Sweet Summertime

The past two months have been nothing short of amazing for me, in everywhere *but* the “actually doing the fiber arts” kind of way.

Graduation

Back in May, I finally picked up my “congratulations on candidacy” Master of Philosophy in Genetics. I really enjoyed celebrating this milestone. While there is still a long road ahead to completing my PhD, it was good to stop and recognize the hard work that I’ve put in so far (passing the qualifying exam, for starters!). It was much fun. I have a very big soft spot for pomp and circumstance.

Speaking of coming full circle to the qualifying exam, my beloved friend Sarah passed hers, and it was amazing to talk her through it in much the same way I talked about all things undergrad when she was a freshman and I a senior back in our days in Syme at NC State. She has been a friend of “the race that knows Joseph” (great explanation of the phrase here) for a while, and the great thing about that type of friend is that they continue to be.

I mailed off a knitting project to be dyed by Kara (here we are again with the Josephs!), but will save describing that adventure for the moment our mischief finally gets itself sorted out. I had much drama with this project that has now been moved about the country, much of it while sitting on a Metro North train in and out of New York City. Val and I went to see a taping of the Martha Stewart Show, which was a ton of fun.

Martha Stewart Taping

I very much enjoyed watching Martha work – she’s *amazing*. I think every perfectionist aspires, on some level, to be Martha. She was very professional in her work but absolutely hilarious. We could read the cue cards from the audience, but she only paid them mind for the intro and “outro” to segments. One take for everything, absolutely flawless, absolutely Martha.

I wish I had a photograph of the look on my face when the very nice woman who was doing security screenings coming in pointed to my work-in-progress in my knitting bag and asked, “Are those knitting needles?”

It was the taping of the last show of the season, and even if it wasn’t, this is a taping of the Martha Stewart Show. You can’t honestly expect me to believe that knitting needles never come through this door? What kind of question is “are those knitting needles?”? Of COURSE they’re knitting needles! They’re circular knitpick’s harmony needles with a 3/4 completed shawl on them! What did she think, that they were handing out connected chopsticks with nearly-done wool shawls on them out at the Chinese place down the street? She requested I keep them in my bag in the studio – which was fine, of course – but really, we know that the only place knitters are more dangerous than on jury duty is at a taping of the Martha Stewart Show.

Another highlight of the day out in New York was hunting down the Habu textiles showroom. I mean *hunting* – if you’re interested, take the address and be prepared to be persistent, because it won’t jump out at you. The building is very non-descript, but if you look behind the security guard you can see Habu listed on the directory, which is your clue that it will in fact be okay if you go into this dark building, up the elevator, then wind around corners. There is a room full of great beauty that awaits you.

There is a wall in the showroom where all their yarns and all the colors are artfully displayed. The best part? They wound the A3 I bought straight from the big cone onto a small cone – so instead of three hanks as the put-up, it’s all on one cone. No ends to weave. No winding a ball. Now, all there is to do is knit up Gisela.

Fortunately, knit New Haven had Gisela in stock right before a craft night at the big purple house party, and I cast on that evening. Unfortunately, the yarn slipped off the end overnight, the end stitches were lost, and after 40 minutes on the bus and some less than ladylike language, I gave up. I frogged the whole twelve rows (I had decided to knit it all in one piece initially, so they were six LONG rows) and re-started during a Pride and Prejudice marathon. I re-started working it in pieces; while it won’t be super-fun to seam, it’s less annoying to frog part of a sweater instead of the whole thing.

Speaking of the bus, I haven’t been riding it quite as much recently, which probably accounts for some of the drop in knitting activity. I’ve been biking to work, and I’ve found it very satisfying. New Haven drivers aren’t as terrifying as I had assumed they would be. I haven’t ridden much this week, thanks to giving lab meeting and rainy days. The riding has also taken a bit of a backseat as I’ve taken up running – I know, who is this girl who keeps waking up in my bed to run at 6:30am, and what has she done with the fat chick who would rather do anything other than get up before 8:30? I don’t quite feel comfortable yet biking in when I’ve run in the morning – I’m afraid of my legs just being too tired at the end of the day. Whitney Avenue doesn’t seem like a hill til you’re biking up it.

