Monday, December 8, 2014

Silent crafting

Hello, friends!

Happy December!

There's so much to share, but I cannot possibly cover it all. So let me just tell you about the Makers Retreat held by some friends at a Quaker meeting house. I'm not an expert on Quaker beliefs, but from what I understand, Quakers value silence as a space for worship and insight. So it makes a lot of sense that a fellow knitter who is part of a meeting of Friends would invite others to take part in a silent crafting retreat.

We met at an old meeting house that had lovely natural light and warm tones of wood that seemed to feed the soul. 

After a brief introduction, we split up to find our own space in which to spend the day working on our chosen crafts. I "squirreled away" up in the second floor, and promptly laid out my projects old and new. 

Usually, I do my crafting to the accompaniment of a movie or audiobook, of perhaps some music. It helps when the knitting is a bit tedious. I think some of it has to do with the noise of the environment I am in; especially in the winter months, I am forced to do my crafting by lamplight, as the sun has already set by the time I get home. I think that is part of the reason I so loathe leaving the house on the weekends; I love taking advantage of the natural light, and take comfort in it.

I expected to be overwhelmed by racing thoughts and the "crazy" that sometimes keeps me up at night. But, happily, I found that I was content to follow the rhythm of my lace project.

Knowing that I was there for the day, and having the solidarity of other crafters also coming to be quiet, must have helped. Unlike my usual, frenzied pace of life, I began to experience the meditative side of knitting. How many times have I worked on a lovely project, only to feel the nagging urgency to finish so I can move on to another project or chore?

I have this romantic notion that I could follow Elizabeth Zimmermann's lead into some remote woodlands to settle down and knit, away from computers and televisions, armed with graph paper and stitch pattern books, employing ingenuity and thoughtfulness into my work.  I love that she wrote portions of her Knitter's Almanac while out on camping trips.  For this one day, I felt somehow connected to the ideals EZ has come to represent in my thinking.

As I knit this infinity scarf for my sister, I found it was easier to think about her and put a little extra love (and an extra pattern repeat) into the work.  Rather than feeling isolated, I found that I felt connected to people a bit more. I enjoy being entertained by the many forms of media I have at home, but how refreshing it was to step away from all that and just be present in the moment! It takes work to be silent, especially considering the constant pressure to do more and get more information. I look forward to the next Maker's Retreat, but I can certainly put this into practice on my own by choosing not to turn on the media stream once in a while. It's a start, anyway.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The post-Rhinebeck post

Rhinebeck happened. This year we did the whirlwind tour, staying only the one day.  This Abominable Knitter has tried to tone things down a bit. My wallet thanks me. Of course, I did grab three skeins of Briar Rose Fibers, a braid of fiber as well as a few foodstuffs.

By food, I am referring to the maple cotton candy (which people kept mistaking for a bag of wool fiber until I ate it),  honey (the kind I like was all sold out by the time I got to it last year), wine, and gravy fries.

Oh, and a couple trips to the apple cider donuts. No pictures of the actual donuts; my fingers were a bit preoccupied.

Need I mention that green was this year's house color? My honey is a mad spinner (and budding weaver), and he's finally reached the point of letting me knit with his handspun yarn. Here he's wearing a hat spun from Portuguese Merino wool. Following that beautiful green head made the crowds a breeze to cope with.

Now that I look at the pictures, orange and green kinda sum things up for me. It's my honey's fault. I love it.

Now for the show-and-tell:

I got to wear my Brethren Socks, and found myself being tempted by similarly-colored yarns. This yarn is a BFL yarn I picked up at Garden State Sheep Breeders fest last year.

And the green sweater remake was a hit. To refresh our memories, here's what it looked like last year:

And here it is in its current revision:

When working the buttonband, I tried to follow the instructions for Michele Wang's Slade pattern. When that was done, I realized I needed a fourth button to help the original shape of the sweater neck to lay correctly. I actually steeked that top buttonhole! It would have been brilliant if I hadn't used a contrasting yarn that shows when the sweater is unbuttoned.

