'll make great Birkenstock socks. The handspun and the socks are all I've accomplished this week, but considering I've been down with a cold (compliments of the new school year) I'll take it!

Fall is moving in quickly, tomorrow we're supposed to have highs in the 40's and low 50's. Sigh. I love fall, but I'm not so fond of winter.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ramblings on a dreary day

I'm relieved that my secret pal recipient has posted the answers to the spinning/roving swap questions. I royally screwed up and mangaged to reveal myself to her on my very first contact. Ok, I said I was new to this, but how moronic can you get? Sorry again, SP!

It is a cold, dreary day here. The kind that makes you want to curl up with a cup of tea and a good knitting book. Or some actual knitting. I worked on my log cabin afghan all day yesterday. I was at a work-related meeting and was able to get a lot of knitting done. I haven't been thinking about the colors too much, just using up what's in the leftover stash, so I hope it looks decent when it's done.

I've been avoiding the lace. I find that I really need peace and quiet and large, uninterrupted blocks of time. All three of those are in very short supply, especially the last. So, as a result I haven't picked up the lace since the last photo.

I LOVE my new Kromski Minstel. As I get to know it better, I love it even more. I am spinning really well on it and the more I practice, the better I get. Funny how that works. I have nearly a whole bobbin of hand dyed spun. I don't know if I like it yet. As I said, I wasn't real happy with the way the colors turned out. It's ok, so far, but I can't wait to see what it will look like once it's plied (or is it plyed?)

This is Murray. On His Couch. Murray is a silver standard poodle and is way too smart for his own good. Poodles are very smart dogs. He's also very sweet, very loyal and very protective of his family. I always have to give my plug for standard poodles as a great breed for a family pet. [Gets up on soap box] Standard Poodles get a bum rap because of the stupid hairdos and the little yippy versions. Poodles are not foofy lap dogs. They were bred in Germany (not France) as a water fowl hunting dog. They are outstanding retrievers and trackers and can and do run circles around labs and retrievers in many hunting and tracking competitions. They also don't shed, don't bother people with dog allergies and you can spin their hair to boot! What's not to love?[Gets down off soapbox] He does not, however, understand knitting. He thinks my time is spent much more productively when I give him attention, and most especially when I take him to the Dog Park. I actually have to spell the word p-a-r-k and I don't think it will be long before he learns how to spell. The Dog Park is a medium-sized (5 acres?) off leash park where Murray can go to socialize with other doggies and run at full gallop (and I do mean gallop). It is his favorite place on earth. We are blessed in the Twin Cities to have several first rate off-leash dog parks. Murray's goal in life is to try each one at least twice.

This is Chuckie. On His Couch (a different couch). Chuckie is almost exactly the same color as Murray. We call them Twin Sons of Different Mothers (w/apologies to Dan Fogelberg). Chuckie and Kimi (any of you with children younger than 14 will know exactly where those names came from) were adopted from Second Chance, as teeny, tiny kittens. For a photo of Kimi, see a couple of posts below. They were bottle fed because their mom disappeared before they were weaned and Chuckie was not in very good health when we brought him home. As you can see, he survived nicely and is now in robust health. He's a big cat. His sister is even bigger. Most of the time everyone gets along fine with everyone else but Chuckie and Kimi find it very annoying when Murray barks. So do the rest of us for that matter.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Meet the neighbors!

There have been four houses up for sale on our immediate block this summer (trying not to feel paranoid.... is it us?). One of them is right next door. The housing market has really cooled here so it's been on the market almost all summer and has gone through two price drops. As you might guess, we've been a bit anxious about who the New Neighbors will be.

Well, after sitting all summer, the rumors started flying around the neighborhood that it had not only sold, but that they were going to close that week and move in over Labor Day weekend! The spouse and I went on a fact-finding jaunt and discovered the following (all purported to be Absolutely True).

1) The buyers were two brothers, single, both "middle aged," who came to the house with their parents.

2) The father-parent had a clipboard and spent many hours looking the house over, including climbing on the roof.

3) The mother-parent could be seen measuring things. Many things.

4) No description of the brothers, except to say that one of them was balding.

