Monday, December 25, 2006

Look What I Got for Christmas

... a beautiful drop spindle, of a beautiful cherry wood and brass ring. The photo doesn't show its beauty. I will post better pictures soon.

I spent a few hours today spinning Romney I got at Sebastopol Apple Fair in the fall.

Spinning with a spindle is fun! A bit easier than the wheel, I think -- a little more control. Now I can spin pretty much anywhere -- thank you Santa (a.k.a. Charlie)!

The Father and Son socks -- both with Lorna's Laces (Daddy's -- Worsted, Blackwatch. Son's -- Fingering, Georgetown).

Back to spinning, now I know why people prefer to dye the roving, instead of dyeing the spun yarn. It's so much more fun to spin beautifully dyed fiber. I should get busy dyeing my white corriedale.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas day.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

All is Bright

I used to dread the Christmas season, but I have to admit that I'm starting to love it now. It's still a problem that the days preceding to Christmas are so short, and I don't even know where they go.

On the knitting front, I've done Mitch's mittens ... It's been very cold in the morning, and he needed them.

I never thought I'd be knitting mittens -- living in this climate, I've never been so cold that I needed to wear mittens, except for maybe three mornings out of a year. But it's a different story for the little guys.

I've made a crocheted hat for him last year, with a matching knitted scarf, in Griffindor colors. He still loves them, but now he wants a green hat.

Here's where I am.

The mittens and hat are done in Araucania NatureWool.

(Reluctantly) On the dyeing front, here's the result of the Black-Eyed Susan dye.

I'm utterly disappointed with this. It came out like a dirty wool color. Would have been better left in its natural white. Agh.
I plan to overdye it with onion skins.

I've started the lichen fermenting process. Ever since I've started collecting lichens, I've been surprised by just how much we can find unattached lichens on the ground in the park. I've already collected enough to start a second batch.

We went to the famous Christmas House in Novato this evening. I couldn't believe that I didn't bring my camera with me! It was amazing. When we stepped out, there was Santa on his motorcycle greeting the visitors. The little guy was elated.

The streets are lined with the luminarias. This is truely one of the prettiest, the happiest things I can think of. Too bad that this is just once a year....

Mitch has gone to bed, Santa has gotten his cookies and milk, and all is calm at our house.

Happy Holidays to all of you.

Peace on Earth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dyeing -- First Attempt

Sunday -- Mitch and I went to the Cheese Factory to feed the geese. It was before lunch and was not crowded. It was beautiful.

There were no geese. Not even one. Piffle. The blackbirds and one gull were invited on a feast instead.

I had promised Mitch chocolate milk. The last time we were there, they had chocolate milk. This time, no milk of any kind. Ah, excuse me, but isn't this a cheese factory? Did you use up all the milk to make the cheeses?

And it was cold. Mitch didn't have a hat, and I didn't have a warm jacket.

But -- Eureka! There were lots of lichens on the lawn.

There was a big tree with the lichen-covered trunk (I didn't even look up to see what tree it was -- my eyes were glued to the lichens), and all around the tree, the lawn was littered with the pieces of the precious green schtuff. Mitch helped me collect them.

These are all "found" lichens, all about 15 grams of them. If you are wondering why I was excited to see the "found" lichens, read my post on Dec. 17.

We came home and then harvested the black-eyed susan flowers from our front yard. They were looking pretty sad, and the frost may take them soon anyway. I thought I'd experiment with dyeing my yarn with them.

After we were done with the flowers, we came inside -- and I found that Mitch had a fever. Oh dear. I felt terrible -- it must have been too cold. I was just telling my mom on the phone that we've been staying healthy this year, not even a sniffle. Apparently I spoke too soon, or I jinxed it.

Mitch's fever spiked up early evening, to 103F, but Ibuprofen finally worked and he went to bed. He stayed home from school on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first absense from school since he started last July.

The dying with black-eyed susans is not turning out the way I was hoping for. I thought I would be getting a pale, muted green -- right now it's brown. Not even pretty deep brown, it's just a palish tan shade. Like a faded Pepsi stain on your favorite white T-shirt type of brown. Peh.