I also added two snaps to anchor the unwieldy band a bit. Overall, I'm very happy with it. The cables were a great addition to my original plan, and they really make the sweater a success, in my opinion. The folks at Rhinebeck seemed to agree, which is always a nice thing to discover.  The takeaway is I should add cables to my sleeves whenever possible; other people seem to like them, but more importantly, I love them every time I wear such sweaters. As an added bonus, they make counting rows easier.

The hat is something I improvised, and I love how simple and organic it seemed in the process. As I look forward to more knitting in the next year and beyond, I am wanting to venture out on my own, rather than depend on patterns. I always seem to have to reinvent the pattern to compensate for yarn substitutions and other details, anyway.

It is knit in my honey's handspun, this time in a yummy Rambouillet. In a world where snobbery aimed at Merino is increasingly acceptable, think I really like Rambouillet. It seems to have more character, but is still soft and inviting. I would compare Merino to white sugar; it seems so refined that I understand why the industry uses it all the time, but it is used so heavily that anything else seems downright exotic.

I am juggling a heroic number of projects under the delusion that I can carry on with life and still finish many of them that have deadlines. I have five different pairs of socks active, a couple blankets, four neck accessories, a hat, and two pairs of gloves... and a mess of little mittens. Is it any wonder that I am not getting much spinning done?  And yet, just today, I got some spinning done that's been haunting me for several years. It just needs plying.

How do I get so much done, you ask?  There is a simple answer.
Procrastinating helps you get lots of things done, so long as they're not the thing that needs doing.

And on that note, I should go be productive... one way or the other...

Here's to a productive season!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

It's the end of summer!
Autumn begins!

I decided to herald the coming season with a trip to the apple farm, where eight dollars bought a hayride to the orchard, a bag of apples (I fit eight big ones, but a friend managed seventeen wee ones), apple cider, and a cider doughnut. Not a bad deal, in my opinion.  

Heh heh.

True, the apples are red and golden delicious, which is not what I would have preferred, but back at the farm stand there were peaches and gourds and pumpkins and other varieties of apples available. And more hot apple cider donuts and cold apple cider, and frozen apple or peach slushies, and jams and jellies and fruit butters and honeys... can you tell I get excited about this stuff? 

Goose gourds
The thing that made it all so relaxing was being able to spend the time with good friends, hanging out under a pavilion, enjoying tasty treats and knitting and gossiping, with no rush to get anywhere or do anything productive. There is something refreshing--perhaps even healing--about spending an afternoon relaxing on a farm. It was a day off well spent, and I am so grateful that my friends were able to make it so nice just by being present. 

Rhinebeck sweater update

I have steeked one of the sleeves and knit both bands to add a bit of width to the sleeves; now I'm at the point of seaming them in. Once that's done, I should just have the front steek to touch up and then knit the button band.  That's it! I'll have virtually a new sweater! Okay, it needs some pills to be removed, but other than that...

I love green and brown together. I'm also working on a pair of the Brethren Sock in similar colors, but I'll wait until I finish to show you. The socks are three-quarters of the way finished, so I expect to wear them to Rhinebeck as my House Colors project, just in case the sweater doesn't work out or the weather is too warm.

A little spinning/stash show and tell

This skein is a heavy fingering-ish weight, clocking in at 375 yards, chain-plied. It was a pretty braid of fiber that was calling out to me at Maryland Sheep and Wool this past May. 

I finished this gradient a while ago, but have had trouble finding time and daylight in which to photograph it. I intend to spin a skein of a darker grey for a striped shawl combination, but I'm not in any rush to finish it. It's not like I am in serious need of another shawl right now. 

While I was unable to attend the Garden State Sheep Breeders festival a couple weeks ago, my partner was able to pick up a couple braids of Dorset that Miranda of Fuzzyfrog Fibers dyed for me. 