Anxiety increased. Two BROTHERS? Single? Who had to bring their PARENTS along when buying the house? Ok, all my biases are showing but I was thinking that this couldn't be good. The vision I had in my head was from the old Bob Newhart show, you know, "This is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl..."

Just as we were making plans to keep our son well away from them, another neighbor reported that she had gotten herself over there to say "hi" and discovered that it's a gay couple!! You can't imagine the relief.

So, we did what any self-respecting lesbian couple would do, we immediately invited them over for dinner and told them the wherabouts and life story of every other gay or lesbian couple in the neighborhood! They are a delightful doctor/professor pair that just got back from spending a year in Germany. They like dogs. We couldn't be happier. And yes, we really ARE taking over the neighborhood. Suburbia, who'dv guessed?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to school

The manchild headed off to 8th grade this morning, grumbling under his breath. Something about "" It's a shame he doesn't like school more. Except for a few teachers here and there that I didn't particularly get along with, I really enjoyed school. I have to admit that it's different these days. For one thing, I never had as much homework as he does. Last year he often brought home an hour to an hour and a half of homework a night, which I think is a bit excessive for a middle schooler.

What really amazed me when we went to orientation last week was the girls. What a huge difference there is between the girls and the boys in eigth grade! They suddenly look like young women whereas the boys are still all over the place. When he came home, I asked the manchild if he thought the girls looked different and he said "yeah," with this sort of deer in the headlights look. We're still waiting for the BIG change, you know, the voice dropping, hair growing, height shooting overnight morphing. Although the kid already wears size 11 shoes. Surely it won't be long now.

Didn't get much actual knitting done yesterday after all. Instead I changed this:

Into this:

It took pretty much ALL afternoon. Even with my really cute helper (whose name is Kimi). Not sure what possessed me, but decided to get it all done at the same time. Several of these (but not all) are from my pilgrimage to Web's. The four on the left in the back row are ones that I dyed myself. I'm not completely happy with them, I really wanted more vibrant color. The one skein directly in front of those, the sort of orangey one on the left is a skein that I won for getting first place in the "fulling or felting" category at Shepherd's Harvest last spring. How did I win first place? With this guy, isn't he adorable? I got a blue ribbon and everything!

And he still needs a nose. Don't cha just love Fiber Trends?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lazy Labor Day

The spouse and the manchild are at the neighbor's wood shop for the afternoon, so I have the house to myself. Bliss! Today I'm knitting because every muscle I use in spinning is killing me.

I've knit a tiny bit more on the lace scarf. This is for the spouse, who is unfortunately allergic to wool. The scarf is to see if she reacts to alpaca too. I hope not, because it would be very nice to knit something for her in something other than acrylic! I have had many people tell me that most people who can't wear wool don't have the same reaction to alpaca and llama. We'll see. I've heard about the "magic" of blocking when working with lace, now I can kinda see why it makes such a huge difference.

The is the Fair Isle bag I've been working on for awhile. Also my first attempt at Fair Isle. This is the project for a class I took at another LYS that I like. It has yet to be blocked and there are about 4,638 threads to be woven in yet. Then I make a cool twisted cord that is used for the drawsting. The pattern is an adaptation of one that appeared in Knits
magazine (
several issues ago. My teacher rewrote the pattern so it could be done on circular needles rather than straight, which seemed to be a definate improvement on the original pattern. I love the colors in this bag, which is why I took the class. (Must have this bag.) The little spots of white on the photo are little dapples of sunlight, I didn't accidently spill bleach on it or anything.

I'm also working on a pair of socks for the spouse (acrylic, of course). Does anyone know of a good cotton yarn blend suitable for making socks? I've tried Cascade's Fixation but really didn't like the way they turned out at all. To thick or something. They were just weird. Surely there's got to be a decent all cotton or cotton blend sock yarn that doesn't have any wool in it. If not, there's a MARKET out there people!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Here she is!

Assembled the Minstrel tonight and even got a little spinning done! Here are some photos:

This is what she looked like after finishing but before assembly.

And here is what she looks like completely finished. Is this a gorgeous wheel or what?

Here's another angle.

I even got a little spinning done. I love this wheel!

It went together pretty quickly, once it was ready. It came with a video and printed instructions which were helpful.