This is the picture of the corriedale roving just placed in the dye bath. It was mordanted in Alum. Now after several simmering sessions, the fiber looks in the color of the dye bath. Stale coca-cola color. Or Pepsi.

Oh fine. Tomorrow, I will start the lichen fermentation process.

We (notice the Italicized 'we,' ladies?) are going to have to post some real knitting stuff soon, or the readers who visit us via the knitting ring will start to wonder. But my knitting is not very exciting lately! I need to find a good project.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cold Saturday

I shouldn't be doing this at four o'clock in the morning -- but I couldn't sleep.
It was a gray and cold Saturday. While the boys watched some morning TV, I went out in the backyard and collected some lichens from the roof.

Lichens are used as a natural dye, and I've been reading on some Japanese blogs about interesting and beautiful results, so I can't wait to try. I'm supposed to ferment this in ammonia for several weeks, so if I can get that process started today, maybe I can dye some wool in January.

Lichens thrive only in clean air. It takes time to grow, and I'm not supposed to harvest from living trees in quantity. Imagine my excitement when I found there were lots on our roof.

I've recently bought some books on natural dyeing, and Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book is one of them. It's more like a text book, complete with annotated bibliography, and I've been enjoying reading it. The author recommends that we only use "found lichens" for dyeing -- take a walk after a storm and pick up the ones that are found on the fallen branches, etc -- Wouldn't that make a nice walk? We might need to take our Radio Flyer wagon for after-rain walks to carry all that fallen branches.

Here's today's harvest, about 5 grams, just from the edge of the roof that I was able to reach on a step ladder. Now I have 20 grams total, and I think it's enough to start a small batch.

Oh yeah. Yesterday's Liz's Happy Hat complement count -- "What a pretty hat!" -- 1.

OK, I'm going back to bed, hoping to get some sleep... I'm sure you'll hear more from me soon about lichens!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Crazy Week, Holiday Knit Night

Look, ma! Another pair of socks.

Sock number 9. Will I shoot for 10 for the number for 2006? I'm not sure yet....

These are done in Lorna's Laces, worsted, Blackwatch. I know I said this before, but I love the yarn. Now I'm a big fan of Lorna's Laces. The problem is that the colorways are so beautiful, I just can't think about doing any patterns -- so without much hesitation, I go with the vanilla pattern. Pretty, but so boring to knit! It's a lot to do with my personality, but I won't go into that today. Oh yeah, I used just one hunk to do these pair. When I was done, I had about two meters of yarn left. Phew...

It was a crazy couple of weeks at work. It's a lovely time of the year to do a reorganization -- my position is spared (I actually have a mixed feeling about that), but it will have a dramatic changes in the coming months with regards to the reporting structure and the extent of responsibilities. I am not thrilled about it, and I am losing sleep over it. I try not to think about it until next year.

So you see, I am glad that I (and the boys -- they now look forward to Knit Night as much as I do) went to Knit Night at Erin's last night -- BKN (Before Knit Night), I'd have just lie on the couch and brood about how exhausted/stressed/bummed I am. Instead, now I have friends to see, thoughts to share, laugh together and let it all go, all as we work on something wearable. This is way healthier.

We had an unplanned holiday gift exchange. And I got an extra!

This is a hat knitted by Liz -- if I'm right, this is her Finished Object Number 1! It's done in Noro, and I think it's beautiful, but Liz thinks it's ugly. Her family, even Little Nicole, makes fun on it. So Liz was about to throw it away -- I took it.

Honestly I think it's lovely, and it fits me perfectly. I have some trips to cold climates coming up, so this will come very handy. I will wear this. But I will also keep in mind that there may be a family laughing at me for wearing it -- Thank you Liz! I will call it Liz's Happy Hat.

Since I was project-less (see, I'm still totally avoiding to work on Moll), I wound up the "Cheap Felting Wool Yarn" that I spun a while ago, and started a hat. (Well, I didn't know I was going to get an already-knitted hat!)