As for taking up running…I’ve been doing the Couch 2 5k program and it’s going really well. Week 3, day 3 is up in the morning and I’m excited about it. I was surprised (already!) at how easy it was to jog 3 consecutive minutes yesterday. My goal is to do the Labor Day 5k of the New Haven Road Race. I could finish it in less than the max time just walking, but my goal is to be able to jog the whole thing. At the very least, I will be out there running down my street on Labor Day, and not waving to the runners from my balcony.

SheepShares 2010

Sadly, the Sheep Shares visit in early June was a rain out, but I was able to make the rain date in late June. Springdelle Farm is just as beautiful in person as it is in photographs, but I couldn’t resist taking more pictures still. I have shared them on flickr. I’m already excited to head up again in the fall. It’s a beautiful farm, a beautiful flock, and Barb, Mike, and Holly are the nicest people tending the nicest flock in New England. It’s such a delight to know that I will get the Foxfire Fibers yarn in the mail four times this year (below is my first share) that I can hardly wait to sign up again. It may be a sickness.

The other thing I’ve been quite excited about lately is kayaking and playing in or on the water. I spent a lot of time canoeing with Girl Scouts in high school – so much that my instant messenger name when I started college was gscanoegirl – and loved it. Growing up in North Carolina, people regularly asked if you were a “beach person” or a “mountain person”. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m plain, flat-out, a water person…with a slight preference for salt water, but at the end of the day, if it’s water, I’ll take it.

Summer 2010

I went camping in verdant Vermont with some vivacious vixens, and spent a rainy Sunday morning kayaking on Lake Champlain and loving every minute of it – laughing as rain pelted my glasses (silly me left my Tilly hat in the tent!) and the waves attempted to toss my kayak around.ย  It was as if I had found a lost part of my soul – I love the water, I love being on the water, why had it been so long since I did this thing that I really do love? Since I started college in August 2001, I had been on the water a whopping *once* that I can remember, and that was last summer. I wish I could find adequate words to describe the exhilaration of paddling on the water – the contented pace that I can set, the feeling as if I can just breathe in the air deeper, getting little splashes of water on myself. Alive, even, falls short of the feeling.

Fortunately, I didn’t have that large of a gap before hitting the water again – less than a month later, I went kayaking around the Thimble Islands on the Connecticut coast. Absolutely amazing, entirely too much fun, and I can’t wait to do it again sometime. Val took some lovely photos…

kayak thimbles

closeup

It was a spectacular day – the only scary part was the jellyfish that were incredibly abundant, and made me feel like I didn’t want to dangle my hands and feet in the water as I am wont to do.

I’m enjoying my active summer – I suppose the challenges are to figure out how to still get my fiber fix, and to figure out how to stay more active when the weather gets cold (at least the fiber fix resolves itself then). Time shall tell. Until then…

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150 Days to Go…

I just signed up for a workshop for the NY Sheep and Wool Festival. Third year running for a Friday workshop for me. It’s always a gorgeous drive up and a wonderful, fibery time. I do a lot of things for a lot of people, and this is the thing that is all me and for me and I can feel the stress just melt away as I drive up Route 9 so early in the morning.

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Sweet Alpaca Shawl

Last night, I finished my first big shawl on my rigid heddle loom. Previously, I had made scarves. I had never warped the full-length of the loom. I think I was feeling particularly inspired to finish weaving it after going by the Habu Textiles New York showroom before a taping of the Martha Stewart show. It was a little hard to find – it’s on an upper floor of a very nondescript building – but entirely worth the trouble. Such an inspiring space.

I picked up the yarn for this shawl last year at the 2009 Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival. It’s A Touch of Twist Alpaca in a nice, dark gray.

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It felt almost fingering-like to me, but it’s listed as sport.