So far I'm really, really pleased. It is spinning beautifully, especially for a brand new wheel. I oiled the heck out it and there are no creaks, squeaks, sticks or bumps. Just silent, smooth, even spinning. Wow!

Back to spinning...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Glad that's done

Finished the first sanding and the second coat tonight. Geez, that's a lot of work! I have to say it's really beautiful though. I'm glad I decided to put on the second coat of stain, it darkened it a little more but it also has a really nice patina now. I'll give it another 24 hours to dry and then put it together. I can't wait to get spinning on it.

On another note, I finally figured out how to put a button on my blog and I'm psyched! How lame is that? I'm a novice when it comes to website speak. I can navigate my way around the web with the best, but when it comes to figuring out how to actually put together a website I'm clueless. But I do like figuring things out so it was fun to see the little button finally appear where I wanted it.

I think I'm going to join another swap. This one is more involved but it looks like a lot of fun and it goes longer than the spinning roving swap. Seems like a fun thing to keep me busy this fall/winter. So, I'm off to sign up for Secret Pal 9.

Spinning Roving Swap Questionnaire

Ok, here are my answers to the spinning roving swap questionnaire:

1) How long have you been spinning? About 2 months.

2) Are you a beginner, novice, or experienced spinner? A pretty good beginner. My teacher said I was a "quick study."

3) Do you spin on a drop spindle or wheel, or both? So far I only spin on a wheel. I can sorta see the attraction of a spindle for really portable spinning, but am trying to hone my skill on a wheel right now. Might be fun to try a spindle sometime in the future.

4) What types and weights of drop spindles (or what type of spinning wheel(s) ) do you currently own? I have a borrowed Ashford Traveler (which must go home soon) and a brand new Kromski Minstrel which is still in pieces in the garage in the process of being stained and finished.

5) What type of fibers have you spun with before? I have just spun with some pretty basic stuff, mostly a corriedale sliver. I've also spun (with some success) a merino, angora, rayon blend. I have a superwash wool mill end roving that is giving me fits, but I'm gradually getting better with it.

6) What fibers do you prefer to spin with? Hard to say since I'm so new, but I love the corriedale because it's SO easy. It's in a light silver so I've also had fun dyeing it.

7) What fibers do you dislike? Haven't met a (natural) fiber I didn't like, at least so far. I prefer softer ones rather than scratchy, but then who doesn't? :)

8) Do you prefer natural colored fibers, or handpainted/dyed fiber? I absolutely love handpainted/dyed stuff, but the natural is fun too because then I get to play with the dyes.

9) Would you prefer all one type of roving or smaller amounts of different types to sample? Wow, that's tough. Maybe divide it so that half is all one kind and the other half is made up of smaller samples. Does that make sense?

10) What are you favorite colors? I tend to like rich, vibrant colors rather than pastels. I like fall/foresty colors (deep rusts, greens, earthy browns, pumpkiny sorts of colors). On the flip side I like blues, purples, greens, golds, too. I also like this gorgeous stuff. The picture is from See Eunny Knit: ( I just show it here cause I think it's beautiful and is a great example of what I'd like to be able to do someday. Wow, she's good.

11) What colors do you dislike? Pastels. Colors which do not appear in nature.

12) What would you like to do with your handspun yarn, or what do you plan to do with it? (pattern clarification here). Dunno. Maybe socks or mittens? You can never have too many pairs of mittens here in Minnesota. I'm into fair isle right now and would also like to try a headband. Maybe a fair isle headband and matching mittens, but I'm open to just about anything. And for heaven's sake, feel free to send me a freebie pattern!

13) What spinning projects are you currently working on? Putting my new wheel together! Right now I'm mostly practicing. I'm spinning the corriedale and the merino blend and trying to spin the superwash -- I'll figure out what to do with 'em once I get a bunch done.

14) Do you have a wishlist? Roving, roving and more roving. I have my eye on a couple of spinning books: Yarn to Dye For and Color in Spinning. I'm also looking for a basic, "how to" spinning book like Hands On Spinning or something similar). Dyes. I only have four colors right now (Country Classics "pumpkin," "rust," "chestnut," and "kiwi."). It might be fun to have some more.