This is the first time I tried knitting the yarn I spun! I'm not sure if I should have waited until I had my Corriedale yarn ready for something, but I can't decide what to do with them yet -- dye or not to dye, what color, what kind of dye, what to knit -- just way too many things to decide. They'll have to wait until I have some spare brain cells.

Here's first couple inches... Before deciding that I need to use bigger needles.

Nobby, bumpy and felty (it's spun felting wool after all), but I really like it. There's definitely something to creating something from just a couple-handful of fluffs.

Mitch shows off his drawing. "Look, Mom. Yarn!" I'm so proud of him.

With lots of Holiday activities and travel plans coming up with all of the knitters, we are not sure when we'll get together next time. Ladies, if I don't see you before Christmas, Happy Holidays to you and your family -- I really enjoyed being with you this year, and appreciate your friendship. I love you all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Finally Fixated

When I came home, there were boxes sitting by the door. One of them was from Webs! The long awaited Fixation was in it -- and a whole lot more.

I finished the second sock of the Lace Wings in twenty minutes. It's a bit loose around ankle, but I'm still hoping that they'll shrink after a wash. I really love this pattern, and I will try another pair sometime, but I might make it longer next time -- and maybe size 2 needles, instead of 3?

Pair number seven. Now I have an almost-full ball of Fixation in this colorway... OK, another Mitch socks.

What else's in the box from Webs? Of course I couldn't just buy one ball of Fixation. I got a bunch of Araucania NatureWool -- they were on sale! I have been good on my stash control, so I think this is acceptable. After all, this is Christmas time, and I finished the project at work, and... and... It's been pretty stressful at work for the last several days. Yarn hoarding must be better than drinking heavily, right?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Mood

We went to the Tree Lighting at Downtown Novato this evening. Unfortunately the picture of the lighted tree didn't come out right, but here's the City Hall... and Erin. We had a party of five families -- eight kids altogether.

Mitch got to wave at Santa.

After this, we went to FlourChylde Bakery and had a bite, knit, chat and some good laughs. This is a great place, everyone. Finally Novato has a place to sit with a cup of coffee, great sweets, and unwind. Beats the heck out of ... the chain cafe with green signs.

I finished Mitch's socks. He doesn't know what he's getting for Christmas, yet. These are my pair number 8, I think. I have fair amount of Lorna's Laces left, so I'm going to get the same colorway and knit a pair for myself. A skein and a half should do it, right?

Knit Night was again a blast, and here's the proof.

Doesn't he look like one blissed out gorilla?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Speeding Up

The spinning wheel is out again. I inspected the last bobbin I spun about three weeks ago, and noticed that I need to put in more twists to the yarn, so I decided to try the middle whorl. It's like learning how to use the wheel all over again! The wheel turns wrong way, treadling is heavy, and it was pretty depressing for the first 30 minutes.

But things improved quickly. And changing the gear means more speed!
The right most bobbin is spun with the middle whorl (I think).
I'm trying to fill up all bobbins I have, minus one, so I can ply the first one with the last one -- to even out the quality of the yarn. I'm not even sure if that's the right strategy, but I'm going to try that anyway. I need to keep one empty bobbin so I can ply the yarn on it....

Looks OK on the photo, don't you think?
I'm sure I'll see a lot of anomalies when I ply and skein them...

Here's the second bobbin with the middle whorl, still on the wheel. I think I will finish it tomorrow.

On the knitting front, here's what I'm working on. I love, love, love this yarn -- Lorna's Laces.

The socks are for Mitch.
And yes, I am totally avoiding Moll.

Claudia, a local (Marin Co) spinner, posted some very interesting spinning videos on her site. See 11/25 post.
Mann Isle is one of the places I've been wanting to visit -- the reason may be a bit funny. A several years ago, I came across a very well made software, and I found out that a small software firm in Mann Isle had developed it. I don't know what it was, but imagining working for a software firm (that's what my day job is) in Mann Isle was fantastic. And now that imagination is enhanced with speckles of sheep and spinners with great smile!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I'm wrapping up my work now and off to some last-minute grocery shopping. I hope this will be a quiet and relaxing four days -- my dear knitting friends, I'll be around, so give me a call if you get bored with turkey and football games! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and see you soon!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Before and After


15 inch X 13 inch, the i-cord is 6 feet long.