I spent a good bit of time playing with math and figuring out how long of a warp to warp. At the end of the day, I decided to warp about 82 inches. If I had it to do again, I would have warped a bit longer – and here’s why.

1. I made it to the end and didn’t run out of yarn, so I could have spared a few more inches.
2. The pick-up stick doesn’t work well near the end of the warp, so I had to stop weaving because my patterning could not continue. Had it been plain weave, I could have eeked several more inches out.

Warping all the way across my loom was pretty amazing, though of course something got ever-so slightly off…in the middle…it took a while to get back on the right track but it eventually happened. I used my 7.5 dpi heddle – far looser than the yarn would “normally” call for, and I tried to achieve a fairly balanced weave by beating very very very gently.

early May

I recently picked up Betty Linn Davenport’s Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom. It’s a great book – I want to play more with it – but after reading through the book a few times I decided to dive right in and use the 5/1 Lace (aka Bronson Lace, Barleycorn, or Mock Leno) for this project. I think that with how open I chose to make this piece the true nature of the particular lace pattern doesn’t sing, but the shawl turned out wonderfully textured and feels just like a dream.

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I used the ladder hem stitch to finish the ends but I don’t think that was the right hem stitch to use. I need to pick up Interweave’s Compendium of Finishing techniques. One interesting difference between the weaving and knitting communities, at least in my experience, is that it’s harder to find weaving explanations, tutorials, photos, and videos online. I need to work on building my own weaving reference library for that very reason. I used the Knitpicks bent-tip needles for sewing the hem on the loom and it was so much easier to use than a straight tip needle!

I cut the piece off the loom and washed it gently in the sink (such a beautiful process!). I trimmed the very long fringes to a much shorter length. I think I want to sew over the ends with my sewing machine then cut the fringe off entirely, but I’m still deciding. The loose nature of the weave, which gives the project great drape, seems like it may also necessitate some amount of fringe so a snag doesn’t undo the project.

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I am incredibly pleased with this project – it’s just gorgeous. It’s a much looser weave than most weaving projects but the drape is just fantastic. I didn’t want an alpaca shawl to go fight the Connecticut winter in – I wanted in essence a woven gray pashmina-style scarf or shawl to throw on over a halter-top dress when the evenings gets a little bit chilly, or to layer over other outfits in the winter.

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The yarn is a little sheddy, but it’s more than worth it for the drape and softness (and really, have you met alpaca that isn’t sheddy? do tell!). Seriously, I just want a blankie out of this stuff to carry around with me. And a pillow out of it to nap on.

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Mittens in May

When I say that cast-on-itis has hit, I mean it. I don’t know why I get so rejuvenated about knitting in the spring. I lag in the depths of winter – doesn’t everything lag in the depths of winter? I think it’s the heavy coat impeding bus-knitting. But in the spring, unencumbered by coats and scarves and gloves and hats, it’s far more exciting to tote along knitting.

Back in February, I bought some merino sport weight hand dyed yarn from The Periwinkle Sheep in three quite complementary colors.

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Mid-April, I decided to use all three yarns together in one project. I started searching for projects that used sport weight yarn in a stranded design and ran across the Fiddlehead mittens, which I adore – but I didn’t think they worked for the color combination I want to use.

While contemplating the Fiddlehead mittens, however, I remembered that in the Knitter’s Almanac, Elizabeth Zimmerman devotes the month of May to mittens, explaining it is far better to knit mittens when they aren’t immediately needed. I pulled out my copy of Knitter’s Almanac and read the through her thoughts; though I do like her charts, they aren’t me and the yarn I’m itching to knit with. So I took the wisdom gleaned from EZ’s chapter, glanced at the pithy directions, and set out to design my own stranded mittens. I pulled out an old Interweave with a great article on color and my copy of (thank goodness finally reprinted) Alice Starmore’s Fair Isle knitting. I spent a while reading with my favorite design notebook in hand (spiral bound full size notebook with gridded pages…yes). I love really getting into the knitting projects. I’ve spent over a month looking at pictures and swatching and contemplating various aspects of this one. Reading the reference books has been one of the most fun parts.