15) What are your other favorite hobbies? Are there other hobbies? Pretty much all I do these days is knitting, spinning, dyeing, weaving, pretty much in that order. Oh wait, I also like to garden, I have a big perennial garden just outside my front window. When I start getting too pale, I go outside and garden. Someday I want to have a dye garden and learn how to do natural dyeing.

16) Do you have any allergies (pet, smoke, food, fiber,etc...)? Nope. Well, sulfa drugs but I don't think that will come into play here... And, as someone else said, "smoke is bad." I agree, smoke is really, really bad.

17) What is your preferred shipping method (USPS, UPS, Fed Ex)? Doesn't really matter. Use whichever is cheapest.

That's it, hope it's helpful to my Secret Pal!

Up to my elbows in wood stain

My new beautiful Minstrel spinning wheel arrived yesterday! I came home from work and there she was, sitting on my doorstep. I pulled her in, unpacked her and had to marvel, she really is a thing of beauty.

So of course, the family had to troop over to Rockeler to pick out just the right stain. The spouse and manchild love Rockeler anyway (sort of a wood-workers equivalent to a LYS) and never need much of a reason to go there. I came home from Rockelers with a can of General finish in "Nutmeg" and started to work. At 9 p.m. Five and a half hours later I was finished with the first coat. I love it. It's gorgeous. But that wheel part was a bitch. Not looking forward to putting a second coat on that wheel.

I have 2 inches of a lace scarf done. I really, really like the new needles I got at Borealis. They're called Bryspun and they are from New Zealand. And, as I mentioned in my last entry, they're plastic and flexible. But they're working really well for lace. Now, this is the first lace project I've tried and I have to ask: That tangle of thread hanging off the needles really does turn out to look like something? Talk about knitting on faith...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Anyone out there?

I've been thinking about blogging quite a bit lately (gee, I wonder why). When you think about it, blogging really is a little bit bizarre. I wonder if it's something that's done mostly by extroverts who have a need to connect with the entire earth? I am decidedly an introvert and so I feel a bit "exposed" by blogging. If anyone ever does comment, I think I'll freak out (just a little bit).

When I was younger (high school, college) I always kept a journal. I still have them. As I got into the "real" world I found it much harder to find time to journal and I got out of the habit. That's one of the things that appeals to me about this experiment in blogging, getting back into the habit of journaling. The weird thing about this is that it's so PUBLIC (and I don't know if there's anyone even reading it). This pushes me a bit beyond my comfort level in some ways -- being so very out there.

What appeals to me about the bloggers, especially the knitters and spinners, is the sense of community they share. I can't even remember how I first stumbled on it, but the first blog I ever started reading was the Yarn Harlot. I was hooked, not only because Stephanie is a gifted writer and gut wrenchingly funny, but because of her compassion and caring for this whole group of people, most of whom she had never met in person. In time, I discovered other blogs, always because of a link or a comment that took me there. But in all that time, I've never once commented on a blog or done anything other than lurk in the background. Which means that even though I feel in some ways that I "know" the blogger, they likely don't even know I exist. I wonder if that feels a bit weird to someone like Stephanie who tours and is now meeting all these folks who have read her blog. I guess that's part of being any kind of a "celebrity." Even the knitting kind.

Ok, enough navel gazing. I've been wanting to try lace knitting forever and finally bought some Alpaca Mist lace. I've tried to start a #$%^@+ scarf four, maybe five times and it's driving me nuts. I finally decided that maybe part of the problem is the needles. I've been using basic old clover bamboo needles and I think the tip is way too blunt for lace. Plus the yarn sticks like crazy. Last night I ran over to my favorite LYS, Borealis Yarn, and found these cool plastic needles. Normally I don't go for plastic but these felt really good, have nice pointy points and are even flexible. Can't remember the name of them but I think they come from New Zealand? And they were even cheap...I mean inexpensive. Can't wait to try them out tonight.

I've also been working on a log cabin something from Mason-Dixon knitting. I say "something" because I'm not sure what it's going to be. A blanket? Pillow? Bedspread? Curtains? (just kidding...maybe). I like the log cabin stuff because it's quick and portable (and because I'm a quilter wannabe who HATES to sew). I travel quite a bit for my job and I try to have one very portable, self-contained project handy at all times. The log cabin knitting is a nice break from socks and I can use up all my leftovers. One of these days I'll get the camera out and post some photos of what I'm working on.