8 inch X 9 inch. The i-cord is 5 feet long.

What's interesting is those black specs that came out after felting. This yarn has a black "core" thread on which the wool is spun onto -- like a lead thread. And that black core came out to the surface.

This really is dramatic. Huguette was so right. The lengthwise, it shrunk almost 50%. I'll see how I like it after it's dry and put together.

I feel like I'm really avoiding Moll. Now that I'm project-less, I might pick it up again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random Thoughts


Need to say more?

It's hard to tell from the photo, but it's about four rows into the toe decrease, and I have just an inch to go! So close. So we went to Petaluma to shop for yarn. They open at 12 on Sunday. We were an hour early, so we walked around, antique shop hopping.... I used to love antiquing, before I had my son. A stroller and antiquing doesn't work very well, and neither a toddler /preschooler. So I only saw parts of two large shops, but it was a good visit. I enjoyed it.

And we were back to Knitterly, about a minute before noon. The store was already open, and they were already busy. More than ten knitters. How impressive. Unfortunately they had stopped carriying Fixation. But I got another ball of 127 Print to finish my first felted purse.

I know that the small yarn store in town carries Fixation. Maybe I'll pay another visit, although I am really not a fan of this shop.

Our blog is now accepted by Knitting Ring! I got the notice email this morning. So I spent half an hour clicking on the "Next" button on the Knitting Ring banner, hoping to see our site, but no luck. Running a search on "Designated Knitters" on the ring site doesn't bring up ours either. What gives?

My tomatoe plants in the backyard are looking a bit sad. The season is definitely over. They still have lots of green fruits, but the birds are starting to feast on the red ones. While harvesting the tomatoes, I found my cucumber plant had a beautiful cucumber -- a Japanese cucumber. It became our dinner.

I'm done with the body part of the purse, and I will work on the cord tomorrow. I will post the before and after photos and measurements soon.

How's that for my random thoughts of the weekend?

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I know you are all tired of reading about how my Fixation socks are going.

For the Japanese readers, Fixation is a popular sock yarn from Cascade. It's cotton/elastic, and is very stretchy. I'm working on the pattern for ankle socks that is supposed to take only one ball (50g) to make a pair. Huguette already tried it and was successful.

The picture above is when I was done with the gusset decrease of the second sock. The remaining yarn ball is dangerously small.

Let's change the topic.
Yesterday was the first Knit Night Friday at Liz's new house. What a beautiful, comfortable house! Everyone seem very happy at the new place, including the sweet black lab Rocky. It really felt like home...

I'm accepting a defeat.

This is as I'm starting the toe decrease. It's painfully clear that I'm not making it.

Honestly, this really was not a successful pair, beside the fact that I will have an open-toe sock.
Because I tried to make it tighter, the second sock is definitely smaller than the first. The first pair is going to fall off my foot as I walk, if it doesn't shrink in the wash.

Still -- this feels so good on my foot. Soft and cushony. Easy and fun to knit too...

Nice pattern, isn't it?

I've already bought some Fixation that was on sale, so I am going to try again. Next time, I will make some modification so I won't run out of the yarn again. Maybe I will use the needles that are one size smaller too.

Just to keep the record, this is my 7th pair of socks.

And here's one-ball worth of my first felting project. This is going to be a small purse. I was thinking that one ball would be enough, but no... I ran out on this one too.
It's 127 Print by Filatura di Crosa. The color is more like turquoise green in real life.
I wonder how much this is going to shrink...? I am knitting loosely with a size 13 circular.

So, now I have a legitimate reason to go yarn shopping. (Like I ever needed a reason?) I NEED to go. I just hope that I can find Fixation in same color.

We finished our project at work last Thursday. I feel relieved -- it was a long, tough project. Now I have just several, smallish releases left before I go on Christmas vacation.