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I spent a while with my notebook, sketching out designs and ideas. I then made a swatch to check my color dominance and gauge. I knit two rows with every potential combination of colors and hands – blue in left, brown in right; blue in left, pink in right; pink in left, blue in right; and so on.

Mitten Swatch

Once I had my gauge, I sat down with my notebook and actually charted out some motifs. I knew I wanted to do hearts, birds, and squirrels. For the heart, I just drew out some ideas. For the bird and the squirrel, I looked online and in my resources for inspiration, but didn’t find any charts that were just what I wanted and the right size. So I went and drew my own. There was a lot of crossing things out involved. I then swatched all of the motifs – the heart needed a LOT of tweaking. I liked the hearts and such best with the motif color in the left hand and the background in the right hand.

Mitten Swatch

Mitten Swatch

I wish I could remember where I recently read the tip about looking at colorwork pics in black and white to get an idea of values…maybe Handwoven? My roommates both picked up on the squirrel quickly, but the bird was harder. We’ll see if any duplicate stitching or embroidery will be needed on my final mittens.

I charted out the full mittens in Excel using the directions from Chemknits.

From just the process thus far, I already appreciate how much more difficult it is to think about colorwork and charts from the perspective of design. I have done a small amount of colorwork from charts – no full items, but I learned stranded knitting at a Rhinebeck workshop on steeking in October 2008 with Donna Kay, and the sampler for that was my first colorwork knit. Apart from that, I’ve made a hat (the Swatch Hat with a Norwegian star on it) and a sweater with a simple colorwork yoke (the one I steeked and blogged all about that process). This will definitely be my first allover stranded adventure, and I’m really psyched to cast on…once I get some sleep, and maybe get something off the needles (for sanity’s sake).

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Spring Starts

It really is a season for planning and starting new things. Even though I’m not technically on the academic calendar anymore because I don’t have classes, it still governs life at a university, and I think it’s a natural rhythm in my life at this point. So in May, I’m ready to start fun new things.

I’ve started a woven alpaca wrap on my rigid heddle loom. I’m trying out a pattern using a pickup stick for the first time, and it was fairly intuitive to figure out (I could just use a 2 inch longer stick…). Warping took forever, but I’m excited to see how the project works up.

early May

I’ve also started knitting Damson, by Ysolda. I’m finally using some of the yarn Kara and I dyed back in February. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to knit variegated and brave enough to finally knit with yarns off the favorite shelf. ๐Ÿ™‚

early May

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New curtains

I finally sewed new kitchen curtains this past week. I bought the fabric back in October. It didn’t take me long at all to make the new curtains. I must have some sort of internal expectation of how long “stash” has to sit before I get to work with it.

The fabric is super fun.

Curtains

They replaced some very ugly curtain hung up a few years ago as a joke. As much as those curtains sort of grew on me…but no.

The roommates approve.

Curtains

Now my kitchen is totally my happy place.

Curtains

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Fiber Festival Season Kickoff

Today, Lara and I headed to the Connecticut Sheep, Wool, and Fiber Festival. I love fiber festivals – so much to see and do. The CT one is small and family friendly – lots of 4H’ers eager to tell you about their Angora rabbits, really accessible demonstrations, and so on.

Here’s some sheep hanging out waiting for the sheepdog competition.

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There were some really adorable little lambs in one of the barns, but the light was way too low to snap a picture. It was a beautiful day outside and a nice environment for browsing.

My lamb burger v. lamb stew angst resolved itself when there wasn’t any lamb stew ready when we were in line for food (at 11:15am), and I didn’t really want to wait 20 minutes for lunch!

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Lara and I swung by the UConn Dairy Bar on the way home to try their ice cream. It was delicious, but nowhere near as great as Rich’s Dairy Farm (best ice cream in CT, period!). Based on just one tasting, I’d give the edge to Michigan State in battle of the dairy bars, but I might have to do further study before coming to a complete conclusion.