Want to get in on an easy spinning swap?

Just a quick post to encourage anyone who might happen by (not that I've seen any evidence of that so far) to join a new spinning/roving swap. You can get the details at:

What I like about it is that it seems like a good one for a first swap. It's not long, there aren't tons of stuff you have to do, it doesn't seem too expensive, etc. If you like spinning, or think you might like spinning, or even thought about liking spinning, go on over and check it out!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The spinning wheel is coming, the spinning wheel is coming!

Took the plunge and ordered a brand spanking new spinning wheel on Saturday. After spending many hours at and trying several wheels (Detta is a very patient woman), I finally decided to order a Kromski ( I love the look of this wheel and it spins beautifully.

I also gave a very hard look at the Majacraft Rose and it was hard to choose between the two (and they're about as different as you can get). Finally, price won out -- the Rose is twice as much as the Minstrel and I just couldn't justify spending nearly $800 on my first wheel. Maybe when I'm spinning for a living...

I ordered my Minstrel unfinished, which means I have a big job to do when it arrives, but I figured finishing and assembling it would be a good way to get to know it intimately.

I celebrated my purchase by buying more roving, a corriedale sliver that is SO easy to spin. I spun a bunch Saturday night (on the borrowed Ashford Traveler) and decided to do dyeing on Sunday. I should take pictures and upload them, but I'm still figuring out how to do that. The dyeing was fun, the manchild helped for awhile but then went back to his den when he got bored. I only have four colors, so was a bit limited with what I could do. But I had fun and this was the first time I've ever dyed roving. I can't wait to spin it and see how it turns out.

The spinning has improved immensely with the corriedale roving. I think I tried some fibers that were a bit too difficult to start with (a superwash wool and a merino/angora blend). After I've practiced some more with the corriedale I'll go back and give them a try again.

Counting the days (hours) until the wheel arrives.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The great Minnesota get together...

Well, I said that the state fair was worthy of its own post, so here it is.

Each year, for the twelve days preceeding Labor Day, the entire state of Minnesota gathers a few hundred yards from my front lawn and parties from about 6 a.m. to about 11 p.m. Or at least it seems that way. The state fair is literally known as the "the great Minnesota get together," and we Minnesotans love our state fair. The fairgrounds also happen to be about a 1.5 miles from our house so we get all the "extras." Extra traffic, extra noise, extra parking shuttle busses driving by, etc. Our normally quiet little neighborhood booms with fireworks and the echoes of the latest rock band every night. I swear that in rare instances you can hear a cow moo. Or maybe a sheep baa. Or both.

I actually love the fair and we go at least twice every year. This year we went yesterday, the opening day. I'd never gone on opening day, also known as "Thrifty Thursday." Geez, there are A LOT of people who go on opening day, especially opening morning. And this was in the rain, no less. As the day progressed, the weather got worse and worse, climaxing with softball sized hail and tornado touch downs -- no kidding. Ok, not on the fairgrounds, but not so far to the south of the Twin Cities. All I remember is looking up and thinking "boy, those clouds are moving fast" when the heavens opened and dumped several thousand gallons of water on us (me, the spouse and the manchild). The manchild, even at 13, is nervous about storms anyway but I have to say I was right there with him on this one. The wind blew, the rain flew horizontally, the lightening flashed and STILL there were people walking around. We Minnesotans are a hardy bunch, I'll tell ya.

This year I plan to go and study the sheep. One of my goals to be a better spinner is to learn more about different fibers. What's the difference between a Merino and some other sheep (whose names all escape me at the moment)? Can you tell a difference when it's still on the hoof? I also wonder if Minnesota has alpaca judging? I want to see alpacas. I've actually hung out with alpacas in the "wild" when I got to spend some time in Peru about 10 years ago. I love alpacas. My life goal is to retire to a little alpaca farm, raise wool, spin and knit. Hmmm, does one "raise" wool? You get the idea.