As I mentioned earlier, we are getting lots of visitors from Japan. Welcome fellow knitters/spinners! I have signed ourselves up onWebring too, but I am not sure if that's working. The Webring status for our blog : "Tests passed, Suspended." What does it mean? I may have to start over, or find some other rings. There's Rowanette, and it seems easy to join. But I've never used Rowan before. Would we qualify?

And Huguette, here's the "knitting thimble" I was talking about on Friday. I'm not sure if this is going to work for English knitters? I suppose not, but it's still very interesting.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Three grams of ripping

I thought I was 2/3 done on my first Lace Wings Fixation sock. This is supposed to take just one ball (50g) to make a pair. I got pretty nervous on the ball getting really small -- so I weighed it. 23g left, when I took this picture. It's not good.

So I re-read the pattern. It says "make sure to stretch lengthwise when you try it on for the size." That's what I forgot to do... Okay, about three grams worth of ripping is in order.

Taking out needles is not easy. The last time I ripped a lace pattern, it took me a bit of effort picking it up afterward. But this one was easy. I think it's the texture of the yarn -- the loops just stay as they are, so it's very easy to pick up.

So, I finished a sock. The ball now weighs 24g. Hmmmm....

See the room I have around the ankle? I'm still hoping that this will shrink down when I wash and dry. And that I have enough to finish the other sock.

Meanwhile, I love the yarn and the pattern. I'll definitely try another pair -- I already bought some more Fixations -- and the next time, I might wind up two balls of 25g before I start.

Friday was a Knit Night Friday, and Erin had her fireplace going. Kids toasted marshmallows -- I said that I'd never had that before (I didn't grow up here, and toasted mashmallows are not quite Japanese) -- and instantly get two toasted marshmallows. Yum! Thanks Max!

On Saturday, after strolling Downtown Novato, Mitch and I drove to Petaluma again. Mitch fell asleep just short of reaching my favorite yarn store. Agh. I didn't want to wake him up, so I parked right in front of the store, looking inside from the window, and started to knit -- How clever am I to bring my knitting with me, I was proud -- then realized that I didn't bring the pattern. I can't knit lace without the pattern! Nothing to read, and I had to just sit in front of the yarn store. What a torture. I should stash some yarn and needles in the car so I can start something that doesn't require a pattern. An emergency kit.

I gave him an hour. He woke up, and the shopping started. The store was packed, with both yarn and knitters. I couldn't find the fingering weight yellow I've been looking for, but I got three balls of Fixations on sale (40% off!) and some yarn for my first felting project. At Knit Night, Huguette felted two projects, and I got to see the Before and After for the first time. How dramatic. Now I want to try. I'm planning to do a clutch from "One Skein" and a small shoulder bag.

At the yarn store, Mitch was really good -- he just sat in the middle of the floor by one of the baskets, take a ball out, name the color, and then another. A knitter commented that it was good to "start early." I agree.

We are trying to wrap up our project at work, and if everything goes as planned, we'll be done on Wednesday. I can't wait. I still have lots to do before the year-end, but at least I'll be free from this stress for a while. I need some peaceful time so I can spin, study to dye yarn, and clean up some mess around the house (not necessarily in that order). I'm also planning to work on the blog improvement. It's so sad that no one's visiting, so I'll get us in a web ring or two.

Just three days to go... Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's official...Liz is the proud owner of a beautiful home. She is so very excited and overwhelmed all at the same time. Huguette and I had a chance to take a load of boxes up to her new place on Saturday, and we love the place. It's perfect for Liz and her family. I took these pics while there of Liz, her daughter and her mother.
Such a happy family. Poor Liz is now pretty emotional today because it is her daughter's last day at school, the movers come tomorrow and there's still a lot to do. However, Liz is looking forward to hosting a knit night as soon as things settle down. Don't tell Liz, but we left her a little something in her house. Shhhh - let's see how long it takes her to find it!