Aren't they fantastic? I especially love the grey; it's similar to the Cat's Eyes colorway I spun earlier this year.

These should be lots of fun to spin! Thank you, Miranda!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where are all the FOs?

I never stopped knitting; I just went off the radar a bit, and got lost in the midst of longer-term projects. And a few shorter ones along the way, just to prove to myself that I could finish something.  And life kinda kept me from being on the computer much. But to prove that I can indeed finish things, here is a run-down of what I've finished this summer:

A couple of Milo tops for new babies (here's one):

A couple hats for my parents:

A couple more hats for the heckuvit:

I need to add a bit about the yarns used in these hats. I used Jared Flood's Bray Cap pattern, but knit it up in two very different farm yarns. The brown is knit in a beautifully rustic Merino wool I nabbed at both Maryland and Rhinebeck (one skein each time, because one skein is not quite enough to do much with).  The lighter color (what would you call it?) is a locally-grown Shetland wool from Ewe-Can-Do-It Farm, which was purchased for me at Twist just outside New Hope. Of the two, I adore the brown wool, but the Shetland makes a nicer cap with a bit more drape.

Keeping mostly utilitarian, I needed to make a new set of earbuds that wouldn't tangle when I take them out of my pocket:

Here's the Ginkgo Shawl I knit because the yarn was so amazing.

What is it, you ask? Acadia, by The Fibre Company.  I'm proud to say that this photo was taken in the city where the yarn was developed. I definitely plan to be knitting with this yarn again.

A couple pairs of socks.  
This first pair was originally intended to have a split toe, but I didn't like the way it squished my little toes. So, in a fit of reckless abandon, I cut off the offending toes and reknit it to match the heel. In retrospect, I would recommend snipping a single stitch and picking out a row, as it would be simpler in the long run. Oh, well.  Live and learn, right?

The pattern is just a simple stitch pattern on the leg, working the foot according to Priscilla Gibson-Robert's method. I stole the stitch from Beata's blog (at Hedgehog Fibres, the dyer of the yarn I used). It's two rounds of K3, P3 alternated with two rounds of all knit.

The second pair uses the Simple Skyp Sock pattern, but combines it with PGR's heel and toe. I like the way it fits and looks, and it's fun enough to work, now that I have the flow of it. That said, I often find myself thinking more than I'd like when knitting that way.   The yarn is a Perendale-Mohair blend I picked up at Maryland a year ago. I'm curious how these will feel when the cold weather sets in; right now they are not very comfortable, even though I am wearing handknit socks whenever I get the chance.

Oh, and remember this? I finished my Olan kerchief. The Polwarth my hunny spun up is so great to wear.

I spun up two braids and plied them together, one in Merino and one Corriedale. They balance each other out both in color and texture, and I am happy with the result. There's 900 yards of fingering/sport weight there.

Oh, and I've started knitting up the Finn I spun in a similar manner:

What's that you say? Do you think it is possible that I can actually finish projects? I've saved the best for last. Both warrant multiple photos, in my opinion.

This Girasole was intended for a Christmas gift about three years ago, but it was preempted by a special request at Thanksgiving. Happily, the intended recipient requested a blanket after seeing my Leaves of Grass, so I merely had to bring it out of hibernation. This past week, I finished it, and took it to my favorite spot for photographs.

The other blanket I just finished was only one year in the making, and it was a joy to knit. It's made entirely of Peace Fleece, and it's lovely.

One square was too bright, so I took a friend's recommendation and overdyed it with charcoal grey to tone it down. It's still a vivid red, but not so garish as before. I think it was a success!

If you're considering trying out this pattern, I recommend it. Lisa at Hidden River Yarns first introduced me to it, and she suggested that it provides a wonderful palate cleanser between projects; I agree... until you get the bug to finish it up. Then it's like potato chips.

You know what else is like potato chips? Photographing it.

I think that about catches you up on the fiber side of things.  Life has brought some good changes, but it has me busier than in the past. So back into oblivion I withdraw...

Happy knitting!