I had to laugh because one of the coupons in the "Fair Deals" coupon book is from a booth which is offering $5 off a $15 "medium stuffed lama toy." I am so there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ok, spinning is tougher than I thought...

I love spinning, really I do, but I thought I was getting pretty good and all of the sudden my stuff really sucks!

Evidently I'm not spinning it tight enough so that it keeps breaking on the bobbin. First it was too tight, then it was fairly decent, now it's too loose. Aarrgh! It doesn't help that I just got back from the state fair (a Minnesota cultural phenomenon worthy of its own post) where I saw, not only gorgeous handspun, but a charming woman who was demonstrating the perfect technique for spinning. Watching her, I think I know what I'm doing wrong -- I think I'm letting it feed onto the bobbin too fast and not getting enough twist. Practice, practice. I think it will help when I get my own wheel. Right now I'm borrowing two -- one really isn't working and I really don't like the other one that much.

Now to a report on my trip to WEBS. It really is an amazing store. I also do a little bit of weaving so it was interesting to be in a store with so much weaving stuff. I spent most of my time in the back of the store which is where they have the discounted stuff. It was sort of like spending the day at the garage sale of your, gorgeous yarn everywhere you look! I spent more than I should but I can't believe how much yarn I got. The stash was enhanced considerably. Pretty much blew the yarn budget for the next several months. Besides, I'm saving for a spinning wheel!

I'm trying something new and signed up for a roving swap. You can find it at I've wanted to try a swap before, but this one actually seems manageable. Seems like a good one to cut my teeth on, so to speak.

I'm off to try to figure out how to add a button to my blog...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Goin on a Pilgrimage

The titles are always the hardest for these things. Such pressure to be clever!!

I've been up to my eyebrows in work related stuff and ended up working most of weekend. Next year's plans and budgets must be finished tomorrow and I'm STILL pulling together way too many details.

The reason they have to be finished tomorrow is that on Wednesday I leave for a short business trip to Conneticut. I've already scoped out how to get to WEBS and my fingers are already itching to fondle all that yarn... I've never been to New England, so I'm looking forward to that too. I get into Bradley about 1:30 and don't have to be anywhere until 8:30 the next morning, so I can spend all afternoon at WEBS. And they're even in the middle of their big summer sale! Is that bliss or what? I'm so psyched.

Of course the manchild is not happy about my going away for four days. It's nice to be missed but I swear I can never predict how this wonderful 13 year old child of ours will react to much of anything these days. Thirteen is an interesting age...clingy and independent at the same time and you're never sure which one you're going to get.

What little knitting I did over the weekend involved VERY easy things like dishcloths and socks, things I didn't have to think about much. Even so, I finally gave up on a dishcloth I started last night after the second time I had to start over.

Still not doing much spinning because I have yet to get the Ashford to work right. Since I don't own it I'm a bit hesitant to whack the hell out of it, even though that's what the Ashford folks recommended. The center crank still refuses to budge. It's like the damn thing is just fused in there. It takes the force of an elephant to keep the wheel going for any length of time. I'm still saving my pennies and trying to decide between an Ashford Traveler and a Kromski Minstrel spinning wheel. I need to find a spinning board and ask what people think...

In the meantime, back to budgets.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I have gone to the dark side...

It seems mandatory these days to have your own blog if you are a knitter or a spinner. I am both so I guess I must. I am in great company and feel honored to be counted among the likes of The Yarn Harlot, Panopticon, and many others. I'm not a huge technocrat so I'm still in awe of these folks who are able to have all these cool sidebars, buttons and knick-knacks. Ah well, I'm always up for learning something new.

"On the needles" include a really complicated fair isle bag that came from an old issue of Knit magazine. IT'S TAKING FOREVER! But it's gorgeous so I guess it's worth it. I'm also knitting up some "Ballband Dishrags" or is it dishcloths? They're fun to play with and everyone likes to get them as gifts. "On the wheel" is not much at the moment. I'm a pretty new spinner but absolutely love it. I can't believe how much I love it. At the moment I'm trying to get a borrowed, 23 year old Ashford Traditional up and working. It's still a bit sticky in places and I haven't been able to get the darn thing apart to oil the crank. I dream of getting a new spinning wheel. Literally.