As for my knitting, I decided that I should make something for my grandfather as it is his birthday on Thanksgiving day and we will be visiting them for the holiday. I've started a pair of socks for him, and this time I've gotten further than ever before on a sock. I've actually turned the heel and picked up stitches along the sides. I know, for most this is not a big deal, but for me it was reason enough to have a quiet celebration with popcorn last night. I read in a few places about turning a heel, and couldn't quiet understand. Thankfully I saved on my DVR an episode of Knitty Gritty that shows how to knit socks. It saved me and my sock. Wish me luck in getting both socks done before Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Socks, Yarn Shop, Life Saver and Lichen

Mitch made a graham cracker house in school.

We have not tried it (I'm not sure if we ever would), but it smells really good.

On Saturday, Mitch and I went to the used book store in downtown. This store is ran by the Friends of Public Libraries. Great store, very friendly people. Mitch got five books, I got one. Unfortunately they had no knitting books. I hear that there are several knitters among the volunteers, so the competition is fierce.

After the bookstore, we walked to the yarn store four blocks away. I don't think it's my imagination that their inventory is shrinking. Much fewer brands, yarn, color selection compared to just few month ago. Their book selection is close to none -- they didn't even have Interweave Knits. I have a hard time imagining that they are selling so fast that they can't catch up with re-stocking. I haven't seen their best employee for about two months. Hmmmmm.
We walked out empty-handed, and this is probably three times in a row. They just didn't have what I was looking for.

I finished the socks Number six.

This is going to be a birthday gift for my coworker Hiromi. Her birthday is tomorrow.

As soon as I cast these off, I started a new pair with the Cascade Fixation yarn Huguette has given me. I'm using the pattern called Lace Wings Fixation socks.
I love the yarn, I love the color, I love the pattern. I love the way it knits up quickly. This is the first pair I do with size 3! I love how it feels on the skin.... But, alas.
It's too big.

This is the first sock, almost done with the heel flap. These are supposed to be ankle socks. I tried putting it on, and there's some room between my ankle and the sock.

What to do... I wonder if these shrink when washed?

You know me. I never rip things. So I'm going to have to go on.

But, did I already tell you that I love the yarn?
(Thanks Huguette!)

Mitch watched two Star Wars movies this weekend. He even let me read him the prologues -- that scrolling text at the beginning. In the galaxy far, far away....

Mitch believes that these swords are called "Life Savers."
Charlie and I tried to correct that, but no use.

On Sunday, we went to the cheese factory to get some blackberry brambles for our pet insects, and to run Mitch around some. Oh yeah. He needed that. While he zoomed around, I found a large walnut tree with lots of lichens on the trunk. It's supposed to be a good natural dye. I got some -- just a handful. I've read somewhere that lichens are not easy to find, so not to take it all and only take from where it's plentiful. I only took about 2 percent of what the tree had, so I hope I didn't hurt the natural balance. It'll take some more looking around to get enough to dye my handspun. That's okay, I'm in no hurry at all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still Recovering...

... from the Halloween madness.

As much as I love the decorations and outings to pumpkin patches and all that, I have to admit that I don't much care for the Halloween trick-or-treating. Mitch's preschool took the kids to the local shopping mall in the morning for it after a "party" with cookies.

I went along, and I'm glad I did. It wasn't quite a safe and well-supervised trip.

Why, at age 3, does the school need to do this? Maybe dress up in the costume and go for a walk, yes that would be cute. But, do they really need to take them to the busy shopping mall by busy street, and fill the day with candies and sweets?

I can't tell him not to go just because I don't agree with it. Like many parents, I want my son to be among friends and go out on outings. But still, I don't like this trick-or-treat trip. There are several senior centers nearby. Wouldn't it be a better idea to go visit the elderly there? They might enjoy the company of the preschoolers for a short visit.

In the evening, it was much more sane, safe and fun. Mitch and I visited about five houses on the block, the first one being Mitch's favorite neighbor Lia.

We had a nice talk as we walked down the street. We counted stars in the sky. I love to walk hand-in-hand with him.

Neighbors loved Harry Potter with Nimbus 2000.

The best part of the night was to come home and got a candy from Daddy. All but just a handful in Mitch's pumpkin bag is stashed away, out of our sight!

And I knitted. I have to finish the sock this week so I can give the pair to my coworker for her birthday.

Now I can retire the spiders and bats into the closet -- until next year.