I continued Day-of-Fiber-2010 with a trip to Torrington to the Artwell Gallery. They’re hosting an exhibition called Warp Factors featuring lots of weaving and some other fiber arts. There are some great weaving pieces and a fantastic set of needle-felted sheep, sheepdogs, and shepherds. There is also an upcycled felted piece that’s just beautiful – hours and hours of work. I have once piece there, a scarf I called Aquatic.

Knitting Dec 09

It was great to get to talk to a lot of other people about weaving. It was really inspiring – I have some great ideas about seaming larger projects together, using beads in weaving, and trying to use negative space in weaving.

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Adventures in Quilting Land

I’ve also been up to some sewing and quilting these days.

I go to the block of the month sampler club at Close to Home Milford. Next month, it’ll be Close to Home Orange – a wee bit closer to me!

Some of the blocks so far this round are below.

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Started out easy enough!

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I love the Dresden plate. This one was so much fun.

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This one was quite easy – I could see myself going for a whole quilt out of this block (from the Night and Day book).

The shop had just gotten in the Lakehouse Dry Goods Dolly Dresses 2 panel and coordinating fabrics. I had never seen anything by Holly Holderman, but oh my goodness – her sense of color and style very much fits with mine. I’m looking forward to using those fabrics in the (hopefully near) future.

The other sewing adventure I have on the horizon is kitchen curtains. I’ll hopefully get around to them sometime this week. I’ve had the fabric a while, but there have been a lot of other around-the-house things I wanted to take care of first. I think the curtains and I are ready to rock now that I’ve attacked the windows with Windex. Double-hung windows are an absolute godsend for a second floor apartment!

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Finish Line

I really do finish things.

I just forget to blog about them.

So, I give you: my knitting since January 2010.

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One pair of ribbed socks for my dad.

And a second pair of ribbed socks for my dad.

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Then a third pair of ribbed socks for my dad.

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Aaaaand a fourth pair of socks for my dad.

One of my goals for this weekend is to finish pair five. They’re on the toes (and they’re top-down.

It might be a while before I knit socks again.

I knit a lace jabot out of cashmere (sigh) – Artful Yarns cashmere, it took just one skein, and it was super-cute. My friend Andi had asked for a grown-up scarf. My hope is she can wear this in NC in both the winter and in the over-air-conditioned summer offices, and be adorable and professional all at once.

Sweater Shoot

I also had a lot of fun with ravelympics, which is a challenge to knit/crochet/spin/weave something during the Winter Olympics.

I cast on for Saint James at the RUF Winter retreat at Cape Cod the Friday night of the opening ceremonies and finished in TEN days – I was wearing my sweater on a Wednesday while the Olympics were still going.

Two days in:
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Five days in:
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Ten days in:
Sweater Shoot

A-mazing on me.
Sweater Shoot

Sweaterboard cross Ravelympics

And I also frogged a TON of half-done, abandoned projects to reclaim the yarn. Hats and shawls and booties and all sorts of things that had a serious problem. The yarn is back in the wild, waiting to be used again.

Aerial Unwind

I did finish those mitts for Molly’s little one. They’re too cute and she loves them. He’s a little too small to know the difference.

FOUR at a time baby mitts via magic loop on one long circular needle. I’m awesome.

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9 great iPhotos

9 great iPhotos

Finally, I had some minor adventures in the dye pot this month…with leftover Easter Egg dye! After some discussion, Rosaline and I concluded that Easter Egg coloring had to be food-safe dye. So we threw some on some yarn.

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2 great iPhotos

Whew. I’ve been a busy girl. I’ve also been up to some sewing, but that’ll go into another post.

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My weekend

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Four baby mitts at one time (the blue ones are ancient, ancient, July 2004 stash). Gave them to Mom-to-be at church this AM. She LOVES them. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Baked my first two loaves of bread.

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Lots of that this weekend.

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I’ve got socks 5 and 6 of 10 for Dad started and am about 1/3 the way up the foot.

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